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  • Writer's picturePicture Book Snob

It's not mess, it's art! Find out why we love HOW MESSY!

We're delighted to kick off the virtual book tour for How Messy! by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Talley. Although this is the third title in the Dot and Duck series, we hadn't met these brilliant characters before. This time, the stars of How Rude! and How Selfish! are at the seaside. Dot and Duck's beach habits reflect their distinct personalities and approaches to life. As Duck builds freestyle sand sculptures, Dot takes a measures her sandcastles to ensure they are the desired height. While they're away, Dot becomes increasingly frustrated with Duck's untidy ways and Duck grows tired of Dot's criticism. Will they learn to appreciate their differences so that they can enjoy their holiday?

There are so many reasons to love How Messy! but here are our top five: 1. It's so funny

The characters form a fantastic 'odd couple' and the interactions between the oblivious Duck and the irritated Dot are incredibly entertaining. Duck's sloppiness leads to plenty of comic moments as Dot slips on trails of water, toys and seaweed and gets covered in sand. Lively and animated artwork brings even more humour and the facial expressions and body language of both characters are hilarious.

2. It gently teaches tolerance

The story shows that it's important to be considerate of others - whether they are messy or tidy. It also demonstrates how everyone has their own way of doing things and alternatives to our own methods are not necessarily wrong. Dot and Duck's friendship is extremely realistic and relatable. We don't always like everything about those we love, and we don't have to. But we must to learn to deal with the unappealing aspects of people's personalities that we don't like - for our own sake as much as for theirs!

Dot and Duck must accept - and respect - each other because of their differences and not despite them. We see how it's far more productive to celebrate the strengths of those around us rather than lamenting their weaknesses. Dot and Duck demonstrate how when we collaborate, we have far more fun. Their antics will help children learn to interact harmoniously with their peers.

3. It shows that mess isn't always bad Duck declares in one of my favourite lines, 'It isn't mess, it's art!' Life can be unpredictable and messy and sometimes we need to embrace the chaos. The unexpected - like a giant wave that knocks your sandcastle down - can often lead to the fantastic. Little readers will learn to make the best of a bad situation along with Dot and Duck.

4. It proves there's a place for everyone

Dot's mantra is: 'A place for everything and everything in its place.' She eventually learns that there's even a place for the messy! When Dot and Duck work together, they build a far more interesting sand structure and have a much better time too. We see that everyone has a positive contribution to make even if it's an untidy one.

5. It explores how we can miss out on the positive if we focus too much on the negative

As Duck makes breakfast for them both, Dot only sees the disastrous state of the kitchen. She doesn't appreciate the effort Duck has gone to on her behalf or savour the delicious food. Dot's preoccupation with what she perceives as Duck's flaws prevent her from enjoying herself. Dot will never have the perfect holiday until she lets go of her perfectionism!

The illustrations are gorgeous; energetic lines and brush strokes give the images a kinetic quality and vividly bring the characters and their story to life. My youngest is convinced that the ship's sail in the distance in many scenes is actually a shark and the first time she read it, she said, 'maybe the shark is messy too!'

I love the last glimpse we get of Dot and Duck in the endpapers (with Duck . Instead of being annoyed when Duck drops his ice cream in the sand (creating an even stickier mess), Dot offers him some of her own. It takes a true friend to share an ice cream!

How Messy! is an endearing and amusing tale that subtly imparts lots of wisdom. My kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting Dot and Duck and look forward to getting to know them better through the other books in the collection. The seaside theme and cheerful, colourful artwork make this an ideal read as days get brighter and summer arrives. Thanks so much to Happy Yak and Quarto Books for inviting us on this tour - visit all of the below stops to learn more about 'how wonderful' this book is.

The other books in the Dot and Duck series


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