Chapter Book Review: Two Sides by Polly Ho-Yen and Binny Talib

Cover image by Binny Talib, published by Little Tiger, January 2023

This is an absolutely gorgeous book for readers of 5-7 years old, beautifully illustrated in colour throughout with Binny Talib’s distinctive and appealing artwork. Her expressive drawings of Lula and Lenka, with so much emotion portrayed through their eyes, perfectly complement Polly Ho-Yen’s tale of the ups and downs of friendship.

On the surface, Lula and Lenka are polar opposites: Lula is loud, disorganised and a dog-lover; Lenka is introverted, tidy and a cat-lover. Lula loves to talk; Lenka loves to observe and then draw whatever she has seen. Despite their differences, they have literally been best friends forever, as their mothers were in adjacent beds on the day they were born. However, on the day it all goes wrong, their differences lead to the big fall-out. Lenka finally explodes out of her usually reserved persona when Lula, due to her usual last-minute dash out to school, fails to return the precious pencil case that she reluctantly lent her the previous evening. Accusations of selfish behaviour are hurled and despite an immediate sense of regret at hasty words, somehow neither girl can find the courage to apologise. Subsequent pages beautifully and gently show the utter loneliness of a broken friendship in a way that will be perfectly comprehensible to young readers. When the reconciliation comes, as it must in a story for this age group, it joyously bursts from the page!

I cannot recommend Two Sides highly enough. Its subject matter is of great importance to key stage one children, where playground falling out can be frequent and where stories that show the power of an apology and the importance of friendship for general happiness are to be welcomed. The design of the book is wonderful. Firstly it is a perfect size for little hands. The font is clear for early readers, with some interesting text effects. I particularly liked that Lula’s viewpoint was printed in a standard black font, whilst Lenka’s viewpoint was printed in a lighter grey font in sympathy with her quieter character. I have not seen this done in a book before and I thought it worked very well as a device to aid comprehension. There is not too much text on any page which makes it an ideal book to encourage early readers, it would be a perfect shared read with an adult for an emerging reader. I think that this is the third book I have read from the Collectible Stories range from Little Tiger and I know that if these had been available when one of my own children had been in key stage one, this is certainly a series she would have wanted to collect and re-read.

I am most grateful to Little Tiger for my review copy of Two Sides, which was published in this format on 5th January 2023.

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