“ONCE there was Natalie… and then there was Alphonse too. Natalie mostly did not mind there being Alphonse.” This is a great way to start a picture book about the relationship between a small sister and brother.
Through bright and cheerful illustrations, Hirst shows the ways in which Natalie and Alphonse usually get on. But then Alphonse eats Natalie’s favourite book, on a day which has already been bad (“lunch was peas”). Natalie is angry and upset, and Alphonse doesn’t know what to do. The themes of being cross and hurt, not knowing how to make things better, and the difficulty and relief of making up are easy to relate to. As an adult this is one of the reasons why I like the book very much, and also why I think it is great for children aged about 2 and up, especially if they have siblings.
I like that the family live in a flat with a 1980s style balcony – I feel like these types of homes are not shown very often in illustrated children’s books, so it feels like a real gift here. Alphonse, that is not OK to do! features an excellent (if slightly alarmed) cat, and what I think is a cameo appearance by The Very Hungry Caterpillar. What more could you ask for?