By Annelouise Mahoney, Two Lions, 2021
I have read this book many times with my 3 year old daughter. She loves it – we act the story out together with lovies/stuffies as the characters. It melds beautifully the practical and the magical aspects of imaginative play as friends Julius and Macy paint golden stars and string them up, pack snacks and make paper crowns for a night of hero-play in the forest.
But I read it recently with both the children and was slightly surprised when at the end it was my 7 year old son who said fervently ‘I love this book.’ I felt what he said, but I also wanted to know more – what was it about this gentle story that spoke to him? The answer: ‘because it’s so sweet’. And I knew what he meant. This is a book with drama, but no bad guys; bravery but no violence; theft (of snacks) with an apology and reconciliation rather than retribution. It’s a far cry from much of what he enjoys, but this sweet tale, this simple picture book story spoke to him.
The story starts before the words do, the detail in the illustrations setting the story up if you know where to look. Julius and Macy play together ‘but even heroes need a snack sometimes’ so they stop, and find that their snacks have been stolen by – so says Julius – the Night Goblin who’s ‘the worst kind of scary’. The two friends go in search. The first time I read this with my daughter, it had a definitely frisson of danger as the friends enter a dark cave, but the tension breaks quickly with ‘a tiny a-achoo’. And, as I’ve noted before, there is something inherently funny about sneezing when you’re a child.
Julius and Macy is the perfect antidote to an overdose of superheroes. Acutely well observed, it’s a gentle, magical celebration of bravery of different kinds, the wonder of friendship and the power of imagination. This book, just like the snacks that night, tastes ‘especially delicious.’ Special thanks to my dear friend, Morayo (with a Macy of her own) for the recommendation.