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The Big-Hearted Book by Nicholas Allan is a picture book written by the author of the delightful, The Queen’s Knickers and Jesus’s Day Off, in collaboration with and to help The International Children’s Heart Foundation.

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I want to tell you how wonderful this book is, because I applaud anyone who does their bit for charity, and who takes the time to make a difference.

Sadly, I don’t think it is very wonderful.  It is however, a perfectly nice book, well written, beautifully illustrated and nicely produced, that would be a lovely, sentimental story to read to a young child.  It has a strong message of fidelity, friendship, loyalty and love, which is not to be sniffed at.

It is just not up to Allan’s usual standards in my opinion.

I rate Allan very highly because of his ability to both amuse and educate, to make you laugh and also to make you wonder and sometimes even shed a tear. His books about Jesus are like this, and I’m not a great fan of religious stories, but I’d read Allan’s versions all day, every day.  He has a knack of making the sentimental, the moral and the downright sanctimonious, joyful and pleasurable to read, without losing any of the educational qualities of what he’s saying.

This book doesn’t really have that magical spark for me.

It tells the story of Babette and Bill and their friendship. Babette is a little girl and Bill is a dog. They do everything together, and Babette dotes on Bill, until one day she can’t, and no matter how much Bill dotes on her, she cannot play with him, until one day she goes away, and Bill realises what a truly wonderful friend she was to him, and how much he loves her.

Luckily Babette is just in hospital, rather than dead, as I feared on first reading that she had gone away.

Babette gets her poorly heart fixed and comes back to Bill better than ever.

Which is lovely.

But the story, for me, is a little clumsy and favours sentiment over whatever wonderful things Allan usually does in his stories.

Having said that, I am sure that very few children will notice the lack, and the glorious illustrations and the sly humour Allan infuses the character of Bill with, will win over readers young and old.

Perfect for pre schoolers and young children from the age of two to five, both boys and girls.  A lovely book to share on the subject of friendship. It can also be a nice way to talk about illness and going to hospital if that is something you need to broach with a child.

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