When I Grow Up by Tim Minchin & Steve Antony

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Published by Scholastic, 2017.

When I Grow Up is inspired by Tim Minchin’s hit song of the same name from the award-winning Matilda the Musical. I haven’t yet seen the musical so I watched some clips on YouTube of the cast performing the song and I loved it! It’s hopeful and jubilant and full of childish naivety, yet poignant and moving at the same time. It made me cry. The book adaptation conveys these very same feelings.

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Tim Minchin’s words are spoken from the perspective of childhood. Children imagine what it will be like when they grow up. They think about all the things that they’ll finally have free rein to do: eat sweets every day, stay up late, and watch TV until their eyes go square. The children are joyful and fun-loving. They embody the exuberance of youth. Steve Antony’s illustrations capture this perfectly; children cartwheel, climb trees, have pillow fights and fly imaginary unicorns and dragons. The double page spread that illustrates the words, “And when I grow up, I will have treats every day…” is one of my favourites. Supermarket trolleys are piled high with pizza, popcorn, fizzy pop and cakes. There’s a pack of tasty-looking doughnuts too – a nice nod to Steve’s fabulous Mr Panda series. There’s also a humour and light-heartedness in the text and illustrations. I particularly like the line, “…and I’ll play with things that mums pretend that mums don’t think are fun.” In this case, firing water pistols and splashing around in ornamental fountains.

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Another thing that I love about Steve Antony’s work is the amazing detail that he packs into his pictures. In When I Grow Up the pages are brimming with delightful details: the snowman melting on the library bookshelf; world-famous landmarks and cityscapes adorned with sweets and other goodies; and Steve, Tim and Roald Dahl even make it into the background on one page! There’s so much to notice and enjoy.

Alongside the children’s optimism and wishful longing, on a couple of pages there’s also a more sombre side to the words and pictures. The very real childhood fears of under-the-bed monsters are evoked, and there’s a recognition of the burdens that grown-ups carry around with them, a foreshadowing of the troubles that may come to weigh on these children’s shoulders when they grow up. Adult life may not actually be all fun and games.

When I Grow Up is a glorious, life-affirming picture book. It’s a celebration of childhood optimism, hope and imagination but with a subtle nod towards the realities of adult responsibilities. I loved it!

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 2+

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this book to review. I reviewed this book as part of the When I Grow Up blog tour (click link for more details). Head over to Twitter @GetKidsin2Books to find out how you could win a copy of the book.

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