Tickle, Tickle – Helen Oxenbury

POINTS: 6 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 2 points
Good story: 2 point.
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points.

There is not a lot to Tickle, Tickle. It is simply four double spreads and what amounts to a single fairly nonsensical sentence: “Squelch, squelch, in the mud, / splish, splash, scrub-a-dub, / gently, gently, brush your hair, / tickle, tickle, under there.” Despite this, it manages to be the highest scoring book we’ve seen so far.

Why’ve I scored it so high? Well, not only does it have a legitimate variety of characters – there are three babies, one white, one black, and one Asian – but they are also interacting with each other and each others’ parents. It’s almost like people can totally be friends and maybe even in families with people from other cultures! If I were being particularly subversive, I may even be inclined to infer from the pictures that this is one big happy poly family group. 😉

While that’s probably pushing it, and I’m fairly sure was not Ms Oxenbury’s intention, it wouldn’t be a huge leap. All three babies bath together, bathed by a black man. There is an Asian woman brushing their hair. A gender neutral white adult (we only see an arm, lifting one of the babies up out of the mud) supervises their mud play, and a black woman puts them all to bed at the end.

I’m not a huge fan of the over-simplified board book genre, as a totally personal preference. I, as you may have gathered, enjoy words, and like reading them out loud. Still, even at four, C gave this a thumbs up. (Yes, I’m aware he hasn’t said he didn’t like a book yet – my darling little undiscerning bookworm.) Still, I have to recommend this one if you have small humans and a desire for them to grow up with an accurate view of the variety of human life. And from a more objective viewpoint, my own preference for wordiness aside, there is something genius about the onomatopoeic simplicity of the book.

Nice work, Helen Oxenbury. Nice work indeed.

What do you think? Have I been overly generous? What’s your favourite simple board book?

4 thoughts on “Tickle, Tickle – Helen Oxenbury

  1. For some reason, I always found the diversity of race in my Plunket book fascinating as a kid. I’d be like – on this page, here’s a white woman and her baby, and here’s a brown (Māori) woman with her baby, wow! Like, it was something I really enjoyed for some reason.


    1. Yeah, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety in the books C is getting sent home with him from school, too. It’s nice that Kiwi educational publishers and/or schools are stepping up to this.


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