Age Range: 3 to 6
Summer is coming and (depending on the weather!) it’s the perfect time for a picnic. But so many decisions have to be made – what should be in the sandwiches? Where is the ideal location for a picnic?
Can a picnic ever be really perfect?!
The Story: Squirrel and Mole are best friends and do everything together. One day they pack a picnic hamper and set off to find a perfect picnic spot. A long walk ensues as Squirrel is not satisfied with any of Mole’s picnic spot suggestions but finally they find somewhere to eat only to find that their food has fallen through a hole in Mole’s rucksack. Luckily their friends come to the rescue and their picnic can go ahead, just not as Squirrel had planned!
Squirrel and Mole have very different personalities and their differences are brilliantly portrayed in the first two double spreads of the story. Squirrel is a perfectionist, her house is immaculately tidy, her cake is a work of art and her painting is ‘a masterpiece’ (my daughter’s word!) in comparison to Mole’s more messy look. It is Squirrel’s need for perfectionism that leads to her rejecting Mole’s picnic spot suggestions but Mole is so easygoing that he agrees with all her excuses then comforts her when they discover that the food is missing. By the end of the story both characters have learnt something from their experience – Squirrel realises that not everything has to be perfect to be fun and Mole has become more outspoken about the way that he wants to do things next time.
There is lots of humour in the Perfect Picnic. On our first reading we didn’t take a lot of notice of each item of food dropping out of the bag but, although it is not mentioned in the text, the hole in the rucksack plays a large part in the story. Luckily Squirrel and Mole’s friends bring back (most of!) their lost food before joining them on their picnic.
Squirrel and Mole’s walk takes them through several different environments including a meadow, a cave and a beach and each location also introduces us to a different animal or bird. The endpapers are gorgeous and show a map of Squirrel and Mole’s walk, the final map shows the location that the friends choose for their picnic. We love Ciara Flood’s illustrations, the first double spread showing Mole and Squirrel’s homes is full of detail and gives us an immediate impression of the differences in the two characters’ personalities, even their vegetable gardens are planted to suit their personalities! Another favourite illustration shows all the animals’ perfect picnic foods, my daughter finds Hare’s ‘hot dog’ very funny!
the Perfect Picnic can be used in the classroom to stimulate so many fun activities. Mole and Squirrel are such different characters that the story could stimulate discussion about friendship and how to deal with a situation when one friend wants to do everything his / her own way. Children could also talk about where they like to have a picnic and it would be lovely to make a class book with pictures showing all their suggestions as to where Mole and Squirrel could have their picnic. They could also plan their own perfect picnic, choose the food and either model it using play dough or salt dough or paint a picture of all the food that they would like to take with them. It’s also fun to make your own picnic food, I have vivid memories of a very messy sandwich making session with a class of seven year olds, it was really surprising how many of them didn’t realise exactly what was involved in the process!
This is a really fun story. We think it’s ‘perfect’ for this time of year 🙂
Author / Illustrator: Ciara Flood
Thank you to Templar Publishing for sending us the Perfect Picnic. We weren’t asked to recommend it but we find it so amusing and easy to read and it also provides great opportunities for discussions and learning with children across the preschool / Key Stage One age range.