Sharon Rentta

Terence the tapir  is very much looking forward to his day, because today he is going to be a doctor just like his mummy! He is spending the day at the Animal Hospital so he packs his first aid kit and off they go! Once they get there, it is already very busy: from a snake that needs unknotting to a dog who has swallowed an alarm clock, from newborn cubs and babies to elderly patients, there is little time to rest! Terence is desperate to help, but he is also a little bit overexcited and soon all descends into chaos!

What a gorgeous picture book this is! I only discovered Sharon Rentta’s work recently when I read One Dog and His Boy, in which her lovely black and white illustrations of dogs were included. I am so glad I have discovered her, and indeed this book as A Day with the Animal Doctors is a beautifully illustrated book with a real sense of fun!

When I saw the double-spread showing the hospital, my first thought was of Richard Scarry and his fantastically detailed spreads in What Do People Do All Day? Just like Scarry’s illustrations, this double-spread is full of details, vibrant and energetic, and depicts perfectly the busyness of the environment of the hospital. Readers will notice that many of the rooms and characters that feature later on in the story can also be found in this double-spread, which will be a great fun for little readers.

Sharon Rentta’s style is pitched perfectly at the targeted audience; the illustrations are humorous and mischievous but there is a real sense of comfort and warmth in them too, due not only to the soft tones of her chosen palette of colours she uses but also the technique she uses with her  pencil stroke. This allows for the book to be perfect bedtime read, as the energetic story is counterbalanced by the softness of the artwork. Terence is seen winding down and eventually going to bed at the end of his busy day, so this will mirror the readers’ experience too.

Something I really enjoyed in this book are the little lists which are written on a hospital notebook; they appear throughout the story and will encourage and initiate many discussions, whether they are on what tools a doctor might need, what kind of food animals might eat, or, my personal favourite, the gestation period of various oviparous animals (see on the right!).

One of the strengths of A Day with the Animal Doctors however, for me, is in the message it carries. Yes, it will be a real hit with little readers who enjoy playing doctors and nurses, giving them lots of extra information on what happens in a hospital and therefore lots of new ideas for role play! But more importantly I think, this is a great book to read with children who might have to experience spending some time in a hospital, whether it is themselves who need it or a family member or friend. It will help demystify hospitals, making them less scary. The sense of warmth in the illustrations emphasises this purpose, as it will help reassure those who might feel daunted by the subject of doctors and hospitals.

A Day with the Animal Doctors was a great discovery. It is one of those picture books that you go back to again and again and every reading experience is a joy. It has so much going for it; the artwork is beautiful, the subject is pitched perfectly at its audience and I think it will be a comfort to many a worried little person. A lovely book indeed.

All illustrations  © Sharon Rentta

Many thanks to Scholastic for sending me a copy of “A Day with the Animal Doctors”.