If your kids like helping you fix or build things, then I guarantee they’ll enjoy Sarah Garland’s Eddie’s Toolbox. Not surprisingly the subtitle is “and How to Make and Mend Things.”
But it’s also a kid’s book about friendships and single parents.
Eddie is disappointed when he sees new neighbors moving in as he had hoped for a new friend his age. On the other hand his sister Lily is delighted as she will have a new playmate – Tilly. Without spelling it out, Eddie’s Mum (it’s a British book so she’s a Mum not a Mom) is a single parent. So is her new neighbor Tom. Soon Tom gets Eddie to help him out whether building a bed or putting up shelves while teaching him how to use tools safely. Then Pusskin the cat kills a sparrow! But this only reinforces the bond between the two neighboring families as they bury the bird and Eddie decides to build a tall bird table.
The storyline develops with the girls becoming best friends and Eddie inspired to make and mend things at home. Meanwhile the images, not words, show that a possible romance may be developing between the two single parents as they glance at each other in various scenes and help each other out.
Although there is something very warm and fuzzy about Eddie’s Toolbox, it’s also realistic and unsentimental. It’s like taking a sneak look into these British families’ lives. The mum is always dressed casually and sometimes looks rather frazzled. Lily screams when she has a bath. The cat kills a bird. The parents are single.
And then there are the tools!
When we moved into our house this month, my kids had to watch and then help their father put together a bookcase. They were curious and each wanted to have a turn using a hammer to put in some of the nails. In Eddie’s Toolbox not only does the storyline continually give helpful hints but it also has a great appendix. Here there are descriptions of tools, safety advice and even information on how to make birdfeed. It’s a great way to explain to kids, who are ever so curious about those useful gadgets in the garage or toolshed, how to safely use them with adult supervision. And if you want a craft project it explains how to make the bird table and what you should put in the bird feeders.
The author of the book, Sarah Garland, has written over 40 books, mainly children’s books but also on gardening. She is also the illustrator of the wonderful images painted in watercolor. There are some lovely details from snails in the grass and birds landing and playing on the bird table. Her mother was an illustrator too, but Garland was brought up by her grandmother and then trained as a typographer at the London College of Printing. Her father also wrote children’s books and her sister is the novelist Deborah Moggach.
And my kids? They loved the book. They want their own toolboxes too.