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Simple lessons to last a lifetime

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Books: Freddie's First Race and The Great Compost Heap

Author: Renaee Smith

Illustrator: Somnath Chatterjee

In these children's books, Renaee Smith proves the axiom that life's treasures can be wrapped in small, unassuming packages. Here, this gem is not material; rather, it comes in small, thin books that contain enduring principles that we should all live by.

Beautifully illustrated in colour, with the use of large fonts, it is catchy and appealing to the very young and their parents.

Nine-year-old Freddie is the sung hero in both books. In Freddie's First Race, we are struck by his determination to win at a track event. And he does.

This is important because he embarks on this venture without an iota of experience. We just have to be impressed with his assiduous, energetic approach to running. From the calisthenics he performs alone to his worn body and spirit after the first day of practice, Freddie exhibits poise and a steely will to win. His bedroom poster of a runner in full gear is meaningful. Surely, keeping your eyes on the prize can be very much a literal exercise, and moreover, a requisite for success.

Maybe one can argue that there is nothing new that Smith offers. But nothing is further from the truth. Freddie's sense of will is matched by his conviviality and sportsmanship - greeting his opponents and wishing them luck. Indeed, an essential lesson for all of us. And although the emphasis is on Freddie, the striking illustration of girls training equally as hard is self-explanatory in this age of gender equality.




Yes, Smith has all the right ingredients.

In her second offering, Smith tackles the environment - again with Freddie as the protagonist. And again, he does not disappoint with his enthusiasm to learn and succeed at composting.

The Great Compost Heap is for everyone moved by environmental concerns.

It is nature's way of recycling. We also learn that "a compost heap is a pile of garden and kitchen waste that decompose to produce a rich soil which can add nutrients and improve the quality of the soil used in gardening".

Smith pens in the preface, "The student is introduced to the ideas of composting and how composting helps to further the idea of the 3 R'S, 'Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle'.

Smith is concise and instructive. "For the teacher starting a classroom compost heap/bin is a great way to teach students about recycling and the environment. This is also an activity that students can participate in."

To parents, she explains, "You will have the benefit of watching your kitchen waste break down. It will be an opportunity for the whole family to get involved in seeing how much they can keep out of the landfill. In a few months, your lawn and garden will benefit from the compost."

More important, Smith is detailed and structured on how to proceed in this worthy undertaking.

And for good measure: A crossword puzzle awaits readers who wish to tax their brain.

Smith's work must be lauded. She demonstrates how hard work and ethics pay dividends in Freddie's First Race. In her second outing, The Last Compost Heap, she explores practical ways of stopping our senseless assault and abuse of nature. All done without fanfare.

How much more can we ask of a writer?

Ratings: Essential


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