Nicko by Penny Haw – reviewed by Gail Gilbride


Nicko, a baby vervet monkey, was found abandoned on the Kirk’s farm in KwaZulu-Natal. Alice Kirk adopted the baby into her menagerie of animals and he lived amongst them for the rest of his life.

I was completely caught up in this delightful world, from page one. The monkey’s loving interaction with the other animals, had me reaching for my box of tissues and hoping that he’d soon draw Alice into the circle. I laughed and cried and wished I’d had a Nicko in my childhood. The monkey is undoubtedly the star of the story, but each animal is distinctive and Haw has captured the characteristics of farm life, with deep sensitivity.

Haw’s use of Alice’s ‘voice,’ is charming and skilful. Overall, her writing is mesmerizing and entertaining. I imagined myself sitting amongst a group of children, hanging onto her every word as she read us the story. Each chapter is perfectly paced, leaving us hanging on for the next one. The beautiful illustrations prick the imagination and children of all ages will be tempted to grab a box of crayons and colour them in.

Nicko is the perfect addition to that birthday present or those Christmas stockings.

Five shiny stars for Nicko!

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