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Toilet Time

The Runaway Toilet by Jane Buxton, illustrated by Richard Hoit (Puffin, $19.99)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

toiletYoung children love toilet jokes, and this time the ultimate joke is that Philip the runaway toilet avoids his pre-determined career and ends up doing a more pleasant duty, “…cos I believe life should be fun, not full of wees and poos!”.

Relying as much on Richard Hoit’s lively illustrations as on its punchy rhyming lines, the story is aimed at pre-schoolers through to about age six. I watched a mother read it to her boys aged four and six, and all three of their expressions were priceless. The four-year-old, dressed as a Ninja, was transfixed and solemn throughout the first reading, while his older brother, enticed away from the television, wriggled and smiled gleefully at those special words.

The Ninja wanted a second reading and stated that his favourite parts were the happy ending and “the page where the bird goes to the toilet”: a detail no one else in the room had noticed. And this reading saw him helpfully interject two words rhyming with “you” and “bees”. With less toilet humour, the more sophisticated older brother liked the page showing the surprisingly named toilet in possession of a policeman’s streaming poo.

This is a light-hearted and fun book, using a classic search-and-journey storyline with many adventures and encounters along the way. It’s entertaining for both readers and listeners, focusing on the realities of a very important aspect of young children’s lives and the words that mean something to them.

The Runaway Toilet adds to Jane Buxton’s picture-book collection of The Littlest Llama, Harry’s Hair and Ria the Reckless Wrybill. Richard Hoit illustrates children’s books world-wide and this is his first collaboration with this author.