Birt and Etho are best friends. They love to spend time together up on Sudden HIll with their big cardboard boxes playing pretend. They imagine that they kings or pirates. They run and leap, sail and fly. They can be loud or quiet together. But then one cold day, Shu brings his box up the hill and asks to join them. Etho agrees to let Shu play, but the more he joins them the more left out Birt feels. Then one night, Birt smashes his box and stops going up Sudden Hill anymore. Is there any way to fix their friendship? Maybe with some boxes and a lot of imagination!
Sarah captures the feeling of a friendship hitting a snag with great precision and care. She crafts the story so that readers will feel Birt’s sudden isolation, the way that the easy play of two children falls apart when joined by a third. Sarah uses symbolism too, particularly when Shu appears. It is a “cramping cold” day that day, foreshadowing the emotions that Birt will feel. As they play as a threesome that first day, they watch “one kestrel and two lost clouds.” This lovely writing is striking and conveys emotions so clearly.
The illustrations by Davies create an entire world for the children. There is the beauty of Sudden Hill filled with flowers and grass combined with the joy of big boxes for play. Then as the story changes, the illustrations convey Birt’s emotions. The sky turns dark and sullen. There are lonely moments back at home where he is isolated and shut in. And finally, the exultant joy at finding a way to be together again.
A lovely book about the perils and possibilities of friendship. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.