Vern and Lettuce live in a tower block in Pickle Rye with all their neighbours. One day, Mr Pigeon tells the bunnies who are playing on the roof that new neighbours are moving in on the ground floor- rats. Excited at the news, the bunnies rush down the stairs to tell their sister, Lettuce. They then go down to tell Vern and so on, gathering all their neighbours along the way. However, they also gather fears and misinformation as the neighbours start to panic and wind each other up about the 'smelly, messy rats' and all their bad habits. By the time they have arrived on the new neighbours doorstep, things are completely out of control- and the neighbours not what they are expecting.
In this wonderful book featuring favourites Vern and Lettuce, Sarah McIntyre uses humour brilliantly to expose the hypocrisy and scare mongering which can happen when people are faced with the unknown. As the tales get wilder and wilder and the hysteria mounts, the animals behave in a way they would not do normally and are suitably embarrassed when they realise how wrong their preconceptions were.
The illustrations are a delight- full of little details to enjoy. The state of the pigs' apartment highlights the hypocrisy of their comments and I feel so sorry for the poor little bunny whose ears are being hoovered up! The little bunnies are a constant source of delight as they bound around, adding to the general chaos and being adorable!
As well as being a fabulous story for sharing, 'The New Neighbours' would be an excellent book to use for initiating discussions about prejudice and intolerance. Sarah McIntyre makes her point perfectly without preaching or over-stating the case, offering a 'safe' context.
The tower block in Pickle Rye could also inspire children to create their own characters who might come to live there, perhaps creating little cartoons about them. Personally, I'd love to see some hedgehogs move in- there must be a spare flat for them somewhere!
The New Neighbours Sarah McIntyre
David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1910989012