Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester (Affirm Press) is shortlisted in the Early Childhood category of the CBCA 2019 awards. It is engaging whilst being full of observations and wise understanding about the life of a young child and his or her family.

Tricky is a young cat/child; still young enough to drink milk from a bottle. The story opens suddenly with Tricky waking up so early it was still night and spilling milk everywhere when he tried to refill his, and his baby sister Tilly’s, bottles. He is the eldest of three children, with Frankie in the middle, in a quintessential young family that is busy doing every-day, ordinary family things.

The early start was only the beginning of Tricky’s bad day. His porridge was warm and his toast was cut into the wrong shapes, triangles instead of squares. He even had trouble dressing himself. “Poor Tricky, nothing was going his way. It was becoming a horrible day.”

The rhyming text adds to the read-aloud appeal and humour, particularly when Tricky wore his high heels on his scooter, which then “took off and bumped into a rock, and he needed a lift all the way to the shop.” The vignettes of the little pet dog popping up in every scene also add fun and interest.

Ideal for young readers, the colour palette is generally in soft pastel colours. Rounded lines and shapes are used, including rounded panels, beginning with the first illustration of Tricky in bed.

Like all young children, Tricky is trying to become independent but depends heavily on his parents. His father looks after him and his siblings this day and pleads, “Be good, just for Dad” but Tricky wants to “be bad”. He needs time alone with his father outside and they finally go outside to have a “wild and adventurous day” in their favourite “cubby-tree place”. Tricky’s bad day becomes a really good day.

Alison Lester’s website is

Alison Lester at Affirm Press

Using the book with children:

Outside Like Tricky, children need time outside and in nature. They look at the book to discover which season the book is set in. [The leaves indicate Autumn.] Children go outside and stamp in autumn leaves (or do something else in the natural world). They could collect leaves to display around the book. Talk about what they enjoy doing or the happy place they like to go to to turn a bad day into a good day.

Shapes Tricky’s toast was cut into triangles instead of squares. Children cut brown (toast-coloured) paper into triangles and squares. Note their characteristics and how they are different. Also display these around the book.

Nicknames Children find the names and nicknames of the characters, e.g. Tricky – Patrick, Matilda – Tilly. Brainstorm common nicknames, noting the Australian tendency to add -y or -ie to the end of names.

Pet Dog Children view the book again, noticing what the pet dog is doing in the illustrations. (It is clever and surprising that such an integral character is not referred to in the written text, and ironic that a cat family have a dog for a pet.)

Dogs are a signature character in many of Alison Lester’s books. Children explain how the dog in this book is similar and different to dogs in her other works, including the Noni the Pony books.

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