Ossiri and the Bala Mengro

This is a charming and fun tale about a young traveller girl named Ossiri whose family are ‘Tattini Folki’ or rag-and-bone people. Ossiri’s family recycle unwanted old goods, mending old clothes, fixing broken furniture, selling scrap iron. They live in caravans and are happy. Ossiri loves music, but the family can neither afford to buy her an instrument nor to lose her if she had to travel the country as a musician. I loved Ossiri’s resourcefulness – instead of being disheartened, she goes to the woods and cuts herself a length of willow to fashion an instrument from, adding to it scrap, metal bottle caps and bells to make extra noise and she calls it the ‘Tattin Django’. Her playing makes a terrible noise which wakes the ogre in the woods, but the Bala Mengro appreciates that her song comes from the heart, and enjoys it very much. What happens when a callous man steals the instrument and attempts to impress the Bala Mengro is a warning indeed!

The illustrations are bright, colourful and cheerful, and the story is unusual with just enough tension to hook in older readers too. It raises many interesting questions to discuss with young children about prejudice and about other cultures and has wide appeal.

Highly recommended.