In Daisy Hirst’s beautifully kooky book The Girl With the Parrot on her Head, the girl of the title is called Isabel and she has a friend called Simon (as well as the aforementioned parrot). When Simon suddenly moves away, the loss is felt keenly and after a period of hating ‘everything’, Isabel’s coping mechanisms take over – she becomes pragmatic, embraces loneliness and finds sanctuary in order. But, of course, these are not the solution to her problem. It takes the arrival of a new friend, and a reunion with her imagination, to heal our heroine.
It is a story full of metaphors – her boundless imagination represented by the parrot (which, incidentally, never leaves her side), her loneliness by an imaginary wolf (which the new friend helps her to banish). All of this is rendered in simple, crystalline language and beautifully whimsical illustrations. It is the hardest skill to master – to present deep underlying themes in a deceptively simple way and all awash with humour. The author achieves this effortlessly.
This is an excellent picturebook, which both my daughter and I loved. It is what all good children’s books should be: an unabashed celebration of the imagination and a lesson in the benefits of friendship. We could all do with being a bit more like Isabel.