The Great Telephone Mix Up

Sally Nicholls’ picturebook is a warm and simple story. Set in a village and based on true events, it exposes the lives of the villagers to the reader and the listener. We learn that they (and we) all live very separate lives today and that we may be losing our community spirit.

In the village, the telephone system breaks down. When it’s ‘fixed’ all the calls go to the wrong people. The villagers are forced to communicate with each other and find they actually enjoy it! The story addresses loneliness in the character Jean, an old lady who is delighted when her phone rings, no matter who is on the other end. There is a realisation by the characters, that others in the village may need their help and company. Because they’re all ringing ‘the wrong people’, they find themselves talking with each other and passing on messages, therefore getting to know each other. The old lady gets company, the shy young man receives wisdom and advice. The overloaded community volunteer gets much needed help and there’s even a love interest. The story shows that everyone has value.

The illustrations by Sheena Dempsey are warm, humorous and complement the story throughout the book. This simple tale expresses very well how life is better for everyone if communities engage to help each other and therefore improve everyone’s lives, especially the elderly and those who feel excluded. It wakes us up to the realisations that anything is possible with inclusion.