Tabitha Lumpit and Timothy Limpet are opposite characters in opposite worlds. Tabitha is ‘loud, loopy and messy’, whereas her parents and all other small children are – somehow – tidy and mannerly. Timothy, on the other hand, is a troll. A clean and polite troll who disdains the trollish occupations of burping, roaring and indiscriminate sneezing. Neither of them exactly fit into their respective homes, and this lively book is the story of what happens when they trade places.
Leigh Hodgkinson has imbued it with a tremendous amount of fun. The crayon-like texture of her illustrations are reminiscent of children’s drawings without being condescending, and their flat shapes make them endearingly homemade. Hodgkinson’s dialogue has an illustrated feel to it too – Tabitha’s speech is characterised by large, untidily bold strokes, while Timothy’s politeness is portrayed with neat, careful lettering with strokes under each letter. It is a simple but effective touch; the visualisation of the characters’ voices mean they are as clear as a bell.
The message in this story is simple and encouraging: even if you feel like you don’t belong, that’s ok, because your family and friends will still love you. It ends with not only Tabitha and Timothy realising they prefer their former homes but with an equally important revelation on the part of their friends and family; they miss Tabitha and Timothy’s differences too. Once they return to their rightful places, Tabitha’s parents jump on the couch with her and Timothy’s trollish friends eat macaroons at high tea; it is a cheerful celebration of difference.