Nicole Jacobsen Reviews Mess Up to Fess Up
Mess Up to Fess Up is a colourfully told tale of mysterious household messes. A classic ‘whodunnit’ re-envisioned within a family home; following a young girl and boy, their parents, and their secret mess-making pets, Winter and Splinter.
A story any age can relate to
I don’t have children, but I am close enough to youth (if you squint) that I can remember my parents bemoaning the mess that tended to accumulate from just having fun. While not a parent yet, I have worked as a babysitter on and off since high school and will inevitably end up wading through discarded plastic dinosaurs, dolls, trucks, tools, stuffed toys, and many a miscellaneous item that became an object for play in the eyes of a child; all signs of hours of imagination and creativity. But when it comes time to clean, the kids will pretend they do not see the mess or wonder ‘where did it all come from?’ as if it couldn’t possibly have been them.
Sally Lynch’s book introduces a fun twist to this all-to-familiar scenario that allows children to maintain their blamelessness as they puzzle the culprits! From the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and garage, Winter and Splinter, cleverly disguised by the messes they create, flit between rooms to leave splatters, splodges, stains, and more clues for kids to follow.
‘Musical’ language adds to the fun
The writing in Mess Up to Fess Up is fun and imaginative, with musical language that compliments the playful tone of the story, such as a “meringue with false teeth” that goes “Splat on the window leaving a trail. Sliding down like a shell-less snail.” Bite-sized paragraphs are structured in couplets, that incorporate rhyming, repetition, and fun descriptions that are digestible for kids who like to read the story themselves, and lend themselves well to dynamic and musical spoken narration.
Illustrations that keep children guessing
Illustrations complement the story with chaos envisioned scenes of mousse meringues, of muddy ballerinas, and of creatures in capes flying around attached to the fan. They provide visual clues, in addition to the clues in the writing, for kids to have fun guessing along with the story. I envisioned reading this with the 3-year-old boy I babysit and could clearly imagine his proud proclamations of ‘it’s the dog!’ ‘it’s the cat!’ on every page until the ending that would vindicate his detective skills. ‘I told you!’, he might say. ‘I knew it was them the whole time!’
Find the small brown mouse
The book’s illustrations also integrate story adjacent aspects to keep kids invested and guessing over many re-reads. Such as a small brown mouse that follows the narration and is often hiding in the background, among the chaos, inviting an element of Where’s Wally for kids beyond the ‘whodunnit’ of the overall narrative.
This book would be a fantastic addition to any kid’s bookshelf, and I can see it easily becoming a favourite for many children. There is only one word of warning I will provide: that if there are pets in your family, expect them to be blamed for some extra messes after your child reads this book. Would be best to get yourself a few cleaning products and maybe one of those Riccar vacuums to help with the cleanup!
Author Sally Lynch
Sally Lynch is an emerging author from Adelaide, who currently lives in regional Queensland. Sally has two children who keep her on her toes and many self-confessed creative talents. Her most creative works are often forged in the messiest of circumstances, and often late at night. Mess Up to Fess Up is Sally’s first publication.
Illustrators Chloe Finnis and Ngaire McLoughlin
Originally working with Hawkeye as a design intern through her bachelor’s in creative design, Chloe Finnis won the rights to co-illustrate Mess Up to Fess Up, alongside fellow graphic designer Ngaire McLoughlint. Chloe is an ongoing illustrator at Hawkeye Publishing since her graduation, with future illustration projects already underway.