Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 16 Jan 2024

Molly, Olive & Dexter: The Guessing Game by Catherine Rayner 

As I very much enjoyed the first picture book about this happy trio of woodland friends, I was delighted to receive the second story about their adventures. This illustrator’s distinctively gentle water colours suffuse the front cover which shows Molly the Hare and Dexter the Fox full of anticipation as they lean in to listen to Olive the Owl whose outspread wings envelop them. As before, the end papers show the familiar oak tree where they live against a pleasing summer landscape. 

Olive suggests playing a guessing game which her pals approach with enthusiasm but, as often happens with young children, Dexter is far too obvious when he looks directly at what he is supposed to be thinking about. Despite this rookie error, Molly makes a similar mistake and it falls to Olive to teach them to be more subtle.

When I read this with my grandsons aged five and seven, they immediately guessed the two things that she was thinking about. But I suggest that using with younger children would allow time to consider all the options and to use the plentiful clues to help them find the correct answer. Their game takes place within a very small garden but every turn of the page gives the reader a different angle with beautifully detailed flowers and insects to relish and explore. The less sophisticated Fox and Hare are shown looking a bit frustrated as they confront Olive about making the game too difficult – how clever to communicate this exasperation through using just their profiles, whilst Olive looks up at them in a frank and encouraging way. The next page shows a moment of real tension with Molly and Dexter, curled in on themselves and turning their backs to Olive who is still trying hard to give them clues:

‘Think about something even lovelier than flowers’

As some adults are wont to say when children are struggling to find answers, she explains that ‘getting it wrong is part of the fun’ but they remain unconvinced. We share their gradual realisation that they do indeed know the answer and the shared pleasure and reconciliation as they announce it before settling down for a well- deserved nap under the oak tree.

I strongly recommend this quiet picture book where not a lot happens other than spending time playing with good friends in a safe, comfortable environment. The text is very simple and repetitive to encourage joining in. We particularly loved the different colours, textures and patterns on the coats of the three creatures which could inspire some further research and artwork using watercolours.

Available now from Walker Books, you will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have a copy on their shelves. 


Karen Argent

January 2024