Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 22 Feb 2024

Always Never Always by Meg McKinley, illustrated by Leila Rudge

Have you ever wished that, when you were a youngster, someone had given you a bit of quiet advice about the things you should do – or maybe not do – to make your life that little bit more special? 

Well, that’s the territory that Meg McKinley’s book has dropped itself into. In this deceptively simple rhyming tale, a young girl is given some important pointers about those key moments when it’s important to think ‘Should I? Or, shouldn’t I?’.

Keys are an important metaphor in the book:

“Never throw a key away.

Who knows what lock you’ll meet today?

The girl also discovers that paths you don’t know will always lead you to something new and that to travel with friends is always better than just being alone:

“Never grumble if they walk

a little slow, or stop to talk.”

Adventure and daring is good – but only if its done safely and with plenty of thought. As the little girl is told:

“Always test a secret door…..”


“Never close it at your back

but leave it open, just a crack.”

I’m not going to give you any more of the wisdom here because there’s plenty of additional ideas to discover if you read the book. I love the way that the simple verse has layers of meaning and can stay as simple or as complex as you like – it’s perfect reading for a young child who is sitting with a parent, carer or teacher because it will prompt as much discussion as you’re comfortable with.

But this book is very definitely a collaboration between author and illustrator because the big, page-filling drawings by Leila Rudge locate the ideas in the little girl’s world and make tangible the notions of what you should or shouldn’t do. They are big, bold, colourful and work to open up the possibilities of discussion and imagination.

This is a big, generous publication from Walker Books and is available now from your local independent bookshop – who will be glad to order it for you if they don’t have copies on their shelves.


Terry Potter

February 2024