REVIEW: My Friend Ernest by Emma Allen & Illustrated by Hannah Sommerville

Published: 25th January 2016

Publisher: Angus & Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollins Childrens Books

Pages: 32

Format: Hardcover Picture Book

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

It’s the first day of school and Oscar is trying hard to be brave. Oscar’s mum feels sure he will make lots of friends, but Oscar isn’t so sure, particularly when Ernest seems so mean and scary.

But is he really?

From talented picture book creators, award-winning Emma Allen and talented new illustrator Hannah Sommerville, comes a book about the joy of making friends.


My Friend Ernest is the ideal book for any child starting preschool or primary school.

My Friend Ernest is the story of Oscar and his first day of school. We all know that school can be a bit daunting at first, but after diving into the dress up box and choosing a knights outfit Oscar is ready to take on his first day. But when another little boy grabs the dinosaur costume and pushes him out of the Oscar is intimated and afraid of the new comer.

My new school has a big dress-up box

The knights helmet is shiny. I like it a lot.

‘Raaaah’ I say.

I am Oscar the brace.

But when I try to get the shield

a kid with freckles pushed in and snatches the dragon tail.

In many ways My Friend Ernest is about overcoming your fears. For Oscar he fears his first day at school with people he doesn’t know. His mum tells him he is Oscar the brave and he tries to live up to the expectation, but when confronted by a kid with freckles and red hair who dressed up as dinosaur, Oscar suddenly doesn’t feel so brave after all. It’s about overcoming the fear of strangers and the steps we make to becoming friends. And in some small way, it’s potentially about dealing with a bully too and seeing beyond the fear.

Ernest, who we do grow to love as much as Oscar does is a scared little boy on his first day too. But unlike Oscar who he copies, his methods of making friends and getting to knows those around him are a bit brash and intimating. He doesn’t know how to share or what to do and so he gets off on the wrong foot with Oscar. But after the help of a little girl, the two talk and become best friends quickly.

I really liked the messages this book conveyed. I loved the use of imagination and transformation through costume with the kids living out their costumed lives. Oscar, who dressed as knight in shining armour feared Ernest, the big dragon who was misunderstood. Rather than slaying the dragon, Oscar confronts the dragon on being scary and mean, and he learns that not everyone is as they first look. I really liked the way that played out on different levels through the illustrations and text. I also really enjoyed the way the book represented friendship and how to get to know people who are different from yourself and the way in which children learn to share.

I quite enjoyed Hannah Sommerville’s style of illustration. By focusing on the characters and not so much the background – and thus leaving it mostly bland and off white – Sommerville let the characters and the readers imagination tell the story with her simple yet alluring illustrations.

My Friend Ernest is a sweet story about the friendship Ernest and Oscar strike up on the first day of school. It’s a fantastic book for any child wary about starting pre-school/school or worried about making new friends.

To purchase a copy of My Friend Ernest, visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | QBD | Book World | ABC Shop | Boffins Books | The Nile |



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