A colourful name for a dream debut

posted in: Kali Stileman | 7

[With apologies to readers in the Southern Hemisphere…] Are you looking for a little sprinkling of colour and humour to help you get through these last days of winter before spring arrives? If so, Peely Wally, the debut picture book from Kali Stileman may be just the thing you’re looking for.

Photo: bortescristian

Peely Wally is a very happy bird. She has just laid an egg and is proud and thrilled. But in her excitement at the impending arrival of her baby, she bounces so hard on her twig that the egg rolls off and away. The poor egg tumbles down here, over there, only just avoids being eaten and eventually, with the help of all the neighbouring animals, survives the adventure and is returned to a much relieved Mum.

But then the most exciting thing of all happens… the egg cracks, and… well I’m sure you can guess what happens, but it’s nevertheless lovely, heartwarming and fun to reveal.

This simple tale is great fun for the younger crowd. There’s just the right amount of adventure, a suggestion of disaster, a reassuring rescue, and a great deal of love and care. But it’s the vibrant illustrations which will really get the kids coming back for more. Created in collage style, inevitably (and successfully) reminiscent of Eric Carle, they zing with colour and texture.

What’s more, I suspect that many kids won’t just listen to the story, they will actually play with this book: A dotted line across every page indicates the path of the egg and my kids love tracing this with their finger while the slopes and loop-the-loops encourage me to read the text in an even more sing-song fashion than normal.

Although I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book to any young family I bumped into in the bookshop, two tiny question marks hang over the book for me. First, the eponymous title. Personally, I like it – it suggests something fun and unusual. But I do wonder if some might be turned off by it (and perhaps the editors have thought this too – the book is being released outside of the UK under the title “Roly-Poly Egg”). It puts me in mind of another book I enjoy reading with the girls, but which I’ve heard hasn’t been very successful because of its title – The Terrible, Greedy Fossifoo by Charles Fuge.

Second, as this book will be a hit with the youngest of readers, and contains a wonderful lift-the-flaps page at the denouement of the story, it really deserved to be published on much more robust paper or even as a board book. The flaps, such as they are, will soon be torn, for they are thin and flimsy. This is such a shame for instead of letting my kids excitedly unveil what’s behind the flaps, I’m nervous about pages being ripped and this somewhat diminishes the story’s final impact.

However, put aside these two tiny gripes and what you have here is the perfect nonreligious book for Easter, an ideal gift for Mums-to-be and a peppy pick-me-up tonic to banish the winter blues. A treat for the preschool crowd, and a book that’s received a big thumbs up from both my girls. Do look out for it next week when it hits the shelves around the world!

Having read the book we wanted to make our own Peely Wallys to brighten up our day. At first I thought about painting them and using collage, just like Kali Stileman, but in the end we went for a 3D version, creating a small flock to inhabit our apple tree. Here’s how we did it.

First we go a pair of long pipecleaners (chenille stems) and several strips of tissue paper.

Next we scrunched up the tissue paper around the pipecleaners.

Googly eyes and a beak made from a folded diamond of card were added with a dab of glue…

… then the birds started to flock to the apple tree, and by winding the pipecleaners around the branches they happily perched where they landed.

Our Peely Wally flock has added a lovely splash of optimistic colour to the garden, and makes me smile every time I look out of the kitchen window whilst I’m washing up!




Peely Wally: ** (two out of three stars). Not a groundbreakingly original book, in story or style, but told with enough panache and boldness as to warrant seeking out.

Whilst making our Peely Wallys we listened to

  • I Like Birds and Little Bird, both by The Eels
  • Lullaby in Birdland, played here by Lionel Hampton, in honour of the late, great George Shearing
  • Do You Hear the Birds Singing by Frances England


  • Instead of making our own family of Peely Wallys, other activities we could have gotten up to alongside reading this book include:

  • Egg decorating – there’s a great round up of ideas here at The Crafty Crow. To make spotty eggs just like in Peely Wally, get inspired by this Faberge post from Julie adore Dimanche
  • Something yummy for lunch – these little egg chicks from justJENN
  • Inspired by the way Peely Wally’s egg rolls and rolls, I liked the idea of making this cardboard marble run from the ever creative Jojoebi at A Bit of This and a Bit of That.


  • The eggs and birds also reminded me of two past posts here on Playing by the book – our Magic Flute inspired birds and making cascarones. Good memories :-)

    Peely Wally provided us with a very welcome splash of colour. What’s bringing a little bit of colour into your lives at the moment?

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    7 Responses

    1. Wow, what an amazing blog, just come across via Voices for the Library on Facebook. I’m a bit confused by the title of this book too, in Scotland we use the phrase ‘peely wally’ to describe someone who is looking pale, anything but a splash of colour! Maybe the book explains more or something.

      Off to read more of your posts now!

      • Thanks Katherine, lovely to have you discover Playing by the book! I don’t understand why Peely Wally was chosen as the title as the book is really bursting with colour. Maybe it’s an ironic thing. Or simply because the words sound nice (at least to me without any Scottish sensitivities).

    2. That’s so funny, Zoe! Peely Wally! Her name is Splotch in our version. I love your birds, though. You should link them up to Marie’s Spotlight on her blog. She’s looking for bird crafts to feature next week. :)
      http://www.makeandtakes.com/spotlight

    3. Those are so cute!!!

      I’d love to have you share at my For the Kids Friday Link Party! I’m sure you’ll find some fun ideas while you are there! Come join the fun!

      http://sunscholars.blogspot.com/2011/03/for-kids-friday-3.html

    4. That is one cute flock of birds!

    5. […] it’s my favorite meal of the day. So submit your recipes to Spotlight. Dreamy Bird Card Spring Pipe Cleaner Birds Potato Stamped Birdies Cute Edible Owls Curly Paper Birds Decorative Bird Plate […]

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