Mac and Cheese & the Personal Space Invader
Written by Jolene Gutiérrez
Illustrated by Heather Bell
Don’t be disappointed, but this is not about the Italian pasta dish Macaroni Cheese, moreover two little guinea pigs called – you’ve guessed it – Mac and Cheese. It’s also not about the video game Space Invaders but instead, refers to the issue of personal space.
Oliver has difficulty making friends, so he looks at the relationship Mac and Cheese the guinea pigs have and copies them by squeezing close, snuggling and nuzzling with disastrous results as children are not guinea pigs and they react the opposite way to how Oliver expects. He doesn’t understand why until his teacher explains.
It is such a beautiful innocent story of a boy who doesn’t understand the concept of friendship. He sees how the guinea pigs are together and presumes that is how all relationships should be. The story is told in a mixture of English and Spanish which is quite unusual and most of the time it is obvious what the storyline is saying through the incredible illustrations, if not the words. Unfortunately, as an Owl, I am not very fluent in Spanish, so I struggled with some of the words and how to pronounce and interpret them.
At a time when the world is learning to understand social distancing, this is the perfect book. Many children are unaware of encroaching on other people’s personal space and go right up to their faces or sit so close that they are touching them so having a book that discusses this issue is fantastic. I love the way that Oliver’s teacher talks to Oliver and suggests he wears a hula-hoop so that he can safely distance himself from the other children and become visually aware of how close he is to them.
This book is essential for every school and library. So many children are unaware that they are upsetting other children by getting too close to them and therefore unable to build friendships. Jolene has written the story in such a sensitive manner with the wonderful concept of using Mac and Cheese and I give the book four stars.