For young Madeline, one of the highlights of her birthday is the time she spends with her Grandfather Gilderberry. Her dad thinks that the old man is crazy, while her mum puts his eccentricities down to his age, but Madeline knows that he’s simply amazing. Every year, she looks forward to hearing his familiar birthday refrain:

“Happy birthday, Madeline,”
he said with a wink.
“Take a potion, take a brew.
Just don’t drink the pink.”

Grandfather Gilderberry never misses Madeline’s birthday and he always shows up with a box of magic potions for her to choose one from as a present. Whether she picks the red potion and ends up breathing fire, or the green potion and ends up super strong, or any of the other coloured potions that promise birthday fun and amazement, she knows that her grandfather always has the perfect gift in store for her… so long as she never picks the pink potion.

Don’t Drink the Pink is a charming, bittersweet tale about family, relationships and the realities of growing older. Thematically, it sits well with books such as Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley and Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr in the sense that the story sensitively addresses the process of ageing and all it implies, a subject that can be difficult to broach with young children. Saying that, it’s still a hugely entertaining story and B.C.R. Fegan’s use of rhyme makes it particularly fun to read the book aloud. Madeline’s birthdays are certainly full of magic, mischief and adventure, and there’s lots for young readers to enjoy and likely laugh at.

The illustrations by Lenny Wen are a delight. There’s plenty of detail, as well as interesting and amusing things to spot on every page, and the colour choices help to give the story something of a timeless quality. Don’t Drink the Pink is an endearing book that focuses on the special relationship between children and their grandparents and highlights how loved ones always bring a bit of magic to our lives.

Erin Britton 5*

Don’t Drink the Pink by B.C.R. Fegan and Lenny Wen
TaleBlade 9781925810097 pbk Aug 2019