A relaxing, clever read.

ImageThat’s not a daffodil! written and illustrated by Elizabeth Honey, is a sweet story about a little boy, Tom, and his neighbour, Mr. Yilmaz. The little boy is sceptical that the bulb Mr. Yilmaz has given him will grow into a flower. Tom imagines different aspects of the pot and plant to be various things, from a wet rocket to a streetlight.

This book is lyrical and the images have a wonderful feel of tranquility about them. I also appreciate the very subtle themes of cultural diversity embedded within the book. They are not didactic whatsoever, and are not mentioned on the book jacket.

My gut instinct, however, is that this book, whilst extremely well written and clever, is not for everyone. Covering themes from imagination, gardening, friendship and discovery, the relaxing feel of the story is likely to be met with mixed reactions, some absolute enjoyment and some not so much. For children ages 3-6.

Make up your own mind, at: https://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781742372488

Stop what you are doing. Buy this book immediately.

ImageThis is one of those exceptional stories that, as a writer, you wish you had created. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is quirky, cute, funny and unusual. It also made #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

The story is about a boy who goes to use his crayons, but finds instead that they have run away. Each colour has left him a note explaining why they have left. Red feels like he is used far too much for some things, white resents not being used enough, and blue is grateful for being the boy’s favourite, but is tired and stumpy.

The illustrations are charming and wonderful. They are drawn to appear as though they were a child’s drawings, and they are astoundingly convincing.

The text is appropriate for children 3-7 years, but the humour may be lost a bit on the younger ones.

I cannot recommend this one enough. It made me smile, laugh a few times, and then curse Drew Daywalt for his brilliance (in a most supportive way, of course!)

Go here. Buy it now. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-day-the-crayons-quit-drew-daywalt/1113054468?ean=9780399255373


Buy for the story, stay for the pictures.

ImageGood Night, Sleep Tight, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek, is a beauty. I know I’ve covered Fox twice, but my Ph.D is focusing on Australian picture books so I’m Aussie-centric at the moment. The story is sweet, rhythmical and altogether light-hearted.

Skinny Doug is babysitting Bonnie and Ben. He seamlessly sews their favourite bedtime stories together to create an exciting adventure for the children. It’s not a brain-bender, it’s just lots of fun. My favourite aspect of this book is the illustrations

Judy Horacek creates bright, bold and neon cartoon-like images, which is unsurprising given her profession as a cartoonist. She is also an author in her own right.

Together, Horacek and Fox have challenged gender norms and expectations, and have done so subtly. I’m not sure if this was purposeful, but it was nice, and even somewhat of a relief, to encounter a male babysitter. Skinny Doug is not threatening or creepy. He’s just babysitter who can spin a good yarn.

Horacek’s depictions of the children are androgynous and delightful. They are zany to look at and, combined with the illustrations, the story is silly and wacky in an ordered sort of way. Good Night, Sleep Tight is described as whimsical on the back, and it lives up to the description.

Buy this book for the story, stay for the pictures. Find it at http://www.booktopia.com.au/good-night-sleep-tight-mem-fox/prod9781742832579.html?source=pla&gclid=CLTDkL26r70CFQHKpAodxhQAaQ



The book you probably haven’t heard about, but should have.

The HugThe Hug, written by David Grossman and illustrated by Michal Rovner, is lyrical and beautiful, and the sketches are scarce and powerful.  The brief narrative tackles the challenging subjects of loneliness and intimacy. The story is about a little boy who, upon discovering he is unique, starts to feel small and alone. His mother is there to provide guidance and warmth as he ponders his space and place in the world.

The bare artwork and whitespace are utilised brilliantly and contribute to the ethereal feel of The Hug. Originally published in Hebrew. You can check it out here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Hug-David-Grossman/9781468302738.


Just a quickie tonight…

ImageToday has been off-the-charts busy! So, this is a perfect day for a review of…*drum roll please*… Dinosaurs Love Cheese by Jackie French, illustrated by Nina Rycroft.

This book and I got off to a rocky start, but in the end we grew to love each other. The story is really basic and fun, and the title is pretty self explanatory. There are two things, in my experience, that most kids like: dinosaurs and cheese. You can’t really lose here. The story explores what different people and animals like, and repeats ‘but dinosaurs love cheese’. It’s fun and silly and there is no didactic lesson.

The illustrations are bold and vivid, and definitely complement and add to the story. Based on French’s dedication, I assume this book is for a little tyke she loves who enjoyed both dinosaurs and cheese (shocking, right??), which means it is a labour of love.

If you’re looking for deep and meaningful, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for hard, fast, fun and silly, this is the book for you. You can check it out at http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Dinosaurs-Love-Cheese-Jackie-French-Nina-Rycroft-Illustrated-by/9780732292645?utm_source=googleps&utm_medium=ps&utm_campaign=AU&gclid=CJi54eLrqr0CFUMRpAodPFYAEQ.

Ever so often, you’ll come across a picture book that makes you want to be a better writer.

jessica's boxJessica’s Box, written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas, is one of these inspiring treats. The story is about a little girl starting at a new school and she is trying to dream up effective ways of making friends. The story was shortlisted in 2008 for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and was listed as a ‘Notable Book’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. It’s easy to see why.

This story is touching and very real; it accurately captures the nerves and the dread that one can feel in this sort of situation. It is also pretty accurate about the attitude of the children. You’re rooting for Jessica all along, and you can see what she’s doing and why it won’t work, but she has to discover this for herself.

The end is touching and beautiful and makes me want to go write. Jessica’s Box is for the adults and the kiddies. Children will likely relate to the emotions that Jessica is experiencing, and adults will enjoy teaching their children about their children’s worth whilst reading beautiful writing. The illustrations are fun and thought provoking and they match the feel of the text perfectly.

I cannot recommend this one enough. Do yourself a favour and have a look. You can find it at http://newfrontier.com.au/books/jessicas-box/233.html.

An oldie but a goodie.

Pat The BunnyThis book is quick and entertaining. Best of all, bubba likes it, so it has a 9-month-old’s seal of approval, and that’s surprisingly challenging to get!

The book is called Pat The Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt, and was first published in 1940!! But it really has stood the test of time. It was actually a gift from my mother. When I saw it, it looked so antiquated and blergh that my first reaction was “really??”. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover. This was a case in point.

This book is sort of board book, sort of not… you have to hold it in your hand to see what I mean. Each page is a tiny little activity to keep the kiddies entertained. For instance, Judy pats the bunny, so you pat the bunny too, which is a little furry strip. Paul’s playing hide and seek, so you lift the flap and find Paul. There’s even a perfumed page because Judy is smelling the flowers! So adorable watching my little man *sniff sniff*. Oh, the sweetest little part about it is a tiny little book within the book because Judy is reading, so you read this little mini book too. It is seriously cute and worth a look.

The only gripe I really have with it is that it is very ‘boy’ looks like this ‘girl’ looks like this, but only in the illustrations of Pat and Judy.If you’re interested, you can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Pat-Bunny-Touch-Feel-Book/dp/0307120007. You can thank me in the comments section when it arrives!

Things that make you go… “no, no, no”!

ImageImagine my enthusiasm as I came across The Smurfs – Brainy Smurf’s Sporty Day (a board book).

Three things drew me to this book:

1) Smurfs! Need I say more?

2)The ‘BIG flaps for small hands’ label.

3)The book is centred on a brainy character.

Number three is where things get messy. Anecdotally, there were too many words for a 9-month-old on which to concentrate, but that’s basically me wanting to read a book he’s not ready for yet. The real issue with this book is that (spoiler alert) no matter how hard brainy tries to achieve anything at all the various sports, he just can’t seem to succeed. In the end, he finds a place for himself as a referee.

I do understand the benefits of telling children they don’t need to be good at everything. I get that. What I don’t like is how pigeonholed these smurfs are. Why can’t brainy be good at a sport? I know, I know — that’s his name. Also, I refer to point one: they’re smurfs. But little people are so impressionable, and they are just becoming their special little selves. I don’t know, this just really irked me. Brainy tries everything and in the end, basically just goes back to being pre-sport-attempting brainy.

Also, the fact that his choice to take the referee’s position has marginalised him. Yes, I know I’m putting my academic hat on, but stick with me here. Whilst all the other smurfs are happy playing sports, brainy is in a different role. I guess the message I inferred was that if you are smart, you are different and you have a different role. Something about that seems off.

Still, the pictures are bright and fun, and the flaps are very flappable for little hands. If you don’t give a hoot about all that stuff above, then you can find the book here : http://www.fivemile.com.au/catalog/smurfs/brainy-smurfs-sporty-day-shaped-board-book-0.

‘Good Night, Me’. A sweet goodnight book from a fresh(ish) perspective.

good_night_me1-300x300This book is really, really cute. The marketplace is always flooded with ‘goodnight book’ options, and I’ve found it’s hard to distinguish some from others. Good Night, Me is a sweet and simple goodnight book by Andrew Daddo, illus by Emma Quay.

My favourite aspect of this book is that it follows the goodnight routine of an orang-utan who is genderless. This means it does not privilege or work towards gendering some aspect of your child’s bedtime.

The pages go through parts of the body, and what is their function, whilst wishing them each a good night, eg. “Neck, could you please just place my head on that pillow? That’s it.”

It is very saccharine, and if that isn’t your thing, then this book is not the one for you. But, for the rest of us ‘good night’ wishers, check it out. http://www.andrewdaddo.com/?page_id=17

‘Wuthering Heights’ board book, you say?! Read on…

ImageThe squeal I emitted when I came across this book would have been embarrassing, were I not busy hyperventilating from excitement. There is a set of board books, aimed at babies, which have been appropriated from the classics. The one I purchased was Wuthering Heights – A Weather Primer, by Jennifer Addams, illus by Alison Oliver.

Each book is focused on teaching bubs something by using descriptions from the classic story on which the book is based. For example, in the Wuthering Heights book, the ‘Breezy’ page describes the weather as “…sweet and warm.” So evocative and fun. I think this is a really great concept. The illustrations, too, are unique and engaging.

Other books in the series include Moby-Dick – An Ocean Primer and Jane Eyre – A Counting Primer (both by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver). In case you are interested, you can go check them out here: http://www.babylit.com/about/. Go on, you know you want to!