A delicious metafiction treat. Om nom nom!

This book just ate my dog!This book is really entertaining. I love me some good ol’ fashioned metafiction and this fits the bill nicely. Bella is walking her dog when something very odd happens. The book she is in eats her dog! In reality, we see that her dog has disappeared into the gutter of a double page spread (the gutter is the centre crease where the two pages meet). Well what’s a little girl to do?! Try and find help of course! But retrieving the dog isn’t going to be as easy as Bella hopes.

I adore that this book embraces the shape and feel of a book and utilises these aspects to engage the reader. It’s not a complicated story, but it sure is a fun one. Funny thing though — this book is available on e-readers whereas other books that don’t involve the feel and shape of a physical book as part of the storyline are not. Isn’t that a little quirky? But everything about this book is. If you enjoy some silly interaction and an uncomplicated story, this one is worth your time.

You can grab a copy for yourself at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20518873-this-book-just-ate-my-dog. The book is written and illustrated by Richard Byrne and published by Henry Holt and Co. I’d recommend this one for kids 3-7.

Meet the Dullards is anything but dull!

Meet the DullardsMeet the Dullards, written by Sarah Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, details the plight of Mr. and Mrs. Dullard. When they catch their children reading – GASP! – something must be done immediately! Their children are expected to lead dull, ordinary lives; stimulating past-times such as reading are not acceptable! What is a tedious and dull set of parents to do? Move, that’s what! But children are resourceful. When the Dullards get distracted watching paint dry, their plan goes awry.

This book is awesome. Really, it is. It’s all those words I use to describe a story I’m in love with; creative, quirky, fun, different, clever. The author and illustrator somehow manages to make a story, which is quite literally about dull moments, delightful. What can I say beyond that? Author Sara Pennypacker can now count me among her innumerable fans.

Meet the Dullards is published by HaperCollins and is suitable for children 4 – 7. Pick up your own copy at: http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780062198563/meet-the-dullards#

Sometimes simplicity is just divine!

the-very-cranky-bearThe Very Cranky Bear, written and illustrated by Australian Nick Bland, has a simple premise. When a group of animals seek refuge from the cold in his cave, he is (surprise, surprise) cranky! The clueless foursome try their best to cheer the bear up, though not because they care so much as they really want to play in that (very) occupied cave.

They each try to get to the bottom of the bear’s crankiness. However, the solution is more simple than they realise at first, and it takes one very ‘plain’ sheep to figure it out.

Bland’s rhyming scheme adds a layer of complexity to this book that otherwise might be a bit on the bland (no pun intended) side. It also adds a layer of delicious charm. I can’t go past mentioning Bland’s illustrations. I absolutely adore his style here. Colourful, vivid and yet cartoonish. Really, I could gush on and on about them.

This book has a simple premise and a simple solution which results in a wonderful story. It’s all very seamless. You won’t be cranky about the decision to spend a few dollars on The Very Cranky Bear.

The Very Cranky Bear, published by Scholastic.
Author/Illustrator: Nick Bland.
Check it out at: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-very-cranky-bear-collection-nick-bland/prod9781743622520.html

A sweet story for the sentimental reader.

You Are My I Love YouYou Are My I Love You, written by Maryann Cusimano Love and illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa, is sugary from start to finish. I like this sort of story. Then again, I’m endlessly sappy which means You Are My I Love You is already three steps ahead in my book (pun totally intended).

The rhyming verse follows an ‘I am; You are’ pattern. For example, “I am your dinner; you are my chocolate cake. I am your bedtime; you are my wide awake.” The illustrations depict an adult bear with a little teddy as they experience the daily joys of parent-child interaction.

Love (it’s like she was born to write this particular story) has chosen her words carefully and well. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, every page evokes a particular memory and moment as I read it. The rhyming scheme is also easy on the ears for my nearly-two-year-old.

I appreciate that the parent-figure is wearing blue clothing. This means that the figure is neutral enough that it could be a parent or caregiver from either gender. This is important because most I Love You stories seem to focus on the intimate moments with mum. This one allows for dad (or other) to read it too, and leaves room for discussion without having to respond to comments like, “but isn’t that his mummy?”

You Are My I Love You, published by Penguin Group, is recommended for children (and sappy parents) 3-5.

A captivatingly dark read.

The City - Armin Greder The City is the sort of book that is read, followed by a glowing silence of reflection. This type of book is important and I highly recommend it for readers mature enough to handle the serious and somewhat morbid subject material.

The narrative begins by focusing upon a mother who loves her new baby dearly and wishes only the best for him. She is shrouded in black robes, as if she wishes to conceal herself and her child from everything. She is depicted breastfeeding him on the very first page, in fact in the very first illustration; this is a serious book and Greder isn’t beating about the bush. These are intimate ideas at work here. Greder’s illustrations are a stunning juxtaposition of shades and shadows against topics of love and protection.

Fearing her child will face hardships that have befallen the city, the mother takes him to a secluded and isolated place. Here, the story shifts focus and settles upon the baby who is now a young boy. This is necessary because his mother dies suddenly. I almost used the term ‘passes away’ when composing this review, but I want to be true to the blunt atmosphere that Greder has constructed. The boy is lost, confused and rather unsocialised because his mother has surrounded him so fiercely with love and isolation so as to keep him from harm that this, ultimately, visits harm upon him.

Greder’s prose is poetic. There are countless ways of analysing and dissecting his narrative and illustrations. If I was still a high school English teacher, I have no doubt that I could dedicate two or three lessons to this book aone. His illustrations are comprised of sketch-like figures, an odd and yet precise combination whimsical, off-putting and foreboding. There are certainly strong undercurrents of fairy-tale embedded within the story, and not of the Disney variety.

I absolutely would not read this to my two year old. I don’t think it would come close to holding his attention, nor would he appreciate it. And that’s OK, because Greder’s target audience is not of the toddler variety. These types of books often struggle to find homes because older readers tend to think of themselves as beyond the picture book phase. Happily for me, I am a firm believer that picture books aren’t a phase but an underappreciated medium which can benefit everyone. Therefore, The City is now counted amongst my favourite picture books of all time (and that’s saying something because I’m pretty sure I could start a library with the amount of picture books I own).

The City is written and illustrated by Armin Greder, and recommended for children 11-16. However, if your children are on the younger end of that spectrum, I suggest you accompany their first one or two read-throughs as the story raises far more questions than it answers.

A relief from alphabetical monotony.

ABC & DoThis book is enchantingly fun. It’s interactive, stimulating and colourful; three aspects which are key to engaging the budding reader. If I’m being honest, I think I like this book even more than my little guy. Whilst he enjoys reading it, half of the novelty elements have been ripped off or nibbled on. The thing is, my little man is obsessed with his ABCs. As you can imagine, the result is that we have piles upon piles of ABC books.

Since I seem to be in the mood for confessionals, I might as well tell you the sheer amount of letter and number books around the house is more for my benefit more than his. Seriously, you can only say A is for Apple so many times a day and in only so many ways! But ABC & DO has found a funky way to keep it fresh and interesting (thank you, Egmont… really!).

One page is a puzzle (j is for jigsaw), another is a refrigerator and freezer, one with food and one without (E is for empty and F is for full), another has a telephone with a spinning dial on it (C is for call). The design of this book is a little bit brilliant.

I bought this book from a Big W which means it is affordable and easily accessible. If your little one is caught up in the ABC craze, do yourself a favour and considering purchasing ABC & DO.

Written by Lee Singh, illustrated by Karen Wall. Recommended for children 3-5 years (or parents who are dreaming of apples, boats and cats).

A bit of quick novelty fun.

All Around TownWhen I came across this book I was pretty keen. For starters, the book is somewhat of a novelty; it is shaped like a miniature city – I think that’s kind of awesome. Inside the city, there are cars and roads and six buildings – each building has a dedicated little first-word type book, eg. hospital, school etc. and each book is filled with words related to that building, such as ‘student’, ‘patient’ etc.

Visually speaking, the layout of this book definitely breaks up the monotony of some of the other first-word books that I’ve come across. Unfortunately, I ended up more interested in this book than my son which is not a great thing because, not to boast here, I already knew all the words. I’m not sure I can actually explain why my son isn’t totally into it because it appears to have everything you’d want and/or need in order to attract a very young reader. I’m going to persist with this one because the words inside are actually quite useful, and not often found in a lot of the other ‘baby’s first word’ books.

I am recommending this book, but I’d caution that you test it on your little one before you buy it. I’m thinking of bringing it to playgroup this week and seeing if the other little hands find it more appealing. That being said, I think it’s worth a try. I’d recommend it for children ages 1-3 (though 3 is pushing it).

All Around Town, illustrated by Veronica Klimova, can be found at: http://www.paperchainbookstore.com.au/search.cfm?UR=BI234258&search_stage=details&records_to_display=50&this_book_number=28