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!

Indestructible books for babies? Yes, they exist. And I LOVE them…

ImageBoy do I love this concept! Board books have a place in my heart, but I still enjoy that special feeling of turning a paper page. I don’t know, it’s all earthy and whatnot. Having a 9-month-old means eventually, everything will go in the mouth. This means traditional paper is out of the question which is a bummer. I think illustrations look best on what was once a crisp white page (and before that a happy, healthy tree…woops…). Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to publish a board book! But I’m so excited about the novel aspect of these indestructibles.

The book my son and I have is called Baby Faces by Amy Pixton and Kate Merritt. The best bit? My boy loves them too! I usually read this book through twice to him.

The pages are just slightly thicker than a standard page, but still very bendy and page-like, and nowhere near as cardboardy as a board book. I don’t know, texture is kind of an added layer when you’re reading a book, wouldn’t you say? Marshall McLuhan and all that? Amiright?

Here’s the link in case you are interested: http://www.indestructiblesinc.com/buy.html


The ‘Ten Little Fingers’ vs. ‘Spot’ conundrum..

spot and duckI love Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (illus: Helen Oxenbury). It is sweet, engaging, the rhyme is tight (it is Mem Fox after all…) and it’s one of those that I, as an adult, love reading to my son because it somehow involves me. My son, however, has the patience of a walnut with some books and is obsessed with others.

Again and again, he giggles and coos as Spot (written and illus by Eric Hill) looks for his ball, talks to the ducks, says something or other to a hippo and is generally always stuck looking in the closet for one thing or another.

I, on the other hand, adore the rhythm of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. It is so simple and yet so sweet and I’m sure was a challenge to write. I hope one day to write my own little Ten Little Fingers. My favourite page is the one with the little baby hands and feet. All chubby and innocent. That double page beauty does get my son’s attention. But, ultimately, my son is steadfastly averse to letting me get through it.

So, what is a mummy to do? I can definitely see benefits of the Spot books. They have a lot of repetitive words, the bright, solid and simple colours are attractive. They are enjoyable to read every now and then because of how much my little man enjoys them.

But, sometimes, I want to kick the darn duck… I realise I am referring to a book about a talking dog here, but he truly does come across an inordinate amount of ducks.

I hope one day my son will let me waggle his little fingers and toes as I read him the melodious Fox ode to babies everywhere. In the meantime, it looks like it’s Helen the Hippo and that crafty, ubiquitous duck for me.

You can get Ten Little Fingers here: http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Ten-Little-Fingers-and-Ten-Little-Toes/Mem-Fox/book_9780143503583.htm?gclid=CPyI9dbkpL0CFULvpAodYEwABQ

Spot books available here: http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Hill/e/B000AQ202K

Who am I?


In a nutshell, I am a new(ish) mummy of a 9-month-old, I tutor in the Creative Writing Dept. at the University of Canberra and, finally, I am smitten with all things picture book. Which is why I am examining them for my Ph.D.

I am a practice-led researcher. This means that I enjoy the craft as well as the analysis. I write to learn and I learn to write. It’s a beautiful marriage, really.

So… what am I doing here? What are you doing here? Hopefully, you will be reading reviews on the books I am reading to my little guy, though I imagine I will also update on a few tangential-but-still-related issues.

Oh, by the way, you may be wondering why there is a cover of a Libby Gleeson book at the top of this post. The pics up there are images of the three main elements that have inspired me to do what I do. My son is always at the top. Next, Libby Gleeson’s I Am Thomas is so brilliantly written that I’ve become an embarrassing fan-girl. When I first came across it, my world expanded. As an aside, I am going to try to meet her later this year at a CBCA conference — that or drool in awe at her. We’ll see which one.

Of course, the last image is of the UC logo. I work and learn at the University of Canberra. It’s always been a kind and generous institution, and I thought I’d give it a shout out… I love the people with and for whom I work.