Phwoar! Introductory PhD seminar over. Back to books!

Hi All,

You may notice that there has been a bit of a break in posts. I was busy finalising preparations for my PhD seminar on Australian children’s picture books. What a rush! I finished today, and it all went swimmingly (or so I’m told). So, now, back to my reviews!

ImageThe Wattle Tree, written by John Bell and illustrated by Ben Wood, is a beautiful story. John Bell is of Bell Shakespeare fame, and boy does he know what he is doing. I have actually met the man before. When I met him, he was a rather rigid sort, and I was kind of intimidated. It was in the capacity of radio production, back in the days when I produced for Radio 2CC. He was interviewing with the venerable Mike Jeffries, for whom I produced at the time.

 At any rate, I should have guessed that Bell would be was an extraordinarily capable children’s picture book author, especially when considering the success of his Shakespeare company. However, when I came across this book I found it difficult to reconcile the seemingly stern man with the sorts of crushing emotions that he both understand and effectively communicates.

What is really flooring is how he has encapsulated the awful and distressing emotions a child experiences with the passing of a loved one. The Wattle Tree is about a little girl whose grandmother passes away. The little girl misses her grandmother very much, and doesn’t know how to express or discuss it.

Interestingly, this book depicts the experiences her mother is having too. I appreciate the realistic aspect of this book; mum doesn’t have the answers for everything, and she is really suffering too. That’s rare in children’s books, and it was an enjoyable aspect of this narrative. This story is a touching one, and worth your dollars. You can find it at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/36390.John_Bell

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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.