Silly, quirky and more than a little brilliant.

Umm… so I’m back! I’d like to apologise for my brief hiatus, but guess what ya’ll! I made a baby!!

Jay and Aaron

To celebrate, I’m posting a wonderful new book I’ve had the pleasure of reading during my ‘break’ (I use the term lightly. Sleep? What is sleep??’).

 

CrocodollyThe Crocodolly, written and illustrated by Martin McKenna, is delicious. The story follows a zany yet charming girl, Adelaide, who disguises her pet crocodile as a dolly in order to keep him. Mischief and mayhem are bound to occur as her ‘dolly’ starts to grow bigger and bigger.

I like this one on several different levels. For starters, I get excited when writers are allowed to push the envelope when it comes to vocabulary. Think the Olivia books by Ian Falconer. McKenna is of those writers.

He’s managed to use the description, ‘disconcertingly vast’ in a seamless way; that is, a way that children can work out the meaning from the context. He dedicates an entire page to an irate town that offers up synonyms for the word ‘annoyed’. I just love this!

Beyond the vocabularic gems (yep, I invented a word…) embedded in this book, the story is silly enough and original enough to keep young readers captivated. My son had me read this to him several times through and right now is staring in fascination at the pages.

To grab a copy for yourself, check out: https://shop.scholastic.com.au/Product/8355754/The-Crocodolly.

The Crocodolly is published by Omnibus Books, ISBN 9781742990712.

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An unimaginably clever read…

BeekleA little while ago, I lamented the fact that Drew Daywalt had created such a clever story with his The Day the Crayons Quit, and I was most disappointed that I had not come up with the idea myself. This post follows the same vein.

Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle – The Unimaginary Friend is a wonderfully novel concept; on an island far away, imaginary friends wait to be imagined so they can start their adventures. Beekle, however, is always left behind. What’s an unimagined imaginary friend to do?

Santat’s story is so clever. For starters, there is lateral thought put into both the illustrations and the story. A child reading this can enjoy the surface story but, for the more developed little one, there is rewarding subtext to consider and discuss.

The pictures are quirky and, at times, melancholic, but not in an off-putting way — more-so in an emotionally appropriate way. Finally, the concept is novel and makes me grumble, ‘UGH! Why didn’t I think of this?’.

This story is probably most appropriate for children ages 4-7, but I’d still recommend it to kids on either end of that because…well… it’s wonderful.

Go buy this story. It’s worth it. Meanwhile, I’ll sit here shaking my fist at yet another literary genius.

The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend is available at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18295821-the-adventures-of-beekle.

I am in love with this book.

ImageTHE DARK by Lemony Snicket and Illustrated by Jon Klassen is In.Cre.Di.Ble. How did I not know this book existed? There are few picture books that give me goose bumps and this is certainly one of those. The book is about darkness and one little boy’s pervasive fear. Snicket’s writing is gentle and touching. He personifies the dark whilst maintaining its elusive and mysterious qualities. In the end, little boy learns to live in a world where there is darkness. It’s a great book for kids; there is a lesson in it, but not a didactic one. The illustrations are unique. I love the colour scheme and the way the darkness highlights the action. Klassen’s rendering of the story is clever and true to form. 

Go check it out. You can find it at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15790852-the-dark

 

Night Night Spot!

ImageThis will be the second time a Spot book appears on this website. I would argue this is an inevitability, considering my son is enamoured with these books.

I am quite a fan of a goodnight book. I have struggled to get through some of them with my son because his attention span isn’t yet developed. He does, however, usually let me get through Goodnight Moon and I’m quite fond of that one. However, when I found Night Night Spot I was quite relieved. It conveys a very simple yet effective narrative in only 8 double page spreads. It holds my son’s focus, and allows for a routine. It is also a board book so he can chew to his heart’s content.

Sadly, it seems he is now in the habit of crying as soon as this book comes out because he knows it means it is sleep-time. This breaks my heart, but also tells me that the book does a solid job of rounding out his bedtime routine. Besides, it’s only a flash cry and then the thumb pops in and all is well.

I recommend this text as a starter goodnight book. It is quick, simple and effective — sure to hold your bub’s attention, and help get them settled for the evening.

Have a look here:  http://www.booktopia.com.au/i-love-spot-baby-books-night-night-spot-eric-hill/prod9780723271642.html

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

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

 

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.