A big shouting day? Why, I’m guessing you’ve encountered a few.

Big shouty dayThis book is silly and fun and terribly, terribly accurate. Written and illustrated by Rebecca Patterson, the story is about a little girl who just having one of those days. Nothings seems or feels right and it is just plain frustrating! We’ve all had those days, but the beauty of childhood is that you can actually shout at anything and everything to really express yourself. Truth be told, I’m a little jealous of the little girl. A passive-aggressive smile just doesn’t cut it for me, but alas that is one of the pitfalls of adulthood; it’ll have to do.

Of course for this little girl, her shouting day is inevitably impacting on a terribly, terribly patient mummy who is, by the end, super frustrated herself. One of the things I love about this book, and I try and incorporate into my own writing (wink-wink/self-promotion/nudge-nudge) is that the satisfying end to this book is that she still retains her spunk; girls need a bit of that!

The story is well written, engaging and so accurate! Have a look at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13632292-my-big-shouting-day

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

 

I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet…

They sent me a… cat who sheds all over everything and a dog who likes to chew up my backyard! Alright, the book doesn’t actually say this, but I’m attempting to be witty here whilst splashing in a puddle of exhaustion. I can either continue to try to be cute about this or just get on with the business of reviewing picture books. I choose the latter! So…

ImageDear Zoo by Rod Campbell is an easy read and quick fun. In fact, I know it pretty much by heart. That’s how simple it is! Also, that’s pretty indicative that my son is a fan. I never thought an 11 month old would have so many opinions about what he reads, but if it’s not in his mouth or he’s not craning his neck so he doesn’t have to look at the pictures, then I know I’m onto a winner.

This book is quick, has a narrative, and is a lift-the-flap — it’s my trifecta! It is very minimal. The page with the lift-the-flap that matches the cover — the one with the cage in front of the lion — is my son’s favourite. He likes to run his tiny little pointer finger through the little paper bars.

This books is pretty darn popular, and I can understand why. Go see for yourself at: http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Zoo-Lift-Flap-Book/dp/141694737X

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

 

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.