Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reviews: Recent Children’s Picture Books about Animals

Reviews: Recent Children’s Picture Books about Animals
by Susan Stephenson,

Ever noticed how animal characters are perennial favourites with kids? Here’s a list of recently published children’s picture books with my mini-reviews to whet your appetite, and below them, some of my recent reviews of more books with fun animal characters. I’m positive you’ll find lots here your children and students will love!

Nugget and Fang: Written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Michael Slack, and published by Koala Books (Scholastic) 2014. RRP: $14.99.

Nugget and Fang, minnow and shark, are the best of friends. Until Nugget is told sharks and minnows can’t possibly be friends. This would make a great light-hearted introduction to the concept of a food chain, and an excellent discussion starter for conversations about friendship. It’s bursting with colour and humour for kids to enjoy.

Scary Night: Written by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, and published by Working Title Press, 2014. RRP: $24.99.

This is such a fun story to share with kids! Hare, Cat and Pig go on a mystery journey, tip-toe creeping in the pale moonlight. The book is not completely rhyming, but the rhyme is woven in nicely, as is the repetition. It would make a delightful way to introduce alliteration to kids - Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake, Pig with a parcel - and a great model for ways to use tension in a story.

I Spy Pets: Written and illustrated by Edward Gibbs, published by Koala Books (Scholastic) 2013. RRP: $13.99.

Because I am spending more time with three and four-year-olds lately, I’m discovering for myself how much they love books that are also toys. The book snob in me has, alas, been known to refer to them as gimmick books. Yet these same books can be responsible for kids learning to love reading, so I’m henceforth giving them the respect they deserve!

I Spy Pets has nice large holes for peeking through. Pre-schoolers adore the mystery of trying to work out what we can see through the hole, and LOVE to be proven right. (Just like BookChooks!) The illustrations have been well thought out, being large and clear. A great follow-up would be to play I Spy with kids, or use a paper tube to locate objects in the house.

Hog in the Fog: Written by Julia Copus, illustrated by Eunyoung Seo, published by Faber 2014 (Allen and Unwin in Australia.) RRP Aust: $22.99.

My very favourite books to share with kids are the rhyming ones. The rhyme needs to be done well, for both read-alouder and listener to totally enjoy the experience. Hog in the Fog is great to read aloud! Cameo illustrations cleverly show us what the animals actually saw, while they tell us what they think they saw. I thoroughly approve of Lil’s philosophy: “Here at my house,” said Lil with a smile,/“it stays TEA o’clock for a very long while.”

Dangerous: Written and illustrated by Tim Warnes, published by Koala Books 2014, distributed by Scholastic. RRP: $14.99.

I know kids who love to label things. They’ll meet a kindred spirit in Mole, who’s a happy and prolific labeller. Until one day he meets something unusual… This is a great picture book to use with kids who are acquiring new vocabulary words, learning about nouns, or have lots of sight words in their room! It’s a delightful story, tightly told, and will appeal to kids 4+.

Sylvia: Written and illustrated by Christine Sharp, published by UQP, 2014.

Sylvia is a snail who’s in love with Simon Green. She waxes poetic about his veg, writing messages with her silvery trail. But Simon takes no notice until the day Sylvia has an idea… The illustrations are sheer joy in this charming children’s picture book with lots of lovely patterns for kids to admire. It’s an unusual tale, perfect to share with school-aged kids who are learning about natural and built environments or sustainability.

Poppy Cat: Written and illustrated by Sara Acton, published by Scholastic Press, 2014. RRP: $24.99.

This gentle story is a celebration of all things Child and Cat. The illustrations are perfectly pitched at younger kids, with a muted palette, and lots of white space. Buy it for any child who understands what it is to have the love of a companion animal.

Snail and Turtle are Friends: Written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King, published by Scholastic Press 2014. RRP: $24.99.

Snail and Turtle are two close friends, with lots in common but differences too. King celebrates their differences with colour, patterns and snail trails just waiting for exploration by little fingers. He shows their enjoyment of their friendship with quietly humorous scenes. It’s a lovely story to share with kids, and will work well as a book for emergent readers too.

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Be sure to look out for my reviews of recently published picture books about birds on 29/10 and about dinosaurs on 5/11.

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