Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Reviews: Recent Picture Books about Animals 2015 (3)

Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

Here are many recently published children's picture books (2015) with animal heroes and themes, all set to excite young readers near you!

There’s a Bear on my Chair: (Australian readers, I know right now you cannot resist singing “There’s a bear in there…”, the theme song of beloved TV show, Playschool!) This delightful picture book was written and illustrated by Ross Collins, and published by Nosy Crow (Allen and Unwin in Australia, 2015.) RRP: $Au22.99.

There’s a Bear on my Chair reveals a mouse’s utter dissatisfaction with the bear who won’t vacate Mouse’s chair, no matter what he tries. Mouse gives up in disgust and leaves Bear in possession of the chair. But wait, who’s that now sprawled on Bear’s bed? The twist at the end will delight young readers, as will the hilarious illustrations and clever rhyming text. Destined to become a read-aloud favourite for kids everywhere.

Counting Crows: Here’s an exquisite counting book kids will love. Counting Crows was written by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey and published by Simon and Schuster (2015.) RRP: $Au 19.99. Appelt’s text is in rollicking rhythm and rhyme. This isn’t a conventional counting book with a page about each number; rather Appelt has chosen to show us the counting that’s important in the crows’ day. So, while we do count numerically, the first major emphasis is on 3. Then we read of “Six salty peanuts, six ripe plums, Six for the counting crows. Yum, yum, yum!” move on to 9, 10, 11, 12, then back to 1 when the crows notice one cat.

The crows are cuteness personified, and yet maintain a faint hint of menace that all crows seem to exude. They are dressed in red and white stripes, and the limited palette of red, black and white is visually quite stunning. Dunlavey excels at using line and colour to convey exuberance and movement. One for kids who love to count, and for library collections.

Silly Squid was written by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Cheryl Johns and published by Koala Books (Scholastic, 2015.) I love Janeen Brian’s poetry for kids (check out her poetry collection, Silly Galah!) and was delighted to see this recently published hard cover book. It’s a collection of poems about the sea, and invites children to enjoy a range of poetry styles and subjects. There are also associated facts written around a page’s borders.

As we expect from a poet of Brian’s calibre, the language is perfectly pitched at younger primary kids, but it also encourages all aged kids to share the joy of playing with words. Johns’ illustrations explode with colour and life. It’s wonderful to see Australian publishers publishing such entertaining books of poetry!

Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf was written by Lorraine Carey, illustrated by Migy Blanco and published by Nosy Crow (Allen and Unwin in Australia, 2015.) RRP: $Au 22.99

From the publisher:

Nothing is what it seems in this hilarious story where nothing is what it seems. For example, did you know that there were three ugly sisters? And how about this - Cinderella wasn't actually very nice? And, far from being a mean-mouthed little madam, the youngest sister, Gertie, was the kindest person you could ever hope to meet?

Can you ever have too many fairy tale themed books in a library? I suspect the answer is a resounding no! Here’s one that suits a unit on Fractured Fairy Tales too. The young protagonist, Gertie Ugly, (one of the Ugly Sisters) needs to learn to be mean and bad so she’s packed off to various fairy tale villains. This helps kids connect with a range of characters from different well-known tales. Older kids will appreciate the way Carey has innovated on the original Cinderella text and Blanco’s illustrations will definitely elicit chuckles.

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner was written by Gareth Edwards, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, and published by Scholastic (2015.)

From the publisher:

Ever thought about sharing your toothbrush with a shark? Or using a tiger as a towel? Well, think again…This brilliantly daft, witty cautionary tale will guide you safely through the perils of dinner, bathtime and bedtime — helping you to snuggle down for a lovely sleep, free from dinosaurs, tigers and sharks. Illustrated in fabulous, glowing colours by Guy Parker-Rees, this is a wickedly funny and reassuring bedtime read.

A little boy learns why he should not become involved with a range of animals, not share his toothbrush with a shark etc The illustrations are colourful and full of energy but I believe the vocabulary makes it more appropriate for school kids rather than pre-schoolers. For instance:

“Because the first thing that you’ll learn’ll
Be a barn owl is nocturnal.
She will hunt for voles and hoot all night
And leave your bed a dreadful sight.”

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon was written by Tony Wilson, illustrated by Laura Wood, and published by Scholastic, (2015.)

From the publisher:

Hey diddle diddle
You all know the riddle
A cow jumps over the moon...

But the moon is very high in the sky. How many attempts will it take before Cow makes her famous high-flying leap?

Even though Hey Diddle Diddle is a nursery rhyme, not a fairy tale, I think this children’s picture book would make an excellent new resource for that same unit I mentioned above, the one that both teachers and kids love: Fractured Fairy Tales. The book is great fun. It's set out as a record of various moon attempts, each written up in rhyme and rhythm faithful to the original Hey Diddle Diddle. The interesting vocabulary - perseverance, hazy, meteorite - and the humour makes this one that kids 7+ will appreciate too, especially when they compare it with the original and gain an understanding of what the author has done. Wood’s interesting use of colour and perspective add new layers of meaning to the book.

Messy Jellyfish is a children’s picture book by Ruth Galloway, and published by Koala Books (Scholastic 2015.) RRP: $14.99

From the publisher:

Best friends Jellyfish and Seahorse live in a rockpool. Jellyfish loves to sing and dance and make a mess! Seahorse wants things to be quiet and tidy.

When Jellyfish invites Crab, Starfish and the Shrimps over for an impromptu party, the ruckus upsets Seahorse and he leaves. But soon he feels lonely all by himself in the quiet.

After the party guests are gone, Jellyfish realises she has been unkind to her tidy friend and cleans up the mess. When Seahorse returns, they throw a party together ... and everyone cleans up together afterwards.

Another delightfully bright book from the author–illustrator of Smiley Shark, Whale's First Song, Clumsy Crab and Fidgety Fish.

A Great Big Dinosaur Adventure is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Katherine Kirkland, and published by Koala Books for Scholastic Australia (2015.) RRP: $15.99.

From the publisher:

When Oli sets off to have a GREAT BIG ADVENTURE, he wants to meet the scariest dinosaur in the land! But who is the scariest — and how will Oli know when he meets it? Oli is in for a BIG surprise!

Dinosaur books are perennial favourites with children and here’s a worthy addition to your stack! Kirkland mixes fiction with facts to spin a tale that incorporates lots of different dinosaurs. Her illustrations are delightful and the size of the book showcases them beautifully.

The Possum Magic Cookbook has been illustrated by Julie Vivas and published by Omnibus Books for Scholastic (2015.) RRP: $16.99. It is, of course, based on Possum Magic, an Australian and world-wide classic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. The cookbook was actually first published in 1985 as The Grandma Poss Cookbook, and is now here to delight a new generation of young Aussies.

From the publisher:

Grandma Poss is up to some of her old bush magic in this delightful cookbook for children and adults. With her band of enthusiastic helpers she makes all of the much-loved Australian delicacies:
pumpkin scones
Anzac biscuits
plus many more!

The Possum Magic Cookbook makes a great book for homes as kids and parents try the recipes together. It is also an excellent choice for school libraries, perfect for when children are learning how to write procedures. As well as the classic Possum Magicfoods - lamingtons, Anzac biscuits etc - you’ll find many other delightful recipes: Honey Crackles, Frog Jelly, and Easy Peasy Pizza, for example. Vivas’ soft pastel illustrations are the icing on the - ahem - cake!

The Very Noisy Bear was written and illustrated by Nick Bland and published by Scholastic Press (2015.) RRP: $16.99

From the publisher:

The Very Cranky Bear and his friends are back!There’s music in the air in the Jingle Jangle Jungle! Can Bear’s friends help him find the perfect instrument to play? This is Nick Bland’s fifth book featuring the delightful and endearing Very Cranky Bear. The Very Cranky Bear was first published in 2008 and has since become an international bestseller.

As you would expect from Nick Bland, this is a romping, rhyming rollicking tale about Bear and the ever-patient friends who support his adventures in music making. Kids who loved the other books about Bear will be keen to grab this one, but it also makes a great stand-alone story.

Conga Dance was written by Amanda Tarlau, illustrated by Jane Chapman, and published by Koala Books (Scholastic 2015.) Perfect for our youngest readers, Conga Dance’s rhythm and rhyme invite kids to join the cast of Aussie animals as they dance along in a conga line. The simple story has a great surprise ending that will produce giggles.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cookbook and Cookie Cutters Kit was written by Lara Starr, was inspired by Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and features photography by Matthew Carden. It was published by Scholastic Australia (2015.) RRP: $Au 29.99

From the publisher:

Featuring art from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this kit contains a cookbook featuring 25 delicious recipes as well as 3 shaped cookie cutters: the beloved caterpillar, a circle for the caterpillar to crawl through and the beautiful butterfly. Recipes range from breakfast and snacks to beverages and sweets. Perfect for everyday fun as well as book-themed parties, very hungry kids will rejoice in cooking and eating as well as immersing themselves in the world of their favourite characters.

More one for families than libraries, do seek out this delightful cookbook and kit if you’d like to help your kids make connections with literature. As well as delicious-sounding recipes like Rise and Shine Orange Smoothie, Sweet and Spicy Apple Scones and Man in the Moon Pies, you’ll find many design elements that evoke The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and ideas for presenting food in attractive ways.

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