Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Recent Children’s Picture Books 2019 (3)

Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

My first instalment of recent children's picture book reviews for 2019 can be found in this article, and the second is here. You can also browse through my book reviews here at The Book Chook via my Pinterest board.

Baz and Benz is a children’s picture book, written and illustrated by Heidi McKinnon, and published by Allen and Unwin (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.  I have previously reviewed (and loved!) I Just Ate My Friend. 

From the publisher:

'Benz, are we friends?'
'Yes, Baz, we are best friends'
'For how long?'
'For ever and ever.'

But what do you do when your best friend is... kind of annoying?

A delightfully funny and warm-hearted story about a little owl exploring the boundaries of love and friendship from the creator of I Just Ate My Friend.

I’m not sure how anyone could go past this book without being attracted to its vibrant artwork! Bright orange, dark purple, teal and black will call out to young readers. Inside they’ll find a delightful story about two friends, one that will tickle funny-bones and yet give everyone something to think about. Kids will certainly relate to someone in their own lives being “kind of annoying”, and will perhaps even remember an occasion when they too have set out to irritate!

As with I Just Ate My Friend, this charming children’s picture book gets the coveted Book Chook Feather of Approval and is on my List of books to be considered for Top Ten 2019. It will make a great addition to a school’s Friendship resources, and a fine choice for a read-aloud that entrances an audience.

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six is a children’s picture book written by Jane Godwin, illustrated by A.Yi, and published by Allen and Unwin (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.  I have previously reviewed Godwin’s Go-Go and the Silver Shoes, and Bear Make Den, one of my all-time favourite picture books.

From the publisher:

A lyrical exploration of those bittersweet moments when children first begin to explore the world for themselves.

Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself.
'We won't know where you are!' cried his father.
'I'll know where you are,' said Ivanhoe. 'And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!'

There is something very appealing about a child who sets off on an adventure at the age of six with a casual “Goodbye, parents.”! Like all good adventures, Ivanhoe Swift has difficulties and problems to solve. Luckily he also finds a side-kick called Maisie Jane.

Yi’s characters are quirky and appealing. I loved the atmosphere conveyed in the various stages of Ivanhoe’s journey, and the way the words of his mother's song were interwoven throughout. I think children will enjoy what is essentially a “quest”, particularly the possibility inherent in the final page where we see Ivanhoe tucked up in bed at last, but looking at his map by torchlight under the covers.

Where’s Mrs Kangaroo? is a children’s board book by Ingela P. Arrhenius, published by Nosy Crow (2019.) RRP: $Au 12.99 BB.

From the publisher:

A fabulous new title in this brilliant board book series for pre-schoolers. With easy-to-grasp, shaped felt flaps, a repetitive refrain and beautiful artwork from Swedish homewares designer, Ingela Arrhenius.

What fun to have Australian animals in this novelty board book series by Arrhenius! Little ones can look behind flaps to find them. As I said in an earlier review - Where’s Mr Duck? - the felt flaps are a great idea, and seem strong. The ending is similarly cute and involves a mirror for babes to spy themselves in.

The Book Chook is a children’s picture book written by Amelia McInerney, illustrated by Connah Brecon and published by Omnibus for Scholastic (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

When Ray realises he is a drawing of a chicken, he panics! Can he hatch a plan to get out of the book? Luckily, his plucky, clucky friend Janine is there to help.

A hilarious tale of flying the coop—and discovering home. Of finding out who you are, learning to love who you are and where you are—even if you might have been a bit mistaken on the way.

Kids will enjoy the humour in this zany tale about Ray and Janine. There are great chooky noises - “Bok, book, bgerk!” - rhymes, and invitations for kids to join in and interact. Brecon’s illustrations really bring out the quirkiness of the characters and highlight the humour and action. I liked the way Ray settled happily for being a book-bird who could talk and read - the world needs more of those!

I’ll be adding The Book Chook to my list of Children’s Picture Books about Books. (My tip to those who want to read this book aloud is definitely to practise first, as the rhythm is a little tricky.)

One Tree is a children’s picture book written by Christopher Cheng, illustrated by Bruce Whatley and published by Penguin Random House Australia (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

One tall tree on the mountain once marked Grandfather’s farm. Now there is a busy city and Grandfather lives with us in our apartment.

Once he told stories but now he stays silent. Until one day, in the city market, I find something precious . . . something that brings Grandfather’s memories alive again.

Cheng unfolds a story about a young boy and his Grandfather, who now lives in the city, but misses his home in the mountain and is silent and withdrawn. Gradually though, via Grandson’s interest in a tree seedling he brings home, Grandfather share his plant knowledge and begins to take an interest in the world around him. The language used in One Tree is simple and appropriate both to a child narrator and the theme. The joyous final scene in the book shows how much one or two people can influence others to make a change, and how life-affirming change can be.

Whatley is such a versatile and prolific artist! He is always pushing himself to innovate and has tried a new illustrative style in One Tree - how perfectly it fits the subject matter. Although digital, it looks like linocut printing, giving a real reflection of Chinese culture and tradition. The colours are subdued, while there’s a level of detail that really enhances the crowded city scenes. Together Whatley and Chen create such a beautifully gentle and meaningful story that is one of hope, change and family.

One Tree will be a good match for schools looking to augment their resources about the environment, about the way people live, about rural vs urban environments and about life in Asian countries. I’ll be adding it to my List of Children’s Picture Books about Change. Do keep an eye out for this one!

Are We There Yet is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Alison Lester and published by Penguin Random House Australia (2004.) RRP: $Au. 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

The year I turned eight, Mum and Dad took us on a trip around Australia. Luke, Billy and I missed school for the whole winter term. Join Grace and her family on their adventurous and sometimes funny expedition. A warm, heartfelt story based on an actual journey undertaken by the much-loved, award-winning author and illustrator, Alison Lester.

There’s lovely gentle humour, lots of learning and so many things to interest young readers in this charming children’s picture book about a family’s trip around Australia. It must have been a huge labour of love for Lester the artist as there are so many different illustrative formats and details for kids to pore over. They will enjoy following the children’s journey throughout the book, and also in the detailed maps. Above all young readers will come away from Are We There Yet with a greater appreciation of Australia, and of Home.

Are We There Yet is a classic of children’s literature. I believe it should have a place in all Australian schools and Libraries. It would also make the perfect gift for kids who are setting off on an Australian holiday. Or for overseas friends. It also makes an excellent model for kids to use to describe their own family journey.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Nick Bland, and published by Scholastic (2019.) RRP: $Au 17.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap!

Three billy goats named Gruff want to cross a bridge to get to where the sweetest grass grows. But under the bridge lives a great ugly troll! Will he gobble them up?

Nick Bland fans are legion and they will be quick to grab this latest book of his. The classic tale about a family of goats named Gruff deserves a place in every library - it is such a wonderful story for children to dramatise, or to use as inspiration for their own stories and artwork. I admired the way Bland put his own spin on it, while remaining quite true to the original folk tale. Kids will enjoy the repetition, and clamour to join in with a read-aloud. Emphasis on the LOUD! I predict children will also love Bland’s troll as much as I did - a green, pointy-headed, bulbous-nosed, saucepan-banging creature with tufted eyebrows and a terrible temper. (The Book Chook before coffee?)

Oink is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by David Elliot, and published by Gecko Press (distributed by Walker Books) (2019.) RRP: $Au 22.99/ $NZ 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

A comical story about a very busy bath from one of New Zealand's top children's writers and illustrators

Pig has been looking forward to a lovely peaceful bath all day ...In come Sheep, then Cow and Horse. They are very noisy! Pig finds a way to make them go away. Oink!

Oink is an almost wordless picture book that I know kids will love. Gentle but expressive water colour illustrations combine with animal noises and regular knocking to tell the story of a poor pig who just wants to relax in his peaceful bath. Unfortunately for Pig, boisterous and loud others join him. Luckily Pig comes up with a clever and delightfully cheeky solution to his problem that children will think is hilarious. This is a perfect picture book to use with kids for oral storytelling. I particularly admired the way Elliot shows us that one word eg “Moo” can have different meanings depending on its context!

We’re Stuck is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Sue DeGenarro, and published by Scholastic (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

When Turtle races into the lift of Building 24, there is a nod and a blink and a step to the side. A grunt and a sigh and a lean to the right.

But what happens when the lift stops moving? Crocodile has a meeting to get to. And Giraffe has a doctor’s appointment.
And Turtle really, really needs to get to the shop.

The charming cover of We’re Stuck sums the beginning of the book up perfectly - the way humans get into lifts, in a hurry to get somewhere, and the way we ignore those crammed in next to us, will certainly be noticed by young readers after reading it! But this children’s picture book slowly reveals a gentle, feel-good story - it’s Turtle’s birthday, and instead of racing to the shop with is list, he is stuck. In the lift. It’s an emergency! His fellow lift-riders and neighbours create a birthday inside the lift and subsequently everyone seems to enjoy life a little more.

DeGenarro’s illustrations are mellow, happy and fun. Kids will enjoy the different perspectives, the humour and the contrast between the way apartment life is portrayed at the start - a long portrait spread of tidy insular apartments, and the close-knit chaos of the ending.

We’re Stuck is a great choice for students studying the way we live, urban environments, or for those who simply want a story that’s fun and uplifting.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

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