Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Recent Children's Picture Books 2019 (4)


Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Did you know that July 10 is Don’t Step on a Bee Day in the USA? Why not take your kids to the library to look for books about bees, think of words that start with B, sing songs about bees and celebrate with honey sandwiches? Failing that, check out all the great books reviewed bee-low!


Car, Car, Truck, Jeep is a children’s picture book written by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Nick Sharratt and published by Bloomsbury (2019.) RRP: $Au 14.99

From the publisher:

This book is bursting with cars, buses, planes, trains, trucks, diggers and many more things that go. Add to that a text that is read aloud to the tune of 'Baa, Baa, Black Sheep' and ... What a combination!

Car, car, truck, jeep,
have you any fuel?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
three tanks full.

One for the red bus,
one for the train,
and one for the pilot
in her jumbo jet plane.

With bold, colourful illustrations by the instantly recognisable Nick Sharratt and text by talented newcomer Katrina Charman, vehicle-obsessed little ones will never want to put this book down.

Go, Go, Pirate Boat is a children’s picture book written by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Nick Sharratt and published by Bloomsbury (2019.) RRP: $Au 12.99/ $NZ 14.99 PB

From the publisher:

Join two seafaring pirates and their captain on a nautical adventure to find a treasure chest. Add to that a text that is read aloud to the tune of 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' and you have a book that will be enjoyed time and time again!

Go, go, pirate boat,
Across the salty sea,
Raise the anchor, hoist the sail,
It's a pirate's life for me.

Little pirate fans will have endless fun singing along to the tune of a favourite nursery rhyme and doing the pirate actions in this fun ocean adventure. With bold, colourful illustrations by the instantly recognisable Nick Sharratt and text by talented newcomer Katrina Charman.

I loved both Go Go Pirate Boat and Car, Car, Truck, Jeep (above). They are both such FUN! It’s a great idea to have two well-known tunes behind the rhythm of the rhyming stories, and Charman has chosen simple, active language perfectly pitched at the pre-school and Kinder set. Sharratt’s illustrations couldn’t be more perfectly suited to the books. Bright primary colours, cute child characters and toy-like objects will have strong appeal to kids.

Both these books would be perfect in any early childhood or early school situation. For starters, having the well-known tunes reinforcing the text is going to help kids memorise it. And we know that memorising is one of the steps in the journey to reading! The rhyming and rhythmic text will definitely appeal to kids, even without the tune, but the tune is icing on the cake. I envisage children eager to sing the new words to both tunes, and predict these books will be very popular.

B is for Baby is a children’s picture book written by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank and published by Walker Books (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

B is for Baby. B is for Brother. B is for going to see Baba!

Baby’s brother is getting ready to take a basket of bananas all the way to Baba’s bungalow in the next village. He will have to go along the bumpy road, past the baobab trees, birds and butterflies, and all the way over the bridge. What he doesn’t realize is that his cute, very curious baby sister is secretly coming along for the amazing bicycle ride, too!

B is for Baby works on multiple levels. It can be an elementary book for toddlers, one where they point to images and say the words. It is also a story, with text and illustrations combining to show us a journey and a surprise. Slightly older kids can use all their visual literacy and reading skills to learn about life in West Africa, and perhaps go on to study other texts that expand their knowledge.

Both Atinuke and Brooksbank grew up in West Africa, so the book has an authentic flavour of the area. The illustrations are brightly coloured and redolent of a very different life to the urban one many kids may be familiar with. However, children will still be able to recognise many of the things and people in the book that start with B, and perhaps go on to identify different B things in their own environment. But remember, Don't Step on a B(ee)!

The Wall in the Middle of the Book is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Jon Agee and published by Koala for Scholastic (2019.) RRP: $Au 16.99 PB.

From the publisher:

There's a wall in the middle of the book, and a young knight is sure that the wall protects his side of the book from the dangers of the other side.

Dangers such as an angry tiger and giant rhino, and worst of all an ogre who would gobble him up in a second!

But the knight doesn't seem to to notice the crocodile and the growing sea of water that are emerging on his side. When the water's almost over his head and he's calling for help, who will come to his rescue?

This is a very appealing children’s picture book. I hadn’t encountered any books by Agee, but hope to meet more soon. His illustrative style is superb. I loved the muted colours, and the quirkiness of characters like the ogre and the little knight. Kids will love the way suspense builds as the knight continues his dialogue unaware of the worsening situation behind him.

Kids in junior grades will accept the story of the wall and what is on other side at face value. But The Wall in the Middle of the Book will work well as a discussion starter for older kids. Why do we build walls between ourselves and others? Are all walls physical? Can walls always protect us? Are all the fears we feel justified, or might we be afraid of something we just don’t understand? I’ll be adding it to my list of Picture Books that Celebrate Diversity.

Up to Something is a children’s picture book written by Katrina McKelvey, illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan and published by EK Books for Exisle (2019.) RRP: $Au 24 99. HB.

From the publisher:

One day, Dad invites Billy into his shed to build something, but Billy soon finds out that he is only allowed to watch. As Dad becomes engrossed in his project, Billy takes Dad’s off-cuts and other items from around the yard and starts to copy what his Dad is building. When they reveal their creations, Dad discovers that Billy has more talents than his dad had ever imagined! Up to Something explores the father–son relationship, and the satisfaction to be gained from making things ourselves.

The premise of Up to Something certainly resonated with me, and I am sure it will with many kids. Dad reckons Billy is too young to build, and relegates him to sweeping - NOT what Billy had in mind when they agreed to work together on a billy cart for the big race. Instead Billy creates his own cart, thereby making Dad realise that they can, indeed, work together.

Lonergan’s illustrations are perfect for the story and provide lots of gentle humour and subtext. I loved that Billy wears his own version of safety goggles - his snorkelling goggles - and that his own billy cart appears utterly achievable and child-built.

This heart-warming story will appeal to both kids and parents. It might even remind some dads of the joys of co-building! It makes a great makerspace resource for schools and a lovely story to read aloud.

My Friend Fred is a children’s picture book written by Frances Watts, illustrated by A. Yi and published by Allen and Unwin (2019.) RRP: $Au 19.99 HB.

From the publisher:

A delightful picture book about a friendship between an exuberant but loveable dachshund and his more retiring, tidy housemate.

My friend Fred eats dog food for breakfast.
I think dog food is disgusting.

My friend Fred howls at the moon.
I don't know why.

He does a lot of funny things.
But even though we are different, Fred is my best friend.

Do children know a dog like Fred perhaps? If so, there will be a lot of giggling, head-nodding and story-sharing when you read this book with them! Watts points out the differences between Fred and his cat friend, with humour and charm, and gently nudges young readers to the realisation that despite many many differences, a friend is a friend. Yi’s illustrations contribute much exuberance and fun to the story, bringing the characters to life on every page.

My Friend Fred will make a wonderful gift for any dog-lover, and an excellent resource for libraries. There’s something about that slightly goofy and adorable dachshund on the front cover that woofs out “Buy me! Borrow me!”

I Would Dangle the Moon is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Amber Moffat, and published by MidnightSun Publishing (2019.) RRP: $Au29.99 HB.

From the publisher:

What would you do if you could pluck the moon from the sky? Would you scoop it up in an ice cream cone, or ride it like a snail shell across the night sky? I Would Dangle the Moon is an imaginative and playful story about all the wonderful things a mother would do with the moon for her child if she could do anything in the world.

Lyrical and poetic, this unique and beautifully illustrated story evokes the love and warmth between a parent and child.

In this charming children’s picture book, we witness the moon being transformed by a child and mother’s imaginations. Rather than being a straight forward linear narrative, it is more a reflection and almost a dialogue where the characters muse about the moon and special things in their lives. The illustrations are simple, naive and follow the text.

I Would Dangle the Moon is a great choice for parents and teachers who want children to visualise and use their imaginations. It is uplifting and will appeal to those gentle souls who love to wonder and dream.

Wandering Star is a children’s picture book written by Natalie Jane Prior, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, and published by Scholastic Australia (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

I have a horse, a beautiful horse, and her name is Wandering Star.
We roam wild and free, from the hills to the sea, and it's magic wherever we are.

Follow this truly enchanting story of discovery, adventure and wonderful friends by two much-loved Australian picture book creators.

It’s always satisfying to find a picture book where neither author nor illustrator overtly dominate. Instead they combine seamlessly to deliver a story, and indeed to beguile youngsters into a love of reading. This is certainly true of Wandering Star, a rhyming tale about a beautiful horse and her owner. The two have charming adventures - in a circus, on a farm - until they chance upon a talisman and go on a quest to find its magical owner. They brave the perils, find the Fairy Queen and are given a reward. At last the two reach home and snuggle down together. Was it real, or a dream? Does it even matter?

I know Wandering Star will appeal to kids who love horses. But I'm certain it will interest youngsters who love stories about quests, magical elements, animals, and adventures. There is a wonderful ethereal feel to the book, which will feed children’s imaginations and give them pleasant dreams.

The Panda Problem is a children’s picture book written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hannah Marks and published by Scholastic Australia (2019.) RRP: $Au 15.99 PB.

From the publisher:

Every story needs a problem.
But Panda doesn't have a problem.

Unless Panda IS the problem!

Lots of children understand that when you’re writing a narrative, you need a character with a problem. The narrator in this book has a very cute panda character but sadly, he has no problem! What he does have is attitude, and it brings lots of opportunities for humour.

Marks’s illustrations are adorable. My favourite page was when Panda x 2 is in the Antarctic and there are a couple of Emperor Penguins observing the action as the story takes a sudden swerve towards resolution. One looks at the other and says, “I find that hard to believe.” The other says, “This is fiction, anything can happen.” It’s nice when picture book creators add a little something extra for adults reading aloud, without interrupting the flow!

Kids will adore the invitations to interact in this book. There is lots of dialogue between the narrator and the panda, and once they have heard the story a couple of times, I know children will be keen to play one part or the other. The Panda Problem would make an excellent model for a re-telling, and for reader’s theatre. It’s a delightful story to share and to read-aloud.

Duck Duck Moose is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford and published by Allen and Unwin (2019.) RRP: $Au 19.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Who can resist a gloriously goofy moose? These ducks apparently. Or can they?

Duck duck … moose?

A hilarious and heart-warming story about finding friends in unexpected places.

This entertaining children’s picture book reminds me a little of Oink which I reviewed in May. Using only a couple of words, Gifford nonetheless shows us how eloquently a story can be told, and how we can infer so much more than those words because of the illustrations.

I loved the palette Gifford chose and the clarity and charm of her characters. Kids will appreciate the animal’s expressions, particularly the moose. As an almost wordless picture book Duck Duck Moose would make an excellent choice for schools looking to expand their visual literacy resources, as well as being a fun book to share with kids.

Goat on a Boat is a children’s picture book by Nick Dent and Suzanne Houghton, published by Omnibus for Scholastic (2019.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

Although suitable for children 4+, this picture book works well on two levels. Little ones will enjoy the fun, the drama, the interesting and clear pictures and the rhyming text. Older children will admire the cleverness, the way the book provokes thought, and characters like Bighorn Bill who sounds a lot like people we know. They will be bursting to share the humour of, and explain, lines like “Stop the Goats!” Goat on a Boat would be great to share with older kids when exploring topics like sharing, benefitting from other cultures, refugees, acceptance, fear of what we are not familiar with etc.

I’ll be adding Goat on a Boat to my list of Picture Books that Celebrate Diversity. Regardless of your purpose, I very much enjoyed and admired this book, and hope I’ve persuaded you to purchase it for your class, home and library!

You will find earlier lists of my 2019 Picture Book Reviews here, and here.

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

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