Book Review: Stan the Van Man, by Emma Vere-Jones, illustrated by Philip Webb

cv_stan_the_van_manEmma Vere-Jones received the Joy Cowley Award for this, her first book. She lives in Auckland and holds a BA from Victoria University in Theatre and Film and a Certificate in Journalism from Whitireia.

Philip Webb has received Honour Awards at the NZ Post Book Awards with two of the books he illustrated for Scholastic NZ – Dragor and Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig. He lives in Wellington and works full-time as an illustrator.

Stan enters the story when Miss Mickle, the boss of the Post Office is in a pickle. Bob her van driver has walked off the job. Stan, who doesn’t like to turn people down, intercepts and agrees to take the job. He does try to tell Miss Mickle that he has a secret, but Miss Mickle ignores him and implores him to please go and deliver all the parcels and letters that have piled up.

Stan sets off but soon becomes distracted by a little boy stuck up in a tree. Stan stopped the van and helps the boy down. As Stan continues on, he continues to help people out. With his secret still intact he makes his deliveries, but he makes some interesting mistakes along the way, making this a rather lovely story. I read this story to 4-year-old Miss Abby. She wanted to know what Stan was doing delivering a skate board, knee pads and helmet to old Mrs Vine at 79 and what was she going to do with them? Abby got even more perplexed at the lady’s pants delivered to Professor John Moore. We then got onto a discussion about why Stan the Van Man was making such terrible mistakes with the deliveries. What was very interesting about the story was the fact all the recipients of Stan’s deliveries wanted to help him learn to read.

Abby starts school March next year and knows the importance of reading. She can write her Christian name and with help write her surname (double barrelled to complicate things!) so the idea of perhaps an adult not being able to read isn’t something that she would have even thought about. This book opened up an interesting discussion with her reasoning quite interesting for a 4-year-old. “Grandma, maybe Stan couldn’t go to school because he lived a long way from a school”. We also discussed why we should help people and when this is appropriate. Abby thought everybody was very kind to Stan, but he had been kind and helped others in need.

The illustrations and text in this book work well together. It’s a bright colourful book with rhyming text which keeps a child’s interest. Grandma (me), plus Pa and then Mummy had to read the book to Abby before she was satisfied.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Stan the Van Man
by Emma Vere-Jones, illustrated by Philip Webb
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433071

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