Book Reviews: Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit; Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoitcv_brachio

Jill Eggleton will be familiar to many New Zealand teachers and parents for her literacy programmes and her huge catalogue of poems. Brachio is a picture book for up to 7 year olds which showcases Eggleton’s rich writing style.

Brachio is much bigger than the other dinosaurs and mouse lizards, so there’s bound to be a few problems when he heads out to join in a dance party. Being a kind and thoughtful kind of dinosaur, Brachio has a few solutions in mind.

Eggleton’s language is full of poetic language, with onomatopoeia, alliteration, rhythm and rhyme, and simile dripping off the page. This is helped by clever text design, which gives the reader lots of clues about where the emphasis should be, and adds visual interest for young readers. Not that visual interest is lacking – Hoit’s illustrations are vivid and colourful, full of the joy of dancing with your friends, and the problems that occur when dancers get a little too enthusiastic!

My class of 5 and 6 year olds love listening to the language as I read to them, and the book was in high demand afterwards, because, dinosaurs! This book also comes with a CD, read by Eggleton, with loads of expression and a fun backing track of dinosaur noises.

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jonescv_dont_think_about_purple_elephants

Sophie is a busy, happy girl. She likes school, enjoys her loving family, and has good friends. The problem starts when she’s not busy. At bedtime, as she tries to go to sleep, worries crowd in on her, keeping her awake. All of the suggestions to help her sleep – a special book or teddy, or a drink of warm milk – just give her new things to worry about.
Children’s worries are often dismissed by adults; adults often don’t consider the things children worry about as important when compared to adult concerns. Most children do have worries, however, and to them they feel very real. A quick survey of my class of 5 and 6 year olds showed up common themes: not having someone to play with, someone being mean to them, something bad happening to a loved one, forgetting a book bag or lunch for school, not making it to the toilet on time, not being picked up at the end of the school day.

Whelan and Jones have put some thought into Don’t Think About Purple Elephants; they clearly know children, and they don’t dismiss Sophie’s worries, but try to resolve them. The illustrations are lovely – brightly coloured and happy when Sophie is busy, and grey and ominous with oversized objects when she is worried. The resolution to Sophie’s worries is relatively simple and one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments that parents and teachers have.

This is an enjoyable picture book to read together for children up to 8 or 9 years old, regardless of whether or not the child worries – but it would be a particularly good book to read with a child who is suffering from anxiety, it might just do the trick.

Reviews by Rachel Moore

Brachio
by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit
Published by JillE Books
ISBN 9781927307809

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants
by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781921966699

Book Reviews: Maisy, Max and Moo and Moo

cv_maisy_goes_swimmingMaisy goes Swimming, by Lucy Cousins

How does a picture book become a classic? It is loved to bits by the little people who read it, and remembered across the years. So when they have children, they want a new copy for the next generation. Well, that is my theory because that is what happened in our family.

Maisy goes Swimming is a revamped, reissue of a classic Lucy Cousins title. It was such fun using the flaps to jiggle and juggle the clothes off to help Maisie prepare for her dip. The images are simple and bold with matching text.

This book lends itself to repeated readings, which is the very best way to encourage literate kids. My granddaughter not only enjoyed naming and removing the clothes, she also practiced the colours and even demonstrated her own undressing ability.

What a great idea to re issue this classic. I can see it entertaining another generation of Maisie fans.

cv_max_and_his_big_imaginationMax and His Big Imagination: The Sandpit, by Chrissy Metge

What a wonderful thing imagination is, especially in childhood.

Chrissy Metge has continued her stories of Max at the beach and the safari, with an adventure in the sandpit. She takes a simple setting, Max digging in the sandpit, and adds a flight of fancy.

The illustrations by Dmitry Chizov use animation style characters which contrast nicely with the soft focus backgrounds. Faces are expressive and details add to the story. The dinosaur skeletons are used cleverly in front and end papers of the book. The text is designed to be read aloud by an adult and is kept to the bottom of the page.

Children are born with amazing imaginations and we have a responsibility to encourage their development. Creativity as adults often stems from the daydreams of childhood. I loved joining Max and the dinosaurs in his sandpit. I think you will too.

cv_Moo_and_moo_and_the_little_calf_tooMoo and Moo and the Little Calf Too, by Jane Milton, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Sometimes we are captivated by an image and want to know more. This was certainly the case in the conception of this delightful true story.

While the powerful Kaikoura earthquake of 2016 caused devastation and fear, it also gave rise to some amazing stories. When the quake struck around midnight, large earth slides resulted in two cows and a calf becoming stranded high on a section of hillside. While the small plateau moved down the hill, these three remained high and dry above the mud. By the next morning a passing helicopter spotted and photographed the trio. This story tells of their stranding and eventual rescue.

The media quickly adopted the photo of the cows and it spread around the world.
Jane Milton, on whose farm this happened, has written a lovely rhyming tale of the stranding and rescue of the fearless trio. The Kiwi ” can do” attitude is reflected in the colourful illustrations by Deborah Hinde. Her simple images with expressive faces, Kiwi touches in the detail and a little bird hiding on each page, are sure to delight children. Similar artwork was seen in her Kiwi Night Before Christmas.

I would have loved a reproduction of the original photo to show young readers the reality on which the story was based. Perhaps copyright prevented this.

As Quaky Cat told the Christchurch earthquake story, so Moo and Moo tells of the Kaikoura event. What a positive and gentle way for children to remember the Kaikoura quake.

All three books reviewed by Kathy Watson

 

Maisy Goes Swimming
by Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406374049

Max and His Big Imagination: The Sandpit
by Chrissy Metge
Published by Chrissy Metge
ISBN 9780473387297

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf Too  
by Jane Milton and Deborah Hinde
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781877505928

Musical Book Reviews: Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether; Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, illustrated by Paul Beavis

Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Chris Saunders and Kat Merewether have teamed up to create this wonderful book.

cv_angel_star‘She looked up, into the sky,
to pick an Angel from the stars.
A shining light,
stood out that night,
so she reached out
to give it life.
And as her hand it touched the light.
it flickered down towards the Earth.
Just as if it was, all meant to be,
Like picking apples from a tree.’

This book comes with the added bonus of a CD with Chris Saunders singing and playing his guitar. The illustrations by Kat Merewether lend a whimsical and mythical air to a rather lovely book. A really wonderful way of introducing the idea of a new baby into a family with a small child.

My 2 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn was read this book and immediately grasped that this was about a new baby in a family and gave herself the role of the baby and the little girl as her big sister Abby, which I found incredibly cute.

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
The idea began as a spark when Deano’s friend mentioned her son was always saying ‘Neeee-naw w w‘ and pretending to be a fire engine. I think a lot of children are fascinated by the sound of sirens, copying the sounds they hear.

cv_nee_naw_the_little_fire_engine‘There was a dinky little fire truck
hidden away,
with a dent on his bottom
and a door painted grey.
The new fire engines thought
he couldn’t help at all
because he wasn’t very shiny
and he wasn’t very tall.’

The newer fire engines may have been flasher, with shiny bodies, but Nee Naw saves the day when one of the big engines gets stuck in the mud.

This book also comes with a CD with music and lyrics by the author Deano Yipadee, along with rather fun illustrations by Paul Beavis.

I had to play the CD twice to my 2-½-year-old granddaughter as she rather liked making the fire engine siren noises.

Reviews by Christine Frayling

Angel Star
by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Published by Chris Sanders
ISBN 9780473356026

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine
by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433927

Review: The Day The Costumes Stuck, by Toby Morris

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_day_the_costumes_stuckIggy leaves a costume party with his Mum, but something weird happens. He can’t take his costume off. Mum and Dad don’t believe him, and it looks like he might be stuck as the Boogie Monster forever. Iggy decides to investigate and wanders down a figurative rabbit hole. The other kids are stuck in their costumes too – but they don’t seem to realise it. What on earth is going on?

Toby Morris is an Auckland-based illustrator and writer, most familiar to me for his political cartoons for The Wireless.

The Day The Costumes Stuck is a whimsical picture book, with a non-traditional story arc. More like an independent art house movie than a Hollywood block-buster, the ending is open-ended and not at all what the reader might expect. This allows your own imagination to keep the story going on your own terms. The illustrations are wonderful, with a limited colour palette. The children are in colour, and everything around them is grey. The faces of the characters are really expressive, and convey beautifully the adult situation that each child has found themselves in.

I read this to my class of 5- and 6-year-olds, who had plenty to say about the book. There was debate over whether costumes could really get stuck, which transformed into a conversation about what they would do in Iggy’s situation, and what sort of costume would be fun or awful to be stuck in. Any book that promotes conversation amongst children is all right by me – recommended for up 8 year olds.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Day The Costumes Stuck
by Toby Morris
Published by Beatnik Publishing
ISBN 9780994138309

 

Book Review: If I Had an Elephant, by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_if_i_had_an_elephantThe front cover of this delightful picture book, tells its own story. Small boy, BIG elephant looking at each other. Here we enter the wonderful imagination of a child- asking “What if…”

Wanting an elephant is a perfectly normal desire for a small child. I always wanted a monkey. The possibilities are endless if you actually have an elephant, and the illustrations are expressive and easy to follow. It is the way the elephant’s eyes respond to each scenario which I loved best. The story takes us through many suggestions but what the boy actually gets for his birthday is not revealed until the final page.

This book was a treat for my granddaughter who asked lots of questions about the mechanics of owning an elephant. She very quickly noticed the expressive eyes and told me sad, or scary or happy from each page. The pictures have quirky additions which lead to deeper discussions and the final page allows further flights of imagination. The detail in the pictures is superb. The colourist, Tara Black, brings the images to life. Even the front and endpapers of the book tell part of the story. I am always delighted to see excellence in the presentation of children’s books.

As a teacher, this would be a great starter for a technology unit, or pet care, or even the poetry starter…What if?

For my birthday ( or even for Mother’s Day) I think I’d like…

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

If I Had an Elephant
by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434764

Book Review: We’re All Wonders, by R. J. Palacio

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_wereallwonders.jpgThis is a beautiful reflection on difference and how we react. While as a Mum, I wanted my three children to be curious and ask questions, I always struggled with the loudly voiced,’ Why does that girl have…?’.

This simple but clear picture book gives the perspective from the inside. The opening statement declares, ‘I know I’m not an ordinary kid.’ The story follows the everyday actions which all children enjoy, but being stared at, left out and bullied becomes the norm.

R J Palacio wrote the novel Wonder from this perspective and has followed it with a number of related tales. Here we have a simplified version of Wonder, where the message is easy for all to follow. I can see this book being a useful starter in classrooms at all levels. My Year 11 class engaged in a robust discussion about appearance and pressure to conform. As a parent and grandparent this is a treasure to share.

The final statement is a heartfelt message for child and adult: ‘I know I can’t change the way I look BUT maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see…’

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

We’re All Wonders
by R. J. Palacio
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780141386416

Book Review: A Southern Tale, by Joanne McDougall

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_southern_taleSammy is a Sea Lion, a very rare and endangered species. He lives on an island deep in the Southern Ocean.

As light filled the sky bringing warmth with the dawn,
Sammy woke up with a stretch and a yawn.  
Her tummy then rumbled, expressing a wish
that she leaps into the sea and go and find a fish.
Into the waves, she dove as they crashed against rocks,
causing foam and spray to be splashed.

Sammy swam far in search of food, arriving at her favourite place teeming with fish. Fish eating the plankton, penguins and dolphins and sea birds galore gather for dinner, trying to ignore the sea leopards lurking, waiting for their chance to grab a quick bite. Meanwhile, the sharks with glistening white teeth, sharp as a razor lie in wait, fancying a meal of sea lion.

I read this book to 2 ½ year old Quinn. She’s been to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea World so knows all about seals and penguins – telling me in no uncertain terms just what she thinks about the seals in this story being chased and perhaps eaten. It can be quite hard explaining to a small child about the food chain in the animal kingdom – suburban Auckland doesn’t quite cut it.

This is a great story with wonderful illustrations, to introduce children to endangered species and to try and make them a little more aware of what goes on in the great ocean surrounding our country.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Southern Tale
by Joanne McDougall
Published by Pegasus Art
9780473373696