Book Review: The Yark, by Bertrand Santini and Laurent Gapaillard

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_yark.jpgAs if there weren’t enough child-hungry monsters lurking in the shadows for children to be wary of, The Yark introduces us to a blood-thirsty monster to join them. In this humorous and slightly dark children’s chapter book it doesn’t pay to be a good little girl or boy, because those are exactly the type of children the Yark craves in the dead of the night.

But the Yark isn’t like his fellow monsters. He doesn’t enjoy gobbling up innocent, wide-eyed children. In fact, he feels great sympathy for his meals, but alas, the Yark must continue the battle with his conscience as he has done since the beginning of time… or must he? Can a unusual friendship with a young but wise, little girl help him to make a change – or is his need to feast on children’s flesh too great?

Alongside his ever-growing conscience, the Yark also faces starvation as the number of good children left on earth is dwindling. This is a huge problem for the Yark, as the taste of bad children causes his stomach to churn and his skin to erupt in painful boils.

I ended up feeling compassion for the poor Yark as he seems to live a very sad existence full of misfortune and self-doubt. Santini does an excellent job of imagining the inner-turmoil and struggles that a monster like this may be faced with, as he desperately scours the earth for his next meal in order to survive. His brilliant use of words will expose young readers to an enriching array of language and gives the book it’s darkly humorous quality. The descriptions of what are considered to be “bad” children are quite irreverent, which gives you a shocking insight into what other intelligent creatures may think of human society. The Yark has enough twists and elements of suspense to keep readers hooked and includes the perfect amount fart jokes to lighten the story and make children giggle.

I thought Gapaillard’s gothic illustrations complimented the story beautifully. He did an excellent job of bringing the Yark to life with his terrifying jaws filled with huge pointed teeth which are juxtaposed by his soft, round eyes and fuzzy body and ridiculously tiny wings.

The Yark puts a twist on traditional monster stories and readers will find it hard not to side with the furry and somewhat melancholy beast in this quirky tale. The Yark is a surprisingly deep story that explores moral dilemmas, and any young reader who enjoys monsters, wicked humour, and rich language will appreciate this book.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Yark
by Bertrand Santini and Laurent Gapaillard
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571727

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Book Review: Hugo Makes a Change, by Mauro Gatti and Scott Emmons

cv_hugo_makes_a_change.jpgAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

In this brightly illustrated book we are introduced to Hugo the Vampire. Hugo, just like any vampire, wakes at night and is feeling hungry. We find out that Hugo’s favourite food is “red, juicy, MEAT!” and it’s all he craves for every meal. As Hugo eats his way through hot dogs, turkey, roast, jerky, steak and salami each night he soon discovers his diet is making him feel sluggish and he grows tired of eating meat every night. Seeking variety her ventures out into the garden; but Hugo doesn’t like the look of the fruits and vegetables at all and decides he will never eat them.

However, a round, red apple catches his eye and after the first bite he decides that he will give fruits and vegetables a try. Now Hugo thinks fruits and vegetables are delicious and he eats them for every meal (along with his favourite meats of course). Nuts and raisins become Hugo’s favourite snacks and as he finds himself growing stronger and having more energy he is pleased he added fruits and vegetables to his diet.

This is an excellent book for promoting healthy eating in young children. Hugo the Vampire is easy for children to relate to if they find trying new food a bit daunting as he is hesitant to try fruits and veggies at first too! This book came at the perfect time as our preschool is currently exploring healthy eating and how to build strong muscles. The children responded positively to Hugo’s choice to try new foods and were quick to share that they were going to eat more fruits and vegetables to “get strong” like Hugo. I’m sure the very last page will leave children wondering about the little holes they might find in their fruit.

I also appreciated that Hugo didn’t entirely give up his favourite foods and decided that he could still eat meat as part of a balanced diet. The descriptive language paired with great rhyming made the book informative and fun to read. Emmons does a brilliant job of making different cuts and styles of meats into rhythmical rhymes while Gatti’s bold and colourful illustrations let us see how Hugo was feeling about his all-meat diet and his adventures in trying new foods.

It can be tricky to explain to young children why it’s important we eat a balanced diet with a variety of different foods but I think Hugo Makes a Change does this wonderfully. This book would make great tool for any teacher or parent who is trying to help their child make healthy eating choices.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Hugo Makes a Change
by Mauro Gatti and Scott Emmons
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171218

Book Review: Charlie and his amazing Tales, by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_charlieWe are introduced to Charlie by a young boy who is interested in becoming his new owner. We then hear about all the amazing adventures and abilities of Charlie from Charlie’s own mouth; from his days as a spy and saving people from fires and floods to his talent for singing, selfies and bathroom manners. All this on top of being a talking dog!

Of course the boy is amazed at all Charlie’s tales and wonders how this dog could possibly only be worth $10… this is where the twist comes. Upon inquiring about Charlie to his present owner the boy finds out the truth about Charlie; while Charlie is amazing at sharing his tales that’s all they actually are, tales. In reality Charlie the dog is just a dog. He hasn’t been around the world on crazy adventures nor has he saved lives. In fact he spends most of his days in the yard. However, the young boy, though disappointed in Charlie’s lying, still buys Charlie despite all this.

Rhythm and rhyme are so important towards children’s language learning and it’s always great to find a story that does both really well. Charlie and his amazing tales has a wonderful rhythm and rhyme to it that makes it really seem like it’s coming from the mouth of an excited dog. Children will find humour in the exaggerated stories that Charlie the dog tells and it could possibly get their own imaginations flowing!

As well as being a humorous tale this story has an important message about being yourself and accepting others for who they are. Charlie didn’t need to make up amazing tales about himself because he is amazing just the way he is (he’s already a talking dog!).

The bold and brightly coloured pencil illustrations suit the story and Kinnaird has managed to portray movement and expression amazingly in each scene. I enjoyed finding all the extra little details on each page, especially the appropriately placed Easter egg of the book Doggy Doo on my Shoe also by McMillan and Kinnaird.

Charlie and his amazing tales is a fun and imaginative story with an unexpected twist that addresses the importance of being yourself and also accepting people for who they are. But perhaps most importantly, children will enjoy the exciting story and illustrations of this book.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Charlie and His Amazing Tales
by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird
Published by Oratia Media
ISBN 9780947506339

 

Book Review: Me Too, by Erika Geraerts, Charl Laubscher, Gatsby

Available in bookshops nationwide from 1 February 2018

cv_me_tooMe Too is a lovely little picture book about friendship.

Me Too depicts two friends as they voice their hopes for finding a someone who shares an appreciation for all the things that they value most. A someone that will go on adventures, build castles, a someone who will make dessert for breakfast or stay up late and talk. Each thing that one friend hopes to find in someone is followed by a simple ‘me too’ from the other. In those two little words we know these two friends have already found their someone.

It is obvious that this book was created by friends for friends. Friendship can be a difficult idea for young children to grasp and usually friendships begin when two people share common interests just like the two friends in this book. It is a lovely way of exploring the abstract idea of friendship for young children and could possibly spark reflection and conversation about what it means to be a friend and appreciating the friends we have.

The simple but meaningful words are paired perfectly with minimalist yet charming illustrations. The cover art really drew my attention and it’s definitely a book I would pick up in a store. I really adored how Gatsby portrayed so much emotion and character in his clean line work and muted colours.

An added extra that I enjoyed was that the two friends in this story are male and female. As an early childhood teacher I encourage children to build friendships with and develop positive views of other genders and it’s always exciting to find books that encourage this too.

Me Too is a lovely story about discovering new appreciation for your friends and how much they mean to you. It explores a sometimes difficult concept in a way children will be able to relate to through both the writing and illustrations. This book would make a great addition to any young child’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Me Too
by Erika Geraerts, Charl Laubscher, Gatsby
Published by Walker Books Australia
ISBN 9781925381900