Book Review: The Chalk Rainbow, by Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_chalk_rainbowIt is exciting to see so many books for children, which deal with diversity. As a teacher, I have always found that stories are the best way to approach the challenges of difference in our world. By sharing and discussing through stories, we are able to introduce a more open attitude as well as dealing with how to respond. Wonder, (Pelacio) did this brilliantly for older readers.

The Chalk Rainbow leads us into the autistic world of Zane through the eyes of his sister. She explains the everyday difficulties faced by her brother: his made-up language, fear of black, his meltdowns and the way he lines things up. We see the frustrations of his parents as they try to help. Finally, it is Zane’s older sister who helps us to see differently, through her chalk rainbows.

This story is simply told, and the illustrations support the text with detail and colour. We are led out into the streets the rainbows and Zane follows. Here is a story of trust, where we learn that unconditional love can help us to view things differently.

I would love to read this story to my classes as we discuss difference and prejudice.
There are many ways of solving problems and sometimes it is important to follow that rainbow.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Chalk Rainbow
By Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335453

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 Review: Dance with Me, by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones                         

Available in bookshops nationwide.Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dance_with_meThis story of a music box ballerina and her changing relationship with the girl who owns he is an exquisite story, simple and delicate in its telling, yet threaded through with childish joy and the warmth of the things that cause us to form memories.

There is disappointment,change, adventures, there is scary stuff, there is resilience, then a most delightful twist. The introduction of the outside environment gives a whole lift to the story and takes it out of what could have been ordinary and gives the story a whole new dimension.

I very much liked how the story traveled along. The illustrations complimented the story perfectly, the colours fit with what was happening, they added an almost musical effect.

A delightful book that would make a wonderful gift, ballet fans would be enchanted but so would almost everyone else who picked it up.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Dance with Me
by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335231

 

Book Review: Patch and Ruby, by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_patch_and-rubyA pony, a flock of gossipy chickens, a mouse couple with their children and a gardening ladybug and her family live happily together on a farm, along with Patch’s special girl, Sam. However, as the only pony amidst the groups of animal friends, Patch sometimes feels lonely. The first page says it all: “It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends. He did. But sometimes he felt like he didn’t quite fit in.” The illustration on this page rather cleverly enhances this feeling by showing only Patch’s leg – the other characters are there but poor Patch really doesn’t fit in the page.

Despite enjoying spending time with his friends, Patch feels something is missing. It is Sam who hits on an idea to help him… and along comes Ruby. After an initial stand-off, the two ponies become friends and “now life is different.” The daily routine remains the same, but is all the more enjoyable now that it can be shared by someone special.

The text is written to suit very young readers and its sentences, though simple, convey an important idea of friendship and belonging. There is also a gentle example of being a kind and thoughtful friend by watching out for and caring for others – Sam notices Patch is unhappy and thinks of a way to help him.

Gwynneth Jones’ illustrations work brilliantly together with the text. The characters are soft and friendly, and there are wonderful funny moments to look out for in the scenes (chooks with curlers and mice drinking tea – love it!).

Young readers will be drawn to the cute pony on the cover (as was I), and the story will appeal to those who love animals. Parents may find Patch and Ruby helpful for little ones who are still in the process of finding their special friends.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Patch and Ruby
by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
EK Books
ISBN 9781925335224