Book Review: Sports are Fantastic Fun, by Ole Könnecke

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_sports_are_fantastic_funMy sports-loving seven-year-old, who incidentally grew up with both of the other big books by Ole Könnecke that Gecko Press has translated, was over the moon when presented with this book.

Sports are Fantastic Fun begins with a short rejoinder reminding us exactly why sports exist, then launches into the fantastic fun of football.

The style of the text is quite to-the-point, generally beginning with a statement about how fun it all is, then exploring the broad rules of each sport and how one could win. For football, for example: ‘When a team scores a goal, everybody is happy. (Actually, only the team that scores is happy. The other team is annoyed.)’

The sports represented vary widely, though I would point out there are considerably more ‘male’ looking figures playing the sports than female figures (they are all animals). Possibly as a balance, whenever there is a pronoun used, it is usually describing a female. Everything from rhythmic gymnastics and athletics, to skiing and mountain climbing, horse riding of all types, dirt bike riding, golf and racquet sports, as well as fishing, boxing and rugby are shown.

One of the most interesting pages to me was that about ice hockey, mainly for this description: ‘Sad but true: sometimes ice hockey players fight. That’s one reason an ice hockey game has up to four officials to make sure the players follow the rules.’ On reading further, I realise these fights are sanctioned and indeed, part of the game. I guess it’s not too far removed from rugby at times!

The illustrations, as always for Ole Könnecke, are an absolute delight and the highlight of the book. The athletics page is hilarious, with the elephant doing a shot put, the penguin doing the long-jump, the cow doing a balletic high jump, and the octopus throwing the javelin. Then there is the giraffe on the pole vault. The illustration of her getting distracted by a butterfly halfway up then falling flat on her back makes you wince and laugh at the same time. ‘This time, the giraffe approaches faster than before. This should work. Too late she notices that in the excitement she has forgotten her pole. That wasn’t good either.’

The illustrations are also innovative in where they have sports being performed – in the case of swimming, he shows frogs doing the breaststroke, the freestyle and butterfly in a goldfish bowl, complete with goldfish.

I’d recommend this book for sports lovers of all ages. It is a great primer for ideas of what sports might be played, and would work for kids aged 3 and up. As always, the pictures can be read without the words, by a younger child reading alone. Sports are indeed, fantastic fun, when written and illustrated by Ole Könnecke and published by Gecko Press.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Sports are Fantastic Fun!
by Ole Könnecke
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572014

 

 

Book Review: The Visitor, by Antje Damm

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_visitorPoor Elise stays hidden from the world in her neat and tidy home. She never goes out, night or day because Elise is afraid of everything – spiders, people and even trees. No one ever knocks on her door. Until one day when she opened the window to let fresh air in something strange flies in and the next morning she hears a knocking at the door. Elise opens the door to find a visitor who will bring some colour her life.

The Visitor is a beautiful tale about loneliness and human connection. The story and dialogue is simple yet descriptive and full of emotion which is very appealing to young readers. Antje Damm did a wonderful job capturing the curious and innocent dialogue of a child and the hesitant gestures and speech of someone who has all but forgotten how to be with another person.

Damm’s diorama style illustrations portray the stark, lonely and anxious existence of Elise. She cleverly uses light and colour to change the mood of the book from poignant to cheerful. The illustrations alone tells a story of transformation and the growth of a friendship between carefree and fearful.

What a wonderful book! The cover art and title drew me in immediately. It made me curious to read so I could find out who the visitor was and I was not disappointed! The complimentary words and illustrations create a lot of emotion and sympathy making it a great story for young children.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Visitor
by Antje Damm
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571888

Book Review: Valdemar’s Peas, by Maria Jönsson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_valdemars_peas.jpgValdemar LOVES fish fingers but he HATES peas! But Papa says ‘The peas go in the tummy. Then ice cream. Chocolate ice cream!’ Valdemar may be a little wolf but he’s a clever little wolf. He hatches a cunning idea to get the peas in the tummy without having to eat a single one.

Valdemar’s Peas is a tale about an all too familiar dinner time dilemma that I’m sure many young children and their parents have experienced. The back and forth between Valdemar and his Papa is all too relatable and both children and parents will find humour in Valdemar’s determination and trickery to get chocolate ice-cream. Although, I don’t think my own parents would have shown as much appreciation for such a cheeky and quick-witted response as Valdemar’s Papa!

Maria Jönsson’s adorable, black and white illustrations which are accented with reds, browns and greens suit her playful story perfectly, portraying well Valdemar’s distaste for peas, smugness at his own successful trick and Papa’s exasperation. I think Valdemar’s Papa will be more specific about which tummy the peas need to go into next time!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Valdemar’s Peas
by Maria Jönsson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571963

Book Review: I’m the Biggest, by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i'm_the_biggest.pngSimon is now so big he has his own self-named Netflix series! This little rabbit has taught our household how hilarious the words Poo Bum are, how brave you can be when wearing a cape, and how to negotiate swapsies with friends. He even went to school at around the same time as my youngest son.

So now it’s time for sibling rivalry. Simon has grown – but he hasn’t grown as much as Caspar (alias: Gaspard), and he’s not happy. The catch-phrase in this title is ‘No Way’. He accuses his mum of feeding Caspar more, then gets sent to his room for being cheeky, where he swears revenge.

They go to a park, where Simon is asked to keep an eye on his brother. He spots a big kid from his class trying to bully him, as he scores a goal in soccer.  Will he let it keep on happening? Or is he going to pretend like nothing is happening?

As a self-appointed connoisseur of Simon books, this one fell flat for me. First – modern parenting doesn’t look like this. I don’t send my kids to their room for saying ‘No Way’. If I did, they’d never be in the lounge (they say much worse, at times). And ‘No Way’ just doesn’t have the shoutability the previous catch-phrases have had.

That said, the rivalry between brothers certainly rang true, especially in the area of height. My youngest recently lost his 8th tooth, so they are now even in the number of teeth that have fallen out, to the chagrin of the elder brother! And they have the same size feet. And I could totally see the eldest seriously considering letting his brother be menaced, to get him back.

If you are a collector of Simon books, add it to the collection! But if you haven’t started on them yet, start with Poo Bum, and don’t forget A Deal’s A Deal. And if you want your kids to learn a bit about empathy, try 2017 title, I Can’t Sleep!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

I’m the Biggest
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572021

 

Book Review: The Holidays, by Blexbolex

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_the_holidaysThe Holidays written and illustrated by Blexbolex is published by Gecko Press, who publish and translate children’s books from around the world. Blexbolex is a French comics artist and illustrator, living in Berlin.

This is a very unusual children’s book for one used to books with words! The story is set out and told entirely by illustrations.

The Summer holidays are nearly over and our protagonist had the whole place to themselves to explore until Grandpa came home with an elephant.  That event in itself changed the rest of the Summer holidays – making life a lot more interesting. But where could Grandpa possibly have gotten an elephant?  And where did it go at the end of the holidays? We have no idea.

This book encourages a child and perhaps a grown up to concoct a story to fit the pictures. This is a great way to encourage a child to use their imagination.

A charming book with beautifully crafted illustrations.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Holidays
by Blexbolex
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571932

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

Book Review: See You When I See You, by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Erikksson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_see_you_when_I_see_youSee You When I See You is the fifth book in the Dani series, about a girl starting the second year of school. The previous four books set the scene for Dani, a girl whose mother is dead and whose Dad spent a long time in hospital recently recovering from an accident. Understanding this context is useful, as without it the story seems oddly complex.

Dani has a bad start to a special day when her Dad asks her if it is OK for his friend Sadie to come over and cook dinner. It is clear from the story that Dani is not happy about this.

That day it is time for Dani’s annual school trip to the Skansen Zoo. The children go on a bus to the zoo, get a lecture about what to do if they are lost and happily have close encounters with some animals. Sadly, two of Dani’s classmates are mean to her, and in her distress she runs away. She remembers to follow the instructions of her teacher, and returns to the last place she saw her class. Suddenly she comes across her best friend, Ella. Ella is at a different school and the children make the most of the happy chance to go off and play.

The books are designed for children aged 5-7 and the publisher, Gecko Press, notes that ‘The series fills a gap of good reading for five- to seven-year-olds. It gives them a proper grown-up reading experience that is accessible but also has emotional weight.’

My seven-year-old daughter very much enjoyed the book, and I could hear the voice of seven-year-old’s in the story. With a seven-year-old’s understanding, not everything in the story is explained. We both enjoyed the illustrations, which show a child’s view of the action.

Books from this series would make a great gift for young readers, particularly those who would enjoy reading their own chapter books.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford.

See You When I See You
by Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by Eva Erikksson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571307