Book Review: Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros, by Meg McKinlay

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_once_upon_a_small_rhinocerosThis whimsical book brought a smile to my face with its positivity, determination and adventure of the small rhinoceros heading out to explore the world.

We meet a young rhinoceros who is delightfully personified in the illustrations but still remains a rhinoceros (thankfully she is not given some cutesy name! – this book never becomes cheesy or juvenile).  And did I mention she is a girl? – great to see girls represented in powerful roles in picture books.

The young rhinoceros lives with the other rhinos next to a river which bring the sights and smells of faraway lands to her rhinoceros world filled with mud, grass and trees.  The other rhinoceroses tell her that this is all she needs, that she is crazy to dream of anything more.

The young rhinoceros smiles and agrees as she continues to collect the supplies she needs to go adventuring – she never loses her dream.  We watch her build a boat before setting sail down the river and over the ocean.  She sails through the day and after each night, through summer and winter.  We see the rhinoceros exploring the world – everywhere is represented (so much to discuss in the illustrations!).

Eventually she has seen more things than a rhinoceros could ever imagine and returns home where the rhinoceroses are waiting.  The rhinoceroses continue to show their lack understanding of her adventures but another little voice speaks up to ask if it was wonderful.  The young rhinoceros becomes a role model of the possibility of the next little rhinoceros being an explorer too.

A tale beautifully told through dialogue and poetic language.  All ages can follow along because the illustrations clearly tell the story through delightful sketches and watercolours.  It is one of the true treasures of children’s picture books – all ages will find something to love in this book, including the adult reader!  This is a story which will be a fantastic addition to any bedtime collection (especially for anyone who likes to dream big and be an explorer in the world).

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros
by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781925126709

Book Review: Gary, by Leila Rudge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_garyGary is Australian illustrator Leila Rudge’s first solo project, after having illustrated 6 books previously, including the brilliant Mum Goes to Work, for writer Libby Gleeson. Her illustrations look to be completed using mainly coloured pencils, with blocks of colour for emphasis of details, some textural photography, and a clever use of symbols.

I picked this book up and brought it home not because I thought instantly that my children would love it, but because my husband’s name is Gary. It’s not every day you see a book called Gary – you mostly see the name on the ‘going out’ baby name lists each year.

Gary lives in a loft with the other racing pigeons, but he stays home when they go on their races – because he can’t fly. Instead of flying, he does his scrapbook, keeping mementos that the other pigeons bring to him from their adventures. The illustrations show the other pigeons in sports uniforms, while Gary just wears a little blue hat.

Gary is every odd-bod, everybody who sees the world a little differently – whether through attitude or physical disability. I wished that there was a succinct note about why he couldn’t fly and why he was still in a RACING PIGEON loft despite this fact, which would have been fairly obvious to the (invisible) humans that deliberately kept racing pigeons. His journey, however, is one that children can relate to.

Because when Gary finds himself in a tight spot, he uses his brain to puzzle out his way home. The illustrations on these pages are brilliant, using signs and symbols to explain how he returned to his loft, using public transport, thanks to his handy scrapbook. There are plenty of traffic lights and familiar road signs that the roadworks and transport afficianados will love identifying. It is just the sort of book that my 3-year-old gets attached to.

Recommended for kids ages 3 – 6, and for anybody who needs a little inspiration to break their daily routine.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

by Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781925081695

Book Review: Mum Goes to Work, by Libby Gleeson & Leila Rudge

Available in bookstores nationwide.
Mum Goes to Work
is a wonderful picture book, with expressive illustrations, a positive storyline, and hidden extras that tell a sub story. It’s a story that has a little something for everyone.

The book runs two stories in parallel. The main arc follows a group children as they go to daycare and the exciting times they have. On each page a new mother is introduced, with details about their job. The story then goes on to talk about that mothers child and the fun things they’re doing.

Just as the children at daycare all play and interact with each other, the parents end up interacting with each other through the course of their normal jobs. This forms a story that is cleverly hidden in the pictures. Laurence’s mother trips over a dog lead of Anne’s fathers’ dog, injures herself and has to go to hospital, where she’s seen by Max’s mum, the nurse. The dog escapes and the story helps the dog find its way back to Ann’s father by illustrating what various mothers do at work.

This is such an excellent idea for a picture book, and extends the book for shared reading exploration and dialogic reading, as there are so many other stories hidden in the pictures that can be discussed. Yet the illustrations are not busy. They are simple, but expressive faces, with solid detail in the background.

There is also great variation in the jobs that the mothers that reflect real life. It’s nice to see the stay at home mum, café worker, and shop assistant represented alongside a teacher, gardener and architect. Although a few more “high powered” jobs would be nice.

Although there is one dad and a male day care worker in the story, Mum Goes to Work is very female-centric.

I also love the play the children are doing, and the wonderful illustrations that emphasise this. “Rosie, Jack and Nadia wash all the dolls and teddies and put them out to dry” has the kids in an outside tub washing all their soft toys, with already washed soft toys in a tree drying. It’s such realistic vision.

This is a delightful book, with text that pleasantly rolls off the tongue, without being in a sing-song rhyme, illustrations that are expressive yet simply expressed, and hidden stories within the pages that enable long discussions. I thoroughly recommend this book for all ages.

Reviewed by Alison Sammes

Mum Goes to Work
by Libby Gleeson & Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921529825