Book Review: Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_splish_splash_duckyThis large format picture book is great to read along to young children. With its simple illustrations and cute little Ducky Darling, this book is sure to become a favourite. (And as it’s quite short, adults shouldn’t groan when it’s pulled out again at bedtime!)

Ducky Darling loves to find all the things he can do with his friends when it’s raining, such as playing with frogs, worms bugs and slugs (which he loves to hug). He plays in the pond with the swans, swims with the fish, and shakes his feathers with the other birds – all the while going quack, quack, quack.

The simple rhyming text is kept to a couple of lines per page opening, and there’s lots of words for young ones to repeat – drip, drip, plip, plop, etc.

But then the rain stops – oh no, what will Ducky Darling do now? He goes to see his Dad and he tells him not to be sad, because all the butterflies get to have fun in the sun.

Simple and colourful illustrations on every page will put a smile on everyone’s face.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Splish, Splash, Ducky!
by Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books Ltd
ISBN 9781406376791

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

Books about Books: Lucy’s Book and Maisy goes to the Bookstore

Both books reviewed are available at bookshops nationwide.

If you’ve been watching the picture book – or, indeed the adult book world for the past few years, you will have noticed that there is a trend quietly growing. That is: books about books. A recent favourite for many was A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. New Zealand examples include The Boring Book, by Vasanti Unka; A Book is a Book, by Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins; and more creatively, Fuzzy Doodle, by Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley.

Though many are favourites, the overall effect that all these books about books has ultimately had on me, is fatigue with the tropes about physical books: the well-meaning urges from the writer to love reading because it’s good. Which means I approached these two books about books – or bookstores (but books really) – with a wary, difficult-to-impress eye.

Lucy’s Book, by Natalie Jane Pryor, illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

cv_lucys_bookLucy’s Book, is about that special book that any reader will understand. That book, that takes hold of you, and won’t let go. Lucy’s book happens to be a library book – and she’s told all of her friends about it, so when she takes it back, they race each other to get it out again. So the story is shared – with their friends, with her neighbours, her dance class, and her neighbourhood.

‘Li-ya, Lucy’s friend from the park, flew with it to China…and Lucy took it with her when Aunt Sophie married the dentist.’

All we know about the book is that it has a red cover, with pictures of adventures on it. That frustrated 6-year-old Dan – he wanted to know what the book was. But I think he will understand, once he’s met that book, that it is different for everybody.

The emotions of reading, and the rich language used in the book are a wonderful window into the world of the book-lover. And I think this is where this book improves on others: it is about the joys that the book-lovers feel when reading, rather than concentrating on just what a book can do independently of its reader. It involves its audience, rather than commanding them to love books.

The illustrator Cheryl Orsini has done a fabulous job. She pushes the emotion of each page into the illustrations in an extraordinary way. No detail is spared. Look at the cover of the books when Lucy gets her book out for the first time – an ice cream, a plate with cake, a whole fish… Then look at the covers of the books when Lucy finds out her book has worn out, and is no longer able to be rented. A boy with bandages, fish bones, an empty plate, spilt milk.

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop, by Lucy Cousins

cv_maisy-goes-to-the-bookshopI’m pleased to say that Maisy Goes to the Bookshop is similar. While there is a more basic tone and language set, Maisy goes to the bookshop and revels in the choice she has of reading materials. She is the reader, and we are finding out why she reads. And all her friends happen to be there!

My 4-year-old loves Maisy – he learned to count and recognise numbers before he was 2, thanks to Maisy Counts the Chicks – but his relationship with books more generally is a little harder to pick. He’s read this with one of his parents every night since I brought it home.

You know from the title what happens. Maisy goes to the bookshop – where Ostrich helps her find a beautiful book about birds to share with Tallulah: then her friend Charlie comes out from behind the shelves. ‘”Ahoy, Maisy!” he says. I’m reading a book about pirates. I can imagine US as pirates!”’ As we find more friends we learn what they can imagine themselves as, until the reader is fully engaged with Eddie, who shows us in thought bubbles, what he is imagining himself as. Alex loves to match the thought bubbles with a book, and tell us what he thinks they are about.

I’ve seen Lucy Cousins reviewed negatively for her drawings, and yes they are simple, but they are bright and engaging for young eyes. She packs the detail in – and you always know what she has drawn. Another favourite page for Alex was the cafe page, where they all ate biscuits, muffins, cherries and strawberries.

More of these please, publishers! I love books about readers, not books that are only about books – because reading is magical in and of itself. Don’t over-analyse it!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster, editor of The Sapling.

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop
by Lucy Cousins
published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406369847

Lucy’s Book
by Natalie Jane Prior, and Cheryl Orsini
Published by Lothian Children’s Books
ISBN 9780734416605

Funny note: In the USA, Maisy Goes to the Local Bookstore (rather than the Bookshop) – and where do you think the first link came up to for this? That’s right – starts with A and ends with N.

Book Review: Count with Maisy, cheep cheep cheep, by Lucy Cousins

Available at bookstores nationwide.cv_count_with_maisy_cheep_cheep_cheep

We had a lot of trouble finding a Maisy book for our Maisy-obsessed two-year-old, Alexander, this Christmas past, so I was overjoyed to have Count with Maisy Cheep, Cheep, Cheep waiting for me when I returned from a brief but sunny holiday. Since bringing it home, Alex has added this to his required reads pile, a very prestigious position indeed.

I think the broad appeal of Maisy is that she does everything and anything completely independently. This is Alex all over – while my other (older, more home-oriented) son prefers Peppa Pig in both book and TV format. The stories for both are short, sweet and simple, and they hold their audiences enraptured.

The story sees Maisy helping Mummy Hen find her chicks, who have all run away at bedtime. Sounds familiar. Each flap hides a chick, and as they are found, the numbers appear above the chick that has been found. We meet Cyril driving the tractor, Eddie watering the flowers. I was concerned for chick number 10 when we found him being played with by Charlie. I don’t trust that Charlie when it comes to potentially edible things…

As a counting book, I have seen better. It is too easy to overlook the fact that there are occasionally more than one flap on each spread, and the numbers above each chick are too small to be obvious. (In fact, last night, I read the best counting book I have ever come across – 100 things, by Masayuki Sebe (Gecko Press). So many good things about this book.)

But as a Maisy book, it does everything it needs to do. The main characters are there – Alex is particularly overjoyed to see Cyril driving the tractor on the farm – and the whole book uses ‘lift the flaps’ well, though not particularly ingeniously. I do like the penultimate spread, for the extension of concepts in the book. The simplicity of labelling and use of recognisable farm features speaks clearly to its audience.

If you have a fiercely independent toddler, I suggest introducing them to their soon-best friend Maisy. Use it as a gateway book to a lifelong enjoyment of reading.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Count with Maisy, cheep cheep cheep
by Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406357318

Book review: Maisy Grows a Garden by Lucy Cousins

cv_maisy_grows_a_gardenThis book is in bookstores now.

I have a keen Maisy fan in residence and I quite like Maisy, too. Lucy Cousins’ illustration style is charming and through the last few years I got a lot of relief in both of my sons liking Maisy and Peppa Pig more than, say, Barney or The Wiggles. It meant I wasn’t cringing at story and DVD time, and actually even enjoyed it. We have a wonderful Maisy book which is Maisy’s house – the covers tie together with a ribbon to create a free-standing pop-up of Maisy’s house, with a cardboard Maisy to move through the rooms – I must confess I think I played with it more than my children did!

This new book is marketed as a ‘First Science Book’ and it does achieve this at a pre-school level (3+). Through the book, your child will learn a little bit about the provenance of flowers and vegetables, some basics of how to tend to plants (watering, weeding), and the season of Spring. On each page there is a basic illustrated vocabulary – words like ‘shoots’, ‘roots’, ‘dandelion’ etc. Other books in the First Science range include: Maisy’s Wonderful Weather Book; Maisy’s Nature Trail; Maisy Bakes a Cake.

It’s a pop-up book, and for the most part the pop-ups are inventive and engaging, although a few of them seemed very stiff and needed some dexterity to get them to work – tricky for little hands! I think they would ease with repeated readings, however. My favourite pop-ups were the adorable planting seeds pages and the blooming flowers pages.

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Resident-Maisy-fan Magnus enjoyed the book and made associations between the vegetable garden in the book and our own vegetable garden. Each page has playful insects and birds in the illustrations and I extended the reading of the book by getting Magnus to find the insects/birds on each page.

I enjoyed Cousins’ subtle propaganda, too. Vegetables are ‘yummy’ and on the final page Maisy is in raptures: “Oh, how beautiful all the flowers are! …. Gardening is so much fun!” A sentiment to warm the heart of all gardening parents who are hoping to pass their green thumbs onto their children.

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This is a charming addition to the Maisy range and it has become a firm favourite with both Magnus and I – me as a keen gardener, and Magnus as a Maisy-devotee.

Reviewed by Helen Lehndorf and Magnus Rolfe

Maisy Grows a Garden
A Maisy First Science Book
By Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406340860