Book Review: If I Had an Elephant, by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_if_i_had_an_elephantThe front cover of this delightful picture book, tells its own story. Small boy, BIG elephant looking at each other. Here we enter the wonderful imagination of a child- asking “What if…”

Wanting an elephant is a perfectly normal desire for a small child. I always wanted a monkey. The possibilities are endless if you actually have an elephant, and the illustrations are expressive and easy to follow. It is the way the elephant’s eyes respond to each scenario which I loved best. The story takes us through many suggestions but what the boy actually gets for his birthday is not revealed until the final page.

This book was a treat for my granddaughter who asked lots of questions about the mechanics of owning an elephant. She very quickly noticed the expressive eyes and told me sad, or scary or happy from each page. The pictures have quirky additions which lead to deeper discussions and the final page allows further flights of imagination. The detail in the pictures is superb. The colourist, Tara Black, brings the images to life. Even the front and endpapers of the book tell part of the story. I am always delighted to see excellence in the presentation of children’s books.

As a teacher, this would be a great starter for a technology unit, or pet care, or even the poetry starter…What if?

For my birthday ( or even for Mother’s Day) I think I’d like…

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

If I Had an Elephant
by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434764

Book Review: My Grandpa is a Dinosaur, by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Available now at bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_grandpa_is_a_dinosaurI was delighted to see that Penguin Random House NZ has picked up two of the most talented comic artists in New Zealand, for My Grandpa is a Dinosaur. Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones have published several children’s books over the last few years, through their own publishing imprint, Square Planet Comics. Each of their books can be trusted to have a wry comic undertone running alongside a great imagination-fuelled story that kids really enjoy.

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur has a fairly self-explanatory premise. Our little heroine Wanda seems to be the only person in her family who has noticed though. Well, she and the paleontologists, who are always following him for footprints. She stands up at the front of the class to tell her class about this oddity, and while her classmates are quite happy to cast their own grandpas as highwaymen and robots, they are certainly not letting her get away with that one.

My son Dan keenly followed the story, wondering why it was that nobody seemed to believe Wanda that her grandpa was a dinosaur, when he so self-evidently was. I mean, he had to have a special car seat on top of the car, for crying out loud. And he was green!

She tried to tell her friend
– See, he has a tail!
But her friend didn’t believe her
– Horses have tails, that doesn’t make horses dinosaurs.

The story is told in a one-frame-per-page comic style, with exposition at the bottom of the frames, and speech bubbles telling the story. The illustrations are caricature-like, and grandpa towers over the rest of them in all his dino-glory.

Wanda figures out she should just go to the source, and sure enough, Grandpa has been wondering when somebody would notice.

A brilliant message, and a brilliantly well-executed book. And most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun. I recommend it for 3 – 8 year olds, as it goes through to the sophisticated picture book audience as well, thanks to the two-track humour. I hope to see Penguin stretching their boundaries even further in the future.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur
by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143507192

Book Review: Morgan Goes To Sleep, by Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones

cv_morgan_goes_to_sleepAvailable in selected bookstores nationwide.

This is the second of this trio’s wonderful, slightly surrealist picture books that I have reviewed. The first, Morgan Goes To Nowhere, focuses on a child’s perception of a common phrase: “Where is the toy? It can be found. So it must be ‘Nowhere’. Where is ‘Nowhere’? Can I catch a bus there? Is it a long way?”

In this book, Morgan continues his journeys into the world of his own interpretations. He goes to a place called ‘Sleep’, tunneling under the bedclothes to a land that’s constructed from the comments and throwaway lines that adults make every day: “Get to bed”. “Settle down”. Go to sleep”.

But where exactly is Sleep? On his journey, he meets a number of well-known characters, including the wonderful Sandman, Yawning Teddies, and a machine that makes ZZZZ’s. He also visits a ‘farm’ with the terrain of a patchwork quilt, to count sheep. This is a wonderful and familiar little story, with accurate, simple but subconsciously layered illustrations.

My 3-year-old loves the Morgan stories because, like in the Donovan Bixley books such asThe Lookie Book, she sees more and more every time she ‘reads’ it. Each bedtime, she makes new discoveries – about the concepts and the myths around counting sheep, or the snoring ZZZZ’s. And she asks about these ideas, too, making the book a catalyst for further engagement.

A simple book like this, home-grown but universal, is a far better artifact for your child’s book case than a mainstream movie spin-off. And like Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Garden it has just a little of that dangerously wacky inventiveness that inspires re-reading again and again…and again.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Morgan Goes To Sleep
by Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones
Published by Square Planet
ISBN 9780473290771

Book Review: Morgan Goes To Nowhere, by Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones

Available at selected booksellers. 

This is based on a true story. In fact it’s thecv_morgan_goes_to_nowhere story of all our lost socks, missing building blocks, half used pencils and crayons. This is a common tale that everyone can relate to. It’s the tale of Morgan, who misplaces his favourite toy. He looks everywhere, no stone is unturned. Or as we put it in our house hold – he has a ‘boy look’. Of course he claims his search is more full-on. But is it really?

Morgan concludes that his bunny must have disappeared, having emigrated to a magical place (and I can hear my mother nagging now) called the land of ‘Nowhere’. Morgan must enter and investigate, if he is to retrieve his toy. But there is no trepidation. This is a magical place where every lost and forgotten object gets a second life. Discarded pencils become forest stands, old dice make a river, and mismatched socks become the rolling hills and meadows. It’s a surrealist’s dream, beautifully illustrated with subtle nods to Kiwiana like old Buzzy Bees hovering in the skies and Moreporks asleep in pyjamas lounge in the trees of Morgan’s garden.

Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones don not take themselves seriously. Even their bio-blurbs are humorous cartoon sketches of themselves. For instance Fairgray revels in his newest challenge: learning Morse code. Meanwhile Black is pictured like Cruella, from 101 Dalmatians, accompanied by an obese rat and skull. Jones acknowledges himself to be a wordsmith of note and “a great tapper of keys’.

This is a delightful and original book, with a real down-to-earth connection for us all. Even if you don’t have kids you will enjoy this.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Morgan Goes to Nowhere
by Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones
Published by Square Planet
ISBN 9780473269999

Book review: Blastosaurus by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones + giveaway

cv_blastosaurusAsk your local bookshop about this book today.

A six foot tall mutated triceratops from the year 69, 211, 821 BC roams both the present and future in order to find four other humanoid dinosaurs, the Raptors, and bring them to justice for their murders and crime. Of course his mission would come easier if he wasn’t a towering green skinned man with horns. Though even with this setback he manages to go forward and fight for his goal, which along the way involves three young human allies, monsters, robots, an interfering Police force and panicked civilians.

Blastosaurus takes place in three separate time periods, the past, the present and the future. All of which Blastorsaurus travels through in order to avenge his mother who was killed by a gang of four human-like raptors. Both the raptors and Blastosaurus lived natural dinosaur lives in prehistoric times until their genetics were mutated by humans from the future. Using a time travel pod the raptors and Blastosaurus go forward in time to a future city controlled by robots and living under fear of ‘monsters’. This is where Blastosaurus encounters three young adults; Richard, Emma and Alana. A group that goes by the name of ‘freedom fighters’. Angered by the Raptors and how they have managed to turn this city; Freakout City into a chaotic mess Blastosaurus decides to travel to the present day to stop them from causing destruction before they can.

The story is based around the perils of Blastosaurus and the lives of the three children. Richard Greene is the main child and a self proclaimed allie of Blastosaurus. He offers to partner up with Blastosaurus to defeat the Raptor gang. Richard is an imaginative child, who adores comics and the superhero genre. Richard’s other friend is Alana, a level headed if sometimes harsh girl. There’s also Emma and her younger brother Sam. Blastosaurus himself is a dinosaur driven by the goal to find and kill the raptors that killed his mother. He is a stoic character with mostly good intentions in mind.

The art of blastosaurus is great, it’s detailed and has a good colour scheme. Emotion and action is portrayed well on the characters. The settings are also a strong point giving the comic a strong and usually dark atmosphere. The style in both art, writing and story is reminiscent of the absurdities of comic books before the 21st century. The dialogue is straightforward and highlights each character’s emotions and thoughts with ease, it’s also witty and often finds some humour even in dark or upsetting situations.

The people involved in the creation of this text are Richard Fairgray (who is notably legally blind, with only 3 percent of his vision in one eye) – Co-writer and artist, Terry Jones – Co-writer, Tara Black – Colourist, Rob Levin – Editor and Darick Robertson drew the cover with Richard P. Clark colouring it.

New Picture (2)New Picture (3)

Images from Blastosaurus the online version, pages 92 and 159.

It’s always refreshing to see comics created by the hands of talented New Zealanders being published. Comics and Graphic Novels can be often overlooked or overshadowed by other forms of writing. Buying this book (or any other form of comic) will show support to both the authors and the comic industry as a whole and while this book does end unfinished the reader can continue reading the adventures of Blastosaurus online at this link :

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thrilling action based, crime solving adventures (that of course span over a few different time periods).

Reviewed by Brittney Huxford

by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones
Published by Square Planet
ISBN 9780473220464

Thanks to the publishers we have a copy of Blastosaurus to give away. Leave a comment below and we’ll draw a random winner on Monday, 25 March 2013.