reviews danger: the crocodile, the
hippopotamus and the snake, all looking deliciously predatory, are on the look-out for a young vulnerable creature to devour. Leon’s father shows him how to exploit his ability to change colour to disguise himself in different
landscapes; and so the fascinating concept of camouflage is introduced. But the book is also about the challenge of finding out who you are in a sometimes dangerous and puzzling world. Like most good books introducing notions of danger to the ver y young, this one ends reassuringly: Leon and his father are ‘safe inside their cosy cave’ looking at the sky as it changes from sunset hues to the gold and inky blue of night time. The pictures are robust with a coherent line and attractive bold palette, and good use is made of print variation, so that narrative text and speech are distinguished. Jez Alborough resists the temptation to call his book ‘Leon the Chameleon’ and leaves it to the reading adult to decide if and when to name concepts like ‘predator’ and ‘camouflage’. MM
Iris and Isaac HHHHH
Catherine Rayner, Little Tiger Press, 32pp, 978 1 84895 091 7, £10.99 hbk
‘Iris and Isaac are NOT FRIENDS.’ Of course they aren’t. After all, what proper polar bear could be happy when her used-to-be-best-friend has spoiled her lovely snow nest? So Iris and Isaac go their separate ways in a dual huff. It doesn’t take long, however, before each of them realises that all the splendid sights they are seeing would be so much nicer if they had a friend to share them with. So all is forgiven and they make another snow nest, this time together. It is the illustrations that make this book extra special – with their milky, snowy colours that swim and dance and Rayner’s expressive line that clearly convey the animals’ emotions. This is the kind of enchantment beloved of children and adults alike. The tale has a moral, but its beauty makes the pill of friendship- fallout easy to take. Another champion production from last year’s CILIP Kate Greenaway award winner.
ES Busy Boats HHHH
Susan Steggall, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 074 9, £11.99 hbk
Organised round a day in the life of a harbour, this life enhancing picture book first invites young learners to join fishermen setting out to sea in the morning. The story moves on to the work of huge cranes putting their loads on the cargo boats and then to jolly tourist boats filling with holiday makers. Later on, rowing boats, ferry boats and swift moving rescue boats are shown at work. The appeal of this book is to do with the quality of the colourful and energetic double spread pictures with their sharp line and the simple but effective rhythmic text.
‘Judder, judder, judder, as the engines shudder’ accompanies pictures of the fishermen coming home at the end of the day and loading boxes of fish onto a van to be taken for sale. Every page has the interest and detail likely to get young children thinking and talking. MM
Ginger and the Mystery Visitor
Charlotte Voake, Walker, 40pp, 978 1 4063 2238 5, £11.99 hbk
Ginger and the Mystery Visitor is the third title ‘in this family’. And family (Ginger, the kitten and the little girl) is exactly what these books are about. This time their unit is disrupted by visits from a fine-looking cat that is keen to clear out any leavings in their bowls, and occasionally takes a nap on the bed, although he never stays very long. Is he a stray? Puzzled, the little girl ties a ribbon and a note around the mystery cat’s neck. Soon he returns with a different note saying he has a good home, two meals a day and a plea not to feed him as he’s getting fat – and his name is Tiddles. Anyone who has ever had a cat or been visited by a cat will identify at once with this story.
Voake’s exquisitely flowing line captures the essence of felineness. Lightly limned and filled with loosely applied wash, her illustrations epitomise the way cats look and behave. And just like cats, Voake hints rather than defines. But, while, like Tiddles, most cats never really belong to humans, do make sure that a copy of this masterly, understated and very enter taining book belongs to you. VC
Sir Laughalot HHH
Tony Mitton, ill. Sarah Warburton, Orchard, 32pp, 978 1 40830 274 3, £10.99 hbk
Mitton’s ability to amuse and delight readers and listeners in rhyming verse is well-matched by brilliantly executed, funny illustrations in this picture book full of dragons, witches, giants, an imprisoned damsel in distress… and a knight who doesn’t quite behave as we might expect. Each page-turn becomes an adventure for the eyes as children search the pictures for details which add hugely to the humour of Mitton’s verse. Sir
Sheryl Webster, ill. Jan Fearnley, Andersen, 32pp, 978 1 84939 010 1, £10.99 hbk
Tinysaurus wants to be big, just like his Daddysaurus. He can’t do half the things that his Bigsissysaurus can do and life seems unfair. He can’t even look after his Mum’s eggs on his own. But it is Tinysaurus that saves the day
Laughalot and his dog set off to fight the dragon but instead of fighting, the Knight collapses in giggles because from each flaring nostril sprout weird and wiggly hairs. Encounters with the giant, and the scarey sorceress (‘Her brows are knitted in a scowl and on her shoulder squats an OWL’) end with more laughter, and eventually the witch demands the knight removes that giggly girl locked in her tower. How could the couple do anything but fall laughingly in love, marr y and produce ‘chuckly twins who fill their lives with giggly grins’. This is a delight from start to finish, a fun-filled text with inspirational, comical pictures making a book sure to become a hot favourite.
GB Wake Up! HHH
Katie Cleminson, Red Fox, 32pp, 978 1 862 30628 8, £5.99 pbk
I found this book something of a puzzle. The text, if read straight through, has a rhyme and pattern as it tells of waking, dressing, school, play, dinner- time, washing and bed-time. The illustrations, using black outlines and shading and limited, subdued colour on white or subtly tinted backgrounds, show a small boy engaged in these activities with not an adult in sight. His companions are mostly animals including elephant, hippo, lion, possum, cat, octopus and bear (in teacher role) which appear in double and single spreads and multi-picture sequences.
The written and picture elements each work well enough in themselves but not so well together. The rhyming couplets are decoupled and stretched out to appear as captions to some of the picture sequences and not always appropriately. As a result it is difficult for the reader to appreciate the rhyme and the ‘captions’ in the dressing and school sequences in par ticular are distractingly at odds with what is being shown. However, it was different enigmas: ‘Was it a dream?’ and ‘How come there aren’t any grown-ups?’ that my audience puzzled over.
when Nastysaurus tries to eat Mummy’s eggs. By the end, Tiny- saurus is a hero. More importantly, he’s a Bigbrosaurus as the eggs have hatched.
Jan Fearnley uses watercolour adeptly to bring the primeval landscape to life and expressive, lively line for the dinosaurs whose different colours reflect their gender. Overall the delightfully playful variants of the word brontosaurus and the amusing illustrations make for an entertaining story that also captures the anxieties of being the smallest. Children, like Tinysaurus, often long to be bigger, more grown up and have more responsibility.
Bears on the Stairs HHH
Julia Jarman, ill. Lynne Chapman, Andersen, 32pp, 978 1 84939 005 7, £10.99 hbk
Right away, from the vulgar nose- picking and tongue-poking loonies depicted on the cover, we know we’re in for some rude and naughty bears who can’t wait to give that subversive thrill kids so adore. And the promise is rewarded for these hairy creatures romp across the pages, bar the doors and hang from the chandeliers throughout the book. Cer tainly they are ugly and playful rather than scary, but they do still need to be taught a lesson, because they won’t let our hero go upstairs to bed. How bad is that? But the joke is on us because in the end the wicked animals turn out to be under the influence of the boy all along.
Dynamic compositions and jolly palette allow us not take this anxious story too seriously while chalky textures and simple patterns keep the images bold and varied viewpoints keep the scale lively. The characters are definitely not sweet and the cat who mirrors the boy’s feelings is wonder fully quirky. Kids will enjoy the fun.
JNH A Bit Lost HHH
Chris Haughton, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 2746 5, £11.99 hbk
Chris Haughton has transformed a simple story of a baby owl falling out of the nest and being helped to find his mother by a squirrel into a lyrical adventure. Misunderstanding and mis- introductions to a wide range of
Books for Keeps No.185 November 2010 21
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