BfK Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant
Is There a Dog In this Book?
Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books, 9781406345612, 32pp, £11.99hbk
Fans of Viviane Schwarz’s two books featuring her cats, Tiny, Moonpie and Andre, will be delighted to see them back. Nor have they lost any of their playfulness. However, this time they are not alone - there is an intruder in their world. Surely not? Is there a dog in this book? Well, yes there is. Following the format established in the previous books, young readers are invited to interact with the cats who speak directly to them, blurring the lines between the book as an object to be looked at and the story as something to inhabit. There are doors to open, boxes to peer into and intriguing pages to turn. Throughout there is the delicious sense of a game of hide and seek. This is enhanced by Schwarz’s distinctive style in which every line has an energy and drama of its own. Above all there are the cats, colourful and full of character - and now there is a dog as well. Fantastic!
FH Betty Goes Bananas HHHH
Steve Antony, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-273815-8, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
Betty, the gorilla, goes ape when the banana she wants to eat won’t open. Her tantrum is as massive as her size and she has to calm down before Toucan can help her by unpeeling the tasty snack. But, unable to deal with being robbed of unpeeling it herself, Betty has another fit, this time louder than the last, followed by another at the prospect of losing the banana to Toucan. It’s all ‘Terrrible Twos’ behaviour and the two and three-year-olds with whom I tested this book were enthralled, loving the sound effects of a toddler gorilla out of control. They knew, without explanation, that the ending where Gorilla finds another banana is the beginning of her self-help discovery and path to a less frustrated response to problem solving.
Original, funny comic drawings, spare in colour and bold in line, are a perfect accompaniment to this tale demonstrating the need to re-channel a temper into action.
JNH I’m a Little Alien HHHH
James Carter, ill. Mique Moruchi, Frances Lincoln, 978 1 84780 481 5, 96pp, £6.99, pbk
Don’t be fooled. This isn’t a book of poems about aliens or space, although there are some poems with those subjects. Rather it’s a book based around the imaginative life of the smallest children, with poems
about the subjects that you’d expect – animals, friends and holidays – but also poems that make you want to move about or chant or sing that are about all sorts of other things (it’s catching). These are short, simple, inviting and memorable poems which celebrate the wonder, variety and possibility of the world. Full of rhythm and rhyme, written to be read aloud, these are poems that children will love to listen to, to chant along with and that will inspire them to make up their own. Only the shape poems require the skill of reading, although the typography elsewhere often skips and bounces as if infected with the music of the poems. James Carter acknowledges the world of school, home and classroom but doesn’t restrict himself. He looks up to the stars and down to the ants at our feet. He muses that a tiny fish may grow into a shark. He packs a day at the beach into the bucket that you carry away with you. He wonders what his shoes will do and where they will go today. He invites you to join his band. It’s the work of a poet who knows his audience well and never talks down to them.
CB Vanilla Ice Cream HHHHH
Bob Graham, Walker Books, 9781406350098, 40pp, £11.99 hbk
A new picture book from Bob Graham is always an event. Yet it arrives quietly with no fuss or fireworks. Rather, Graham takes the small details of life and follows the story with a quiet intimacy that absorbs the reader. Here we find a familiar theme - that of a common humanity and the connections between people, connections that can be as small and insignificant as a sparrow. There is another favourite thread - the little event that leads to something surprising, a consequence that may not seem much but is in fact amazing, like the first taste of vanilla ice cream. Graham’s meticulous lines and luminous colours capture the extraordinary in the everyday with precision and affection. The reader is carried through the book by the rhythm of the illustrations that move easily from full page spreads to framed vignettes and cinematic strips and back. There are vistas to enjoy and details to explore; the text is precise and minimal, working with the pictures to create a beautiful and satisfying whole.
FH Smelly Louie HHHHH
Catherine Rayner, Macmillan Children’s Books, 978 0 230 74250 5, 32pp, £11.99 hbk
Louie is down in the dumps. After a dip in the tub, instead of his characteristic doggy smell, there’s a strong floral aroma about him. Off he goes in search of his very own
20 Books for Keeps No.208 September 2014
‘Special Smell’. On his search through the neighbourhood he encounters a helpful and very whiffy fox who provides a pointer in the right direction but more is needed. The snails direct him to some deliciously pongy bins full of rotting rubbish – a perfectly putrid smell but not his own still. Eventually after a wriggle in the sludge as suggested by the flies,
Louie makes his way to the ‘PONGY PONG’ and it’s there that his own distinctive canine stench is fully restored. Back home trots Louie happily, past his ‘VERY’ impressed vulpine friend, into the house and up the stairs. But what is that sound and that un-Louie-like smell that assault his senses? It can’t be, can it? …
Catherine Rayner has an unfailing
Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes from Around the World
Elizabeth Hammill, ed, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 978-1847804068, 160pp, £14.99, hbk
What an adventure! Although I had heard from afar of the preparatory work going on over the hills and far away, I never discovered if Elizabeth had actually travelled the roads among the Inuit and the Jamaicans and the Chippewa and the Ghanaians, all the way to Australia. But whether she did or not, her journeyings among their songs and their diverse ways of illustrating their songs was surely adventure enough.
One day, perhaps, Elizabeth will tell us more about her meetings with her seventy-seven contributors (on whom there are, nonetheless, four pages of valuable notes) – how she discovered them, and how decisions were made about the rhymes they chose. Each was assigned a double-page spread for the exercise – with, as Elizabeth says, Andrew Watson arranging the final sequence – and the result is not only a kaleidoscope of surprises but also a handbook to the multiple ways in which nursery-rhyme illustrations can be fashioned. Thus we may find that a whole spread is occupied by a composition for the six-lines of “Hey Diddle Diddle” or for the nine stanzas of the African American “Who Built the Ark”, or for an assemblage of two or more related or semi-related rhymes: riddles, say, or counting-out rhymes like the Caribbean
Abna Babna / Lady-Snee Ocean potion / Sugar and tea Potato roast / And English toast Out goes she.
Similarly, you can have designs ranging from (my favourites) the straightforward linear narratives that move with the progress of the
rhyme (Marcia Williams on “Old Mother Hubbard” with interjections from the lady herself; John Lawrence and a winding procession of persons summoned by London’s bells) to slabs of colour that overwhelm their simple texts (Hannah Bantry and Jack Sprat by Nick Sharratt), or even incomprehensible
(drawings for two rhymes by Olivia Lomenech Gill). Also, while in critical mode, one could wish that authors whose work has been drawn upon (Sara Coleridge, Jane Taylor, etc.) had been duly acknowledged, which would have led to Higglety Pigglety Pop being revealed as by Samuel Griswold Goodrich who was American, rather than English.
This is not the first time that such an ambitious nursery rhyme compendium has been projected in this style. In 1988, for a very similar reason, Iona Opie went gathering some Tail Feathers from Mother Goose when the late Sebastian Walker brought his skills to bear on raising money for the Opie Collection to go to the Bodleian Library. Sixty illustrators were dragooned into making pages for that book (nine of them are also to be found here) and it is fascinating to add further comparisons to treatments of similar subjects. Iona though was refining variants and new discoveries of rhymes in the British Isles and America; Elizabeth has made the world her subject and a happy razzmatazz she has made of it. May it enjoy a long, long life, generating fun for rhyme-lovers across that world and spreading the news of the growing fame of Seven Stories.
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