February 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 29 Feb, 2016 05:12PM
Rain by Manya Stojic, published by Pavillion
As our younger daughter approaches six months old, we and our three year old have enjoyed watching as she discovers the world around her - seeing new colours, feeling the wind in her hair, or tickling her toes on a blanket.
The five senses are the structure for Manya Stojic's wonderful debut picturebook 'Rain', which depicts the arrival of a monsoon in the hot and dusty Savannah.
The story begins with the dry, cracked ground, illustrated by broad terracotta brushstrokes and the words "It was hot". A porcupine is sniffing around the desert's barren expanse. Suddenly he smells it: Rain. He must tell the zebra.
Lightening bolts flash across the page and the zebra take flight. They can hear the rain, while the monkeys can see it and the rhinos can feel it. The lion purrs and declares that as well as all these sensations, this King of the jungle can taste it too.
The rain arrives and it truly pours, and the pages become awash with blues and greys. When it stops the animals all reflect on how they can no longer directly sense the rain, but they can benefit from its lasting effects - the shade of the leaves it helped grow, the squelch of the mud it helped cool, the quench of the rainwater now filling the lake.
The book ends after the rain has gone, disappearing as quickly as it arrived. It is soon hot again, and a tiny crack appears in the dried out mud.
Rain is a perfect choice for learning about the senses, and also conveys subtle but important messages about the preciousness of water and its impact on nature's delicate balance.
February 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 23 Feb, 2016 08:51PM
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, published by Macmillan Children's
At our eldest daughter's third birthday party this weekend, we had a dinosaur themed pass the parcel. Contained within each layer of wrapping was a small brontosaurus, pterodactyl and triceratops.
The final prize, won (of course) by the birthday girl, was a 'dinosaur egg', from which, when left overnight in a bowl of water, emerged a large sponge tyrannosaurus Rex.
So it seemed particularly fitting to enjoy a reading tonight of Emily Gravett's marvellous modern classic, The Odd Egg.
Depicted through her distinctive pastel watercolour and pencil illustration, and a clever use of flaps for dramatic effect, we follow the travails of duck, the only bird in the book who hasn't laid an egg.
While owl, flamingo, robin, chicken and parrot look on at their clutch with pride, duck is alone. When he (yes he) finds an enormous egg covered with green spots, he thinks it's the most beautiful he's ever seen.
In the face of the others' taunts and ridicule, he nurtures his huge egg. After all, their insults are merely water off his back.
When all the other eggs hatch, duck starts to wonder if his ever will, and he settles down to knit a long, woolly scarf while he waits.
The ending is a joyful surprise, not to be given away here. The other birds certainly learn their lesson for their meanness, and duck and his hatchling waddle off happily together.
February 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 14 Feb, 2016 04:53PM
by Sophy Henn published by Puffin
In recent weeks, having just moved house, and as our older daughter turns three, books with themes of home and growing up have had particular resonance.
Where Bear?, Sophy Henn's marvelous and visually distinct debut, has become a perfect choice, especially suited to a variety of times of change.
Bear and the boy have been friends since they were both little. Now they've grown up and bear is too big and bearish to live in the boy's house any more. So begins the search for bear's new home. Although both of them agree that bear needs to find a new home, their search seems futile - bear isn't happy with any of the boy's ideas.
Would bear like to live in a toy shop? There are bears there. No says bear. "Then where, bear?" What about the circus, the jungle, a cave? None of these is suitable. We all enjoy the rhythm of the tale, echoing the boy's response to the bear's reluctance "where bear?"
Then, while enjoying an ice lolly, the pair realise that bear likes the cold. What about the Arctic? At last, bear is happy and the boy is happy. Boy goes home, and the two speak on the phone, growing up through the years.
We see them older now, and bear now has a family of his own. They agree to meet again and go somewhere. "But where, bear?" A clue to their destination is revealed in a charming final page.
With its gentle exploration of what home is, finding one's place and growing up, this is a great big bear hug of a book, content rich and perfectly matched by warm, matte illustrations.
February 2016 ReviewsPosted by Max 03 Feb, 2016 08:26PM
Lionheart by Richard Collingridge, published by David Fickling Books
At a craft sale in our local park museum, our then one year old daughter chose as a treat a small, peach and white, knitted lion. Recently, thanks to Lionheart, the wondrous new picturebook from Richard Collingridge (author and illustrator of When it Snows, a book we've loved from our daughter's first months) our now three year old daughter has taught her "Lioney" to roar.
Learning to find our inner roar is the central theme of this stunning, cinematic triumph. When a small boy senses the presence of a monster in his bedroom, he runs, clutching his Lionheart cuddly toy. As he flees through the town, illuminated by the moon, he reaches its outskirts.
Then, in a scene reminiscent of the opening to Where the Wild Things Are, he wanders into grasses that grow thicker and taller. He emerges into a magical and mysterious forest. Believing the monster to be close by, he rushes to an opening, dropping his Lionheart. There, suddenly, he is surrounded - by a menagerie of creatures. They can sense the monster too, and they are afraid.
They all take flight, but the boy runs straight into "something, or someone" - a huge Lionheart, towering above the boy - majestic, strong, fearless and protective. Riding high, nestled in Lionheart's mane, they set off on thrilling adventures, leaping rocks, diving under water, and joining the animals to explore ancient ruins. But their fun cannot last - still they feel the imminent danger of the monster. Finally the boy, his Lionheart and the animals see the monster looming over them.
To reveal the book's ending here would spoil the impact of its extraordinary denouement, and we hope others will discover for themselves its final pages, among which is one of the most dramatic double page illustrations we've ever seen.
Despite (or perhaps because of) Lionheart's generous pinch of mild peril, our daughter requested a reading of it six days in a row - sometimes a few times each day. Equaling our love for Collingridges's 'When it Snows' will be a tough task, but Lionheart is quickly finding a place among our favourite reads.