Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Wondrous Dinosaurium by John Condon and Steve Brown

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Danny wants a pet, but he doesn’t want any old pet. He wants a dinosaur, and he knows exactly where to find one. After several dinosaur-related mishaps, Danny takes home the perfect pet. A humorous story about finding the perfect pet, and seeing wonder in the mundane. 

A total treat for little dinosaur lovers who have dreamed of having a dinosaur of their own. The Dinosaurium and its owner Mr Ree bring a touch of magic to the everyday world. The rhythm of Mr Ree’s speech keeps the story rolling along. No matter how many times Danny returns his pets, Mr Ree has more dinosaurs to sell. 

This would be a great book for teaching adjectives. Mr Ree describes his dinosaurs to Danny – he has chewy ones, slurpy ones, licky ones and burpy ones. The illustrations reinforce these descriptions and add a touch of humour (see Danny covered in dinosaur slobber.) The illustrations are bright and full of character. 

Throughout the story, the reader wants to know which pet Danny will pick. This makes us invested in the story in a similar was to Rod Campbell’s Pet Shop 

A bright and funny book. One for the dinosaur fans. 

 

Louise Nettleton

Thanks to Maverick Arts Publishing for my copy. Opinions my own.

 

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Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Secrets Of the Mountain by Libby Walden and Richard Jones

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A day in the life of one mountain. A beautiful picture book which explores mountain wildlife and terrain.

Observant and atmospheric, this picture book is like a day on the mountain. It shows the changing light, from dawn to dusk, and introduces the different animals which can be found on the mountain.

img_5679The text is spare. Not a single word is wasted. Walden introduces the time of day, the animal species and gives an example of their behaviours. Eagles soar from their nests at dawn, Pikas stir on the slopes and a wolverine prowls the foothills. This introduces vocabulary to describe the different areas of a mountain, it introduces animal-species and it would be useful for talking about times of the day.

Richard Jones is a master. Anyone who read my review of The Snow Lion knows he is one of my favourite artists. He captures the movement and nature of the animals, and his landscapes are brought to life with texture and different shades of colour. His palette and style are soft and calming.

img_5680I love the format of the book. The varied layout keeps things interesting. On some spreads, there are smaller pictures at the bottom of every page. Sometimes a picture runs across the double-page spread, while at others there are two separate pictures. An index at the back names every animal featured in the book. This will make a great spotting game and turns the book into a work of non-fiction as well as a standard picture-book.   

A beautiful introduction to mountain wildlife and a soothing bedtime story. This picture book is a work of art.

 

Louise Nettleton

Thanks to Little Tiger Press and Beth F for my copy of Secrets Of The Mountain. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Big Book Of The Blue by Yuval Zommer

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One fish, two fish, and an entire ocean of amazing creatures. Read all about them in this amazing and beautifully-illustrated book from Yuval Zommer.

This is not a heavy information guide. Instead it combines facts with artwork to capture children’s imaginations. Did you know that a krill has a see-through body, so you can see it digesting last night’s dinner? Did you know that an octopus has three hearts? These bite-sized snippets of information will make children curious and motivated to learn about life under the sea.

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The first double page spread outlines different families of sea creatures. Most of the following double-page spreads are dedicated to individual species of sea life. Towards the end, there is some information about the different layers of the ocean, and the impact human activity is having on sea life. I was particularly pleased to see the latter included. What better time to talk about the way we treat the world than when a child has developed a growing love of wildlife?

There is also a useful page at the back which defines terms for young readers. Instead of being called a glossary, it is presented as a way to brush up your skills for talking to oceanographers. This simple difference will draw in many more readers. This is an inspired way to present definitions.

The illustrations are divine. They demonstrate how many shades and colours there are in the ‘big blue’. Short sentences at the side of each page offer creative descriptions of the sea. This provides a variety of words which could be used in creative writing – bet you didn’t think of the word ‘slicing’ to describe the movement of a fish.

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 I love the STEAM approach. For those of you who don’t know, there has been a big push towards encouraging STEM subjects (that’s science, technology, information and maths). STEAM puts the arts back into STEM. This is the kind of book which shows exactly why this works. The arts explore and define the world, making people curious and hungry to think.

A sneaky sardine is hidden in different places throughout the book. This hide-and-seek game will keep people flicking. It is great to see factual books engaging the reader’s natural sense of play.

Exactly what a children’s information book should be: engaging, beautiful and packed with facts.

 

Louise Nettleton

 

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: You’re Safe With Me by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry

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It is bedtime in the Indian forest. Tonight, there is a storm, and the little animals can’t sleep. Mama Elephant is on hand to reassure them with her wisdom and her calming words. The little animals fall asleep under Mama Elephant’s gentle watch. 

A soothing and gentle story. Repetition and rhythm are employed to great effect, and the calming voice of Mama Elephant speaks for parents everywhere with her constant refrain of you’re safe with me. 

img_5189Stories on this subject usually end with a reformed child who sees that there was never any need to be afraid. You’re Safe With Me does something better. It shows children that it is OK to be afraid, but tells them they are safe all the same. Mama Elephant also explains the reasons behind thunder and lightning and rain, but the reader is left to make their own mind up about whether this is still frightening or not. This is far more powerful than telling children not to be afraid. It gives them the information to gradually reshape their views. 

I love the integration of science and art. There has been a push in recent years towards STEM-based subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). Leaving art out of the equation does great harm. Art is all about human experience, and for children to want to understand the reasons behind weather, they must understand situations in which weather might be experienced. You’re Safe With Me shows to great effect that art and science can work hand-in-hand. 

img_5191Poonman Mistry’s illustrations are divine. They are influenced by Indian fabrics and paintings, which rely heavily on pattern. This style captures the movement of weather – clouds building and grass swaying and water running. The book is a visual treat.  I can see children and parents tracing their fingers over the illustrations to describe what is happening. 

One of the most innovative and beautiful picture books I have seen in a long time. A stunning achievement. 

 

Louise Nettleton

Thanks to Lantana Publishing for my copy of You’re Safe With Me. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: She Persisted Around The World by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger

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13 women from around the world who changed history. Their stories are collected in this picture book to motivate young readers. 

Anthologies of inspirational women are having a ‘moment’. There is certainly interest in the topic, but there is also heavy competition. She Persisted Around The World is a little different from the other anthologies I have seen. Its features are shorter (two or three paragraphs long) making it friendly to slightly younger readers. 

img_5340I like the layout. Most entries have a single page illustration and a smaller illustration alongside the text. A couple of entries have a single illustration spread across two pages. This variety makes the book visually interesting. I liked the calm colour palette and the fact that the illustrations showed the girls in action (rather than resembling posed portraits.) 

There are some inspirational stories here, and it was lovely to see stories from around the world in one anthology. She Persisted becomes a refrain used in every story, and the reader is encouraged to adopt this attitude into their own life. 

Without dates or context, it was hard to situate the stories in history. Perhaps that was the author’s intention – that the girls should be united by their attitude and not differentiated by time or place – but I felt that there could have been more context. 

It is nice to see an anthology of life stories suitable for infants school readers. This would make a lovely addition to a book corner, to encourage even the youngest of children to hold their head up and be persistent in their ambitions. 

 

Thanks to Nina Douglas and Penguin Random House for my review copy. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: AdoraBull by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore

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Tom is all grown up and Derek the bull feels rejected. He and Tom used to be best friends. Now Tom is at school and he wants a pet. A cute pet. Derek sets out on a mission to make himself cute, but it is hard to be convincing when you are a bull …

A hilarious and warm-hearted narrative.

The story is right up to date. It uses internet trends and smart-phones to tell an age-old narrative. This means it could also be used to discuss the pressures of social media. Derek looks online and sees cute animals. Does this mean he needs to change himself? It is great to see modern-day problems reflected in children’s books.

Alfred also learns about his own beauty. When he stops trying to copy others, he does something genuinely cute. This is an important message at a time when young people feel increasingly pressured to alter their appearance.

The story could also be a metaphor for new-arrival jealousy. Alfred wants to upstage any new pets, but when the kitten arrives he bonds with it and everybody agrees that Alfred and Kitten make an adorable pair.

The illustrations allow us to read Derek’s emotions, first when he feels rejected and then as he sets about on his desperate attempt to win Tom’s affections back. They are also funny. It is difficult not to laugh at Derek strutting down the street, bedecked with bows. The reader knows ahead of Derek that his attempts aren’t working. This is a powerful form of humour which puts the reader in charge.

A book full of laughs and fuzzy-moments. A lovely bedtime story. 

Thanks to Maverick Books for my copy of AdoraBull. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton

 

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Kaya’s Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders

heartsongbanner.jpgimg_5015 With increasing pressure on children to achieve good results, maintain friendships and to grow up in a world of non-stop information, it is important to teach them the importance of relaxation and living in the moment. It is also important for children to make the link between relaxation and increased happiness. 

img_5076When Mama hums it helps her to relax. She calls it her heart song. Humming helps her to move into a state of awareness known as mindfulness. Kaya sets off in search of her own heart song. Along the way she helps Pak to reawaken the magical elephant carousel. The reader is encouraged to find their own heart song through play and adventure. A message at the back gives some additional information about mindfulness. 

The artwork is beautiful. Jewel-bright elephants and flowers stand out against a calming green background. The pictures, like the text, encourage a state of calm. 

A couple of reviews have suggested that this would be too abstract for the youngest picture book readers, but I don’t think that is the case. The reader may not understand the concept of mindfulness when it is explained to them, but they can explore the difference between calm and excitement. 

img_5078Lantana’s mission is to redress the balance seen in publishing so that children of all nationalities see themselves represented in fiction. Representation goes beyond skin colour – imagine if the food you ate or the words you used were never shown in fiction. Kaya’s Heart Song is set in Malaysia and shows children from different backgrounds together on the carousel. 

A beautiful addition to any bookshelf, and a great resource for mindfulness and relaxation. 

 

Thank you to Lantana Publishing for sending a copy of the book. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton.