Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: 100 Dogs by Michael Whaite

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Shaggy dog, baggy dog, wag-wag-waggy dog, dirty dog, squirty dog, watering a tree … Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. This charming and rhythmic picture-book features 100 different types of dogs.

The catchy rhyme and cute illustrations will make sure this is soon a bedtime favourite. 100 Dogs proves that picture-books don’t have to be stories. Children are curious and love playing with language. This book would be brilliant for early descriptive writing, rhythm and teaching adjectives.

img_6593The dogs themselves are a delight. The illustrations capture not only their looks but their characteristics. There are dozy dogs and playful dogs and dogs itching for a fight. Even if you have only seen other people’s dogs, you will recognise many of the expressions. This might help children who are nervous around dogs – it would aid discussion about why dogs behave in different ways at different times.

I love the colour palette – it manages to be bold without overuse of primary colours. Colour-block backgrounds are broken up with unobtrusive patterns.

A hide-and-seek game is hidden in the illustrations. ‘Lost Dog’ features on a poster, is hidden in a different illustration and makes a final appearance as ‘Found Dog’. This isn’t announced at the front of the book – children who find the dog without prompting will feel a great sense of achievement. Games like these all help to build confidence and enjoyment around books.

A cute and colourful book which will captivate the young and not-so-young.

 

Thanks to Puffin Books for my copy of 100 Dogs. Opinions my own.

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Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books · Uncategorized

Picture Book Review: Billy And The Beast by Nadia Shireen

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Billy loves going for walks with his Fatcat. They jump and splash in puddles and greet all the adorable little creatures in the woods. It should be the perfect day but something isn’t right. The adorable little creatures have disappeared. Before Billy and Fatcat can investigate further they are tied up in a sack.

img_6596There’s a Terrible Beast with a terrible plan. He’s got a recipe for soup and he plans to stick to the ingredients. Can Billy and Fatcat save the adorable little creatures before they end up in the pot?

A familiar tale of a beast with an appetite retold for our times. There are scooters and donughts and familiar motifs which make this feel less like a fairytale than a modern story. The bright colour palette and bold drawings support this sense that the story is thourghly of our times.

img_6617The humour in this book is reminiscent of The Gruffalo. The world is a dark place, little creatures are in danger of getting eaten – or stuffed into ingredients jars – but plucky and daring heroes can outwit the darkness. I adore books like this because they don’t sugarcoat the world.

There has been conversation online about Billy -the protagonist with an afro. It is a symptom of how poor representation has been that it is even worth noting but having children from all backgrounds in stories is vital. Do you remember being a kid and liking a protagonist more because they had your hair-colour or wore glasses or came from an area just like yours? These things may seem trivial to adults but children need to imagine themselves at the centre of an adventure. Skin colour is exactly the same. Books like Billy And The Beast are precious because they let children see themselves as the hero of the story.

Thanks to Sarah Hastelow and Puffin at Penguin Random House for my copy of Billy And The Beast. Opinions my own.

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture book review: Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan

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Yazan is no longer allowed out to the park to play. He isn’t allowed outside at all. He no longer sees his friend next door. The world is changing. His parents stay inside with the news on and the volume turned up. Their fear and worry take over the house like a dark cloud. Meanwhile, Yazan is bored. Will he ever be allowed outside again?

A poignant and sensitive look at the war in Syria from a small child’s perspective. 

The brilliant thing about this book is how it tells children enough, but not so much that they will be frightened. Certainly, they will understand that Yazan is frightened. The illustrations make clear that Yazan’s world has turned to a dark place. Blackness shrouds the hallways and strange images appear on the television screen. The genius is not a single one of these images tell children exactly what is happening in Syria. Yazan eventually learns that there is fighting in the streets. Until the fighting stops he will be stuck indoors. 

That is enough information for a very small child. Conversely, if the child in question came from a wartorn country, they could apply their own knowledge and use the book to talk about their experiences and emotions. The book isn’t so bright as to make light of the subject but it tackles a difficult subject in a child-friendly manner. 

I love the use of colour – Yazan’s home and local area are painted in a sombre pallet to reflect the situation. Everything which brings him joy – his bike, his parents and his memories of outdoors are given a splash of colour. In the final pages, he and his mother paint a pretend park inside the house, bringing joy and colour back to the house. 

A book which promotes empathy and gives children a space to ask questions about the more frightening things in the world. 

Lists · Picture Books

8 Picture Books about friendship and getting-along

 

There is no better way to discuss problems with small children than via a picture book. Lots of children encounter conflict at some point or another in their friendships. The difficulty with finding a book to help is that most guides are not specific enough. All of these books are about conflict and resolution, but the characters fall out for different reasons – Rainbow Fish thinks too much of himself, George won’t share, Hummingbird doesn’t respect boundaries and Something Else wants a Friend who is just like himself. Although these books are about the same theme, their messages are slightly different. 

Here are eight picture books about friendship -getting along, falling out and sharing. Check the key messages to understand what the book is about. birdThree by the Sea – Mini Grey

Cat, Dog and Mouse live by the sea. They get along just fine until a stranger arrives and offers them a free gift. He whispers things in their ears until Cat, Dog and Mouse no-longer trust each-other. Can they resolve their quarrels or is this the end of their life together? 

Key message – Don’t let anyone or anything come between an established friendship. 

 

Sharing A Shell – Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks 

Crab finds a new shell to live in but he doesn’t want to share it with anyone. Then a purple blob works its way in, then a brush. The trio realises they can help each other and it is the start of a new friendship. Life in the rockpool proves tough and crab decides he needs new housemates. What will it take for the three to make friends? 

Key message – We bring different things to a team 

 

Hector And Hummingbird – Nicholas John Frith

A hummingbird makes friends with a bear called Hector who loves the peace and quiet. When Hummingbird gets too noisy, Hector stomps off to be alone, but he finds he misses his friend. A story of difference, compromise and the need to give each other space.

Key message – Learn and be comfortable with each other’s boundaries. 

 

The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister 

Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in all the seas. He doesn’t have time to play with the ordinary, non-sparkly fish. When he refuses to share his sparkling scales the other fish stop trying to play. Suddenly Rainbow Fish is all alone. Could making friends be more important than being special? 

Key message – It is better to be ordinary and have friends than special and alone. 

 

Grumpy Frog – Ed Vere

Frog’s not grumpy. Not at all. Lots of things make Frog annoyed and he likes to win but he isn’t grumpy. The genius of this book is how we see Frog’s monologue pushing everyone else out of the story.

Key message – When we are grumpy we forget to listen to other people’s perspectives. 

 

Hortense And Shadow – Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Hortense hates her shadow. It jumps out in unexpected places and frightens her. When Hortense shuts her shadow out of her life she thinks she is safe – but she reckons without a team of bandits. Who will save Hortense? 

Key message – We should overlook minor annoyances because friends are there to help in the darkest of times. 

 

This Is Our House – Michael Rosen and Bob Graham 

George’s cardboard house is for himself. It isn’t for people with red hair, girls, small people, twins, people with glasses or people who like tunnels. One by one, all of George’s friends are refused entry. Then they build a house of their own. George finds himself on the receiving end. George must rethink his attitude before his friends will let him in. 

Key message – If we make other people unwelcome nobody will want to play with us. This could also open some discussion about excluding people by traits – do we want a world in which certain groups feel unwelcome? 

 

Something Else – Kathryn Cave

Something Else is different to everyone else. His clothes are different, his food is different and he even plays different games to everyone else. Something Else retreats home. The same night, there is a knock at the door. Something is just like Something Else, but Something Else isn’t certain he wants to be friends with someone who is not like himself. 

Key message – we don’t have to be the same to get along. This would be useful if children are having difficulty with inclusivity. 

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Blog Tour: Four things I liked about The Adventures Of Eric The Spider

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Eric is scary, he’s hairy and he is a whole load of fun.

The Adventures Of Eric The Spider is a self-published picture book which follows Eric through three short, rhyming adventures. The first story introduces Eric, the second sees him go camping where he is forced to confront the great outdoors, and the final story follows him on his birthday. 

Here are some of the things I like about the book:

  • The illustrations are bold, bright and full of character. I particularly like the spiders. The illustrator has clearly spent time observing how spiders move. 
  • I like spiders. As a kid, I often felt like the odd one out, and I also felt bewildered by other people’s reactions to harmless critters. This story puts the reader on Eric’s side. I hope it will help some young readers to respect spiders for what they are. 
  • Eric gets into some humorous predicaments. Spiders are much smaller than humans, so there is scope for situations which would not be possible with a human character. 
  • The short sections offer high reward to less confident readers.

 

Thanks to Faye Rogers PR for my copy of The Adventures Of Eric The Spider. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor

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Joan Beauchamp Proctor was a herpetologist and museum curator who lived in the early 1900s. Her love of reptiles began as a small girl, and eventually became a career when she impressed the head of The Natural History Museum with her knowledge. She later helped to redesign the reptile house at London Zoo, giving particular thought to the animals’ needs. Joan’s life story has been told in this beautifully illustrated book by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala.

Joan Proctor was clearly a remarkable woman, and I love that her story has been brought to life this way. We are introduced to Joan as a child and fall in love with her as she takes her reptiles to school and dedicates her time to studying their scale-patterns. The pictures and the text really bring her character to life.

There is a two-page biography at the back, which gives more information about Joan’s life. This provides extra context to the story, and acts as a first source of information for readers who – like me – wanted to know more about Joan.  

img_5998The artwork is beautiful and fits the time-setting of the story. The people are drawn in an impressionistic style, and there is a big focus on the patterns of the reptiles.

I loved the picture of the Komodo Dragons in their enclosure at London Zoo. Pictures of animals in captivity are often shown from the human perspective – from the viewpoint of someone looking in. This picture is set in the enclosure. We look across to see a crowd of faces pressed against a glass window. This allows the reader to empathise with the animals.

This is a special and beautiful book and one which I will be keeping on my shelves. I recommend this as a biographical text, but also just for sheer enjoyment. I think young readers will love Joan with her crocodile and her Komodo Dragons.

 

Thanks to Andersen Press and Harriet Dunlea for my copy of Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor. Opinions my own.

 

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.