Reviews: 3 funny picture books (April 2019)
Wakey Birds by Maddie Frost
Wakey Birds live in the jungle. They got their name because they can’t ever sleep.
One night little Wakey Bird can’t get settled so she gets out of bed, finds a stick and wakes up the others. Soon all the animals in the jungle are awake, including the never to be woken Dreaded Jungle Beast. Luckily, the Jungle Beast has storybooks in his cave, and soon all the animals are back to sleep.
A witty take which will gain huge recognition with people whose children won’t … ever … stay in bed.
The whole aesthetic of the illustrations recalls a night with small things racketing around the house. It should be dark, it should be quiet, but there’s a bright yellow bird banging a stick against a rock. Small creatures are bouncing everywhere, screeching and chirping and outright snarling.
And there’s the Dreaded Jungle Beast in his cave.
Any young family will gain a laugh of recognition and this might help persistent wakers to understand that making noise in the middle of the night sets off a chain reaction which inevitably leads to a tired and cranky big people. Otherwise it is just a hilarious story about one noisy and busy night in the jungle.
The One-Stop Story Shop by Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Once upon a time, there was a fearless knight. Except there wasn’t much of a story because his dragon had gone on holiday. Lost without his antagonist, the knight heads to The One-Stop Story Shop in search of someone to battle. Could his next story be about space ferrets, or giant snakes, or monsters of the deep? When the dragon returns, the knight and his new sidekick decide to set out on a journey and explore all the other stories in the world.
A witty tale about moving beyond our comfort zones.
This book does something I love in any text. It explores story and story structure. The knight ventures to new worlds and battles new monsters, but if you listen very carefully all of these stories sound very much alike. This would be a beautiful text to introduce this concept and encourage readers to look at the basics of story structure. All of these quests begin with the same thing. A knight. A fearsome monster. The knight’s quest to defeat the fearsome monster. Hopefully, this will encourage young writers to pick up their pencils and create their own stories in amazing imaginary worlds.
The illustrations are full of cartoonish life and the knight reminds me irresistibly of Buzz Lightyear. He’s a bit too sure he is the hero, a bit too certain of his role in life.
The laughs are on every page, from the ferret who turns up in every story to the octopus who meets its end when it is sucked down a plughole. Humour can be intelligent and this is a prime example of why funny books matter.
Stefano The Squid Hero Of The Deep by Wendy Meddour and Duncan Beedie
The Deep Sea TV team love filming dolphins and sharks and puffy little pufferfish. They never film Stefano the squid. He isn’t colourful or ginormous, and he doesn’t have a deadly weapon for the television crew to talk about. Stefano is just wondering what he will have to do when he saves one of the divers from a terrible fate. Suddenly he is the hero of the day and the crew return to give him some screen time.
Stefano watches the other fish showing off and despairs. It shouldn’t be funny, but even while we empathise we laugh. The other fish are just so full of themselves, and anyone who has watched a few nature documentaries will recognise the affectionate send-up of the topics most often under discussion.
Should Stefano have had his screen time? Rescuing the diver should be its own reward, we all know that but this is a story and I am glad Stefano had his moment to shine. This would be a great opener to discussions about validation – do we need someone else’s good opinion to feel confident in ourselves? It could also help in discussions about playing together and recognising everyone. We all know how it feels when there is a little group at the centre and everyone else is treated like a hanger-on.
The illustrations are bold and cheerful and will encourage readers to draw fish in different styles.
One which is as funny for the grown-ups as the young readers.
Thanks to Little Tiger Press and Templar Books for my gifted copies of the books in this feature. Opinions remain my own.