Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Jazz Dog by Marie Voigt.

Review: Jazz Dog by Marie Voigt.

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Cats and dogs are divided. Dogs are powerful and play one music. There is one dog who doesn’t fit in anywhere, until one night he is called by the siren song of the jazz cat band. This is his music. This is where he belongs. Then the cats at the club shut the door in his face.

Undeterred, the dog goes about teaching himself everything he can about jazz music. He ignores all the bad comments and practices every hour of the day and dreams of the day when cats and dogs will stand united.

A charming story about diversity, individuality and respecting everyone regardless of their music style.

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Jazz Dog recognises what cats have to offer. Cats have a whole style of music that dogs barely know about. Cats have cool rhythms and sounds that dogs need to learn. Although the focus is on Jazz Dog, really this is about two separate communities and the need for one to accept the other. This would tie in beautifully with the history of the jazz era. Jazz didn’t heal all the atrocities of segregation in America but it did bring some communities together. And recognising common ground is a very important first step in breaking down other barriers. Jazz music helped to fuel the civil rights movements and some very important musicians broke new ground by refusing to play to segregated audiences.

Jazz Dog is a gentle story that allows young readers to discuss some of the issues involved in this history. Why are the dogs and cats separate in the first place? Is Jazz Dog a hero or is he just the first to listen to a whole group of cats? How might music and other art help to break divisions? Thinking about this in the boundaries of a fictional story can help readers to think more deeply when they approach the real history.

The illustrations shine with Voigt’s usual attention to detail. Her cityscapes contrast the bleak and dingy spaces with life and sparkle. Think the reflection of neon lights in a puddle or the stars behind a block of highrises. 

Another great hit from Voigt with a message for everyone to listen to. 

 

Thanks to OUP Children’s Books for my copy of Jazz Dog. Opinions my own.

 

Lists · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

9 Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression

 

Nine Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression.

 

Mr Tiger Goes Wild – Peter Brown

Mr Tiger lives in a grey place where everybody looks and acts the same way. One day, Mr Tiger has an idea. He changes the way he walks, then the way he dresses. Then Mr Tiger goes WILD.

This book looks at freedom of expression and it also looks at boundaries. The world becomes a brighter place when everyone is free to express themselves. Mr Tiger learns about boundaries. Dressing and walking differently is one thing. Leaping across the rooftops is another.

Key Messages –

  • Individuality makes the world a brighter place
  • Pushing the boundaries of individuality can result in behaviour outside the social norm. There are limits to what other people will accept.

 

 

Elmer – David McKee

All of the elephants are grey. All except Elmer. It never matters that Elmer is a patchwork elephant because his jokes keep the other elephants happy. One day, Elmer hears someone say patchwork elephants are silly, so he finds a way to hide his colours until he realises the other elephants miss their friend.

This is one of the best-known picture books of the past 30 years. It is a story about celebrating individuality and looking beyond appearance.

Key messages –

  • Appearance doesn’t define us.
  • The things that are unique about us are a cause for celebration.

 

 

Up and Down – Oliver Jeffers

There are two friends who always do things together until Penguin decides there is something important he wants to do all by himself. Fly. At first, it seems impossible. Then Penguin signs up as a living cannonball.

The most important point of this story is that Boy doesn’t judge Penguin. He is there when Penguin wants to fly and he supports Penguin when flying turns out not to be the right thing. The best people in our lives are the ones who stand by us and support us whatever stage we are at. 

Key Message:

  • Although nobody can tell us who we are, the people we trust can guide and support us on our journey of self-discovery.

 

Tacky The Penguin – Helen Lester And Lyn Munsinger

Whatever the other penguins do, Tacky does it differently. Tacky is an odd bird. One day the hunters come. The other penguins run away but Tacky confront them straight on.

Tacky may seem like an oddball, but he has qualities and abilities which the other penguins admire. It takes time for them to look past the strange shirt and loud behaviour, but when they do they realise Tacky is a good penguin to have around. 

Key Message:

  • Don’t judge others on superficial grounds.

 

 

Spork – Kyo Mclear 

Forks are forks and spoons and spoons, but where does Spork fit in? One day he decides it is time to choose what he is – a spoon or a fork.

Key Message:

  • Everybody finds their place regardless of labels. This would also be lovely for discussion what we inherit from our parents. Children can feel pressured to live up to one parent or another and need to learn that we will be defined by our own actions and achievements.

 

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Every year, the jungle dance is held, but Gerald feels because he can’t dance like the other animals. The other animals make fun of him when he hits the dance-floor. Away from the other animals, a kindly cricket plays music for Gerald to sway to.

Key Message:

  • The other animals have a narrow definition of dancing, but with a little encouragement, Gerald finds his own rhythm. When we make fun of other people it is often our own prejudice and preconceptions at fault.

 

 

Perfectly Norman – Tom Percival 

Norman has always been perfectly normal until one day he grows a pair of new wings. Should he embrace his wings and fly free or hide them away? Hiding the wings makes all his favourite things difficult and everybody notices that Norman is not himself.

Key Message:

  • Hiding our individuality can draw more attention to ourselves than embracing our differences.

 

The Lion Inside – Rachel Bright And Jim Field

Nobody ever notices Mouse. He is so impossibly small. Meanwhile, Lion has made himself head of the pack with his loud roar. Mouse decides he needs a loud voice. The only animal who can teach him to roar might eat him up. Is Mouse brave enough to approach Lion?

Key Messages:

  • Bravery and confidence aren’t about having the loudest voice. We can speak up for ourselves without changing who we are.

 

 

Petra  – Marianne Coppo

Petra is a rock and this is how she rolls. Everybody tells her she is just a rock but there are so many things she could be. Every time she receives a knock – being thrown across the garden, or taken into a bird-nest – Petra reinvents herself. However many times she transforms herself, Petra remains her happy self.

I love this story. No matter how many times Petra is told she can’t be anything other than a rock she reinvents herself. This is a story about resilience. It is also about not letting other people define you.

Key message:

  • You can decide who you want to be. Don’t let other people’s opinions define you.