If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
The imagination of a child is limitless and this team of Terry Jones, Richard Fairgray and colourist Tara Black exploit the desire of a young boy to have an elephant to the fullest.
A young boy hanging upside down from his bunk bed looks at a picture of an elephant on his wall and proclaims “I wish I had an elephant”. If he had one he would never have to ask for a cookie again and he’d win every water fight. he would get the best seats at the circus and could build a time machine and visit elephant’s grear great great….grandfather.
But he doesn’t get an elephant for his birthday but what he does get inspires his imagination further.
Simple text in large black font make easy reading but it is the illustrations that blow your mind. The elephant has expressive eyes and the boy has bewilderment and joy all over his face.
The colouring is superb and not a page is wasted.The front inside cover has the shadow of an elephant hanging over a pit of peanuts and it finishes on the back cover with a contented elephant who clearly has had his fill.
A joyous and imaginative picture book for everybody.
Squeakopotamus by Dawn McMillan, illus. Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia Books, 2016.
There’s always room for silliness and imagination in picture books and this is as silly and imaginative as you can get.
Squeakopotamus is a cross between a mouse and a hippopotamus and he is living in Kate and her brothers house eating all the toast and cheese and potatoes and peas.
Mum and dad don’t want a bar of it so the children get him out of the house for something to eat. It rains and the importance of rain is that it makes things shrink. Will it work with the squeakopotamus? read it and find out.
Easy read-a-loud story with Ross Kinnairds illustrations creating a credible cross between a mouse and hippo. I wouldn’t want him in my house.
A good laugh for juniors.
Snails, Spells & Snazzlepops by Robyn Cooper. Pub. Makaro Press, 2016.
A first novel for primary and intermediate children told with much enthusiasm and gusto.
It combines the silliness that Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths brought to junior fiction and combines it with some fantasy and real life issues like adjusting to your mothers boyfriend and bullying.
Ten year old charlie wants to be rich and decides becoming a famous chef is the way to go. He inveigles his mate Matt and his sister Millie to assist him in capturing, preparing and cooking snails for his mother and her teacher boyfriend Mr Swinkburn Doug. Never got used to that name.
In the process of finding a recipe for snails online Charlie finds a site Sails, Spells and Snazzlepops. He sees spells to make you shorter and taller and a cure for bullying amongst others. Will this help to cure the bully Ivan?
None of this will make Charlie rich but perhaps the Snazzlepop section will change his luck.Read it and find out.
Easy to read with short chapters and plenty to keep the reader in the book.
The Impossible Boy by Leonie Agnew. Pub. Penguin Random house, 2016.
This novel for children and young adults is staggeringly good.It is multi level, thought provoking and ultimately hopeful in spite of an endless war where there are no rules only winners and losers.
Every night on the TV News we see children hauled from the rubble of war torn cities in the Middle East, dirty, shaking, their faces carved masks of indifference and largely emotionless except for their eyes. It is gut wrenching.How do they cope with war? What do they feel? This novel directly confronts these questions.
Benjamin is 6 years old and he has an imaginary friend called Vincent Gum who looks after him after a train crash and delivers him to a children’s orphanage in the middle of a war torn city. Other children, who belong to no side, are in there, and Ben teams up with 14 year old girl Lucky, her brother Zaar and younger children Amos and Sofia.
Ben’s imagination is ultimately going to save all of these children who have turned the art of survival into a game. Each copes with war in a different way but their fears in this novel are personified in the form of the Hanger Man who hides in the closet. It is Ben’s imaginary friend Vincent who helps teach the children their fears cannot hurt them.
Vincent is a character in his own right with his own fears and he must learn how to cope too.
Leonie Agnew ‘s descriptions of the war situation are stunning. After an air attack she says even “the air seems to be crying’ and the journalists cameras “snap like a wild animal”
This book is unforgettable.
If I Was a Banana by Alexandra Tylee & Kieran Rynhart. Pub. Gecko Press, 2016
When I read this outstanding picture book for children of all ages my thoughts were that the pairing of author and illustrator was an experienced one and they must have worked together several times. But no. It is Alexandra Tylee’s first book and the only time she has worked with Kieran Rynhart and what’s more they are Kiwis.
A boy who is neither big or little is walking with his mother looking at the world around him. He plays the What If game. If he was a banana he would be fat and full like the one in the shop window, if he was a cow he would be the self important one standing in the field and if he was an elephant he would be very careful where he put his feet.
There are more What Ifs before he decides he is most comfortable being himself.
The illustrations are superb. In coloured pencil and varying in size from whole page to smaller images placed strategically within the written text and melding beautifully with the imagination and emotion of the boy. The lion, the tree the storm clouds even the banana are outstanding.
I shall be watching this one when Award time comes round next year.
Don’t Cross the Line by Isabel Minho Martins, illus. Bernardo P. Carvalho. Pub. Gecko Press, 2016.
This is a sophisticated picture book from a Portuguese author and illustrator. Sophisticated in theme and in the complexity of the illustrations.
If you are going to have a revolution against a tyrannical regime then this peaceful way is the way to do it.
Inside the thick cardboard covers there appear more than 60 characters with their lives to live from a broad spectrum of a community. The title page has a fierce looking general sitting on an even fiercer horse bellowing at the guard how he gives the orders around here.
The guard is to stop any one from going onto the right hand page of the book. At first a dog tries to cross, then a man but the guard is fierce and vigilant. He explains ” I am only obeying orders” How many times has that been used as an excuse. The growing crowd think it is crazy, something has got to give and as always children lead the way. The guard becomes a hero and the people have their victory.
The illustrations are bright water colours with all characters distinctive by their big purple noses which I am in favour of. As you follow the characters through the story you see the lives they have. Clara with son Rui and husband Joe in tow has a baby. Marcelino an ET type character needs to phone home and two prisoners need to get away.
There are many stories in the naked city this is a few of them. A multi level book.
This is a novel for primary/intermediate students that will draw you in once you have read one page. It begins on a day when the sun is in a cloudless sky “it seemed like someone had put it up there and then walked away and left it”.
The style of writing with short sharp sentences makes for easy and compulsive reading. Kate Di Camillo draws the imagination out of the reader with her descriptions – “she looked like a mermaid in a bad mood” and when describing one of the characters grandmother it was “like looking at Louisiana in a fun house mirror”
The story is about three girls who are all broken hearted. Raymie’s father has run away with a dental hygienist and she wants him back. Louisiana’s parents have been killed and she lives with her grandma who has put her cat in a home, and Beverley has a father who is a cop and has left home.
They meet at Baton twerling lessons and each has a motive for being there and all three want to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition which involves doing good deeds. The three become friends and as the plot progresses their priorities change.
Set in Florida in 1975 it tells of an innocent age long since passed. It is refreshing reading from the same writer that gave us Because of Winn-Dixie and the Tale of Despereaux,
You have to read this beauty, a smile will rarely leave your face.