PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.
Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner. Macmillan Children’s Books.
In his swampy home, Solomon is looking for fun but nobody wants to play. The dragonflies tell him to buzz off, the storks get in a flap, and the hippo is downright huffy. But then somebody else starts making a ruckus… and for once it is NOT Solomon. Could it be the perfect pal for a lonely croc? Matching vibrant art with rollicking words, Scottish artist Catherine Rayner has created a funny, reassuring story about a rambunctious youngster who chases off the friends he’s trying to make.
I was drawn to this book by the sticker attached to the front cover announcing it was by the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. Within a couple of pages of the book I understood why the creator had won it for her earlier book Harris Finds his Feet – her style is very attractive and adds lots to the story. I liked the illustrations of Solomon the crocodile in particular, his expressions were superb.
The story itself left me a little underwhelmed. It all starts really well with Solomon trying to wind up different animals and being sent away. Rather than him learning a better way to try and play with the other animals he finds a partner and crime, the two of them work together to carry on the efforts to wind the other animals up. Whilst I’m sure the mischief making element of this will appeal to the young listener (and the older listener too if they’re anything like me) I do think some children could get a little confused by the message of the book.
The Frank Show by David Mackintosh. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
This hilarious, offbeat picture book from the creator of Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School reveals that there is more to the older generation than meets the eye. Grandpa Frank doesn’t have any interesting hobbies, unless you count complaining about how everything was better in the old days. He doesn’t speak Italian like Paolo’s mom, or play the drums like Tom’s uncle. He’s just a grandpa. So when the young narrator of this story is forced to bring Frank to school for show-and-tell, he’s sure it’s going to be a disaster. But Frank has a trick—make that a tattoo—up his sleeve! And a story to go with it. After all, the longer you’ve been around, the more time you’ve had for wild adventures.
This is a really lovely book that has an important message to share but does so in a fun, light hearted manner. Much of the book is spent with the narrator talking about all the reasons Grandpa Frank is not a good subject for the upcoming Show and Tell – he’s old, he doesn’t like new things, and everyone else’s relative is just a better choice. The inevitable reveal that Grandpa Frank is not as boring as the narrator believes is done really well, there’s a strong visual clue first of all (I want to read this book with a group of children so I can talk about this with them afterwards) and then of course it’s spelt out in the story.
One thing I loved was that in spite of the narrator focusing on all the reasons why Grandpa Frank is an uninteresting subject there is a lovely moment when he jumps to Frank’s defence – it’s one thing for him to be aware of Grandpa Frank not being very interesting but it’s a whole different matter for someone else to suggest it. This made me smile, we can all be like this about the people or things we love and I really liked its inclusion in the story.
I like the art style a lot, every page has lots of detail to absorb but they never feel cluttered or overly busy. There are two double page spreads with lots of pictures of different characters doing different things – I really enjoyed poring over them and I’m sure young readers will too.
Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.