Book Review

PoPB: Danny’s Adventure Bus by Lucy Marcovitch & Paul Cemmick and Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey.

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Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Danny’s Adventure Bus by Lucy Marcovitch & Paul Cemmick (illustrator). Tamarind Books.
DannyWhen Danny and Mum get stuck in a traffic jam, Danny pulls out his special driver’s hat and takes the bus on a great adventure through deserts, high mountains and deep beneath the ocean…

Where will he turn up next? Keep your eyes open…

I liked the idea behind the story of this book a lot, bored with being stuck in a traffic jam Danny takes over driving the bus and takes it on a very odd journey. Each time Danny evades a traffic jam and drives the bus through another unusual place he encounters another traffic jam to evade and so the story goes on. The landscapes that the journey takes in are brilliantly varied, and the things causing the traffic jams are inventive. The story telling is very structured, it follows the same pattern each time and the way the text is structured across the pages there are some great opportunities for predictions. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, a few of the phrases felt a little cumbersome when I read it out loud but like I say this is purely my personal feeling about it and I’m sure it wouldn’t bother many readers.

The illustrations are bright and bold, they’re colourful and really stand out. This is an active story and the illustrations reflect this, there’s certainly a feel of motion and busyness to them that works really well. There’s a playful nature to many of the illustrations – a bunny rabbit ice skating at the top of snowy mountains, a goatherd wearing a peg on his nose – I enjoyed spotting all of these.

There’s a lot of focus on the need for the representation of diverse characters in books. This book, published by Tamarind Books, is a great example of how this can and should be done. Danny and his mother are black, but they just happen to be. They’re not written any differently, they’re just the main characters in the book. It’s really great to come across books where this is the case, here’s hoping we see more and more!

Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey (illustrator). Strauss House Productions.
WTPNG “This is Ben and his best friend Ray
Who are two of the children that like to play
Out in the field where the poppies now grow.”

Childhood friends Ben and Ray find their innocent war games become real as the Great War rages around them.

Set during the First World War, in simple rhyme, Where The Poppies Now Grow takes readers on a journey of friendship set against a changing landscape of innocence, of war an then finally, of piece.

This book is beautiful. It takes a really difficult, emotive subject and puts it across in a wonderfully careful, thoughtful manner. With each page the poem telling the story of Ben and his best friend Ray is built up, starting with their youthful games and following them through adulthood and their wartime experience. It’s gentle but unflinching, it does not shy away from the horrors of the First World War but conveys them in a very age appropriate manner.

Martin Impey’s watercolour illustrations are the perfect pairing for the text of this book. I love his art style in any case and it works so well for this book. The illustrations use lighting and weather very cleverly to convey mood and tone, in the early pages as the war is getting closer to the two main characters’ lives a storm appears to be nearing, the scenes that take place at the front line itself are played out against dark stormy skies. Similarly to the text, the illustrations do their very best to convey how awful the circumstances appropriately and quite subtly.

There is so much going on this year marking the 100 years since the First World War broke out, and I know they will continue for the next 4 years until we reach the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. I think this book is a must have addition for primary school libraries, it’s perfect for key stage 1 and could just as easily be used as a resource with other age groups. There is already a second book by the same author and illustrator pairing – The Christmas Truce – which I will be looking out for, and according to the publisher’s website there will be a third book published in 2016 (though they’re keeping the details of this a closely guarded secret at present).

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

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One thought on “PoPB: Danny’s Adventure Bus by Lucy Marcovitch & Paul Cemmick and Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey.

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