Book Review

PoPB: What If…? by Anthony Browne and Doodleday by Ross Collins.

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

What If…? by Anthony Browne. Picture Corgi.
WhatIfJoe is nervous about his first big party, and as Mum walks him along the darkening street to his friend’s house, his imagination starts to run wild. They search for the right place, looking through the windows, wondering “What if…?” while making surprising discoveries along the way.

This book explores the anxieties children may have about going to a party – something many children will experience to some degree. Joe, the main character in the book, has lost the party invite so doesn’t know which house the party is. He and his mother move along the street from house to house, trying to find the right one – each wrong house allowing Joe to air another concern about the upcoming party and allowing his mother to reassure him. The things Joe’s worried about are pretty universal, I think many adults will identify with them let alone young readers.

The illustrations generally alternate between a page where Joe and his mother are pictured alongside the next house, and a double spread looking through the window of that house. The pages which focus just on Joe and his mother are done beautifully in blue tones, their simplicity really allows the text to get the focus it deserves. The double spreads are stunning, though I didn’t personally like all of them. Whilst I understand this is a book about anxieties and fears there were a couple I found really disturbing. I love Anthony Browne’s style though – both the shaping of his people and the gorgeously rich colours used in particular.

I liked a lot of this book, but the couple of illustrations I didn’t like were enough to alter my overall feeling about it. I don’t think this is a book I’ll be rushing back to, but I’m glad I know it exists and I like the way the story handles its purpose very much.

Doodleday by Ross Collins. Gullane Children’s Books.
DoodledayMom has just one thing to tell Harvey on Doodleday-no drawing allowed! But surely drawing one little fly can’t hurt. Not until Harvey’s fly comes to life and starts to wreck the kitchen, that is! What can Harvey draw that will catch it? A spider! But the spider proves to be even more trouble. Only one thing is capable of stopping Harvey’s rampaging doodles… Mom!

One of my all time favourite picture books is Ross Collins’ Dear Vampa, whilst I didn’t love this book as much as I loved that one I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action starts pretty much as soon as the book does, despite Harvey’s mum telling him not to draw on Doodleday he can’t resist the temptation and it all goes wrong from there. Harvey’s first drawing is of a fly, which comes to life – this is what happens to drawings drawn on Doodleday and so he solves the problem the best way he can think of and draws a spider to eat the fly. The story as a result is reminiscent of the old woman swallowing the fly, and also Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck which also features a young boy trying to solve a problem and then the problem that his solution has caused.

The story is very amusing, and is kept on the brief side – a proper solution is found before things can get out of hand and silly. I must say though, if Harvey’s mum had actually explained why he shouldn’t draw on Doodleday none of what happens would have happened, she has to shoulder a little responsibility for the chaos he causes! I think this in itself could make for an interesting discussion point.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They’re filled with so much detail, particularly once the drawn creatures come to life and start causing chaos. I loved the childish creatures, their simplicity works well against the busy backdrops spread across the pages.

A really great read that will be enjoyed by readers both young and old.

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

Book Review

PoPB: Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats & Chris Mould and Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes.

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

Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats & Chris Mould (illustrator). Nosy Crow.
CBPPWho’s the grubbiest pirate on the high seas? Why, it’s Captain Beastlie, me hearties! He is a horror and embarrassment to his ship-shape crew. Captain Beastlie is eagerly counting down the days till his birthday – but what he doesn’t know is his crew has got a special secret lined up for the Big Event. His days of being the smelliest, dirtiest pirate ever are numbered, and when Captain Beastlie’s birthday finally comes, he’s in for a big surprise…

This book is gross! Captain Beastlie has no concept of personal hygiene, has the worst habits going and is just generally unpleasant. So of course this book is brilliant!!

The book follow’s Captain Beastlie’s countdown to his birthday – each day brings a new discovery of how disgusting he is. This is so well written, the language used is full of description to really get across how yucky Captain Beastlie is. This brings with it a natural humour, I spent much of the book cringing and laughing at the same bits! I did get a little concerned as the book drew towards its close and I realised that the ship’s crew might be about to pull of some sort of transformation – the conclusion to this was entirely satisfying.

I really liked Chris Mould’s illustrations for this book. Every little bit of detail mentioned in the text is clearly transferred into the illustrations. When I took my second read through the book I spotted lots of little things in the pictures that I knew were going to come into play in the last few pages of the book – sharing this with a young reader would be a lot of fun.

This is a book crying out to be read aloud to a group. It’s fun and appealing in its own special, revolting way.

Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes. Wayland.
EmmysEczemaEmmy has eczema, which makes her skin really itchy. She knows she shouldn’t scratch, but sometimes she just can’t help it.

One day, she scratches so much she makes her skin really sore. Can her friends help her?

I read and reviewed Steggie’s Stammer, another book in this series back in July so I was pleased to spot this in the library. Of the whole series (the other two books are Dachy’s Deaf and Rex’s Specs) this was the one I was most curious about – surely having eczema would be a little tricky to convey through a picture book?

The author does manage to convey having eczema well, it’s clear in the illustrations and Emmy’s desire to scratch her eczema even though she knows it’ll only make it worse feels very genuine (and familiar). So too do Emmy’s friends attempts to stop her scratching – if you’re suffering with itchy eczema no amount of people telling you not to scratch is going to stop you! The plot itself is very simple, but it works for the book.

I talked before about loving the Jack Hughes’ illustration style. This book is no different, the pages where the dinosaurs reach the Jurassic meadow to collect the flowers used in Emmy’s eczema treatment are particularly colourful and attractive.

Reading this book has reinforced my feeling that this set would be an excellent inclusion in any childcare setting’s collection. They deal with issues that may make children feel different in a calm, careful and reassuring manner.

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

Book Review

PoPB: The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford & Dankerloux and A Day with the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta.

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

The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford and Dankerloux (illustrator). Macmillan Children’s Books.
TheDinosaurGamesReady, steady, RAAAAAAH! Titus the T-Rex is ready for the Great Dinosaur Games. He may only be young, but he’s a tough lizard king and he’s out to win everything! Or so he thinks . . . He’s not built for hurdles and swimming isn’t easy when you’ve never learnt how. But with a meteor on its way to Earth, everything is set to change. Titus may not win a race, but he might just save one!

I enjoyed this book so much! It has a wonderfully catchy, rhyming text – I started reading it in my head but soon switched to reading it aloud just so I could enjoy the reading experience to its fullest. Titus the T-Rex is a lovely character, he starts the book completely ready to dominate all of the sporting activities in the Great Dinosaur Games. When he discovers that actually he’s not suited to any of them he goes off and sulks in true childish fashion, before getting the opportunity to redeem himself and find his own sporting path.

Dankerloux’s illustrations are bold and appealing, working really well with the text. I really enjoyed how the text is paced throughout the book, a couple of times the final, rhyming, word appears on the following page allowing for prediction (and the satisfaction of predicting the correct word) and the building of anticipation. The page where Titus is throwing his strop is wonderful, there are four pictures showing him engaged in different sulky behaviours – he looked so much like some of the young children I’ve seen sulk!

This is a lovely, fun book that will make an excellent addition to any collection. It’s a lot of fun to read aloud (though thankfully avoids the sort of rhymes that require hours of rehearsal) and children will enjoy listening to it. It also provides some great talkabout opportunities, and will fit well into any sports themed events.

A Day with the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta. Alison Green Books.
ADWTADIt’s going to be a busy day for the Animal Doctors.

A snake needs unknotting, a leopard has lost his spots, and a dog has swallowed an alarm clock…

A fabulously funny book for every child who loves playing doctors and nurses.

This book is so cute! Terence is a young tapir, and this book follows him as he spends the day at work with his mum – a doctor at the Animal Hospital. He gets to see all sorts of aspects of hospital work, and finds he’s able to do lots of things to help out (though the tiny mice cleaning the hospital often seem to wish he’d help a little differently). The story has a real gentleness to it, there’s humour throughout though this is quieter than in some picture books. Terence is adorable (though I love baby tapirs so I admit I may be a little biased) – I liked how childlike his helping was.

The illustrations in this book are as gentle as the plot. The colour palette is on the slightly muted side which works beautifully in this book, the the illustrations themselves appear hand drawn which adds to the overall softness. The pages are rich with details, I loved spotting all of the little things – like the cleaner mice who are often to be found mopping or sweeping or the hen going around collecting eggs.

This cute book would be a lovely way to discuss hospitals with a young child, the language used is simple and to the point. I loved the book and will look out for more by the author.

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

Book Review

PoPB: Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex and Mr Super Poopy Pants by Rebecca Elliott.

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

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex (illustrator). Bloomsbury Books.
ChusDayChu is a little panda with a big sneeze.

When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.

Lucky there’s nothing sneezy near Chu today… Is there?

Uh-oh… Stand back everyone!

I read this lovely book as a cute, simple story, and immediately thought of how much fun it would be to read aloud to a group. It feels like the sort of book that would be a sure fire hit with any nursery age group – watching Chu go through his day avoiding sneezing before that sneeze finally appears is going to make most smile if not giggle or laugh. I enjoyed it, and then I spotted other reviews suggesting I may have missed something. It seems my reading of the book might have been a little simplistic, there is apparently a much deeper meaning with a political undertone. In fact, the more reviews I read the more different interpretations I can find of the text – many of them far more incisive than my feeling that it’s a cute story.

Regardless of whether this book is simply cute or in fact a political masterpiece, Adam Rex’s illustrations are stunning and the reason this simple story took me a very long time to read. Chu’s world is entirely inhabited by animals, there are 8 double or single full page illustrations that contain so much detail and so many animals that I found myself pouring over them for ages. There is a wonderful richness to the colours, my favourite illustrations are those within the circus tent – they’re filled with lovely purples and greens. Chu himself is lovely, I particularly liked his facial expressions when he’s trying so hard not to sneeze.

This is a book that seems to divide opinion. Either way I think it’s a book with great sharing potential and I will certainly be looking out for the next in the series, Chu’s First Day of School.

Mr Super Poopy Pants by Rebecca Elliott. Lion Children’s.
MSPPToby had been looking forward to all the adventures he would have with his new baby brother.

Instead, when he arrives, he just… poops. All the time.

How BORING. But then Toby realizes that his little brother’s pooping might have some SUPER advantages!

This book features Toby and Clemmie who’ve already featured in Just Because and Sometimes, based on the author’s own children, and new baby Benjamin. Whilst waiting for Benjamin to be be born Toby came up with all sorts of plans for the fun they could have, but he finds the reality is a little different – babies aren’t really quite up to superhero antics. The more he talks about Benjamin the more he realises that whilst he might not be exactly the sidekick he had in mind he’s pretty brilliant in his own way.

This book is funny, and cute, and entirely entertaining. I was absolutely loving it, then I reached the final page and have to admit that the last line made me absolutely melt from how adorable it was. It made what was already a brilliant book into a downright excellent one. The illustrations add to the warmth and humour of the book, my favourite has to be the page where Toby describes the first of his favourite of Benjamin’s poops – The Submarine Poop:

Art work taken from author's website here
Art work taken from author’s website {here}

I haven’t read the first two books featuring Toby and Clemmie, but they’re firmly on my list to track down. Clemmie was born with profound mental and physical disabilities, Just Because describes the relationship she and Toby share and Sometimes is about Clemmie’s trip to hospital. Seeing children with disabilities of all forms represented in children’s books is something I feel very strongly about so I’m pleased to discover these books exist and look forward to reading them.

Chu’s Day was borrowed from my local library. I was provided with a copy of Mr Super Poopy Pants for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

PoPB: Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers.

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

Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol. Walker Books.
CarloIn a simple storybook adventure, curious Carlo discovers the joys of the library with the help of a gentle (if toothy) librarian.

Carlo the giraffe is making his first visit to the new library. “Wow!” he says when he sees all the books, the colorful posters, and especially the chairs with wheels. But Carlo is a little afraid of the librarian, Mrs. Chinca, with her sharp teeth and claws, until he learns how much she loves books. With bright illustrations and a cheery text, Jessica Spanyol offers preschoolers a spirited introduction to the library — and a really nice librarian.

I am a big fan of picture books that show a character going to do something for the first time, particularly when its something to do with reading. This book tells the story of Carlo’s first trip to the library, he loves books and reading and instantly falls in love with the place. It takes him a little longer to fall in love with Mrs Chinca, the librarian, mainly because she initially seems a little scary. I enjoyed the story but felt that in its effort to be simple and cute it ended up being a little underwhelming, neither the idea of joining the library or of getting to know someone instead of judging them on their appearance ended up being dealt with as fully as I would have liked.

The illustrations in the book are fun, bold and colourful. This is the second book I’ve read that is written and illustrated by Jessica Spanyol, after loving the look of the first one (Go Bugs Go!) I had high hopes for this and I was not disappointed. The pages are very busy but not overwhelming, I really enjoyed how much there was to look at on every page.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (illustrator). HarperCollins Children’s Books.
TheDayTheCrayonsQuitPoor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: We quit!

Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown. Blue needs a break from coloring all that water, while Pink just wants to be used. Green has no complaints, but Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking to each other.

What is Duncan to do? Debut author Drew Daywalt and New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers create a colorful solution in this playful, imaginative story that will have children laughing and playing with their crayons in a whole new way.

I absolutely loved this book, as soon as I finished reading it I added it to my shortlist of books for my next Beaver Scout Sleepover and to my books to buy for children I know list. It’s clever and enchanting and cute and just brilliant. It tells the stories of Drew’s crayons. They’ve gone on strike, leaving behind letters to explain why. For the different coloured crayons there are different reasons, some are feeling over-used, some under-used and some are in the middle of a feud over who gets to be the official colour for the sun. Regardless of why they’re on strike each crayon’s letter is both funny and thought-provoking, each makes its case very well for the strike action.

Having a cute and clever plot is only half of the story. The illustrations by the ever brilliant Oliver Jeffers add so much to this book. Each double page spread contains the same key elements; the letter, handwritten in the relevant colour, a picture of the crayon and some of the pictures that crayon has been responsible for. These all work so well together, they each support the other elements and add a richness to the reading experience. The resolution of the plot brings a couple more lovely illustrations, I particularly liked the very last one.

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

Book Review

MG Monday: Spy Dog by Andrew Cope.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, Spy Dog by Andrew Cope earns her turn in the spotlight.

SpyDogLara, or GM451 as she is known by the government, is a highly trained special agent, bred by the British Secret Service for use on dangerous missions around the world. But her last mission went wrong and now she is being hunted down by an evil drugs baron, Mr Big. Lara must go undercover as a normal dog, ‘choose’ a family to look after her and await her retrieval by the Secret Service. But can she keep her true identity a secret? Can she thwart the plans of Mr Big? And can she bear to return to government service, after weeks of cosy domestic bliss?

So often the word that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Middle Grade fiction is fun. I feel like it’s something I end up saying a lot, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So many great Middle Grade books are fun and highly engaging, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the age grouping so much. Spy Dog, actually aimed a little below the lower end of the 8 – 12 age band lives up to this idea of fun really, really well.

We’re first introduced to Lara, the Spy Dog from the title, when she’s hiding out at the RSPCA’s rehoming shelter. This is part of her training – if she gets split from her handlers she should go undercover as a regular pet until they can come and get her. The process of Lara getting rehomed is very entertaining, she’s a highly skilled dog so there are all sorts of extra things she can think of to do in order to get herself, or one of the other dogs selected.

I really enjoyed learning about how Lara had become this canine special agent, and laughed lots as she tried to integrate herself into the normal family life. The illustrations by Chris Mould that go with this work really well and add to the humour, there are some things that are a little difficult to imagine – he captures these really well.

There’s plenty of action within this story, keeping the read pacey and engaging. The chapters are short which I would imagine will work in the favour of young children who ask for “just one more…” to be read at bedtime! The tone is appropriate for the intended young audience, the big villain being a drugs baron could perhaps have been a little much but it’s well done with the focus being on the fact he’s the baddie rather than why he’s the baddie.

A fast, fun read that I’m sure young readers will lap up. If they do there’s plenty more waiting for them, there are currently 20 books involving Lara, her pups and most recently Shakespeare the spy cat.

Spy Dog is published by Puffin in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

PoP: Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard by Steve Cole & Bruce Ingman and Too Hot to Hug! By Steve Smallman & Cee Biscoe.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard by Steve Cole & Bruce Ingman (illustrator). Random House Children’s.
GoToSleepIt is Joe and Ellie’s bedtime. But Joe and Ellie are not in bed.

The New Babysiteer has one last trick up her sleeve: “Go to sleep – or I let loose the LEOPARD!”

But she couldn’t, she wouldn’t… would she?

A hilarious going-to-bed book with a twist in the tail!

I’d heard good things about this book so when I saw it in the library I grabbed it. I must admit that to begin with I was wondering what I was missing, and then it got better and better and the last few pages were just downright brilliant. I don’t want to say too much about the plot – the blurb refers to there being a twist and it’s definitely one worth leaving unspoilt. It was definitely one I thoroughly appreciated and one I could imagine sharing with a young audience for the first time. I think lots of parents will enjoy sharing this book with their children who are reluctant to go to bed – its message works really nicely.

The illustrations in the book are really interesting, within the same picture some elements are fully coloured, some are line drawings with white middles and others are line drawings against whatever the background colour is. Whilst I found it interesting I wouldn’t say it was really to my personal tastes. I did however very much like the use of typography within the book, there are lots of different font sizes and formats to add to the reading experience, these all work really well.

Too Hot to Hug! by Steve Smallman & Cee Biscoe (illustrator). Little Tiger Press.
TooHotToHugWhen Rupert finds a golden egg, he takes it home to show to Mum and Dad. Then suddenly: Tap! Tap! Crack! out hatches a baby fire dragon!

From then on, Crumpet the dragon is Rupert’s best friend. But soon Crumpet starts to grow. And as he grows, he gets … HOTTER!

I was drawn to this book by its beautiful cover, when I looked closer and saw that the cute dragon was crying I knew I had to take it home with me. I have to say it’s an even cuter story than I’d expected, definitely the sort of book I want to hug after reading. The story follows Rupert, whilst trying to find firewood to keep his family warm he instead finds a glowing, warm egg that soon becomes Crumpet the baby fire dragon. Seeing how Crumpet settles in to family life is just lovely, and when things go wrong you find yourself willing them to find a good solution.

Cee Biscoe’s illustrations add a lot to the reading experience. They have a softness to them that makes them very appealing, and the use of colour throughout is excellent. I particularly loved the way Crumpet seemed to glow right off the page and the way his expressions are drawn. I think I’d quite like my own Crumpet, particularly now I know what to do when a fire dragon gets too hot!

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