Book Review

PoPB: The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka and Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh.

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

The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka (illustrator). Andersen Press.
TGBHWhen Simon the squirrel’s mum sends him off to the shop, Simon decides to fly to the moon in Old Uncle Somerset’s hot air balloon in search of cheese. Shopping in outer space is very exciting, but proves to be a bit of a distraction . . .

I previously read and enjoyed Peter Bently’s Cats Ahoy! so was pleased when I saw his name on the cover of this book – I had chosen it completely based on the title and cover. This book definitely lived up to my expectations, it’s the story of a shopping trip that takes a turn for the adventurous – a balloon ride through space. Each planet has its own speciality, my favourite was Saturn’s star-spangled pants! The rhyming text makes this book a pleasure to read, it flows beautifully and is very inventive. Some of the rhymes require the page to be turned for their completion – I enjoyed trying to guess what might be waiting.

Mei Matsuoka’s illustrations are wonderful. They blend the somewhat normal of the animals and Earth based content with the fantastical space and aliens with ease. The colours are strong, I loved their richness. There are lots of little details that carry through the pages including a stowaway for much of the story.

This is a very entertaining picture book. I really enjoyed reading it, I think there’s enough going on in it that it wouldn’t be a problem to have it requested again and again.

Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
SIFLGLincoln Green has a double, someone who looks just like him. Lincoln Green’s own mother can’t tell the difference between him and You Know Who. With his handy stand-in taking care of all the chores that just can’t wait, Lincoln Green has plenty of time to do the things he wants to do, like drink fizzy sarsparilla and shoot the breeze.

But Lincoln Green’s not the only one who doesn’t like doing things they don’t like doing. It’s not long before You Know Who has teamed up with Billy the Kid Next Door, which is a lot more fun than doing things for Lincoln Green, that’s for sure. And that’s when Lincoln Green finds himself in BIG trouble.

This book is by David Mackintosh, I liked and reviewed his book The Frank Show earlier this year. I really enjoyed that book but sadly this one fell a little short for me.

The concept of the book is great. Lincoln Green has a double, this means Lincoln can do all of the fun exciting things whilst his double does all the boring things he needs to do – things like chores and homework. Sounds good? Of course it does, and of course things start to go wrong when his double realises he too could be having fun rather than standing in for Lincoln. Up until this point I really enjoyed the book – it’s fun and I found myself daydreaming about having my own stand in. The resolution of the book however is disappointing, it didn’t make a lot of sense and I found myself left with lots of questions.

I really enjoy Mackintosh’s illustration style. The lines all have the appearance of having been drawn in wax crayon, giving the illustrations a playful feel. Colour is used carefully throughout the book so as to not overwhelm the very detailed pictures. I loved how detailed the pictures were, every page has so much to look at.

This was a decent book but the ending meant it fell short of being as good as I had hoped it would be.

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

Book Review

PoP: Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner and The Frank Show by David Mackintosh.

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

Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner. Macmillan Children’s Books.
SolomonCrocodileIn 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.
TheFrankShowThis 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.