Book Review

Book Review: The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter & Garry Parsons (illustrator).

I’m getting in the festive mood today with a picture book review.

The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter & Garry Parsons (illustrator). Red Fox.

TDTPCSeasons Eatings!

Danny wants everything for Christmas.
But what he gets is a dinosaur, a very hungry dinosaur.

Danny’s new dino eats up all of Chrismas, but as we all know, what goes in must come out…

Danny is about to have most EXPLOSIVE Christmas of his life!

There’s poop, presents and prehistoric creatures in this festive feast!

I don’t actually know where to start with reviewing this book. It’s funny, it has a strong message… but it’s utterly gross in the best, funniest, cringiest way. If the title isn’t a big giveaway that poop is going to feature in this book, the decoration of the cover certainly makes it clear. And yet, I still wasn’t prepared for the poop levels the last few pages of the book contain.

The book is about Danny. He’s an incredibly spoilt little boy who has absolutely no concept of the idea that Christmas is about anything other than an opportunity for his already oversized collection of toys and games to grow even bigger. Father Christmas decides to teach him a lesson, leaves him a dinosaur who proceeds to eat everything and then gets an attack of the guilts and poops it all back out so Christmas can be restored.

The story is told in rhyming text and is really funny. It’s jointly authored by McFly members Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, they’re putting their writing skills to a completely different format here and they pull it off well. Garry Parsons’ illustrations go really well with the text, I particularly loved how expressive all of the characters were.

This book is not going to be to everyone’s tastes. But those who are going to like it are going to really, really like it. I think this is a welcome addition to the ever growing collection of Christmas themed stories, there’s a giftset version that comes with a plush version of the dinosaur – I think this will make a great gift!

Book Review

Picture Book Round Up.

A slightly different sort of picture book post today, I’m simply rounding up the picture books I’ve read recently.

A Home for Mr Tipps written and illustrated by Tom Percival – a cute book about a young boy adopting a stray cat. It has lovely illustrations with bold colours which work well with the story.

Daddy Does the Cha Cha Cha is written by David Bedford and illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo – a fun story about lots of dads who all have their own signature dance. Not particularly high on plot but the choices of different dances made me smile.

Grandma’s Saturday Soup is written by Sally Fraser and Derek Brazell. Published by Mantra Lingua, the book is available in 29 different dual language editions, I read the English with French version. It’s a lovely story, everything Mimi sees around her reminds of her grandmother and the delicious sounding soup she makes on Saturdays. There’s lots to discuss here, from family to different cultures to the seasons and days of the week.

Here Be Monsters written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene – an exciting pirate adventure with a real sting in its tail. The illustrations are gorgeous and add a lot to the reading experience. The text is rhyming, some work better than others, and lengthy – this would be best suited to slightly older children.

And finally, sticking with the nautical theme, The Sea Tiger is written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull. It’s a touching story about a sea tiger and merboy who are best friends, having lots of adventures together. The story is quite deep and whilst the illustrations are beautiful they’re also very muted, I’m not entirely sure what young readers would make of the book.

Book Review

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

pairofpicturebooks
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

PoPB: The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas.

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

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland. Hodder Children’s.
TVCBIn the Jingle Jangle Jungle
on a wet and windy day,
four little friends meet
a very cranky bear.
Can they cheer him up?

I liked this book, I liked it a lot. The story is told in rhyme, it follows four animal friends who are looking for somewhere dry to play. They find a cave but don’t realise its already occupied, by a bear who just wants to sleep. Each of the animals thinks it knows the best way to cheer the bear up, initially this results in a very amusing but unsuccessful result. It takes an animal who is prepared to listen to what the bear actually wants in order to solve the bear’s problem.

The book’s illustrations are bold and striking. The colours are very rich and the pictures feel like they have a real depth. The depiction of the rain is very effective, I felt cold every time I saw a rainy picture. Of the animals my favourites were Lion thanks to his shiny, golden mane and Sheep thanks to her lovely soft looking fleece. I wasn’t 100% sure of the need for the two female characters Zebra and Sheep to have eyelashes and pink cheeks to signify that they were female, this information is conveyed in the text. One of my favourite details was that it was cards the animals wanted to play, as a keen card player I liked seeing these animals wanting to play too.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It would work really well as a group read with a nursery crowd, it would allow for discussions of hibernation and of how we can best help others.

Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas. Child’s Play.
HaroldHarold is an amazing mimic, and can imitate the sound of everything in his home. Tired of repeating the same old noises, he yearns to find out what other voices there are in the big, wide world. But what happens when he suddenly realises that he doesn’t yet have a voice of his own?

This fantastic debut by author/illustrator Courtney Dicmas recounts Harold’s hilarious tale. It’s full of colour, humour and invention, and children will love to join in with Harold as he mimics everyday noises.

I loved this story! Harold is a parrot who is an incredible mimic of all of the sounds around him. His range is extensive, from alarm clocks to blenders, showers to vacuum cleaners. When he gets the opportunity to escape the flat he lives in he quickly adds lots of new sounds to his repertoire. When he realises he doesn’t know what he himself sounds like he has a go at making his own noise, and is pleased with the result. It’s a fun, simple story, I think it’s absolutely begging to be read aloud. It would require a bit of practice beforehand, I’m still not entirely sure how to try and make the noise of the blender!

The pictures are colourful and busy, occasionally to the level of feeling a little chaotic. This works well for the story but I was pleased that the very busy pages were infrequent. My favourite pages were the ones that just showed Harold, particularly a double spread where he is pacing and thinking. There’s so much movement and expression in this page, it felt very real.

Such a fun book, one that should be making its way into any nursery or childcare setting’s collection.

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

Book Review

PoPB: Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves.

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

Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler (illustrator). Little Tiger Press.
NoodleNoodle’s Knitting Noodle has ALWAYS wanted to knit. She even knows all the magic words:

“Knit one, purl one, knit two together!”

So when Noodle finds a ball of wool, she knits and knits and knits…

But soon Noodle knits herself into a very big pickle!

I’m convinced that Little Tiger Press is producing some of the cutest picture books going, Noodle’s Knitting is no exception to this. After spending months watching the farmer’s wife knit Noodle finally gets her chance to give it a go – she has a ball of beautiful purple wool, some Noodle sized knitting needles (trying saying that three times!) and away to go. Admittedly this cute book is a little low on story, but the story it does contain is lovely and has an ending that made me want to leap into the book!

The illustrations are as lovely as the story. They’re filled with beautiful colours, and I found myself wanting to find a ball of wool the exact same purple as Noodle’s – I’d love a scarf that colour! This book is a little bit different, it’s been enhanced with “soft-to-touch wool on every page”. This adds an extra element of interest to each page, I think little hands will love tracing the wool throughout the book. I loved the attention to detail with the knitting – I could clearly see the different stitches (Noodle’s scarf appears to be knitted in stocking stitch which has two distinct sides).

A cute read, perfect for the autumn!

Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves (illustrator). Bloomsbury.
MarmadukeMarmaduke isn’t like other dragons. He’s got big floppy ears, he’s orange and he doesn’t even fly! He can fly, but he won’t, because his wings… Well, they’re unusual.

But when Marmaduke embarks on a daring rescue mission, he has to make an important decision: will he keep his wings hidden, or will he dare to be different?

I love stories about dragons. I’m less keen on some of the princess related story tropes that often accompany dragons in stories, but it seems more and more books are trying to step away from these tropes. This book definitely tries it, first acknowledging the trope – the other dragons all protect princesses – and then showing a different story altogether featuring Marmaduke the very different dragon and Meg a very different princess. Marmaduke and Meg’s differences are carefully explored, along with everyone else’s reactions to them – this would produce some great discussion points in a nursery setting. I liked their story and I particularly liked its outcome.

The illustrations in this book are bold and colourful. They’re very attractive and appealing, I loved the contrast between Marmaduke and the rest of the dragons, and between Meg and the rest of the princess. I wouldn’t want to be a princess, but if I had to I’d want to be a princess like Meg! I’d also like a bedspread like hers, the bold colourful patchwork is beautiful.

This is a lovely addition to the dragon and princess story range. I’m very interested by the news that the author has another princess themed picture book coming out next year, The Three Princesses, it sounds like this one’s going even further to subvert the trope. It’s already on my list of books to look out for!

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

Book Review

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

pairofpicturebooks
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.

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.