One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.
Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure by Thomas and Helen Docherty. Templar.
I thought this was a nice story but it does need the reader to really suspend their disbelief. I’m sure children won’t find this an issue, but I struggled a little with it. This combined with the fact that the driving factor for the story was the featured child taking an ice lolly from a stranger meant I didn’t really enjoy reading it, and would be reluctant to have it in my own collection (it would be just my luck that I’d end up having to read it time and time again). The illustrations in the book are very colourful and engaging though at times they’re incredibly busy – I found there was too much on them to take in.
Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills. Boxer Books.
I was drawn to this book by the name, Duck, Duck, Goose is a very popular game with my Beaver Scout colony. The book is a lovely story about friendship – Duck and Goose are best friends and do everything together but then Duck meets Thistle Duck and is wowed by her so brings her along to play too. I thought this was a really nice exploration of friendship, it would provide lots of talking opportunities. The illustrations are lovely and I liked the variation of font size and style to show volume and thoughts etc. Since reading this book I’ve discovered that there is a whole series of books featuring Duck and Goose so I’m going to be on the lookout for others next time I visit the library.
Shoe Baby by Joyce Dunbar and Polly Dunbar. Walker Books.
This is a really fun rhyming story, with a little bit of magic sprinkled through it. We follow the baby on his adventures, meeting new people and greeting them all “how do you do?”. There’s a warmth and predictability to the book that will make it a firm favourite with many children, and I think its charm will mean adults won’t mind the repeated readings I’m sure it’d get. The art is, like all of Polly Dunbar’s work, truly beautiful – bright and colourful with wonderful use of patterns and textures.
Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Sean and Coop, always set themselves a summer-time goal. This year’s? To see a real-live naked girl for the ﬁrst time. As far as Matt is concerned, they’d have better luck ﬁnding the lost city of Atlantis. But seeing a girl in the buff starts to seem like child’s play compared to the other summertime goal Matt sets for himself: to swim the 100-yard butterﬂy (the hardest stroke known to God or man) in order to impress Kelly West, the hot new girl. So what if he can’t manage a single lap, let alone four? He’s got the whole summer to perfect his technique. What could possibly go wrong?
This book was recommended to me following a discussion on Twitter about contemporary YA fiction with a male protagonist. I thought it sounded like something I could enjoy and went straight down to my local library to track down a copy.
The book is great fun. The plot is highly entertaining and I flipped back and forward between laughing and cringing for the majority of it. A couple of moments in it are downright gross, but they’re written in such a way that they’re hugely entertaining rather than off putting. There are a number of plot threads which all wind around each other beautifully, this is a book about friendship, first romance, and growing up.
The main three boys, Matt, Coop and Sean, are great characters and I loved their friendship. I really felt like I got to know them within the book, I was very pleased to discover at the end of the book that this is just the first volume about them – I’m already looking forward to reading more about them. I also loved Matt’s grandfather – Grandpa Arlo. His attempts to woo a recently widowed neighbour added yet another set of laughs to an already funny book.
I really like Don Calame’s writing style, the book zips along at a great pace and he’s created some wonderful characters that you can’t help but love. I think he manages to get the balance of the book just right, it would have been easy to let the laughs and gags run away with themselves, but they’re tempered with really lovely quieter moments.
I absolutely loved this book and will be looking out for the next books in the series. Definitely recommended.
Swim the Fly is published in paperback by Templar in the UK priced £6.99