Double Dipping – Friendships lost – picture book reviews

Recently, the world lost one of the Children’s Literary Industry’s most recognised and iconic author illustrators, Narelle Oliver. Among many of the literary legacies she left us (you can read about her marvellous achievements and books in Joy Lawn’s post, here), she was a woman who encouraged and maintained sincere relationships with everyone she met, friendships rich and real. During last week’s reflection about her, two books found their way to me promoting further introspection on friendship, love, and loss.

Molly and MaeMolly & Mae by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood

Molly and her close friend, Mae are about to embark on an adventure together, a train trip into town. They are filled with bubbly excitement, relishing each other’s company, sharing the passing of time until the train arrives and the telling offs by Mum as they scamper, bounce, hide and ballet the wait-time away. Like all little girls, they are so engrossed with their games and secrets that they are blissfully unaware of the wider world surrounding them on the platform.

Their joie de vivre eventually spills into the carriage, over seats and under foot as the countryside slides away outside, until, after many miles, games become stale and tempers fraught.  Delays halt fun and bad weather smears their vision, turning their friendship murky. A trip by oneself can be lonely, however and the girls miss each other in spite of their falling out or perhaps because of it. Eventually, as they near their destination, they cross bridges of a physical and emotional kind. Their journey takes them over hills, through valleys, sometimes running straight and true, other times navigating bends and tunnels, until together, they arrive, holding hands.

Molly and Mae is a wonderful analogy of friendship brilliantly executed by this talented picture book team. There is an eloquent sparseness about Parker’s narrative that harmonises each and every word on the page with Blackwood’s oil painted illustrations. The combination is intoxicating and terribly alluring.

Blackwood’s visual story contains several signposts that guide readers through this warm and recognisable tale of friendship; transporting them through all the exuberant, boring, testing, dark, and illuminating parts of the friendship journey.

Memorable, visually poetic, and beautifully written, this picture book is not only perfect for little people from four years upwards but also makes a gorgeous gift for those remembering and sharing friendships, past and present.

Little Hare Books HGE October 2016

Ida AlwaysIda, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso

I always feel a little conflicted with the idea of harbouring animals in unnatural habitats far from their original ones, from their norm. This picture book, however questions what is normal, learned and ultimately depended on and loved from a polar bear’s point of view.

Gus lives in New York City’s Central Park Zoo. He is joyously unaware of the bigger city outside of his parkland world where zookeepers and visitors come and go and tall buildings form his boundaries. This is largely because he lives with Ida, his polar bear room mate. She is right there with him, everyday, always. They play ball together, splash in their pond together, chase and race together until it’s time to rest and relax as the city’s heartbeat hums around them. Their days seem repetitive and predictable but for Gus and Ida, they are all that they need. Until one day, Ida isn’t quite there.

The city and zoo’s residents continue to shuffle and hum and rush and squabble but Ida can no longer join the raucous of daily living because she is old and has fallen ill. Gus struggles with this abrupt change, refusing to leave Ida’s side when she is too tired to play, insistent on helping her and making the most of ‘the laughing days’ they have left together, until one day, ‘Ida curls into quiet’ and is no longer there.

In spite of his loss and grief, Gus continues, listening as the city pulses around him. In its rhythm, he feels its life, his own heart beat and Ida, right there with him, always.

Ida Always illos spreadTouching, a little tearful but ultimately inspiring, Ida, Always was inspired by the real life relationship between two polar bears in New York. Apparently, not only Gus mourned the loss of his friend but also the entire city and all who had cared for and come to know them.

Levis’s treatment of their story is heartrending and not overtly sentimental, allowing the reader to observe and understand the bond of friendship and love possessed by these two creatures who knew little else but the world, which their friendship created. By telling their story with subtle fictional flavour, sharing their thoughts, and hearing them speak, we feel an affinity with Gus and Ida that we might not otherwise have felt. The result is poignant and powerful, and enhanced beautifully by Santoso’s illustrations.

Ida, Always is a story about love, loss, friendships and how those we truly cherish remain with us, always.

Koala Books Scholastic September 2016

 

 

 

Picture Books for Stubborn Kids

In typical toddler fashion, my youngest daughter (aged two and a half) has developed the “NO! I don’t like it!”, and the “Don’t want it!” approach to almost everything offered, much to the delight of her parents (that’s me). If you’re a parent or teacher of children anywhere between two and five years old, and understand the complexities of little independent, strong-willed minds, then these few books are perfect for lightening the mood and reinforcing positive behaviour.

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59AzwIZrNCEXMgjUxCkYapieGeWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuI Don’t Want to Eat My Dinner, David Cornish (author, illus.), Harper Collins Publishers, 2014.  

Shortlisted in the 2015 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards (3-5 years) is the subtly coercing ‘I Don’t Want to Eat My Dinner’ by David Cornish.

My youngest child loves this book (okay maybe there’s something she likes!) with its repetitive and funny phrasing, bold and in-your-face animated scenes and familiar culinary dishes. My only wish is that Rollo would convince her to eat her meals.
I dont want to eat my dinner book image We’ve tried pretending to be hungry dinosaurs gnashing on our leafy greens. We’ve tried transforming into intergalactic smush beasts and firing carrots into our mouths like Rollo did. Alright, I admit we haven’t ridden on a chicken drumstick like a knight in shining armour. But none of these approaches seem to work. She won’t fall for it. But when Rollo (and my daughter’s older sister) are seen polishing off their dessert, my little one is always quick to want to get to that part!

‘I Don’t Want to Eat My Dinner’ is cleverly and humorously written and illustrated to have readers fascinated by the realms of imagination, as well as exploring fun ways to encourage the pickiest of eaters to gobble up everything on their dinner plate. Perhaps my little girl is still a bit young for this kind of pretend play, but parents of fussy kids from age four will relish having this savory book as a handy recipe for quenching those dinner time blues (and greens).

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az2cAk+lN53bbZBZp5k15YYKWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuMike I Don’t Like, Jol and Kate Temple (authors), Jon Foye (illustrator), ABC Books, 2014.
Shortlisted in the 2015 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards (3-5 years).  

If there’s one thing in the world that makes you happy, could it be ice cream by any chance? It definitely does for Rollo and for my little girl, but for Mike I Don’t Like, that’s about all he likes. He’s so picky about his tastes that he goes as far as disowning his own book!

When his friend kindly offers him half his sandwich, Mike berrates the poor fellow, going off about the way it smells, and looks, and his dislike for his lunchbox and books. Mike’s rant continues.
Mike i dont like book image“I DON’T like that MILK. I don’t like THAT JUICE. I don’t like ANTLERS on a MOOSE!”
Lizards, barky dogs, meowing cats, washing his hair, worms and bugs, lice, baths, flowers, cheese, pickles, tickles, bats, shoes, smells from kangaroos, carrots, gibbons squawking, kisses, crabs, blue whales, spooky barn owls, packing away and pirate parties, are just some of the few things on his ‘dislikes’ list! Until he spots that ice cream… I wonder if Mike will get what he deserves?

An absolutely hilarious performance by Mike I Don’t Like with his ranting rhyming couplets in bold and capitalised handwritten text. The big-mouthed, egg-shaped Mike with his skinny arms and legs, scarce teeth and tiny beady eyes makes for a perfect-looking brat. The punchy, eye-catching and farcical illustrations immediately get you smiling, and by the end of the book, with its clever punch line to wrap it up, you’ll be whinging about having sore cheeks.

Ingenious, hysterical and completely over the top, ‘Mike I Don’t Like’ is a sure fire way of teaching those youngsters this important lesson: Keep Calm and Be Positive.  

I dont like koala book coverI Don’t Like Koala, Sean Ferrell (author), Charles Santoso (illus.), Scholastic, 2015.  

Now here’s a boy who knows exactly what he doesn’t like…it’s his toy Koala. Adam is horrified when he opens his gift only to discover the most terrible terrible that ever was. With his stalking, asymmetric yellow eyes and his mysterious appearances at every turn, this creepy toy would give anybody the heebie-jeebies.

9781481400688in02jpg-fb7c091d437ded6cBut what to do with an unwanted toy? Put it away…away is a lot of places. Take it far, far away…far away is closer than you think. Adam shouts, “I don’t like Koala!” but his parents ignore his pleads for help. Finally Adam comes to realise that Koala, with his terrible terrible face and his terrible terrible claws and his watching, watching eyes, is in fact, just the comfort he needs. And who is freaked out by Koala now?

Another cleverly written story that keeps us guessing, giggling, and a bit on edge is unequivocally matched with the quirky and melodramatic illustrations that add so much charisma to every scene. Santoso’s pencil etching technique and moody hues create a perfect sense of movement and verve through a tale that is somewhat dark and distrurbing.

Although Adam doesn’t like Koala, plenty of preschoolers will adore the cheekiness, frivolity and affection that emanates from this imaginative story of overcoming fear and asserting one’s independence. It’s wicked!

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