Review – The Great and Wondrous Storyteller

Great and Wondrous StorytellerNorbert P. Winklebottom begins his wondrous journey on the front end pages of Michael Scott Parkinson’s new picture book resplendent in suit, tie, and a dazzling sense of self-confidence for he is, The Great and Wondrous Storyteller.

Great and Wondrous Storyteller spreadHe has read books of all description, in every location from the top of cloud-clad mountains to the bottom of the deepest oceans to everyone from queens and kings to goldfish, yes! And about subjects as diverse as unicorns and dragons. With qualifications like these difficult to pass over, Norbert’s friends entreat him to read them a story.

Now, this is where Norbert’s sparkle loses some of its shine for it turns out Norbert is not as au fait with the art of book reading as he professes. In fact, he doesn’t even know what to do with the book they hand him. It’s difficult to turn on, he’s not sure which way to hold it, and none of the words makes any sense at all.

Norbert’s friends sniff subterfuge and begin to lose confidence in this braggart’s skills just as Norbert’s own sense of confidence begins to falter. It is also at this point that 21st century readers like me may think they have Norbert’s storyline in the bag. Kids! I thought, they don’t even understand the nuances of a real book these days being so digitally blinkered. Bah!

It’s the surprise appearance of Norbert’s dad who reveals why Norbert cannot read this book. Under Dad’s encouraging tutelage, Norbert’s aspirations reassert themselves in glorious bibliomaniac fashion ensuring his newfound love of books and reading will indeed make him a great and wondrous storyteller, one day.

Michael Scott ParkinsonI found this book oddly divisive at first, being led down the wrong library aisle, as it were. Not so, Miss 9 who instantly enjoyed the humour and cartoon-esque illustrations so ably served up by Parkinson. On second look, The Great and Wondrous Storyteller is indeed a picture book that packs in more than it first appears to, a bit like a Tardis.

Norbert’s initial boastful exclamations really describe the wonderful portable physicality of books and stories, and that you can read about anything, anywhere, any time. Lovely.

Norbert is a little monster with giant aspirations, impatient to tackle grown-up-dad things but after being walloped by a hefty dose of self-realisation, quickly learns that baby steps will take him to his goals faster and more safely than exaggerated leaps.

After being exposed as a bit of fibber – green handed as it were – Norbert learns the value of honesty and of not being ashamed of your shortcomings. Lovely.

Norbert Storyteller IlloAll sound ideas portrayed in a fun colourful way that are best appreciated through the shared reading of this book with an adult.

The Great and Wondrous Storyteller has the potential to enthral tiny readers who are still working out their ABCs, which means it’s ideal for sparking a love of reading for life. Entertaining, quirky and ultimately, heartening.

The Five Mile Press August 2015

Classics to cherish – Old tale picture book reviews

Don’t you love that emphatic certainty a below-twelve year-old has whenever they hear a remix of a song dating from the golden oldie era? ‘They got that song from such and such movie, Mum!’ Um well, no actually it was around way before me…Stories evoke similar conviction.

Alice in Wonderland 150thModern retellings of classic children’s stories might seem like a cheeky waste of time, but timeless tales and parables reclothed in sleek modern attire have an astonishing way of finding hanging space in a child’s heart. After all, they are encountering these tales for the first time. Sharing golden oldies with them is a sure fire way of rekindling your love for favourite tales as well. Here are a handful of ‘new’ classics to curl up with together.

We begin our journey with Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole. This is a large substantial picture book retelling of Lewis Carroll’s spectacularly well-known fantasy tale from the late eighteen hundreds.

Alice in Illo spreadLoud and outlandish like the very bizarre world Alice plummets unexpectedly into, this re-telling commemorates the 150th Anniversary of Alice’s journey. Many of the most famous phrases are included in a parred down text, which showcases some of Carroll’s most notable characters: Alice, the White Rabbit, and The blue Caterpillar.

Ever changing, yet strangely familiar and forever charming, Eric Puybaret’s dashingly abstract illustrations establish just the right amount of plausibility for our wide-eyed, take-it-as-it-comes adverturine, Alice. An excellent pre-emptive introduction for littlies before they embark on the original version.

Retold by Joseph Rhatigan and Charles Nurnberg

Koala Books February 2015

The Velveteen RabbitIn keeping with le Lapin theme, The Velveteen Rabbit is a sublime re-release of the 1922 classic children’s story by Margery Williams Bianco. Lovers of the Toy Story notion that toys have their own very real wants and needs just like to their young owners will coo with delight over this bedside tale. The Velveteen Rabbit will melt the strongest of hearts with its ‘nursery magic is strange and wonderful’ credence.

Velveteen illo spread Bianco’s original text is faithfully reproduced and swathed in the softest, silken images befitting this dreamy tale by first time picture book illustrator, Helen Magisson. Subtle and sweet enough to want to take up and cuddle, the charm of The Velveteen Rabbit will ‘last for always’. Read our full Boomerang review and interview with Helene Magisson, here.

New Frontier Publishing March 2015

The Ugly DucklingSlipping a CD into a picture book is a natty little bonus that enlivens a tale and adds extra dimension to its delivery. Justine Clarke is no stranger to delivering entertaining songs and stories to children and it’s her interpretation of this song adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale classic, The Ugly Duckling, that youngsters are going to warm to.

Written by Frank Loesser, this rendition is the same snappy paced version sung by the late Danny Kaye in the 1952 movie, Hans Christian Anderson.

The illustrations of Nathaniel Eckstrom are visually enchanting and bring to life the tale of a socially ousted signet that matures into the most beautiful and noble of all the creatures on the pond.

Justine ClarkeA timeless tale enhanced and best appreciated with the accompanying CD performance.

Scholastic Australia October 2014

Henny PennySpeaking of timeless tales, The Once Upon a Timeless Tale collection by Little Hare Books gives children several fairy-tale titles to choose from in handy-to-hold sized, hard covered picture books with plenty of child and bookshelf appeal.

Hugely collectable, stories of yesteryear are retold in a simply laid out style, which confident readers can easily tackle themselves. Pre-schoolers will appreciate snuggling up with a new tale each night and get a kick of the beguilingly beautiful artwork accompanying each tale by various well-known illustrators such as Tamsin Ainslie, Ann Walker and Anna Pignataro to name but a few.

Henny Penny, the tale of an apprehensive hen who predicted the end of the world when she felt a bit of the sky fall on her tail, is one in a list of many familiar stories; Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, The Princess and the Pea and Jack and the Beanstalk amongst many many Timeless Tales Collectionothers. They come in CD audio versions as well. Find your favourites and please don’t forget to share them!

Little Hare Books, HGE 2014