Category Archives: Picture Book Nook

Picture Book Nook: Toucan Can by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis

Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are incredibly talented in their own rights, but when they combine their talents they create magic.  Juliette and Sarah have previously worked together on the wonderful Marmaduke Duck books for Scholastic, and when I heard they were collaborating on a new picture book for Gecko Press I knew it was going to be a great book.  In their new picture book for Gecko Press, Toucan Can, Juliette and Sarah introduce us to a very colourful and talented Toucan.

Toucan can do lots of things!

Toucan dances!

Toucan sings!

Toucan bangs a frying pan!

Can you do what Toucan can?

 

Toucan Can is one of my favourite picture books of the year.  It’s got all the ingredients of a wonderful picture book.  Juliette MacIver’s delightful text will tangle your tongue and trip-up your lips, and once you get going you just can’t stop.  Toucan certainly can do lots of things but I’d like to see him try to read this book perfectly without tripping up.  Sarah Davis’ illustrations are absolutely stunning and they make the colourful characters jump off the page.  I love Sarah’s style of illustration because you can see each brush stroke and pencil line, and the colours she uses are so rich.  I really like the layered effect that Sarah has used in these illustrations.  The further back the animals are in the illustration, the more faded and washed out they are.  The expressions on the animals faces are also delightful.  Toucan especially has lots of different expressions, from ecstatically happy as he dances to slightly worried when he’s asked ‘Can Toucan do what YOU can do?’

One of the things I like the most about Toucan Can is that it addresses the reader and engages you.  You’re asked ‘Can you do what Toucan can?’ and Juliette suggests there are many things that you can do that Toucan can not.  Sarah’s illustrations also bring the focus back to the reader.  As Toucan and his friends dance, juggle, flip and flop, they’re looking out at you from the page.

Everyone should go out and grab a copy of Toucan Can to treasure and read again and again.  It is certain to add colour and laughter to your life and will have you dancing along with Toucan and his friends.

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Picture Book Nook: Machines and Me series by Catherine Foreman

Catherine Foreman, author and
illustrator of the award-winning picture book, The
Cat’s Pyjamas
, has just released the first two books
in her fantastic new series, Machines and
Me
, with Scholastic NZ. Machines
and Me
is a series of four picture books that each
focus on a different machine. The first two books (out now)
are Planes and
Tractors, with
Boats and
Trains coming soon.

I absolutely love these books!
They’re bright and bold, so will appeal to very young
children. Every page is colourful and the machines really
stand out on the page. The text is simple but has a really
nice rhythm to it. The thing I like the most about these
books though is that they are perfectly suited to the age group.
Catherine Foreman gives a simple
explanation of what each machine does and how it works, but she
does so in a fun way. I also really like Catherine’s design
of the books, with the text following the direction of the machines
and matching the size of the machines. I’m always looking for great
books to share with babies and their parents at our sessions in the
library and these books are perfect. They’re large and the
illustrations are vibrant so they can be seen from further
away. The simple, rhyming text makes them perfect to read
aloud to a large group too. Get your hands on a copy of the first
two Machines and Me books,
Tractors and
Planes
, and keep an eye out for Boats
and Trains, coming soon
to a bookshop and library near you. They’re a must for any
home library and would be an absolute hit in preschools.

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Picture Book Nook: The Green Bath by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

It has been almost a year since one of our most treasured authors, Margaret Mahy, passed away.  Since her passing there have been three wonderful new Margaret Mahy stories published.  This month, Scholastic are publishing another new Margaret Mahy story, The Green Bath, illustrated by one of Margaret’s previous collaborators, Steven Kellog.

Sammy likes to have adventures of all sorts, but he could never have imagined the adventures that he would have when his father brings home a big, green bath.  When Sammy takes a bath to clean up for his grandma’s visit, the bath escapes from his house with Sammy inside.  The bath takes Sammy on an adventure on the seven seas, with mermaids, a sea serpent and pirates.

The Green Bath is a wonderfully-wacky Margaret Mahy story that will have kids imagining their own bath-time adventures.  Margaret has let her imagination run wild with this story of a boy who’s bath tub comes to life.  The story is full of Margaret’s wonderful language and characteristic wordplay.  I especially like ‘ Sammy bewildered them with bubbles and baffled them with soapsuds,’ and the way that she describes the buccaneers as ‘beaten, bubbling and blustering.’  Steven Kellog’s illustrations are delightfully silly and perfect for this watery, bubble-filled adventure.

The Green Bath is the perfect bedtime book to share with your children, especially just after a bath.  Just don’t go reading it before bath-time or you might find your bathroom covered in water and bubbles!

 

 

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Picture Book Nook: One Little Fantail by Anne Hunter, illustrated by Dave Gunson

There are some wonderful books that have been published about New Zealand birds, especially Ben Brown and Helen Taylor’s picture books.  There are very few, however, that are perfect for younger children and wonderful to read aloud.  One Little Fantail by Anne Hunter and illustrated by Dave Gunson is one of those books that entertains and informs young children about New Zealand birds.

One Little Fantail is a collection of delightful rhymes that introduce children to a variety of our native birds.  Anne Hunter’s rhyming text is a joy to read aloud and each poem rolls off your tongue.  I love the way that Anne can describe so much about each bird’s characteristics in just eight lines. The short, rhyming text makes the book perfect for sharing with younger children, as they don’t get bogged down in detail. You could get children to pretend to be each bird, based on the description that Anne gives you of each one.  For those inquisitive children, there are more interesting facts about each bird in the ‘Did you know…’ pages at the back of the book.

Each double page spread features a different bird, with their name in English and Maori.  Dave Gunson’s realistic illustrations are stunning and he perfectly captures the characteristics of each bird.  He captures the mischief of the Kea, the flitting of the Fantail, and the fierceness of the Kahu.

Book Design have done a brilliant job of designing One Little Fantail.  I especially like the way that the names of the birds fade into the background, while also being quite prominent on the page, and the way that the sounds each bird makes stands out in bold lettering.

One Little Fantail is a book should be in every preschool and school around the country.  Grab a copy and introduce your children to our magnificent native birds.

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Picture Book Nook: Luther and the Cloud-makers by Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson

What would you do if a choking, thick, black cloud of pollution covered your home?  Would you sit back, worrying, and wait for it to go away and for someone else to sort it out, or would you want to find a solution?  In Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson’s new picture book, Luther and the Cloud-makers, this is the issue that Luther and his family face.

At the end of a wide, green valley lies a secret village, full of laughter and singing…until one day the clouds come.  As the clouds gather, turning day to night, Luther sets out to find the cloud-makers and make them stop, before it’s too late.  He meets many cloud-makers along the way, but can he convince them to see the error in their ways?

LutherLuther and the Cloud-makers is a powerful story with an ecological theme, about a boy who stands up for what he believes in.  It shows children that even one small act can make change happen and make the future brighter.  When everyone in his village is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, Luther decides to do something about the problem and make the cloud-makers stop.  It’s a unique take on the ecological and environmental theme that will entertain and educate readers.

The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s characteristic word-play and he paints a vivid picture with his language.  I love the way he describes the air in the valley as ‘so fresh your skin soaked it up like an old, dry sponge dropped in the sea,’ and he describes the pollution cloud as ‘tongue-tingling, nose-crinkling.’  Kyle makes the cloud-makers sound so menacing by using words like ‘rumbling,’ ‘belching, booming,’ ‘roaring’ and ‘crackling.’

Sarah Nelisiwe Annderson’s illustrations for Luther and the Cloud-makers are superb and really suit the tone of the story.   I love the way that Sarah has contrasted the colours throughout the book.  At the beginning of the book there are lots of bright and vibrant blues and greens to highlight how clean and fresh the village is.  Then the oozing black clouds appear and bring darkness to the landscape.  When Luther meets the cloud-makers Sarah has used lots of red, orange and black to highlight the danger and evil nature of the cloud-makers and their pollution.  When he finally gets to the city, almost all colour has disappeared, to be replaced by grey and black.  It’s on the last few pages that Sarah gives your eyeballs a wake-up call.  One of the things I really like about Sarah’s illustrations is the way that she frames them and uses different panels on the page.  One of my favourite examples of this in the book is when everything goes dark in the village and the animals become confused.  This style will certainly appeal to older children who like graphic novels.  I’d actually really like to read a graphic novel (or even a wordless picture book) written by Sarah.

Luther and the Cloud-makers is a wonderful picture book to read to children young and old, and it’s a must-have book for teachers.

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Picture Book Nook: Queen Alice’s Palaces by Juliette MacIver and Lucia Masciullo

Do picture books about princesses and queens make you want to tear your hair out?  Your little girl may like to be endlessly read stories with sparkles on every page, but if you have to read it one more time will you go insane?  Well Juliette MacIver and Lucia Masciullo have just created a picture book about a queen that adults will enjoy just as much as children.  It’s called Queen Alice’s Palaces.

Queen Alice has a palace that’s ‘gilded and grand’ while poor, hard-done-by Sir Hugh has a castle that’s ‘crumbly and small.’  Dastardly Sir Hugh hatches a plan to get his own palace – he’ll get Queen Alice to build a palace of ‘stunning design,’ then he’ll steal it, ‘by means of a military coup.’  Queen Alice constructs a series of unique palaces, made from bamboo, ice, cheese and other strange building materials.  Can she outwit Sir Hugh or will he steal his own palace?

Queen Alice’s Palaces is a rollicking picture book filled with imagination, wonder and humour.  Juliette and Lucia have let their imaginations run wild and built all sorts of wonderful, if slightly impractical, palaces.  Juliette’s rhyming text bounces along, making it a joy to read aloud.  As with Juliette’s other books (Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam), you need to warm up your mouth because you find your mouth doing gymnastics and getting tongue-tied as you read.  Just the title alone gives your mouth a good work out.  I love Juliette’s use of language too, like ‘gilded and grand’ and ‘cunning, conniving and callous.’  I think it’s wonderful when you can read a picture book and learn new and interesting words.

Lucia Masciullo’s illustrations are the perfect match for Juliette’s text.  I really love the way that she has portrayed the characters, especially the ‘cunning, conniving and callous’ Sir Hugh.  He looks very villainous and his creepy little mustache makes me laugh every time (especially when he twirls it).  He will appeal to the boys, while the very glamourous Queen Alice will appeal to the girls.  Lucia clearly had a lot of fun creating the palaces, which all look spectacular.  There is certainly plenty to discover in the illustrations on each page.

Warm up your mouth, fire up your imagination and share Queen Alice’s Palaces with the children in your life.

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Picture Book Nook: Breakfast by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Amy Lam

Joy Cowley has written many wonderful stories throughout the years and she has created characters that children have grown up with.  I don’t think you can go through primary school in New Zealand without reading one of her junior readers or being read one of her picture books.  Clean Slate Press have published many of Joy’s stories and they’ve just released a delightful new picture by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Amy Lam, called Breakfast.

BreakfastEach morning the breakfast dishes get themselves ready for breakfast.  The jug gets all the dishes and cutlery, table and chairs ready for the noisy, messy children that come racing downstairs for breakfast.  After yet another ‘breakfast war,’ the children leave ‘jam in a puddle and milk in a pool’ as well as bent spoons and broken cups and plates.  When the children are gone, the breakfast dishes clean everything up and fly into the dishwasher with smiles on their faces.

Breakfast is a story that children (and parents) will be wishing was true.  If only all your dishes would magically transport themselves to the dishwasher when we leave the room!  Joy has taken an everyday occurrence and turned it into a magical experience.  Children will have a good giggle at the antics of the breakfast dishes, while parents will relate to the chaos of breakfast time.  It’s a simple story with rhyming text that makes it great for sharing with younger children.

Amy Lam’s soft, but colourful illustrations are the perfect match for Joy’s text.  The dishes all look happy, and even when they’ve been battered and bent, they’re ready to jump back in the dishwasher and do it all again tomorrow.  I love the cover with the splash over the title and it’s sure to stand out on the shelf.  Clean Slate Press have once again produced a beautiful hardcover picture book, with very cute end papers.

Breakfast will make a great addition to any school or home library.

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Picture Book Nook: Bang by Leo Timmers

I’ve been a huge fan of Leo Timmers ever since Gecko Press first introduced us to his work when they published Who’s Driving? Each book of Leo’s that Gecko publishes seems to be funnier and more clever than the last.  Leo’s latest book from Gecko, Bang, is his best yet.

Bang is virtually wordless but Leo Timmers proves that you don’t need words to tell a hilarious story.  It all starts with a book-loving deer who is driving his car while reading.  Everyone knows that’s a bad idea and that it’s not going to end well.  What starts off with one ‘Bang,’ quickly escalates into a multi-vehicle pile-up, with animals, food, clothes, and paint ending up in one huge mess.

I absolutely love this book!  Leo brings his characters to life in his characteristic, vibrant illustrations.  I love how each of the animals have their own distinct personality and a vehicle that seems to be a perfect match for them and their outfit.  The cat has a very small, pink car and the rabbit has a very long car to fit all her children. Leo’s characters also have very expressive faces that portray all sorts of emotions throughout the story, from the horrified expression of the pig before he crashes, to the stressed expression of the mother rabbit.

There is a wonderful sense of anticipation throughout the whole book.  Each time a new character crashes you wonder what effect it will have on the other characters, and it often has unexpected results.  The sign of a excellent picture book is being able to turn the page and not know what will happen next.    Just when you think you know how the story will end, Leo surprises you.  Each time you read the book you’re bound to find some quirky detail you didn’t see last time.

The book has been beautifully produced by Gecko Press, with delightful end-papers and the wonderful fold-out page right at the end.  One of the reasons I love Gecko Press picture books is that they produce beautiful hard-back editions that will be treasured for many years, and this book is no exception.

Bang is a picture book that adults will love just as much as children and you’ll want to read it again and again. Thank you Gecko Press for bringing us the magic of Leo Timmers!

Win a copy of Bang

Thanks to Gecko Press I have a copy of Bang to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 10 May (NZ only).

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Picture Book Nook: Ted by Leila Rudge

I mentioned recently that I’m a sucker for a good dog story, so when I first saw Leila Rudge’s new picture book Ted I fell in love.  Ted, the little dog who is the subject of the story, graces the front cover in various poses wearing his little green jumper.  I knew right away that I would love Ted and you will too.

Ted is a smart dog, with his own jumper. But he has lived at the pet store for as long as he can remember and nobody seems to notice him. Will Ted ever find the perfect place to live? Ted joins the circus, enters a pet pageant, and takes a job as a guard dog, but nobody notices him.  When he least expects it, Ted gets noticed.

Ted is a superb picture book by a very talented author and illustrator.  Ted is a loveable character that children certainly will notice and want to take home. The story is great to read aloud and will have children laughing and hoping for Ted to find a home.  The illustrations are both cute and funny, with lots of quirky details that children will point out.  I particularly like where Ted puts his collar when he’s a guard dog.  The end papers even add to the story (compare the ones at the front to those at the back).

The ending of the book is absolutely hilarious and I definitely didn’t see it coming.  I thought it had all gone horribly wrong for Ted, just when things were looking up.  You’ll just have to read it to find out what happens.

Ted is the perfect book to snuggle up with and share before bed on a cold Winter’s night, so grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

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Picture Book Nook: The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

What do you get when you bring together the author of weird and wonderful stories, Lemony Snicket, and the award-winning illustrator Jon Klassen?  You get The Dark, a whimsical tale with stunning illustrations about a boy who is afraid of the dark.

Laszlo is afraid of the dark.  He lives in a big house, with a ‘creaky roof, smooth, cold windows and several flights of stairs.’  The dark also lives in this house and it hides in lots of different places. Laszlo thinks that if he visits the dark in the dark’s room, maybe it won’t come and visit Laszlo in his room.  However, one night it does come and visit Laszlo and tells him that it has something to show him…down in the basement.

The Dark is a unique take on the theme of being scared of the dark and it’s a wonderful collaboration between these two very talented people.  Jon Klassen’s illustrations are the perfect match for Lemony Snicket’s delightful and humourous text.  I really love Jon’s illustration style as he achieves so much with very little detail.  The way that he has contrasted the light and dark in this book is spectacular.  The dark is a character in the story and I love the way that Jon has portrayed this, especially when the dark is hiding in the cupboard or behind the shower curtain.  Some of the pages are almost completely black, apart from Laszlo and the details that we see in the beam of his flashlight.  The text has a uniquely Lemony Snicket style and tone, and it certainly took me by surprise.  I love the language that he uses to describe the house and the dark itself.

‘The voice of the dark was as creaky as the roof of the house, and as smooth and cold as the windows, and even though the dark was right next to Laszlo, the voice seemed very far away.’

If you know a child that is scared of the dark, The Dark, is the perfect reassuring story to read to them.  It’s also the perfect book for Jon Klassen fans who will be drooling over his illustrations.

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