I love picture books that start with a simple idea, then build up and build up into a ridiculous situation. One of my favourite examples of this is Oliver Jeffers’ fantastic picture book, Stuck. Floyd’s kite gets stuck in the tree and more and more things get thrown up to try and knock the kite down. Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz’ new book Cheese Belongs To Me! is another book like this, that builds on one simple rat law: cheese belongs to you.
Rat law is simple: if you take a piece of cheese, it belongs to you. So if a bigger rat takes it … then cheese belongs to them. Unless … a quicker rat swipes it! Every rat knows rat law; if you are big or quick, strong or scary, hairy or dirty, or, indeed, all of the above. But just who gets to EAT the cheese?
Cheese Belongs To You is a hilarious picture book about one piece of cheese and the rules that decide which rat it belongs to. The more complicated the situation becomes, the faster you want to read. The only problem is that you start to trip over your tongue so you have to slow down (try saying ‘big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirty rats’ quickly 3 times). I love the inventive ways that Alexis has come up with to describe the different rats, so that each one is better than the last. You find yourself anticipating what might be next and I’m sure kids will too. There could be lots of discussion about what sort of rat could come next. Viviane’s illustrations are superb as always and I think her style of illustration is perfect for this story. Her rats all have different personalities, and even on a page filled with them all the rats look different. I especially love the ‘big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirty rat,’ with his hook-hand, peg-leg and pet cockroach. I think a great way to introduce the story would be to cover up the text and see if the children can guess why each rat is better than the last. I also love the way that Viviane has incorporated the cheese into every page, including the cheesy end papers.
After the situation turns into utter chaos the story reaches a satisfying conclusion that keeps everyone happy. Grab a copy of Cheese Belongs To You! and share it with the children in your life. I’ll certainly be reading this to every class, from Year 1 to Year 8 on my next library visits.
5 out of 5 stars
Scholastic have just released two great new dinosaur picture books for the young dinosaur fan in your life, Dino Bites! by Algy Craig Hall and Dinosaurs in the Supermarket by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton.
Dino Bites! by Algy Craig Hall is like a dinosaur version of There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. It starts with ‘This is the dinosaur looking for lunch. This is the lunch looking for a snack…’ and continues on with smaller dinosaurs each time, all looking for something to eat. However, their food is still buzzing and wriggling inside their tummies and with one big BURP everything is back in order. The story is simple enough for even the smallest dinosaur fan to enjoy and the illustrations are appealing because they’re bright and bold. The front cover is sure to jump out at children, with the big T-Rex with its mouth open wide.
Dinosaurs in the Supermarket by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton will appeal to dinosaur fans young and old. I’m sure it’s almost every kid’s fantasy to meet an actual dinosaur, but what would happen if you went shopping with your mum and dinosaurs were everywhere? The boy in the story sees a ‘T-Rex gobbling sausages…Stegosaurus spilling beans…and Apatosaurs chucking frozen peas,’ but when he tries to show his mum, the dinosaurs hide. It’s not long before the dinosaurs have created a huge mess, but the boy gets the dinosaurs to play a game of Supermarket Clean-up. Dinosaur fans will recognise their favourite types of dinosaurs in the story and will have fun trying to find the dinosaurs in their hiding places. The rhyming text is fun to read and the illustrations will have kids in stitches. Sarah Warburton has obviously had a lot of fun creating havoc with her dinosaurs on the page and making a huge mess of the supermarket.
It’s always exciting to discover new dinosaur books because they’re always so popular with young readers. I highly recommend both of these picture books and I know they will have children laughing (and roaring) along with the story.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the little frog finds an egg.
“That’s mine!” he says.
But the snake wants his egg, and so does the eagle, and so does the lizard…But what does the angry elephant want?
That’s Mine! by Michel Van Zeveren is a gem of a picture book that’s simple, yet surprising. You start off thinking you know where the story is going, but it veers off in a completely different direction (these are the best sorts of stories). The illustrations are bold and I love the expressions on the animals faces, especially right at the end.
The thing I like most about this book though is the text and the design. As each of the animals appears the sound they make turns into a word, like the eagle who flies in saying “Ack…ack…ack..actually it’s mine.” Children can follow the direction that each animal appears from by following the direction of the words (the hsss of the snake drops down from the top to the bottom of the page). I love the way that the text changes size depending on how loud the animal is talking and in relation to their size. On a page featuring all the animals, the text is largest for the elephant and smallest for the frog, so it’s clear that each of the animals has a different voice.
That’s Mine! is the perfect picture book for reading aloud. You can do different voices for all the animals and make it really silly. It could even be acted out in the classroom, with each child being a different animal.
4 out of 5 stars
Anton and the Battle is one of those picture books that you know is going to make kids laugh just by looking at the front cover. How can you not laugh when the two boys are swinging a cow and a cello at each other? The cover hooks you in and you want to find out what the battle is about.
The story starts with Anton and Luke arguing about which one of them is the strongest. Anton can lift a big stone, but Luke can lift an even bigger stone. They keep trying to out-do each other by proving that they’re stronger or louder or braver – until they meet a ferocious puppy.
Anton and the Battle is a wonderful story about the power of the imagination and the joy of play. Both the text and the illustrations are so simple, but really funny. Ole has coloured his two characters but left the rest of the page white so that they and their imaginations stand out. The white space allows the giant horn or the bombs to take center stage and draw the reader’s attention. The illustrations will have children laughing out loud, as Anton and Luke chase after each other with giant hammers, swing lions and tigers over their heads and get stuck up trees. The page where they are swinging lions and tigers over their heads is hilarious (just look at their faces)! I love the twist on the story when Ole throws a puppy into the mix and even when they’re stuck up a tree, they’re still trying to out-do each other.
It’s a story with lots of anticipation that keeps children guessing. Before you turn the page you could ask them what they think might happen next. Even after the story is finished you could ask children to suggest other things that Anton and Luke could battle with or ways they could show they’re stronger, louder or faster than each other. They could even draw their own Anton and Luke battle scene.
Anton and the Battle is one of Gecko Press’ first releases of 2013 and is available in libraries and bookshops now.
I love picture books that are interactive. I’m not talking about book apps, but physical books that ask the reader or the audience to do something. Not only are they fun for the audience, they’re also incredibly fun for the reader. Some of my favourite interactive picture books are the cat books by Viviane Schwarz (There Are Cats in This Book, There Are No Cats in This Book), that involve you blowing on the page to dry them off and throw balls of wool at them. I’ve just discovered a new favourite interactive picture book, called Open Very Carefully by Nicola O’Byrne and Nick Bromley.
The book starts off with the story of The Ugly Duckling, but something shows up in the story that shouldn’t be there – a really big, scary CROCODILE! It seems that this crocodile likes to eat letters, words and even whole sentences, but you’ve got to stop him before he eats the whole book. You try rocking the book backwards and forwards to make him go to sleep, and you try shaking the book to make him fall out. Will it work or will he eat the whole book?
Open Very Carefully will have adults and children in hysterics! Part of the humour of the book is in the way that you read it, putting the emphasis in the right place, and part of it is in the hilarious illustrations. At the beginning of the book the crocodile is looking very happy with himself, but that changes quite quickly when he discovers that he is wearing a very unflattering outfit. From the very first page children are engaged in the story and they’ll want to help you get rid of the crocodile. The interactive parts of the book are especially great for sharing one-on-one as these parts make children feel like they are important to the outcome of the story. The design of the book is wonderful too, especially the final pages and the back cover, which offers one final surprise for readers.
I will be reading Open Very Carefully again and again to preschoolers and school groups in my library. I’ll have to try and read it without laughing myself though.
I came across this delightful picture book last week when I was putting new books out for display. A Patch of Black is one of the best picture books I’ve seen that’s aimed at children who are scared of the dark and it’s a wonderful bedtime story. It starts with a mother and her child in the girl’s bedroom getting ready for bed. The mother says to her child,
“Don’t be afraid of the darkness, dear.
Don’t be afraid of the dark.
What can you do with a patch of black,
a moon and a silver star?
The mother then tells the child about all the different places and things she could dream about when she’s sleeping. There are pirates and mermaids, princesses and dragons, ice cream lakes and milkshake streams, and much more. The mother’s refrain is repeated throughout the book and is followed by a different dream land.
It’s a very reassuring story that will have children imagining their own dream lands. The illustrations are also reassuring and comforting, as they’re light, bright and full of excitement. If you want a bedtime story that you’ll be happy to read again and again, grab a copy of A Patch of Black by Rachel Rooney and Deborah Allwright.