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.
The wonderful Gecko Press introduced us to the remarkable Belgian picture book creator, Leo Timmers, when they started to publish his books in English. He is incredibly talented, not only as a storyteller, but also as an artist. His illustrations are vibrant and almost seem to jump off the page, so I can’t think of a better illustrator to create a picture book about an artist whose paintings become real.
Mr. Renny is a very good artist. Whatever he paints looks just like the real thing, but no one wants to buy his paintings. He has no money, and he’s hungry. One day a mysterious stranger offers to make Mr. Renny’s dreams become real. Now whatever he paints becomes real, including a hotdog, a car, and a ship. But what happens when his friend wants to buy one of his paintings?
The Magical Life of Mr. Renny is a colourful masterpiece that children and adults alike will love. Like Leo’s other books, including Who’s Driving? and I am the King, the illustrations are bright and vibrant, and he makes them look 3D so they jump off the page. This is one of those picture books that you want to pick up again and again just to stare at the illustrations and find what you might have missed last time you looked. Leo adds in lots of little details for you to find, like the goat who has dropped her eggs or finding all of Mr. Renny’s treasures in his mansion. The story itself is funny and thoughtful and would make a great read aloud. It promotes lots of discussion about art, greed and friendship, and you could have children talking for hours about what they would paint if their paintings became real. Local author, Bill Nagelkerke has done a fantastic job of translating the book into English and making it flow so well as a read aloud. Gecko Press’ books are always beautifully designed and this is no exception, from the front cover and the inside flaps to the back cover with its frame design.
Get your hands on the work of art that is The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers.
5 out of 5 stars