Monday, August 12, 2019

Twelve Great Picture Books for Children Aged 3-7

'Now What? A Math Tale' by Robbie Harris & illustrated by Christ Chatterton

I reviewed a book by Robie Harris and Chris Chatterton earlier in the year on this blog. On the occasion a small elephant was experiencing a 'maths tale' (Crash! Boom! A Maths Tale'). This book is similar, but this time it's a small cute puppy that is finding out about number and shapes once again.

Chatterton once again uses digitally coloured pencil illustrations with photographic elements. The lovable puppy will attract the attention of young readers (or listeners) aged 1-4 years.

These lovable books will be dragged around and 'read' by young children who will love the illustrations, and the simple text that parents or teachers will read to them. 

'Nits' by Stephanie Blake

I just love 'Nits'. Well not those dreadful things that infest our children's hair at times in the early years of schooling, but this delightful book by Stephanie Blake. Because in this lovely picture book we meet a special little rabbit who loves Lou even when she ends up with nits. Quite a rabbit is young Simon —he thinks he's in love with Lou! But Lou loves Mamadou… But when Lou comes to school with nits(!) Mamadou is nowhere to be seen. Simon gets his chance, because as he tells Lou, "I love you and your nits!" That's some rabbit. he seals the relationship with a kiss, and in return he gets...?

I love Stephanie Blake's quirky simple cartoon-like illustrations. They are so evocative. Stephanie is the author and illustrator of dozens of highly successful books in France, many of which are children's favourites. I'm so glad that this book is available in an English language version. Delightful!

'Noodle Bear' by Mark Gravas

"Noodle-eating fame is all very well, but there's no place like home.
Noodle Bear is crazy about noodles. His best friend, Fox, brings him other delicious treats when he's a no-show at her party but he's so noodle obsessed that doesn't he notice them. And when he's run out of noodles, his only thought is to go to the big city and become a contestant on the TV game show, 'Noodle Knockout'. Of course, he becomes a surprise star with more noodles than he can eat. But no amount of noodles and fame can fill the empty space where home and friends should be."
    I love the cartoon-like illustrations of Mark Gravas who is an accomplished animator and director from Sydney. The expressive characters will delight young readers. He is best known as the creator/director of "Yakkity Yak" (2002/2003), an Australian/Canadian co-production. He has directed an animated other films as well, including "Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie" and the Cartoon Network production of "Casper's Scare School".

    'Wolfy' by Gregoire Solotareff & translated by Daniel Hahn

    This delightful story about a wolf and a rabbit who become close friends is delightful. It is about loyalty, friendship and fun. From a well-known French author, the book now appears in this English language version which children will love. It is such a simple, and yet engaging book. the illustrations are uncluttered line and water colour plates that offer such expressive characters.
    "Once upon a time there was a rabbit who had never seen a wolf, and a young wolf who had never seen a rabbit. The pair meet and become good friends. Tom the rabbit teaches the wolf to play marbles, read, count and fish. Wolfy teaches Tom to run very, very fast. But eventually their friendship is tested by the classic game Who’s-afraid-of-the-wolf? Can the little rabbit and the young wolf remain best friends in all the world?"

    Over one million copies have sold in the French edition, I suspect that this English version will also be VERY popular.

    GrĂ©goire Solotareff was born in 1953 in Alexandria, Egypt, where he spent his early childhood. He moved to France with his family as a child and later began a career in medicine. He published his first children’s book in 1985. Since then he has published over 150 books for young people which have been translated throughout the world. His books have also been adapted to film.   

    'I am so Clever' by Mario Ramos

    "The big bad wolf is hungry and on today's menu is Grandma, with Red Riding Hood for dessert. But no one is home at Grandma's house, only a nightdress lying on the bed. The wolf puts on the nightie and sets off to see what he can catch dressed as Grandma."

    This adaptation of the traditional tale is very creative and fun. The wolf meets Red Riding Hood in the woods and warns her about the dangers of sharks in the forrest, but of course she doesn't meet any. And along comes Red Riding Hood. She looks clever, but the wolf thinks he's the smartest. But maybe not! So many funny twists in this traditional tale that give it fresh appeal. I can't think of a better retelling of a traditional fairy story. I'd love to share this with a class of five-year-olds!

    'Ella & Mrs Gooseberry: Discovering What Love Looks Like' by Vikki Conley & illustrated by Penelope Pratley

    "Grumpy old Mrs Gooseberry from next door has lost her love. 'I didn't know you could lose love,' says Ella, her young neighbour. So she begins her quest to find out what love looks like and how she can help Mrs Gooseberry to rediscover it. Her mother says love is warm, like a home-cooked pie. Her teacher says it's like lanterns in the night, sparkly and bright. Perhaps though, for Mrs Gooseberry, love might look like a little kitten."

    Ella and Mrs Gooseberry is a lovely story, so simply told. With small details the author shares some of the indicators of how simple love can 'warm' the heart. A little girl with her own warm heart takes the time to work out how to warm the heart of a seemingly sad elderly neighbour. This sweet understated story supported so well by Penelope Pratley's expressive line and watercolour drawings will warm the heart of readers. "It's a story of community and the ripple effect of selfless giving, ideal for creating opportunities for discussion about kindness, empathy and helping others."

    'The Visitor' by Antje Damm

    "Elise was frightened―of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day.
    One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything."

    This is a story about friendship and shyness. "A child unwittingly brings light and color―literally―into a lonely person's life", with an out of control paper plane. It is an unusual tale about a child who in a surprising way reinvigorates and warms the heart of an elderly lady living alone.

    The artwork is almost like a mini theatre set, with cut-out characters against 'set-like' backgrounds. Damm creates a diorama from cardboard and photographs the scenes, giving the illustrations surprising depth.

    'The Visitor' is an exquisite storybook (I don't say such things often). It is created by well-known and celebrated German writer Antje Damm. In an earlier life she worked as an architect (and there are hints of this in her illustrative work). She has written and illustrated over a dozen books. 'The Visitor', was selected as one of ten New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books in 2018. 

    'One Careless Night' by Christina Booth

    'One Careless Night' is the depressing story of how Australia's last thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) died one cold night in a Tasmanian zoo. Whether it is collective guilt, or wishful thinking many Australians hold onto the vain hope that perhaps, just perhaps, deep in the depths of the ancient Tasmanian mountains and river valleys this long lost creature might have survived.

    Where the mist swallows mountains and winds whisper through ancient trees, a mother and her pup run wild and free. They hunt, but they are also hunted. Carted away. Sold for bounty. And then, one careless night … The last thylacine is gone.

    This beautiful book in dark monochrome images with hints of brown is haunting and leaves the reader sad and sorry for the carelessness and selfishness of the early settlers who raped the beautiful flora and fauna of Tasmania.

    Award winning author illustrator Christine Booth has done a beautiful job with this book. The haunting images complement the equally powerful words to provide the reader with a wonder reading experience. This will be a wonderful book for children aged 6-9 to read alone, or as a shared book by parents or teachers of children aged 4-8 years.

    'Song Of The River' by Joy Cowley & illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

    In this delightful picture book by New Zealand author Joy Cowley, we have the story of a young boy Cam, who follows the river from its trickling source in the snow capped mountains to the sea. The boy follows the river as it leads him through forest, farms and towns to the salty sea beyond. The delightful muted water colours of Kimberly Andrews with their autumn tones are reminiscent of great illustrator Leonard Weisgard who won the Caldecott Medal in 1946 for the 'The Little Island' with author Golden MacDonald. The dramatic landscapes are packed with detail to discover in the world of the river.

    Joy Cowley is an accomplished author who was shortlisted for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2018, and Kimberly Andrews is a trained biologist and geologist who grew up in the Canadian Rockies and has lived and worked in Borneo, the UK and New Zealand. She is an illustrator of great talent.

    'The First Adventures of Princess Peony: In which she could meet a bear. But doesn't. But she still could' by Nette Hilton & illustrated by Lucinda Gifford

    This book with the world's longest title is quirky but good. Nette Hilton has brought us a series of funny illustrated books series for imaginative readers.

    'Once upon a time there was a dear little girl called Peony.
    That's P.E.O.N.Y.
    And it's me. I live in a Castle with my Dragon whose name is Totts.
    That's T.O.T.T.S
    And that makes me a Princess if you really want to know.'

    The book is delightfully illustrated by Lucinda Gifford, and girls aged 5-7 will love the series. The books are about a funny little girl called P.E.O.N.Y.


    Searching for Cicadas' by Lesley Gibbes & illustrated by Judy Watson

    Lesley Gibbes have teamed up to produce a wonderful picture book about a child and his grandfather who go searching for cicadas. It is part of is part of the award-winning narrative nonfiction Nature Storybooks series.
    In the summertime, Grandpa and I go cicada-watching. We put our camping gear into my wagon and walk down to the local reserve. Last year we saw five Green Grocers, three Yellow Mondays and one Floury Baker. Can we find the rare Black Prince this year?

    The style of the book is to have two parallel texts. The first on each double page spread is larger and in narrative form. It tells of the exploration of a small boy and his grandpa. As the narrative text leads us through the bush with the boy and his grandfather we are offered another following text that explains the names and characteristics of some of their observations and discoveries. Both texts are well written and are well supported and complemented by the delightful black line and soft watercolour images of Judy Watson. This book will be popular with 'young scientists' interested in their world.

    'The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature' by Pierre-Jacques Ober & illustrated by Jules Ober and Felicity Coonan

    A young WWI soldier's unauthorized visit home has dire consequences in a haunting story reimagined in miniature tableaux.

    It is Christmastime, 1914, and World War I rages. A young French soldier named Pierre had quietly left his regiment to visit his family for two days, and when he returned, he was imprisoned. Now he faces execution for desertion, and as he waits in isolation, he meditates on big questions: the nature of patriotism, the horrors of war, the joys of friendship, the love of family, and how even in times of danger, there is a whole world inside every one of us. And sometimes that world is the only refuge. 

    This story is set 100 years ago and was published to mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It is a deeply moving and sparingly narrated story. It is based on true events set in the First World War in France. Rather unusually it has been reenacted using photographs of miniature war dioramas. Notes from the creators in italic script explore the innovative process and the personal connection to the story.
    The book will be suitable for readers aged 6–8 years.