Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two new picture books from Gavin Bishop

There was a Crooked Man by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)
ISBN 978-1-877467-24-0 RRP $19.99 Board book Ages 0+

There was a crooked man
and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
upon a crooked stile...

Gavin Bishop illustrates an old English rhyme in a vertical board book for young children. This boardbook could have been done traditionally and not had any wow factor - but not so with Gavin and Gecko Press working together. Gavin's colourful, angular and comical illustrations give a whole new twist to this tale. Children will enjoy the originality of opening the book vertically enabling the crooked man to appear larger than life. I love it and so will children.

This is the second in Gecko Press's board book series. Their other title - also by Gavin Bishop - There was an Old Woman came out in 2008.

Counting the Stars: Four Maori Myths by Gavin Bishop (Random House)
ISBN 978-1-86979-072-1 RRP 34.99 Hardcover, Ages 4-12
A sequel to the award-winning Taming the Sun and Riding the Waves, Gavin Bishop's latest stunning book contains four more Maori myths, including two well-known legends: Mother Earth and Father Sky and Hinemoa and Tutanekai and two less well-known legends: The Battle of the Birds and Kae and the Whale.

Before anything, there was nothing.
No warmth, no cold. No air, no dust.
Absolutely nothing.
Then just like that, there was darkness.
Lots of it. Everywhere.
Then gradually a pale glimmer
of light appeared.

Gavin Bishop spins the tales effortlessly; building momentum and intrigue about the creation of life, which leads on to why bush birds and sea birds live apart, then how the greed and cunningness of an old kohunga was thwarted by another tribal leader, ending with a story about how the power of love can bring two people together.

Gavin has used a different colour palette for each story. The first is dark - not surprisingly when creating illustrations for a story about night and day but mixed in those dark colours are startling bold and beautiful images. In contrast the bird story has gorgeous reds, blues and yellows. The story of the whale continues this theme and the tale of the two lovers harmoniously combines purples, yellows and blues with black outlines.

There are not enough Maori legends in picture book form - teachers will add it to their collection - reading Maori legends is part of most reading programmes. Children will enjoy the powerful words and illustrations and I can see some crayon and dye artwork sessions as children emulate the striking illustrations.

Counting the Stars is a collection that continues to take traditional myths to a new level. Created by one of New Zealand's most talented and passionate children's book writers and illustrators.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

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