Monday, June 7, 2010

999 Tadpoles Find a New Home by Ken Kimura, illus. Yasunari Murakami, Gecko Press
Excellent production by Gecko Press has resulted in a light, airy picture book that’s very easy on the eye. It was originally published in Japan in 2003; the English translation flows smoothly and naturally. Mother and Father Frog had 999 babies. As you can imagine, the pond soon grew too small for the family. So they set off to find a bigger pond. After a hair-raising adventure with a snake, disaster strikes! Father Frog is grabbed by a hawk. Mother Frog hangs on to him, and the first baby frog hangs on to her – and so on. There are some delightful pictures of a string of froglets flying through the sky. The exhausted hawk finally lets go – and down the frogs plummet, right into – you guessed it – a big pond! The illustrations are done in a quirky modern style with very stylized frogs and landscapes, so pre-schoolers will need a bit of adult help to understand what they’re looking at.
ISBN 978 1 877467 27 1 RRP paperback $19.99 (hardback $32.99)
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Dinosaurs Galore by Masayuki Sebe, Gecko Press
Originally published in Japan in 1993, this combination of dinosaurs and puzzles is possibly a “love/ hate” book. I found myself feeling quite mentally fatigued as I browsed through it – but some youngsters will love it. The main theme, obviously, is dinosaurs but they are very stylized – not realistic in any way. The colours are bright and the pages are very busy. The puzzles and games are not suitable for pre-schoolers; I imagine a child would have to be at least eight to cope with them. For example, “What is the secret message?” involves matching 15 small images with the creatures in a big picture, retrieving the letter of the alphabet connected to that creature – and putting together the message, which also involves another puzzle. Probably best for primary-aged boys who prefer pictures over text.
ISBN 978 1 877467 56 1 RRP paperback $19.99 (hardback $32.99)
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Eep! By Joke van Leewen, Gecko Press
Ably translated by Bill Nagelkerke, this quirky little Dutch story is a real flight of fancy. I’ve been trying to work out if it’s an allegory, but the only moral I can come up with is: it’s not good to force anyone who’s “different” into living the same way as the majority. Warren and Tina are a naive couple who find a small creature in the woods that’s half bird and half human. They look after Beedy like a baby, but the bird half of her seems more influential than the human half, so it’s not an easy task. Inevitably Beedy flies away, and Warren and Tina set off to find her. Beedy also touches the lives of a little girl called Lottie, and a strange man who calls himself a Rescuer. All of them end up in a kind of hostel where people stay “to get better.” Eventually Beedy flies off to the south, as all birds do, and the others are finally reconciled to her going – and that’s the end of the story. The book has won numerous awards including a children’s choice award, and has received many accolades. Despite that, I think its appeal is limited to keen readers (probably girls) of intermediate age who won’t mind the strangeness of the story – and will enjoy the appealing illustrations done by the author.
ISBN 978 1 877467 57 8 RRP $18.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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