Saturday, August 20, 2011

Goodnight Pumpkin by Belynda Smith, illus. Marie Sanders, Duck Creek Press (distributed by David Bateman)
Belynda Smith has lots of experience as a children’s librarian, so she knows what works in a picture book and what doesn’t. Her first book is based on a true family event. It’s a peaceful, repetitive story about a little girl who won’t stay in her bed. Her long-suffering and increasingly tired mother carries Polly back to bed several times. But the last time it happens, Mum is so tired she gives in and lifts the bedclothes for the visitor to slide in – but a twist in the tale reveals that Mum is sharing her bed with someone other than Polly... Marie Sanders’s pastel illustrations are obviously intended to be calming and non-eventful – as befits a bedtime story – but I think I would have preferred more variety in the format rather than having very similar pictures for each repetition of the text. However congratulations go to Duck Creek Press for choosing a sturdy hardback format. This book is best for the littlies, aged about three to five.
ISBN 978 1 877378 49 2 RRP $29.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Phoebe and the Night Creatures by Jenny Hessell, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
This quirky tale picks up the age-old theme of monsters in the dark. Phoebe needs to go to the toilet – but she can’t get out of bed because there’s a wolf under it. “Take the wolf with you,” calls her nonchalant mother. So Phoebe sets off, wolf in tow, but then they bump into a smelly troll at the end of the bed. Phoebe decides he needs to come to the bathroom too, for a wash. And so the story proceeds until Phoebe reaches the bathroom door with an amazing procession of creatures behind her. But when she turns on the bathroom light ... well, I won’t give away the plot twist. Parents might need to explain the fate of the monsters and the moral of the story to very young readers. Donovan Bixley’s computer-generated cartoon illustrations are striking and colourful and very contemporary – they will appeal hugely to children familiar with modern TV cartoons. Should be suitable for children of about five to eight, though Scholastic thinks four to seven.
ISBN 978 1 86943 976 7 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Weta by P. Crumble, illus. Errol McLeary, Scholastic NZ
Scholastic are on to a pretty good thing with their Kiwi Corkers hardback series (Great New Zealand Yarns). This one is based on a perennial favourite. Of course it will be a joy to read/sing aloud, as the intrepid old lady swallows a bat, jandal, stoat, tuatara, hawk, sheep ... and a kiwi. This pedantic reviewer found a couple of hiccups in the scansion (tuatara just doesn’t fit) and the final throw-away line isn’t quite as satisfying as, “She’s dead, of course.” But adult readers (especially teachers) should read it with heaps of enthusiasm and verve – and they’ll get away with it. Gentle souls will be pleased to see the animals all escaping on the last page. The black ink and watercolour cartoon illustrations are suitably gross and over-the top – and those previously mentioned gentle souls will appreciate the addition of a window on each double spread which shows the consumed animals still alive and kicking. Fun for kindergartens and primary school classes.
ISBN 978 1 86943 992 7 RRP $18.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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