Saturday, May 19, 2012

Munkle Arvur and The Bod by Nikki Slade Robinson, Scholastic NZ

The book blurb says “with language in a style reminiscent of Dr Seuss.” It certainly is – try saying this aloud: “Now that Bod is not good. He is dreadfully bad. He’s greedy, he’s grabful, he’s grumpfully mad.” Of course my Spellcheck is going bananas - but both the language and rhythm of the rhyming text are great fun and a delight to read to oneself - they demand to be read aloud. The story is strongly environmental and not totally credible, but teachers of primary classes should get a lot of mileage out of it. Munkle Arvur cares for the pristine Chuckleton Creek canyon. But then the evil Bod (everybody??) arrives with truckloads of rubbish and fills the canyon to the brim. This stirs MA into inventing ways of composting and recycling the rubbish until it’s miraculously all gone.

The totally way-out style of the cartoon illustrations is fascinating, reminding me of Ronald Searle and the girls of St Trinian’s. They are done with coloured inks, pencils and digital collage, “along with objects found along the way.” Mostly expansive double-page spreads, they reward close study and even analysis. However their quirkiness means that they’re probably not suitable for pre-schoolers and would be most appreciated by children of about 7 to 10. Teachers’ Notes available .
ISBN 978-1-77543-069-8 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
Colour the Stars by Dawn McMillan, illus. Keinyo White, Scholastic NZ
Dawn McMillan is generously donating her royalties from the sale of this picture book to the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind’s guide dog programme. It’s a heartwarming, thoughtful story about two boys – one with sight, one without. Isaac describes to Luke what colours are like – by using other senses. So yellow is the warmth of the sun on Luke’s face, and green is the spicy smell of the fern fronds growing in the bush. At the end they share a happy vision of what the stars look like in the night sky.

The illustrations are done in watercolour and gouache, using an abstract, textured style, a close focus, and washes of vibrant colour – all of which remind me somewhat of the picture books of the 1970s. FYI, the illustrator is an honours graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and his works of art are held in galleries in both America and New Zealand.

This is a joyful book that needs to be stocked in every library, school and kindergarten – and will be of special significance to anyone affected by blindness, whether child or family member. There is a Maori edition available, and also Teachers’Notes .

ISBN  978-1-86943-974-3 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Best-Loved Bear by Diana Noonan, illus. Elizabeth Fuller, Scholastic NZ
This re-designed platinum edition is released to celebrate the book’s Premier New Zealand Bestsellers Platinum Accreditation – which means 40,000 copies have been sold. It’s difficult to know what to say about a popular classic like this, apart from a bit of bibliographical history. It was originally published in 1994, and in 1995 it won the AIM Picture Book of the Year Award. Of course I dragged out my old copy to see which features were redesigned. It’s pretty much the same, except for a bit of tweaking. The cover has been modernised with the same picture but more white space in the background. The blurb on the back is better positioned, and I suspect that the colours of the inside illustrations have been lightened and brightened and printed on glossier paper. So if your books are looking as dog-eared and over-loved as poor old Toby, then I suggest you hasten to buy some new copies to replace them.

ISBN 978-1-86943-347-5 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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