The Song of the Ship Rat by Ben Brown and Helen Taylor, Scholastic NZ
This talented pair have produced a picture book that stands out from the rest. As the title implies it’s in the form of a sea shanty - narrated by a rat. The rhyme and rhythm of the text are beguiling, and the book cries out to be read aloud - preferably with a dramatic voice and plenty of gestures. How’s this for a rollicking rhyme: “For I am a sea-worn ship rat, friends, I’ve sailed the ocean blue. I’ve sailed the world from end to end, and top to bottom too. And I have seen sweet isles of green and mountains struck with gold... I’ve been where summer sighs with heat and winter shrieks with cold.” It’s great stuff, and the illustrations are a perfect match - quirky, imaginative, challenging. They reward careful study, but they also sweep us grandly through the pages as the rat reminisces about his seafaring life, decides that shore life is not for him, and sets off again. This is a picture book for older children; I’d say about 6 to 10. The format of the sea shanty does mean that the language is very poetic - and probably not likely to be understood by preschoolers. Recommended for primary and intermediate schools - the book would make a great classroom study topic.
ISBN 978 1 77543 048 3 RRP $19.50 PBReviewed by Lorraine Orman