Friday, August 15, 2014

Two delightful new picture books from Scholastic

I Am Not A Worm! By Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

Children will love this very funny story - having first been attracted by the in-your-face title and the bright, eye-catching cover. “Hello, little worm,” says the sleazy, seemingly casual gecko. “I am not a worm,” replies the caterpillar indignantly. “Are you sure?” asks the gecko. And so the conversation goes, with use of brief speech bubbles in the illustrations. Eventually the harassed caterpillar knits himself a cocoon (this is a fabulous illustration) and hangs on the tree. He emerges as a beautiful butterfly. “Hello, little caterpillar,” says the gecko. “I am not a caterpillar,” retorts the ex-caterpillar. And then ... well, I won’t spoil the story! Young readers will love the ping-pong dialogue - they will possibly guess the end, but that doesn’t matter.

Scott Tulloch’s pencil and watercolour cartoon illustrations are delightful; the variety of picture shapes and perspectives provides interest as well as increasing the tension of the story. It’s perfect to read to a group of pre-schoolers or young primary-aged children, and will also work on a one-to-one basis. Children following the words will want to join in the conversation. Primary teachers should also find the book useful to support classroom work related to the caterpillar/butterfly life cycle. Recommended.

ISBN 978 1 77543 251 7 $19.50 Pb
Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis, Scholastic NZ

This is the second book in a series about the joys and quirks of the English language. The first was Back-To-Front Bob. This latest book focuses on punctuation, which Is an altogether more difficult topic that the fun-with- words theme in the first book. I believe this book is more suitable for upper-primary level pupils who can read and write competently and are ready to learn how to write well.

The text whisks us through Mark’s lively adventures with punctuation, accompanied by friendly illustrations of outsize punctuation marks. The first double spread introduces us to an asterisk, an “at”, an “and” (ie. an ampersand), an exclamation mark and a question mark, followed by brackets (also labelled parentheses), a dollar sign, and an ellipsis (ie. dot, dot, dot). Things don’t get any simpler as we move on. The next double spread introduces commas, full stops, semicolons and colons, followed by quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens and dashes. There are some humorous offerings, such as what’s the difference between, “Let’s eat Grandma!” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!” but a subsequent focus on apostrophes requires four whole pages of explanation from Mark’s teacher. The book will be a useful resource for teachers focusing on improving punctuation - but I see it as more suitable for older primary levels (not age 5 to 10, as Scholastic’s blurb suggests).

A personal comment - as an awards judge I often read adult manuscripts that have bad spelling and punctuation, especially the use of the apostrophe. If only the writers had learned how to handle punctuation correctly when they were 8 or 9. I hope this book gets lots of use in classes. (N.B. Teachers’Notes are available on the Scholastic website).

ISBN 978 1 77543 184 8 $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

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