Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two new swash-buckling picture book adventures

Dragon Island by Martin Baynton, illus. Terri Rose Baynton, Scholastic NZ.

Martyn Baynton needs little introduction for those who have been around a while, but for newbies to the scene he’s the author of Jane and the Dragon and Fifty the Tractor, and the producer of the TV series The Wot-Wots. His daughter Terri Rose has also worked on The Wot-Wots and was shortlisted for the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. This talented pair have produced a thoughtful picture book that will strike a chord with many teachers and parents. The partially-rhyming text introduces us to a dragon called Norman who tries to stop the other dragons from fighting and wrecking. He prefers to make useful things – but is ridiculed by the others for his peaceful activities. When he builds a hot-air balloon, wins the big race to Coconut Island, and is granted three wishes he asks for no fighting, no breaking, no burning. But do the other dragons take any notice…? It’s a slightly bittersweet ending that will generate discussion between adult and child. The delicately-coloured fine line and watercolour illustrations provide plenty of detail for study, and the dragons themselves are quite intriguing with their physiological hints of different animals and birds. This book will be popular with pre-school dragon-lovers, and can also be used as a resource for classroom studies of tolerance and socially-acceptable behaviour.

ISBN 978 1 77543 191 6 $19.50 Pb

Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Blue Seas by Juliette MacIver, illus. Sarah Davis, Scholastic NZ

This latest story about Marmaduke Duck and his friend Bernadette Bear is just as much fun as the first two (MD and the Marmalade Jam, and MD and Bernadette Bear). As always, the rhyming and the rhythm can’t be faulted, although they do demand a lot of stamina from the adult reader. Our intrepid duck decides to go to sea, so buys a galleon and outfits it with a motley crew (rat, dog, cat, llama, lamb, bull). But someone’s missing. Poor old Bernadette Bear is feeling lonely at home, so she sets off to find Marmaduke. While Marmaduke sails the seas - and ends up captured by the scary pirate gang calling themselves the Marmoset Monkeys and Orangutan Fang - Bernadette is slowly following his trail. Her quest is detailed in sub-pictures scattered throughout the main double-page spreads. Of course, Bernadette appears in the nick of time to save her friend from walking the plank...  The inventive, bouncy text is enhanced by Sarah Davis’s fabulous illustrations.  Children will love the rollicking shipboard scenes, but the stunning depiction of the arrival of the Marmoset Monkeys (all 52 of them!) will be the most popular of all. This book would be great fun for reading aloud to both small and large groups of children aged from 3 to 7 years. It is also available in hardback.

ISBN 978-1-77543-125-1 $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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