Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Very Different Picture Books

Three Very Different Picture Books…

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan, Scholastic NZ
This is a handsome book, with its hard cover, appealing cover picture, illustrated end papers, and glossy pages – so thumbs-up to Scholastic for the presentation. It’s a New Zealand version of the lullaby, “Hush, little baby, don’t you cry…” with lines such as “Hush, little baby, and go to sleep, Mama’s going to give you a woolly sheep.” The text winds its way round some New Zealand icons, such as kowhai flowers and paua shells, with a lively kunekune pig as a bit of a surprise. The mother and baby in the soft-focus, dreamy illustrations are of Maori descent, so the book offers an interesting blend of European and Maori cultures. Joy Cowley needs no introduction, but I was interested in the illustrator – he’s a self-taught award-winning illustrator who has been illustrating children’s educational resources and books for over ten years. In this book I enjoyed his realistic style and his use of colour to create atmosphere. There’s a Maori version of the lullaby included, as well as a Glossary of Maori words. Recommended for children of 0 to 3; it would make a good present for a new baby.
ISBN 978 1 77543 296 8 $27 Hb

Grasshoppers Dance by Juliette MacIver and Nina Rycroft, Scholastic NZ
Once I got over the absence of a possessive symbol in the title (was this deliberate??), I settled down to enjoy the playful language of Juliette and the intriguing illustrative work of Nina. It’s a rhyming text that actually cries out for a musical version – the Scholastic people often add a CD with a song version to their picture books – but not this time. The text focuses on combining animals and noise, eg. “The conch-shell wails As the big ship sails… While the kingfisher sings In the springtime gales. And the grasshoppers dance in the lush green vales.” The illustrations pick up on the flight-of-fancy theme, using bright colour, expansive movement and interesting detail to catch the breathless pace of the text. Parents and teachers of 3 to 7 year-olds will need to call on a few performance skills to read this book the way it should be read, emphasising repetition, rhythm and rhyme.
ISBN 978 1 77543 224 1 $19 Pb 

Why Do Cats Have Tails? By David Ling, illus. Stephanie Thatcher, Duck Creek Press
I have a soft spot for any books about cats – as do many people. David Ling (Duck Creek Press publisher as well as author) hits the soft spot with this cosy story about a grandfather bamboozling his two grand-daughters. So why do cats have tails? To swing through the trees? To help them fly? I won’t give away the answer, but you can be sure it will appeal to all those cat-lovers. Stephanie Thatcher is an award-winning picture-book illustrator who uses pencil and watercolour to produce light, friendly pictures with plenty of calm-inducing white space. The expressions of her various cats are a joy to behold. The end of the story is satisfying, but I can see it opening up an opportunity for children to discuss their own ideas on why cats have tails. The book is suitable for one-to-one reading, but also for group reading with 4 to 7 year-olds. The hardback version has a good feel to it, including the cute illustrations on the end papers, and it’s also available as a paperback for $19.99.
ISBN 978 1 927305 03 4 $29.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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