Monday, August 21, 2017

More off-the-wall picture books from Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, colouring by Tara Black, Scholastic NZ

The two previous two picture books by this trio (My Grandpa is a Dinosaur and That’s Not the Monster We Ordered) were published by Penguin NZ. This latest book is with Scholastic NZ. All have the same distinctive graphic style – which I’d like to call Almost-a-Comic-But-Not-Quite. All have the same quirky theme of taking the impossible and pushing it even further.

“I wish I had an elephant,” says the boy. “If I had an elephant we’d win every water fight!” Then the idea takes flight: “If I had an elephant, we’d build a time machine together. Then we’d travel back in time to meet his great, great [many greats] grandfather.” Who just happens to be a mastodon wearing spectacles. It’s always hard to end a flight of fancy story, but I’m happy with this ending: “But this year, for my birthday, I got a gorilla and a dragon.” Just think what you can do with a gorilla and a dragon…

The book design is impressive, with an eye-catching cover picture, cute end papers, and edgy comic-style illustrations (fine pen and ink) that happily enhance the story. Mention must be made of the Photoshop colouring which is done with unusual but effective colours.

My copy will be going to my 5-year-old grandson who spends a lot of time imagining and pretending – he’ll love it.

BTW, there’s an interesting article at The Sapling.

ISBN 978 1 77543 476 4 $19.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

That's not the Monster we ordered by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones (Penguin)

Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones are on a roll. Their book 'My Grandpa is a Dinosaur' recently shortlisted for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. They're now published with Scholastic and Penguin; the two biggest children's book publishers in New Zealand. Their latest book 'That's not the monster we ordered' has the same 'off-the-wall' quirky type humour , as the others, and is printed in foolscap portrait size with their distinctive illustration style.

'That's not the monster we ordered' starts off with a family observing a neighbour receiving a monster that they'd ordered online. The whole neighbourhood piles into that family's house to check out the monster. It can do tricks, make loud noises, run down stairs faster than anyone else. Of course, then everyone wants one.

The narrator of the story, a young boy, has trouble convincing his family they need one. His parents tell him he'd never get his homework done, it'll be too expensive ... the usual parent-excuses. Will the parents give in and will they get the type of monster they want ... a super-duper monster that will be the envy of the neighbourhood or will they get what they need?

A fun picture book that will delight kids 4-8 years old either read aloud in a classroom (it's big enough for every kid to see), or read to a child on your lap. Afterwards you could ask children if they've ever pined for something and got it and did it live up to their expectations? And which monster did they prefer in the story and why?

What is even more extraordinary about these books is that Richard Fairgray is classed as fully blind. He says that he sees everything flat and in order to illustrate he holds the paper up close to his face. Richard knows what he wants to draw before he starts and then approaches it mathematically. See an interview of him talking about it here.

I particularly like that Richard gets away from stereotypes of what is 'family'. He has drawn mixed cultures; the main character and his family is either Maori or African American (the book does have an American feel to it), and the mother fixes the car.  There's lots of extra humorous bits that kids will enjoy noticing on second, third, and more readings. Will be a favourite in the home or classroom.

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