Friday, October 22, 2010

Trick or Treat: On a Dark, Dark Night

The girls are getting quite excited about Hallowe'en and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the stores (around here, anyway) have been decked out for several weeks already. Both girls like the idea of Hallowe'en but only to a certain extent. That is, they like the fun aspects but need a lot of reassurance when it comes to all the scary stuff. That's why I was happy to come across the book On a Dark, Dark Night (Pleasant St. Press, 2009), written by Jean M. Cochran and illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris.

This book is about a little boy and his dog who get so spooked hearing what they think is a witch's cackle that every little thing they hear and see from then on contributes to their wild imaginations. This book is appealing because, like the text, the drawings are cute yet just frightening enough to fascinate young children and satisfy their teeny tiny desires to be scared. Add in the book's rhyming verse and a surprise ending and this makes for one fun book for all the little ghouls and goblins in your life!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Perfect Apology: It Was You, Blue Kangaroo!

Some of the best books we've encountered lately have been found randomly at our local library. It Was You, Blue Kangaroo! (Harper Collins UK, 2003) is one such book. It is one in a series written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. My youngest has fallen in love with each of the books and I don't blame her. With colourfully illustrated pictures and each book imparting an important life lesson I'm a fan, myself, and I look forward to finding ones we haven't read yet.

It Was You, Blue Kangaroo! (just like the others in the series) features Lily and her stuffed friend, Blue Kangaroo. Lily's mischievous side presents itself and when she finds herself in trouble after letting the kitchen sink overflow or trying to dress the cat in her doll's clothes Lily blames Blue Kangaroo. Finally Lily's mother decides Blue Kangaroo needs to spend some time on his own until he learns to behave. Lily realises how sorry she is but it's ultimately Blue Kangaroo who saves the day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There are Witches in the Air: Spells

Don't let the title of this post fool you. There aren't any witches in this book, much to my youngest daughter's delight (I keep getting the question, "Mummy, witches aren't real, right?"). Nevertheless, I thought Spells (Macmillan Children's Books 2009) by Emily Gravett might be appropriate for this time of the year. It isn't a frightening book, by any means. It's the story of Frog. After escaping a jar (he was intended for a witch's cauldron) he finds a book of spells. He tears it apart, creating a pirate's ship (wishing he was a pirate) and then a castle and some paper princesses (wishing he was a prince). In amongst the torn up spells, Frog finds part of a spell to turn himself into a prince but the rest of the page is missing! So he combines the torn spell pages in attempt to create the correct one. This is where the book becomes really exciting. Gravett has made every other page a spell page, rhyming verse and all, and every page in between is an illustration of what that spell creates. Have I confused you, yet? Well there's more. Then she has cut each spell and creation page in half so the reader can combine any half of a spell with another to create different combinations of creations. So, for example, the spell words "Bim Bam, Barebum" together with "Slither kazake" work together to form a picture of a "Prake" (half prince and half snake). Although I have to admit the real draw for my girls in this spell was the word "Barebum". Ah, yes. The sillies arrived in full force. Eventually Frog becomes the prince he always dreamt he would be but, unfortunately, he misses some of the spell's small print!

Gravett is known for using interesting elements of collage (such as postcards and maps) in her books and this one does not disappoint. She's used her imagination to make this a fun book for a variety of ages. Look out for Gravett's many other books as well. Besides Spells we also own her board book, Orange Pear Apple Bear (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2007). My youngest daughter particularly liked its simple rhymes when she was a baby. Another of Gravett's books, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2008), won the Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration in children's literature.