Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reading Notes: Three picture books

All my kids are big consumers of picture books, even now that the elder two are avid readers of chapter books as well. A well-crafted picture book will still engage them, and I frequently discover the 6 year old, in particular, snuggled up with a pile of stories and a blanket. (Often to the great indignation of the 3 year old, who labours under the belief that each and every picture book in the house is "MINE! MIIIIIIIINE! FOR MEEEEEEEEEE!")

We've been lucky recently to acquire three very different but very engaging new picture books - Nick Ward's The Naughty Fairy's Naughty Surprise, which was a birthday present for C back in February; Karen Andrews' Surprise!, which was a charming ... surprise ... in the conference pack at DPCCON12; and Jan Ormerod and Freya Blackwood's gentle and beautiful Maudie and Bear.

The Naughty Fairy's Naughty Surprise
is a genuinely funny little book, with a premise that was at first hard for C to follow, but that she picked up after a few readings and now delights in. In essence, it follows the trajectory of the life changes of a tadpole, all the way from frog to hero to king to DADDY!, and, in parallel, the journey of the naughty fairy who starts it all off. The book is simply but attractively drawn and the tone is light and bantering, which C enjoys. It's a fun book for adults to read aloud as well - always a big plus.

Surprise! is a picture book of which I'd heard much but had never seen. Written by the inimitable MiscMum, this is just a delightful little book. C likes the illustrations, but it's 6 year old E who's really fallen in love, mostly because of the surprise at the end (and the way it allows her to engage her other favourite creative activity). It's hard to say much more without giving away the ending, but really, if you haven't come across this book yet - make its acquaintance. It's well worth it!

Maudie and Bear is a beautifully drawn book that fits loosely into that genre of children's picture books that I describe as Child Or Child Equivalent Being Demanding / Tyrannical But Cute and Indulged by Saintly Patient Adult Figure. (Alright, that's not terribly snappy, but you know what I mean).

C really loves this book, even though, for me as an adult reader, it's hard to grasp what makes it so great. Maudie is cute enough, and Bear engaging enough, but the story doesn't really go anywhere. This not only doesn't bother C - it's one of the things she loves the most about it. The writers have captured perfectly that sense of preschooler dreaminess and whimsy, that sense of stories that wander and lilt but do not end. C responds wholeheartedly to this skillful and delicately achieved text.

All in all, we'd recommend these three books. They're not at all similar, but all are well worth while and will lend themselves to multiple re-readings.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Maudie and Bear for review purposes courtesy of Hardie Grant Egmont. I also received a complimentary copy of Surprise! as part of my conference attendance pack at the Digital Parents Conference. No financial payment was offered nor accepted for this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

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