May was a month for stunning illustrations, clever and unique storylines, and strong lead characters. There is something for everyone in the May 2018 picture book roundup!
Square – Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
This second instalment in Barnett’s and Klassen’s shape trilogy is witty, zany, deep and instantly likable.
Square spends his days working, moving blocks from a pile in a cave to another pile at the top of a hill. When Circle sees his work she declares Square a genius sculptor. “This is a wonderful sculpture,” said Circle. “It looks just like you.” “You must do one for me.”
Before Square has the chance to explain the misunderstanding, Circle is gone with a promise to return to see the circle sculpture the next day. Panicking, Square sets to work. Square chips and shapes, and chips and shapes but try as he might, Square cant shape the square block into a circle. Square persists until finally there is nothing left of the block. Square plans to stay up all night and figure it out… but falls asleep instead. What will happen when Circle returns for the sculpture in the morning? Is Square a genius?
The text is sharp, witty and clever, with a depth not often found in picture books. The illustrations, almost monochrome, are unpretentious but full of intrigue, much like the story itself.
I love the design of this book. With a very thick matte cardboard cover, thick matte square pages and a mint green inside cover. This book feels a bit special. And special it is.
Dogasaurus – Lucinda Gifford
A lovely tale about a special friendship.
Molly lived on a peaceful farm next to a Mysterious Ancient Forest. When Molly comes across an unusual egg in the forest, she takes it home even though she knew she shouldn’t. When the egg hatches Rex becomes her pet, but Rex is no ordinary pet. Rex is a dinosaur.
As Rex grows and grows, things get a little tricky on the farm. Games of chase, helping round up animals, and taking care of chickens comes with added difficulties when it is a huge dinosaur doing the tasks at hand. And so, because she knew she should, Milly walked Rex back to where she found him, the Mysterious Ancient Forest where there are other dinosaurs just like him.
A Walk in the Bush – Gwyn Perkins
Iggy doesn’t want to leave the house but Grandad insists – they always have fun together. We join Iggy and Grandad as they take a walk in the bush.
Combining grandad humour and the quintessentially Australian experience of bushwalks, A Walk in the Bush is a sweet and quirky story that made me long to head straight outside for a bushwalk with Hannah, Emma and my camera. The illustrations capture the Australian bush beautifully. On many pages I feel as though I have been there on our own family bushwalking adventures. There are plenty of giggles to be had with Grandad’s jokes in this one too.
Recently shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2018 Picture Book of the Year, A Walk in the Bush is sure to be a mainstay on the Australian Picture book scene.
The Butterfly Dance – Suzanne Barton
Caterpillars Dotty and Stripe are best friends. They do everything together. One day, after spinning themselves into cocoons they emerge as butterflies. For the first time Dotty and Stripe realise how different from one another they look. Should Dotty only play with butterflies that look like her and Stripe only play with butterflies that look like him? Or can they still play together.
The beautiful, vibrant illustrations in The Butterfly Dance are a combination of collage, drawing and watercolour.
This sweet story is a celebration of the strength of friendships, and an exploration of difference, looking beyond one’s appearance, self-acceptance and the realisation that we are more same than we are different.
There’s a Dragon in Your Book – Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
This is no ordinary book. This unique and clever book will capture the imagination of kids everywhere. There’s a Dragon in Your Book is fantastically fun and interactive.
“Oh look! There’s an egg in your book!” “Whatever you do, don’t turn the page… I can’t believe you did that! The egg has hatched and now there’s a dragon in your book!” Cover the flames by turning the page, and pop the water balloon to help put out the fire and then flap the book up and down like giant dragon wings to help the dragon fly off on her own adventure.
There’s a Dragon in Your Book encompasses the joy of imagination. It creates the fun and adventure that childhood is all about.
The All New Must Have Orange 430 – Michael Speechley
A story about society’s obsession with purchasing useless products as means of anaesthetisation or distracting ourselves from the meaninglessness of our lives. Okay so that sounds pretty bleak, but the book is not!
The all new ORANGE 430 was finally here! Harvey had to have it. Harvey scrounges up the money and buys his very own ORANGE 430. He rips off all the layers of packaging and there it is.
“It had everything! A thingy that did nothing, a whatsit that did squat, a dooverlacky that was whacky and a something that was silly.” But what did it do?
It turns out the ORANGE 420 is actually completely useless. Harvey returns to the store but is told it is not their problem. Off to the manufacturer he goes where he joins a very long and very unhappy queue… where they end up having loads more fun with the boxes than the products themselves. Harvey decides that from now on he will save his money for useful stuff and in doing so he can also help save the planet.
Though the book does speak to the excessive consumerism prevalent in modern day life, it does so with wit and good humour. It is also uplifting – it highlights that we can take control of this affliction, make the world a better place. It also speaks to the joy to be found in simple things.
Ocean Lullaby – Sally Odgers and Lisa Stewart
All the ocean’s animals are having a lovely, calm and restful time. This book will certainly help your little one to join them in that pursuit, with it’s gentle, lyrical, rhyming text and beautiful pastel illustrations of the ocean and its creatures.
Ocean’s Lullaby is serene celebration of family and bedtime.
The Incredible Freedom Machines – Kirli Saunders and Matt Ottley
Awestruck by the wonderous and quirky freedom machines, She toils in search for one of her very own. She finds it. It isn’t much but it is hers and it takes her to all sorts of marvellous places, on terrific adventures. “She would soak up all their secrets and return a little more entire.”
In her freedom machine, boundaries and limitations disappear. Sure, there are challenges, but ultimately nothing is out of reach. Courage and perseverance prevail.
The beautiful, carefully crafted words in The Incredible Freedom Machines are matched by the captivating oil painted illustrations, detailing the intricate and imaginative freedom machines in among scenes of this little girl’s ordinary life.
The Incredible Freedom Machines is an enthralling, empowering and uplifting story that portrays the power of books. Surely one of the most brilliant picture books of its time. The talent of debut Indigenous author Kirli Saunders shines through on every page.
You can find The Incredible Freedom Machines here. Ages 4+
Imagine – John Lennon, foreword by Yoko Ono Lennon, Illustrated by Jean Jullien
Think of John Lennon’s iconic song, Imagine. You know the one. Lyrics impelling the listener to imagine a world at peace. A world without the dividing forces of religion, boarders and possessions. Now imagine the lyrics as the text of a picture book with a pigeon as the lead character enacting the lyrics. Well, readers, you have just imagined this charming new picture book… Imagine.
Follow the pigeon’s journey as she travels around the world, spreading a vision for peace among birds of the world of all colours, shapes and sizes. The delightful, simple illustrations are a lovely match to the poetic text.
Goat’s Coat – Tom Percival and Christine Pym
Alfonzo the goat has a lovely new coat. He wears it with great pride, but while out for his walk his coat becomes increasing dishevelled as he uses it to help those in need. He uses the cuff to make a boat for some homeless frogs. The hem forms a bandage for the cat’s injured tail. Most of the rest of it forms a rope ladder to rescue a chick down to safety.
Goat no longer has his coat to make him feel good, but the thought of his good deeds does that now. Unfortunately, thoughts of good deeds do not a warm goat make, and as night sets in the weather grows colder and it begins to snow. Sheltering behind a boulder, curled in ball, Alfonzo is freezing. Luckily the friends he helped earlier in the day are on the case. They have found him a brought him a lovely sweater made of all the things they could find.
A heart-warming tale showing that kindness and friendship are the key to happiness.
Grandmas from Mars- Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt
The Martians can see what’s what. Down on Earth, it’s the grandmas that are in charge. The Martians hatch a plan: beam up the grandmas, and take their place. The Martians disguises are not fooling anyone, but the kids go along with it.
These grandmas’ rules are fun! Or they are for a while. But as the grandmas from Mars really begin to wreak havoc, the kids would really like their real grandmas back. The kids hatch a plan of their own: pucker up and attack. “That’s disgusting! Yuck! Have your grans back!” the grandmas from Mars shout. And so the natural order is restored. Or is it?
Grandmas from Mars is crazy and fun.
A Stone for Sascha – Aaron Becker
A Stone for Sascha is beautifully illustrated wordless book that delves into some pretty deep concepts. To begin with it deals with the common childhood theme of the loss of a pet. Aaron Becker eloquently and respectfully explores that deep sense of sadness and loneliness that children (and anyone, really), feel during such loss.
From that point, this talented storyteller takes the young reader on an incredible journey through time. In the Notes from the Author section of the book, Aaron poses the question: “Can we find comfort in stories that are older than our own?”.
Indeed, by the end of the book I felt unexpectedly comforted. That was nice after feeling the profound sadness of the main character in the first few pages.
A Stone for Sascha is a really interesting concept for a book and one well worth exploring with older toddlers, especially those who are just learning about loss.
How to Trick the Tooth Fairy – Erin Danielle Russell and Jennifer Hansen Rolli
What happens when one great prankster comes face-to-face with another? Vengeance, mess, chaos and a healthy dose of hilarity, if How to Trick the Tooth Fairy is anything to go by.
Kaylee is a compulsive prank-puller, but she meets her match when she tries to outwit the Tooth Fairy. As it turns out, the Tooth Fairy is “the princess of pranks.” Things get pretty ugly pretty quickly, as neither prankster appears willing to back down. However, just when it appears that things are totally out of control, both girls realise that there may just be a better way.
Disclosure – these books were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge for the May 2018 Picture Book Roundup. For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.