What Happened to You? by James Catchpole

Published: 6 April 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Faber & Faber
Illustrator: Karen George
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

This is the experience of one-legged Joe, a child who just wants to have fun in the playground. Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up of only ever being asked about his leg. All he wants to do is play Pirates.

But as usual, one after the other, all the children ask him the same question they always ask, “What happened to you?”

Understandably Joe gets increasingly angry until finally the penny drops and the children realise that it’s a question Joe just doesn’t want to answer…and that Joe is playing a rather good game…one that they can join in with if they can stop fixating on his missing leg.

Because children are children, after all.

I really liked this book, more than I thought I would. I picked it up based solely on the front cover and my curiosity of the story, but by the end I was surprised of the story direction. I thought it might have been a simple plotless book about understanding people were different but instead it’s a great story that demonstrates people are different but also have no obligation to tell you about it.

Immediately we’re told of Joe’s discomfort at having to meet other kids. Even as a young kid Joe is tired of people asking about his leg, interrupting his playtime. I loved that we start by seeing Joe playing, using his imagination and enjoying himself then show the trepidation as someone joins him. Catchpole doesn’t let us off easy though as page after page drives home Joe’s discomfort at the intrusive questions by the kids.

The illustrations and the text work well together as you can’t escape the visual of the kids ganging up on Joe, badgering him with questions and demanding an answer to their own curiosity. George keeps them simple but relevant and they are a great expression of Joe’s imagination.

I also liked how Joe turns the kids questions back on them, to ask their opinions. It’s great to show a young kid already have agency to make people understand how rude their questions can be, even if they are only curious. Catchpole also makes a great point of asking the question why people need to know. No one owes you an explanation. Of course everyone learns their lesson at the end, but what was great was that Joe isn’t the one to initiate it. Catchpole has told a great story about being yourself, using your words to push back against conversations you don’t want to have and it’s a great example that could be used in a myriad of other situations and circumstances.

You can purchase What Happened to You? via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

I’m Sticking with You Too by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Published: 7th September 2022Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Children’s UK
Illustrator: Sam Small
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Much-loved characters Bear and Squirrel are back! And they’ve found the perfect rhythm for their friendship. Until, that is, Chicken turns up… She wants in! But how will Bear and Squirrel feel about accepting a new friend? Will they come to see that some things work out when we do them together. That two can be good…but three can be BETTER?

This beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated follow-up to the bestselling I’m Sticking with You is the perfect book for examining how, even if new friends might disrupt the rhythm at first, the sense of belonging that friendship can bring has the potential to make your heart sing!

It’s a sweet story, one that is enjoyable but I felt may have been a smidge too drawn out. I can see what Prasadam-Halls was doing though, and in terms of the musical nature of the text and the story being told, there is justification to the length.

Chicken wants to join the rhythmic duo of Bear and Squirrel but they are a tight-knit duo who don’t want to ruin their good thing. Prasadam-Halls acknowledges that they aren’t being mean, but to them it wouldn’t work out and it’d throw off their groove.

The story is told in rhyme which makes it a quick read as you get caught up in the rhythm. Something that is a plus because there’s a few pages, though few words on each page. The illustration layout and the position of the text helps you get the beat right as well as enhances the story being told.

Small’s illustrations are great accompaniment and I liked the expressions and activities each character was doing. Minimal facial manipulation doesn’t stop there being great expressions and feelings of the characters.

There is very much a troubadour or minstrel group singing through the forest vibe from the story. Bear and Squirrel playing their instruments and sing along, then the three of them at the end is like a pictorial musical number. I liked how at the end it turns out they still don’t have a rhythm together, Bear and Squirrel were right, but they learn it doesn’t matter.

You can purchase I’m Sticking with You Too via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

I’m Sticking with You by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Published: 5th May 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Henry Holt & Company
Illustrator: Sam Small
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Bear and Squirrel are best friends. Wherever Squirrel goes, Bear follows. Bear vows to stick with Squirrel whether he’s grumpy, or silly, or mad–which is put to the test when Bear sinks Squirrel’s canoe. And catapults him from the seesaw. And breaks his favorite mug.

Finally, Squirrel has had enough. He tells Bear he needs his space–only to realize he has much more fun with his best friend around. Funny and poignant in equal measure, I’m Sticking with You shows that friendship always finds a way.

This is a story of friends who do everything together, helping each other through thick and thin and always being there when they’re needed. It also is about needing time apart and taking a break from one another, understanding it’s ok to have some time alone and needing your own space. Through Bear’s big presence it’s easy to see how Squirrel would need some time alone and not be crowded and inconvenienced by Bear.

Small’s illustrations show the vast size difference between Bear and Squirrel which reinforces some of Squirrel’s feeling of suffocation. The images of Squirrel sitting on Bear are adorable as well and the friendship between one very large animal and one small animal has always been a favourite depiction of mine in picture books.

There’s compromise as the realisation comes they need their friend and they miss them. It was sweet how Prasadam-Halls describes them as joined at the heart. It’s a beautiful way to describe their friendship.

It’s a basic story but one that shows off a sweet friendship and the love between two friends.

You can purchase I’m Sticking with You via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion by Stephen W. Martin

Published: 12 October 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Illustrator: Dan Tavis
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Meet Fluffy—an adorable kitten. So adorable, in fact, that anyone who sees her will spontaneously explode into balls of sparkles and fireworks. KABOOM! Poof.
Poor Fluffy doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, but everything she tries, even a bad haircut, just makes her cuter! So Fluffy runs away someplace no one can find her. Find out if there’s any hope for Fluffy in this funny and subversive story about self-acceptance and finding friendship in unlikely places.

This was instantly in my Top Five picture books of the year because this book is AMAZING. I laughed so much, I loved every page, I loved the words, the illustrations, the premise, the humour. I loved every single thing and I need other people to love this book.

Highlights begin before you even open the book. In lieu of author and illustrator it has ‘Explosions by’ and ‘Cuteness by’ which is FANTASTIC. Loved that. From there the greatness only went up.

It is filled with some dark humour, well as dark as a picture book can really go – animals and people do technically explode a lot in this book, but there are reasons, it is done in an adorable and hilarious way, and honestly it’s that wonderful absurd humour that makes this a brilliant book.

The illustrations are brilliant, Tavis captures the essence of Cuteness for Fluffy McWhiskers and with Martin’s blunt writing, the high logic of the situation and the lengths this poor burdened cat must go to it is the perfect combination to enhance the tone they’re aiming for.

I could reread this story multiple times and love it each time. This poor cat, who is doing the best she can, through no fault of her own, is trying to help people, to save their lives but nothing is working. I love Martin’s solution at the end and I love that there isn’t actually a solution either. It was the best way to end the story.

If you want something funny and clever, something kids will certainly love as there are many, many explosions on the page, this might be the book for you.

You can purchase Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser

Published: 1st October 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Peachtree Publishing Company
Illustrator: Kate Hindley
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

On the tip of the top of a mountain all snowy, where the ice-swirling, toe-curling blizzards were blowy, in a herd full of huddling yaks, big and small, lived Gertie . . . the littlest yak of them all.

Gertie is the littlest yak in her whole herd, and she’s feeling stuck in her smallness – she wants to grow UP and have bigness and tallness!

But when it turns out that there are some things that only Gertie can do, might she come to see that she’s perfect, just the way she is?

I was immediately won over by the cute cover, it basically sealed the deal and I am so glad the story held up to the same standard.

Being the smallest in the herd and feeling like she needs to be bigger, Gertie is a great character for all those kids who wish to grow up faster. They are tired of being small, and they feel useless and just too small to be of any help. Gertie is told numerous times that she will grow up eventually but of course she doesn’t listen and seeing her montage of activities to get big was fantastic. I love Fraser’s rhymes and accompanied by adorable pictures this book could do no wrong.

I loved the illustrations so much, Hindley’s pictures are beyond adorable and the contrast of Gertie and the bigger yaks is wonderful. I loved the detail and colour scheme of her surroundings and the little knitted hats the yaks wear are delightful. I could easily steal a few of these pages and put them on my wall they are so cute.

The story is told with wonderful rhyme and there is a great flow that keeps you engaged and turning the page. The story itself has a great message about being yourself, not wishing to grow up too soon and that bigness can come in all shapes and sizes. Seeing Gertie try and grow up and be big is endearing but it’s wonderful when she learns that she is just right the size she is now.

You can purchase The Littlest Yak via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Previous Older Entries