Green Lizards and Red Rectangles and the Blue Ball by Steve Antony

Published: 02 Mar 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder and Stoughton
Illustrator: Steve Antony
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The green lizards and the red rectangles have finally learned to live in harmony together … but what happens when a blue ball appears from nowhere?

A timely story about celebrating diversity and learning to get along, told with style and simplicity.

Antony shows us the world is greater than red rectangles and green lizards with the arrival of a blue ball to the now peaceful society. The blue ball is an outsider to the harmonious society created by the red rectangles and green lizards and therefore is an enemy and must be banished. A literal wall is built to keep it out – once again raising questions about the red rectangles sentience – separating the blue ball from the others.

I love Antony’s use of colours because they are bright and bold, and solid so there is only red, green and blue to work with. Also making the objects and animals sentient they are “alive” and can tell a story and have a message without needing a complex world or storyline behind them.

Once again the illustrations help raise the story as the blue ball’s imposing size on the red rectangles and green lizards shows difference and fear of the unknown. Another strong point is there are no reasoning behind the prejudice. It isn’t mentioned that the ball’s size, shape or colour are what make it exiled, it’s just different so it must go. This simplifies the story to its main points and brings the message home that it isn’t one reason that the rectangles and lizards object to.

Like in the previous book, Antony shows us that it sometimes only takes a couple of individuals to make a stand and change things for the better – the loudest voices of hate can be drowned out by the majority of people standing up for what’s right. This is a great story about how different isn’t always bad and how growing and accepting can be beneficial for everyone.

You can purchase Green Lizards and Red Rectangles and the Blue Ball via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Green Lizards vs. Red Rectangles by Steve Antony

Published: 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder Children’s Books
Illustrator: Steve Anthony
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The Green Lizards wanted to defeat the Red Rectangles.

The Red Rectangles wanted to defeat the Green Lizards.

They were at war!

Who will win, the green lizards or the red rectangles?

I love the absolute absurd nonsense that this book contains. I love that there’s no explanation whatsoever, and I love that there’s chaos and a lack of logic everywhere you turn. The battle rages through the pages as the green lizards make ground but then on the next page the red rectangles surge forward. A few solo voices try to speak up but are silenced and the battle rages on.

Anthony never explains why the green lizards and the red rectangles are fighting, but the reasons why are irrelevant as the story is fantastic. The illustrations are great and add another level to the story because Anthony uses the whole page with bright, solid colours but also keeps it minimalistic, and seeing the various distinctions between the myriad of lizards was quite enjoyable.

You really can’t think about it too much because the sentience of the red rectangles raises a few questions but it is a funny and clever story about nonsense battles and how working together can be a lot more rewarding.

You can purchase Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Rusty by Chrissy McYoung

Published: March 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hairy Phish Publications
Illustrator: Chrissy McYoung
Pages: 56
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Rusty is a dog that is going through the foster care system. Rusty is struggling to cope with all the rules and controls in his life and as such – keeps behaving in ways which cause his carers to leave. Rusty wants to give up and disappear, until things change. Rusty meets Rose.

I had the chance to hear McYoung talk at the Write Here! Festival a few weeks ago and hearing her talk about this book was fantastic and getting to chat with her a little bit afterwards as I bought her book was a delightful experience.Rusty’s story is about fostering and McYoung uses Rusty’s story to talk about how he can’t live with his mum and dad, and the troubles he has as he moves from home to home. This is such a powerful story because McYoung doesn’t hide from harsh truths, and she doesn’t sugar coat the experience of being cared for by multiple strangers and how scary that can be.

Through Rusty’s experience we see him go to multiple homes and be looked after by lots of people. Rusty’s feelings and thoughts are told and we see how he feels confused and unsure about his situation. There’s also a wonderful exploration about how when Rusty feels scared and trapped he will lash out. As a metaphor for a struggling foster child, as well as for an actual dog, this is a powerful message. Making people understand that there are real feelings and thoughts for those in Rusty’s situation and that everything feels too big, and out of control.

Even though Rusty is portrayed as a dog, his actions fit those of a child. He attends school, wants to phone his parents, and wants to play with friends but he’s confined by strict rules he doesn’t understand.

Through amazing illustrations we see Rusty’s thoughts and confusion about why people go away and not understanding why his carers act the way they act. So much is said in them and the way McYoung conveys Rusty’s feelings are impactful. There is humour as well, McYoung adds funny scenes and moments in pictures to bring up the mood like Rusty living under the sea or in a castle guarded by a knight, but the heart of the story and the emotional impact remains true.

What makes this story wonderful is that while there isn’t a perfect ending – there is hope. And hope and imperfection is important especially for children who see their own lives reflected in Rusty’s story.

There are eight additional pages of amazing facts and helpful resources at the back of the book to explain that Rusty’s story is based on real people McYoung has worked with (with some creative licence). She provides information about the various out of home care that kids are placed into in Australia as well as the variety of guides in how to help people who experience some of the intense emotions and reactions that Rusty experiences

This is an important story about an important subject and one that is explored well through this medium. Rusty’s story is one that needs to be told not only because it educates everyone but it might help someone find comfort in a similar situation.

You can purchase Rusty via the following

Publisher

Romeosaurus and Juliet Rex by Mo O’Hara

Published: 11th December 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Illustrator: Andrew Joyner
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

In this hilarious take on Shakespeare for children—with dinosaurs instead of people—Romeosaurus and Juliet Rex get along perfectly well until they realize that their families should be mortal enemies!

“Your family would eat mine,” says Romeosaurus, who comes from a family of herbivores. Yes, it’s true—Juliet Rex’s family are carnivores, and Romeosaurus’s family are plant-loving herbivores.

With two families up in arms (very short ones for Juliet Rex) the two friends run away, determined not to let family baggage determine who their friends should be.

It’s Shakespeare Day and what better way to celebrate that than with a Shakespeare adaptation in the form of a picture book! This is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet told through dinosaurs which is a brilliant concept and should start a whole series of Shakespeare told through dinosaurs.

Romeosaurus and his friends do all the normal things we’ve come to see from a Romeo and Juliet story: there is a masked ball, Romeosaurus sneaks in with his friends and causes chaos but not before he and Juliet spot each other and become friends. All the main plot points from the original are covered, all our favourite characters (with a slight variation on the details and circumstances as you’d expect). I love that this book doesn’t make Juliet the plant-loving herbivore – instead she is the large, carnivorous T-Rex in a smashing dress; I also love that there is a Shakespeare cameo in his dinosaur alternate form that introduces the story much like is done in the original play.

The illustrations are fantastic, it’s dinosaurs but they’re in period clothing, but also in the wild 150 million years ago. The myriad of anachronistic elements can be ignored but also cherished because this is such a cute story and the little jokes about logistics and dinosaur anatomy bring in a different type of humour with issues such a stegosauruses inability to climb due to their lack of claws, and jokes about tiny T-Rex arms.

O’Hara keeps the two as friends, and through the story we also learn friends are important and can come in any form, even the carnivorous kind. It has a wonderful mix of happily ever after that picture books can bring, but there’s also a touch of the original Shakespeare tragedy which is absolutely fantastic.

You can purchase Romeosaurus and Juliet Rex via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Dear Grandpa by Kate Simpson

Published: August 2019 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Ronojoy Ghosh
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A picture book about the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather, who stay close even when they are separated by distance.

Grandpa, did you know that if you rub a needle with a magnet, one end will point to the north and the other end to the south? In the south there’s an apartment building 160 metres tall. From the balcony, you can see the entire city. There are cinemas and ice cream shops … and me!

As Henry measures the distance between his new apartment and Grandpa’s wooden house under the mango tree, Grandpa works out how close they really are. A moving story that celebrates the bond between a boy and his grandfather.

This is a great story about families who live far apart but can still have meaningful and connected lives. We learn about Grandpa and Henry through their letters to one another – the content of which explores facts Henry’s learning and we learn about where he lives and what he has been doing as he recounts it to his grandpa.

Simpson shows us that Henry is loving and likes to share fun facts with his grandpa while Grandpa is supportive of his affection and adds his own fun to the letters as well. Telling these things in a letter to his grandpa is sweet and it shows the fun whimsical relationship the pair have.

Ghosh’s illustrations are a beautiful addition. The letters between Grandpa and Henry take centre stage but around them Ghosh has created stunning illustrations about their content with everything from a picture of Henry’s new neighbourhood to a beautiful two page spread of blue whales and Grandpa floating through the milky way. What I love about these illustrations is Ghosh alternates between Henry’s life and the real world and Grandpa’s exaggerations.

The symmetry between the start and end of the narrative is clever and I loved how it created a nice frame not only story wise, but by creating similar emotions that we experienced at the start but which have evolved as we’ve read the story.

This is a beautiful story about missing family but still being able to connect with them and share your lives with them. The relationship comes across the page as you go back and forth between the pair, Simpson capturing the light but deep connection between grandfather and grandson remarkably well. There is a lot said in these pages and even through the most innocent and whimsical interactions it tells so much.

You can purchase Dear Grandpa via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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