Mrs Honey’s Hat by Pam Adams

Published: 1st June 1980Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Child’s Play International
Illustrator: Pam Adams
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

One of a series of humourous tales about the misfortunes of Mrs Honey, the lovable grandmother. Why is everyone staring at Mrs Honey’s Hat? This classic story with clear text, repetitive refrain and a strong emphasis on days of the week is ideal for early readers.

I love this story. I read it as a kid and I always think about it. Through the course of a week Mrs Honey’s beautiful hat slowly gets transformed as things get stuck to it, fall onto it, and are replaced.

The story is structured around Mrs Honey’s daily activities on Monday through Sunday and how her hat is transformed day by day. On Monday the feathers are swapped with bubblegum and by the end of the week there is nothing of the original hat left except an interesting new creation.

It is a simple story but it is fun too because we follow Mrs Honey as she goes about her business, and then see the cause and reason why items on her hat disappear.

Adams’ illustrations are bright, bold and colourful. They are simple but do the job of depicting the scenes and various activities. This is a fun story about Mrs Honey and her hat as well as the personification of the animals around her who interact with her hat.

You can purchase Mrs Honey’s Hat via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Shrek! by William Steig

Published: 1st September 1993Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Illustrator: William Steig
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Shrek, a horrid little ogre, goes out into the world to find adventure and along the way encounters a witch, a knight in armour, a dragon, and, finally, a hideous princess, who’s even uglier than he is!

The story is relatively simple, being a fairy tale and a picture book this isn’t surprising but there is still a great story being told. Steig’s given Shrek a fairy tale story of his own which involves leaving his home, a prophecy of sorts, and many encounters along the way to find a princess.

Through the narrative we learn about who Shrek is and what he is capable of. He is portrayed early on as incredibly ugly, but as the story goes on we learn he is a gruesome character; he has an odour, abilities magical and poisonous, and eats lightning.

The illustrations are great, they may not be intricate or overly artistic but they convey Shrek’s ugliness and the ugliness of his parents, as well as depicting what is happening through the text.

The whole book is not told in rhyme but there are riddles and rhymes in fortunes, signs, or conversations which play into the fairy tale genre and the mixing of talking animals, fairy tale creatures and humans is well done.

The movie obviously took this basic story and key components and ran wild with it to great success but this story isn’t lacking either. There is a great backstory to Shrek and his own adventure that stands on its own away from the film. Steig has taken on the fairy tale genre and created a story with a unique plot and given a story to an unlikely creature usually not given a protagonist role in fairy tales.

You can purchase Shrek! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Published: October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Nick Bland
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Popcorn is, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at Fiddlesticks farm! When she finds a Fabulous Friend Machine in the barn, she sets about making some brand new friends. But behind the screen of the Fabulous Friend Machine, maybe her new friends are not so friendly after all…

This is a fantastic book about the innocence of using the internet as well as the dangers. Popcorn’s innocent quest to find more friends soon becomes an out of control situation she has to try and contain.

I loved that Popcorn isn’t really seen to be at fault in this, her naivety and her pure hearted intention comes up against the unruly and unregulated internet world in the “friend machine” and what happens is a great metaphor for the kind of situation to find yourself in and one a great message can be drawn from.

Being wonderfully kind and fabulously helpful is a great trait but Bland shows us that being so wonderfully kind and fabulously helpful can get you into trouble, especially if it comes at the cost of losing your real friends.

The illustrations are great, Bland made them colourful and realistic while also having a cartoon quality, especially with the personification of these animals. The line is blurred between acting natural and having human behaviours and they easily captures the everyday life at Fiddlesticks Farm.

The message not only about being internet safe, but also about not forgetting about the real world and real friends is gentle and not preachy which could have been an easy choice to make.

You can purchase The Fabulous Friend Machine via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Who’s Your Real Mum by Bernadette Green

Published: 31st March 2020 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scribble
Illustrator: Anna Zobel
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

‘Elvi, which one is your mum?’
‘They’re both my mums.’
‘But which one’s your real mum?’

When Nicholas wants to know which of Elvi’s two mums is her real mum, she gives him lots of clues. Her real mum is a circus performer, and a pirate, and she even teaches spiders the art of web.

But Nicholas still can’t work it out! Luckily, Elvi knows just how to explain it to her friend.

This is a great story about what it means to be a “real mum” and how having two mums doesn’t make one more real than another. I enjoyed this story because it is playful and light-hearted even though it’s about a sensitive question.

Green’s approach to this was excellent because kids have questions, adults have questions, and whether or not they are right to ask those questions it’s going to happen. Having Elvi deal with Nick’s constant questioning about her “real mum” with humour and heart is a great way to point out to Nick and the reader that there is no such thing as only one “real mum”.

I liked how Zobel’s illustrations start to capture the more outlandish answers Elvi gives. It plays into the notion that Elvi’s mums are superheros in a way being able to do all these fantastical things with a great tongue in cheek that Elvi is completely messing with Nick. The use of blues against the brown and yellows in Zobel’s pictures highlight the fanciful answers and it’s a great way to show that both mums can do these things in Elvi’s imagination. I also liked how Zobel incorporates the more creative answers in and around whatever real life activing Nick and Elvi are currently doing whether it’s playing in the park or walking down the street.

Overall, it’s a nice gentle story that points out how impolite it is to even ask such a question, but the curiosity of kids covers this and Green shows a nice friendly and humorous response to Nick’s questions.

You can purchase Who’s Your Real Mum via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

Amazon Aust

I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Published: 4th September 4th 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Dial Books
Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

This is a wonderful and easy to understand story about Jazz and her journey as a transgender kid. Jazz introduces herself to readers and tells them the story of her life being a girl but looking like a boy to everyone else.

I liked that Jazz first introduces herself to us through her favourite colours, what she likes to do and who her friends are. Only then do we learn about her being transgender. This is an important move because there are so many other things that make Jazz Jazz and when asked to tell us about herself favourite colours is the best place to start.

As Jazz tells more of her story she mentions she rarely played with trucks, tools, or superheroes and instead liked princesses and mermaid costumes. While it isn’t the best distinction to class these are “girl things” versus “boy things”, I understand for kids it might be an easier thing to understand, even if it isn’t the best phrasing.

The book offers an informative but simple story of her life and how she experienced life at school and home and how once her parents understood they started to support her. Jazz talks about the term transgender and her visit to a doctor, and also how she felt being told she was a boy or had to do boy things she didn’t want to do and how it took time for everyone to understand.

The illustrations are coloured pencil sketches and support the words on the page. There is a mix of full page illustrations and numerous smaller scenes surrounded by white page. I like McNicholas’ style, especially in this book, because it offers simple pictures for enhancement to the story and flesh out the scenes being told but don’t need to overshadow or take over the page.

This is an educational book and one I think would benefit all audiences. The range of picture books about characters/experiences being trans are useful tools as well, there is a lot of power in first hand accounts which I Am Jazz can provide.

You can purchase I am Jazz via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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