Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Published: 1st September 2015Goodreads badge
Illustrator: Esphyr Slobodkina
Pages: 48
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Caps for Sale is a timeless classic beloved by millions…one of the most popular picture books ever published! Children will delight in following the peddler’s efforts to outwit the monkeys and will ask to read it again and again. Caps for Sale is an excellent easy-to-read book that includes repetition, patterns, and colors, perfect for early readers. This tale of a peddler and a band of mischievous monkeys is filled with warmth, humor, and simplicity and also teaches children about problem and resolution.

I love old books that describe what the story is about in the subtitle so you know going in this is about caps and monkeys and monkey business but the story is delightful all the same. I’ve loved this story since I was a kid and it’s as fun now as it was then. There’s joy in seeing the peddler navigate the town with his caps, and his confrontation with the monkeys. Slobodkina’s writing is simple but amusing and it’s a nice adventure in the day of the peddler.

There’s repetition in the narrative and humorous gesturing in the illustrations when the peddler interacts with the monkeys and it’s great seeing even the simplest illustrations depict this gentleman stamping his foot in frustration at thieving monkeys.

The illustrations are simple but entertaining. The sight of the man with his numerous caps on his head is delightful and while the colours aren’t overly bold or bright the images reflect what is being described on the page.

The story isn’t overly complicated, nothing happens of consequence yet it’s cheeky and enjoyable to read and one kids could have fun with. I’m curious about the cover because at no point does he get in the tree, but it’s alluring at best if you want to give it a go.

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The Couch Potato (#4) by Jory John

Published: 3rd November 2020Goodreads badge
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The Couch Potato has everything he needs within reach of his sunken couch cushion. But when the electricity goes out, Couch Potato is forced to peel himself away from the comforts of his living room and venture outside. And when he does, he realizes fresh air and sunshine could be just the things he needs…

Readers of all ages will laugh along as their new best spuddy learns that balancing screen time and playtime is the root to true happiness.

I am a huge fan of Jory John’s books and the Bad Seed series is one I’m growing to love because they are a clever and fun set of books that highlight different behaviours and situations that don’t feel like readers are being preached at yet a good message still comes through with brilliant humour and great illustrations.

This is book number four and as per usual the humour, the puns and play on words are divine. The different variety of potatoes are on show as Couch Potato tells us about their family and introduces us to their life. We’re told about the fabulous set up they have and the inventions and contraptions that means they never have to move from their spot on the lounge.

John never makes Couch Potato into a bad person (potato) for enjoying his life doing nothing but looking at screens all day, but through creative storytelling and a change in circumstance shows us that there is a better, more balanced way to live your life. I really enjoyed how through the whole story it’s Couch Potato’s own choices that change his circumstance. It isn’t his mother pestering him, or anything shameful, it’s his own realisation that maybe being inside all the time isn’t the best thing to do.

Key highlights are of course the potato based television shows including MadYam, Fries, and M.A.S.H.E.D. Oswald’s illustrations are once again filled with humour and help visualise John’s narrative and I absolutely loved how well the jokes worked for the potato world.

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Mrs Honey’s Hat by Pam Adams

Published: 1st June 1980Goodreads badge
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

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Shrek! by William Steig

Published: 1st September 1993Goodreads badge
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

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The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Published: October 2016Goodreads badge
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

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