Donovan’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman

Published: 26th April 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Tricycle Press
Illustrator: Mike Dutton
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

Donovan’s two moms are getting married, and he can’t wait for the celebration to begin. After all, as ringbearer, he has a very important job to do. Any boy or girl with same-sex parents—or who knows a same-sex couple—will appreciate this picture book about love, family, and marriage.  The story captures the joy and excitement of a wedding day while the illustrations show the happy occasion from a child’s point of view. 

The story is told through Donovan’s point of view and seeing his experience of the world and the Big Day was fun as Newman has mimicked the excited mind of a child and the urge to be a kid despite the importance and the fancy clothes he has to wear.

I liked the book and I enjoyed the story, I just found I couldn’t get into a rhythm reading it. It reads off like a list of things, which from a child’s mind works, but reading it I couldn’t get the flow right. The sentences are long and without punctuation which admittedly helps to convey the mind of an excited child. It is clear Donovan is going through a list in his mind of things he has been told to do and what not to do. It does make it hard to read and you have to find your own rhythm when reading but it is nice.

There’s no big agenda or message, it is all about Donavan doing his best on the Big Day. The focus is on him doing his job well and that makes it a different kind of read. One where the focus is on the child experience and his role, not the type of event. Having said that, it’s a great book that normalises a same-sex marriage and the family dynamic.

Dutton’s illustrations are good and help support the story Newman is telling. Donovan explains each step of his day and Dutton illustrates beside it in both full page and smaller illustrations. Overall, it’s a good book that promotes a child doing an important job and taking pride in doing it right. What he’s doing essentially doesn’t matter and it demonstrates that there are a lot of things you have to remember when doing an important job, especially for people you love.

You can purchase Donovan’s Big Day via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Published: 3rd June 2002Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Walker Books
Illustrator: Patrick Benson
Pages: 25
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★  – 2 Stars

This is the story of three baby owls who wake up one night in their hole in the tree to find that their mother has gone, so they sit on the branch and wait, wondering when she will return. At last she does, and they all bounce up and down with joy, welcoming her home.

Can a picture book be boring? This might be a close contender to a boring picture book. I will give credit because the illustrations are reasonably pretty, and I will give a notable mention that it is, in its own way, educational and sweet if you look hard enough. But it’s also boring.

From tricking me by picking up its cute cover, the story is about owl babies who are waiting for their mother to come back. Essentially, nothing happens in the story. The three owl babies cry out for their mother, they each do an action, rinse and repeat. You do learn through the story what owlets eat, how the mother owls swoop silently and hunt, but that’s picked up through the story, so unless you’re trying to get something from this book like I was, you probably won’t think too much of it. But there is no real story except for the owl babies to wait for their mother.

As I say, the illustrations are cute, they are detailed, coloured beautifully, but there is no story to engage with. I can’t imagine how this would hold a child’s attention unless you expanded on it with your own explanations, even then I can’t think what would hold a kid’s appeal.

You can purchase Owl Babies via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

Published: 1st March1996Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Puffin Books
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  ★  – 5 Stars

You thought you knew the story of the “The Three Little Pigs”… You thought wrong.
 
In this hysterical and clever fracture fairy tale picture book that twists point of view and perspective, young readers will finally hear the other side of the story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

I love this book. I remember someone reading this book perhaps in person, perhaps on a TV show and as it was read and as I listened I fell in love. It was short and simple but what it did was show me for the very first time someone could mess with the traditional storytelling of these nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

As a kid I didn’t know it could be done and yet here it was in book form telling me that what I knew was not indeed what really happened to the three little pigs. I then marched down to Dymocks with my mother and made them order it in so I could have a copy. Since then I have enjoyed reading retellings of fairytales and nursery rhymes and it all stemmed from this little book.

Scieszka has created a hilarious story and it makes you look at other stories and ponder whether they really are as innocent as they seem. It is very fun and clever and a delight to read over and over again. Alexander T Wolf is a victim of circumstance and being framed when all he was after was some sugar for his cake. His innocence is explained through misfortune and bad timing and seeing his insistence and justification that what he does wasn’t really his fault connects the original story to this fractured one. The story goes an extra step further and you see what happens afterwards, but as a retelling it is one that is creative and clever and has charm and humour that you can’t help but love.

The illustrations are unique with an old timey feel. The characters are realistic but with a certain creative flair to them. Smith has portrayed a world where these fairytales exist, there’s one colour scheme and the style of the creatures keeps it in the fairytale realm. It feels like it happened long ago, which you get from the style of the old newspapers as well.

This really is a fantastic book. As I say, it got me hooked on fractured fairytales and retellings and the humour and tone of the narrative is delightful.

You can purchase The True Story of the Three Little Pigs via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

It’s Hard to Love A Tiger by Anna Pignataro

Published: 1st June 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Anna Pignataro
Pages: 24
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

I wish I had a tiger, a tiger from the zoo. 

A tiger of my own to love-a tiger just like you. 

A funny rhyming story about a little girl and a troublesome (but lovable) tiger.

Once more I have picked up a picture book because the front cover was too cute to ignore. I wasn’t disappointed either because this is a fun story told through rhyme, coupled with creative illustrations. Pignataro’s illustrations are a mixture of drawn and painted, and vary from full page detail to simple images on white.

I loved the poetic verse the story is written in. It flows wonderfully if you read it as a whole, and nothing is lost if the story is read at a slower pace either, each stanza matches the picture which is spread across a double page. Pignataro’s rhymes are clever and make sense in context, nothing too fanciful happens to make a rhyme work which makes the reading flow naturally and seamlessly. The formatting of the words also play into how you read the story and it helps with tone and pacing, especially when reading it aloud.

It’s one of those wonderfully absurd books that never explain why the young girl has the tiger, just that loving a tiger is hard because of all the mischief they get up to. I loved how the girl treats the tiger. Her complaints start just because he growls when you put a ribbon in his hair, and he takes up all the room on the bed. But then it gets more fun as he also is bad at ballet, and slurps when he eats, and huffs and pouts when he’s in the naughty chair.

I had not read any of Pignataro’s books before this but I may just have to track down some more because this one was just all kinds of adorable.

You can purchase I Wish I Had A Tiger via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus & Robertson | Fishpond | Dymocks

QBD | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Two Tough Teddies by Kilmeny Niland

Published: 29th June 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Puffin
Illustrator: Kilmeny Niland
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

When two teddies, Tilly and Gruffy, are abandoned in a box of unwanted toys, they decide to face the world and find someone else to love them. Kilmeny Niland’s warm, affectionate story explores a theme familiar to all—sometimes we get what we want only when we stop trying so hard.

The saddest and sweetest and most beautiful book ever!

This is a book that sends you on an emotional roller coaster. Two darling teddies are abandoned in a park and on the hunt for someone to love them. They try to be loud so people can hear them, and try to be brave despite their scruffy appearance. This is the kind of situation that got me bawling in Toy Story 2 and 3 and I think having it in book form is just as heartbreaking.

“They can see us and hear us but still no one wants us.”

Just crush my heart, Niland. Crush. My. Heart.

They realise they do have someone to love them because they have each other and that was the end of me because that was the sweetest thing possible and my heart broke for these teddies. I wanted to love them. I wanted to take them home because it was so adorable that they were trying so hard to be tough and brave for people but that scared them away instead.

What makes it sweeter/sadder is that Niland’s illustrations portray these teddies in a way that you can’t help but love them. They are scruffy but they also look lost and unsure. They try their hardest and seeing their crestfallen faces only adds to the narrative. The illustrations are both full page colour and single images on a blank background, both of which help express how big a world the teddies have become lost in, and how out of their depth they are. Niland also cleverly uses the teddies perspective in the use of angles and point of view regarding the nature that surrounds them and the animals they attempt to interact with.

There is a happy ending so it isn’t all bad news, and Niland reinflates my heart and by soul because there is a beautiful ending and goes to show you can be loved even if you aren’t always brave and loud and tough.

You can purchase Two Tough Teddies via the following

Book Depository | Amazon

Amazon Aust | Wordery

Fishpond | QBD | Dymocks

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