The Couch Potato (#4) by Jory John

Published: 3rd November 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
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.

You can purchase The Couch Potato via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Cool Bean (#3) by Jory John

Published: 3rd December 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Everyone knows the cool beans. They’re sooooo cool.

And then there’s the uncool has-bean . . .

Always on the sidelines, one bean unsuccessfully tries everything he can to fit in with the crowd—until one day the cool beans show him how it’s done.

This is a fantastic book for kids who might have had friends who moved on and while they used to spend all their time together, now they’ve gone their separate ways. It can be hard seeing people you used to hang out with, especially if you’re not quite sure why you stopped hanging out in the first place.

The bean in the story tries hard to fit in with his old pod but nothing works, and while Bean thinks it’s because he is uncool, it is also showing you can’t pretend to be someone else, you can only be yourself. There’s so much kids can relate to in this story, it’s about loss, about change, but also about hope, kindness, and what being cool really means.

Once again the pun game is on point with the illustrations. Leguma Beach and The Great Gatsbean are the bean type puns we all need and I love how Oswald has created these little tiny pieces of joy in amongst his fun illustrations.

I like the formula of this series because while each story is unique, and the stories are diverse, the structure is often the same. The short sentences and miniature pictures are side by side with full page illustrations and with an absolutely delightful Jory John story through its pages what can go wrong?

You can purchase The Cool Bean via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Good Egg (#2) by Jory John

Published: 12th February 2019
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 36
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this follow-up to Jory John and Pete Oswald’s popular picture book The Bad Seed, meet the next best thing: a very good egg, indeed!

The good egg has been good for as long as he can remember. While the other eggs in his carton are kind of rotten, he always does the right, kind, and courteous thing. He is a verrrrrrry good egg indeed! Until one day he decides that enough is enough! He begins to crack (quite literally) from the pressure of always having to be grade-A perfect.

John’s books have fast become some of my favourites. This is another one I thoroughly enjoyed, there is such a wonderful humour that comes from the combination of illustrations and the words; the play off one another and there’s often so much to enjoy in the illustrations even when the words are self-explanatory.

The story is told through Egg’s eyes and he addresses the reader from the very start and continues to tell us his tale as the story goes on. The Good Egg tries his best to be good but he is surrounded by others in his group who misbehave and it stresses him out.

The “badness” of the other eggs are things kids can relate to like ignoring bedtimes, eating sugary cereal, and breaking things or throwing tantrums. Compared to the “good” behaviour like rescuing cats, and helping other people John contrasts how the Good Egg sees himself compared to the others in his carton.

I love Oswald’s design on the egg. The large egg and small face, with the oversized glasses is incredibly adorable. I also love how he shows his progression as he becomes more stressed at he behaviour of the others – the literally cracking of his shell is clever and his dishevelled appearance, while tragic, is incredibly humorous.

I am fascinated by the sentient foods because there is a clear and present danger of being eaten in these stories and yet the personified foods go about their lives normally. This works fine if you want to have a society of sentient food, but John has twice shown us there are humans in their world who will eat them which raises a few questions.

This is a great story about being your best self, but also about not letting the actions of other people get to you. There’s a wonderful message of self care, but also about trying to be perfect can be hard and there can be some balance in life that is still satisfying.

You can purchase The Good Egg via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Bad Seed (#1) by Jory John

Published: 29th August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

With Jory John’s charming and endearing text and bold expressive illustrations by Pete Oswald, here is The Bad Seed: a funny yet touching tale that reminds us of the remarkably transformative power of will, acceptance, and just being you. Perfect for readers young and old, The Bad Seed proves that positive change is possible for each and every one of us.

What I liked about the Bad Seed is we’re shown his little life story and we understand how he came to be bad. His misfortune and harsh life meant he has been altered from the happy seed he once was. I think this was incredibly clever of John because it shows no one is born bad, and even though they can do bad things, deep down there may be a reason.

John shows us that being bad doesn’t have to be forever, and that it’s ok to change your mind. I liked there wasn’t a specific event or outside influence that impacted on Bad Seed and his decision, it’s clever to make it his own choice to improve himself.

The story is funny and clever, I liked the different moments we got to see with the Bad Seed and how he lives his life. The sentences are short and there are not a lot of words on the page but each line is reflected in an illustration. Oswald has done a great job with the depiction of the character and reflecting the story around him. I loved the changes of colours and the look at the tiny world Bad Seed lives in. Also, the interactions he has with other characters show off a diverse and curious world of other food.

I am fascinated by the sentient foods in this story because there is a clear and present danger of being eaten and yet the personified foods go about their lives normally. This works fine if you have a society of sentient food, but John has shown there are humans in their world who will eat them which raises a few questions.

You can purchase The Bad Seed via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Top Five of 2020

Even with 2020 being what it was, I still managed to read some truly remarkable books. I am so excited to share these ones because some of these are so fantastic I had gifted them five stars before I’d even finished. I’ve got two gender flipped classic retellings, a brilliant graphic novel and stories full of fun and diversity and representation. Even the picture books are full of delight, filled with humour, absurdness and incredibly sweet.

Once & Future (#1) by A. R. Capetta

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This story is phenomenal! It’s the King Arthur legend, set in the future, set in space, with a female Arthur and a fabulous, beautifully constructed time loop of curses and legends and a beautiful cast of diverse characters that you will fall in love with. Honestly the detail and world building Capetta has done is a constant delight every time something else pops up and the way the original characters and established mythology is woven into it is brilliant. It is the myth we all know but it also has a new story unfolding too which was amazing to read about.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (#1) by Mackenzi Lee

This was such an interesting book because I got to watch my own opinions of these characters gradually change as the book progressed. Lee takes you on a journey as you go from hating some characters to loving them and it’s a growth for them as well which is even better. The story is wonderful, it’s creative, full of sarcasm, has fabulous sibling banter and while it’s not overly complicated it has enough daring and adventure to make it captivating.

 

 

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

What stood out for me with this book was how much it felt like a real teenage story. Guillaume has captured the voice so well that you felt like these characters were real life teenagers living their lives in front of you. The story is perfect in that it shows how families and life can be imperfect and that teenage years can be downright messy. I adored it from start to finish and it’s an added bonus that it’s an Aussie YA because I loved seeing my own experiences reflected in a story.

 

 

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Gender flipped Robin Hood? Yes please. I loved every minute of this book, the way the original myth is woven into this retelling is amazing. Spooner doesn’t bring it into modern times or change the era, instead she gives us a brilliant story about another origin for the Robin Hood myth and it is one I will eagerly get behind. There’re secrets and danger and it’s full of tension and suspense which is stressful but also quite exhilarating when you know anything could happen. This is a story full of adventure but also full of love and justice, secrets and surprises.

 

The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal (#3) by Clint McElroy

I will admit if these keep coming out once a year they will end up on this list every time. I love this story and this is my absolute favourite arc in the Balance storyline and to see it play out before me with the images I tried to conjure in my head is fantastic. Pietsch has done another stunning job on the illustrations and as the next book in the series it is a great addition to the ongoing storyline. It is just as funny and just as brilliant as the podcast with the little adjustments required for the format change which adds its own special something.

 

Honourable Mention

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

 

Top Five Picture Books

Stormy: A Story About Finding A Forever Home by Guojing

Truman by Jean Reidy

71 Sheep Try Soccer by Pablo Albo

The Good Egg by Jory John

The Duckling Gets a Cookie by Mo Willems

 

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