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

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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

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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

A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Kar-Ben Publishing
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

It’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship? 

This is a good book with an important message but it’s also one that is incredibly text heavy which may be a deterrent for younger readers. Each page has around a paragraph of story on it, accompanied by a large illustration. The text included dialogue and narrative but with this set up across all 30+ pages it is a long read.

While it may be long, the story isn’t overly complicated and the message and history Malaspina is trying to convey is important. The focus is through Sam and we see his perspective and understanding of the world around him. As the story goes on you can see Sam’s opinions being shaped by what he hears around him but you also see him learn and realise that those opinions might not be right.

The bigger message of the camps is addressed but the focus is on how a child may view the world during this time so we only see Sam’s experiences during this time and his interactions with others. Malaspina isn’t giving a complete breakdown of the war, instead she is looking at it from an individual perspective and humanising what happened. This works better in my opinion because as Sam is the focus of the story we see events play out around him and seeing Sam’s growing understanding of what is happening demonstrates how opinions can be changed and how the loudest voice isn’t always the right one.

The full page illustrations help visual what is happening on the page, something that helps given it is such a text heavy book. The colours help reflect the era the story is set, a lot of browns and tans as was seen during the war. The few colours we see stand out on the sepia type illustrations varying between full page pictures and framed images that reflect old photographs which I thought was a clever choice by Liddiard.

The ending is left open but there is also a lot of historical information at the end of the book to learn about the real camp and the real ways Americans treated their fellow citizens. It was an interesting book and maybe having such a detailed story works in its favour because you get to see a lot more than if it had been condensed down. There is definitely a sense of injustice throughout and having a child like Sam have to realise his own mistakes is a great lesson for kids to see.

You can purchase A Scarf for Keiko via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond

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