A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
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

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

Published: 27th August 2019Goodreads badge
Chronicle Books
Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Pages: 50
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A Stone Sat Still tells the story of a seemingly ordinary rock—but to the animals that use it, it is a resting place, a kitchen, a safe haven…even an entire world.

I loved this book. It is a simple story that has few words but manages to have a great impact on you as you read. Wenzel looks at how a seemingly simple and unimportant thing such as a stone can have so many uses to so many different creatures. Through stunning illustrations we’re shown that the same ordinary stone can be a home, a refuge, or an entire world to those small enough. 

Every creature has a different purpose for the stone and Wenzel explores with simple words and stunning pictures; and while the stone never changes, how it is perceived is always changing. It was a fascinating look at perspective and how the smallest spaces can be the largest places depending who you are. It is a great book to realise perspective and Wenzel tells the story so brilliantly it is astounding to grasp as you see the different understandings of the same space and the same small rock. 

I didn’t realise at the time that this was by the same author who did They All Saw A Cat. This explains so much because that is another fascinating book about perspective and how different creatures see the same thing completely differently from one another, and how they view it can have an entirely different meaning based on their lives and experiences. 

The illustrations are gorgeous, the simple colours and the lovely feeling of nature comes through and it is stunning to look at. The best description I can give is that this is a quiet book. Nothing happens, it is all about observance, very much like you were sitting outside watching nature play out before you. It is very meditative and calming which was something I wasn’t expecting but was pleasantly surprised to experience.

You can purchase A Stone Sat Still via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Stormy: A Story About Finding A Forever Home by Guojing

Published: 17th September 2019Goodreads badge
Schwartz & Wade
Illustrator: Guojing
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this wordless picture book a woman visits a park and discovers a pup hiding under a bench–scruffy, scared, and alone. With gentle coaxing, the woman tries to befriend the animal, but the dog is too scared to let her near. Day after day, the woman tries–and day after day, the dog runs away. With perseverance and patience–and help from an enticing tennis ball–a tentative friendship begins. 

Why do I keep reading bittersweet books about abandoned dogs?! Honestly it is a real problem. Finding forever homes for little sad and lonely dogs breaks my heart but apparently I don’t mind always crying at the end of these books and getting emotional in the middle of these books and sad before I have even begun these books. And it turns out now I don’t even need text to do it.

This story is part of my new favourite type of picture book: one filled with stunning illustrations and no text whatsoever. The entire story is told in pictures and you do not need words to know what is happening. Whether this is to show the events from Stormy’s silent perspective or because Guojing’s illustrations have enough emotion and intent in them to make words redundant I’m not sure but it 100% works.

I cannot stress how divine these illustrations are. Guojing has done a brilliant job in showing emotion and scale, as well as the environment and how it reflects mood. Some pages are broken up into panels like a comic book which acts like stills from a movie so you can see the events, but others are stunning full pages . I was captivated as I “read” because as you study the images you know the story and can understand what is happening. Filled with the colours of nature and beautiful drawings I wanted to hang these pictures on my wall as well as become melancholic about them.

Of course there is a happily ever after because Guojing isn’t allowed to make us feel those emotions with no reward. But it is just another example of how beautiful storytelling not only can be wordless, but can be about real stories and full of heart.

You can purchase Stormy via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust


The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt

Published: 15th October 2019Goodreads badge
Penguin Workshop
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Tis the season for all of us to write our holiday wishlists. But everyone–even the crayons–know the best presents are the ones that you give. In this unique book, readers get to see how Duncan, the crayons, and their families celebrate the holidays. With real, folded letters from the Crayons that you can pull from their envelopes and read, games, punch-out ornaments, a poster, and a pop-up tree, this book is the perfect gift for fans of The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home.

I was incredibly excited when I saw there was a Christmas themed Crayon book. I’ve loved the other two and to return to their funny little world was fantastic.

In this new book the Crayons are preparing for Christmas and letters keep arriving from all over the place— from travellers, from online shopping, and from numerous crayon relatives. The letters are wonderful. They’re funny, clever, and I love the interactive envelope style instead of the printed letters we’ve seen in the past. It reminds me of the old Jolly Pocket Postman books. Inside there are letters that relate to the story but there are also recipes, games, and cut outs that the reader can use and enjoy too. There is also the inclusion of other holidays and traditions which adds some diversity.

The crayons still do crayon things, they’ve melted, they lose their paper wrapping, and they have their colour themed jokes that we’ve seen in past books. Running jokes about where Duncan leaves his crayons are back too with the addresses on the various envelopes.

This time we get to see beyond just the crayon adventures as other things in Duncan’s world are animated too. As Duncan and the house set up for Christmas Daywalt shows us that mugs, decorations and stationary all interact with one another, their little quips and comments part of the charm.

Jeffers’ illustrations bring all this to light with his adorable depictions of these crayons and their holiday activities. Crayons in costumes, playing in the snow and playing rock, paper, scissors with actual paper and scissors is quite wonderful.

If you’ve loved the previous Crayon books this is definitely a fun new adventure, and one that offers more than just a delightful story.

You can purchase The Crayons’ Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust