13 December 2006

Barnaby Bennett

Barnaby Bennett
By Hannah Rainforth
Illustrated by Ali Teo

Huia Publishers 2006

ISBN 1 86969 232 2

Barnaby Bennett is one of my top favourite picture books for 2006. He's quirky, determined, innovative and has lots of individual style!
Barnaby is apparently named for a real person - Hannah Rainforth heard the name and decided it had to be immortalised in print and so created this little boy. We all know how single-minded small children can be, when something is their favourite nothing else will do. One morning Barnaby wakes up and decides he has to wear red, and only red. He gathers up a collection of clothing from his various family members - considerately leaving his own jandals in exchange for his brother's red sandals - and announces:
"I'm Barnaby Bennett, I only wear red!"
The trouble begins when he refuses to wear anything else, getting smellier and smellier as the days go by. His family all try and convince him that he should try another colour but he persists.
His Nanny has the answer though - and she is a very funky-looking woman herself with her purple hair and sequinned shoes. She creates the most glorious sunshiney yellow outfit complete with claws, a mechanical tail and built-in sherbert and marshmallow supplies! The temptation is of course entirely too much for Barnaby and he said with a whoop, said with a bellow, "And now I'll only, yes always, wear yellow!"
The language is delicious with mouthfuls like 'ginormous', 'conundrums' and 'epiphany', the slang 'jocks' and 'jarmies', and even entirely made-up words like the descriptive 'spluddy'. A pleasure both to read and to listen too with lots of potential for drama and expression in the read-aloud experience.
Ali Teo has again brought freshness and interest to the illustrations that both accompany and incorporate the text. Her work on Oh! Hogwash Sweetpea (which Hannah Rainforth did the translation work on) and the recent Joy Cowley Award-winner Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! also uses this popular collage style of illustration. Ali is certainly one of the first creating illustrations in this way in New Zealand, also familiar in creations by UK author Lauren Child and others, and now being seen in the new crop of books from round the world.
The hand-drawn characters leap around in their collage environment created from a multitude of materials from fabric, papers, photographs and more, encouraging close examination to see exactly how each spread has been put together, and also hopefully encouraging some creativity and a sense of discovery in the reader.
Well done to the team at Huia who have created a picture book that will appeal to the everyday Kiwi family, have us laughing and recognising ourselves and our environments, and just enjoying the pleasure of knowing Barnaby and his family.

05 December 2006

Billy is a beaut!

Billy - A Lolly Leopold Story
By Kate De Goldi
Illustrated by Jacqui Colley
Trapeze Publishing 2006

At last the next book in the Lolly Leopold series from Trapeze Publishing is here. Kate De Goldi and Jacqui Colley have succeeded in providing many more hours of reading pleasure with a great story about one of Lolly's classmates - Billy, who suffers from the inability to keep himself under control. The chaos this can cause peaks during the preparations for Pet and Produce Day but Ms Love, that heroine of the teaching profession, in calm and inventive in the face of his disruption and introduces him to The Quiet Club. The diversion technique, aided by Lolly's helpful suggestions to 'Think about what colour angry is. Or how it smells.' (like burnt biscuits!) expands Billy's horizons and wins him the prize in the end.

Jacqui Colley again excels with her collage creations, groovy cutout kids and peeks into Lolly's storybook with its sketches, quirky bits of info (areas of the brain, breeds of pig), and poetic insights. Kate's skill with language, juggling words with aplomb to create a sing-song text full of curious words that beg to be looked up and creating pictures as vivid as those in the illustrations.

As an adult with a long-ago history of Calf Club Days and pet lambs, not to mention the odd sand saucer and plate of pikelets, it was fabulous to see these activities as part of a contemporary school life

This book (and its predecessor Clubs - A Lolly Leopold Story) is great to share with children from five years and up, who will enjoy all the school details, but perhaps better appreciated by older children who will get just as much pleasure from reading the stories themselves and poring over the illustrations to discover every last detail (this will require many readings!). There is such a wealth of sophisticated picture books available that we must ensure the idea that picture books are only for the very young is firmly squashed.

Billy, like Ms Love, 'is a magnificent creature.' It deserves to be found under many Christmas trees this year - along with a collection of art and craft materials so children can create their own collage creations too.

Check out Lolly's website
www.lollyleopold.com. The reviews from Room 6 are a particular favourite of mine.

04 December 2006

"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child"

This quotation, from Mary Ellen Chase in 1952, is as true now as then. Books are one of the essential ingredients for growing an imaginative, communicative, interesting, interactive child.

New Zealand has a great crop of children's books published each year. I'd like to share with you some of the books I'm reading, the good, the bad, the interesting, the indifferent, the irresistible and educational. I welcome your opinions in return and look forward to discussing books for kids with you.

We all have different perspectives and opinions on what is entertaining, acceptable or enjoyable in a book. Some object to rudeness (much loved and laughed at by children but loathed by their adults), swearing (ignored by teens and frowned on by their parents), and computer-generated design (the appeal of Manga-style features passes many an adult by). But we need to look at books for kids from the children's point of view, get beyond our preconceived ideas about what we like ourselves and try to see from the child's perspective. That said, the opinions here will be mine - and those of anyone who cares to comment - and not meant to be the final word on the quality (or otherwise) of any book discussed.

I love books, all sorts - the serious, the funny, the sad, the quirky, picture books, novels, with or without words, poetry, information, comics - if it's on paper between covers I'll give it a go. It's an adventure for the adults who care to explore them, and for the kids the books were created for.