Day 72 (Week 11, Day 2) - Monday 13th March 2017
I don't particularly aim for a theme when I pick the books to read each day. It just so happens that today has turned out three books that are all illustrated by the author, giving them complete control over how the visuals tie in to the text. There are countless picture books out there where separate author and illustrator teams create incredible stories, and as an author-only myself I live in hope that one day I'll have excellent working relationships with illustrators who can bring my stories to life.
I do always think, however, that a picture book has the best chance of succeeding if the illustrator happens to have written it, so they can bring about the exact interpretation that they intended onto paper! Though that isn't to say that it isn't all the more impressive when a separate illustrator creates a phenomenal interpretation of an authors work. It reminds me heavily of the role of a scriptwriter for film and television; it's rare that the scriptwriter will end up directing or producing the film or TV show they've written for (though there are obvious notable exceptions, such as Joss Whedon for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly etc., or Russell T Davies/Stephen Moffatt for Doctor Who), so they're relying on someone else creating the end vision of the product.
Anyway, whether a picture book comes courtesy of an author/illustrator team or a single author/illustrator, it's wonderful to see into the mind of some of literature's most creative talents.
Speaking of creative talents, on with the reviews...
I really do have a warm feeling inside after reading this! What a lovely way to talk about adoption and how the important thing is who you see as being your parents, not whether you came from them. I love when an author tells a story in such a gentle way, ,so that children reading it will see the outcome as perfectly acceptable and reasonable (as it should be).
If you've read any of Debi Gliori's other books, you'll know how beautiful her illustrations are, and how well she conveys a feeling of loving warmth through them. You have no doubt whatsoever in this story, for instance, that there's pure love between little penguin Bib, his mum, and his dragon grandma.
There's a surprising amount of peril in places, but it just helps to highlight how love will make parents anything for their kids, which is particularly important when it's in cases of adoption, as is the case for both Bib and his mum, and his mum and dragon grandma.
An excellent story to bring about important discussion points, and so heartwarming it'll make the whole family smile.
Chris says: I love how well this story shows that even if somethings are different than usual (like a child's mother not being the one who gave birth to them) it's still absolutely fine because all that matters is the love between the family. It brings the subject up gently and allows them to ask questions, and shows the power of a story to explain some of the most important lessons in life to our young ones.
Josh says: I liked that the mummy was the egg all along, and when the granny dragon read the story
Xander says: I liked the flapping wings.
Now, it might be March and therefore unlikely that we'll see any snow (though far from impossible!), but we loved Sam Usher's Rain so much that we had to seek out Snow immediately. It's similar to Rain, but with snow instead (duh), and just as charming. The little boy from Rain (though Snow comes before it) is once again desperate to go and play outside as he sees the weather from his grandad's house, but has to wait until the old man is ready. It's another great lesson in patience, though I did feel sorry for the boy as he watches people outside start to make their way through the snow and threaten to melt it all!
Eventually though they make it outside, and then they get to join in the fun with his friends and all the animals from the zoo, which grandad had earlier joked about being out enjoying the snow too. It's hugely imaginative fun once for, and the illustrations are as beautiful as the idea of playing in the snow causing your imagination to run wild with excitement.
We're looking forward to finding out the weather in the third book of the series!
Chris says: Who doesn't love playing in the snow? I can't stand getting wet so I'd definitely be more up for this than going out as they did in Rain!
Josh says: I loved seeing the monkey and penguins.
Xander says: Snow!
I don't feel that Mo Willems necessarily gets the level of adoration that he deserves, considering he's the author of the incredible Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series, the Elephant & Piggie series, and other classics including Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, which is my second favourite picture book of all time. If you talk to any children's librarians then they'll sing his praises til the cows come home, but I don't see his name in many annual Best Of lists, which is an absolute travesty. That is NOT a Good Idea!, for example, has an absolutely perfect twist for children that is highly unlikely to be rumbled before it's read. It's made all the better for the fact that the little ducks (which keep appearing and warning that it is NOT a good idea for the duck to go with the fox) join in on the act of eating said fox, when it's revealed at the end that the warnings were really for him and not the duck as we were led to believe (the twisty-turny real villain of the piece).
I LOVE this twist because it's built up so well by Willems, bringing us closer and closer to the inevitable conclusion of someone being eaten, coupled with the aforementioned warnings by the ducks. More than that though, the twist is genuinely clever because at no point are you actually misdirected; YOU presume that the fox is going to do the eating, and YOU presume that the ducks are warning the other duck, but there's not actually anything there that explicitly states this. Most adult books with a twist don't manage this feat; nearly all of them throw a twist at you and then make up a reason you couldn't possibly have known to justify it (not a bad storytelling device by any means, and I've enjoyed story after story that employs this), but I can only think of one thriller from the last five years or so (Tina Seskis' One Step Too Far) where it was the reader who made assumptions without the author actually explicitly stating something was true.
The kids just found it really funny that the fox got eaten, but it's so much more than that to me because it proves once more that a picture book can be so much more intelligent than an adult book, and that's an incredible thing to be giving our children!
Chris says: I just can't help laughing at the thought of those little ducks joining in and eating the wolf soup! It really isn't a fantastic twist because it allows you to assume one thing before revealing the truth, without ever having made you believe what you did. If I could write a twist that clever then I'd be a very happy man!
Josh says: I liked the wolf ending up in the soup, and that the ducks ate him
Xander says: Quack quack!
So, to summarise Day 72...
An evening of stories that are beautiful in different ways: Dragon Loves Penguin is beautiful for it's story of adoption, Snow is beautiful for it's depiction of the joy of playing in snow (as well as the anticipation beforehand), and That is NOT a Good Idea! has such a beautifully orchestrated twist that it deserves to end up on lists of 'Best Twists' alongside adult books.
There's so much that a picture book can do in only 32 pages!