Double-Dip Review Week #2: Picture Books for the Curious and Subversive…

imageI’m assuming everyone has slept off Wednesday’s double serving of awesome middle grade fiction (and giveaway!) and you’re ready for the second course in this week-long bookish buffet.  Today we are focusing on picture books and the two I have for you today are sure to excite if you are the question-asking, rule-bending, interactive-book-loving type.

Let us begin! First up, I have an eye-popping beauty of a book from AUSSIE author and illustrator Kyle Hughes-Odgers.  Can A Skeleton Have an X-Ray? was provided to us for review from Fremantle Press.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

What spins the Earth? Do colors smell? Why is water wet? Where do dreams go? Renowned artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers brings his own unique vision to these and many other questions, from the practical to the philosophical.

Dip into it for…

skeleton xray…a head-scratching, smile-inducing jaunt through a jungle of curious questions, accompanied by stunning, quirky illustrations that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery (which makes sense, given that the author is also an accomplished visual artist).  I barely got past the cover before I got sucked into trying to answer some of the unexpected questions in the book. (Can a skeleton have an x-ray? Yes, I suspect, but it would probably be a fruitless exercise…maybe…unless you’re doing some kind of forensic testing…what? Oh, there’s more past the cover! *turns page eagerly*).  Some of the questions are quite funny – what do ghosts do all day, for instance – whereas some really did have me realising how little I know about how important things work…like “who gives the internet its powers?”  Seems like a pretty important question if you ask me!

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for a book with easy answers!  Each page in the book presents a new question, accompanied by an illustration that will prompt the imaginations of kids and adults alike.  If you’re looking for serious answers to these questions, I suggest you consult the non-fiction section.

Overall Dip Factor

I can see this being the perfect tool to generate discussion in the classroom right before a creative, problem-solving or investigative assignment is unleashed.  I loathe to use the word “whimsical” because I feel it is so overused as to be cliched, but there is a definite sense of whimsy in some of the illustrations, coupled with something more akin to the complexity found in Shaun Tan’s works – it’s that atmosphere generated by the effective coupling of simple text with illustrations that beg to be explored beyond a first glance.  My favourite illustration is from the “who builds the wings for birds to fly?” page:

birdhouse manIn fact, I liked it so much I was tempted to carefully remove it from the book and stick it in a frame on the wall…but luckily I don’t have to do that, because I’ve just learned that Kyle Hughes-Odgers is releasing a colouring book in December featuring some of the images from Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? !  It’s called Off the Wall and you can check it out at Fremantle Press.

Now, on to the subversive!  Our second offering is Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe, provided for review by Simon & Schuster Australia, and the sequel to the highly acclaimed Warning! Do Not Open This Book! from 2013.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Books are made to be opened. Especially this one. But, guess what…

Someone closed this book! Who would do that?

Luckily, you can fix this. All you need to do is open it. You can do that. Can’t you?

We need your help!

Please, Open This Book!

They warned you, but you just couldn’t listen–now, the creators of Warning: Do Not Open This Book! are back with their zany monkey crew, and they need your help!

In Warning, Do Not Open This Book!, which School Library Journal called “more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” turning pages meant increased chaos and delight. Now the tables have turned, and opening the book is the only way to save the desperate group of monkeys trapped between its pages. This irresistibly entertaining rescue effort puts power in the hands of the page-turner, and giggles into everyone!

Dip into it for… please open this book

…zany monkey shenanigans and a book that gives you the freedom to use your book-closing powers for good OR evil! The cheeky, distressed faces of the monkeys are a highlight of this one, as they exhort, beg and reason with the reader first to open the book and then subsequently,to stop turning the pages.  Similarly, the consequences given when pages keep being turned will generate a giggle – although I had to agree with the characters about the banana; I was as sad as they were to see a superfruit being treated in such an alarmingly cavalier manner.  It’s all about the interaction with this one and I suspect young readers will love arguing with the characters here before resolutely turning the page (which will bring only doom, as the monkey doomsayers predict!).

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not a fan of monkeys.  I’m mildly distressed by monkeys generally and there are a number of species here with their bulging eyes and awkward limbs and lice (presumably).  In all honestly though, there’s not much to dislike here..except the fact that parents will no doubt be asked to read it ad nauseam at bedtimes, rest times and all other times.

Having said that, it does pay to be careful if you’re inexperienced at this sort of book-reading.  Even the best of us can get caught out with such dangerous content, as Mad Martha and I discovered:

trapped

Thankfully the family dog passed by not soon after and knocked the book to the ground with her waggy tail, inadvertently setting us free.  Not sure what we would have done otherwise, except maybe take up a “Help” sign and douse ourselves with lice-killing shampoo.

Overall Dip Factor

Please, Open This Book! is going to be an instant hit, I suspect, as much for the interactive nature of the story as for the cheeky, giggle-inducing antics of the characters.  The black pages and brightly coloured monkeys will catch the eye immediately and there’s a fun little twist on the last page and beyond that will delight mini-fleshlings, especially if they’re tackling this one on their own.  If you enjoyed such similarly interactive books as Viviane Schwarz’s There Are Cats in This Book and its sequels, or the adventures of Mo Willem’s Pigeon, then you’ll find much fun to be had when you open Please, Open This Book! after heeding the mute, banner-laden exhortations from the monkeys on the cover.

Well, that’s our second helping done and dusted!  Stay tuned on Monday for some easy-to-digest short story collections for fleshlings both mini and grown.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

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