This post should probably be a Reading Round-Up, but the two titles that I have for you today are worthy of a slightly more specific examination. We received both from Allen & Unwin for review and there are some absolute delights here that drew the mini-fleshlings in and had them fully engaged in the reading experience.
Allow me to introduce to you Neon Leon, a chameleon with a slight camouflage-skills issue and a TOP BOOK OF 2017 PICK recipient from we Shelf Dwellers!
Created by Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup, this delightful book is chock-full of subtle interactive prompts and colour bursts that will knock your socks off. The picture above doesn’t really do the cover justice, because Neon Leon is most definitely an eye-burstingly bright pinky orange neon colour in the flesh, so to speak. From the endpapers, that are so bright fluro they will make your ears bleed, to the hilarious incongruity of Leon sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb in various environments, this is a book that begs to be viewed again and again.
I got a bizarre shiver of delight looking at each new habitat and appreciating how the illustrator has juxtaposed the stark stand-outedness of Leon with the skillful camouflage of his friends against beautifully textured backgrounds of leaves, rocks, sand and moonlight. Aside from all the other interactive elements of the story (which I’ll get to in a minute), it would be great fun for mini-fleshlings to see if they can find all the non-Leon chameleons hiding in each page spread.
Now, about that interactivity! This story isn’t your typical picture book story. It is narrated in a style that truly involves the reader by asking questions and inviting readers to join in by guessing where the chameleons might be going or what they might be feeling. There are also prompts for readers to say or do particular things at certain points in the story. The youngest mini-fleshling in the dwelling, at three years old, absolutely LOVED whispering to Leon, “Don’t worry Leon, everything’s going to be okay” when instructed during a slightly sad point of the story and subsequently clapping and smiling with Leon as he finally finds what he is looking for. As well as being a fun read aloud between parents and mini-fleshlings, the interactivity of the reading experience makes this one a perfect choice for library or classroom storytime.
The final few pages will blow you away with the scale of the brightness in the illustrations and it’s almost impossible not to feel uplifted with such a whimsically charming ending coupled with the glorious colours. We on the Shelf highly recommend Neon Leon as one of those rare and special picture book experiences. In our opinion, it’s unmissable!
Another interactive book that has definitely piqued our interest is Town and Country: A Turnaround Book) illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood. This innovative title is designed to be read both right side up and upside down, allowing youngsters to compare and contrast two different environments – in this case, the urban, town environment and the country.
The cover of this one basically sums up what you can expect from this book. Look at the book one way, then flip it upside down and hey presto – a new scene emerges! The book is designed a bit like a search-and-find tome, with each spread featuring a box with a selection of “town” or “country” things to find in each respective illustration. In a clever twist, some things can be found in both the town and the country scenes, prompting discussion on how these particular things might be used (or, in the case of animals, be behaving) differently in each environment. For instance, a rabbit in a country setting might be spotted frolicking in the woodlands, whereas the same rabbit in an urban setting might be seen inside a hutch.
The double spreads each have a different focus – occupations, trees and flowers, food, machinery and so on – so by the end of the book, readers will have absorbed a significant amount of non-verbal information about the two different environments. The illustrations are absolutely adorable and there is plenty of humour to be found hidden in each image.
Initially, I began using the book as intended with the two mini-fleshlings, trying to find each specific image and discussing what was different about the two settings, but the elder mini-fleshling (six years old) quickly lost interest in that and we instead had a whale of a time poring over each image with the mini-fleshlings trying to find “themselves” in each picture. Exchanges such as the following:
“You’re the busdriver!”
“No I’m not!”
“You’re abseiling from the helicopter”
“No I’m not!”
“YOU’RE THE ELEPHANT DOING A POO IN THE ZOO!”
“No, I’m NOT!”
“Yes you are!”
– pretty much sums up the engaging experience the mini-fleshlings had while poring over the illustrations in Town and Country. We are all for picture books with innovative and interactive formats here on the Shelf and would definitely recommend this one to classroom teachers, librarians and anyone who has a need for picture books that combine information with fun.
Until next time,