An Aussie Picture Book “Five Things I’ve Learned Review”: Australia To Z…

0

imageIf you’re getting bored with the ordinary old alphabet picture book format and you yearn for an alphabet book that really says something about its subject, allow me to direct you right to today’s offering – Armin Greder’s Australia to Z.  This is one of those books that, on the surface, looks like a perfectly ordinary picture book, but on closer inspection, has the potential to blow the discussion about Australian identity right out of the water.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Allen & Unwin for review – thanks!

Here’s the (sparse) blurb from Goodreads:

Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.

australia to z

And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From…

Australia To Z by Armin Greder

  1. While “Footballs, Meat pies and Kangaroos” still seem to go together underneath the southern stars, Holden cars are clearly on their way out (of the country and this book)

     2. No matter where we go or what opinion we ascribe to, we cannot escape the looming visage of Rupert.

     3. The meaning of the word stubby is always dependent on context.

     4.  Australia only has two culinary achievements worth mentioning and they begin with L and V respectively.

     5. Those of us who fear for the future of this once-great nation are not alone.

While many of the letter choices in this picture book for readers at upper Primary level and older are designed to initiate debate on current social trends, there are also plenty of images that are just plain hilarious.  My particular favourite is the “I” page, which every DIYer will find familiar, while the “X” page is just plain bizarre – what is that man doing to that Turkey??

The line art is evocative and this, combined with colour-blocked backgrounds and pops of colour on key objects, makes for a sparse and focused examination of each page.  The final double page spread, in which the words of the national anthem are combined with images of “the Australian way”, both mundane and adversarial, sums up the utter sense of discomfiture that many Australians experience regarding various social injustices that continue to plague us.  Greder has run a very fine balancing act here, providing just the right depth of genuflection at the altar of the jovial, jocular, larrikin sense of Australian identity to compensate for the stark and confronting presentation of issues of racism, misplaced national pride and social injustice that, like it or not, also make up the character of modern Australia.

In the interests of the nation, I would suggest passing this book around at your next backyard barbeque and watch the conversations heat up.

Subversion, thy name is Greder! (And the shelf-denizens salute you!)

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Shhh! It’s “The Secret” for Kids…and a Giveaway!

13

Welcome to a new release picture book review that has me scratching my head and awakening my inner cynic (who, incidentally, gets very little rest and is therefore usually quite cranky). Today I present to you the first book in “The Secret” franchise aimed at children – The Power of Henry’s Imagination by Skye Byrne and illustrated by Nic George (both Aussies!).

If you are unaware of the phenomenon of The Secret, you can find out more here, but I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you heard all about it a number of years ago when it was the big “thing” of the moment. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of The Power of Henry’s Imagination from Simon & Schuster Australia and I am going to give away this beautifully illustrated, hardback copy to one lucky winner. Read on to see how you can acquire it!

But before that, here’s the blurb of the book from Goodreads:

A boy learns the secret to locating his missing stuffed bunny in this picture book about the extraordinary power of imagination, from the team behind the phenomenally bestselling The Secret.

When Henry’s beloved stuffed rabbit, Raspberry, goes missing, he enlists his whole family to help him search for the missing toy. But Raspberry can’t be found. Then Henry’s grandfather suggests that Henry use his imagination to find his rabbit.

Will the power of Henry’s imagination bring Raspberry back? Or is Raspberry gone for good?

Depicting the love of a boy for his toy and the power of friendship, The Power of Henry’s Imagination is sure to become an instant classic.

thepowerofhenrysimagination-book

Well. I’m not entirely convinced about that last blurbish claim. But let’s start with the good bits. “Secret”-y business aside, this is a warm-hearted and comforting tale on the oft-used theme of “favourite toy lost” (such as in the actual classic books Dogger, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale). After Henry imagines he has Raspberry with him, and falls asleep cosseted in the assuagement that his imagining brings, the postman finds Raspberry the rabbit in the path and delivers him safely home….thus proving the incredible power of the imagination to act upon the fabric of reality apparently.

Although I suspect the postman would have found the bunny and returned it, regardless of whether or not Henry did any imagining. Especially given that the postman appears early on in the book, strategically placed opposite the line “Everyone could see how much Henry loved Raspberry”. So really, if the postman knew the bunny belonged to Henry, and also knew how much Henry loved Raspberry, we could only conclude that the postman must have a gnarled, dried-up, husk for a heart if he indeed found the bunny and in fact, chose NOT to return it to Henry…which really renders the imagining part immaterial…unless you subscribe to the principles of the Secret.

*The shelf wishes to apologise for the unleashing of Bruce’s inner cynic on an innocent children’s book and will endeavour to ensure that this does not happen again*

The illustrations are quite atmospheric and feature a combination of simple line drawings overlayed with photographic elements. These do add significantly to the concept of imagination – I quite enjoyed a page featuring clothes pegs posing as snapping crocodiles – and the interplay between the photographic images and the drawings is satisfyingly subtle and effective. The earthy colour palette complements the gentle pace of the tale and the overall impression is of a carefully thought-out production. I should also mention that the book has a website attached that includes a number of interesting resources including an author and illustrator Q&A and an interesting “Making Of” video showing some of the illustration process.

As it stands, The Power of Henry’s Imagination is a quality-looking work and will no doubt achieve the effects of comfort and reassurance that go hand-in-hand with a “lost toy, found” story, for many of its young readers.

But…that’s all it is. I really don’t think that this book is going to revolutionise the thinking of any small children and have to concede that the adding of the Secret logo to the book cover is just a slick way of sucking in adults who have jumped on the Secret bandwagon. And compared to lots of other quality picture books out there, this one is pretty standard fare – indeed, one wonders whether it would have been picked up for publication at all if not for the Secret tag.

*The shelf wishes to apologise for the continued use of Bruce’s inner cynic despite earlier assurances. We will endeavour to ensure that this does not happen again. Really, this time we mean it.*

So there you have it – my thoughts on what has, at least in my own head, inspired vigorous debate. Now I’m going to do my part in the Secret wishful-thinking cycle and ensure that this book is delivered to the person who the universe intends to have it.

Here’s where the giveaway comes in!

If you’d like to take possession of my lovely, hardback copy of The Power of Henry’s Imagination by Skye Byrne and Nic George (with thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing the book), all you have to do is comment below with the words, “I really, really want it!”. That’s it. At the end of the giveaway, a random number generator will select a winner and I will contact that winner by email.

The giveaway will run from the moment this post goes live (October 6, 2015) until midnight on October 13, 2015, Brisbane time, and will be open internationally, because presumably, whoever wins is intended to win by the universe and the universe will therefore provide me with the correct funds for postage without leaving me out of pocket.  Similarly, the Shelf will not be held responsible if your prize is lost or damaged in the mail…if either of these unlikely events occur, you can blame the universe.

*Seriously. That’s the very last time. Sorry. We’re really sorry.*

I’d love to hear what you think about a Secret book aimed at kids, so feel free to let me know in the comments also!

And in case you were thinking my inner cynic reminded you of someone, I did invite Shouty Doris to collaborate with me on this review, but she kept pretending to be deaf, deliberately mishearing the word “secret” as “meatless”, and accusing me of forgetting to include ham in her quiche.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Tomes from the Olden Times: Grandad’s Gifts…

3

image Welcome, young and old to Tomes of the Olden Times, the feature in which I discuss books that I particularly remember from times long past.  Today’s gem is an exquisite short story/long picture book from that genius of Australian short-storytelling for children, Mr Paul Jennings.  If you have never read anything by Paul Jennings, you are doing yourself a grave disservice.  Go and correct this at once. No, actually, wait until you’ve read this post, THEN go and correct this in a timely fashion. Today I wish to discuss Grandad’s Gifts, written by Jennings, hauntingly illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe and first published in picture book form in 1990.  That’s 25 years ago folks. Yep, it makes me feel old too. The book tells the short but spook-laden tale of Shane, a young lad who moves with his family to live in the house of his late grandfather.  While there, Shane opens a forbidden cupboard, uncovers a long-hidden secret and sets about righting a wrong in his family history.  Here’s the (rather spoiler-filled) blurb from Goodreads: This is a chilling picture book with a twist in the tail, as Paul slowly brings a fox back to life by feeding its fur with lemons from the tree above its grave. But it’s the lemons above Paul’s grandfather’s grave that give the fox its final gift, sight… grandads gifts When Grandad’s Gifts suddenly popped back into my consciousness many moons after first encountering it, I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about it for so long.  I immediately tried to hunt it down but had a great deal of trouble finding it in print.  Then, one glorious day, as I was rifling through some second-hand library books I spotted it.  Not the cover that I remembered, but still, that title and that author and I knew I had found it.  And pretty darn pleased about my little score I was too. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what makes this story so mystical and memory-worthy, but I can assure you that it is one of those special books that you really should endeavour to get your hands on.  Trust me on this. When first I was introduced to this story, in a classroom setting, I remember being stunned by the …well, stunning…illustrations.  So realistic, so engaging, so erring on the side of the magical in the realm of magical realism.  Here’s one:  image And here’s another: imageAnd one more, for luck:

image

Boo! That one got you in, didn’t it?!

I think the realism of the artwork really gave this story its spook-factor.  There is something haunting about these pictures that embeds itself in the memory and brings the story right off the pages.  They are the perfect accompaniment to Jennings’ particular brand of quirky strangeness.  Any young Australian worth their salt (and any Australian teacher worth theirs) would be familiar with the hilarious and weird short stories of Paul Jennings.  Some of these, notably his Round the Twist stories,  were later turned into a television series, whose theme song will no doubt still be stuck in the heads of some.  *Mentally sings: Have you ever…ever felt like this? When strange things happen, are you goin’ round the twist?*

Apart from being deliciously creepy though, the book is also remarkably touching, as we get carried along with Shane’s mission to free his furry, cupboard-strewn friend.  This is one of those stories that proves the power of story-telling – it’s one I did actually forget about for a period of time, but once I remembered it, the experience of first hearing it came back in vivid detail from the depths of decades past.

I would highly, highly recommend hunting this book down if you can and reading it with any kids in your vicinity aged around seven or older.

Until next time,

Bruce  

Fairy Tale Makeovers: A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack…

6

image

My fairy tale makeovers review series has been lagging a bit of late, so I am happy to present you with a fun little makeover of Jack and the Beanstalk for the early years crowd.  I gratefully received a copy A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack by William Joyce and the alliteratively named Kenny Callicut, from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, and was immediately drawn to the gorgeous colours and sweeping vistas of the illustrations.  There’s also an extremely underwhelmed Brahman bull that pops up here and there that had us all giggling from the get-go, so watch out for him!

a bean a stalk and a boy named jack

When drought hits the land, all the King’s subjects must line up to do their bit – their bit specifically being producing tears in order to provide water to wash the King’s stinky pinky toe.  After some slight interference from the King’s daughter and the Royal Wizard, a smallish boy and a smallish bean join forces to solve the problem of the stinky pinky, and return equilibrium to the kingdom.  When Jack (the smallish boy) plants Bean (the smallish bean), an oversized stalk erupts and delivers the unlikely pair to the crux of the problem – a (smallish) giant kid having a giant bath!  With a bit of friendly conversation and due consideration, the water problem is rectified and the King’s pinky becomes unstinky.  Cue bathing! Cue rejoicing! Cue…another fairy tale?!

**For some odd reason – it could be something to do with the writing – but I imagined this whole tale beginning to end read in a Brooklyn-ish accent.  It seemed to fit perfectly and really added to the experience for me, but you know, it’s just a suggestion. **

At 58 pages, A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack, is a slightly longer than average picture book, but the engaging and colourful illustrations, many of them covering double page spreads, just suck you straight into the adventure.  The tale is narrated in a fun, laid-back tone, and while there’s no rhyme, there are plenty of repeated phrases for the young’uns to join in with.  The text is laid out in a combination of clear black type and colourful speech bubbles and this mixes things up and provides a bit of interest.

Jack is immediately likeable and Bean is possibly the cutest vegetable ever to grace the page and the remaining members of the  ensemble cast just seem to want to solve the stinky pinky problem and return the status quo.  There’s not a lot of wild adventure here – more of a meeting of like minds – but it’s definitely worth a look simply to appreciate the eye-catching art and gentle humour gracing the pages.  I especially liked the cheeky twist at the end of the tale which leads into another fairy tale (Jack, of course, being a common name in fairy tale circles), but I won’t spoil it for you.

If you are looking for a fun, relaxed twist on the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum that exchanges bone-grinding for hygienic bathing practices and water conservation, then this is the fairy tale makeover for you!  I must admit, paging through it again has sucked me straight back into the beautiful illustrations, so I’m going to sign off now and spend a few more moments giving my eyeballs a visual treat.  Don’t mind me.

*clears throat in preparation for Brooklynish accent*

A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack was released on October 1st.

Until next time,

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

A Cheeky Read-it-if Review: I Need a New Butt…

5

imageBoy have I got something for you today.  Now, admittedly, I am usually not the greatest fan of books that have anything to do with bums, backsides, pooh, farts or anything related to our sitting muscles, but after reading the blurb of today’s offering (and finding out that the author and illustrator are from New Zealand – hooray!) I decided to take a chance.

Today’s offering is titled I Need A New Butt by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird and after satisfying myself that it was not some kind of new-fangled exercise program aimed at fleshlings possessing large posteriors, but rather a picture book for the mini-fleshlings, I decided to give it a crack. (Pun intended).

What do you do when you notice your bum has a big crack in it? Start looking for a new one, of course!  The protagonist of this story is a young lad who needs a new bum to replace the (obviously broken) one that he currently owns.  His imaginative quest recounted in rhyme takes him through a whole series of wildly spectacular but not entirely practical candidates, until he realises that this cracked-butt business may in fact be occurring at epidemic proportions – his Dad’s butt has a crack too!

i need a new butt

Read it if:

* you have a boy (or manchild) in your house suffering from a crack in the bum area

*you enjoy books about embarrassing body parts

*you can see how a robotic butt fitted with extra hands could be both stylish and practical

*you would do anything to reshape the bottom you currently own (including selling your pet dog)

Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed this book.  The rhyme was spot-on, the illustrations are hilarious and the story had a nice narrative flow.  Normally, as I said, I’m not the greatest fan of bum books because the story can veer off into that particular category of ickiness that should only really be enjoyed by eight-year-old boys, but I Need a New Butt is both non-icky and quite inventive.  For instance, the main character tries out a range of new bottoms, and carefully considers their pros and cons before refining his choice.  For exapmle, after realising that a bum made out of a chrome car bumper would be nice to look at and useful (for the headlights), it would probably be too heavy to carry around every day.

This book is going to be a hit with kids in the picture book age range, and, it must be said, with the dads of the kids in the picture book age range who get to read it aloud.  Overall, I think it’s a fun, cheeky option for those who like this kind of content.

And, to add my two cents worth, if I had the option of a new butt, I would definitely want one that does this:

butt_cannon_1761
Until next time,

Bruce

* I received a digital copy of this title from the publishers via Netgalley *

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Surprised by Joy (and a feathered fowl): The Duck and The Darklings…

7

Welcome literary wayfarers! I have something special for you today.  Once every so often, a picture book comes along that is as visually appealing as it is moving, as lyrical in prose as it is engaging in content.  The Duck and the Darklings is just such a book.  The book is the product of another successful and inspiring collaboration between Glenda Millard (who I have mentioned on the blog before, here) and Stephen Michael King, and as soon as I heard about it, I put it on my “must buy that soon” radar.  Thanks to the delightful cake-eating competition-purveyors at Allen & Unwin however, I was lucky enough to win a copy, sparking my admiration for the book and the post that you are now skimming reading with great care and attention.

the duck and the darklings

Peterboy and his grandfather live among the Darklings in a hole in the ground in the land of Dark, below the ruined world above.  Peterboy longs to bring some light to his grandfather’s life and in his search he finds Idaduck.  He brings the broken duck to his grandfather and together they set about healing the creature.  When Idaduck is ready to leave them, the Darklings shine the lights from their candle-hats to show her the way and in doing so, discover that Idaduck has brought them something they needed more than anything – hope in the power of healing.

The themes in this book are familiar to fans of Millard’s work – hope, caring for others and finding joy in tiny, ordinary moments – but she has certainly outdone herself this time in creating a story dependent on so much fantasy world-building in such a small package.  This book feels like an epic fantasy condensed onto a post-it note, with peaks and lulls, hope, sadness and inevitability perfectly paced across 32 pages.  The prose is exquisitely lyrical, with a natural rhythm that provides the dreamlike quality underpinning the story.  King’s illustrations provide the visual realisation of Millard’s words and his familiar style perfectly conveys the gloominess of the Darklings’ underground home and the curiousity and hopefulness of Peterboy.  Rather than saying too much more about it, I’ll give you some examples:

image

  image      image

He has also inspired Mad Martha to start crocheting a hat like Peterboy’s.  Maybe without the candle though, despite it’s undisputed usefulness.

If you can get your paws, claws or hands on a copy of this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  For my money, I think it’s one of those rare treasures that will do more for the adults reading it than the mini-fleshlings – but I’m sure they’ll love it just as much.

Until next time,

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets: Book Blasty Tour and GIVEAWAY

17

Good afternoon all! I am very excited to be participating in a Book Blasty Tour for Stanley and Katrina – animal authors extraordinary!  Stanley and Katrina are celebrating their one-year blogoversary, and as part of the celebration, I will be posting a review as part of the tour on the 21st of November.  But I’m not the only one – see below for a list of tour dates.  Also, from the CAPS LOCK in the title of this post, you might have gathered that you have the opportunity to WIN STUFF! $25 worth of Amazon gift card or Paypal cash to be precise – so if you’re feeling lucky, click on the link towards the end of this post and enter the giveaway. You’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say…

And don’t forget to pop by again on the. 21st to find out more about this ripper little story!

 

Celebrating 

Stanley and Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge are celebrating their one year blogiversary (click here to read their inaugural post) by hosting their very own “Book Blasty Tour”. There are plenty of stops along the tour, so plenty of opportunity for you to celebrate along with Stanley and Katrina (vCtMoW)!


About the Book

Title: The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets

Authors: Stanley & Katrina, Pet Authors

Illustrator: Miro Chun

Year published:  2012

Updates: This book was updated in September of 2013 with a new cover, interior illustrations, and a sneak peek of book #2 in the series.

Publisher: CreateSpace

Number of pages: 106

Recommended ages: 5+ 

Summary (Amazon): After three years of living under the same roof as the dog in the house, Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge decides to write a letter to her canine housemate, Stanley. Katrina loves treats, naps and bossing the dog around. Stanley loves snow, attention and turkey. The diva kitty, Katrina, will have none of Stanley’s antics and most certainly will not stand for him eating her food. The only reasonable solution is to take him to Kitty Court.

Amazon U.S. * Amazon U.K. * Amazon Canada 

 Barnes & Noble *  Leanpub(digital formats) 


The Buzz

“The book is really humorous. It is unique in a manner where you see the cat and dog communicating with each other about themselves, their likes, and dislikes in a letter form. The narrator’s tidbits add to the charm of the book. The contrasting characters and their individual personalities have been etched well. The author has put the perspective of the pets in the forefront and written a unique and excellent book for children.” ~ Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite We enjoyed this book tremendously! It charmed us, made us laugh, and kept us wanting to read more. A tip of the hat to the pair of pets whose rivalry leads the story along its delightful course.~ Amazon Reviewer


About the Authors: Stanley & Katrina

Stanley is a three-year-old black Labrador/Rottweiler mix who does his best to ignore Katrina.
Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge is an eight-year-old grey tabby cat who loves her toy mouse.
They would love to tell you where they live but all they know is that they live in a tan house. For more information about Stanley & Katrina, please visit their website, www.StanleyAndKatrina.com.

* Free Printables For This Book! *

Kid Lit Printables has created fun and FREE printables for The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets. Click here to view all available printables, now. 


Stanley & Katrina’s 

Book Blasty Tour Stops(2013)

November 8


* $25 Book Blasty Tour Giveaway *

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest runs:November 8  to November 30, 11:59 pm, 2013 
Open: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter by clicking here.
Terms and Conditions: A randomly drawn winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or any other entity unless otherwise specified. If you have any additional questions, feel free to send us an email at stanleyandkatrina (at) gmail (dot) com.
* This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Stanley & Katrina. *
So what are you waiting for? Hop to it, and don’t forget to stop by on the 21st for our leg of the tour – the shelf denizens can’t wait to share their impressions of this book with you.
Until next time,
Bruce

Follow on Bloglovin

my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)