Simie Simpson reviews four books: Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock; Granny McFlitter, The Champion Knitter, by Heather Haylock and Lael Chisholm; I am Jellyfish, by Ruth Paul and The Gift Horse, by Sophie Siers and Katharine White.
Dig, Dump, Roll, by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock (Walker Books Aus)
I was a little beside myself with joy when I discovered there was a new book by the dream team picture book creators of Roadworks, Demolition and Construction.
Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock is another delicious book featuring diggers, bulldozers, concrete mixers and rollers. Any parent who has a machine mad kid will know how important interesting books on diggers are for their own sanity and to help feed their kid’s addiction. I know this after taking my friend’s crazy-for-diggers child to the zoo one day. If you have been to the Auckland Zoo you might recall how there is a lot to walk around and some amazing animals to see – I wouldn’t know about the latter because we spent the ENTIRE time checking out a digger.
And while I would never dream of opening a book from the back, I will just note that the back pages have pictures of the machines and information about their parts. This is a total yawn for me, but I know the kids who are the target audience for this book will need to spend at least 10 minutes on this page pointing out the headlights, drum, roller, bucket etc until that information is seared into their brains, only to be forgotten when diggers are replaced by dinosaurs, and so on!
However, back to digger fatigue; if you are a parent, or relative of a child with digger-addiction you will know how extremely dull many books about diggers can be, but Sally Sutton’s text is so fresh and bouncy you won’t mind reading and rereading this. Trust me, you will be reading this again and again.
… Sally Sutton’s text is so fresh and bouncy you won’t mind reading and rereading this. Trust me, you will be reading this again and again.
‘Bang-a-shudder, clang-a-judder What’s at work? Here’s a clue: it will dig big holes for you.’ The repetitive, rhyming text is evocative and child-friendly; they will be reading along with you and guessing what comes next in no time. And for those of you who can’t stand the suspense, the answer is on the next page ‘Digger! Digger! Coming though!’ Sally knows diggers need exclamation points. They are that exciting.
Brian Lovelock’s illustrations are the perfect complement – they are sophisticated yet appealing to children at the same time. The workers are a little reminiscent of LEGO people, and as with the previous three books in the series, women dump truck drivers and construction workers also feature here too, which is a small but important thing. In Construction a library was built. What’s being built in Dig, Dump, Roll? You will have to read it to find out, but here’s a hint: teachers are going to LOVE this book.
dig, dump, roll
By Sally Sutton
Illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Walker Books Aus
Granny McFlitter: The Champion Knitter, by Heather Haylock and Lael Chilsholm (Penguin Random House)
It’s hard to read another book with rhyming text after a book by Sally Sutton but Granny McFlitter: The Champion Knitter by Heather Haylock and Lael Chisholm definitely didn’t disappoint. It is delightful and vibrant.
Granny is, like a digger-loving child, obsessive. She loves to knit – to the point where her family just don’t need any more knitted knickers and scratchy stockings or lumpy wool slippers. (They probably live in Auckland – if they lived in Dunedin they might be more grateful). Granny isn’t put off by her ungrateful whanau and she keeps right on knitting – like it or not!
Granny comes into her own when an oil spill causes problems for the penguins – cue one of my favourite illustrations of the book, with the sea coming out of Granny’s mug of tea and the Rena riding an oily wave. ‘We’re washing the penguins, a vet said on screen. But they go all shivery after they’re clean’.
Granny comes into her own when an oil spill causes problems for the penguins – cue one of my favourite illustrations of the book, with the sea coming out of Granny’s mug of tea and the Rena riding an oily wave.
Luckily, Granny McFlitter has a woolly solution and she doesn’t stop at knitting jumpers for shivery Penguins. She takes her philanthropic crafting to the zoo to make ‘long scarves for giraffes with sore throats and the snuffles and hats for the wombats with whiffulous whuffles’.
The illustrations are as vibrant and whimsical as the text of Granny McFlitter and that is a hard call for a book that has ‘whiffulous whuffles’ and a crafting eco-warrior Granny. ‘Like it or not’ – this is a book that kids will love.
granny mcflitter the champion knitter
By Heather Haylock and Lael Chisholm
Penguin Random House NZ
I am Jellyfish, by Ruth Paul
I am Jellyfish is a gentle tale about a slightly hippie Jellyfish; no one knows what Jellyfish does all day, she seems pretty content; ‘Jellyfish thought, Jellyfish thrummed. “I drift and I dream,” she quietly hummed.’ Jellyfish is extremely chillaxed until an annoying swordfish comes along and asks her ‘what is your point? Why are you here?’ A rude question that doesn’t faze Jellyfish – ‘Jellyfish shrugged, Jellyfish sighed. “I go with the flow,” she softly replied.’
Jellyfish is clearly the Queen of Cool and maybe this is why the uptight Swordfish decides to spear her with his snout. He pursues her into the depths, however, we all know there is always a bigger fish in the sea and when he dives a fathom too far he is soon grabbed by a giant deep-sea squid who doesn’t like the smart Alec swordfish either. But Jellyfish, the buddha of the ocean, has suddenly gained enlightenment: ‘Jellyfish bloomed and quietly crooned: “I am what I am, I know what I know, the darker the depths, the brighter I glow.”’ This is when Jellyfish really comes into her own, she rescues that darn Swordfish and goes back to being more zen than we could ever hope to be.
… Jellyfish really comes into her own, she rescues that darn Swordfish and goes back to being more zen than we could ever hope to be.
This is such a fun read-aloud – I had to reread the squid squealing AIEEEEEE! after getting zapped on his butt and we all know how much kids would love that part. (Butt, titter titter, giggle.) It has a perfect story arc; from gentle to an edge of your seat rescue back to nice gentle ending. The language is humorous and evocative and a delight to read, while the illustrations are the perfect blend of friendly, bright and cute without being saccharine. Did I mention they glow in the dark?
i am jellyfish
By Ruth Paul
Published by Penguin Random House NZ
The Gift Horse, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Katharine White (Millwood Press)
The Gift Horse by Sophie Siers and Katharine White has a completely different tone to the first three books. It has a slightly old-fashioned, rural feel and it is a book for older readers about grief and overcoming loss.
Olivia is struggling after her mum’s death; she wants to sleep all the time and she feels disconnected from her friends. Sophie Siers perfectly describes the physical feeling of grief: ‘She feels like there’s a balloon in her chest which is blown up so tight that there’s no room for anything else. It squishes right up into her throat; sometimes she feels like she can’t breathe.’ Olivia is given a stressed and difficult horse and it is through helping Amigo, her horse, that she finally is able to confront her feelings.
There is definitely the need for a wee tissue or two in the middle of this story when the loss, anger and despair that Olivia is feeling finally comes to the surface. However, as I was reading this I couldn’t help thinking about how fantastic it is to have a book about grief and losing a parent that is set in rural New Zealand. Children deal with all types of loss and this book will resonate with many.
The Gift Horse
By Sophie Siers
Illustrated by Katharine White
Published by Millwood Press
Simie Simpson (Te Ati Awa) has worked in the New Zealand book industry for almost two decades, as a librarian, a sales manager for Walker Books New Zealand and a bookseller. Her day job includes a monster mash of acquisitions, editing, design, comms and promotions.