Book Reviews: Perceptive Picture Books

March 18, 2019

Alana Bird reviews three perceptive picture books. From the hilarity of Granny McFlitter: A Country Yarn, to the reflective Emmett and Caleb, and the funny and reflective WRESTLE!, all three of these titles get a Sapling seal of approval.

 

Spread from Emmett & Caleb, slightly cropped. Illustrated by Delphine Renon used with permission from Book Island.

  

Granny McFlitter: A Country Yarn, by  Heather Haylock, illustrated by Lael Chisholm

The day of the A&P show is perfect with clear blue skies, and Granny McFlitter is arranging her display for the Best Vegetable Knitter. She had been knitting all kinds of woolly veggies for weeks and after lining them up in a row she goes for a walk to inspect the other displays at the A&P Show and finds herself a place to have a rest... A belligerent bull has another idea though and smashes through his pen, sending all the show attendees running in terror.

 

The A&P Show is quickly turning into a disaster with smashed up lamingtons and trampled on pavs but Granny McFlitter knows exactly what to do. The Champion knitter, once again uses her knitting needles to save the day! Before you can say "MIGHTY MAD MACHO MOO" Granny has knitted a cape and lasso and has the bull tamed... but did she stop knitting? Oh no, she did not! She keeps right on knitting like it or not.

Granny McFlitter saves the day - image by Lael Chisholm, copyright Puffin

 

Granny McFlitter is more than just a sweet old lady who knits, she's the unlikely hero that saves the day in this rousing read! With its rich language and exciting exclamations A Country Yarn definitely has enough chaos, humour and action to keep little ones intrigued with anticipation. Like the first of Granny’s adventures, A Country Yarn has a fabulous jaunty rhythm and rhyme which turns the story into a performance. A wonderful book to read aloud, young children will really respond to the cadence and alliteration created by Heather Haylock.

 

Lael Chisholm's illustrations saturate each page of this country tale. Much like the story they are bold and vibrant and children will be drawn in by the colours, curves and curls. The detail on Granny's knitted creations is gorgeous and some of the cakes look good enough to eat!

 

Much like the story [the illustrations] are bold and vibrant and children will be drawn in by the colours, curves and curls.

 

Outrageous, action packed and beautifully illustrated, Granny McFlitter A Country Yarn is a wonderful book that I loved reading aloud to my preschool class. The story excited them ('oh no! the bull!' one of the children exclaimed as his anticipation bubbled out), and the rhythmic language captivated them.

 

 

granny Mcflitter a country yarn
by Heather Haylock, illustrated by Lael Chisholm
Published by Puffin
RRP: $19.99

 

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Emmett and Caleb, by Karen Hottois & Delphine Renon

Emmett and Caleb are neighbours. Emmett is an early bird, he likes to rise with the sun and start his day bright and early. Caleb, on the other hand, is a night owl and prefers to stay up to gaze at the stars and sleep away the morning. Emmett is organised and responsible and the more even-tempered of the two while Caleb is creative and a dreamer and can sometimes be a bit moody. Despite their differences, Emmett and Caleb are the best of friends and enjoy spending each day together. Join Emmett and Caleb as they explore the ups and downs of friendship through spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

 

Translated to English from the original French title, Emmett and Caleb is a sweet four part story about two friends and their everyday adventures. A lengthy picture book at 58 pages, it takes a look at Emmett and Caleb's lives and relationship using the different seasons. Ripe with descriptive language, the story's inquiry into friendship goes deep as it explores the many ways to express friendship, the importance of being thoughtful, how to support your friend, the inevitability of unintentionally hurting someone you care for and ways in which you can mend a break down in a relationship.


Ripe with descriptive language, the story's inquiry into friendship goes deep as it explores the many ways to express friendship, the importance of being thoughtful ...
 

My favourite example of this is when Emmett reflects about the way he laughed at the poem that Caleb had lovingly written for him 'If only I'd looked more carefully, I'd have seen that it was as precious as the pearls on a necklace!' To apologise Emmett writes Caleb a letter. 'It was a long letter, with fine words in it, words that were kind and well chosen…' Caleb rejoices that Emmet does love him and the two patch things up.
 

Emmett and Caleb in spring. Illustrated by Delphine Renon. Reproduced with permission from Book Island.

 

 

Friendship is an abstract concept that can be hard for young children to understand and using books with strong themes of friendship like this one is a great way to support their understanding. Through its emotive monologues, Emmett and Caleb gives children a look into the way a person can contribute to a relationship and how their actions may affect other people within that relationship.

 

Delphine Renon's quirky illustrations are an aesthetically pleasing collaboration of bright and muted colours and delicate black lines. They capture the atmosphere of each season beautifully — the wildness of the plants in spring, the warmth and brightness of summer, the russet colours opposing grey skies in autumn and the glowing snow and starkness of winter — and pair harmoniously with the story’s descriptions of the sights, the sounds, the smells and the feelings of each season. It's the little details that give these pictures their charm, from the way Caleb's antlers change with the seasons to the treasure trove of interesting animals, plants and objects that are hidden in plain sight.


It's the little details that give these pictures their charm, from the way Caleb's antlers change with the seasons to the treasure trove of interesting animals, plants and objects that are hidden in plain sight.
 

Friendship takes care, thoughtfulness, effort and sometimes a little bit of bravery and through their journey Emmet and Caleb show us what it means to be a friend in good times and in bad. Karen Hottois and Delphine Renon have created a wonderfully unique book that explores the complexities of friendship in a gentle and uncomplicated way. Emmett and Caleb would make a great tool for teachers and parents that can be utilised in many ways to talk about friendship, as well as being an enjoyable story to read together.

 

 

 

emmett and caleb

by Karen Hottois, illustrated by Delphine Renon
Published by Book Island
RRP $28.00

 

 

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WRESTLE!, by Charlotte Mars, Maya Newell, Gus Skattebol-James and Tom Jellett

Gus loves wrestling. He loves it more than every tiny little grain of sand in the world... and when Gus grows up he wants to be just like a wrestler; big and tough with really huge muscles. He even teaches his younger sister, Rory about wrestling.

 

Unfortunately for Gus, his mums don't share the same enthusiasm for wrestling. They think it's violent and dangerous, and when little sister Rory gets hurt while wrestling with Gus they say that there is to be no more wrestling. Poor Gus feels misunderstood, but after having a eye-opening dream he realises that even though he loves to wrestle he doesn't like to hurt people and wonders about the different ways to be a wrestler.

 

At first glance, WRESTLE! appears to be a fun and simple story about a child who loves to wrestle but after reading the first two lines you realise that this book has a much more complex theme. Inspired by the story of Gus Skattebol-James from the award-winning documentary Gayby Baby, WRESTLE! is an ingenious story that uses the metaphor of wrestling to broach the subject of the many different ways to be, especially the different ways to be a family.


WRESTLE! is an ingenious story that uses the metaphor of wrestling to broach the subject of the many different ways to be, especially the different ways to be a family.
 

Teaching children about diversity is hugely important. Young children are open to new ideas, and books are a perfect way for children to explore these topics as they open opportunities for questions and discussions . WRESTLE! will provide those opportunities, as well as appealing to younger children with its fun and colourful illustrations, lovable characters and playful yet meaningful storyline.

 

In this original and endearing book, Charlotte Mars and Maya Newell along with Gus Skattebol-James have made another step forward in normalising and celebrating all the different ways to be; a family, a person and a wrestler!

 

 

wrestle!

by Charlotte Mars, Maya Newell, Gus Skattebol-James and Tom Jellett
Published by Allen & Unwin Children's

RRP: $28.00

 

 

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alana Bird

 

 

 

 

 

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