Book Reviews: Books for Young Readers

May 1, 2019

ECE teacher Sara Croft reviews three books for younger readers, two that use humour to engage young readers, and a third which is a gentle introduction to longer storytelling.
 

  

Encyclopedia of Grannies, by Eric Veillé (Gecko Press)

Eric Veillé has created a comic book to share his encyclopedic knowledge of grannies with us. It promises to be fun from the first page. Young grandchildren shout out questions and a dry-witted cat (who appears throughout the book), responds 'now let’s calm down, and quietly turn the page.'

 

Everything weird, wonderful and mundane about grannies is discovered inside. The information is shared through pictures, annotations and speech bubbles. Each page has a bold heading with further explanation (be warned – nothing is entirely truthful!). The grannies are bold and bright, full of spunk and personality. Soon you will be hunting for the grandchildren hiding from a granny offering spinach for dinner or discovering the grandpa hiding in granny’s bed.


The grannies are bold and bright, full of spunk and personality.
 

What makes this book particularly special is the acknowledgement of the story-filled lives our grannies live. Early on, the book introduces the idea that a granny is not just a granny. They had another life before becoming a granny, and they continue to life full lives when their grandchildren are away (although I’m not sure how many grannies are doing gymnastics!).

Pages from The Encyclopaedia of Grannies


 

Eric Veillé has a light-hearted approach tobig topics. Grannies are full of wisdom and answer the important questions from her grandchildren, 'Grandma, when we’re dead, will we still have potato chips?'. And it also suggests that sometimes grannies can feel sad or bad, accompanied with lots of suggestions on how to cheer them up again too.

 

But not all the questions are answered, and this is the success of the Encyclopedia of Grannies. We learn that grannies are knitting camel-hump covers but it is up to the reader to imagine why grannies have creases. These lycra-clad grannies deserve to have a few of the secrets kept quiet!

 

This is an ode to grannies who have not slowed down on becoming a grandmother. Grannies are sure to laugh quietly to themselves as they read it aloud to their grandchildren. It is a delightful book which will make you fall in love with your grandmother all over again.

 

 

 

 

encyclopedia of grannies
by Eric Veillé
Published by Gecko Press
RRP: $30.00

 

 

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Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise, by Swapna Haddow & Alison Friend


This is a classic English story book which helps the reader to discoverthe joy of caring for others. Little Rabbit is bored and there is no one to play with at home except for Big Rabbit, her granddad. Together, the two rabbits set off on an adventure for the day.

 

Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit visit all their friends, but each friend has a problem. Mole’s tunnel is too dark for a party and Granny Hedgehog is sick. The rabbits stop for a while at each friend’s house but Little Rabbit has a fluttery feeling in her tummy as she goes to sleep thinking about her neighbours. A new day dawns and Little Rabbit (with the help from grandad) learns about friendships and community.

 

The author plays with language and it enchants the reader from the very beginning. This tale starts, like good tales often do, with a little rabbit. This little rabbit is looking for something to do. The story continues to ramble through a usual day and becomes a celebration of the little things in life; blowing a kiss to mum or taking a deep breath to smell flowers.


The story continues to ramble through a usual day and becomes a celebration of the little things in life; blowing a kiss to mum or taking a deep breath to smell flowers.
 

The animal characters have been personified and are full of emotion, sighs and gestures. Young children will relate to Little Rabbit. She is honest too, clambering over Big Rabbit as she wonders what grandad does all day because he doesn’t even have a job!

 

This is a great introduction to chapter books for children ready for the next step in reading. The short passages of text are all accompanied by beautiful watercolour illustrations. There is a familiar pattern to each interaction and this all helps readers to follow along the longer format of story-telling.

 

Little Rabbit's Big Surprise is a very traditional story full of animal characters, in woodland settings. Little Rabbit imparts a wonderful moral about community that everyone can learn from. Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise is a wonderful bedtime story and we hope Little Rabbit returns for more adventures soon.

 

 

 

 

little rabbit's big surprise

by Swapna Haddow

illustrated by Alison Friend
Published by Little Tiger Press
RRP $19.99

 

 

Buy now

 

 

 

There’s a Hedgehog in my Pants, by Amy Harrop & Ross Kinnaird
 

A young boy is on a camping trip, desperate for a wee and finds a quiet place to relieve himself in the bush. While he is going about his business, a hedgehog moves into his pants. This sets off a laugh-out-loud adventure as he tries to get rid of his unwanted visitor.

 

The author has created a story with fun wordplay. Readers old and young will delight in discovering all the synonyms for bottom. Your young child will delight in hearing their favourite adults say some rude words! The text is fast-paced and dances along to a poetic rhythm. This is supported by the illustrations which speed across the page, conveying the young boy’s emotions and escapade.


Readers old and young will delight in discovering all the synonyms for bottom. Your young child will delight in hearing their favourite adults say some rude words!
 

The cartoon drawings place the reader at a summer campsite, with green grass, blue skies, jandals and the quintessential kiwi tent. The illustrations are all from a child’s perspective – we never do see Mum and Dad’s faces because they are too tall. It is a book that celebrates the wonderfully quirky world of young children and the silly exploits that happen during carefree summer days.
 

 

Spread from There's a Hedgehog in my Pants
 

The ending is refreshing. For a moment, Amy Harrop encourages the reader to pause and consider the little hedgehog. Why might he be taking refuge in a pair of pants? How can the young boy help his prickly guest? That is not to suggest it is a book of big morals but it does have a story-line beyond the silliness. That makes it bearable (even fun!) for the adult to read too.

 

Everything about this book is designed to make young children giggle. There are warning signs on the cover telling those adverse to jokes to stay away and the reader should take heed. But it will enchant the reader and have you coming back again and again and again.

 

 

 

There's a hedgehog in my pants

by Amy Harrop

illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by Scholastic NZ
RRP $19.00

 

 

Buy now

 

 

 

sara Croft

Sara teaches young children and it is a great excuse to indulge her love of picture books and to pass on a love of words, reading and stories to the next generation. She has an extensive library which is forever growing (often quite literally with a hammer and nails to add a new shelf!). Her children and young adult collection sit alongside cookbooks, a wide range of non-fiction, and books which make her laugh or think. She is always seeking out the perfect picture book to share with her young audience – preferably books which tell Aotearoa’s stories.

 

 

 

 

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