Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Picture books for children – reviews
A bereaved tortoise, a smelly dog and a book on crafts will keep kids busy through the summer months
Catherine Rayner’s malodorous tale of Smelly Louie.
Pockety, by Florence Seyvos, illustrated by Claude Ponti (Pushkin Children's Books £7.99), is the right name for a book that could be smuggled into a largeish pocket. It is a treasure – a real find – and one of the most enjoyable children's books I've read in a while. It defies easy categorisation. It is unfamiliar yet reads like a classic. Florence Seyvos is a prizewinning French novelist who does not patronise, short-change or underestimate her readers. She reminds one of how many children's books are marred by a soft focus, a well-intentioned belief that the world must be presented as unflaggingly cheerful. This is the story of a tortoise trying to find independence in a difficult, unpredictable world. When Pockety's companion tortoise, Thumb, dies unexpectedly, she writes letters to herself, as if from her deceased friend, to spur herself on. Claude Ponti's precise black-and-white drawings are a choice accompaniment. This is a tortoise that deserves to win every literary race. (5+; and the book might not be wasted on teenagers either.)
Baby's Got the Blues by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Walker Books £11.99), is a diverting attempt to imagine what it is to be a baby: it explains that it is hard to be a wordless infant who cannot get through to his parents about his wet nappy, raging hunger and inability to walk. Tobia manages to convey the baby's desperation in a few strokes of the pen, a down-turned mouth on a potato-shaped head, mournful eyebrows, a pair of grabby hands. And even if love is wheeled out not altogether convincingly as the cure for everything (not sure that it helps with nappy rash), the story earns its feelgood finale and will boost toddlers with tiresome baby siblings as it invites them to swank about their own superior skills. (2+ More