‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ by Edward Lear, illustrated by Louise Voce (Walker Books) This wonderful verse which rhymes and skips along is great fun to read; the words just roll off the tongue. Lear (1812 – 1888) is renowned for his nonsense verses. This is his most famous poem which was first published in 1871 and combines courtship, humour and earnestness as the owl woos the pussycat. Voce’s beautiful illustrations reveal a fabulous eye for the absurd, evoking the whimsy of the rhyme with gazing eyes, the expressions on the piggy bank’s face, turkey master of ceremonies and images of the owl and pussy cat skipping together in the light of the moon. Her colour palette, layout and combination of close up and distant range of images including a double-page spread of sequence images add to the enjoyment of this fun classic.
‘I Went Walking’ by Sue Machin, illustrated by Julie Vivas (Omnibus; Scholastic) Another great book to read aloud, this book is based on simple text as a child walks through a farmyard and sees a range of animals in beautiful colours; a red cow, a green duck, a yellow dog. The story gallops along and culminates with the child’s obvious enjoyment and delight in the animals; a great book highlighting prediction, colours and animals. The questions about which animal is next are asked, clues are given on the right hand pages and the answers are given by turning the page each time. Vivas’ stunning illustrations add emotion and expression to the story. Her layout of beautifully resolved images, her sense of colour and shading is mesmerizing and really create a piece of artwork for each page to be enjoyed.
Read my interview with Julie Vivas here.
‘Hairy Macleary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ by Lynley Doddd (Puffin; Penguin) This books first came to my attention when a neighbour often mentioned that her dog was like Schnitzel von Krumm and another neighbour had a Bottomley Potts dog. (Indeed her dog was a Dachshund and our other neighbour’s dog was a Dalmation). These dog references and many others are brought to life in Dodd’s lively rhyming story of an adventurous dog who wanders the streets with other memorable dogs and their adventures. I grew up with a ‘Muffin McLay’ dog (an Old English Sheepdog). Apparently Dodd’s Hairy Macleary is a combination of dogs she has known. Dodd’s illustrations are fun and energetic, just like her dog characters. The unexpected ending creates a change in tempo and a great ending to the tale.
‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin; Penguin) I love the way this book combines references to so many well-known fairytales, classics and nursery rhymes and illustrates them in such a fun way. In an ‘eye spy’ format which encourages readers to participate by finding the characters in the images, we see Tom Thumb, Mother Hubbard, Cinderella, The Three Bears, Baby Bunting, Little Bo-Peep, Jack and Jill, The Wicked Witch and Robin Hood hidden on the pages. The illustrations remain fresh and with a light touch with beautiful and amusing details. Husband Allan wrote the book and his wife, Janet, illustrated them combining a sense of fun and joy. This book won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1978.
‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch’ by Ronda and David Armitage (Hippo; Scholastic) This great classic tells of the trials and tribulations of a lighthouse keeper and his plans to keep his delicious lunch safe from seagulls. It makes you think – what would you like packed in an ideal picnic hamper? This was the first book written by Ronda and illustrated by her husband, David. Ronda was 12 when she lived near a lighthouse and the idea for the book came years later, when their son asked David what the wire running down from a lighthouse was for. A range of close up and distant views bring the focus to the story and the ingenious ideas of the couple. I love the language; ‘varmints, brazen, lackaday, lackaday’, the expressions on the characters’ faces and the detailed description of the lunch. This book won the Esther Glen Award in 1978.
Read my interview with David Armitage here.
Read my interview with Ronda Armitage here.
Visit Ronda Armitage’s website here.
‘The Giant Jam Sandwich’ story and pictures by John Vernon Lord with verses by Janet Burroway (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin Book) A great story about a town which gets an infestation of wasps and comes up with a clever solution. As a child, I remember hearing about local locust plagues in the countryside and indeed, one holiday trip we drove through a plague of locusts which were decimating crops throughout inland towns and they covered our windscreen and clogging up our car lights and radiator. The volume of the pests was memorable as well as the concern about how to stop the problem. When Lord was a child his father, a baker, used to place a slice of jam-covered crust away from their picnic site to keep wasps there and away from their meal. Lord includes other personal elements such as his father and his shop as Bert’s Shop, his local butcher and two houses which were converted into shops were owned by other relations, the dormer window in the house behind Wiggins is where Lord’s studio was when writing this book and his head of department where he teaches is sitting among the villagers in the hall. Lord perfected his story by re-telling it numerous times orally. Burrow then turned Lord’s story into simple, but rich verse. This book is a combination of line drawing and ink and crayon artwork which carry us through the story of problem-solving, working together and creativity to complete a fun read.
Read my interview with Janet Burroway here.
Visit Janet Burroway’s website here.
‘Rosie’s Walk’ by Pat Hutchins (Aladdin; Simon & Schuster USA; Random House Australia) The colour scheme and graphics of this book send me straight back to my 1970s childhood. I adore and marvel that this book is one sentence and that good triumph over evil as we see the fox foiled time and again chasing the hen. Hutchins uses her preferred combination of pen, ink and coloured ink to create a specific colour palette and complex use of pattern to tell a tale of autonomy. Using anticipation, repetition and accumulation we follow the wonderful hen along her path. This book was an ALA (American Library Association) Notable Book for 1968.
‘Mrs Mopple’s Washing Line’ by Anita Hewett, illustrations by Robert Broomfield (Red Fox; Random House) This is a crazy story about a clothes-line of washing that the wind blows off and the separate items of clothing all land ludicrously on an animals in the yard. The repetition of onomatopoeia, where words sound like their meaning, ‘Blow wind, blow’ and ‘snap!’ is fun and adds meaning, punctuation and emphasis. The limited range of colours in the illustrations focus the attention on the story line. I especially love the wonderful unexpected ending.
‘Swimmy’ by Leo Lionni (Dragonfly Books; Random House) I have only just re-discovered this beautiful classic picture book. I remember being read it as a child. This is an enchanting story of friendship, ingenuity, using your uniqueness to advantage and team work to overcome adversity. Two of the many lessons in this book is how a community can be stronger if they stick together and that we all have something unique to contribute. With a background in art directing, Lionni employs graceful text and stunning graphic artwork using combinations of collage. This book won the Caldecott Honor in 1964.
‘Harry The Dirty Dog’ by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham (Red Fox; Random House) The graphics, text and illustrations in this book are pure joy and the story is great fun. Harry, the family dog, runs away from his dreaded bath. He has a great time getting dirty and we watch him turn from ‘a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots’ until his family don’t recognize him – and Harry realizes he doesn’t like this. Harry was based on a melding of Graham’s aunt’s 2 dogs. The book is filled with wonderfully iconic images of people, houses, restaurants and cars in the 1950s. Apparently this book was originally published in black and white and was later published with splashes of colour by Graham. Interestingly this is another combination of husband and wife author and illustrator team.