My love of picture books was nurtured by: my mum who volunteered at my school library and introduced me to the concept of the CBCA Awards; an art teacher who fostered my love and entered me in a children’s picture book competition; my art and design studies; and then followed by my own children’s appreciation of picture books. As far as I’m concerned, picture books are affordable art with a great story. What a wonderful combination and so accessible too! Here are 5 of my recent favourites:
‘My Dad STILL Thinks He’s Funny’ by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Black Dog Books; Walker Books) This is a really fun book about a young boy whose dad has a long string of ‘dad jokes’: ‘I ask for a hand and Dad starts clapping’; ‘I say I feel like a milkshake and Dad says, “You don’t look like one”’. I think everyone can relate to these jokes, which Germein warmly relates. I remember when I was a little girl I’d say, ‘Dad, I’m hungry’ and he’d say straight back, ‘Pleased to meet you, hungry’. This book celebrates the wry sense of humour that dads enhance our lives with and their droll sense of humour. The young boy ends the book with a quick quip (right-back-at-you-style) and proves he’s a bit of a chip off the old block. Jellett’s lively and appealing digital illustrations seems to enhance the perspective of the young boy and the digital age he relates to. They draw you through the funny comments and quips so that you are keen to turn the page and find out what else this dad can possibly dream up to say. A fun, quirky and widely appealing book, it applauds dads and celebrates crazy, quirky family fun.
‘Paul Meets Bernadette’ by Rosy Lamb (Walker Books) OK, so this has got to be one of my all-time favourite books. Not only is the artwork absolutely divine, but the story is oh-so-gorgeous too! I love the painterly style where you can see the brush strokes through the paint and then there is the sublime colour palette. The placement of the images on the page make you feel like you are swishing around in a fishbowl too.
Paul is a fish who swims round and round his fishbowl, but one day a fish named Bernadette drops in and shows Paul that there is a whole world out there, right outside his bowl, with lots of wonderful things to see and enjoy. Her perception of the objects they see together is priceless. Apparently this is the first children’s book by painter and sculptor, Lamb. She painted the pictures for this book whilst her baby daughter slept by her side. Bliss. Let’s hope Lamb produces a lot more of these stunning books!
‘The Day the Crayons Came Home’ by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins) Please tell me you have read ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by this same dynamic duo? If not, go out and look for a copy, please! Surely destined to be one of the era’s classics, this next book stands on its own anyway. I can’t imagine how they dreamt up this hysterical theme for a book, but it’s just gorgeous. Basically, the crayons quit in the last book; in this book they come back and they all have their own sob stories that need to be listened to and sympathized with; there’s maroon crayon who is cheesed off because his owner dropped him down the back of the couch and then the dad sat on him and snapped him, the yellow and orange crayons who have melted together after being left in the sun and a crayon that has been chewed by the dog. They want sympathy, they want rescuing and they want to come home. Hysterical, I tell you. Those crayons have real attitude!
‘The Blue Whale’ by Jenni Desmond (Enchanted Lion Books; New South Books) Stunning illustrations instantly draw you into the world of the enormous blue whale. Each double page spread is just a joy to behold – colour, design and information; all there. Desmond describes the blue whale’s weight by drawing piles of hippos, their eating habits by a stunning double page spread of krill and how much milk it drinks in terms of collages of milk bottles; simply gorgeous. Whether describing the blue whale’s length, teeth or skin, we are held spellbound by the illustrations. Desmond uses collage, paint and coloured pencils to create her artwork which she then scans and edits by computer; so clever and so very effective! Frankly, I don’t know which page is my favourite – there are so many to choose from here!
‘Alpha’ by Isabelle Arsenault (Walker Books) Another absolute favourite! The simplicity and clarity of design is captivating. Do you know the NATO phonetic alphabet used for emergency services such as firefighters, police and the Red Cross? Here it is in gorgeous, stunning illustrations. One to each double page. I enjoyed the wit and whimsy of each illustration; ‘H’ for Hotel is a Monopoly red hotel, ‘M’ for Mike is a pair of boxing gloves and ‘O’ for Oscar is a fabulous dress. Developed in 1956 the NATO phonetic alphabet has been used internationally since then. A great take on the alphabet book. If this book doesn’t get you chanting Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta then I’m not sure what will!