Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Great New Picture Books

There have been some amazing new picture book releases – here are some I’ve really enjoyed! All of these were sent to me free of charge, but as ever that doesn’t affect my opinions.

Strong by Clara Anganuzzi, from Little Tiger

This book is beautiful, both in its art and its story. Maurice isn’t like the other dragons; they love breathing fire and being scary, and he loves flowers. It’s easy to feel sympathy for poor bullied, lonely Maurice, and easy to enjoy his triumph when the other dragons realise there’s space for all kinds of strength in the world – it’s a really lovely celebration of softer kids who may be overlooked or bullied, but who need to know they have worth too. It’s got wonderful, soft colours that feel incredibly magical, and the dragons themselves, both small, gentle Maurice and the other, scarier dragons, are stunning. The final spread is just beautiful. A gorgeous and important read.

The Elephant Detectives by Ged Adamson, from Nosy Crow

This is really cute! When Alan loses his elephant friend, a little girl claiming to be an Elephant Detective is ready to save the day – but the actual finding part proves tricky. It’s a cute story about friendship, but it also has a lot of funny moments and kids will love spotting where the elephant is lurking in each scene. The art has a scribbly, almost casual feel to it that’s very warm and nice to look at, and there’s lots of little background moments to enjoy on each page. It looks like fun to have an elephant companion!

When a Dragon Comes to School by Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw, from Nosy Crow

I’ve been meaning to check out this series for a while, and this first book has just been rereleased as a board book, though I’m reviewing the picture book here. What a sweet introduction to good manners! A dragon is very well-behaved, apparently, and the children in this book get to learn all the lovely things a dragon does to be a good friend and person. I can see that kids could definitely be reminded to be more like a dragon once they’ve read this book! The only thing I didn’t quite like about this was that, although the book makes a fantastic point that occasionally even a lovely dragon can get overwhelmed and have a strop, and need cheering up and calming down, it does call this ‘turn[ing] bad’. Perhaps I’m a bit soft, but I prefer not to think of tantrums as a kid being ‘bad’! The point the book is making here is great – everyone loses it sometimes and needs some kindness to recover their calm – but I just don’t like that word choice. ‘Get mad’ would have scanned and rhymed, and kept the focus on the behaviour and not an inherent quality of badness. However, I really like the rest of the book, so I think it’s just something to be aware of while reading.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Pirates Ahoy! by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton, from Nosy Crow

This is actually my first Shifty McGifty book, but it won’t be my last! This high-energy story about pirates is full of humour in both the text and the illustrations. I was really impressed with the rhymes and rhythm of the story, which incorporates dialogue and exclamations without ever breaking the beat, and I think everyone will have fun with this silly, fast-paced story of treasure and cake.

Dinos Don’t Give Up by Smriti Halls and Richard Merritt, from Little Tiger

Ouch, this story hit home! Diplodocus Dinah has always been the best at everything, with every skill coming naturally to her – so she’s bound to be the best at surfing, too, right? Wrong! This book is a fun and light-hearted introduction to the perils of perfectionism in gifted kids, and how important it is to take part in activities that you have to work at as well as ones that come easily. It’s obviously on a level understandable for little kids, but it’s something I think a lot of adults need to hear too. The story is told in fun, fast-paced rhymes – my only complaint is that the scansion needs you to use the ‘diplo-DOE-cus’ pronunciation to work, rather than my preferred ‘dip-LOD-ocus’, but that’s minor! The bright, summery artwork is perfectly suited to the surfing setting. This is a really great read, especially for gifted kids.

The Best Bear Tracker, by John Condon and Julia Christians, from Templar Books

The Pirates are Coming! is a favourite in our house, so we were really looking forward to John Condon’s newest book! This is a sweet and funny story told as a series of rules for tracking bears – but the little girl keeps missing them… While the story is as charming as expected, with a sweet twist ending, the star of the show here is the fabulous illustrations – kids will love spotting the bears that the heroine does not, and every expression on both bear and girl is a gem! This art is really warm and summery-feeling, and definitely makes you want to head outside into nature. A lot of fun.

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