Day 16 (Week 3, Day 2)
I had a nice raid on Heanor Library's picture books today to get some new books ready for the next few days of the Picture Book Challenge! There's still hundreds more there, and thousands across the county so we're in no danger of the supply drying up anytime soon, but as I'm usually working there one day per week it's a good library to start at!
There's something wonderful about picking books at complete random and discovering an absolute gem, and we were fortunate enough to find one in particular today that really spoke my language...
1) A Bean, a Stalk and a Boy Named Jack - William Joyce (Author) & Kenny Callicutt (Illustrator)
As soon as we started reading this I knew I was going to love it. The writing is exactly the sort of quirky-funny that I want to be able to write well, similar to the sort of thing that Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, and Mo Willems do so fantastically. I think to be honest I was probably laughing more at it than the kids at one point, though that's not to say they didn't enjoy the silliness of it too. The King and Princess are both named Blah Blah Blah, for crying out loud - and it's a perfect nod to the fact that this book takes itself as seriously as a carrot at a rodeo (no, I'm not gifted with words the same was as the authors mentioned in this review, clearly). The illustrations are excellent too, expertly done whilst retaining a fantastical element that kind of reminds me of old fashioned RPGs when drawn in long shots. I'm really sad to have missed this when it came out in 2014, but delighted to have discovered it now!
Chris says: Boy, this made me laugh and laugh. I love quirky dialogue that is knowingly silly, whilst still driving the plot forward, and this has that in droves. William Joyce, your back catalogue just went to the top of my TBR pile.
Josh says: I liked the names King and Princess Blah Blah Blah.
Xander says: I want to read it now! Very good!
2) Chicken Nugget - Michelle Robinson (Author) & Tom McLaughlin (Illustrator)
This is our second Michelle Robinson story of the year so far (and there's more to look forward to!), and I can confidently state that you will never ever find a book that names members of a chicken family so aptly and hilariously. Out titular hero finds his family host to a long lost 'cousin' who seems intent on cooking for them, but when Chicken Nugget discovers exactly what the meal is to be it's up to him to save the day! It's got funny dialogue, a great premise, some delightful illustrations from Tom McLaughlin (whose illustrations for The Cloudspotter are exquisite), and the chance for you and your child to have fun warning Chicken Nugget about the true nature of his 'cousin'.
Chris says: Looking at her bibliography, we've read a lot of books by Michelle Robinson, and with the sort of imagination and humour that goes into stories like this it isn't difficult to see why! I really, really love the names for the different members of Chicken Nugget's family, and Josh had great fun trying to warn the character about the danger posed by his 'cousin'. Can't wait for the next Michelle Robinson book!
Josh says: I liked how Chicken Nugget got an award for bravery.
Xander says: No, I'm just playing with lightsabers. (N.B. Wrong time to ask apparently. Never try to read to a child using two colouring pencils as lightsabers, apparently...)
3) The World-Famous Cheese Shop Break-In - Sean Taylor (Author) & Hannah Shaw (Illustrator)
There's nothing quite like a bunch of criminals failing consistently (and humorously) to succeed in their plans! It doesn't quite go right for this family of rats, as Daddypops and family attempt to sneak into the Cheese Shop to steal some of its super-stinky cheese. It's a story to make children laugh at the funny ways in which the family fail (including a fantastic collision with a window), and a little bit of respite for them at the end too. I don't know whether it's correct to say that the illustrations have an 'old-school' vibe to them, but it felt like that (whatever 'that' is!) to me, and I liked them because of it! They added to the humour very well, and the kids loved to see just how the family failed over and over again.
Chris says: In places this felt like a reverse-Fantastic Mr Fox, with the sneaky rats continually miscalculating in their attempts to sneak into the Cheese Shop (unlike Mr Fox's very accurate sense of direction and breaking-in!), and anything that makes you think of Roald Dahl has to be good! I never fail to laugh whenever something collides with a window so I definitely enjoyed this one, as did the kids.
Josh says: I liked the stinky cheese.
Xander says: I liked the trains and the fire engines. (N.B. Nope, don't know what book he'd been thinking about while I was reading it! It may have become apparent to some of you following the Picture Book Challenge that Xander's mind sometimes wanders along with his attention while we're reading...)
So, to summarise Day 16
Definitely an evening of hilarious stories tonight! I absolutely loved the dialogue in A Bean, a Stalk and a Boy Named Jack, I was reminded exactly why I love Michelle Robinson's sense of humour and imagination, and I had great fun laughing with the kids at a family of rats' failure to steal some cheese. I don't purposefully group books together as a type, so sometimes we just end up with several of a similar genre or style, and sometimes we get a proper mix.
I'll tell you what - if you want to put the whole family in a great mood before bed, read these three together and any stresses of the day (and of getting the kids to bed) will be straight out of the window!