Day 5 (Week 1, Day 5)
I feel like I should write something deep and meaningful at the start of all these daily reviews. Something that inspires people to read with their family, discovering fantastic tales of wonderous journeys and adventures every night before bed, giggling and discussing with each other where they're going to visit the next day, and the day after that.
Today, however, I'm absolutely exhausted and I can't think of anything inspirational to start this off with, so let's just head straight for the reviews!
Giraffes are fantastic friends; they always stick their necks out for you...
Ahem. Now that's out of the way, this is indeed the story of one such giraffe who would dearly love to help his friends, except he doesn't have any. Will his fellow animals learn his true worth though when disaster strikes?
I'm sure you can guess the answer, but make sure you discover it for yourselves too because this is a good story to make you smile about a poor giraffe who doesn't feel he has a place in the jungle, who learns that he does have friends around him after all. Rather uplifting for when you're feeling down!
Chris says: Can't go wrong with a tale of friendship! Especially involving giraffes! I'm sure we've all felt like we alone without friends before, and this deals with it nicely.
Josh says: I like how the giraffe helped everyone when the flood came and they all became his friends.
Xander: Don't worry animals! (N.B. he shouted this repeatedly when the flood came to reassure them!)
Dinosaurs...a digger...says it all really? Not hard to get the kids interested in this one! A visit to Dinosaur World results in an exciting trip for Jack and his dog, Riley, as they rescue some baby dinosaurs from a mean T-Rex. It's bright and colourful, entertainingly suspenseful for children, and did I mention it had a digger? Great fun!
Chris says: Great for having fun making digger and dinosaur sounds! Who wouldn't want a visit to Dinosaur World? I mean, you might get eaten and everything, but it's still an exciting prospect for adults as well as kids!
Josh says: I loved having dinosaurs AND a digger in the same book!
Xander says: No no no no no no no no no no (N.B. he was objecting to me closing the book and insisted I give it over so he could read it himself!)
You really aren't going to go wrong with Jonathan Emmett or Elys Dolan in a picture book, but putting the two together?! Fantastic! Both are so wonderfully creative that this was always going to be a match made in heaven. I love the way Elys puts so much in her illustrations, and always adds extra jokes in the background to the main focus (such as Flamethrottle the Dragon having a sign in his cave reading 'No Cold Callers', or the dragon graffitti in the opening pages), and Jonathan always has really fun twists on classic stories, like here having the dragon slayers using a clockwork dragon to scare the bad dragon off (or just the entirety of his book The Princess and the Pig).
I've met both Jonathan and Elys in person and both were really helpful in discussing my own picture book ambitions and sharing their knowledge of the picture book market at the moment. I know that Jonathan is a big supporter of longer texts in picture books and this is definitely one filled with more words than some of the others we've read so far, but I think it's essential that authors should be encouraged to tell the story they want to tell in the amount of words they think they need, not to be constrained by an ever-lessening word limit.
I've heard whispers of another collaboration on the horizon, so will awaiting that one with great anticipation!
Chris says: This is one of our treasured books as it's been signed by Jonathan - I'll have it get it taken along to be signed by Elys if she's ever at another writing convention that I attend! I've recommended so many of their books to people in the library, and I don't know anyone who has read their work who isn't a huge fan. It makes the reading experience as a family so much more fun when you see the detail in the world that Elys has created to go along with the excitement of Jonathan's words. Can't wait to see what else they do in the future! It won't be the last time either of them appear in the Picture Book Challenge, I can tell you that for certain!
Josh: I really love this book (N.B. The very first thing he said, both before reading it and after!). I like how the mean green dragon is chased away because he deserves it!
Xander: (N.B. Xander listened to this from afar, because as soon as he knew it had dragons in it he starting climbing on their bunk beds pretending to storm a castle to fight a dragon!)
So, to summarise Day 5...
Some wonderful stories of friendships and adventure today, and particularly stunningly-realised worlds with the illustrations! Particularly during The Clockwork Dragon it was great to see Josh so excited to read a book that he loves, and to see Xander's imagination fired up so much that he had to go off and pretend to fight dragons himself!
Picture books inspire the imagination of children so much that I don't think you can underestimate the impact they have. Picture book authors and illustrators can be one of the most important influences on a young child's life in helping to develop a strong imagination for life, and the more they can read the better!