Day 4 (Week 1, Day 4)I really want this challenge to involve our children picking the books that they want to read, as much as possible - whether that's picking off our own shelves, or coming into the library with my wife or myself to pick some new ones. I'm also pretty insistent on book series being read in the correct order, however, so had to refuse to read one particular book tonight without getting the first book in the series out to read before it. We've read both of them several times before, but I still feel that if we're going to read them for the Picture Book Challenge then they need to be in order!
1) Josh and the Whoo Whoo - David Bedford (Author) & Daniel Howarth (Illustrator)
No prizes for guessing why my son Josh wanted to read this when he spotted it on the shelf! It's the story of a rabbit called Josh who hates things being too loud, which is difficult when his five other brothers and six other sisters make as much noise as possible. I'm sure this is relevant to lots of young children out there who aren't fans of things being too noisy, whether they've got siblings or not, and as you would hope it has rabbit Josh overcoming that dislike to a certain extent. Good for showing children that they don't always need to worry about things like that.
Actually, speaking of it being relevant to children, I'm sure there are plenty of parents who sympathise with Josh and also appreciate the time they get when things are slightly less noisy!
Chris says: My own son Josh has never liked things being too loud, and so this really does feel a book that is strangely relevant to him in multiple ways! Luckily for him, our inhumanly-loud younger son, Xander, has never bothered him in that manner, because boy is Xander noisy at times! I think everyone can identify something in their lives where they feel bothered but nobody else does, and it's nice to have books that both generations can relate to.
Josh says: I liked how Josh wasn't scared of the train but all his brothers and sisters were, so he got to be brave.
Xander says: I like the train!
2) I Don't Like Koala - Sean Ferrell (Author) & Charles Santoso (Illustrator)
This is a fantastic book on so many levels, and it's particularly fantastic for the way the illustrations really enhance the text in small but key ways. Adam doesn't like his toy koala bear, and will do anything to try and leave it behind, but will he find in the end that it's best having Koala by his side?
I LOVE the half-insane look from Koala's eyes, and the fact that though we as parents know that though Koala is obviously being brought back to him by his mother and father (who think he adores Koala), there's a beautiful ambiguous twist in the final illustration that makes you wonder...and really, I can't over-emphasise just how slightly demonic Koala is, so that you do feel a degree of sympathy with Adam about why he might not be Koala's biggest fan! It's the type of quirky I love in a picture book.
Chris says: I can remember having a toy of that creature from Where The Wild Things Are when I was little, and having several nightmares about it, so I'm definitely with Adam on this one! Obviously it's a good chance to help your children to lessen their fears if they DO have any toys that freak them out slightly, and to show that things aren't always as bad as they seem, but yeah, Koala wouldn't sleep anywhere near me. Plus that final scene is just absolutely spot on fantastic.
Josh: I like how Adam starts to like Koala at the end when he realises he will look after thim when he's scared.
Xander: Yeah! (N.B. I've no idea what bit Xander was referring to at this point - he just kept saying 'yeah!' in a very enthusiastic manner when I asked him what his favourite bit of the book was!)
3) There Are Cats in this Book - Viviane Schwarz (Author & Illustrator)
Oh now this is a gloriously fun and interactive book. The cats in it talk to the reader throughout, getting them to lift flaps in particular places and move the story on, and I really like that style. There aren't many books that I can think of where the characters talk directly to the reader (Mo Willems' Pigeon series springs to mind, but nothing else), and I think it's a vastly underused storytelling technique. Viviane Schwarz's illustration style is very quirky and fits the excitable cats very well, and it was another one where Xander tried to tell us the story in his own way, though this time before we'd read it properly! There are more in this series, and that made us all very happy!
Chris says: The great thing about the characters talking directly to us is that it makes the story really interactive and a lot of fun to try and interact back with them - you can really get your children involved in the storytelling and have them drive it forward, and I wish more books were told this way.
Josh says: I like that the cats also like me and that I had to lift the flaps to help them.
Xander says: Cats! (N.B. He laughed a lot while pointing at them!)
So, to summarise Day 4...Very much an animal-themed day today! Scared bunnies, excited cats, a frankly freaky-koala...and some wonderfully imaginative storytelling!
I really can't stop laughing to myself about that final scene in I Don't Like Koala, and it's definitely high on my list for the best picture books of 2016 (the other two are older). My favourite picture books always seem to have something especially quirky about them, probably because it makes them more exciting for me too.
I look forward to seeing what we pick out tomorrow!