Day 49 (Week 7, Day 7) - Saturday 18th February
At this stage I honestly can't remember what I've written about in this little introductions, but one of the major problems that I'm having with keeping this blog up to date is honestly convincing the kids that it would be nice to have a photo of them with the books at the end of our pre-bed reading time! If I don't get the picture there and then, I have to try and get it the next day, by which time I might've fallen behind with the reviews, so the blog post gets delayed, and then I might manage to get a photo with a later book but not the earlier ones so I can't put out either blog post as the first isn't done yet, and so on and so on until you have the ludicrous situation where this particular post is actually getting finished on Wednesday 22nd March, over a month after we actually read the stories!
Moreover, sometimes I end up returning the books to the library without a picture, and then I have to try and get them back out on loan which means waiting even longer to publish the post, and then I might forget, and...
Which is my way of saying 'there's no photos of the kids with these books when I'm first publishing this, although hopefully I'll get them added at a later date'!
We've had illnesses, staying away from home while we have work done on the house, generally being exhausted, work, holidays, other projects to work on etc., whilst still trying to make sure that at the very least we try and get the actual stories read and make a note of them, so that the follow up blog posts can be written at some point. I actually have most of the other posts written at this point, but refuse to not publish them in order, hence why this one is so late - though hopefully it will now start up an avalanche of published posts that will put us somewhere near being back on track!
Thank you for taking the time to check out the Picture Book Challenge and see what we're doing - it's very much appreciated!
1) Monkey's Sandwich - Michelle Robinson (Author) & Emily Fox (Illustrator)
There's a rather hungry monkey at the heart of this story, who presumes a little too much of how much he's allowed to take from his friends without their permission, helping himself to food from all of their houses and making the most extraordinary sandwich. His friends aren't too happy that he's been generously helping himself to their food, even though in the end they do share all of it together without him, as he ends up asleep from all the excitement before he can eat a bite.
It's a great story about sharing for a couple of reasons. Monkey shouldn't just take without permission, because your friends need to say that they are for you to do so, but at the same time, all the animals have a great time together when they realise that sharing their food with each other is lots of fun (even if it came about through selfish reasons!).
It's very bright and colourful indeed, with Emily Fox's illustrations perfectly highlighting Monkey's gleeful (if selfish) delight at his 'borrowing' spree. They'll certainly entertain children who want to see fabulously tall sandwiches being made!
It's a great way of discussing sharing from a wonderful author/illustrator team!
Chris says: I've said it many times and I'll happily say it again - I love a story that has a moral you can discuss, whilst at the same time also completely ignore discussing if you want to and just enjoy an entertaining story. Always good for a parent to have that option!
Josh says: I can't stop laughing!
Xander says: I eat all the sandwich!
2) Mr Bunny's Chocolate Factory - Elys Dolan (Author & Illustrator)
I genuinely don't think there's any illustrator out there who puts as much into their illustrations as Elys Dolan! There is always SO MUCH going on in her pictures that half the fun of reading it is just trying to spot exactly how much crazy stuff is going on there. I remember when we read Jonathan Emmett's The Clockwork Dragon we saw how much extra detail Elys Dolan had put into creating a believable world in the background, and it's the same in Mr Bunny's Chocolate Factory, where she plays author as well as illustrator.
The story itself of a tyrannical factory owner who has to learn to be more understanding for his workers is a great tale in itself of not putting yourself on a pedastal above everyone else and making unfair demands of them, but it really is the bits in the background that make this so much more. The missing chicken Debbie, for example, who is continually referenced through posters and signs and then finally shows up at the end, is one of the greatest secondary plot threads ever, and in 32 pages it's ridiculously impressive to even HAVE a secondary plot thread. The illustrations themselves are wonderful cartoons, but I really can't stop waxing lyrical about just how effective they are at building such a full and substantial world around the story (particularly the search for Debbie).
Please, do yourself a favour and go and join the hunt for Debbie as soon as you possibly can!
Chris says: I know, I'm saying it again, but I can't stop going on about how fantastic the Debbie plot thread is - it's the sort of thing that just makes you want to spend all your time convincing everyone else to read the story, and though I'll equally champion a book that effectively enhances a story with a minimalist approach to its illustrations, you've really got to admire when there's so much going on.
Josh says: I liked the chocolate eggs.
Xander says: All the eggs!
3) Neon Leon - Jane Clarke (Author) & Britta Teckentrup (Illustrator)
Wow, Leon is so bright! A proper luminous chameleon who stands out in what should be a very exciting way, but unfortunately for a chameleon who is supposed to blend in to his environment this isn't seen as a good thing. Even with the help of the reader (in some fantastic interactive parts of the story) he still can't change, and eventually has to leave when he's so bright that he keeps the other chameleons awake. Nor does he fit in with other similarly coloured animals who can fly away. Luckily though, there's always someone else out there who's the right match to be your friend, and we leave Leon happy with his new mate at the end of the book.
All of this together is a lovely way of talking to children about how sometimes you stick out from the crowd because you're different and it isn't your fault, but that it doesn't matter and that you'll find someone similar out there who wants to be friends with you, so not to give up hope. All the way through, the author encourages the reader to help Leon by talking louder to him or turning the pages softly to help him sleep, and it helps children to invest in the story so well when they think they have a chance of making a positive outcome to the character they're rooting for. Britta Teckentrup has used such a dazzling array of colours and themes throughout that it's a real joy to behold.
A lovely message with some gorgeous illustrations make this an excellent interactive story for helping to show that it's okay to be different!
Chris says: I love interactive stories. The kids get so much out of it and it makes it fun for me too when I get to encourage them to take part! Lovely message as well.
Josh says: I'd like to be orange with my brother as we're best friends.
Xander says: Orange!
So, to summarise Day 49...
Such a bright and colourful evening of reading! None of the books tonight were at all afraid of being bold, beautiful and eye-catching, effortlessly drawing us into the stories they've created and delighting the children and myself with what we've found.
Also, we had the campaign to save Debbie, which once more I cannot emphasise enough how much I loved. Definitely one of my favourite moments of the Picture Book Challenge so far!