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One year, 365 picture books… success!

All the books

This is what 365 picture books look like.

Woohoo! I have made it to the end of my 365 days of picture book reviews. To celebrate I’m not going to review a picture book today. I tricked you all! Instead, I am going all Oscars on it, excuse me while I try not to stumble up the stairs to the microphone.

Firstly I would like to thank my lovely husband John who has put up with mounds of picture books in our lounge for the past year, random requests for his opinion on particular titles, and me saying “Just give me five minutes, I haven’t posted my review yet for today.” You are a good man John.

Next up, mum and my mother-in-law, Marilyn. Combined, their powers of proof reading have (hopefully) made my blog error free. It did lead to some slightly cryptic text messages including the following from my mother, “Does a light bulb go off or on?” which turned out to be an editing suggestion for this post. Thanks mums, you are officially my number one fans.

Sammy  having "the grumps".

Sammy harrumphing, like Pom Pom the grumpy panda.

My sister and her three awesome children, have been a willing and enthusiastic audience for many of the books I have reviewed. Two hours babysitting Sammy (aged 2) was filled entirely by me reading books to him (okay so we did have a short break to dance like Gerald). Your kids are great Emily, and so are you!

Thanks also to the lovely staff at Panmure Library for processing my hundreds of book requests and for occasionally letting me blow my 35 book-borrowing limit. And a big shout out to Auckland Libraries’ Collections team who unquestioningly bought all of my new picture book suggestions, I love you guys!

Geez this is starting to become a little epic so I’ll wind things up. Congratulations to all the amazing picture book authors, illustrators, designers and publishers who work so hard. My mind on many occasions over the past year has been blown by the creativity, humour and beauty present in the pages of picture books. Keep up the good work, you are making the world a better place.

And finally thank you to everyone who has popped on by, commented, suggested titles, offered advice, contributed reviews and been generally enthusiastic about myfriendlucy. I have had an amazing year, and look forward to continuing to review in the future, albeit on a far less frequent basis.

Big high fives and pats on the back all round,

Lucy (your friend)

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Whoops! by Suzi Moore; illustrated by Russell Ayto (2015)

[Published by Templar]

whoops-

The out-loud-reading-speed-test is a wee invention of mine, that gives a fairly accurate indication of how fun a picture book is to read aloud. It’s pretty scientific/mathematical, so I won’t bore you with all the formulae, but, in simple terms, if I find myself reading a book really fast by the end, it means it’s a winner.

As I trial-read Whoops! to my husband while he cooked dinner, I accelerated to such speeds, he nearly lost his eyebrows. A definite A+ on that test paper.IMG_1913

“This is the cat
who didn’t know how,
she didn’t know
how to say MEOW.”

It’s not just the cat with vocalisation issues, her friends dog and mouse are also decidedly voiceless. The owl recommends a visit to the old lady at the tumbledown house who will have just the spell for the silent trio.

“She went to look at her big spell book.
She cast a spell but the whole house shook.
Then the wind blew in.
And the rain came down.
And the tumbledown house
turned round and round.”

Her first attempts at spell casting are not hugely successful, so the whole process is repeated… several times. Finally everything is right with the world again, the cat miaows, the dog barks and the mouse squeaks. And the little old lady? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens to her!

A whole bunch of fun in a very stylish package.

Check out Whoops! at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Whoops! from Fishpond.

[Recommended by Pranita – thanks Pranita, excellent taste as always!]

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Zippo the Super Hippo by Kes Gray; illustrated by Nikki Dyson (2015)

[Published by MacMillan]

zippo

I am no child psychologist, but I can tell from the cover alone that Zippo is going to be a hit with the young ‘uns. “How Lucy? How do you know this?” Well team, I can guarantee that any book with the phrase “Bottom Power” on the cover, which features a large hippo in underpants will be instant “read it again” material.

Zippo the hippo has a hankering for being super, for having a super power to be more precise. By process of elimination, he and his friend Roxi hit upon flying as the perfect power for him.

“You’re right!” said Zippo. “If I could fly, I could get a super cape and some super boots and I could fly 20150729_082518around the world being Zippo the Super Hippo!” Zippo’s attempts at launching himself elegantly in the air fail miserably, ending each time with a giant splat, and an animal squashed beneath his admirable bottom. In good news, it turns out that super bottoms can be quite a weapon against misbehaving animals. And so, Zippo the Super Hippo is born.

There are all sorts of goodies hidden in the pages of this beautifully illustrated, hilariously told story. Come on down Zippo, we’ve saved you a place in the inner circle of friends here at myfriendlucy!

Check out Zippo the Super Hippo at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Zippo the Super Hippo from Fishpond.

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Fabulous Pie by Gareth Edwards; illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

[Published by Alison Green Books]

pie

“Deep in the forest
Where the trees meet the sky,
A very bad bear
Baked a very big pie.”

In spite of his badness, I have to admit to a certain fondness for the sneaky old bear. He hatches a cunning plan, asking the animals of the forest to help him fill his fabulous pie. Mouse provides ripe berries, and squirrel adds delicious hazelnuts. It’s all sounding rather tasty. Badger brings honey and then otter offers the slightly less-traditional salmon.

At this point the bear shows his true colours, shoving the mouse, squirrel, badger and otters into his pie. IMG_1908With a little ingenuity the pie-filling/animals engineer a rather slippery escape. I must say the character I feel sorry for in all this is the salmon, look out for his doleful eyes as the escapees celebrate with a delicious slice of pie.

Fabulous Pie is heaps of fun to read. Told in bopping rhyme, its illustrations are almost as delicious as the pie.

Check out Fabulous Pie at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Fabulous Pie from Fishpond.

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Tyranno-sort-of Rex by Christopher Llewelyn; illustrated by Scott Tulloch (2015)

[Published by Scholastic New Zealand]

dinoHave you spent hours scratching your head over the instructions provided with kit-set furniture? Now imagine you have no instructions, and rather than a bookshelf, you’re putting together a dinosaur skeleton. Yup, that’s right, hilarious.

A ship’s cargo of three neatly packed sets of dinosaur bones arrive at the dock in a sad state, having weathered a violent storm. No longer divided, the bones are now merrily higglety pigglety.

Their delivery to the City Museum museum late at night and the day before an advertised exhibition of dinosaurs creates something of a challenge for the curator.

After a long night of sweating over power tools and unidentified bones, the curator creates three… um… sort of dinosaur skeletons.IMG_1907[1]

“Through half-closed eyes, it sort of looked fine,
but scattered around were spare bits of spine.
The leftover bones he’d just have to hide,
as people were already queueing outside.”

His various attempts at dinosaur creation are fantastic, and while regular dinosaurs are fairly crazy, these things are off the scale wacky. Told in fabulous rhyming verse, this story will have your audience in fits of laughter.

Check out Tyranno-sort-of-Rex at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Tyranno-Sort-of Rex from Fishpond.

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One plastic bag by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (2015)

[Published by Millbrook Press]

one

The recycling women of the Gambia are outstanding. Imagine a community used to bags made of natural fibres that breakdown quickly when discarded. What happens when plastic bags are introduced?

A steadily growing pile of rubbish lines the streets of Njau in Gambia. Isatou has been only vaguely aware of this, until the day her goat becomes sick. “Many goats have been eating these,” he says. “The bags twist around their insides, and the animals cannot survive.” Isatou realises something must be done, so she starts by picking up one plastic bag from the pile, then two, until she has a hundred.

She and her friends wash the bags and hang them on the line. Inspired by her sister’s crocheting, Isatou 20150724_171353has an idea. Cutting the plastic bags into strips, Isatou and her friends begin to crochet them into purses which they sell in the city. And gradually the pile of discarded plastic grows smaller and smaller.

Miranda Paul explains her experiences in Africa at the end of this amazing story, “Today, Njau is much cleaner, the goats are healthier, and the garden grow better. Residents from nearby towns travel there to learn the craft of recycling.”

An inspiring beautifully told and illustrated story.

Check out One plastic bag at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Picture Books) from Fishpond.

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The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin (2015)

[Published by Bloomsbury]

IMG_1904[1]

I have seen cookbooks beautifully displayed in kitchens, selected because of their ability to perfectly compliment the decor. Look what I found! My very own deliciously matching bathroom picture book. If it ever becomes a thing then I am totally sorted.

I had a very merry time wandering through the pages of The Cloudspotter with my two preschool nephews. The train fan was kept very happy, and it turns out they both love hot air balloons.

Franklin, better known as “The Cloudspotter,” enjoys a lot of entirely solitary cloud observation time. This is the way he likes it, free to pursue adventures in the sky, from swimming with jellyfish to driving racing cars. When The Scruffy Dog sniffs at the edges of his world, Franklin is not happy. “Was she after his clouds?” IMG_1895Eventually Franklin is pushed to drastic measures, enter the hot air balloon. When The Scruffy Dog sails forlornly away The Cloudspotter discovers that he’s pretty darn lonely. After an effective rescue attempt this lovely conclusion is reached, “Because, everyone knows, TWO cloudspotters are better than one… especially when you are BEST FRIENDS!”

The illustration and design of this picture book is truly beautiful. It’s another top to toe package of loveliness.

Check out The Cloudspotter at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The Cloudspotter from Fishpond.