Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara

Happy Halloween everyone! As the lone American in my house it's up to me to carry on the Halloween spirit and initiate E as best I can in my childhood traditions. We've hung some decorations, picked a giant pumpkin from a Surrey farm and we'll be watching The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown at some point this week.  The last piece of the puzzle was to find a suitable Halloween themed book.  I've searched and searched for something that looks interesting in its own rite and not just because it fits the theme.  Luckily, my dear college roommate came to the rescue with her recommendation of Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara. Published in 2008, this was Kohara's debut book and it won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book award. It's easy to see why.

Drawn in stark black outlines against an orange background, the illustrations tell much of the story of a young girl who moves into a haunted house.  Luckily, she's a witch and she spends her time rounding up the ghosts and stuffing them in the washing machine.  Freshly washed, she uses them to spruce up her new house in the form of curtains, tablecloths and bedspreads.  The text is sparse and the story is a great balance between that little bit of spookiness and an engaging tale. I think we'll be reading this one well beyond the 31st of October!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Olive and the Bad Mood by Tor Freeman

I plucked this little gem from an unsteady pile of picture books at my local library last week.  I'm probably the only person who plans their library visits to coincide with their toddler's nap time, but in my defense the children's section at my local is often in a bit of a state and I need full attention for searches.

Tor Freeman has become a fast favorite at our house and Olive and the Bad Mood is no exception. Freeman's characters are incredibly fun and expressive. I find myself instinctively changing voices for each one and it makes reading aloud a pleasure.  Just look at that cat's face on the cover, who could resist her?

The premise for this title is short and sweet. Olive is one seriously grumpy feline and she inflicts her mood on all of her friends by either insulting them or blanking them completely.  A bag of jelly worms reunites them for a brief period, but when the bag is empty and the last gummy worm is a distant memory, Olive's bad mood threatens to return.

This is a fun story that offers a moral as well, and it's pretty much a perfect length for E and me. It's a testament to Freeman that her animal characters are so loveable even when they're grumpy and behaving badly. E's memorized this one already so I better revisit that pile of library books again soon. Do visit Tor Freeman's website and prepare to be charmed by her work.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

... my Donald Crews wishlist

The New York Public Library has just published a list of 100 great children's books. In reading through the titles, enraptured, I decided to do a little research on the American author/illustrator Donald Crews. Crews is a two time Caldecott Honor winner, and among a whole host of other titles, he's produced a collection of stunning picture books featuring transportation. I'm familiar with his Freight Train book, but I have to admit that I had no idea of his expanded repertoire. The following four books are going straight on my wishlist:

Crews has also created books about his summers spent in the American south as a child.  This, of course, is a subject close to my heart and I'll be scouring the library soon for a copy of Bigmama's.  I'll let you know if I find it!