Tag Archives: Helen Oxenbury

Ruby Reads (14)

Who’d have thought there were such riches to be discovered when reading with someone less than two years old? (The question’s rhetorical, but of course, the answer is, ‘Anyone who knew anything about books created for children.’)

Alison Lester, Kissed by the Moon (Penguin Australia 2013)

A very beautiful little book featuring a baby and a tranquil night in the natural world, with a baby – ‘my baby’ – in the middle of it. Pragmatically speaking, I guess it’s a bedtime read, but Alison Lester knows how to put words together, and how to make images, that reach in and touch your heart.

Lynley Dodd, Scarface Claw (Puffin 2002)

Scarface Claw appears in others of the wonderful Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy books. He’s the toughest cat in town, and scares all the dogs in other books. This one celebrates his fearlessness in Lynley Dodd’s dependably lively rhymes, until the final reveal of the only thing in the world that Scarface Claw is scared of. I won’t spoil it for you.

Rosie Greening (words) & Stuart Lynch (pictures), There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Make Believe Ideas 2018)

This was read to us at Rhyme Time. It is probably one of many children’s picture books built around the well-known cumulative song. I have always loved the Burl Ives version of the song, and the Pete Seeger one as well. I wouldn’t say that I love this version – the illustrations are cute, but not compelling. I’m very glad to report that the disastrous consequences of swallowing a horse are not minimised.

Mem Fox (words) & Helen Oxenbury (pictures), Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (2008)

This would have been a slightly preachy book asserting our common humanity if it wasn’t so very well done. Mem Fox’s rhyming text feels effortlessly simple (and anyone who’s tried to do that sort of thing knows that the effortlessness is the reader’s, not the writers). It essentially lists a lot of babies and says they all have ten little fingers and ten little toes. The illustrations pick up the cultural diversity of the babies / toddlers, and the fingers and toes are gorgeous.

Karen Roosa (words) & Maggie Smith (pictures), Beach Day (MH Boos for Young Readers 2018)

Here’s a board book that made me rethink my whole approach to some children’s books. It’s a day at the beach involving a couple of families. I disliked it pretty intensely on first several readings, the rhyming text includes waves that soar (to rhyme with ‘roar’), and a ‘jewelled array’ of spray. But no one else cares about the rhymes: as you turn the pages, you can follow the doings of half a dozen different characters: the children, the dogs, the various adults, the two babies, the seagulls. I now wonder if its riches will ever be exhausted.

Kissed by the Moon and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes are the 27th and 28th books I’ve read for the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Ruby Reads (10): Ducks, pop-ups, and llama

Ruby hasn’t been terribly interested in reading for a while, at least when she’s with her grandparents. Too many competing interests, like bubbles, ramps, putting tiny dolls in bags and taking them out again, hunting for kookaburras, people watching … the list goes on. Three of the books in this post have been read to us at library Rhyme Time. Only one has been requested (or, to be more accurate, demanded repeatedly) at home.

Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury, Farmer Duck (Walker Books 1992)

This was read to us, rather poorly if the truth be told, at Rhyme Time at a different library from our usual. The duck works for a lazy farmer, who lies around all day and every now and then asks how the work is going. The poor duck looks up from one of his many tasks and reports that it’s going well. Soon the duck is exhausted. The other animals have a meeting, whose conclusion is ‘Moo’, ‘Oink’, ‘Cluck’. Translated into action, this leads to the ejection of the farmer from his bed and from the farm, and the work being taken over by a collective of animals. This is a cheerfully nonsensical tale of socialist revolution and workers’ control. Text and images triumphantly transcended the circumstances in which we encountered them.

Jo Lodge, Oops! Little Chick (Push, Pull Pop! Books, B E S Publishing 2013)

It’s tempting to say this was the opposite experience: an almost nothing book read to us with enormous charm and enthusiasm. But really, the book is an unassuming but perfect piece of paper engineering. The high point, hinted at in the colour illustration, is the page where you pull a tab and a little splat of yellow business appears on the ground behind the little chick. Our excellent librarian returned to that page a couple of time.

Fiona Watt and Alessandra Psacharopulo, Pop-Up Jungle Book (Usborne 2015)

More paper engineering. This one, which is much more elaborate, goes on a walk through the jungle where tails swish, jaws snap, etc, activated just by turning the page. One small child (the program is for children younger than two) was so enthralled, she wandered from her mother’s lap as if hypnotised to stand almost within touching distance. Speak not too lightly of pop-up book creators, they are the unacknowledged formers of young minds. (There’s a YouTube of this book: here.)

Anna Dewdney, Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom (Viking 2012)

This board book is one of the :Llama Llama series. The other one I know is about Llama Llama Red Pyjama at bed time. In this one the protagonist (I’m avoiding saying ‘he’, because the character could be female) has fourteen pages of vigorous, onomatopoeic activity. Something about it appeals hugely to the almost-eighteen-month-old in my life. Just yesterday she returned to it with a vengeance. And I confess to enjoying its wonderful minimalist storytelling, and finely judged rhyme. I just read on wikipedia that all Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pyjama books have been New York Times best sellers. [Added later: The Emerging Artist wants me to acknowledge that she is the definitively preferred reader of this book.]

Ruby Reads III

Though Ruby likes to have the same book read to her over and over, she has still managed to accumulate quite a library, and casts her reading net wide. Here are some more titles from her bookshelf (and floor).

Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker Books 1989)

Many people, in Australia at least, might be forgiven for thinking this is a spin-off from the Play School song with the same words, but I think I’m right in saying that the book came first. It’s a brilliant ear-worm of a read-aloud, complete with sound effects of grass, mud, forest and other obstacles that must be gone – not over, or under, or around, but through.

Jill McDonald, Hello World! Birds (Doubleday 2017)

I promise I’m not going to mention in my log every board book in Ruby’s collection. Let this one stand in for a dozen, including Cats and Kittens (a favourite).

It’s a thrill to be with a small child as she learns to turn the pages of a book, and to indicate which images excite her attention. This is a book that allows that to happen. (And there are plenty of board books that don’t judge their readership as well as this one.)

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Monkey Puzzle (Alison Green 2009)

Here’s a terrific ‘onion book’ (thanks to Ann Knight Bell in the comments for the term). I love the fabulous drawings of the little monkey who goes looking for his mother, and the range of animals who don’t make the grade, and the wit of the text as each candidate has some feature of the mother, but none of the essential quality, finally revealed, that she must look like the little monkey. Ruby loves the book, but turns the page once that page’s candidate has been named.

Matthew Van Fleet, with photographs by Brian Stanton, Moo (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (2011)

Matthew Van Fleet has a whole string of beautifully produced, hefty picture books with pop-ups and moveable parts. This is the first one I encountered. There are also Dance, and Dog (in which a cat appears under the very last flap, and certain presenters of the book make sure it’s a very noisy appearance.)

HTML for Babies (Sterling Children’s Books, 2016)

I really don’t get this. The web description website says, ‘These concept books will familiarize young ones with the kind of shapes and colors that make up web-based programming language and give them the head start they need.’ (It seemed appropriate to leave the US spelling unchanged.) It’s impossible to read aloud, as nothing in it makes sense. I guess it’s for browsing and taking in the visuals

Margaret Wild and Ann James, Lucy Goosey (Little Hare Books 2008)

Oooh! Another perfect picture book. Ann James’s little geese (goslings doesn’t seem the right word) are very sweet, and the story about Lucy, who is enjoying her life but doesn’t want to go flying because it’s so scary, is suitably reassuring: in the end she finds the courage because her mother reassures her she will always be there. So far Ruby seems to like pointing at the pictures most, but I like the word ‘whiffling’, for the sound made by the wings of grown-up geese.

Lucy Goosey is the eighth book I’ve read for the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge.