Book Review: Have You Seen Elephant?

Have You Seen Elephant_front cover 300dpi_gecko

Have You Seen Elephant? – David Barrow
Published by Gecko Press

There are two Gecko Press books on rotation in our house at the moment: Ko Wai e Huna Ana? and Have You Seen Elephant?

Since it arrived last week, David Barrow’s beautifully-illustrated Have You Seen Elephant? has been thrust under my nose at every opportunity, accompanied by Pickle’s huge brown eyes and a cheeky grin.

He loves it.

Scratch that.

We love it.

It is, quite honestly, one of the funniest children’s books I’ve read in a while. Elephant wants to play hide-and-seek. The boy is keen, but Elephant just has to warn him…he is very good at hide-and-seek.

Such a simple concept, yet Barrows has executed it with some of the loveliest illustrations I’ve seen in a long time. They are so witty, so appealing, and just…well…beautiful.

We laugh our way through it every single read-through. Elephant’s great hiding skills elicit the same giggles from Pickle each time, especially when I pretend I can’t see that Elephant is hiding under a lamp or behind an incredibly skinny tree.

The ending is a little subtle for my three-and-a-half year old, but my nearly-six-year-old got it straight away and I thought he was going to choke on his own laughter: Turtle asks if they want to play tag, but he has to warn the boy…

Yet another Gecko Press gem that is yet to make it on to a shelf; thanks team!

Book Review: The Big Book of Animals of the World

The Big Book of Animals of the WorldThe Big Book of Animals of the World – Ole Könnecke
Published by Gecko Press, September 2015

A large-format boardbook looking at the common – and uncommon – animals that live side-by-side all over the world.

The Big Book of Animals of the World is a gorgeous pictorial “encyclopaedia” featuring animals and landscapes from across the globe. Each double-page spread covers one continent or ocean, and features a variety of animals and scenes. The animals range from the well-known (lions, bears, hippos, whales…) to the less-well-known (tapir, marmot, sanctuary bird…), and each illustration is simple and appealing in Ole Könnecke’s signature style.

We had a great time exploring each page, looking at the variety of animals that inhabit the earth, and seeing what the little mice “people” were doing in each scene.

This is a lovely addition to our non-fiction collection of books, and it has been popular with the children in Tiny’s class, too.

Thank you, Gecko Press, for another stellar publication for us to review!

Book Review: Hello, World!

Hello, World!Hello, World! – Paul Beavis
Published by Gecko Press, September 2015

I was beyond excited when I heard that Paul Beavis was writing and illustrating a second book featuring the loveable monster from Mrs. Mo’s Monster, and when our review copy of Hello, World! arrived, we couldn’t wait to dive straight in.

Everything about this book is perfect. The illustrations are cute, quirky, colourful and clever; I loved the moment that my boys realised the monster was being followed, adding a new element to the fun. Tiny especially enjoyed looking at all the things the monster decided to take on his journey, giggling at some of the more unusual items and guessing at the purpose of others.

The story itself is charming and funny; the monster reminds me of certain three- and five-year-olds who are often told they need to wait, when they are bursting to do something.

We are big monster fans, and this is another Gecko Press gem that is yet to be shelved!

Book Review: I Want Spaghetti

I Want SpaghettiI Want Spaghetti – Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press, September 2015

Simon, that cheeky little rabbit, is back in this latest gem from writer/illustrator, Stephanie Blake.

We’ve enjoyed A Deal’s a Deal and I don’t want to go to school, but I Want Spaghetti has taken first place as our favourite bunny book. On our first reading, both of my boys giggled hysterically as Simon got more and more vocal about his desire for spaghetti, and they walked around the house yelling, “I want spaghetti!!” for a good twenty minutes after we’d finished. When I dished up dinner that night, Tiny looked at me with a cheeky grin and said, “But mum…I want spaghetti.”

Parents of toddlers and young children will think that Stephanie Blake has been spying on them at meal times. Blake has captured the fussy, changeable habits of children perfectly, as well as the clever tricks most parents employ to get their children to eat.

A very clever, simple story sure to delight the fussiest of children.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review copy.

Book Review: The Great White Man-Eating Shark

The Great White Man-Eating SharkThe Great White Man-Eating Shark – Margaret Mahy
Published by Hachette NZ – July 2015

Norvin has small eyes, sharp teeth and a pointy head – just like a shark! If you were pretending to be a great white man-eating shark just imagine what you’d get up to.

When this Early Reader edition of Margaret Mahy’s brilliantly clever The Great White Man-Eating Shark arrived for us to review, Tiny’s eyes grew wide and he stared at me for a moment before asking, “Is this one really for me?” When I assured him that yep, it was, he was silent for a moment, before hugging the book to his chest and whispering, “I love this story.”

We’re read it previously, but this red* Early Reader edition is perfect. Tiny’s appetite for reading keeps on growing, and he’s now at a point where he can pick up a book and work out the vast majority of new words on each page. The great thing about this book is that it’s a story he is already familiar with, so he can practise his reading without losing the meaning of the words. However, as he is just a beginner reader, he also loves to be read to and we have sessions where he reads some, and I read some, which suits us both.

The print is large, well-spaced and easy to read. There are only a couple of sentences on each page, giving the book the feel of a chapter book, without being daunting.

Jonathan Allen’s illustrations are simple, expressive and really quite marvellous. They are a little quirky and suit the story of shark-like Norvin perfectly.

The Great White Man-Eating Shark is a classic, hilarious and clever story that will appeal in any form, but this Early Reader edition is perfect for encouraging your children to pick up a book and get lost in the amazing world of Margaret Mahy.

* Hachette NZ have published a series of blue Early readers – ‘perfect for sharing and reading together” – and red Early readers – “the next step on [the] reading journey”.

Book Review: When I am Happiest

When I am Happiest – Rose Lagercrantz
(Published by Gecko Press, July 2015)

When I am Happiest

When I am Happiest is a beautiful tale of joy, sadness and friendship; it deals with a difficult subject in a graceful and accessible way, making it a pleasure to read. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether Tiny would like it, but we sat down to read a couple of chapters together, and suddenly, we’d finished the whole book. He didn’t want me to stop, and I didn’t want to stop either.

The chapters are short, the sentences snappy. The pace is fast and it is interesting to read. I loved that it was a simple tale, yet Lagercrantz wasn’t afraid to challenge young readers by throwing in a few more interesting words and ideas. I liked that the characters didn’t just “ask”, but asked “questioningly”; this appealed to my love of words and my desire to encourage my boys to be voracious readers.

Each chapter is accompanied by Eva Eriksson’s simple line drawings. The illustrations are perfect, and convey so much emotion. At moments where children might not understand the seriousness of the story, the illustrations help them to understand what it going on.

When we’d finished reading When I am Happiest, Tiny and I talked about the story, and how it made us feel. I was surprised at how perceptive and articulate he was as he explained how he felt, and surprised at how emotional I felt too.

This is a beautiful book, aimed at five- to seven-year-olds, although I think it would appeal to older children (and adults) too.

Thank you to Gecko Press for providing this beauty for review purposes.