Saturday 25 November 2006

The Really Sticky Grubby Lolly, Yvonne Marie Dudman, Ross Kinnaird, 2005

Five New Zealand Picture Books for Young Readers

THE REALLY STICKY GRUBBY LOLLY, Yvonne Marie Dudman, ill. Ross Kinnaird, Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 25 pages, paperback, NZ$14.99 ISBN 1-86948-580-7

, Amy Lam, Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 24 pages, paperback, NZ$14.99 ISBN 1-86948-585-8

SCRUFFTY MOUSE AND ONE-EYED TED, Penney Wech, ill. Philip Webb, Reed, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005 , 28 pp, Pb, NZ$14.99 ISBN 1-86948-581-5

BABY COW POWER, Kim Riley, ill. Deb Hinde, Random House, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 24pp, paperback, NZ$19.95 ISBN 1-86941-723-2

WHERE’S THE GOLD? Pamela Allen, Penguin/Viking, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005, 30pp, hardback, NZ$25 ISBN 0-670-02844-4

Picture books are presents that last a lifetime, and parents have a wide range to choose from. Here are five good New Zealand titles:

Amy Lam is a New Zealand artist who uses her Chinese heritage to create a magnificent parable, Panki in the Land of the Kiwi, about a panda who emigrates. Inspired by reading about Kiwiland, Panki the panda leaves his crowded city (where all the houses are panda-shaped) and arrives in Kiwiland wearing a marvellous home-made kiwi suit as a symbol of his willingness to fit in. At first Panki has difficulty meeting a kiwi, because of a small failure in his research. When does a kiwi sleep? Then a voice in the darkness says, “Kia ora”, and Panki finds the acceptance he seeks.
Lam’s pictures are as charming as her story.

Baby Cow Power is Kim Riley’s sequel to her Cow Power (2004) about Cow 569, which famously helped tow her from the Manawatu floods. Now Cow 569 has given birth to a bull calf and Baby Cow Power tells how this calf’s special status brings it an unusual name – Tuggy’s Buoy – strong public interest and a remarkable destination. Deb Hinde’s illustrations create a cheerfully unromanticised farm setting, with electric fences, muddy ditches, ear tags and a wind-farm on the skyline. Those who look carefully at the pictures will see what the cattle are saying.

The Really Sticky Grubby Lolly is Yvonne Marie Dudman’s story of a little girl’s busy week. On Monday she gets the lolly for being good but then things go amusingly wrong. For readers, the delight comes from comparing the girl’s version of events with Ross Kinnaird’s colourful cartoon-style illustrations. “On Thursday I put Mum’s car keys in a really special place so my brother wouldn’t break them,” becomes much more interesting when we see the keys being popped into a drain! And the lolly? Let’s just say it turns out to be an all-week sucker.

In Scruffty Mouse and One-eyed Ted, Penney Wech follows the fate of worn-out toys. In the 50 cent toy bin at the Op-Shop are a battered teddy bear and a damaged mouse. Both have been deeply loved ‘but not any more’. Then Michael arrives on his first shopping trip with a dollar to spend. What follows is heart-warming and funny, as Michael’s mother helps him to refurbish Scruffty Mouse, and provide a new eye for Ted. The lovely illustrations by Philip Webb – an unsung hero of the children’s book world – reinforce the message about the joy of a comforting cuddle with a beloved old toy.

The best of this handsome bunch is Where’s the Gold? Pamela Allen uses vivid verse and happy repetitions to tell the story of three young, gold-seeking pirates. ‘and there they found a big deep hole in the ground.’ Allen’s delightful pictures show the three tip-toeing nervously down a dark tunnel, through streams and over the boulders: ‘clawing and clutching, they clambered.’ The alliteration, parrot noises and repetition make this a delightful book to read aloud and share with young readers, especially when the panicked pirates make a hasty retreat. Several more surprises are included in this book’s construction, ensuring that the plucky trio do, indeed, discover gold.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, on January 7th 2006.

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