Great new picture books for 2018
This month Kate Shepherd reviews three very different picture books all featuring animals in the main character roles.
My Friend Tertius by Corinne Fenton illus by Owen Swan hb 9781760113827 $24.99
This is a charming, simply written true story told from the perspective of Arthur Cooper, a young British Intelligence Officer who rescued a baby gibbon in a busy Hong Kong market in 1941. He called the gibbon Tertius and it became a much loved affectionate and mischievous companion. When Arthur Cooper was instructed to leave Hong Kong because of the threatening war, he determined he couldn’t leave Tertius behind and so he took the gibbon first to Singapore and then with the war even closer, to Jakarta finally escaping to Fremantle.
Tertius knew he had to keep quiet and out of sight in these escapes. However, when they were confronted by customs officials in Melbourne, they could no longer stay together but a compromise was made and Tertius was put into the zoo where the zookeeper’s wife took him home with her each evening. The understated simplicity of this story is perfectly matched by the softly muted colours of the illustrations faithfully recreating details of the historical period of the story. It brings to life an aspect of life in the 1940s in Hong Kong and Singapore and then in Australia through this story of the friendship between a man and his gibbon. (5 – 8 years)
Go Home, Cheeky Animals by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley hardback 9781760291655 $24.99
It took a few readings before I really appreciated the humour in the striking naïve illustrations and in the simple but lively text. The illustrator lives in a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory and at the young age of 24 already has his own design clothing brand, Cheeky Dogs. Dogs are very much part of many remote community townships and in this book, they lazily watch as other feral animals take their turn in invading the town through the various seasons of the year. First there are goats, then donkeys, then horses and then when the grass dries up “a bunch of buffaloes starts eating our oval” and the cheeky dogs just look the other way. The camels are the last to come when the soaks dry up. All the animals are finally chased away when the big storms come.
It is easy to see how this lively humorous picture book would have a special appeal to Indigenous children in remote communities but it would also appeal to children everywhere while giving them an insight into life with its seasons and feral animals in a remote Indigenous community. Dion Beasley’s talents are especially remarkable since he is deaf and has muscular dystrophy. Both author and illustrator are to be commended on such an unusual and appealing picture book. It would be great for reading aloud and for performance. Young children will love joining in the chorus of “Go home, cheeky animals.” (3 – 6 years)
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith hb 9781509840557 $25.00
It was a perfect day for cat basking in the sun among the daffodils, and for dog sitting in the cool water of the wading pool and for bird eating fresh birdseed. But all is completely disrupted when bear comes visiting and takes over birdseed, the cool water and finally napping in the warmth of the flower bed. The story is very simple depending on the repetition of the phrase “It was a perfect day” with a different emphasis as bear arrives. It is delightful book with engaging illustrations and will especially bring pleasure when read aloud to young children. (3 – 5 years)
Feature Image: By kind permission from Lane Smith