Zog (2010) is a picture book by best-selling British team Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Zog is regularly held up as a great feminist story for young readers. Zog interests me as an excellent example of a children’s story which looks feminist at first glance. As I often say: Inversion does not equal subversion. Dig a little deeper, and Zog is pretty far from a feminist text, unless by ‘feminist’ we mean ‘a successful subversion of essentialist masculinity’. It’s something, all right. But let’s raise the bar. A story which challenges prescribed rules about masculinity while simultaneously reinforcing essentialist ideas about femininity cannot count as a successful feminist text.Continue reading “Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler”
Blueberries For Sal (1948) is a picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, also well-known for Make Way For Ducklings. Both stories are thrillers for the preschool set, especially this one. In fact, I’m about to try and convince you that Blueberries For Sal is the inspiration behind Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, with blueberries swapped out for drug money.
McCloskey makes use of a number of established thriller genre techniques in this story, yet creates an exciting yet cosy tale. How does he accomplish that? Let’s take a look.Continue reading “Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey (1948)”
Yellow and black is a fairly common palette in illustration. Hildilid’s Night, Mo’s Moustache, The Happy Day, My Heart and Float are a few picture book examples utilising a greyscale palette with the addition of yellow.Continue reading “Yellow and Black in Illustration”
Avocado Baby (1982) is a picture book written and illustrated by John Burningham. This was my first introduction to John Burningham. Our teacher read it in class. I was about six.
I don’t think I’d ever eaten an avocado at age six, so it functioned as a magical fruit, and didn’t strike me as odd that Burningham refers to them as ‘avocado pears’. I just checked: avocado is not related to the pear. Avocados were sometimes called avocado pears (in England) because of their pear-like shape.
Fruit is prone to changing its name between generations. Where I grew up, in New Zealand, my grandmother always called kiwifruit ‘Chinese gooseberries’. That’s what kiwifruit were called until the fruit marketing board got a hold of them and rebranded the ‘Chinese gooseberry’ for mass export, conveniently linking the furry brown skins with New Zealand’s most famous endangered bird. (Kiwifruit are not related to gooseberries.)
Then, when I left New Zealand, I realised only New Zealanders call kiwifruit ‘kiwifruit’ — the rest of the world shortens to ‘kiwi’, which is unsettling for a New Zealander self-identifying as ‘kiwi’. I am not a fruit!Continue reading “Avocado Baby by John Burningham (1982)”
If you’d like to see some hopeful, vibrant, brightly coloured illustration, let’s visit a part of the world known in recent history for oppessive governments.Continue reading “Vibrant Palettes Of Czech And Eastern European Illustrators”
I Am Not A Fox is a picture book written by Karina Wolf and illustrated by Chuck Groenink. If you’ve ever read “The Ugly Duckling” and thought, “hmm, that message has problems”, then this one might be for you.Continue reading “I Am Not A Fox by Wolf and Groenink”
Come Away From The Water, Shirley is a 1977 picture book written and illustrated by British storyteller, John Burningham. A number of adult readers talk about the “two different stories” going on in this book.Continue reading “Come Away From The Water, Shirley by John Burningham 1977”
How To Make Friends With A Ghost is a 2017 picture book written and illustrated by Rebecca Green. This cosy supernatural story is written as a non-fictional how-to guide and because this book deals with supernatural subject matter, covertly teaches how to be a good friend.Continue reading “How To Make Friends With A Ghost by Rebecca Green”
Hildilid’s Night is a 1971 picture book written by Cheli Durán Ryan, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The illustrations are notable for being rendered entirely in black and white until the sun comes up at the end. This story feels like it’s based on an ancient myth.Continue reading “Hildilid’s Night by Durán Ryan and Lobel”
The Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smolin (1971) is possibly the most successful Little Golden Book starring Sesame Street characters. I grew up with it myself, though I can’t put my hands on it right now so I’ll be talking specifically about the app, which came out decades later, soon after the first tablet computers hit the market.Continue reading “The Monster At The End Of This Book”