Each week, I review some of the books we’ve read with Squirm:
My Mum by Anthony Browne
“She’s nice, my mum.”
If you were just to look at the words of this book, they wouldn’t look like much. Simple sentences, about one to a page. A couple of nice similes. But not much of a story. But then you look at the illustrations and you see that there’s much more to this book.
The opening picture begins with a mother sitting at the table in her dressing gown. She’s got a cup of tea or coffee in her hand, in a cup with a heart on it. That’s important, like the pattern on her dressing gown is important – only you don’t know it yet. But as you turn the pages, you realise the dressing gown pattern keeps appearing – as the bodice of a tutu, the wings of a butterfly or a bow on the horn of a rhino. And hearts keep appearing too – a cake, the control panel of an astronaut, in the pattern of her dressing gown – even mum’s cheeks look like hearts. Then there’s a third element which appears again and again – the pink, fluffy slippers – which are also ballet shows and astronaut boots.
This is a book you want to go through again and again, looking for more things in the illustrations. It would be great with toddlers. It would also be amusing to try and create your own books where one or more elements repeats throughout. Or you could look for other books with the same thing. (Like The Red Tree by Shaun Tan)
My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee and Matthew Forsythe
Elizabeth likes her name. She really likes her name. She likes that it has nine letters and that there’s a Queen with her name. But she hates it when people shorten it.
This is a relatively short and sweet book about nicknames and the ways names can be shortened. Elizabeth gets really frustrated with all the shortened versions of her name, and decides to solve her problem in a way I wasn’t that thrilled about, but it was effective. Again, though, the illustrations were the star here, with lovely drawings all done in blue, orange, black and white. The drawings are quite cartoonish – but again, like My Mum, there’s something to follow through all the pages – a little friend of Elizabeth’s
With Nan by Tania Cox and Karen Blair
I think this book was my favourite of the week. It’s pretty simple – Simon goes to visit his grandmother who takes him on a walk to find Australian animals camouflaged around the property. But there’s a lovely rhythm to the words, they’re separated out across the pages beautifully so that the pauses feel natural.
Then, again, there’s the illustrations. From the minute I opened the book, they struck me as a little different but very beautiful. The end pages are silhouetted watercolours, showing us Nan’s property before we even get to the book proper. The next page shows us gum boots – one small pair, one big pair, followed by a title page with Simon and Nan pulling their gum boots on – so much story already before we even get to a word!
I’m not an artist, so I’m not 100% sure how to describe the gorgeous art here, but there’s definitely watercolours in the background – just enough to give us some colour to the picture. On top of that is the drawing, which is kept fairly simple and sparse. There’s not a huge amount of colour used, really focusing the eye on the colour that is there. Before the camouflaged animals are revealed, they are there in the pictures, but you’ve got to go looking for them. There’s more story told through the illustrations too, like the way Nan and Simon dig their own holes after spotting an echidna, or the way they practice being stick insects.
There’s a lot you could do with this book. You could go on your own nature walk to look for hidden animals. You could learn about the animals Nan and Simon come across. You could also practice telling a story without words, or with few words, or try using some watercolours as background to a picture.