Each week I review books we’ve read with Squirm. Find other reviews here
Come Down, Cat! by Sonya Hartnett
(AWW 2013 Squirm Challenge: Book 12)
Written and Illustrated by the same pair who created The Boy and the Toy, this is a very different, yet still very beautiful book. It’s a fairly simple tale about a cat who refuses to come down from the roof, despite the creepy crawlies that she might see there through the night. However, when the rain comes, Nicholas will be called on to assist the cat to safety.
I am very much falling in love with the illustrations of Lucia Masciullo which seem to carry a whimsical feel with them, no matter what style she’s used. This book is more fairy tale than steam punk in style, but uses similar use of perspective to create suspense and excitement as was used in The Boy and the Toy. I particularly loved that so few of the lines are straight, that there’s bends and twists and curves in this magical world. The language is gorgeous as well – with a wide breadth of words including ‘peered’, ‘dismayed’ and ‘wafting’ (This is why picture books are so important – those words are very unlikely to appear elsewhere!) There’s also alliteration and personification and just the right mix of real and unrealistic.
This would be the perfect book for looking at fears and how different things scare different people. You could also use it to talk about who might be able to help if you were scared of something. Alternately, you could also use this book to talk about bravery, and the brave things that your child has done. I could also see the gorgeous illustrations of the house and the ladder inspiring drawings of other houses and ladders and even 3D models of them!
Maximilian Jones by Elise Hurst
(AWW 2013 Squirm Challenge: Book 14)
This was a bit of a surprise of a book. By the front cover I was expecting the basic book of a boy and his dog and how much he loved the dog. But suddenly I was thrown into a world of weird coincidences, mass hysteria and the amazing league of the postal service. One day Max finds a friendly dog, whose name is also Max. Suddenly the whole town embraces the name Max, causing the poor postie a lot of confusion and frustration until he calls in back up.
There’s a wonderful, weird twisty feel to the story and the illustrations in this book. The illustrations are absolutely essential to the story, and a great way to encourage more visual literacy by looking for the character and story details contained within them. The words interact with the illustrations, moving up and around and moving your eye across the page. I also adore the fact the mayor is female! That’s definitely not something you find in every children’s book. There’s a real rhythm in the words in this book, a lilting up and down feel which makes it very easy to read aloud.
I would love to use this book with a whole lot of activities about the postal service. You could set up your own little post box at home, look at different post workers around the world, work out how a letter gets from one place to another and the different ways that post can be delivered. Australia post has some information here. You could also look at names and what people or place names mean. There’s a whole lot of town related activities you could play with as well, from creating a town map to designing and acting out a town fair to learning more about what people in the community do.