We’re big fans of the dynamic duo of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, who create stunning non-fiction picture books that really appeal to children. The Caldecott Honor What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? — which we own and reviewed previously — is my son’s favourite non-fiction book. Well, at least it was until he was introduced to Animals Upside Down.
In order to create art, let alone great art, one must be daring and imaginative, and see the world in a resolutely different way. As such, it’s no surprise that great artists are often described as ‘eccentric’ since they don’t compromise their point of view to conform to plebeianistic expectations. And thank goodness for that.
Channeling the spirit of the artist in question, Picasso’s Trousers is a refreshingly original and entertaining child-friendly biography that is spot-on in its humorous approach to introducing to kids one of most groundbreaking artists who ever lived.
The idea of taking a writing implement such as a purple crayon, a red marker or a red chalk and magically drawing things that become real, or portals to other lands, has been explored many times in children’s books; and while they are all wonderfully imaginative, I’ve always found that they seem to be aimed at children who are already somewhat proficient in drawing.
While Andrew Drew and Drew also features a protagonist with a writing implement — a pencil this time — it is inventive and creative in a way that doesn’t intimidate or overwhelm children who simply have an interest in art and enjoy doodling, even if their sketches don’t exactly resemble — at least to the ‘untrained’ eye — what they are intended to be.
As the title of the book hints, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill book on farm animals, even though its basic content — characteristics of the different farm animals and the sounds they make, all written in rhyme — echos that of one.
Well, don’t be fooled.
Instead of regular pages, every page of Flip Flap Farm has been split into two horizontally; and because the book has been so well thought-out and executed, both the text as well as the animal illustration on each spread have been laid out and drawn such that they are neatly divided into two.
Woodpeckers belong to a family of birds called picidae, which have the ability to bore holes into trees, thanks to their strong bills. In particular, woodpeckers have longer, sharper and stronger bills than the other species of birds in the same family — which probably explains why they were named as such. No thanks to Woody Woodpecker, however, I kind of grew up believing that woodpeckers peck wood just for the fun of it — when in truth, this specific skill has many important uses for the bird, including food foraging and nest excavation.
While you’re not going to learn any of this in Peck, Peck, Peck, the woodpecker’s signature skill is put to good use here.
Like the other book by the same illustrator, What Is Part This, Part That?, Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? is a very engaging book that has been creatively conceptualised and presented using colourful illustrations, rhyming text and fold-outs.
This time, as the title suggests, the book tries to get the reader to think about the things that can grow vs. those that cannot — which is also a simple way to differentiate between living and non-living things.