Book Review

Jonny Lambert

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Jonny Lambert is going to be our September ‘Illustrator of the Month’ at school and was shortlisted last year in the NSTBA Picture Book Category with the lovely ‘Look Out, It’s a Dragon!’. Here at JAB HQ we are great fans of his lovely stories so we were delighted to be sent two new books by him this summer.

The first is ‘Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek’. As the sun sets, Mouse suggests that he and his friends take the shortcut through the creek to get home. Rabbit is worried that this is where the crocodiles live, but Mouse declares he has never seen one so they set off.

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What follows is a fabulously funny journey through the creek over the lumpy, bumpy bridge, past the scritchy, scratchy thorns and through the dark green vines as Mouse describes the crocodiles. We see, as Rabbit does, that perhaps they should be looking more carefully at their surroundings!

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At last, Shelly has gathered all the answers he needs and makes his friends stop and listen to his worries, but Mouse still is not convinced and nearly leads them to disaster. However, never down for long, he decides that they will take a shortcut through the forest- but won’t there be tigers..?

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This delightful story is perfect for sharing! With plenty of crocodiles to spot as the animals go on their journey, the book offers plenty of opportunities for audience participation. The characters are wonderful: Mouse, bold, brave and perhaps a touch foolhardy, Shelly, thoughtful and questioning, gradually coming to a well considered conclusion and Rabbit, observant and cautious. The illustrations are just wonderful! Bright and bold, each page perfectly frames the animals as they make their perilous journey across the swamp, escape danger and pause before setting off again. Even the end papers tell the story with crocodile green at front and tiger stripe at the end! Fabulous!

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No less lovely, though very different, is ‘Where in the Wild’. This explores animal habitats, using cut through sections and explains the importance of saving these locations. With rhyming text by Poppy Bishop, the illustrations by Jonny show where the creature lives, for example, the wolf or the meerkat. The peep holes allow some animals to be shown in more than one habitat and there is additional text about these.

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Each spread is colourful and beautifully laid out with plenty to notice and discuss- including a challenge to find all the butterflies in the pictures. It is certainly a book that children will return to time and time again. The book ends with the reminder about all the damage that is being done to the environment and how important it is to preserve these habitats so ‘all animals can thrive’, encouraging the reader to play their part in this. An excellent book for engaging children and starting conversations about the wonders of our world and the need to protect it.

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Jonny’s wonderful collage style illustrations are always a joy and these two new titles are no exception!

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

Little Tiger ISBN: 978-1788813983

Where in the Wild

Little Tiger ISBN: 978-1848699564

You can read our review of ‘Little Why’ here, ‘The Only Lonely Panda’ here , ‘Tiger, Tiger’ here and ‘Look Out, It’s a Dragon!’ here.

I, Cosmo

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Cosmo is a Golden Retriever. He is devoted his family, particularly Max who he promised to protect when he was a baby. However, all is not well- Mum and Dad are arguing all the time and Max is terrified about what the future might hold. But what can a dog do to help? With the help of Uncle Reggie, Max and Cosmo decide to enter a dancing competition to remind mum and dad of the days when they used to dance round the kitchen and were happy. But Max will have to overcome his shyness and Cosmos his creaking joints if they are to stand a hope of mum and dad getting the message.

There is nothing I can say which can sum up what a special book this is! Cosmo is a mixture of all the dogs I have known and loved in my lifetime. Cosmo’s voice is beautifully written with his dog’s eye view of events carefully relayed. The bond he has with Max and his tireless devotion his doggy heart gives is so touching. Childhood pets are so important and the comfort they offer is boundless. This is Monty, endlessly ( or should that be hopelessly) devoted to my son who spent many happy hours sharing his basket. (Please excuse the quality- pre-digital age!)

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However, there is more to this book than that. There is plenty of humour added to the story as Cosmo tries to make sense of the world about him. Cosmo’s love of bacon and Grease (the film) , the naughty things he occasionally tempted into doing all add to his wonderful personality.

There is a more serious side to this story. Max’s misery at the constant arguments and the tension they create, his uncertainty at what the future holds and his fear of being separated from Cosmo are all explored sensitively and seen through Cosmo’s eyes, allowing for some distance.

This is a must read story - something really different and special. Get the tissues ready!

I, Cosmo Carlie Sorosiak

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-1788003872

The Only Way is Badger

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Badger is determined to have everything his own way- after all, badgers are best. Or this is what the poster that are appearing all over the forest say. Gradually, Badger banishes all the creatures who don’t conform to his badgery standards, sending them over the wall. However, when he is left all alone, in a world he has painted black and white, it is time to think again. Perhaps the only way isn’t badger after all?

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I’m not a very political being, but there are some people I would love to send a copy of this book to! ‘The Only Way is Badger’ is a wonderful book for opening discussions about diversity, being an individual, dictatorships, the dangers of persuasive orators, building walls… aaaaargh! Fortunately, the other animals do not back Badger’s dictatorial regime, but imagine what might have happened if they did…

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The book is perfect for discussions about acceptance, diversity - and learning to say sorry and admit that you were wrong. Badger’s story could also be used to explore playground conflicts where someone might want everything their own way. It shows the power of friendship and how that is more important than always being right. It lends itself beautifully to role play or puppet work and offers many writing opportunities. What qualities do others have which you admire? How might you ‘be more bear’ for example?

The illustrations are fabulous, full of little details and lots of wonderful expressions. The colourful spreads contrast sharply with Badger’s solitary black and white world.

With lots to discuss, ‘The Only Way is Badger’ is a very satisfying story.

The Only Way is Badger Stella J Jones, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Little Tiger ISBN: 978-1848699403