Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Feast For the Beast

Everyone loves a special holiday, a time when one can invite a few friends around, prepare some delicious eats, and everyone settles down to watch the parade on television. One is not supposed to sneak off and eat everything ... everything? Yep, everything. In Feast for the Beast by Russell Dorn, the unthinkable happens. Gummy the (toothless) werewolf just can’t wait for the turkey to be done to a golden brown; he has to stop that growling in his stomach. Before he knows it, Gummy has eaten the feast meant for everyone to enjoy. Aghast, he doesn’t know what to do as his hungry friends depart, saddened by his greed. Gummy has to make it up to them, but how? And then he has an idea! A brilliant idea!

What a lovely tale of mayhem behind the scenes as Gummy wades into the food and literally devastates the feast because he can’t stop at just one bite. Although the feisty fruitcakes fight back, they are no match for a hungry beast! Pumpkin pie, green beans, cocoa, candy bars, it all goes down the hatch. The illustrations by David Dorn are simply adorable! Bright and detailed, they almost tell the story in themselves. The simple but descriptive rhymes very adeptly paint the scene as Gummy quickly scoffs the food meant for everyone to share. Although some words might be advanced for a young reader, this is a perfect opportunity for the adult reading aloud to explain meanings, and build on the child’s vocabulary. I loved the play on words, such as ‘tomb-scones.’ Another fun educational aspect is counting the items that Gummy devours, such as ten slices of pumpkin pie and twelve cups of cocoa.

This holiday story, although set in winter, could suit any special festive day in the calendar. Thanksgiving and Christmas spring to mind, but what could be better than Halloween, given that the guest list features monster characters such as Felipe Femur the skeleton, Sunny Stoker the vampire, Runny Rotten the witch, and Gummy Garou the (toothless) werewolf. Apart from creating a fun monster story, the author has subtly included lovely life lessons for young readers. Gummy had let his friends and himself down, and when he realised his mistake, he made up for it. Friendship, sharing, accepting when you’ve made a mistake, thinking about consequences, and mending those broken bonds are themes that youngsters can learn from, since life is full of ups and down, and youngsters need to learn how to fix what has gone wrong, and that the solution is within their power. The end of the story includes more fun for young readers when they visit Felipe Femur’s website.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: Gregory the Spider

Gregory the Spider: Romping through the Year is an enchanting children’s picture book written by Cynthia Dreeman Meyer and illustrated by Marina Saumell. Gregory the spider takes young readers on a pictorial romp through the year, with significant dates and days of celebration cleverly woven into the full page, full colour illustrations. Gregory invites young readers to follow him as he turns the first page in a lovely adventure of seasonal fun. His friends, Max and Molly Mouse, take part in each month’s romp, and Gregory features significantly, often getting into the spirit of things by wearing a costume or hat. Through sunshine, rain, wind, snow, and ice, Gregory shows youngsters the seasons and significant holidays, special days, or moments in the calendar.

First, the illustrations are absolutely adorable and detailed. Readers will definitely spend some time poring over the images and making discoveries. The images are also deceptively simple because, as youngsters read with an adult, they can be encouraged to spot the clues hidden in each picture to indicate the name of the month and other fun features that make the month special. A check list at the end of the book will help young sleuths. The author invites readers to investigate further on her website for a full list of items to find in each picture, and their significance. However, it will be good for parents or teachers to let young readers try for themselves to find the important items and to guess the significance of each month.

The story itself is told quite simply, and possibly because not much wording is needed. The illustrations have a kind of energy that “romps” along as well as one turns the pages. Gregory is a surprise main character because spiders don’t usually end up in the spotlight. Gregory is a delightful “narrator” with his antics, his appropriate costumes, and his expressive eyes! The lovely cover promises a treasure trove of interesting details inside and young readers will not be disappointed. A lovely storybook to share with family members, or as a gift to a young reader, a book that will be read over and over again!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: The Shnoos and Panoos Are Lost and Confused

The Shnoos and Panoos Are Lost and Confused by Catherine Copplestone introduces young readers to the Schnoos and the Panoos, adorable and whimsical little creatures that have a wonderful life, doing exactly what they know they want to do in a garden where marshmallows grow. They have lots of fun playing tunes, dancing, making “amazing spectacular pants,” and enjoying themselves and life. They eat yummy snacks, love each other, and always say nice things to each other. But one day, everything changed. They forgot their joy; they forgot what to do; they forgot their purpose and meaning in life. Panic ensued and life was chaotic, confusing, and horrible, and it wasn’t fun anymore. The Shnoos and the Panoos argued amongst themselves. Then one little Shnoo came up with a miraculous solution... What could it be?
What a delightful story for both young and adult readers to share. The life lesson of choosing how to react, of choosing our emotions, of choosing love, peace and harmony over chaos and confusion, within this tale of the Schnoos and the Panoos is so simple, so perfect, that it really hit home for me as an adult reader. It’s so easy to be knocked off course by the winds of confusion, to lose our belief in ourselves and what is important, and that’s when we need to hold fast to what we know is true. I loved the delicate, charming illustrations, and how each little creature is made unique and special, from the one who makes “amazing, spectacular pants,” to the one who has a yen to travel to France (“Je suis un Panoo!”). The rhyming is impeccable and lyrical, and will draw the young reader into the story and the lesson.
The lesson itself is quite advanced for young readers, but I think we underestimate children’s capacity for deeper thinking, realising what life is about, making choices, understanding concepts, and choosing their own path. These whimsical fantasy creatures are warm, friendly, and very appealing; they perfectly convey the author’s concept. The story also lends itself to further discussion between young readers and a parent or teacher about making choices and understanding feelings. The Schnoos and the Panoos learned a lesson that day ... and so can readers of all ages.