A duck with a taste for marmalade, a farmer who discovers a taste for moonlight, and a hill that wants to taste how the other half lives --hopefully there is a flavour to suit everyone among the 2011 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards finalists, three of which are reviewed below.
Marmaduke Duck and the marmalade jam by Juliet MacIver
When Marmaduke Duck decides to make marmalade, its irresistible smell draws a crowd of creatures into all manner of adventures. Told in patter song style reminiscent of Craig Smith’s Wonky donkey, this would seem the most likely contender for the Children’s Choice award that Smith won in 2010. First-time author Juliet MacIver’s book has proved enormously popular as a read-aloud for all ages. Those reading it aloud, however, sometimes find the clever wordplay (involving such characters as ‘Llama-Farmer Palmer’) a test of stamina.
Sarah Davis also illustrated the new picture book version of Joy Cowley’s 1984 reader The fierce little woman and thewicked pirate, reviewed earlier in Create Readers)
The moon and Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy
This beautifully presented story about a grumpy farmer who gets better has also been previously reviewed on Create Readers. David Elliot’s moonlight tinged illustrations here enhance Margaret Mahy’s incomparable knack for capturing a magic moment.
Just as the reluctant hero of The man whose mother was a pirate is overwhelmed with wonder by his first sight of the sea, Farmer McPhee is transformed forever when the moonlight falls on him and he finally sees why it makes his animals dance for joy. A great read-aloud with a positive message about change, growth and learning to be happy, this is one of my two favourite finalists so far.
Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn
At first glance Hill & Hole is a deceptively simple story, and it could certainly be used with younger children on that level—a straightforward ‘grass is always greener’ tale, where each wants what the other one has. With the aid of the wind and a helpful mole (well, Kyle Mewburn comes from Central Otago, so when he needed a friendly digging animal he could hardly use a rabbit ) their wishes are granted. Hole becomes a hill, and Hill becomes a hole, and everyone is happy.
But only for a while…
These words on the final page give a whole new dimension to Hill & Hole, and it is suddenly revealed as a quite sophisticated look at a philosophy of life, inviting comparisons with Armin Greder’s The city. If there were (no pun intended) a Hidden Depths section in the New Zealand Post Book Awards, Hill & Hole should win it.
Vasanti Unka’s artwork is so beautiful that the book could be valued for this alone.
The other two finalists, Baa baa Smart Sheep (Mark and Rowan Sommerset) and A dog like that (Janine Cooper; ill. Evie Kemp) will be reviewed next month.