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This year’s crop of finalists consists of two excellent read-alouds and an attractively -produced example of what can best be described as junior philosophy.
First-timer Catherine Foreman has struck gold with The cat’s pyjamas, the suspense-filled story of a quirky orange cat whose dreams are determined by his nightwear. All goes well through a week of pyjamas illustrated with different themes—space, ocean, garden, jungle, roadworks, etc— and each evening’s feline dreams are beautifully and appropriately illustrated.
But on Sunday the cat wears…Monster pyjamas!
Foreman’s Cat is endearing, and it is hard not to feel a little anxious about both his fate and his inability to learn from past mistakes (why DOES he keep on wearing the same scary pyjamas every Sunday night?). This is a lovely read-aloud for a wide age-range, with genuine originality in the bright, beautiful illustrations. It could well be a contender for awards. Whether or not it wins the Children’s Choice, it may influence children’s choice of pyjamas for some time to come (Scholastic NZ, 2011)
Ruth Paul is no stranger to New Zealand Post honours, having won the Best Picture Book Award for The king’s bubbles in 2008.
In her 2012 contender Stomp! the monsters are out of their pyjamas and in the streets, as a line-up of colourful dinosaurs play a very interactive follow-the-leader game from page to page. There are happy choruses of roaring, growling, swishing and squishing for readers and listeners to join in and these, together with plenty of repetition, make Stomp! another excellent read-aloud in the same mould as Sally Sutton’s very popular Roadworks. This book is aimed at a more junior level than The cat’s pyjamas, and small children will particularly enjoy the chaos that results when the littlest dinosaur takes over as leader. (Scholastic NZ, 2011)
‘Later never seems to come soon enough.
But sometimes waiting for later can be full of surprises…’
All three books reviewed here are the work of author-illustrators. While the two junior level books show a fine balance between rhythmic text and bouncing illustrations, the pictures in Waiting for later, by Tina Matthews, (Walker Books, 2011) feature realism taking on a dreamlike quality as night turns into day and a young girl’s wishes are granted in an unexpected way.
This is a slightly offbeat values book, with messages about patience and self reliance wrapped up in a satisfying story that should appeal to a wider age group than the two junior read- alouds. Tina Matthews’ Out of the egg won the 2008 New Zealand Post award for Best First Book. Waiting for later is attractively presented in hardcover format, with beautiful starry blue endpapers.
Personally, I have been surprised by some omissions from the shortlist. I feel that Gavin Bishop’s Bruiser deserves to be there, and I also liked Melinda Szymiak’s The house that went to sea, both for its overall presentation and the fact that it targets the sometimes neglected middle primary age-group. However, just as in every other year, the real winners are New Zealand children in that they have so many quality locally-produced books to choose from. Opinions may vary as to which of these are actually outstanding, that’s the way things go in the world of children’s literature, and that’s what keeps it all so fresh and interesting!
Review by Cecily
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