Thursday, 16 May 2013

Goat Goes to Playgroup

by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

I am ambivalent about Nick Sharratt. Sometimes his illustrations seem garish, cartoony and a bit like shouting. There is not much depth, it’s all about FUN! Everything is primary-coloured and obvious.

Julia Donaldson is of course the author of The Gruffalo, which H and I are alone in the universe of books in not really liking, I think. Maybe he just needs to be older? Perhaps I need to have a better imagination?

H vehemently disagrees, though, on Nick Sharratt, who is his hero. He would read You Choose and Just Imagine on a loop, every day, for his entire life, foregoing playground, football, friends, education and career path.

Goat Goes to Playgroup is one we both like, though. Goat is gentle and sweet and hideously vulnerable. He is one to make every mother’s insides contract. Joyous, naughty, different than all the other kids, constantly having accidents, too much energy to settle to anything.

Circle Time comes and Goat is over the other side of the room on his own, climbing the climbing frame, whilst the others politely sit, assimilating knowledge and getting ahead.  Goat, you are fine now and having a monstrously wonderful time at nursery, but what will happen to you when they start measuring your progress and testing you every week and trying to standardise you into a British education system goat?

The last page is lovely. The mums and dads come to pick up their offspring, and their faces are filled with that look parents get where they are trying to drink their child in as deeply as they can after being away from them. Mummy Goat is jumping out of her skin with joy to see her naughty little boy, and he is looking so sweet and dopey and innocent.

Very very sweet and nicely funny is our verdict, and definitely the pick of the Sharratts we have had so far.

H’s comment: ‘He needs his wellie boots’ (Goat wets his pants, causing a puddle to form. H does not comprehend at all that this is embarrassing, and cannot fathom the two pink spots on Goat’s cheeks. He does comprehend that if you wish to be in a puddle, you are supposed to have your wellies on, however, and so wisely advises Goat upon each reading).


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale

Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale

Here’s one that H chose himself. I tried vigorously to dissuade him as the marriage of dinosaur with digger was, to be polite, an unpromising prospect. It also seemed a bit wrong at first glance for an author to unite these two subjects, simultaneously so beloved of toddler boys and yet so realistically unlikely ever to co-exist. It seemed a bit like offering H sugar-coated bacon or cheesy Frutellas.

Dinosaur Dig, however, is ever so gentle and funny and very subtly witty. I won’t spend long on it because it’s short and not at all complicated and you probably won’t read it that many times.

It’s all about the dinosaurs. They are a kind of scaly union of blokey builder with hyperactive toddler. Their faces have that mad joy that two year olds have while they are running and screaming. Their bodies, however, are muscly and powerful and they are clearly awesomely efficient manoeuvrers of construction machinery. They are like you, H, but they are builders too! And dinosaurs!

Then there is the climax: the dinosaurs have used their array of machines to build a sort of prehistoric stone age swimming pool that seems to have a strong Mayan influence, as well as a really good slide. This is so surreal and unexpected; pure literary genius.

H’s comment: ‘that one like Lofty!’, ‘that one like Roley!’, ‘that Fireman Sam’s hose!’ (Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Peppa have colonised his mind and he speaks of them all day and they people his dreams).