My Dead Bunny, written by Sigi Cohen, illustrated by James Foley (Walker Books),
ISBN: 978 1 922179 59 3
I was privileged enough to be treated to a reading of this book before it was released. It was recited to us over a literary event breakfast, the illustrator, James Foley, showing us the illustrations on pieces of paper, he didn't have a copy of the book yet. Occasionally these very special moments occur, when you are introduced to a brand new story in the presence of one of it's creators.... and a room full of children, it's intended audience. The reaction was amazing.
As the story suggests, this is not a pretty tale of fluffy bunnies, loving cuddles or even a sad tale of comforted grief over the loss of a beloved pet. As the cover indicates, this is a book that evokes 1950's horror movie terror, for ten year olds (or perhaps younger, depending on their ability to stomach worms and zombies and bad smells!).
Cohen takes us on a woeful tale of tragedy, bought to life (& even death) by Foley's strong and graphic style illustrations. Foley's use of a limited palette, a comic style of line work and pops of zombie green and wormy pink, carries us through this page turning book of rhythmic and rhyming text. It is like watching the still frames of a movie.
It follows the story Brad, a pet bunny from life, electrocution and zombie death. How he haunts his former owners after being exhumed by his child owner out of curiosity. How will they react to this monstrosity, this worm eaten mess of a pet? How do they get rid of him and will Billy's dog, Roxanne, need to be exhumed to help? I'll let you find that out.
And how did the audience react? Well, the adults loved it. We laughed and gasped and wanted to order our copies immediately. It was refreshing to know that books like these are still being published. The kids, well that was interesting. This audience gasped in horror, that poor bunny, dead. his owner had to bury it, it was very sad. Then it got gross, it involved worms and rotting flesh and insane children. Some of them were beside themselves, others didn't know what to do or where to look, were they allowed to enjoy this book? Well, the adults were so why not?. I took the pleasure of looking at their faces as the story was read: horror, disgust, wide eyes, smirks and laughter, but most of all explanations of 'disgusting', and 'eew', and 'oh no!'
What more could you want from a story? It is to die for, well, if you are a rabbit.
Anyway, I ordered my copy, made the bookseller read it before putting it in my bag and got them to watch the trailer (I've popped a link below for you to enjoy). Best not to read over your breakfast, but then, if you have a strong stomach, why not?
(Reviewers note/confession: As a reviewer I need to be impartial and honest about the books I present to my readers. In the Australian Children's and YA publishing industry, most creators know each other and sometimes we know each other quite well. Often we review books created by our friends and peers (this is hard to avoid) and I endeavour to maintain a professional approach to this task. My opinions of this book and others I review are not because of friendships but from a genuine response to great literature for children.)
The Black Book of Colours, by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria (Walker Books),
ISBN: 978 1 4063 2218 7
When writers begin their apprenticeship in how to write powerful stories, one of the lessons that needs to be learned, is to show not tell. In the case of picture book narratives, this is essential. Knowing how to utilise other senses outside of words that describe visual element, such as touch, feel, smell, emotion and sound, is what makes the difference between an interesting story and a great one.
This book by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria caught my eye and my interest from the moment I held it in my hands. My father is legally blind and I am also an experienced teacher working with students with special needs. This book is so beautifully presented and designed, that i knew at once it was a keeper.
The book is designed for sighted people. It incorporates a braille version of the text on each page, which presents the narrative in a white font on a black background. The braille isn't deep enough for a blind braille reader but it certainly gives the experience of reading braille to a sighted reader.
The story follows Thomas, a blind boy, that is describing colours as taste and feel and smell.
'Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers.'
On the opposite page, the image of feathers floating are spread across the page, though the paper is still black and the feathers are a black gloss, raised embossed image, one that automatically causes you to run your fingers across them, reading the picture as a physically tactile element. It encourages you to close your eyes and to try to identify the form and shape of the picture with your fingers.
'But when clouds decide to gather up and the rain pours down, then the sky is white.'
The opposite page is filled with rain drops falling vertically down the page, increasing with size as they reach the bottom. You run your fingers up and down the texture, feeling the raised image and evoking a sense of gravity and space.
This is a beautiful book that relies on the words as much as it does on the tactile journey through the illustrations. It introduces children (and adults) to a world that, unless we are visually impaired ourselves, will never completely understand or experience. We have the experience of colour, of clear words on a page, of using all our senses, but often not to their full capacity.
I won't pretend that with the reading of this book you will have a full knowledge of what it is like to be blind. We could never be so presumptuous. but it does bring us closer to an empathy, of an realisation that the world for the blind, or even for those with other impairments are different from ours. It also shows us that the world for the blind is still filled with colour, though it is experienced in a different way. It tells us that different is just that and isn't necessarily wrong or bad or even sad.
A beautiful book to help children begin to accept difference and to experience other ways of seeing.
I will keep this one forever.
This is a Ball, by Beck & Matt Stanton (ABC Books), ISBN: 978 0 7333 3435 1
Ready for some fun? Here are the instructions for the adults on the back of this book:
For the Grown-Ups:
Books that need to read, handled, loved and shared. Books that bring joy, hope, challenges and journeys.
Books to enjoy!