My experience with four picture books 9



Read if you must
Must-Read

I picked up a few picture books for my daughter in the recent amazon.in Deepavali sale. Here are my reviews for them

1. The Monkey Puzzle – Julia Donaldson

The Monkey Puzzle - Julia Donaldson

A delightful story about the monkey who is searching for his mum. A butterfly helps him by asking him about how his mom looks. Based on what the monkey says “She is bigger than me”, “her tail coils around the tree”, “She is furry” and so on, the butterfly takes him to the different animals, like the elephant, the snake, the bat and so on.

The climax of the story is when the butterfly realizes that the monkey’s mother looks like him. When the monkey asks in confusion, if this isn’t obvious, the butterfly replies that her children don’t look like her, so she wouldn’t really know would she? To me that was the “Aha” moment. Would recommend this book for all adults as well.

+ + +

  1. The narration held me spellbound.
  2. The illustrations held my daughter spellbound.
  3. The ending held both of us spellbound.

Get spellbound!

Product information


 2. The Princess and the Pig – Jonathan Emmett

The Princess and the Pig - Jonathan Emmett

Pigmella (the Pig) and Pricilla (the Princess) swap places and the rest of the story is about how a princess is raised as a girl in a poor but very loving family and the pig is raised as a princess. The story holds your interest by regular reference to the popular fairy tales/stories, like the Prince and Pauper, Thumbelina etc.

+ + +

  1. Explicit references to other stories where the theme has been explored.
  2. The timelines and the events dealt with in Pigmella’s and Pricilla’s life help compare their respective lives.
  3. Colorful illustrations that hold the interest of a child.

Swap story, told in style!

Product information


3. The Princess and the Wizard – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks

The Princess and the Wizard - Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks

A time tested story of the evil wizard who takes away the Princess and turns the other people into stone. The fairy Godmother gives Princess Eliza the boon of being able to change her shape and color seven times to escape from the evil Wizard. How the princess escapes is the rest of the story.

+ + +

  1. Loved the illustrations of the various shapes and colors the princess uses to escape.
  2. The story moves on without much repetition.

– – –

  1. While the Godmother gives Princess Eliza the boon that she would be able to change her shape and color seven times, on the final day she does it twice, which makes it eight times.
  2. Also when she goes back to her palace, she changes her shape to all the animals/birds/insects, she had tried before she defeats the Wizard. This seemed very contrived.

For the wonderful illustrations…

Product information


4. Where the wild things are – Maurice Sendak

Read if you must/Don’t Read
Where the wild things are - Maurice Sendak

The story revolves around a child who is sent to his room without dinner, because he has been naughty. The story then proceeds in the direction of the child’s imagination where he thinks of the forest taking over his room and meeting wild animals. Then he comes back home to a hot supper. For all the hype about the book, I found it boring. The plot is boring and the story does not have an interesting flow.

+ + +

  1. The illustrations are good.

– – –

  1. The plot is non-existent.
  2. The story meanders and is finally brought to a forced conclusion.

Give it a miss!

Product information


You heard our opinion – take them or thrash them, now we’d like to hear yours.


Product information:

Buy

Amazon (Worldwide) Flipkart
[amazon text=Paperback&asin=0333720016]
[amazon text=Board book&asin=0230748090]
Paperback
Hardcover
Title Monkey Puzzle
Author(s) Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Language English
Genre Children, Picture book
Age 0-6
Publisher Pan Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication year 2000
ISBN-10
ISBN-13
0333720016
978-0-333-72001-1

Product information:

Buy

Amazon (Worldwide) Flipkart
[amazon text=Paperback&asin=1447235339] Paperback
Title The Princess and the Pig
Author(s) Jonathan Emmett
Language English
Genre Children, Picture book
Age 0 – 8
Publisher Macmillan
Publication year 2013
ISBN-10
ISBN-13
1447235339
978-1-447-23533-0

Product information:

Buy

Amazon (Worldwide) Flipkart
[amazon text=Paperback&asin=1447234898] Paperback
Title The Princess and the Wizard
Author(s) Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks
Language English
Genre Children, Picture book
Age 0 – 8
Publisher Macmillan
Publication year 2013
ISBN-10
ISBN-13
1447234898
978-1-447-23489-0

Product information:

Buy

Amazon (Worldwide) Flipkart
[amazon text=Paperback&asin=0099408392] Paperback
Title Where the wild things are
Author(s) Maurice Sendak
Language English
Genre Children, Picture book
Age 0 – 8
Publisher RHUK
Publication year 2000
ISBN-10
ISBN-13
0099408392
978-0-099-40839-0

Book Details:

Title
Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s) Axel Scheffler, Jonathan Emmett, Julia Donaldson, Lydia Monks, Maurice Sendak, Poly Bernatene
Publisher Macmillan, Pan Macmillan, Random House UK

About Uma Sundaram

Uma is an avid reader and loves mythology, fiction, Chris Argyris (he is a genre all by himself) and the latest trends in management especially in the area of Learning. She has also written a book called Seetayana - The Untold Journey which has been self-published. She lives in Mumbai with her daughter (the inspiration for a lot of things), husband, mum and mil.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 thoughts on “My experience with four picture books

  • Menaka S

    Good reviews Uma.
    I completely agree with you on the last one. I bought this book because of the hype and found that
    1. It is not colourful enough
    2. My son does not even casually glance at it
    3. I do not have the inclination to read it.

    I was hoping to somehow read it someday, but now I shall not.

  • devi

    I was about to comment yday itself.. but thought of consulting once with key stakeholders.. my kids at 7 & 5!
    Both read “Where the wild things are” some 3-2.5 years ago. When I got the book, sure I too was disappointed, anyways, hiding that, told them animated version of the story.They loved the book, the pictures, that Max was naughty and become the king of Carnivores and escaped becoming their prey .
    We spoke about that book months together (even after returning the book to library). They started using the word “Supper” instead of dinner…
    After sometime, it faded slowly from our memory and we stopped discussing about the book.
    So, after your review Uma, today I showed them the book images, and mildly reminded about the book.. gotcha.. they started narrating the full story. To my surprise the little one (now 5, that time 2) also got reminded.. and after all this nostalgia asked them “do you like the book” and the unanimous voice is “yes”!

    So.. I disagree with your verdict “Don’t read”..could be that we all are missing the essence which kids are seeing (and another two in this category is Very Hungry Caterpillar and Good Night Moon)

    • Menaka S

      Is it the book or the animated story-telling by an energetic mom that helps them remember the story? The very fact you have spent hours on the book could have made them like it, Devi.
      I finally read it yesterday.
      The plot, as Uma says is non-existent. So, the onus goes on to the parent to make it interesting.
      In fact, it is wanting in imagination. The words used made me feel it is a summary.

  • devi

    Missing plot?
    (yet to-be-readers of the book – spoilers ahead.. 😉 )

    Max is naughty and denied supper. He dozes off. Suddenly, his bedroom changes to a jungle. He sees lot of weird animals. Eventually he becomes the king of those animals. Suddenly the animals become hungry and gets the thought of food. Again, eventually they think “why nox Max as food”. Clever Max understands their plan. He escapes from them intelligently. He smells food suddenly. He realizes that a hot food is their in his room. And the climax (which I will not reveal)

    5 lines of plot in WordPress text box…what else a children book need, uff! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Uma Sundaram Post author

      Hmm… That is one way of looking at it Devi. Timing is another factor. With the other books that we read, including the one you have quoted “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Goodnight Moon”, leave you with the gentle sense of an event beginning and ending… But this story felt very contrived and required a lot of effort on the part of the reader to do the transitioning from one sentence to the other. As Menaka says, the story requires more work to be made interesting to the audience. But I found the story per se devoid of plot, continuity and excitement which I have found in other books.

  • Priya

    ‘Where the wild things are’ is a book that invites extreme reactions from readers – they either love it or pan it. For everyone who pans it, I would ask them to go back to it and re-read it, because it is a book that leaves you with a ‘duh-uh’ expression after the first read, but grows onto you with every subsequent reading. Yes, it did take some time for the book to grow on me too. In fact, I read it aloud 2-3 times to myself before I started appreciating the little nuances in the illustrations as well as text. And then I read it innumerable times to my willing 4yr old 🙂
    It is a book with minimal but rhythmic storytelling which sounds good to the ears when read aloud. The minimal text allows the kids or parents – as the case may be- to add on the finer details, which is what you do in case of picture books that have no text at all. At the same time, there is enough text to tell a complete story of a cross little boy’s imaginary journey into the world of wild things before he longs for someone who’d love him (meaning his mother) and gets back home to find that his mother loves him too (represented by the steaming supper waiting for him), no matter how angry she is with him.
    I also feel that the success of any picture book lies in the storytelling ability of the parent or teacher (apart from the illustrations, of course). Take any book and read the text mechanically to one child and animatedly to the next – I won’t be surprised if the first kid pans the book and the second one loves it.