Reviewed by Angela Marie
How much rhythmic literary magic can be created from the imagination of one person? An infinite, innumerable amount if the author is Julia Donaldson. Add a talented illustrator to the mix and the result cannot fail to entertain both the reader and the read to.
Think Julia Donaldson and we may think illustrator Axel Scheffler, delighting us with the detail of The Gruffalo and his child (who is brave enough to go into those woods?), the witch from Room on the Broom (squish up a bit more) and Stick Man (what determination!). Or we may think Lydia Monks with her bold colour blocking and cleverly simplified yet caricatured circus performers (The Singing Mermaid) and magical surprises (Sugarlump and the Unicorn). And, in the essence of Room on the Broom, Julia always has room for more amazing collaborators.
written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Catherine Rayner
‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest,
With her fine grey feathers and her fine grey crest.
A little green bird flew into the tree.
I’m the Chit-Chat bird. Will you chat with me?’
Julia’s latest treat, THE GO-AWAY BIRD, sees her joining forces with illustrator, Catherine Rayner. As is so frequent (and appreciated by parents and teachers alike), THE GO-AWAY BIRD delivers an obvious and important message. This is a special part of the magic of a good picture storybook. The young child may immediately understand and relate to the principles inherent here – the power of friendship and support. Little or no explanation required. Will the Go-Away bird make friends with the Chit-Chat bird or the Peck-Peck bird or the Flip-Flap bird? Or the Get-You bird? What role will the Come-Back bird play?
Take a while to really look into the illustrations. Enjoy the pace of movement, both fast and slow, and the facial expressions echoing the myriad of emotions and actions – detachment, hopefulness, disappointment, fear, support, determination, acknowledgement. And the making of new bonds. Wait for the surprise of size.
THE GO-AWAY BIRD is a story to read again and again and will be a favourite. There are many layers to unpack from the more apparent of friendship to the ever-present concern of bullying to the subtle skill of reading body language and facial expressions.
Julia Donaldson has again presented us with the joy of the rhythm of language and predictive rhyme. Again we enjoy her magical formula of just enough words to listen to to add complexity to the story and just enough words to say/yell out loud. THE GO-AWAY BIRD is a truly wonderful picture storybook. (It was surprising to read that there is a Go-Away bird, found in Africa but living in large flocks.)
Julia Donaldson is a writer, playwright and performer. She has woven joy into the lives of children for nearly three decades, beginning as a writer of songs for children’s television. She stands as a prolific author, having published almost 200 books, many of which are for use in schools and included in her Songbirds phonic reading scheme. Over sixty of her works are widely available in bookstores which is an amazing feat. Many have won awards including the Book Trust Early Years Award for 2004’s The Snail and the Whale and a British Book Award in 2005 for The Gruffalo’s Child.
Julia has received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from both Bristol University (her alma mater) and Glasgow University. She was appointed an MBE for services to literature in 2011. In this year’s New Year Honours, she was bestowed the title of CBE in recognition of her significant contributions. She was Children’s Laureate from 2011 to 2013.
Julia is a patron of ArtLink Central and Bookbug, promoting reading and the arts, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and of Storybook Dads, a charity which helps prisoners send recordings of themselves reading bedtime stories for their children.
Catherine Rayner’s illustrations are superbly crafted. Each bird has an individual character that goes beyond the details of shape, size and colour. Catherine’s background features are a salute to the beauty of nature and her colour washes reinforce emotions and reactions, all adding to frame Julia’s words to perfection.
Catherine is an award-winning illustrator, named as 2006’s Best New Illustrator at the Booktrust Early Year Awards. She received the Kate Greenaway medal in 2009 for ‘distinguished illustration in a book for children’ and has had multiple other awards and recognitions for her illustrations. Additionally, she is an award-winning author in her own right, receiving the 2012 UKLA Children’s Book Award for Iris and Isaac. In 2014 Catherine was awarded the Netherlands’ CPNB Picture Book of the Year for Solomon Crocodile and had Norris, The Bear Who Shared named on the 100 Children’s Modern Classics by The Sunday Times. She is based in Edinburgh.
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Catherine Rayner
Pan Macmillan Australia
ISBN 978 1 5098 4358 9
Written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by David Roberts
‘There was once a very hungry king
Who needed a cook like anything.
So he tried out lots and lots of cooks
With their pots and their pans and their cookery books.’
For THE COOK AND THE KING, Julia Donaldson reunites with her 2007 Tyrannosaurus Drip illustrator, David Roberts, having also collaborated with him on The Troll and Jack and the Flum Flum Tree. Once again Julia’s hilarious rhyming couplets and David’s incredibly detailed drawings have ensured that THE COOK AND THE KING will be pored over and over by young readers.
THE COOK AND THE KING presents a dilemma. Sitting in his richly-appointed castle, the king’s take-away pizza has failed to delight, yet a barrage of cooks with their humble, exotic or adventurous offerings can not tempt him and he is very hungry. What to do? Should he take a chance on Wobbly Bob, ‘a bit of a wimp’, shuffling and shaking, with nothing to offer but his desire for the job?
So begins an audition for the position – a request for fish and chips.
‘ “Help!”said the cook. Ï’m feeling scared.
I’d love to fish if I only dared,
But a shark might land in the fishing net
Or I might get my nice new apron wet…”
What lengths, if any, will Wobbly Bob go to to get the job? Will the king be appeased and pleased? How will this tale be spun? Is it a story of compassion for the vulnerable or does the king not realise what is happening?
THE COOK AND THE KING is a terrific tale, both for read-aloud dramatics and a quiet read to self. It is an exceptional meeting of words and pictures with so much to take note of. The richness of detail, the facial expressions, the rhyme, the rhythm. The mouse. The guaranteed laughs and love of language.
Liverpool-born David Roberts is also an author, however, is better known for his illustrations, including Julian Clary’s The Bolds, Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect and Sally Gardner’s Wings & Co: The Fairy Detective Agency series within his extensive portfolio. His collaboration with Daren King, Mouse Noses on Toast, was awarded the Nestle Smarties Book Prize in 2006. He was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway medal in 2010 for his work on Paul Fleischman’s The Dunderheads. He employs both black and white and colour, acknowledging the influences of Maurice Sendak, John Burningham and Aubrey Beardsley, among others.
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by David Roberts
Pan Macmillan Australia
ISBN 978 1 5098 1377 3