Posts Tagged ‘Imagination’

The Grizzled Grist does not exist

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Sarah Davis

ISBN 9781776574155

Gecko Press

Liam is a quiet, yet observant boy, who notices other things many children tend to miss. On a school trip in the countryside, while everyone else is busy running on ahead, Liam notices the children are being followed by what appears to be a gruesome Grizzled Grist. A Grizzled Grist is a large scary monster that likes to eat children. Liam tells the teacher one such monster is in the Dismal Hills with them but she tells him that they do not exist.

Have you ever heard of a Grizzled Grist? Do you know what one looks like? Liam does. He can see it lurking in the woods, moving in and out of the trees, but Ms. Whisk continues to tell him they don’t exist, despite wooden signs warning them.

When darkness falls

in rising mist


the Gruesome

Grizzled Grist.

I love the rhyme and rhythm, and playfulness of this story. It is a skill Juliette MacIver works into all her books.

Sarah Davis creates cute and believable characters with her delightful illustrations. There is always a softness to her illustrations which I find particularly appealing. I also love the diversity in her work.

Once again, author and illustrator, have collaborated well together and brought Liam and his friends back to life for another wonderful read.

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear

By Swapna Haddow

Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

ISBN 97815529013979

Macmillan Children’s Books

Imagination is everything to children. A wild imagination helps children play games, get through difficult days, connect and communicate with other children. Imagination is key to this new picture book.

In Swapna Haddow’s latest book, a young boy’s imagination centres on his father as a grizzly bear.

Grizzly Bear Dad is a bit of a pain when eats all the honey, or when he wakes up all grumpy and stomps around. He is an embarrassment when he sleeps in the cinema or sings louder than everyone else at a party. The grizzly bear is useful though, especially when he is trying to catch up with the school bus because the children are running late.

This is a funny picture which children will relate to very well. They will see themselves and their own families in the pages of this story, especially when the family go camping. If dad is a grizzly bear, watch out for mum!

The cover of the book is bold and eye-catching. I love that the illustrations throughout the book highlight the fact that this story has a real family focus.

A fun story to share and read over and over. It is also a good one to watch out for Father’s Day later this year.

The Rock from the Sky

By Jon Klassen

ISBN 9781406395570

Walker Books

If you have read any books by author and illustrator Jon Klassen, you will automatically recognise his quirky style, simplistic illustrations and familiar choice of colours and shades. That alone should tell you the book is going to be a winner.

The Rock from the Sky is his latest and like so many of his books there is the funny twist at the end. This is longer than your normal 32 page picture book, and it is broken up into five chapters, but every page is necessary to tell the story.

Turtle and Armadillo are friends and are busy working out the best spot to sit. Armadillo has a bad feeling about one spot so he moves away. A massive rock suddenly falls from the sky and after much humour, they sit on the top of this rock from nowhere, and imagine the future. As they imagine different things happening, the reader can see the potential danger coming their way. Turtle wanders off after a wee tiff and goes to another spot, but by now Snake has arrived and shares the rock with Armadillo. Turtle feels sad, even a little jealous, as is what happens to all friends from time to time. The ending is funny with the well-known wit and style we have come to expect from Klassen’s books.

The book deals with friendships, and imagination, and also fate, in his typical witty, dry sense of humour.

It is no wonder he is an award winning writer and illustrator. I love this.

Just Because

By Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN 9781406388763

Walker Books

Just Because is one of those special books for curious minds. Children love a good story at bedtime and even more than that, they love prolonging the final lights-out before sleep. The young girl in this book keeps asking her father questions and he gives her the most wonderful answers.  Are they the right answers? You will have to find out for yourself, but they will make you think, and smile. 

She asks “Why is the ocean blue?” 

He answers “Every night, when you go to sleep, the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears.”

Great imagination and a beautiful moment for dad and daughter to share.

The illustrations reflect the night until the last double page spread where her dreams and imagination take over while she sleeps and they become alive with colour.

What I think makes this book extra special, is that while it is a lovely picture book to snuggle up and share with a young child at bedtime, it is also a good book to use in class and get students writing. I can see them asking all sorts of questions and coming up with unusual and imaginative answers. They could create their own drawings to accompany their questions too. I have this book in my school library and I will be sharing it with every teacher.

I love this book, just because!

Made by Maxine

By Ruth Spiro

Illustrated by Holly Hatam

ISBN 9780399186295

Penguin Young Readers Group

Maxine is a thinker, she’s intelligent, imaginative and creative, but most importantly she’s a maker. Maxine tinkers for fun but also when faced with problems, she thinks things over and rethinks again and again, until she finds a solution.

Maxine loves making new things out of old, even making music out of vegetables. Her dilemma is to try and find a way to take her pet fish, Milton, to the school pet parade. I love how persistent Maxine is and even though there are times when she wants to give up, she doesn’t. Instead, Maxine keeps trying different ideas to see what will work best. With the right attitude, a difficult situation can be seen positively.

She had already discovered a million ways that would not work. Which meant she was getting closer to finding a way that would.

This is an ideal picture book to use when thinking about STEM (Science, technology, science and mathematics) lessons.

The illustrations are sweet, and busy with lots of things happening, just like Maxine. A good pairing of illustrator and author. A great trailer for this book too.


Little Frida : A story of Frida Kahlo

By Anthony Browne

ISBN 9781406381221

Walker Books

Anthony Browne has brought us another stunner of a picture book. His artwork is wonderfully distinctive and his fans are many, including myself. I have admired his work for years and was lucky enough to meet him a number of years ago. I stood in line awestruck as I waited to get my copy of Voices in the Park signed. Even though the queue was long he took the time to draw a quick picture and I still treasure this book very much. So I am delighted to be reading his latest picture book. It has a more creative non-fiction feel to it as the story he tells is based on the real life of artist Frida Kahlo. 

Browne beautifully illustrates Frida’s life as a young girl. He brings the pain of struggling through polio and the consequences of her illness that left her with a limping, thin leg and the cruelty of children who called her “Peg-Leg”. Frida was different, an outsider, often lonely, but her imagination created a new friend. Her new friend and the imaginary world they live in is portrayed beautifully and wistfully by Browne. It is a world of hope and beauty, friendship and dancing. In this new world Frida is finding her strengths and that is painting. Frida is becoming an artist. 

I love how one artist can take the life of another artist and create a beauty on its own. There is at times a sense of surrealism and sophistication about the illustrations, which is Browne’s own trademark but he also incorporates Frida’s own style. Browne uses rich, bold colours and there are, as always, little hidden images, including an old friend from his other books but I will leave that for you to find. I will say though, it made me smile.

The biographical notes about Frida are framed like a work of art itself on the final end page.  Out of pain comes beauty and Browne shows this in his stunning new picture book. It is an essential book for school libraries but also a book that will be special in any home. I love too, the way the book feels, with its embossed frame of little Frida on the cover.  Frida was famous for her self-portraits often adding bits of fantasy to her paintings.  Browne honours Frida with his own sense of fantasy, so do look closely at the cover before you open the pages and enter the world of Frida Kahlo as a young girl.

If I had an elephant

By Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Illustrated by Richard Fairgray

Colouring by Tara Black

ISBN 9781775434764

Scholastic NZ

Fun, imaginative and just the way childhood play should be. This talented partnership of writers and illustrator have again brought us another fun-filled humorous picture book. 

Young Henry begins the day by wishing he had an elephant and then takes us with him as he considers the awesome time they would have together. We journey through time and space and meet wonderful characters such as the “four-eyed, two-horned, big-tusked Grumblepuff”.  Having an elephant by your side leads to all sorts of adventures which will in turn spark young reader’s own imaginations. Everyone needs the friendship and support of a best friend and here in this truly imaginative story, elephant is this young boy’s best friend, or at least he would be if he only had an elephant. 

If I had an elephant for a best friend, there’d be no stopping us! We’d get matching jackets. We’d build a time machine together. We’d have OUT OF THIS WORLD adventures …

IF I had an elephant.


The impossible boy

By Leonie Agnew

ISBN 9780143309062

Penguin Random House, New Zealand




This is one of those books that draws you in, keeps you going and makes you believe in the impossible.

                          Vincent Gum finds six-year-old Benjamin moments after an explosion and leads him through wrecked city streets to the children’s shelter. Vincent isn’t interested in hanging around to babysit, but by the time they arrive he knows that Ben, with his crazy ideas and weird imaginary games, won’t survive ten minutes there without someone to look out for him. For one thing, something sinister lurks in the dormitory cupboard, waiting to get out.

Vincent’s tough and smart. He can walk through walls and make a dead tree flower. But to the rest of the world he’s invisible — non-existent. That’s because, in his moment of need, Ben invented him.

At the children’s shelter Ben is mixed in with other children and orphans. Some accept him straight away but a few suspect he may be a little crazy, especially when he keeps talking to his invisible friend Vincent. While the children struggle with Ben and Vincent’s antics,  I found myself totally believing in him. In fact, by the time I had finished this delightful, creative and imaginative book, I was feeling very motherly and proud of young Vincent and what he had to overcome in order to protect Ben and his companions.

I think we all need a Vincent in our lives.

I do suspect this will find itself on award lists. This is a top-notch book, wonderfully written, with intriguing, believable and lovable characters. With war always in the background of everything the children see and do, this work of fiction offers much more to think about than just an imaginary friend.

I do think this would be an ideal read-aloud and perfect for book clubs.

If I was a banana

By Alexandra Tylee

Illustrated by Kieran Ryanhart

ISBN 9781776570331

Gecko Press




This boy’s-eye-view of the everyday brings alive all the wonder and oddity of the world inside our own heads.

What stands out straight away for me are the wonderful earthy colours of the illustrations. Even in a world of fantasy and make-believe, the earthy colours give the story a grounding and make it seem real and possible to be whatever you want to be.

A young boy follows thought after thought, idea after idea in to a world where he can imagine being anything. He considers everything from a lone cow standing in a field, to a fish or a whale, even to a spoon. Anything is possible.

He considers each option carefully before going on to the next random thought before realising of course, that the best thing to be is to just be himself. A great book to read and imagine together.

I also think it would be ideal as story writing prompts for teachers to use in a class of young readers and writers. Children could have fun imagining being all sorts of things and perhaps writing a reasoned report on the pros and cons of being something else.

Do take the time to carefully look at the last double page at the end of the book. The backdrop holds many hidden animals and objects. See if you can spot them all.

The author has captured what adults might consider as the complete randomness of a young boy’s thoughts although totally connected thoughts if you are a young boy yourself. Lovely.


The only child

By Guojing

ISBN 9780553497045


only child

This is an absolutely beautiful book. I have had it for awhile and just keep dipping in to it again and again to marvel at the illustrations. It has been said it is a mixture of Shaun Tan’s Arrival and Raymond Briggs The Snowman, and I completely agree. What they all have in common is the wordless story with wonderful illustrations that put them in a league of their own as far as picture books are concerned. This is a wonderful example of imagination and adventure and lovely emotional connection to the “only child”. An only child is left alone while her mother goes to work. After playing on her own for awhile she decides to take a trip to visit her grandmother. However, soon after leaving the safety of her home, she ends up lost and alone. We can feel her growing sense of loneliness. Her sense of wonder and awe when a stag takes her flying through the sky, is palpable. The dark tones, the mood and atmosphere of this picture book ring true even in a world of imagination. Love, love, love this book to bits.

This truly is a beautiful book to treasure. I can’t wait to see more from this very talented artist.

by Aaron Becker

Journey is a beautifully illustrated wordless picture book. Its wonderful sepia tones capture the heart and imagination of a young girl who is bored. No-one in her family wants to play, they are all too busy. The young girl takes a crayon and begins drawing, opening up a world of imagined places. I love how the colours start to play together as her imagination takes over.
This really is a journey into strange worlds; even a little steampunkish with airships floating across the skies. We travel along with the young girl as she takes us to faraway places and even danger. The trailer is gorgeous. There is lots to look at and lots to discuss with this book on so many levels. Any child reading, will no doubt add to the story of the little girl and her journey across the world of imagination.
I bought this for the school library but will end up getting my own copy too. It really is a book to treasure and dip into again and again.

What if…?
By Anthony Browne

Antony Browne is another of my favourite illustrators so I had no hesitation buying his latest book for school.
Some of us have been reading it again and again this Monday lunch time. Every time we do, we find something new in the pictures. Browne deliberately plays with the reader throwing in pictures within pictures and adding strange things and ideas. My student librarian pointed out, for example, that the elderly man’s cup of tea was actually floating. I’d missed that on my first reading.
In What if…? Joe makes lots of excuses for not going to a party. “What if he doesn’t like the food, or the games, or the people?”
Many children struggle to make new friends and I think this will be a great book to read to those children and open up discussion.
This is a great picture book for children who worry, which seems to be a theme in many of Browne’s books and one he does well.

And here is Anthony Browne talking about his book.