Stan the Van Man by Emma Vere-Jones, illustrated by Philip Webb

The Joy Cowley Award is an annual award that fosters the publication of excellent picture books by New Zealand writers.  Some wonderful picture books have been published thanks to this award, including Kyle Mewburn’s Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck, and last year’s winner of the award is no exception.  Emma Vere-Jones was the winner of the 2014 Joy Cowley Award with her book, Stan the Van Man.

This delightful, rhyming story follows Stan who offers to help with the mail delivery when the usual driver of the van refuses to do his job.  The owner of the post office store, Miss Mickle, is ‘in a pickle’ because there is no-one to deliver the mail.  Luckily, Stan, who doesn’t like to say no, offers to help out.  He tries to tell Miss Mickle that he has a secret that she needs to know but she doesn’t listen and sets him on his way.  The only problem with not being able to say no is that Stan just has to stop and help anyone that needs it, including a boy stuck up a tree and someone needing a tow.  Stan’s secret is that he can’t read and so all his parcels end up going to the wrong people.  Even though the people of the town are angry at first, they all band together to help Stan to read.

Stan the Van Man is a lot of fun to read!  The rhyming text flows well and the language is wonderful, with words like ‘perplexing,’ ‘vexing’ and ‘quivered.’ I love how everyone bands together to teach Stan to read and that once he gets started he just wants to read more and more.  The very last page, with Stan surrounded by books and his cat on his lap, is my favourite.

I read Stan the Van Man at the Christchurch Storylines Family Day at the weekend and the children absolutely loved this story.  There is lots of laughter when the people of the town open their packages to find something completely different than what they were expecting.  I especially love Professor John Moore and his lady’s pants.

Philip Webb’s illustrations are a great match for Emma’s story and bring her different characters to life.  Philip’s Stan is a loveable, friendly guy that just wants to help out.  I really like the design of the book, especially the way that the house numbers blend in to the illustrations.

I look forward to reading more of Emma’s stories in the future.

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