Books to Treasure: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

‘This is a tale about a big city.
It’s a tale of hotdogs and music and the summertime subway breeze.
It’s a tale of singing on rooftops and toffees that stick to your teeth.
But most of all, it’s the tale of Herman and Rosie.’

This wonderful little blurb captures the essence of Gus Gordon’s magnificent new picture book, Herman and Rosie.

From the moment I set eyes on the stunning cover of Herman and Rosie, I fell in love with this book.  Every time I see it I want to read it again. You know that this is a story that Gus loved bringing to life because you can see all the love that has gone into the creation of the book.  Each page is so detailed and filled with different characters.  One of things I love to do in Gus’ books is find all the different characters on each page.  For example, on one page, there’s a bear on a scooter, a fox and a mole in suits, and a mother hippo taking her baby for a walk.   One of the things I especially love about the illustrations in Herman and Rosie is the different media that Gus has used on each page. You can see he has used pencil, crayon, water colour paints, photos of objects, coffee cup stains, bits of newspaper and advertisements, and postcards (among various other bits and pieces).  He’s used all of these different types of media in interesting and imaginative ways to achieve different effects on the page.

The story is all about the two characters of the title and Gus really brings them to life.  I think the reason I love the story so much is because both Herman and Rosie are interesting and quirky characters.  I really like the way that Gus describes them and their likes.  Herman likes ‘pot plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yoghurt, the smell of hotdogs in the winter and watching films about the ocean,’ and Rosie likes ‘pancakes, listening to old jazz records, the summertime subway breeze, toffees that stuck to her teeth, singing on the fire escape…and watching films about the ocean.’  By telling us their likes, we figure out that they’ve got something in common.  It’s a story filled with hope and it and leaves you feeling incredibly happy.  It’s guaranteed to cheer anyone up and put a spring in their step.

Teachers or school librarians who are looking for great picture books for older readers should add Herman and Rosie to their collection.  Older readers will enjoy the story and they’ll love the intricate illustrations.

Herman and Rosie truly is a book to treasure and to read over and over again. It will make your toes tingle and make you feel like you have ‘eaten honey straight from the jar.’

5 out of 5 stars


Picture Book Nook: In the Lion by James Foley

‘In the city there’s a zoo.  In the zoo there’s a lion.  And in the lion there’s…’  Richard and his family are visiting the zoo one day when they witness the lion swallowing the zoo dentist whole!  This is only the first of many things that end up ‘in the lion.’  Will anybody be able to stop the lion?

In the Lion is a hilarious picture book about a very hungry lion and the havoc that he causes.  The story gets sillier and sillier at more and more things end up in the lion.  Children will be laughing out loud because they’ll figure out very quickly what is going to happen next.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen on the next page, James Foley surprises us and brings in the hero of the story.  I love James’ illustrations because there are lots of extra details that you might not notice the first time (look at the shadows and reflections on each page). The expressions of the characters in the story (both people and animals) are hilarious, especially at the end of the book.  Every page in the book is illustrated and full of colour, including the very cool end papers.  If there was an award for the best picture book cover it would have to go to In the Lion because it’s absolutely fantastic and will really appeal to children.

The story works well as a read-aloud, but is even better for one-on-one sharing so that you can make the most of the illustrations.  James Foley is a very talented author and illustrator and I’ll look forward to reading more of his picture books.

The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes by Edward Lear, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Walker Books Australia and legendary Australian illustrator, Robert Ingpen have been introducing classic children’s stories to the children of today since 2004.  When Robert Ingpen illustrated the centenary edition of Peter Pan and Wendy, I had no idea that he was going to illustrate many other classic children’s books, including The Wind in the Willows (my favourite Robert Ingpen illustrations), The Jungle Book, The Secret Garden, and The Wizard of Oz.  Robert’s style of illustration is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t think of anyone better to bring these classic stories to life.  One of my most memorable meet-the-author moments was when I got the chance to hear Robert speak about his work at the 2006 Children’s Book Council of Australia Conference in Sydney and get my copy of Treasure Island signed.  Walker Books Australia have just published Robert’s latest addition to his classic children’s stories, Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes.

The book that I remember most from my childhood is the copy of The Owl and the Pussycat that my parents read to me many times.  I still remember the whole rhyme off by heart today so when I opened Robert Ingpen’s illustrated edition of The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes I could focus completely on Robert’s beautiful illustrations.  My favourite part of Robert’s illustrated editions are the end-papers because this is where he publishes his character sketches.  In this book we get to see his sketches of the owl, the pussycat, and the piggy-wig.   One thing that I’ve noticed with Robert’s illustrations is that animals are his best subjects, so the owl and the pussycat are incredibly life-like.  I hadn’t read any of Lear’s other nonsense rhymes before so I loved meeting the Jumblies, the Dong with the luminous Nose, and the man who invented a purely original dress.  Robert Ingpen brings Edward Lear’s characters to life with his stunning, soft illustrations.

5 out of 5 stars