One Book Was All It Took by Wenda Shurety and Amy Calautti

One Book Was All It Took

Wenda Shurety (author) and Amy Calautti (Illustrator)
EK Books: 2022
ISBN: 9781922539137
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

When Violet searches for a new book to read she starts a chain reaction that delivers a whole library!

This humorous light-hearted ode to the local library is full of fun for kids. Through the comical illustrations and hints in the text, kids can follow the serendipitous chain of events that lead to the building of the library. This aspect of the story makes One Book Was All It Took a fun first book about actions and consequences with no didactic overtone. Violet’s interest in books and desire for a library also supports parents and teachers wanting to instil a love of literature in their young kids. 

The artwork for One Book Was All It Took uses lots of contrasting bright, clean colours. The cartoon style figures bend and stretch their way across the pages as they take part in the chain of events that lead to the building of the library and in this way create a lot of humour. The chain of events is only partly narrated, and readers need to look closely at the illustrations to put the different parts of the story together. This extra reader-work means that the theme of action-consequence is strong and fulfilling. Lastly, rainbows are used at key moments in the text. These are visually appealing and invite readers to ponder their symbolic meaning. For this reader the rainbow invoked the magic of reading and the excitement of discovering a new and favourite book.

On Book Was All It Took takes a fresh and funny approach to the familiar library and literacy theme. It also encourages young minds to think about the consequences of their actions in a light-hearted way.

I am Enough by Grace Byers

“I am enough” by Grace Byers

Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

Balzer + Bray publishers

2018

ISBN 9780062667120

Reviewed by Cath Young

“I am enough” by Grace Byers is a series of powerful statements describing and celebrating the purpose and value of each child. It uses similes based on children’s experiences and activities to make connections between these and positive character traits, such as “Like the moon, I’m here to dream, like the student, here to learn”.  

The pulsating rhythm of the text leads the reader, or listener, through a series of possible experiences of self, or life. It then guides them towards the idea that “I’m not meant to be like you: you’re not meant to be like me” and culminates with the logical conclusion that therefore, everyone should “say together, I am enough”.

It tackles common childhood challenges such as losing a race and coping with difference.  The text is gender neutral however the illustrations are all of young primary school aged girls, suggesting a theme of female empowerment based not in competition but in companionship.

The illustrations, as noted in the book, are acrylic paintings overlaid on simple digital chalk drawings. The simple chalk lines indicate place, such as a park or bedroom, while the acrylic paintings of the characters are beautifully detailed and three dimensional.  Many cultural backgrounds are represented in the illustrations, mostly indicated by variations in skin tone and hair, and occasionally by dress. The illustrator has also taken care to vary the height, shape and weight of all the characters and has included one young girl in a wheelchair. As such, it is possible that many female readers will find a point of reference for themselves and/or their friends.   

Daddy’s Rainbow by Lucy Rowland and Becky Cameron

Daddy’s Rainbow

Lucy Rowland (author) and Becky Cameron (illustrator)
Bloomsbury: 2022
ISBN: 9781526615770
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Erin’s Dad always encourages her to enjoy the magic of colours around her but when he becomes sick and passes away, Erin’s world becomes grey until she finds a way to remember her Dad.

Daddy’s Rainbow is a sensitive story about grief and loss for young children that convincingly portrays the loss of a parent from the child’s experience. The treatment of the father’s illness and death is subtle and focused on the experience of Erin—Daddy is ‘poorly’, there is the hospital, handholding, hugs and then quiet. This account of illness and death is moving and feels authentic, moreover its subtlety allows readers to explore what is happening to a degree they feel comfortable with. Daddy’s illness and death is also not the key focus but rather Erin’s joyful relationship with her father and the excitement of his passion for colours. After Daddy’s passing, the memory of this passion brings the family together. While Erin initiates the memory of colour, her mum then takes the lead. This conclusion provides a reassuring message for children; adults in their life can help them with their grief.  

Colour is a key part of the story in Daddy’s Rainbow and Becky Cameron’s illustrations make the most of it. Key scenes use contrasting greys and bright colour, light and dark shades that draw attention to the magic of colour in the story. The use of water colours enhances the story at every turn—rainy and snowy weather feature in the text and the watercolours portray these scenes in a striking manner. Lastly, the chosen medium (watercolour) seems to encourage readers to fully appreciate the vivid yet elusive nature of memory itself.

Daddy’s Rainbow is a poignant story that can help young children and their families explore a challenging topic. 

“It’s Big Sister Time” by Nandini Ahuja

It’s Big Sister Time by Nadini Ahuja

Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Harper Collins Publishers

New York 2021

IBSN: 9780062884381

Ages 2 – 4 years

Review by Cath Young

“It’s Big Sister Time” by Nadini Ahuja focuses on the growing acceptance and inclusion of a new baby in the family, by an older sibling. The story is told in first person from the point of view of the big sister. It begins humourously, as she accepts the permanence of the baby, asking her Mum how long the baby will be staying with them. Gradually, with some prompting and support from her parents, the big sister learns to adapt to the new situation and begins to thrive. There are inevitable setbacks to the growing relationship which may be recognisable to the reader, such as when the baby knocks over a tower of blocks built by the big sister.  The reader is left in no doubt about the Big Sister’s initial lack of enthusiasm for the new addition, as a list of complaints about Baby is drawn up.  But the Big Sister takes on board the job of teaching Baby the “house rules” and in doing so makes space for the baby and renegotiates her own boundaries and role within the family. By the conclusion of the book the Big Sister describes the Baby and herself as “a team”.

There are many points within the story where carers or parents could stop and discuss similarities in their own families, such as when Baby makes a mess or needs to be included in family movie night, which requires the Big Sister to adjust her expectations. In the case of the movie night the big sister decides that she can now hold the baby instead of the popcorn, ensuring that she can still sit in the middle of Mum and Dad, thus retaining her importance within the family.

Through the colourful and culturally inclusive illustrations of Catalina Echeverri the reader can see the baby grow from new-born to toddler as the Big Sister grows into her role within a culturally blended family. The culturally blended family is represented by a variety of skin tones. The cartoon-like people, drawn with exaggerated eyes, could be interpreted by the reader to reflect their own backgrounds.   The faces are simplistic, but their expressive eyebrows, lips and eyes depict a wide range of emotion, which would serve as reference points for discussion between parent/carer and child as the reader observes the big sister’s reactions to various situations in the story.

The smaller size square hardcover format allows for portability and would stand up to the occasional bite of a baby sibling.