Reviewer:

Mel Gibson

Book Cover - Peng and Spanners - Who Stole the Pizzas

Peng and Spanners: Who Stole the Pizzas?

Introducing Peng, a sarcastic and easily bored penguin, and Spanners, a clever cat with a toolbelt, a not-so-secret HQ, and a talent for invention. This graphic novel is filled with jokes and playfulness beginning with the front cover where a sticker declares ‘free pizza inside’. The characters argue about how messy that would be before Spanners points out the much smaller word ‘drawings’, meaning (sadly) no real pizza is on offer.

Book Cover - Ellie Engle Saves Herself

Ellie Engle Saves Herself

Superheroes often get their powers unexpectedly and spend a long time learning what to do with them for the best. Ellie Engle does not have much chance to understand hers when a video of her power over life and death goes viral, and a major social media influencer wants her to use it on her behalf (this does not go well).

Book Cover - Today I Feel… An Alphabet of Feelings

Today I Feel… An Alphabet of Feelings

The concept of an alphabet of emotions is a good one. The books ends by asking the reader how they feel today, sending one back into re-reading the text and making some decisions. I can envisage this being a useful way to start discussions about emotions, particularly powerful ones, although the author/illustrator seems to largely steer clear of those. There is, for instance, no A for angry, merely G for grumpy. Powerful emotions are real for all of us, including children. Showing a limited range could suggest a kind of definition of the child as lesser.

Book Cover - In Waves

In Waves

This graphic novel interweaves the biographies of two historically significant surfers with the autobiographical narrative of the young contemporary protagonist, who also surfs. What it also depicts is the kind of reverence that the activity evokes. This aspect of the book offers an effectively researched history, combined with an emotional engagement with surfing.

Book Cover - Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street

Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street: A collection of recipes to share

This picturebook is also a recipe book for young readers. It has a very slight narrative, in which the residents in the various flats in the titular house create a contribution to a shared meal in the garden.

Book Cover - Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

A slightly cautionary rhyming tale about what might happen if you hire a pirate as a babysitter.

As the two unnamed children’s parents leave for an evening out, babysitter, pirate and ship’s cook Long John McRon arrives. The children take one look at him and suspect they are doomed, which they are, but not for the reasons one might expect. The children’s suspicion and their comparative conservatism, set against the (mostly) adult pirates’ enthusiasm and energy, remain entertaining throughout.

Book Cover - Mera: Tidebreaker

Mera: Tidebreaker

In an underwater country riven by tensions between the Atlanteans and the conquered Xebellians, warrior princess Mera is torn over accepting a strategic political marriage with childhood friend Larken. However, when she overhears a discussion between Larken and her father about his being given the throne, and her hand, in return for killing an Atlantean prince, she becomes determined to take control of her future and the throne, deciding to kill the prince herself. This does not work out as planned.

Book Cover - Piero

Piero

This graphic novel is a memoir of childhood by the prolific French creator Edmond Baudoin, who was one of the first French comic authors to focus on autobiography. This volume is about his relationship with his brother, the titular Piero. It offers a very intimate and accessible view of their childhood dreaming and making, showing how their closeness, in part due to Piero’s childhood illness, combined with their mutual artistic obsessions and ran together throughout their youth. The narratives they share are depicted as as real to them as their everyday life.

Book Cover - A Big Garden

A Big Garden

This large-format picturebook offers a visual extravaganza that takes the reader through a gardening year, incorporating images of what is growing or blooming.

Book Cover - When’s My Birthday?

When’s My Birthday?

The theme of this picturebook is birthdays and the kind of expectations that surround them. It is also about numbers, counting and dates. The final two pages offer a calendar to identify the reader’s birthday, for instance, and the endpapers offer a long line of candles which cry out to be counted.