Jim: A Cautionary Tale

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Jim: a Cautionary Tale by Hilaire Belloc and Mini Grey

Looking for a picture book that is far from sweet and a bit wicked?  Then look no further!  Mini Grey takes the classic tale by Belloc and turns it into a book with lots of tiny details and pop-up pages that make for great fun in reading.  The tale is one of Jim, who went to the zoo with his nurse and then slipped away from her.  He hadn’t gotten far when a lion grabbed him and began to eat him from the feet up.  Jim called for help and a zookeeper came running, but was too late, only Jim’s head was left.  The story is written in verse that is dry and naughty.  The voice of the poem makes what happens that much more unexpected and delightful.  Grey’s illustrations have a modern feel that works well with the tone here.  This is a picture book best shared with children who are slightly older and will understand the dark humor at work.

Belloc’s poem makes a great point from which Grey could build such a book.  Though the writing is decidedly Edwardian, Grey’s modern illustrations work well with it.  Her small touches enliven the book, getting readers interacting with panels to open, a zoo map to view, and a lion’s claws to dodge.  Though we may see modern books as those with a darker edge, it took an Edwardian author to create one of the more dark picture books I have read in a long time.  Children looking for a sudden happy ending will not find one.  They will only find the sly humor of an urn shaped just like Jim’s head that holds his remains.

This is one of those books that readers will either love or hate.  Me?  I absolutely adored it and read it again and again just to get that same jolt from the ending.  You know what kids will love this book.  Get it into their hands!  It would make an ideal holiday gift for that special child with a wicked sense of humor.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.

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There’s No Place Like School: Classroom Poems


There’s No Place Like School selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jane Manning

Prelutsky has selected poems that focus on school in this funny and terrific collection of poetry.  The poems are written by thirteen poets and are filled with child appeal and an understanding of the mind of a child.  Turning from one to the next takes the reader through a school day, from heading out the door and the school bus ride to the show and tell and music class and eventually the ride back home.  The poems are well selected, offering a blend of different humor that makes moving from one poem to the next a delight. 

Manning’s illustrations offer a bright and colorful view of school.  She happily embraces the humor of each poem, from the strange foods at the school cafeteria to the delights of milk squirting out of a nose.  All are offered in a quirky and positive way.

An ideal book for the first days of school, this book will be appreciated by children of many ages.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.


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