A Complicated Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee
This is the second book in the Detective Gordon series and offers a new mystery for the toad police chief and his young mouse assistant to solve. The detective pair live together at the police station after converting the jail into bedrooms. Gordon is getting pudgier and finding it harder to run, partly because he loves his cakes and his naps. Buffy is just as energetic as ever, but has some of her own personal fears to overcome, like admitting that she can’t read. The two detectives discover that someone in the forest is being mean to others, something that is clearly against the rules set forth in the law. But things are not as clear as they may seem as the two detectives discover.
Nilsson has just the right amount of drama in this second installment of the series. The lovely friendship between the aging toad and the young mouse is delightfully presented with plenty of appreciation for what each of them bring to the partnership, and I don’t just mean that Gordon can swim and Buffy can climb trees. In this mystery, the two of them also convey their own doubts and fears, something that is done with enough subtlety that readers may not realize until the end of the book that that is the focus of this mystery.
The art is warm and playful. The two characters are wonderfully distinct from one another as Gordon mopes on the page about how pudgy he is while Buffy dances and dreams of wearing costumes. There is a coziness in the illustrations as well, from the cakes and their tins to the soft furniture.
Another lovely outing for the two detectives, this series is one to watch for children just starting to read chapter books. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Winston & George by John Miller, illustrated by Giuliano Cucco
Released March 21, 2014.
Winston is a crocodile and George is a crocodile bird, the kind of bird that cleans a crocodile’s skin. The two of them would fish together in the river with George calling out when he saw a fish and Winston diving into the water to catch it. Then they would share the meal together on shore. But George had the bad habit of playing pranks on all of the crocodiles as well as on Winston. The other crocodiles tell Winston to just eat George to end the problem, but Winston can’t eat his friend. Then George takes a prank too far and puts Winston’s life in danger. He has to convince the other crocodiles and animals to help, but at what price?
Written and illustrated 50 years ago, this picture book is finally being published. Unfortunately, the illustrator died in 2006, so he did not live to see this work finally come to the public. Happily though, the book is fresh and vibrant with a wonderful vintage feel that makes it feel like an immediate classic. Miller’s words are simple and drive the story forward at a fast pace. The ending is immensely satisfying and sharing it aloud one can expect cheers of joy and relief.
Cucco’s illustrations are superb. They have a wonderful grace of line combined with bright tropical colors that pop on the page. The dramatic moments of the book are captured with plenty of motion and action. Best of all, the humor of the text translates directly into humor of image.
A humorous and dramatic look at an unusual friendship, one only wishes that Winston & George could go on more adventures together. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Don’t Copy Me by Jonathan Allen
When Little Puffin heads off on a walk all by himself, he is followed by three little gulls who all copy him. How annoying! He tried to scare Small Gull, Tiny Gull and Baby Gull away, but they all just repeated what he said to one another. Little Puffin tried shouting at them and that didn’t work either. He sat down to think how he could end the game, and all three little gulls sat down too. Little Puffin tried running and that didn’t work. So he tried sitting very still so they would get bored. You will have to try out the book to see whether that worked or not.
Allen is the author of I’m Not Cute! which charmed readers in 2005. This book gives us a new lead character who is having a great day until he gets teased by the little gulls. Allen’s writing maximizes the humor of the situation. I particularly enjoyed the smallest gull and his baby-speak interpretations of what Little Puffin is saying. Children will get this humor immediately, enjoying both the teasing and the eventual solution.
Allen’s art continues his use of cloud-like feathers and thick black lines. The expressions are vivid and great fun, with the obvious frustration of Little Puffin growing and growing just as the satisfaction of the little gulls does.
Grab this one for a bird-themed story time for toddlers! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.