Friday, February 27, 2015
Enter the astonishing world of Oksa Pollock by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf - Published by Pushkin Children's Books
Today we're fortunate to be included in a blog tour for a very special book series. You may not have heard of Ann Plichota and Cendrine Wolf's "Oksa Pollock" series yet, but trust us, you'll definitely want to know more if you have an eye for the supernatural, and for mighty girl characters (both things we hold close to our hearts here at ReadItDaddy!)
So who is Oksa Pollock? She's the last best hope for restoring the fine balance of a world in chaos. Through three novels we've followed her adventures as her true powers become apparent, and her family call on their own amazing qualities in order to protect her.
|Oksa Pollock - The Last Hope (Book 1)|
|Oksa Pollock - The Forest of Lost Souls (Book 2)|
|Oksa Pollock - the Heart of Two World (Book 3)|
Several reviewers have described Oksa Pollock as "The French Harry Potter" which is a little unfair, as the books only really share a fantasy genre. It's really worth pointing out that although the series has a female hero, both boys and girls are going to fall head over heels in love with Oksa and the books. If there's any justice, more people will get to know her and start to line her up alongside some of the greatest female fantasy heroes in literature. Find out more, dive into the books and be ready for fast paced, dark, immersive and totally gripping adventure!
We always love following some of the rather fiery conversations on Twitter that rage around the subject of children's books. In particular of late, the fact that children's illustrators are often overlooked, undervalued and their hard work scarcely warrants a mention in some reviews. As Sarah McIntyre quite rightly points out on her excellent blog and #PicturesmeanBusiness campaign, professional publications often play down or omit to mention entirely the illustrator in a writer / illustrator team who have worked on a book (in extreme cases, a well known children's classic such as "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" where Michael Rosen receives endless praise for the story in some articles, with ne'er a mention of Helen Oxenbury's utterly vital illustrations in the same article. Without Helen's illustrations, the book would never have become the classic it so rightly is IMHO).
(As an aside, Helen's art is utterly mesmerising. Her line work just completely blows me away, tiny tiny gestures and strokes to convey a whole gamut of facial expressions, movements and tone. As I said, mesmerising!)
It's not the fault of author nor illustrator, but does seem to be some quite bizarre set-in rot that seems to have been seeping slowly through the children's publishing industry for a number of years.
As our staple blogging subjects are predominantly picture books, we often find that the books that consistently hit the book of the week slot are not always visually stunning and perfect, nor are they works of wordy wonder. They achieve a perfect balance of each, with innovation both in story and illustration content.
To put this to the test, try reading a selection of picture books to your little ones - purposely obscuring the pictures, or not showing them to your children as you read. Did that work out for you? I can only think of one book in our recent reviewing history that works on that level - and it's "The Book with No Pictures" by B.J. Novak - a book that works as well as a piece of performance art purely through the act of making adults who read aloud to their children look a bit daft. Genius, sheer genius.
Once again though, try another exercise. Arm yourself with a pad of post-it notes and stick them over the text in a few picture books. Just show the pictures, don't read the story. How did that work out for you? In very few cases (unless purposely designed as such), picture books don't really work that well without their accompanying words either. The balance needs to be exactly that. A balance, and some extremely talented folk are equally adept at writing and illustration, pulling off the amazing trick of balancing both with aplomb in stories that completely blow us away.
One final thought on Sarah's excellent and extremely important observations about children's illustrators. We firmly believe that an appreciation of art, and definitely an appreciation of children's books (illustrations AND writing) does not require formal training in either. Absolutely not. Reviewers can only offer an opinion but that opinion is not lessened by a sharp lack of knowledge of the art techniques of Vermeer, or the fine-tuned lingual acrobatics of Shakespeare. Does your 3-6 year old have that training? (OK there probably are people out there who will answer 'yes but in general, they don't - so does this mean they can't appreciate children's picture books nor offer an opinion on them, even if their opinion is "I don't like this book, it's poo!"
We do not claim to be expert critics by any means and in fact we rather like a healthy debate around a book if someone disagrees with us on it.
We do not get paid to do this, nor would we ever try to tread on the toes of professional bodies whose job it is to ensure the growth of the publishing industry and for that matter those who carry the responsibility of promoting the services of some of the industry's leading illustrative and literate folk. But we are the consumers of the 'product', children are who these books were made for, so don't just scrub those opinions into the food waste bin.
ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 27th February 2015 - "The Really Gross Body Book" by Emma Dodson and Sarah Horne(Templar Publishing)
The Really Gross Body Book
Written by Emma Dodson
Illustrated by Sarah Horne
Published by Templar Publishing
Lift-the-flap books invariably go down very well at ReadItDaddy Towers but when they contain subject matter of a slightly stomach-churning nature, they are even more well received. Parents probably already know this, but when kids reach a certain age (say, 2 upwards and probably long into their teens), books that heavily feature farts, poo, wee and spew sing out to them like an icky siren song.
Enter "The Really Gross Body Book" at your peril because right from the first trouser-trumping spread, you're in for a fantastic (and REALLY GROSS) journey around your body, and all the less-than-lovely things it can do.
To give you an idea of how well this book was received, Charlotte basically shoved that first page spread RIGHT IN MY FACE and demanded that it was made book of the week. I am not one to argue with a tempestuous six year old but I do actually agree that this is an utterly brilliant book that is crammed with icky facts, amazing statistics and some really innovative paper-crafting to put its key points across. There are pop-up bits that are brilliant fun (how about a stinky armpit right in your fizzog?) and loads & loads of little flaps to lift up, pull out, spin round and generally mess around with - each imparting even more grim information than you can possibly stomach (watch with horror as your child lovingly peels back the layers of a scab to discover how your skin heals itself. Ewwwwgh!)
The book is humorously written but it doesn't play things too dumb either, which is fantastic to see. The illustrations though, oh boy, you really may end up feeling green around the gills as your child gleefully yanks down the notepad-shaped poo chart and delightedly describes to you their latest 'creation'.
It's not a book to enjoy over breakfast, lunch or dinner but it's utterly superb. We've been saying for years that 'lift the flap' books like this shouldn't purely be for toddlers and babies, and so it's really great to see a book for older kids using the format so successfully. A botty-burping bile-barfing bum-waggling belly-busting bogey-snarfing scab-picking book of the week without a doubt!
Charlotte's best bit: Delightedly informing everyone that vegetarian sweat is slightly sweeter smelling than carnivore sweat. Lovely!
Daddy's Favourite bit: It might well put you off your dinner but it's a fantastic fact (and fart) filled book of fun for youngsters (and yes, even adults will laugh like a drain at most of it too!)
(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)