Magabala Books recently sent me two children’s books to review – Return of the Dinosaurs and Cheeky Animals. I find it hard to review kids’ books because in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether I like the book!
Then I thought, who better to review these books than Master Five and his pals from kindergarten. So last week I headed into his early learning centre to do a group reading with him and his classmates.
I was actually a bit nervous as I walked through the doors. What if other kids aren’t as into books as mine? Would they find me dull? Do five-year olds heckle?
As it turns out they do heckle, but in a well-meaning and endearing way. As we read the books together, they were so desperate to tell me how much they knew (‘High tide means very high water!’; ‘I love salmon’!; ‘I’ve been to Broome!’; ‘Calves means babies!’).
So – picture fourteen very excited five-year olds, sitting in a circle on the floor, having to be reminded every few moments to put their hand up to speak, leaning further and further in towards me, absolutely bursting to tell me their thoughts, and most of all, to hear the books. It was very, very sweet.
Return of the Dinosaurs, Brownyn Houston
‘That book starts with an R!’.
‘Imagine if dinosaurs came back to visit Broome. What would they do?’ the first page of the book asks. ‘They would eat everyone!’ was the instantaneous answer.
The kids were rapt as we read through the story and saw the dinosaurs doing all sorts of mischievous things: ‘eating’, ‘swimming’, ‘splashing’, ‘playing’. We all decided they wouldn’t be scared of noisy airplanes.
We chatted about the Kimberley coast, the town of Broome and how far these places are from where we live in Melbourne. When I mentioned that real dinosaur footprints had been found there, I saw some perplexed faces and their wee brains ticking over digesting this bit of news.
The kids were really animated as we talked about what we’d do if we came back as dinosaurs. ‘I’d watch a movie!’. ‘I’d eat some leaves!’. ‘I’d eat some salmon!’. ‘I’d eat some other plant eaters’. ‘I’d go rollerskating!’.
‘Did you like this book?’, I asked after we’d read it again. ‘YEAAAHHH!’ the kids shouted back.
There was a moment of silence and then, ‘Can you read the next book now?’. So we did.
Cheeky Animals, Shane Morgan
As we looked over the front cover together, no one was entirely sure which cheeky animals we’d be reading about (‘meerkat!’, ‘llama!’, ‘wolf!’, ‘ostrich!’). But eventually, realisation dawned that this was a book about cheeky Australian animals.
The kids absolutely loved this book. They were literally in hysterics as we read about the lizard and the fish and the dingo being cheeky to an unsuspecting human. The page where the emu has the man hanging upside down by his pants caused particular hilarity. The turtle stamping on the man’s foot was also a thigh-slapper.
‘Can you read it again, cos I like it!’, asked one cherubini. In the end, we read it three times.
We talked about our favourite Australian animals (‘frilled-neck lizards!’; ‘kangaroos cos they bounce!’). We also had a chat about rhyming, and the kids were great at guessing the rhyming words throughout the book.
Then there was a period of fierce concentration as the group did some drawings of their favourite bits from the books. We ended up with some wonderful impressions of dinosaurs, emus, turtles and even a rattle snake.
I walked away from that small session with a handful of drawings and a big grin on my face. Kids do love books, and they really, really loved these two books.