Tag Archives: Tony Ross

Troll Stinks

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Troll Stinks

It looks like Jeanne Willis has her heart set on educating young readers, and what better way than through poetry and catchy illustrations?

This time Jeanne and Tony Ross are tackling cyberbullying, and high time, too. (It ends better than Chicken Clicking, in case you’re worried…)

Jeanne rhymes her way through a different version of the Billy Goats Gruff, where a young silly Billy  finds a mobile phone and decides to get up to no good with it, along with his friend. They take selfies and send horrible text messages to Troll.

And then they go off to visit Troll. Aren’t they brave?

Well, no, they are bullies. The thing is, just as goats – maybe – have the right to cross bridges; perhaps trolls are entitled to try and prevent them?

Just right

Goldilocks had her porridge. Or, to be more precise, she had porridge belonging to the three bears. And one of the porridges was just right.

The last books I read about Goldilocks and her pal Jack, of beanstalk fame, were the new boardbooks by Tony Ross earlier this year. Boardbooks are hard to review, and fairly hard to pass on to a suitable reader. When you’re my age you don’t know many boardbook-aged people.

Or perhaps that’s just me.

The other day I went out to lunch. It was a free lunch; pea soup followed by pancakes with cream and jam, Swedish style, all eaten in good company. I actually remembered to bring the books, and after a happy coincidence of chatting about books, I even remembered to get them out of my bag, to hand them to Baby Tollarp.

This lovely child threw himself over the books, and immediately started to gnaw the edges and the corners. Most gratifying.

It was lunch, after all. And whereas he was allowed to sample a sliver of pancake, this six-month-old only had literature to satisfy that empty feeling.

Board classics

Tony Ross has two new boardbooks out, which I think is slightly younger than his usual picture books. They are Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Yes, you’ve heard of them before, haven’t you? I think it’s pretty good, actually. It’s sort of the baby version of dyslexia books for older readers; introducing something that the reader isn’t able to ‘read’ in its normal form.

Tony Ross, Goldilocks and the Three Bears

They are not Tony’s stories, obviously, but are re-told simply, accompanied by Tony’s illustrations. They are even divided into little chapters, in that there are board tabs showing what’s to be found if you open the book right there. So you want an axe, you can see where to go, or if it’s Little Bear’s empty bowl you require.

For the technically capable there is a code on the back cover to scan and get a free audio fairy tale. But don’t let that stop you from reading to your parents! There’s nothing like a live voice while turning the stiff pages. They are just right!

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Lucinda Belinda Melinda looks really nice, but that’s all that’s nice about her. This perfect girl in Jeanne Willis’s new picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, is pretty dreadful. She knows how to look good, and she not only tells everyone else how to improve, but she goes right ahead and improves them.

People hide when they see her coming. Lucinda Belinda Melinda even has a go at her poor grandparents, who are not well-groomed enough. And she blow-dries the monster she meets in the park.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that…

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

This is poetry. I really wanted to read the book aloud, but as usual was missing that child who would have loved it. Not sure the Resident IT Consultant wanted Lucinda Belinda Melinda to intrude on his history programme on television. But it just rhymes so very nicely!

And yes, my bottom does look big in those shorts.

The Nights Before Christmas

This gorgeous, large volume of collected Christmas classics, illustrated by Tony Ross, contains 24 stories, poems and extracts from wellknown books. As anyone can work out from that – apart from me, initially – you have one thing to read for every night through December. In other words; the best kind of advent calendar.

Tony Ross, The Nights Before Christmas

There’s material you will already know, and hopefully brand new reads as well. I used to read The Little Match-Seller over and over as a child. It’s so very sad. And then there are things I didn’t know at all, like the fact that Christina Rossetti wrote In the Bleak Midwinter. That was a revelation.

You get extracts from Little Women and A Christmas Carol, and there are many tales about Christmas trees in various forms, and shoemakers seem to be big, too. The Bible and the hymn book both feature, as do Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.

I believe I always say this about anthologies and collections, but I do hope it will lead today’s children to investigate some of the classics. There is more to Christmas than farting santas. This is a beautiful book, suitably ‘modernised’ by Tony’s pictures.

Next year I will begin reading on December 1st and I will enjoy every step of the way.

Whose illustrator?

I spoke to Thumper’s mum again. I realised I wasn’t quite done being unkind.

The thing is, one of the press releases I received for a recent book, mentioned David Walliams’ illustrator. Perhaps you are more aware than I am, who that actually might be, and are shouting out his name as you read this. But I was taken aback at the description. (I’m hoping it was a slip of the keyboard.)

The book was the new Horrid Henry, and Francesca Simon received the correct star billing as being a top-selling author. But guess what? The person who illustrated Horrid Henry (after all these years, 25 or some such number) is David Walliams’ illustrator! I wouldn’t know DW if he sat opposite me on the train, and even if this person was a rookie illustrator who had only made pretty pictures for a few books, I’d still expect him to be properly introduced, by his own name.

Especially since he is Tony Ross; one of the leading children’s books illustrators, and someone whose work is instantly recognisable. Tony does pretty pictures for many authors, and he also does them for himself, when he is the author as well as the illustrator. I always make a point of reading and reviewing his work if I can, because I know it will be good stuff.

Tony Ross and Wendy Finney, The Not So Little Princess

Like this one, The Not So Little Princess, What’s My Name? where the words are by Wendy Finney (they are good words, too), but you find that Tony’s name is mentioned first, and with no DW in sight. (OK, so it’s by a different publisher.) It’s as funny and lovely as all the other Little Princess books have been before it.

As you will have guessed, the Little Princess has got bigger. These things happen. And her family and ‘servants’ realise she can no longer be addressed as Little Princess. But when they recall what her real name is, they all turn a wobbly and run away, hoping they won’t be called upon to be the one who has to tell her.

Just as silly and amusing as you’d expect. And the LP is a sensible girl, deep down, and she solves the name problem herself and everyone is happy.

I wonder if there will be more Big Princess books?

Tony Ross

THAT is Tony Ross, above. In case you are ever called upon to sit opposite him on a train.

Blue and yellow

Feeling quite inspired by two colourful picture books in nicely Swedish colours.

Bluebird by Bob Staake is a rather special book. Longer than average and wordless, it still tells a marvellous story. The illustrations are something else, and all in tones of blues and neutrals. I’d happily frame a page and put on my wall.

Bob Staake, Bluebird

Set in New York, by the look of things, it tells the story of a lonely boy, who is befriended by a small bird. There is bullying and a sad, but beautiful ending. Wonderful to look at, and if you can adapt your own words to your own child it should suit almost everybody.

In Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, we meet another little bird in this tremendously yellow book. The chicken pops into the farmhouse to use the farmer’s computer every night. She buys things, thus confusing the poor farmer.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Chicken Clicking

And then, then she makes an online friend. This is a cautionary tale about online safety. You just never know who will pretend to be your friend. Do you?

This chicken finds out…