Animal Picture Book Roundup

archie snuffle

Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius by Katie Harnett
A few weeks ago my neighbours’ cat died. I don’t know the neighbours well, but their cat spent significantly more time in my garden than theirs – it was a neighbourhood cat. So this book held a particular resonance.

In Archie Snufflekins, the cat on Blossom Street is named something different by each neighbour and loved by all. When it goes missing, the neighbours are distraught, until they realise that there’s one household that isn’t out searching – and that maybe the neighbours need to visit number eleven themselves.

This book is about loneliness and community, and also about difference. Katie Harnett draws each individual on the street with wonderful uniqueness, exploring each’s personality in their portrait as well as what they are depicted doing and, of course, the name they bestow upon the cat. From the artist to the twins, from Madame Betty to the Hoskins – each family is as different as the next, and yet have love for the cat in common. It’s a simple tale, told exquisitely, and should be cherished by all those who love community, cats, the quietness of ordinary life, and conquering loneliness. A tempered colour palate, which shines with as much personality as the people it colours. You can purchase it here.

bison bouncing

There’s a Bison Bouncing on the Bed! By Paul Bright and Chris Chatterton
The other end of the scale of picture books – this is a bright, rhyming tale of silliness, which does exactly what it says on the cover. A group of animals bounce on the bed with delight, then discover it’s the bed of a Grizzly Bear and this might be troublesome, but at the end find out that the bear is anything but grizzly.

It’s bright and bold – the sound effects are as loud as the animals are large. This is a happy book for toddlers who think it’s funny to bounce on the bed and want a bedtime story with lots of spring in its tale.

There’s rhyming, counting, onomatopoeia, and a raucous assortment of animals from bison to aardvark. This will be a firm favourite, and one that’s easy to read over and again. From the artist behind Supermarket Gremlins (another household favourite), the element of fun and surprise is never far from his pen. Enjoy reading and bouncing. Buy it here.

marcel

Marcel by Eda Akaltun
Fluctuating again from the fun to the conceptual, Marcel is a difficult picture book for a child to adore. Marcel is a dog – the book is narrated in first person from Marcel’s point of view, but the key character is not so much Marcel, as New York City.

Marcel speaks of his ‘human’, a woman seen fragmented – at first hiding behind a New York Times, and then gradually in pieces; a mouth, a hand. The style is Lichtenstein-esque, a pop art, comic book collage of images mixed with the pastel shades of Marcel himself. They traipse New York, walking well-known streets; past typical brownstones, fire escapes snaking down buildings, Central Park and its entertainment – again collaged works of musicians in different collage textured pieces. There are some riffs on places within the city – a bagel place, the American Museum of Natural History with its bones, until Marcel reports that his human meets another human.

Marcel initially feels excluded, until he comes to an acceptance of the new ‘man’ eventually; after a dazzling diamond appears on his human’s left hand. A book that may be used to promote inclusivity – extending families perhaps?

The pastel hues of blue, orange and yellow against white space give the book a distinctive texture, and the collage pop art, almost reminiscent of Mad Men opening graphics will delight some readers. The ending infers that a sequel will be set in Paris.

This seems less a picture book for young children, and more an artsy gift purchase or a stylised experiment for older students to study design. Intriguing nevertheless. You can buy your own piece of New York here.

max and bird

Max and Bird by Ed Vere
The third Max book, about the little kitten, following Max the Brave and Max at Night. There is an elegance retained in the simplicity of the Max books. Prior to this one, Max has always been fairly solitary – there are some lovely images in the earlier books of Max alone – saying goodnight to the buildings in Max at Night for example. Here, Max meets a bird, and decides on friendship, although he’s not quite sure what friendship entails because he’s conflicted: he would also like to chase and eat Bird.

The ensuing pages are probably the most comic of the three Max books, as Max decides to teach Bird how to fly – not that he has any idea how.

As always, the book feels like one of those colourful scrap books, each page a vivid background colour, each populated with drawings of Max as the book moves along. There is an abundance of understated humour in the drawings – from Max’s and Bird’s reluctance to ask the tall bird for help in reaching books in the library, to the expressions on the friends’ faces as they practise ‘flapping’ in order to fly.

The book is lively – the characters never stop moving or learning, and their eyes betray their emotions. Vere demonstrates enormous attention to detail – body language of the creatures, and titles of books in the illustrations of the library, and overall there’s a lesson of learning to do something – practising and persevering. Already a staple in this household. Get yours here.