That’s Good, That’s Bad

That’s Good, That’s Bad
Joan M. Lexau and Aliki

Prestel have brought back a vintage classic published first in 1963 with splendid reproductions of Aliki’s superb illustrations. Here’s what happens:

A boy sitting on a rock in the jungle is confronted by a tiger. The tiger politely tells the lad to run away. “… I will run after you. And I will catch you. And I will eat you, Boy, so run from me” it says.

Boy however is too tired, Tiger asks why and hoping to avoid his fate, the boy begins to tell the tiger his tale.

It’s a thrilling one with frights, falls, fun and a bit of flight that involves encounters with a rhino

and a crocodile

that’s sure to enthral youngsters, just as it does the hungry tiger. I know though, that it’s the former who will end up having a jolly good laugh at the satisfying ending.

There’s a lot to like about this book: the way the boy character demonstrates the power of storytelling; Joan Lexau’s own skill at telling what is essentially a tale-within –a-tale – and a real page turner it is too.

Then there’s Aliki’s visual storytelling: I love the way she places the story-telling Boy and Tiger on opposing pages as though viewing the action from the sidelines, with Boy’s own narrative unfolding on the verso and Tiger’s comments “That’s good”,

“That’s bad” or variations of same, being made on the recto each time. The subtle changes to the facial expressions of these characters are wonderful, really bringing to life the double drama.

Clever and deliciously droll.

Timeless Tales: I Really Want to See You, Grandma / I Wish I Was Sick, Too!

I Really Want to See You, Grandma
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

First published in Japan (the home of the book’s creator), in 1979, this story about a small girl and her grandmother and their efforts to see one another is now available in English for the first time.

Yumi and her Grandma live some distance apart, Yumi on a hill, her grandma on a mountain, and simultaneously each decides to visit the other – why they didn’t ring one another one can only assume is due to there being no mobile phones in those days.

They both leave home in upbeat mood, Yumi boarding a bus, her Gran taking a train.

Both arrive at the other’s home to discover the muddle and head back to their own homes …

missing each other again.

Will they ever get to meet or are they destined to spend the day passing each other on the way?

Gomi’s illustrations fill in much of the detail not mentioned in his simple text: ‘How come she was allowed to go on a bus without a grown-up?’ my listeners wanted to know after hearing this story of mix-ups and changing emotions.

Those in the early stages of becoming readers may well be able to try this one for themselves having heard the story read aloud first.

I Wish I Was Sick, Too!
Franz Brandenberg and Aliki
The New York Review Children’s Collection

I first came across this book as a young teacher in its Picture Puffin incarnation, I Don’t Feel Well.

It features sibling kittens, Elizabeth and Edward. Elizabeth is resentful of the attention her brother receives when he’s ill in bed. “It isn’t fair! … I wish I was sick, too!” she says.
When her wish comes true a few days later, she realises that, rather than all the attention received, it’s as her brother says, “The best part of being sick is getting well.

Aliki’s chalky illustrations capture the emotions of the infant cat characters superbly and the story’s as amusing now as it was over three decades ago.

Share and enjoy no matter the state of the listeners’ health; equally, with its clear print and inviting layout, it’s a good book for solo readers to try for themselves.