The Smart Cookie

The Smart Cookie
Jory John and Pete Oswald
Harper 360

The narrator of this picture book is one of the residents of the bakery on the corner of Sweet Street; she now calls herself Smart and is sufficiently self-assured to share with readers her transformative journey from a cookie completely lacking in confidence to the present day.

As a pupil of Ms Biscotti, teacher at the school in a gingerbread house, said cookie didn’t think fast enough to put up her hand to answer any questions and finished last in most tests. Sometimes a lesson was so much of a challenge, our narrator felt completely at sea, totally beset by worries and would lie awake all night in the cookie jar.

Then one day Ms Biscotti announced a homework assignment asking everyone to ‘create something completely original’ and bring it to class next day.

Back home our cookie starts work right away but her initial attempts result in disasters of one kind or another, and then suddenly an idea comes – a poem! Having named the creation “My Crumby Days”, the words just keep coming to our poet in the making, so much so that it’s excitement, not worry that keeps her awake this time.

Next morning at school cookie shares the poem. Fellow pupils relate to the words, Ms Biscotti is delighted by its originality

and as for our narrator, she realises that everyone is smart in their own ways, it just takes time to discover what those ways are; our differences are something to be embraced and celebrated.


With puns aplenty and its important message, Jory John’s text together with Pete Oswald’s playful scenes of cookie’s school and home, offer a tasty confidence booster for youngsters and a great starting point for discussion in the primary classroom.

The Good, The Bad and the Spooky

The Good, The Bad and the Spooky
Jory John and Pete Oswald
Harper

With more than 150 spooky stickers for youngsters to have their own fun with, this is a Halloween themed continuation of Jory John and Pete Oswald’s popular series presented by a sunflower seed, aka The Bad Seed.

Now despite Halloween being the Seed’s favourite time of year he’s in an extremely bad mood on account of not being able to find a truly awesome costume for the big night. Nothing he’s tried seems to hit the spot or come anywhere near things he and his friends have dressed as on previous occasions and now everybody seems to want to be independent.

It appears that there’s only one thing to do and that’s to make everyone else think the big holiday event has been postponed. Seed looks as though he’s making a return to his baaad ways: an announcement is made.

Then, enter stage left a good neighbourly pumpkin seed proffering some words of wisdom for our narrator Seed to consider … What will he do – sabotage the whole event and spoil the fun for everyone or focus on what the evening is really all about?

With Jory John’s witty, pun-punctuated narrative that delivers some life lessons and Pete Oswald’s hilarious illustrations, this is a thought-provoking charmer that’s just right for pre Halloween sharing.

Poultrygeist

Poultrygeist
Eric Geron and Pete Oswald
Walker Books

With a touch of the macabre, this is a deliciously dark tale that begins before the title page, with a chicken crossing the road – as chickens do – to get to the other side. Only the result of this one so doing is that it’s splatted against the front of a huge tractor-trailer becoming a ghostly version of its former self.

The next thing the creature knows is that it’s greeted by a host of other animal ghosts informing it of its new status as the titular Poultrygeist and ordering the erstwhile ‘spring chicken’ to start acting scarily – like a ‘foul, fowl’ no less.

Despite haunting not really being the chicken’s thing, the now featherless creature ends up frightening its fellow phantoms.

(It does though give a nod to readers/listeners to make sure they’re not similarly scared at any point.)

With its hilarious finale, this has just the right amount of scariness for most youngsters, thanks in no small part to Pete Oswald’s superb artistry. His use of colour for the ghosty animals against a black background is brilliantly done with the spoken part of the text corresponding in colour to the speaker and that revelation of the poultrygeist’s scariest possible, ‘not even scary’ face is show-stoppingly superb.

Hike

Hike
Pete Oswald
Walker Books

Wordless save for some environmental sounds and labels, this is a truly beautiful book. 

It begins one evening as a man bids goodnight to his child in a room littered with outdoor gear.

Next morning the father wakes the child who packs the gear into a rucksack, the two get into a jeep and head off from their city home into the countryside for the day.

We follow the two as they walk into the forest where they see wildlife aplenty, 

sharing in occasional small dramatic moments as the child copes with some scary challenges. 

The two stop to share snacks, take photos, enjoy the view and finally carry out the task they’ve come to perform – the planting of a sapling they’ve brought with them and the taking of a selfie beside it.

As dusk descends, they leave the woods and drive home. Once there, they don pyjamas, share some cookies and look through a photo album.

Totally immersive, this wonderfully heartwarming book, open to more than one interpretation, is one that needs slow and careful reading of every page: I love the variety of perspectives and the wealth of visual clues we’re given. I love too, how Oswald shows us the natural world through the lens of the close child/parent relationship. A special day and a special relationship. 

To sum it up, I’ll borrow the title of a very old song ‘Memories are made of this’.

The Couch Potato

The Couch Potato
Jory John and Pete Oswald
Harper360

Here’s a spudalicious tale from popular duo Jory John and Pete Oswald who add a new veggie character to their entourage in the form of a potato, one wedded or should that be, welded to his sofa – almost – and by his own admission, the ap-peel of this comfy spot is irresistible. Especially when everything a spud needs is within easy reach.

Our dumpy narrator, like many humans during the on-going pandemic one suspects, has become well, a couch potato. Moreover this veggie has a huge number of screens for the purposes of watching favourite shows, playing video games, face to face conversations and more. He surely has everything under control, this spuddy guy.
But one day, disaster strikes; plugging in his latest device (mail order of course), causes the electricity to PEW-WWWWWWW resulting in darkness and, can you imagine, our potato leaving his favourite spot to look out the window. yes he can manage that!

With nothing else to do, he decides to go for a walk in the great outdoors, accompanied by his pooch Tater. This foray in the open air causes something of a cathartic release: there’s peace, nature and reality out there, liberating and sometimes exhilaratingly beautiful.

Time to make some permanent changes, thinks our starchy spud pal and yes, having found a happy medium, life is great …

Nature and the outdoors are things Covid hasn’t taken from us all; I certainly feel that in addition to books and reading, my well-being depends on getting outdoors and walking in the beautiful countryside around me, no matter the weather.

Love the humour inherent in both the punny writing and the illustrations of this book. There are intertextual winks, an abundance of genial spuds and the final spread with the hero enjoying a cuppa and reading The Catcher in the Fry is a delicious way to end a story that will appeal to both children and adults.