Showing posts with label Victoria Allenby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victoria Allenby. Show all posts

March 26, 2018

Timo Goes Camping

Written by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-040-6
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
March 2018

It's wonderful to see a new Timo story from Victoria Allenby and illustrated by Dean Griffiths.  This early reader series tugs at my heart with each new story as the rabbit Timo learns new life lessons alongside his friends Bogs, Hedgewick, Rae and Suki.

Suki, the squirrel with the ideas, decides the group of friends should go camping.  Though Timo feels that adventures are "messy and unsafe and not at all sensible," he goes along with the plan.  However, he looks for advice at the Toadstool Corners Library, where it "smelled like paper and ink and comfort," finding good advice in a book called Camping is Fun.
From Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Dean Griffiths
Setting out on their adventure, Timo puts his new skills to use in knotting rope, making a fire, and recalling all the lessons about canoeing and orienteering and more.  But, when little things go wrong, like a tent that won't go up or a dunking in the lake, most of the group enjoys a chuckle, though Suki's teasing and name-calling becomes tiresome to Timo who finally has to call her out on it.
From Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Dean Griffiths
This lovely series of early readers returns an innocence and humility to children's early readers that we haven't seen since Peter Rabbit and Frog and Toad.  There are valuable lessons about friendship and self-acceptance and learning.  But, even more, Timo allows children to share in his learning about friendship and interacting with others, as well as the importance of reading.  From his first book, Timo's Garden (2015), and his second, Timo's Party (2016), the rabbit is learning how to deal with friends and his own insecurities which he is always able to put aside when he takes the opportunities to learn and gain insight from his experiences.
From Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Dean Griffiths
As in all three of the Timo books, Victoria Allenby has made her characters so distinct that their roles in this camping adventure make perfect sense.  Hedgewick is named Chief Chef, Rae is Head Engineer, Bogs is the Toad of Tunes, Suki is the navigator (though more like the one who tells everyone where to go and what to do), and Timo is labelled the camp librarian.  Each has assets that makes the group work effectively, though I'm partial to Timo who wisely finds answers in books.  For an author to create a story rich in characters, atmosphere, plot and positive messages is an astounding achievement for any book but extraordinary for an early reader.  

The story is brought to visual life by Dean Griffiths' artwork, with its textural richness of setting and scene.  Dean Griffiths, whose art illustrates among others Bad Pirate (by Kari-Lynn Winters, Pajama Press, 2016) and Tweezle into Everything (by Stephanie McLellan, Pajama Press, 2013), knows how to adapt his style for an early reader, balancing the story, not becoming the story as it may, and rightly so, in picture books.  

Together Victoria Allenby and Dean Griffiths have made Timo Goes Camping a book that any child would love to take on their own camping adventure, as guide (see the illustration below about using a compass), insurance or pleasant diversion.
From Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Dean Griffiths
⛺⛺⛺⛺⛺⛺⛺⛺

Pajama Press has published a delightful readers' guide for Timo Goes Camping which is available for free download at http://pajamapress.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Timo-Goes-Camping_ReadingGuide1.pdf

March 15, 2017

Good Morning, Grumple

Written by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Manon Gauthier
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-014-7
24 pp.
Ages 2-4
March 2017

According to Victoria Allenby’s dedication, she has a couple of grumples in her life–a big one and a little one–and I suspect that, if you’ve been trying to rouse your kids during March break when they’d much rather sleep, you’ve got some grumples of your own.
A grumple, a grumple is hard to awaken.
It doesn’t like noises. It hates being shaken.
 
It loathes and despises a bright, cheery voice,
And big, shiny lights are a terrible choice. (pg. 5)
From Good Morning, Grumple 
by Victoria Allenby 
illus. by Manon Gauthier
In Good Morning, Grumple, a mother fox, who has obviously endured many a morning struggling to get a grumpy young one in rumpled bed clothes out of bed, attempts the near impossible feat with an established process of rhyming song and accompanying actions.  It starts with a soft singing of “Shh–Shh–Slow we go.  The sun is rising on tip-toe, tip-toe.” (pg. 9)  Nice and easy, but the grumple just burrows deeper into the linens, only feet and a paw clutching a stuffie visible.  That’s OK.  Mother knows the next step is getting a little closer and a little louder with “Shush–Shush–There’s no rush.  The sun is gold in the morning hush.” (pg. 10) Mother Fox may rely on the sun for her inspiration but the efforts are all hers, with tickles, kisses, hugs and a dance, all with louder affirmations until both mother and child are out the door, welcoming the new day and its promise for play.

Every household must have one or two grumples, and Victoria Allenby has contrived a playful way of rousing them to waking.  You may need to read the book several times, with your child, to establish the song, and I’m not sure of the melody, but little ones will delight in the role they get to play, even if it means ultimately getting out of bed.

Victoria Allenby has proven that she can write light and refreshing books for pre-readers and early readers (Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That, Pajama Press, 2013; Timo’s Garden, Pajama Press, 2015; Timo’s Party, Pajama Press, 2016; Rhino Rumpus, Pajama Press, 2016) but now she’s bringing that novelty to helping parents parent, all without preaching about how to do it right.  I wonder if she even intended to provide a wake-up protocol for grumples or just share an engaging practice that might work for others.
From Good Morning, Grumple 
by Victoria Allenby 
illus. by Manon Gauthier
Manon Gauthier lends her trademark cut paper collage (see Elliot, Pajama Press, 2016, and All to World a Poem, Pajama Press, 2016) to Good Morning, Grumple, establishing evocative scenes with her artistry.  Colour is limited but effective, with the neutrality of a grumple atmosphere evident throughout.  No grumple would ever see much in the way of colour before deigning to open his/her eyes completely, and Manon Gauthier supports this premise wholeheartedly.  But Manon Gauthier refuses to keep things stark and uninspiring.  All indoor and outdoor scenes, before and after waking, are freckled with birds, flowers, and household furnishings and decorations that invite readers in.  Collage art has never been so expressive and atmospheric.

Enjoy the smaller and inviting format of Good Morning, Grumple with Pajama Press’ unique padded cover, rounded corners and heavy-duty paper that make it a pleasure to hold.  Let me know whether the premise works for your own little grumples but remember: it may take a few tries, and a little more sunshine than we’re seeing in March, for it to work.  Even if it doesn’t, you’ll enjoy a great read with your youngest ones and perhaps lead them to the self-discovery of their grumple status and ultimately to an appreciation of the efforts made on their behalf.

November 07, 2016

Timo's Party

by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-008-6
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
October, 2016

Bunny rabbit Timo Vega learned in last year’s Timo’s Garden (Pajama Press, 2015) that he needed to spend a little bit more time tending to his friendships rather than obsessing about his garden and he’s learned that lesson well.  With food critic Madame LaPointe coming to Toadstool Corners as part of her search for the best small towns to visit, Timo agrees to host an apple festival in his orchard so that his friend Hedgewick Stump, the hedgehog, can show off his culinary skills.  But as soon as he’s made the offer, the crowd-averse rabbit is regretting his decision.
From Timo's Party 
by Victoria Allenby
illus. by Dean Griffiths

Organizing his tasks into a list of three things–invitations, decorations and games–Timo begins to feel that the Toadstsool Corners Apple Festival might be manageable after all. Though Hedgewick sees the attributes that will make Timo a great host–he is organized, generous and thoughtful–Timo’s other friends, knowing how much he hates big parties, advise him how to be confident and comfortable around lots of people.

With the help of his many friends, Timo is able to pull off a great party, and Hedgewick, with only a small cooking mishap, caters an impressive apple festival.  Like the very different apples and bananas in the recipe at the conclusion of Timo’s Party, Timo and Hedgewick come together spectacularly. Each brings their own strengths to their endeavour and are successful in supporting the other when needed.
From Timo's Party
by Victoria Allenby
illus. by Dean Griffiths
Timo’s Party is an exceptional early reader for imparting an engaging life lesson. But author Victoria Allenby never preaches or instructs the reader how to live life well, or be a good friend or be brave.  Instead, she swathes that message in Timo’s daily experiences, taking advantage of a true story-telling opportunity.  It’s easy to see beyond the anthropomorphized animals–with their clothes, speech, and human endeavours–as just a bunch of friends whose lives the reader is pleased to share.  Though not a fully-illustrated book, Dean Griffiths's artwork helps take the reader into the friendly world of Toadstool Corners.  From the plaid jacketed Timo with his subtle smile and relaxed ears, to the rose-toqued badger Rae and the bustling Hedgewick, Dean Griffiths gives life to the animals in Timo’s Party, taking them from characters to neighbours.  And, let me say, we are all pleased to have been invited to this party, and look forward to more good times in Timo’s neighbourhood.
From Timo's Party 
by Victoria Allenby
illus. by Dean Griffiths

August 30, 2016

Rhino Rumpus

by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Pajama Press
978-1-927-485-96-5
24 pp.
Ages 2-4
August 2016

Victoria Allenby and Tara Anderson, the author-illustrator duo who brought us Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That (Pajama Press, 2013), have returned with another picture book for our littlest ones, this time focusing on the sibling antics of three rhinos as their mother attempts to bring them to some degree of harmony.
From Rhino Rumpus 
by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Tara Anderson
From page one, the three little rhinos are forever being unruly: rude, in a mood, tussling.  And Mama rhino has to interject and bring them in line.  Dinner time is not much different, and Mama sends them to get ready for bed.   Even bathtime (whose illustration is the “magic page” i.e., the cover art) involves a lot of pushing and boisterous escapades that Mama rhino rumbles to a stop with an emphatic “Quiet!”  Teeth brushing, a story and song, and a plea to “And when you wake, please get along!” signals the ultimate family hug and the blissful stillness that is sleep.

The text is perfect for toddlers who will delight in its simplicity and sounds, while those children who are just learning to read will be pleased to test themselves on the easy-to-read rhyming lines and repetition of numbers (e.g., One little rhino…, Two little rhinos…, Three little rhinos…).  I suspect that Victoria Allenby who dedicates the book to her nieces “who ALWAYS get along” has witnessed similar naughtiness but, by experiencing it with love and affection, she has given it a boisterous comic feel to it, something that will lighten the mood for any parent (or aunt!) who has to brave it and strive for calm.  Similarly, Tara Anderson, who dedicates the book to her own little one, animates the text with her coloured pencil illustrations that convey exuberance, joy, mischief and affection with each stroke.  Never is there anger or hostility between the siblings or directed at the little rhinos, and the message of patience in parenting is conveyed with fun and warmth and caring.
From Rhino Rumpus 
by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Tara Anderson
Rhino Rumpus will undoubtedly become the go-to book for families with young ones who get into squabbles, both for parents who need to recognize that children learn through play, even boisterous play, and for children who need to see that parental love is a gift that should not be overlooked, even if it does need a rest occasionally.
From Rhino Rumpus 
by Victoria Allenby, illus. by Tara Anderson

September 16, 2015

Timo's Garden

by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press
978-1-927485-84-2
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
September 2015

Encouraged to sign up for Toadstool Corners’ Great, Green Garden Tour, bunny rabbit Timo begins tirelessly planning and garden-tending to make his flower garden great.  With rhythmic pairings of activity (e.g., “He trimmed and he tidied. He hurried and he scurried.  He raked and he staked. He worked and he worried.”; pg. 19) Timo works with boundless determination and relentless perfectionsim, leaving him with little time for his friends.  Even though tempted by Hedgewick’s spinach cakes, a visit to the lake, and tennis with Suki, it is only when the rains come that Timo realizes he should have been tending to his friends instead of his garden.

With deft pen and colour, author Victoria Allenby and illustrator Dean Griffiths pay homage to the characters–rabbit, hedgehog, mouse, frog, and badger–and gardens and stories of Beatrix Potter while providing a light, cautionary tale of finding the balance in life.  Unlike Victoria Allenby’s fun picture book, Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That (Pajama Press, 2013), that focused on true cat behaviour, Timo’s Garden will speak to any reader who gets too wrapped up in seemingly-important attentions.  Moreover, Dean Griffiths’ artwork which has graced over 25 children’s books, providing the realism in Lumpito and the Painter from Spain by Monica Kulling and the colourful monsters in Tweezle into Everything by Stephanie McLellan, both from Pajama Press, complements the message of taking the time to smell the roses.  His endearing creatures, vibrant flowers and brilliant garden designs in Timo’s Garden will transport all to an era when time was sweet and friends were riches not to be overlooked.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
(A version of this review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2015, October). [Review of the book Timo's Garden, by Victoria Allenby, Dean Griffiths, illus.]. Quill & Quire, 81 (8): 24.

September 02, 2013

Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That

by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Pajama Press
978-1-927485-52-1
32 pp.
Ages 2-5
September, 2013
Reviewed from unbound galley proofs

The premise behind Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That may appear obvious to the reader.  Nat the Cat is the older, orange tabby in a household in which a small black and white kitten lives.  While Nat the Cat has no animosity for the young feline, he does what many older cats love to do: sleep.  But the little one does what many kittens love to do: play.  No matter what kind of play the kitten gets up to–with balls, in dresser drawers, on a skateboard–Nat the Cat just keeps on sleeping nearby.

But that isn't the story as told. Victoria Allenby's rhyming text takes the reader through a day in the lives of the two cats beginning with their people (only their feet seen) leaving for the day.  Tara Anderson's cheerful cats then engage in their favourite activities, with the text firmly focused on Nat's sleeping.  But everything changes when it's dark and no one is around to watch the two.  A final twist in the story shows that the two felines are destined to live happily together.

As a household which recently introduced a pair of two-month-old brothers to our ten-year-old grey tabby, I know the relentless play in which the little ones engage.  Thank goodness they have each other to chase, to play fight, to clean, to poke and with whom to snuggle.  But when our older cat comes in from outside, they are all over her.  Their actions shout, "Gracie's here! Gracie's here!  Hi, Grace! Wanna play, Gracie?!"  (As much as I despise frequent exclamation marks, our two kittens always speak with this punctuation.  It's a kitten thing.)  Similarly Victoria Allenby affectionately shows us that this story is all about Nat the Cat and the nameless kitten showing their preferences as generational, never based in animosity.  The lighthearted text is more restful when focused on Nat's sleeping predilections, but its overall whimsy is reflected well in the playfulness of Tara Anderson's illustrations.  From the kitten's shenanigans with a star wand or a fish on a string, Nat the Cat contentedly sleeps on (though likely to enlist his people into rubbing his belly, I think, when they're around).

Seems Tara Anderson does a lot of cover art, though her illustrations from Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That and The Stripey Cat (by Norene Smiley, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007) demonstrate her knack for felines. Coupled with Victoria Allenby's simple but zippy rhyming story, Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That is a delightful read, perfect for getting your own little ones to bed, whether they be human or feline.