Review: Smart About Sharks

smart2.jpgThe defining feature of any book from Flying Eye Books is that they are made to be treasured, none more so than Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey. The disposable, fleeting nature of modern consumption, with products devoured on the hoof and slung thoughtlessly in the trash, is countered the moment you hold Davey’s book in your hands. Like art, it is something to be gazed upon; something to be absorbed and assimilated in the mind and the soul, not grabbed, ripped at and stuffed in the gullet.

Davey’s illustrations are something else; they deserve a wide audience and much acclaim.  I first discovered his work when drawn to the cover of the wonderful Knight Night, a delightful picture book, perfect for fearless four year olds who love to swish a sword and battle to the death, or at least until a toe is stubbed, the tears flow and a cuddle is needed. It’s full of stylised images often using a palette based around one bold colour (orange dominates in Knight Night, next to browns and muted yellows).   Continue reading

Review: Boy in the Tower

boytowerIt may seem odd for a sci-fi novel, but Boy in the Tower is a book that oozes reality. If there is a story that warrants being described as dystopian then it it this one – it’s not always an easy read and emotional punches are far from pulled. They land heavy with a thud.

Polly Ho-Yen’s debut is, at times, a disturbingly grim portrayal of urban life and environmental decline.  But there, in the reality, resides a remarkable honesty – the characters are real, the emotions are raw, the setting – literally – could be the estate where I work, and (like all great sci-fi) the unimaginable becomes oh-so-believable. War of the Worlds made people run to their cars and flee to the hills, believing an alien attack was underway. Boy in the Tower has that same sense of maybe, maybe one day… Continue reading

Review: Oi Frog! and Oi Dog!

Events have made it hard for me to write my blog recently. Nothing dramatic – just work, life, work, life and work and life.  But the brilliant Oi Frog! and the sequel, Oi Dog!, purchased recently as a pair, have spurred me back into action.

Oi Frog! all starts from a wonderfully absurd premise; a pompous, stick-to-the-rules cat and a rebellious, rule-busting frog arguing about what animals should or should not sit on.  Cat – yellow-eyed, condescending, severe – tells frog to sit on a log. Frog doesn’t want to – he wants to sit on a mat, or a stool, or even a sofa. But, no.  Mats are for cats, stools are for mules and sofas – oh so clever, this one – are for gophers.

And on they go, cat and frog bickering their way back and forth through ever more inventive and preposterous couplets, brought to life by brilliant illustrations of gorillas perched on pillars and pumas balanced on satsumas.  The first books ends with a delightful image of poor frog being sat on by a dog…which leads perfectly into the second book Oi Dog! where, this time, frog is in charge and re-writes the rules and gets to sit where he likes.  Continue reading