Mini Grey has been on my radar recently. I have been odering her books, doing a little excited leap when I find one of her titles in the library and scanning beloved blogs for talk of her illustrations/books. I have not been disappointed!
I found Jim (A Cautionary Tale) at the public library and brought it into class the very next day to read aloud. “This,” I promised my students, “you will love. Gruesome. Guts and gore! And the text rhymes!” (This group of kids love rhyming text!) With Hilaire Belloc‘s original text and Grey‘s wonderful illustrations, Jim (one of Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for children first published in 1907) certainly delivered! Our lovely Jim has it good. All sorts of lovely things to eat. Tricycles to ride on. Stories read to him. Even trips to the zoo.
But then Jim does what he has explicitly been told not to do . . . He runs away from his nurse/guardian! And, well, there is no sense easing into this . . . Jim is eaten by a lion! (Starting with his toes) Grey’s illustrations are delightful. As in the format of the book: lift the flap, fold down sections, panels and fold out pages. We couldn’t quite believe that there was a picture of just Jim’s head edged in red. (“That’s blood!” “He is really dead!” “Blood!”) For seven, eight and nine year olds, discovering this in a picture book is highly appealing because it borders on maybe “not quite appropriate for children.” And what could be better than that? As soon as I finished the book, I was begged to read it again. Many times throughout the day. 🙂 My favourite picture? The lion (caught eating a boy by the zookeeper) slinking away in a dissapointed, very guilty, rage.
I purchased Mini Grey‘s The Very Smart Pea and the Princess to be for our class collection. One, because we love fractured fairy tales. Two, what a great example of an unexpected narrator- in this story, the pea tells the story. And three? Mini Grey! At first this version of the classic Princess and the Pea story doesn’t seem all that far away from the original (except maybe for the creepy fact that many characters have pea green eyes).
But soon, the reader begins to realize, something else is going to be delivered in this story.
What . . . you might wonder?
Well, finally, an explanation for how a teeny tiny pea is felt through all of those mattresses. Hint: more about the power of suggestion than true princess special sensitivity. But, a wedding does happen. The prince happily marries the gardener and the promise of a very productive life awaits.
How I have missed Traction Man is Here is beyond me. This book is hilarious and has the uncanny ability to totally appeal to adults and children alike. Traction Man is an action figure. His trusty sidekick? Scrubbing brush. As in the scrubbing brush you use to scour the dishes or scrub your toes. So, I’ve done some research. My nine year old finds this hilarious. An unsuspecting five year old test case who came for dinner found this hilarious. And. . . an adult friend (whose age starts with a 4) read this book cover to cover twice. Laughed through it both times. And then returned to the scrubbing brush pages for some extra giggles. This book is beyond delightful! It is absurd. Vulnerable. Quirky. I love it! And who can resist our hero Traction Man in the green knitted outfit Granny made for him? Specially for jungles. Of course!
Celebrating the wonder and splendor of imaginative play, Traction Man is Here is a must read!
So, if you haven’t discovered Mini Grey . . . what are you waiting for?