Welcome to the first of a new style of review posts I’m hoping to pop out once a month (or so) with a focus on particularly amazing authors or illustrators – “Charming Spotlight On”Today, I bring you Peter Carnavas, a Queensland-based author AND illustrator whose award-winning books expertly combine humour and pathos for young readers. There’s a household-wide love affair with Carnavas going on at Charming HQ right now as he recently visited my kids’ school and left a cool mural on the library wall as a parting gift. With perfect timing, the universe also sent us the Brisbane Writers’ Festival last weekend, and we came home with several new Carnavas titles to add to our mighty home library.
I’ve reviewed some of Carnavas’ books on the blog in the past, including Jonathan, Mr Darcy The Dancing Duck and one of my all time favourites The Boy On The Page. Whether he’s the illustrator, the author or playing some other part in a literary collaboration, Carnavas brings a delightful sensitivity to his work. There are generally two kinds of kids’ book illustrations: the busy, complicated ones that fill a page with hidden treasures; and the deceptively simple ones that put the focus squarely on the central characters. Most of Carnavas’ work for children falls into the latter category, which seems to be why my children (if not all children!) can quickly relate to the action, even if the story itself is complex. Here are some other titles to add to your collection!
My Nanna Is A Ninja
Written by Damon Young, illustrated by Peter Carnavas
UQP RRP: $24.95
Some nannas work in gardens and dig holes for yellow roses.
Some nannas work in schools and get chalkdust on their noses.
Some nannas work in cafes and pour coffees, black and white.
But my nanna is a ninja…so she tiptoes through the night.
This gorgeous picture book is a tribute to super-nannas everywhere and works to dispel any last traces of the myth that nannas are frail old ladies who knit and take naps. Let’s face it, we are all living longer and ageing better than previous generations. Today’s nannas are crucial to the workforce, helping out with childcare and leading their own active lives. In this book, all kinds of nannas are heroes in the eyes of their grandchildren for all kinds of reasons. But one little boy’s imagination makes his nanna extra special! I love this book on a feminist level. My older kids love it just because it’s funny. Mr 3 enjoys the rhyming and repetition which helps him ‘read’ the story himself. My Nanna Is A Ninja is an all round winner in our house.
Jessica’s Box (CPA edition)
Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing RRP:$27.99
Jessica’s Box was first released in 2008, telling the story of a young girl’s nervous first days in a new school. She tries to win friends by bringing curious items in a large brown box, but her plans don’t quite work the way she hopes. She tries to share her favourite teddy bear, but some of the kids just laugh. Another day, she brings cupcakes – they are all snatched up, but no one stays to talk or play. Eventually Jessica learns that the best way to make new friends is just to share herself. The original book is appealing to any child embarking on a new stage of life, but this revised edition was commissioned by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance to draw particular attention to issues of inclusion and diversity. The new illustrations show Jessica in a wheelchair, but the story remains exactly the same – raising awareness of disability, but also reminding us that Jessica’s fears are just like those of any other child.
Oliver And George
Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing RRP:$24.99
Young Oliver and his bear friend George are having a day at home. Oliver wants to play, but George is busy reading a book. Oliver tries everything he can to get George’s attention – throwing paper planes and even breaking George’s chair. But George doesn’t even get mad…until Oliver snatches his book! This story can be interpreted in a few different ways: a child trying to get a parent’s attention? Siblings squabbling over books or toys? A lesson in patience? Or a lesson in not always being ‘too busy to play’? It also demonstrates how captivated we can be by a really good book! Once again, the stark illustrations depict a range of emotions through body language and facial expression, with minimal background clutter. Bring it out next time you have a child saying “Can we play now? NOW can we play? PLEASE can we play now?” – or any other words to that effect!
Peter Carnavas is probably best known to a lot of readers for his beautiful book about the joy of reading The Children Who Loved Books. It was featured in the Get Reading Top 50 Books You Can’t Put Down list in 2013. For no good reason, this is the one title I don’t own (even though the cover closely resembles my home!), but it’s on my ever-growing list of must-haves. I encourage you to add a few of these charming books to yours!
Do you have a favourite title by Peter Carnavas?