Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Small Saul, by Ashley Spires, 30 pages.

Meet “Small Saul”. Distinctly diminutive in stature, he is denied entry to Navel College. Saul decides to enter Pirate College instead, for he has always dreamed of going to sea.

After graduating, Saul ends up on the Rusty Squid, where it becomes evident that he isn’t at all like the other pirates. He isn’t good at looting, fighting, or looking tough (in fact, he wears a bunny tattoo)… but he can certainly cook, sing and keep things clean and tidy. Saul decides to use his true talents. He makes delicious cakes and cookies for the pirates, sings sea shanties to them, cleans and even redecorates their cabins, and provides them with breath fresheners.

Alas, Saul’s efforts are unappreciated, and one day he is tossed overboard. Poor Saul! Climbing onto a floating log, he waits for rescue.

Meanwhile, the pirates are back to eating bland gruel and moldy bread. Their cabins begin to smell of stinky feet and no one is singing sea shanties. Before long, the pirates are longing for Saul’s cooking, songs and housekeeping skills. They turn back and rescue Saul, realizing that he “…had made their ship a home… just like treasure, Saul was rare!”

There can never be too many pirate stories for preschoolers, and with the many details to be found in the artwork on every page, Ashley Spires’ absurd, hilarious picture book will be in demand more than once!

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.

Muncle Trogg, by Janet Foxley, 209 pages.

The smallest of the Trogg family of giants, Muncle Trogg is only the size of a human – known to the giants as a “smalling”. As such, he is often teased, sometimes bullied and occasionally even tossed around like a football by the other giants.

The giants live inside Mount Grumble and seldom venture outside, for despite their size they fear the smallings, who are much smarter and have defeated the dimwitted giants in past skirmishes and battles.  

When Muncle, who is curious and clever, sneaks into the nearest smalling community to learn about the mysterious creatures he supposedly resembles, he makes some interesting discoveries about them. He meets a smalling girl, Emily, and he even rides on the back of a flying dragon – something that no other giant can do.

No sooner does Muncle return to Mount Grumble than he is again mistreated by the giants. Through a series of misadventures, he is even confined to Princess Puglug’s room and treated like one of her pets – a very undignified fate for anyone!  

However, when a serious crisis arises in the kingdom, it is Muncle who is able to think of a solution, save the day, and become the “wise man” of Mount Grumble.

Children will enjoy this entertaining tale with its positive message that size really doesn’t matter, conveyed with some exaggerated, almost farcical elements. They will identify with Muncle, a likeable, engaging character with a big heart, whose story will soon be continued in a sequel.  

** Recommended for ages 8 to 10 years.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on January 17, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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