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Sunday, January 4, 2015
Alligator in an Anorak by Daron Parton
I have a fondness for alphabet books but I know there is often confusion about who they are for, certainly many in my collection are far more sophisticated than a 4-5 year old requires. The presumption is that they are for children who need to learn their letters, and perhaps they are, but they are often so much more, and sometimes the alphabet is simply a device to bring order to the subject the creator is keen on.
Alligator in an Anorak will certainly be useful for children learning the alphabet, the feature letter is stands out in colour from the otherwise grey text, though from an educational perspective I wished for lowercase letters as well as capitals.
But don't just share it with the little kids, let everyone have a look because there is some really quirky, interesting artwork here, and it's a nice piece of book design too, though I know that the pristine white cover with the glossy green alligator in his yellow anorak (is a raincoat the same thing as an anorak?), is not going to remain sparkling white once a few children get their mitts on the book.
The aim of the game here is to put interesting animals in funny situations - does the alligator need an anorak? Of course he doesn't, he loves the water. Does a tiger belong in a tent? Of course not (unless he's eating the occupant). I love the idea of the child reader anticipating what will be on the next page, particularly once they know their alphabet so they can predict what's coming next and what absurd situation will it be in. One of my favourites is the whale in the wigwam where only a tiny part of the whale even fits inside.
Most of the time this works well but a few pages don't play by the rules, they have an easily anticipated animal somewhere that's entirely reasonable - a fish in a fountain - fair enough. The zebra in the zoo - what's silly about that? That last one made me sigh a little because the book should close with a bang as good as what you got, if not better, for any other page.
Aside from the odd disappointing page I think this is a tasty piece of picture book publishing, full of style and panache. It's been published by Random House Australia, but the author was born in the UK but lives in New Zealand, with his Kiwi wife and two kids, and teaches illustration at Auckland's AUT.
Alligator in an Anorak
Written & illustrated by Daron Parton
Random House Australia (distributed here by Random House NZ)
1 October 2014
NZ release 21 November 2014
NB: I haven't seen the ebook yet, will report back when I've had a chance to play with it.