Australian author Alison Lester is perhaps best known for her picture books. However, she captivated her audience with her first novel, The Quicksand Pony. In a starred review, School Library Journal called it "a gripping adventure story, a tale of survival, an engaging mystery, a touching animal story, and a family saga."
Another in the current stable of picture books that invite young readers to identify items on a page as opposed to reading an illustrated narrative. Here, an everyday setting (a tree fort in the yard, a fishbowl in the living room, etc.), and a short verse are the jumping-off points for a visit to imagined and more exotic places: the jungle, the underwater world, etc. Lester's illustrations are pleasant but undistinguished pen-and-ink drawings enlivened with watercolor washes. There is humor and some charm in the expressions of the animals and the two human characters. The boy and girl are equally active, and the juxtaposition of real and imagined environments is clever without being obtrusive or contrived. However, there are errors in terminology (orynx instead of oryx, Adele penguin instead of Adelie, sabre-toothed tiger instead of saber-toothed), and no key to the illustrations is provided. This will be frustrating to readers since many terms are unfamiliar and others are easy to confuse. Persistent young researchers might find it a challenge to hunt down the correct matches, but the less dedicated will fall by the wayside, particularly since not all of the words are in an adult dictionary. By all means, give our children interesting long words (and correct scientific terminology) to chew on, but give them a key so they'd at least have a fighting chance. Clever, but not thought through. --Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Pub . Lib . , B.C., Canada
Lester's clever text and creature-crammed illustrations will certainly encourage young imaginations to wander. Publishers Weekly
The author of Clive Eats Alligators offers a lively--and lovely--exercise in using one's creativity. Seven lines of verse introduce each of seven double-page spreads filled with animals of every imaginable species. Each spread has a different setting, transporting readers to such exotic locations as a jungle, oceanic depths, a polar icecap, the land of dinosaurs and the Australian bush country. Borders around each scene contain the names of the animals pictured, giving the book a search-and-find dimension that will appeal to more ambitious readers. Anyone serious about matching the names to the pictures, however, might have appreciated the inclusion of a key at the end of the book. As it is, youngsters may get frustrated trying to identify a paca, a guillemot, a tiger quoll or some of the other lesser-known animals. Nevertheless, Lester's clever text and creature-crammed illustrations will certainly encourage young imaginations to wander. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)