In 2007 two very different picture books featuring animals were published by Orca Book Publishing. The first, Susan Rennick Jolliffe’s Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties is a first-person narration of a poodle’s entertaining exploits. The second, Mechanimals by Chris Tougas, explores the creation of a robotic farm. Both are extremely well illustrated and are sure to please readers.
Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties
Written and illustrated by Susan Rennick Jolliffe, Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties is a gorgeous picturebook that is presented as a scrapbook of a poodle and cat’s monthly tea parties. It is rich in visual detail, and the drawings are beautiful and fun. Each party spans two pages.
There are three types of text in Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties. The first is the narration that is printed in a white rectangle at the bottom of every right-hand page. It describes each event and offers reflections and insights into Ginny’s emotions. Attention to Ginny’s wardrobe is also a prominent feature. The vocabulary is varied and engaging.
The second type of text featured is the menu. This is found in a simple horizontal text box with a band of paw prints and a teapot on the left-hand page. A pictorgraphical key is included so to help readers identify various elements of the menu in the drawings. The menus provide important information for each month’s tea: the guests, the type of tea served, the cuisine and the teaware used.
The third type of text used by Susan Rennick Jolliffe in Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties is quotes such as, “Got any more lillybuds?” and “The tweets were tweet.” These are peppered throughout the drawings and give a true scrapbook feel to Ginny’s book.
Besides being a visually pleasing book, reminiscent in some ways of Wallace Edwards’ Alphabeasts, Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties is educational. It introduces readers to a variety of animals and places them in the months and seasons where they are most prominent. It is a humourous book and develops readers’ observational skills.
Chris Tougas’s Mechanimals has a completely different look from Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties and will probably be more appreciated by male readers than the aforementioned book. Mechanimals tells the story of a farmer who, although saddened when a tornado leaves him with nothing but “a mountain of scrap metal and machine parts,” is inspired to “turn [the] mess into a masterpiece.”
The neighbours’ admonishment, “When pigs fly,” provide the inspiration the farmer needs. He organizes and draws up plans and creates robotic farm animals – chick-bots, cow-bots, rooster-bots, sheep-bots and horse-bots – to help him with his plan to make something out of the heaps of metal. Together, the farmer and his animal-bots create a flying pig-bot that surprises the neighbours and pleases the farmer.
Mechanimals is a humourous engaging book that features colourful, jovial, round farmers and funky robot animals in the foreground and detailed pencil drawings in the background. The text is short and to the point, and it is in perfect harmony with the illustrations. Doreen Cronin’s book Cows That Type would be a good companion book to Mechanimals.