Caryl Hart is one of our favourite authors and Zachariah Ohora is one of our favourite illustrators. We were delighted to discover that these two talents had collaborated on an exciting new series for pre-schoolers called Sonny Says. We were even more thrilled to join the blog tour for the first Sonny story, Sonny Says, "Mine!" Read our review to find out why we love this book and why you need it...
What's it about?
We are introduced to an adorable fox called Sonny and his equally endearing pals Meemo (a dog), Honey (a cat) and Boo (a rabbit). When Sonny finds a tiny toy bunny at the playground, he is smitten, and decides to call it Bun-Bun. Meemo tries to look at it but Sonny snatches it away, shouting "Mine!" Sonny has a wonderful time playing with Bun-Bun, but then Boo and Honey come along. Boo is upset because she has lost her favourite bunny, Suki, and Honey is helping her look for it. Sonny realises Bun-Bun and Suki are the same toy - what will Sonny do?
What can we learn?
This is an excellent story for teaching children that actions have consequences and how to empathise with others. It demonstrates why we shouldn't take things that don't belong to us, and why it's important to tell the truth. We see how having friends makes us feel better than any material possession ever could. Being kind to each other, and sharing, brings more joy than keeping a treasure to ourselves. And, like Sonny, we should always let our conscience by our guide.
What makes this stand out? The first thing that struck me about this is how funny and cute it is. It's also a story to which every child (and parent) can relate. This is a wonderful book for allowing young children to explore familiar and even fraught situations, and reflect on their own behaviour, from a safe distance. Children can identify with the characters, but because the protagonists are animals, they're not too close for comfort. Even though this story delivers valuable lessons, it never feels forced or heavy-handed, thanks to the playful approach taken by the text and the fabulous images.
About those illustrations...
The illustrations are amazing! The bright, strong colours and bold lines will appeal to little readers and so will the super-cute characters. I love how stylish and retro they are, and how they convey so much comedy. Publishers Weekly said that, "OHora could paint stones in the street and make them funny," and it's true!
There are so many hilarious and heartwarming details. I love how gleeful Boo and Meemo look on the swings and how elated Sonny is while cuddling and playing with Bun-Bun. Meemo's palpable disapproval, and his arm and wristbands, are hilarious, and I love how Honey takes charge of the situation. Boo is ridiculously lovable - when we see her distraught, with her head hanging, her posture is just like that of a small child.
It's so funny when we see Sonny guiltily hiding Bun-Bun under a bucket and then under a mound of sand while Honey investigates the sand-pit. I love how we He conceals Bun-Bun with his tail when telling Honey he hasn't seen Suki. I love the image of Sonny standing cap-in-hand towards the end of the story. I love his little paws when he sits down in the sandpit and the illustration of him reading to Bun-Bun. I even love the cover design with Sonny's hat perched on top of the "o" in his name. Every time we read this, we find something new in the illustrations to make us smile.
Why we love it...
In addition to all the above, the characters are brilliant and just like real pre-schoolers, especially with the range of strong emotions expressed within a short time-frame. Author Caryl Hart mentioned she was inspired to write this series after watching Channel 4's Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6-year-olds documentary series. The exchanges are just as you would expect from this age group, when social interactions can be a minefield. It's fantastic how this shows children how conflicts might be resolved and even avoided.
I love how Sonny is not perfect, and makes mistakes. It's important for young people to see flawed characters and watch how they work through their problems and dilemmas. It's great that this story shows how no one is "good" or "bad" but that everyone exists on a spectrum. Readers see that it's possible to make poor decisions and subsequently make better choices.
Why you need it...
Children will love the striking images and all the repetition, as the phrase "Sonny says" appears again and again. There's just the right amount of text to engage the very young and hold their attention. The pages are sturdy and seemingly indestructible, making this perfect for little hands to explore themselves. Adults will enjoy all the humour and so will their kids. It's impossible for anyone to NOT love Sonny - Picture Book Snob says, "Magnificent!" We're looking forward to the next book already.
About the author:
Not only a prolific writer of acclaimed, bestselling and utterly brilliant books for children of all ages, Caryl also blogs about, and tirelessly promotes, literature for young readers. You can purchase signed copies of all Caryl's books, including this one, from her website. We interviewed Caryl back in January and you can read our chat here. Here's a list of all the awards Caryl has either been shortlisted for or won.
About the illustrator:
Zachariah OHora is an award-winning and best-selling author-illustrator and you can see more of his books here. Zachariah's accolades include the Society of Illustrators Founder's Award and the Huffington Post Best Children's Book. His work has been selected as a Kirkus Best Picture Book and a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing. We reviewed Wolfie the Bunny recently and also love My Cousin Momo (review coming soon).
A huge thanks to Caryl Hart and Bloomsbury for inviting us on this tour - don't forget to visit the rest of the stops to find out more about this beautiful new book: