Martin Waddell – Book Reviews

Martin Waddell is a children’s author with whom we are all familiar, probably most notably for Owl Babies (one of the most requested books in our school library). He is a giant amongst modern picture book authors and he has gathered many prizes for his books. There is a sweetness about his stories that lingers in the heart for a long time. From the Walker Books’ site, I discovered the following about Waddell:

As a child I was read to a lot as a child by people who knew how to read stories. These stories came alive for me, and the love of story has stayed with me ever since.

As an adult I’ve been blown up, buried alive and had cancer as an adult, and survived all these experiences, so I’m a very lucky man. I live where I lived as a child, and nearly all my stories come from things that have happened to me here, at the foot of the Mountain of Mourne.

As an artist I work in an old stone barn beside my home, and dream my stories in the garden and on long walks on the beach in front of my house. I never write anywhere else. This is where I belong.

Rosie’s Babies – illustrated by Penny Dale

I think this is an exceptional book about sibling jealousy (Mmm I should have done this on Perfect Picture Book Friday). It is funny, warm, realistic and positive. It captures so well the mixed feelings of four-year-old Rosie towards her new baby brother. While Mom is getting the baby ready for bed, she is concentrating hard on Rosie as her daughter talks about HER babies, a cuddly teddy bear and stuffed rabbit. Rosie tells her Mom how much she loves her babies and all the fun things they do and ways she cares for them. As we read we know, that Rosie is unconsciously seeking assurance of still being one of her Mom’s babies and loved and cared for. Once baby is in bed, Rosie no longer wants to talk about her babies.

            ‘What will we talk about?’ asked Mom

             And Rosie said, ‘ME!’

 Can’t you sleep little Bear?–  Illustrated by Barbara Firth

This is a funny, sweet, poetic story about a little bear who has a hard time falling asleep. Little Bear is scared of the dark. Yep, we’ve most of us been there. Now as Big Bear keeps getting Little Bear some progressively bigger lanterns and settling back to his book, there are some adorable illustrations of Little Bear up to some antics on his bed making one wonder if he REALLY does want to go to sleep. Lanterns won’t suffice and it isn’t until Big Bear takes Little Bear out into the dark night to show him the moon and stars in the darkness, that Little Bear, feeling safe now, falls asleep in Big Bear’s arms. Children will love the gentle humour and repetition. The illustrations are so cute that you actually will not only want to cuddle Little Bear, but you will want to hug the book when you have finished.

Farmer Duck – illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Farmer Duck runs a farm all alone. The human owner-farmer is a lazy, so-and-so, who would rather eat candy in bed than take the time to do any work. While the man relaxes in his idleness (occasionally shouting out a helpful, “How goes the work?”) the duck cuts the wood, weeds the gardens, washes the dishes, irons the clothing, and pretty much does everything that needs doing. When at long last the duck grows, “sleepy and weepy and tired” (‘Do you need a nap?’), the other farm animals decide that enough is enough. They join forces and run that rotten farmer out of town and set about all doing the chores together, with the duck in charge.

The plot is good. The illustrations are brilliant.  In a melodramatic scene we see the sheep, the chickens, and the cow walking into the farm house just before dawn. Oxenbury has created subtle gradations of grey as morning appears. If you look closely you can see three watching sheep (one with head relaxing on its front hoofs) as the intrepid heroes creep away together.

This is a beautiful book about injustice that any child will relate too. They will also love the animal expressions and noises.

# 112-115 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge

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16 Responses to Martin Waddell – Book Reviews

  1. Wow. Sounds like he’s been blessed – “blown up and buried alive” — that makes cancer look tame. I need to check out Farmer Duck for an adult in my life. I love it how picture books often remind me of adult readers and not children.

  2. Joanna says:

    You know I honestly think I get as much pleasure now from Picture Books as I did when I was a kid!

  3. Although I had seen a reference to Owl Babies on another blog recently, I have to admit I wasn’t really aware of Martin Waddell’s work. Thank you this good introduction, showing such a variety of books.

    Rosie’s Babies seems to hold the most appeal for me, although I’m not sure why. Certainly as an only child I never had to deal with the process of learning to accept a sibling. (I longed for siblings, actually!) Perhaps that is why the book appeals.

    You’re getting closer and closer to your goal!

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, I have six to go, so shall make it by Dec 30th, Yay! He’s is a British author, so this may be why you don’t know him, though I do know he has had great success in the US too!

  4. LadyInRead says:

    All three books sound wonderful, I am going to check them out. Thanks for sharing…

  5. Until I was introduced to Owl Babies, I wasn’t familiar with Waddell’s books. Sounds like quite a character.

    Wasn’t familir with the three books. Loved Rosie’s Babies and Farmer Duck. Think you’re right, the first book would have been good for Perfect Picture Book. Great lesson. Will have to check the library. Pat

  6. Susanna says:

    I love Owl Babies and Can’t You Sleep Little Bear, but the others I’m not familiar with. I’ll have to remedy that ASAP. I love Martin Waddell. So interesting to learn a little about him and how he works. No reason, BTW, that you can’t use Rosie’s Babies on PPBFriday – just rework it into the PPB format and add some resources 🙂

  7. Joanna says:

    You are right, Susanna, and I think I shall do that for a later date. I haven’t come across a Waddell book that I haven’t loved.

  8. Joanna, I gave my friend’s son a copy of Can’t You Sleep Little Bear as a present. Does your copy have little lights that light up like stars on the last page? I thought that was so neat, and the little boy I gave it to really loved it!

  9. Joanna says:

    No, I have an old copy, and this copy doesn’t have those little lights #bookenvy ! But i STILL love this story!

  10. Janet Smart says:

    Those books do sound wonderful. I love bedtime books and have written a couple of bedtime manuscripts myself. Thanks for the info about Martin Waddell.

  11. Joanna says:

    Janet, I think “Can’t You Sleep Little Bear” is a wonderful bedtime read.

  12. Now Martin Waddell books I know I have come accross. The name is very familiar.
    Didn’t know he had all that happen to him, wow he ought to take a lotto.
    Loved Rosies Baby and Can’t you sleep Little Bear. Very cute. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

  13. Joanna says:

    I’d be interested to know how many of his books you have in your local library.

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