Reviewed by David Ashworth
First of all, I’d just like to point out I love reading kids’ books with my children, in particular rhyming books. Many of them can be particularly clever in the rhymes, structure and illustrations and often throw in something for the adults too. The rhymes can often surprise you by flouting your expectations and take you in a totally different direction than you originally anticipated making them a joy to young and old alike.
Unfortunately, Iguanas Love Bananas, by Jennie and Chris Cladingbee and published by Maverick Arts Publishing, just didn’t do any of those things for me as an adult. Although the book was beautifully illustrated by Jeff Crowther, perhaps best known for his illustrations on James and the Giant Peach and Vanessa Bean. The story itself isn’t even much of a story, despite the synopsis on the back claiming that the animals ‘cause havoc and confusion’ they simply steal foods from unsuspecting humans over and over again because they rhyme with their names.
The rhyming couplets tend to cross over separate pages or paragraphs and makes them feel disconnected and break up the rhyming scheme, or they quickly force them in within a short sentence giving the prose an almost ‘too busy’ feeling. There is no steady rhythm to the book, making it difficult to read without pauses and breaks to remind yourself exactly where you were. It’s almost akin to reading a series of elaborate tongue twisters and lacks any real structure which I think would make it difficult for most children to pick up and read.
That is not to say that the book was not enjoyable, my son did enjoy the rhymes and the whacky couplings of food and animals and, as a phonics book, Iguanas Love Bananas would be very useful for younger children as a way to introduce them to rhymes and phonics.
The rhyming words are written in bold text which is great for teaching kids about rhyme and rhythm and also makes it easier when pointing them out to get the kids involved in the story.
As I previously mentioned, what really stood out in this story for me were the fantastic illustrations by Jeff Crowther. I absolutely love his artistic style and it really brought this book to life for me and my son. There are so many subtle little touches such as the expressions of the animals and the humorous ways they interact with humans in the illustrations which really save this story for me. Iguanas Love Bananas is brightly coloured and a joy to look at from front cover right through to the back page and it’s lots of fun picking out all the little details, even re-reading the story to find tiny little details you might overlook on the first read through.
In conclusion, as an adult I wasn’t huge fan of this book and although I can appreciate its value in terms of introducing phonics and rhyme, I found the overall structure of the prose to be very difficult at times as the rhythm was constantly shifting and left me feeling disconnected and unable to simply enjoy the flow of the story. On the other hand my son did enjoy the wackiness of Iguanas Love Bananas and found most of the rhymes to be humorous, even if they were a little obvious and uninspired from my perspective. What really saved this for me was the exceptional illustrations of Jeff Crowther. The pictures accompanying the text were fantastic and brightly coloured, with subtle nods that older children and parents can take pleasure from as well as younger children.
RRP: £7.99 (Paperback)