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Jan Pienkowski 'Dinner Time'
This was one of my daughter's favourite books when she was younger and I have kept it all this time, bringing it back from Australia with us too. My daughter is now over thirty and despite the fact that it was then passed to my son it still has most of the pop-ups in tact. I have made a few running repairs over the years but it is still a well loved book. I read it with my grandsons now eight and six and now my two year old granddaughter also asks for it.
I will be honest and admit that apart from the pop-ups i really don't know what the attraction is to this book. We have other lovely pop up books and they are cast aside in favoir of this and another Jan Pienkowski book we have called 'Gossip'.
Jan Pienkowski has created a beautiful series of books for younger children on colours, faces , home and numbers to name a few. His illustrations are clear, simple and brightly coloured. We did have this set too but sadly left them behind in Australia.
The story in this book is extremely simple. It starts with 'one day a frog was sitting on a log catching flies when sown came a....' the frog is a bright green and his mouth opens as you open the page and inside his mouth is a red and pink colour. The fog is painted in sort of naive style in water colour which is slightly seeping and his spots are splodges of paint.
On the next page we have a vulture whose long yellow beak pops out from his rather glamourous pink body or head. The vulture then says to the frog 'I am going to eat you for my dinner' And he did. As you can see the story is simple and indeed not exactly one you would think would appeal to a child but somehow it does.
Vulture then gets eaten by a gorilla with a protruding muzzle and opening mouth. The book isn't exactly scientifically accurate either as gorillas are vegetarians so wouldn't eat a vulture but I did say it was weird.
The gorilla is then eaten by a brightly coloured tiger with huge teeth. Each time the text is the same just changing the name of the animal and then the last part on each page changes as the animal moves on having eaten his dinner which was of course the previous animal.
The tiger is then eaten by a crocodile. The croc is the page with the most repairs as his snout is quite thin and children get tempted to put their fingers and hands inside the mouth. Crocodile is the final victim to become lunch and he is 'gobbled up' by shark who says nothing at all. Shark also has a few 'mends' as his pink mouth of white teeth is also very tempting to test for little fingers.
I don't know what to make of this book as every child who I have shown it to loves it. The story is not only strange but is scientifically inaccurate. I don't know why she couldn't have done a similar story with more likely animals eating the next after all there is not a shortage of animals which eat others.
The story is repetitious which young children like. The pop- ups come out from the book and are sort of 3D as children can put their fingers in the mouths. The illustrations are lovely and great colours so i see the attraction to the pictures.
I believe Jan Pienkowski is the artist and the 'story' such as it is has been written by Anne Carter so maybe Jan Pienkowski created the animals and Ms Carter just collected them and created the story which might explain why they are such a strange lot of animals. I think Pienkowski does a better story telling job than this author and Pienkowski does his own stories; personally I do love the ' Mog and Meg 'books about a witch and her black cat.
There is an element of surprise as each page ends with 'down came a .... ' or 'along came a......' and the animals name is found as you turn the page and at the same time the pop-up pops out in a very exciting way . I also open and shut the page which makes the mouth move and that always causes great mirth from whoever I am reading this to.
The paper engineering to make the pop-ups has been done by Marcin Stajewski and James Roger Dias but they only get a mention at the back of the book on the cover. My book was $3.95 in Australia over thirty years ago and was published by Collins. I see on Amazon prices for this range from 1p plus P&P to an amazing £42.43. I cannot imagine anyone paying that price. I think that about £3 or £4 is about the right price but you do always pay extra for pop- up books I suppose.
As I have said I can't see the attraction of this book but it certainly is popular with children. It was shared by mine with their friends and maybe the fact that they can re tell the story and make the mouths move is what makes it child friendly. The story is naff and inaccurate but the pictures are beautiful and the paper engineering very clever.
Children would give this five stars but i am taking one off for the rubbish story.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
My sons both love Jan Pienkowski's 'Haunted House'. I can't say that I have ever been terribly impressed by it, but it has been brought out time and time again at story time for 2 years now, and if the children love a book that much - I must give it some credit. So I finally decided to try a couple of other books by the same author. In fact this book does not have the same author, but that is a fact I only realised when writing this review. 'Haunted House' is written and illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, while this book is written by Anne Carter and illustrated by Pienkowski. That accounts for the very different writing style between the two books, but in my opinion, this one is the better written of the two. Pienkowski does have a very distinctive illustration style which is the strong point of this book.
'Dinner Time' is a pop up food chain - although not at all accurate. It begins with a frog eating flies, who in turn is eaten by a vulture. The vulture is eaten by a gorilla who become dinner for the next animal in the story. There is not really much to the story. The text is almost the same for each page with only the type of animal and it's means of locomotion changing. On each page an animal comes along and tells the other "I'm going to eat you for my dinner". Which it does before going on it's way, at least until a larger animal comes to eat it. The name of each animal is printed in large bold print on the left hand page, while the rest of the text is on the right. I do think this would help children learn to read the animals names, and the large print and simple text make this very suitable for just beginning readers.
The pop ups are what make this book. Without them, I can't see the children taking much interest in this. Yes it is a weak story, and therefore needs the gimmick of pop outs to sell it - but I don't have a problem with that. I am happy to have all sorts of books, with any number of gimmicks if it gets children reading. Each pop out is really very well created, showing a large mouthed animal. When you open and close the pages a little, it appears as if the beasts jaws are snapping open and shut, and my sons quite enjoy this feature. The pages are sturdy and well made, and capable of withstanding a lot of play.
My youngest was two when we bought this, and at first he was not quite sure how to take the book. I think the idea of all the animals being eaten troubled him, and he looked very serious. Once we told him it was just a game though, and even acted it out a bit, using the snapping jaws in the book to " bite" everyone, he warmed up to the story. Both children do enjoy this book now, and the six year old of course can read it by himself. I can imagine some children being more upset by the story. A book full of large snapping tooth filled mouths could be disturbing to some children, as could the idea of each animal being eaten. As parents, I expect most of us will know if our own child is apt to be upset by this, but I would hesitate to buy this for a gift unless I knew the child well.
As mentioned, the food chain is quite inaccurate. Gorillas are primarily vegetarian and of course tigers do not inhabit the same parts of the world. I really do not mind this type of inaccuracies - but I have known a few parents who feel this is teaching children incorrect facts about the natural world. In all honesty, I don't think this book is teaching much of anything, other than possibly improving reading skills. It is not great literature, but it is great fun. It is one of those books children will take out, time and time again, play with and enjoy. And I think a love of books is one of the most important gifts we can young children as far as education goes.
I am not rating this book down for a weak story line, it is after all meant only as a bit of fun. The children are well pleased with it, so I am happy enough to give this 5 stars. You can buy this new from Amazon Marketplace from £5. 35. I was able to find this for under £3.50 on ebay in unread condition. I give this book a guarded recommendation for ages 18 months - 6 years. It is a lot of fun, but might be scary for some children. It always ends with laughter in our house as we chase each other about to gobble everyone up.