Meg, Mog, Max (and Bird)

I read two great books today with my Reception children in the Library: Jan Pienkowski’s and David Walser’s Meg in the Jungle and Ed Vere’s Max and Bird.

These are both different in style and approach but achieve the same effect of capturing the interest of the children and engaging them in the stories.

Meg in the Jungle

In this book, Jan Pienkowski uses simple sentences to construct an easy-to-follow story in which witch Meg takes her cat Mog to the jungle as a birthday treat. However, this narrative simplicity doesn’t mean the story is predictable. The two arrive with a bang in the jungle and meet a variety of new friends – including Jumbo the elephant, Tiger the tiger (!) and her baby Raj (who has no stripes but wants them). Meg decides to help Raj out with a magic spell but this is when things start to go haywire as Owl also gets stripes. However, this works out for the best as he can then frighten off the sneaky python who’s determined to eat Mog up. The animals all make friends in the end and bring a variety of ingredients as presents for Mog’s birthday, when Meg then puts in a cake (still not sure what Jumlum is meant to be!).

Walser’s drawings are always bright, appealing and full of fun. While the pages are busy, it’s always easy to work out what is happening and who is speaking. The children loved the vivid colours and laughed when poor Owl became stripy. Despite the threat of python eating Mog, they all knew everything would turn out fine in the end. We thoroughly enjoyed the story and one boy admitted to having ‘hundreds and millions’ of Meg and Mog books at home, so it just goes to show the ongoing popularity of this endearing series.

Max and Bird

Ed Vere’s latest adventure featuring Max the kitten is as delightful and comedic as its predecessors. This time, the funny feline is keen to make friends with Bird (the bird) but, upon introducing himself, he announces that Cat World rules mean that kittens must first chase and then eat birds. Bird is understandably not too keen on this concept of how their relationship should pan out and instead tries to educate Max on the principles of friendship. The two strike a compromise: Max will teach Bird how to fly and, in exchange, Bird will let Max chase and then eat it once it can take to the air.

I must admit when I read this I thought Bird was probably being cunning – once he can fly, then he can of course flee when Max chases it but Bird stays true to his word and offers himself up to Max on a plate (not literally but you get the idea) when he eventually gains lift-off. Will Max eat Bird though? The children were split on this – some thought that, yes, a deal’s a deal but others believed in the good nature of this funny kitten. We’ll leave the decision for you to discover.

The children enjoyed this book a lot. We had fun pretending to follow the three principles of flying:

1. concentrate

2. stick out your wings

3. flap.

None of us took off, suffice it to say. But it was a great way to get the children involved in the story (I just hope they don’t believe that eventually they will take off into the atmosphere if they keep trying). There’s a great spread in the book that deals with libraries – when I asked the children where they should go to find out anything they need to know, several shouted out ‘Castles!’ Not quite sure why… When Bird says that ‘Libraries know everything’ a few children shouted ‘No they don’t!’. So there was some disagreement on that issue.

Some of the children thought that Max didn’t look very kitten-like but most recognised him for what he was. I think the ones that had doubts were more interested in the fluffy felines you see on cute cards but most of us loved Vere’s quirky drawings – Max has HUGE eyes and a HUGE head, which add to his hilarious nature. I can’t wait to read the next in the series as Max continues learning to be a cat.

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