Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 26 Oct 2019

Iguanas Love Bananas by Jennie and Chris Cladingbee, illustrated by Jeff Crowther

It has taken me a while to get around to reviewing this one as my three year old grandson borrowed it, and then refused to let me have it back! I guess that is quite a compliment in itself because he has discerning taste and can be quite dismissive of picture books that he doesn’t like. I’m not surprised that it was such a hit because it is a very funny rhyming story that is ideal for reading aloud, and the marvellous illustrations just add to the pleasure.

Animals and food are two very well tried and tested subjects to grab young children’s attention so combining the two is a splendid idea. The colourful cover shows three bright green smiling iguanas climbing onto a mountain of yellow bunches of bananas with one at the summit holding the title word ‘Bananas’ aloft. Every subsequent page is a delight showing various creatures slurping the most unlikely food choices and making plenty of mess in the process. This is one of the reasons I like the book because the expressions on the faces of all the animals are blissful, and they just don’t care about getting covered in food.

A good example is:

‘Alpacas like cream crackers, which they dip in jam and honey’.

Here we see three animals making the most glorious sticky chaos, with jam and honey dripping onto their woolly bodies and in puddles on the table, whilst a very neat little boy looks on with horror.

I also enjoyed the way in which the author introduces plenty of lesser known creatures:

‘Manta rays like crème brulees,

They crack the tops with spoons’.

And later a refined looking Jaguar lounges on a red velvet chaise longe:

‘Jaguar like caviar, it’s so sophisticated’.

Whilst it is great to indulge oneself sometimes, over eating one kind of food is of course not ideal so even three year olds can get this message:

Manatees love strong blue cheese,

But get quite constipated’.

I was impressed at how many different kinds of food were mentioned but as my grandson pored over each detailed illustration, he kept returning to his favourite double page spread:

‘Tufted puffins eat blueberry muffins,

           While hiding in their holes.

Though parrots

     Don’t mind carrots,

          They prefer profiteroles’.

This is one of those picture books that is set to be a classroom classic in my view because of its potential for reading aloud, as well as opportunities for finding out about various animals and trying all the different foods. By the way, it is definitely not a book promoting healthy eating but is instead about the hedonistic experience of food. Neither is it accurately describing what different creatures eat because it is fiction and fun! I will certainly be recommending it, but may need to get another copy for myself because I know someone who will need it back in his house very soon.  

Karen Argent

October 2019