Tag Archives: design

A Letter for Bear

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A Letter for Bear
David Lucas
Flying Eye Books
I make no apologies for reviewing this book again having first done so (as part of a seasonal roundup) when it was first published three years ago. That however didn’t really do justice to such a terrific book: I love it even more now, coming to it afresh.
Meet postman, Bear, meticulous in his delivery of other people’s mail but never himself the receiver of any letters. After each day’s work he’d retreat to his cave home, drink soup and ponder on the possibility of getting some mail of his own.

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One windy day while out on his round, his mailbag is whisked skywards and its contents are scattered all over the snowy ground.

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Bear collects every single letter but the addresses are smudged so he has to knock on all the doors to ensure correct delivery and thus gets to know the names of all the other animals. As expected every recipient appreciates his efforts but seeing all those families together only makes Bear feel more lonely than ever.

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Back in his cave that night, Bear decides he must take the initiative and gets busy writing Christmas party invitations and next morning he delivers ‘a whole snowstorm of letters’ to his new acquaintances. The same evening he decorates his cave and waits … and waits …
The disconsolate creature is on the point of giving up when he hears voices outside asking to come in. Then, after all, it’s a case of ‘let’s party’; but even better, the following morning all the letters in his sack are for a certain ursine postman. Hurray!

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An altogether uplifting seasonal story but for me, the book’s real strength lies in David Lucas’s intricately patterned illustrations. All but one of the double spreads has a geometric border of patterned triangles, rectangles, diamonds or scallops; and set into some of the scenes, we view Bear’s lonely world through circular peephole vignettes. His limited colour palette – – shades of blue, orange, purple, russet, pink and orange – and his use of geometric shapes for, or to pattern, trees, buildings, flowers and more, add to the impact. Add to all this angled viewpoints, interrupted borders, beautiful snowscapes and delectable endpapers, and what do you have? A small gem of a book, and a pattern-tastic treasure that is a masterpiece of design. The perfect present to tuck into the branches of a Christmas tree or to pop in the post.
If you work in a school and want to inspire some letter writing, sharing this story is a perfect starting point, and then you can set up a special “Bear Mail’ post box or perhaps let the writers peg their letters onto a Christmas tree.

Secrets of the Sea

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Secrets of the Sea
Eleanor Taylor and Kate Baker
Big Picture Press
It is in the oceans that all life on Earth began, yet they are one of the least explored and least understood places on the planet.’ So writes Kate Baker in her introduction to this stunningly beautiful book that takes us from ‘In the Shallows’, through the ‘Forests of the Sea’and the ‘Coral Gardens’, into ‘The Wide, Wide Blue’ and down ‘Into the Deep’.
Venture beneath the waves and there’s an amazing variety of plant and animal life from single celled organisms such as ‘Sea sparkle’ …

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to the Giant pacific octopus an enormous cephalopod that resides in the depth of the ocean and has an armspan of up to 4 metres. Not all octopus species are deep sea dwellers though: Coconut octopus is to be found in the shallows of tropical waters. This amazing creature is able, we’re told, to hide itself not only by changing its colour, texture and form to blend in with its surroundings, but also it can pick up an empty coconut shell, crawl inside and hide. Unsurprisingly it is considered the ‘master-mind’ of invertebrates.
Dive down to the kelp forests and discover minute algae and other fascinating creatures like this Hooded nudibranch:
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The coal reefs are home to almost 25% of marine life much of which is brightly coloured such as these Pygmy seahorses …

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It’s in the open oceans where such as the Sea angel can be found. This graceful dancer is a predatory sea slug, another deadly hunter …

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Dive deeper and at depths of about 2000 metres are thriving communities of squat lobsters, white crabs, mussels, snake-like fish, anemones and these giant tube worms …

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This is a book that opens the eyes to the staggering beauty of marine life in all its forms. Every illustration is a celebration of the wonders of the oceans and focuses on the intricate shapes, structures, patterns and colours that are revealed when the marine flora and fauna are examined in extreme close-up. Kate Baker’s accompanying text provides a broader picture describing habits and habitat of each organism and some basic facts including Latin name, size and other fascinating snippets of information.

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Animals, One Cheetah One Cherry & Flip Flap Pets

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Animals
Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Studio
This over-sized picture book by Swedish illustrator/designer Arrhenius is sure to have youngsters poring over its gigantic retro-style pages. It features thirty two animals large and small from grasshopper …

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to gorilla, and hippo to frog …

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Every one of the pages would make a lovely poster and it’s hard to choose a favourite animal: I love the muted, matt colours used and the careful placing of pattern; and the lettering fonts and colours seem to reflect the essence of each animal portrayed.

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If you’re looking for something impressive to generate language in youngsters, try putting this book on the floor in your book area and see what happens.
It might also be put to good use in an art lesson for older children.

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One Cheetah, One Cherry
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
Absolutely stunning paintings of wild animals grace the pages of this stylish, smallish counting book. We start with ‘One cherry, one cheetah’ showing a graceful beast with a luscious-looking cherry between its paws and continue, encountering two dogs, three bears, four foxes …

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five elephants, six tigers, seven pandas, eight otters, nine mice, ten cherries – all carefully poised, thus :

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which takes us back (numberwise) to None. The cheetah has feasted on those ten delicious cherries and looks mighty pleased about it.
What a wonderful array of animals and activities. The language too is so carefully chosen: alliteration abounds as here: ’Four fine foxes/ sharing strawberries.’
or, try getting your tongue around this one: ‘Seven giant pandas, with pretty painted parasols.’

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Such delicate patterning on those parasols and lantern. Indeed pattern is part and parcel of every painting, so too is gold-leaf; but that’s not all. The end papers are equally gorgeous, the front being a dance of numerals, orchestrated by the cheetah and the back shows the number symbols in order with animals/cherries alongside.

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Flip Flap Pets
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Axel Scheffler offers a multitude of opportunities to create quirky creatures in his latest Flip Flap rhyming extravaganza. Youngsters can turn the basic ten or so popular pets into a whole host of crazy combinations of feather, fur, scale, shell and more. What happens for instance when you cross a stick insect with a budgerigar? You get a STICKERIGAR of course …

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Try crossing a goldfish with a tortoise – that results in a GOLDFOISE:

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and a snake crossed with a cat gives something pretty irresistible – a cake!
It’s possible to make – so that butterfly on the back cover of this bonkers book informs us – 121 combinations. What are you waiting for? If my experience of previous titles in this series is anything to go by, this new addition to the series is likely to inspire children to set about making their own flip flap books.

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Two Wacky Tales

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Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
Lou Treleaven and Julia Patton
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Professor McQuark invents a wonderful new gadget, so weird and wacky is it, that she names it Oojamaflip. Then off she dashes to her workshop – aka the shed – and sets to work bringing that design in her head to finished product.

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What is the next thing to do once the Oojamflip is finished? Take it to be displayed at the Science Fair of course, and so with headlights polished, the next stop is the town hall. There is just one snag however and it concerns the relative size of the building’s doors and that of the Oojamaflip;

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so the prof. is forced to leave her machine outside.
Inside there are all manner of wacky inventions: a square balloon maker, a zip up door, an infinitely re-sizeable alien suit and a self-playing flute to name a few and they’re all vying for the judges’ attention to win that first prize. And here comes an announcement …

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Or maybe not – all the visitors are suddenly dashing outside leaving the judges startled and puzzled and there’s only one thing they can do; head outside too and discover what all the fuss is about …

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Seems they’re all pretty impressed with this extra mural exhibit but there’s one thing still puzzling them: “what does this Ooja-thing actually do?” The clue is in the title – I’ll say no more.
Great to see a female in the role of scientist cum inventor: the aptly named Professor McQuark should be an inspiration to all young inventors. Debut author Lou Treleaven’s sparky rhyming story is wackily illustrated by Julia Patton, whose scenes are full of zany details to pore over, and possibly provide some ideas to child inventors.

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Giant Jelly Jaws and the Pirates
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unlike his fellow crew members, new cabin boy Jake is not brave or strong; indeed he has no head for heights, cries at the slightest hint of a scratch and at night, his hammock-mate is a teddy bear. It looks as though Captain Fish-Breath Fred has made an almighty mistake in engaging young Jake. But can the lad manage to prove his worth in the face of a rival pirate crew whose members are intent on getting their hands on the treasure map whereon X marks the spot. Seemingly not, for here’s a rather stinky situation where we see his fellow shipmates about to walk the plank…

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and the cabin boy himself cowering behind some kegs of pop.
Hold on me hearties! What is Jake up to now? Surely it’s no time to be guzzling pop, or is it? …

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If you want to know how this ripping rhyming yarn concludes, you’ll have to get your own copy of the riotous romp and read the rest yourself. It’s certainly true to say ship’s figurehead Giant Jelly Jaws has found his match when it comes to monstrous eruptions; and awash with detail, Ben Mantle’s riotous scenes are suitably salty and swashbuckling.

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