Tag Archives: love

Dino (A pet unlike any other)

Dino (A pet unlike any other)
Diego Vaisberg
Templar Publishing

Recently there’s been a spate of picture books featuring large and unlikely animals as pets.
What makes this one stand out though, is that it’s screen-printed solely in striking red and blue Pantone colours. The author/artist is graphic designer, Diego Vaisberg whose superbly inventive debut picture book this is.
It begins with the arrival of an egg, albeit a pretty large one, about the size to encase a giant canary, a big lizard or even a huge tortoise; but no: out hatches …

Who wouldn’t want to keep such a cute looking little creature?
The trouble though is that the thing doesn’t stay little for long: it keeps on growing and growing and before long, Dino (a pet unlike any other) has become …

Owning a pet of Dino’s dimensions certainly isn’t without challenges whether inside –
or out. He’s certainly a voracious eater …

So be warned, it might be best to steer clear of any other eggs you may come across.
An ultra-stylish offering from Vaisberg, – an exciting illustrator to watch with interest; and a high quality production from Templar.

I’ve signed the charter  

My Daddy is a Silly Monkey / The Dictionary of Dads

My Daddy is a Silly Monkey
Dianne Hofmeyr and Carol Thompson
Otter-Barry Books
A little girl shares with readers, the characteristics of her dad, likening him first thing in the morning, to a huge, yawning, grizzly, grouchy bear. Then as he performs his ablutions, a toothily grinning crocodile …

He becomes octopus-like as he texts, brushes her hair, overturns a chair, burns the toast, spills the milk, ties shoelaces and prepares her lunch. PHEW!
His chitter-chatter monkeying around makes our narrator late for school too.
Afterwards though at the pool, he’s a …

And then after a spot of kangaroo bouncing, he turns into a ravenous, tooth-gnashing tiger; after which he still manages to summon the energy to morph into a monster ready to boss, chase, catch and …

Unsurprisingly after all those energetic activities, there is only one thing to do: snuggle up for some well-earned rest having earned the final “just my lovely daddy”.
This adorable, sometimes rhyming, portrait of a single dad is a delight and perfect for sharing with young children, no matter what their family situation.
Carol Thompson’s exuberant, mixed media scenes are at once funny, full of love and at the same time, show a father struggling to cope with the frenetic life of being a single parent of an energetic youngster and managing to stay upbeat and entirely lovable.

The Dictionary of Dads
Justin Coe illustrated by Steve Wells
Otter-Barry Books
Dads come in all shapes and sizes: in this, his debut collection, performance poet, Justin Coe introduces a veritable alphabetic assortment. From Abracadabra Dad to Zen Dad we meet over fifty of the paternal species, the least energetic of whom, surprisingly, is Sportsman Dad: ‘Dad’s favourite sport / On the couch with the baby / Synchronised snoring.

For the most part the mood is upbeat but there are also plenty of reflective, sometimes sad poems too, such as Prison Dad which takes the form of an apologetic letter from a dad to his children. Having acknowledged that he let them down, he says this … ‘Despite my bravado I’m no macho man. // How can I act hard when these guards have got me sewing? / And sitting in my cell, I’ve even started writing poems! / Days go by slowly. I’m lonely and the only times / That I can find to be close to you are in these rhymes.
Totally different, but equally poignant, is Old Dad wherein a snow-haired man and his brown-eyed boy take a walk in the park in late autumn and the man is mistaken for the child’s grandpa. The two collect seasonal souvenirs and as they leave; ‘the boy picks up one last leaf/ a gift for his father. // “Is it mine to keep forever?” / the old man asks. / And this time it is his boy’s turn to nod and smile. // The old man beams with pride, / holds the leaf gently to his lips / and kisses it, / as if this gift were some kind of / golden ticket.
There’s a poem about having Two Daddies and we also meet Mum-Dad – a mum who plays both the maternal and paternal role and as the child tells readers, ‘However wild the weather / She’s got a way to get it done / And I could not have asked for / A better dad than Mum.
My favourite I think though is Storytelling Dad (there are seven S dads) wherein we hear that this particular father actually seems to undergo a metamorphosis to become various characters from The Wind in the Willows, ‘ … But best of all / was when Dad turned into a Toad, / a horn hooting, / toot- tooting, poop-pooping Toad, / Motor-Car Maniac, / menace of the Road.

It’s impossible to mention all the dads that feature in this collection but it’s certainly one I’d want to add to any primary class collection, or to a family bookshelf. Steve Wells’ visual pen-and-ink embellishments are numerous – at least one per spread – and add to the individual reader’s enjoyment.

I’ve signed the charter  

Fum / Beauty and the Very Bad Beast

Fum
Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming
Maverick Arts Publishing
Despite their name, the Crumbs are a very large family: there’s Pa, Ma, Grandpa Plum, Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum. Or rather there should be; Fum, the smallest Crumb was gone missing. The search is on: first stop, the houses of the three little pigs …

No sign of him there. “He could be hiding … / In the woods with Little Red Riding.” That’s the suggestion from one of the pigs. Off they go again with everyone joining the hunt, but Grandma and her crew cannot help. Or rather, the Big Bad Wolf gets a whiff of his socks and thinks it’s worth locating Golidlocks. Guess whose bridge they cross to get to the house of the bears. The three are eager to assist and take to the air . Further locations are visited, all to no avail, until suddenly a small voice is heard. Now who might that be up the tree – or rather beanstalk? (I just wanted to be in line with the story’s rhyme.)

Lo and behold, the little chap wasn’t lost after all – just small! And in true fairy tale style, ‘The woods filled up with songs and laughter, / and all lived happily ever after.
Satisfying stuff, delivered through Newson’s exuberant rhyming text, full of repeat refrains, KNOCK! KNOCK!’s and “No” s to join in with; and Lucy Flemming’s funny pictorial rendition of the search with its unusual perspectives and spilt page scenes.

Beauty and the Very Bad Beast
Mark Sperring and Barbara Bongini
Scholastic
I love a story that mucks around with fairy tales, or as here, a fairy tale.
Let’s meet Beauty’s sisters, Grace,a golf-loving lass, and May, who likes to tong her hair. Both ask their doting father to bring them appropriate gifts on his return from a shopping trip in town. Beauty – well we know what her request is; her Popsey however decides to steal it from someone’s garden …

and that’s when the trouble begins. The Beastly Beast appears, makes an accusation and demands his price. Inevitably, it’s Beauty who greets him on his return and thus she duly departs to reside with the Beast.
Beauty asks him to let her go, the creature agrees to consider it and he does – over a long period that stretches into seasons during which time he falls head over heels with his captive; he even proposes.

What happens thereafter includes further considerations, a return, a whole lot of forgetting, the death of a rose, a frantic dash and a kiss …

l’ll leave you to imagine the final event: assuredly it’s rather splendid and made all the more so by Barbara Bongini’s hilarious, action packed scene of same.

I’ve signed the charter  

Surprise! Surprise!

Surprise! Surprise!
Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books
Mr and Mrs Tati live together in a little yellow house, but one thing is missing from their otherwise happy life: Mrs Tati longs for a “sweet little baby”.
Mr T. visits the Baby Shop asking for a “fat, happy baby” for his wife but all they can offer are all the things that, without a baby, she has no use for at all. On his way home however, he encounters a man offering baby pigs for sale. Could one of those be the answer to Mrs Tati’s dreams?

For a while the Tatis are blissfully happy with the new addition to their family and eventually Potter is old enough to start school and that is when the trouble starts …

Potter’s parents decide their attempts to turn him into a little boy were a mistake and he’s allowed to be messy with mud and sleep outdoors instead of going to school.

Weekends though are inside times; and it’s on one such occasion that Mrs Tati makes another wish. A wish that leads to a whole chain of further wishes culminating in Mr Tata’s wish upon a falling star. “I wish, I wish, I wish, that when we wake up in the morning … we will all look the same.” …
Do you think his wish came true?
This corker – or should it be porker? – twist-in-the-tail story is an absolute delight. With themes of family love, acceptance and diversity, this is perfect for sharing both at home or school. Niki Daly imbues every illustration, large or small, with his wonderful wit and joie de vivre.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Duckling

dscn9810

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Duckling
Timothy Basil Ering
Walker Books
Full of heart and wonderfully quirky is Ering’s lastest tale. Herein we meet Captain Alfred on board his little sailing boat on his way home to his wife. On board with him are a whole lot of ducks for his farmyard, his dog and, nestling inside his violin case, an almost ready to hatch, duck egg for his wife. The Captain has already decided upon a name for the soon to be born duckling: Alfred Fiddleduckling.

%0a

As Capt. Alfred fiddles, a storm is blowing up unexpectedly – a big one and such is its might that for hours the boat is tossed and buffeted and engulfed by a silent blanket of fog. Captain Alfred, his ducks and his violin are cast overboard and all that appears drifting far offshore towards an anxiously awaiting Captain’s wife fretting on the porch, is the just hatching Alfred Fiddleduckling in the fiddle case.
The newborn creature emerges into a solitary, mist-swirling world and his first quack is directed towards an inanimate object floating close by. And ‘Alfred embraced the object with all of his heart. And he caressed it so it would not feel lonely as he did..
Albert’s caresses are rewarded by another unexpected happening: the object makes the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard: the sound of friendship – sweet solace for his solitude.

%0a

Alfred loved the object! And, by the sound of its beautiful music, the object loved Alfred, too.
And as the sounds continue to drift and waft through the swirling fog and duckling and violin drift likewise, they come to ground in a mysterious place and those sounds drifted on until they reach the ears of a lonely beast. It’s Captain Alfred’s dog and soon he too is swept up in the music and ‘in just a twinkle of an eye, the duckling and the dog were best of buddies.
Eventually, thanks to the music, duckling and dog and the Captain’s wife are drawn together.

%0a

We’re not told though, of the Captain’s safe return home; rather we’re led to believe in it through both the final words ‘And you can guess what will happen if Alfred Puddleduck just keeps on playing!’ and the final scene wherein music and the missing are drifting closer together.

%0a

Such are the quality of Ering’s prose and his paintings with their thick brush-strokes and delicate pen/ink lines, that one can almost hear the sounds of the beautiful, swirling music and feel the eddying fog.
An enchantingly lovely, life-affirming book that resonates long after its covers have been closed, and even those with that tactile spine and embossed lettering and images, are alluring.

Charter logo FINAL.indd

Lucky Lazlo

%0a

Lucky Lazlo
Steve Light
Walker Books
Lazlo is a young man in love. Hoping to surprise his sweetheart, who is starring in Alice in Wonderland, he buys her a beautiful red rose on opening night and dashes off to deliver it to her at the theatre. Unfortunately disaster strikes the love-struck lad en route, and the rose is stolen by a cat …

%0a

The playful moggy leads Lazlo on a right merry dance as it dashes through the theatre backstage with the boy in hot pursuit. The resulting chase through pit, props, performers …

%0a

and beyond is certainly a showstopper,

dscn9627

with Lazlo stealing the limelight in a thoroughly satisfying finale.
Anyone familiar with Light’s previous Have You Seen My… ?  and Swap! books will know that intricately detailed black and white illustrations with judiciously placed splashes of colour is his signature style. Here, love seems to have resulted in Lucky Lazlo being flushed with colour throughout as well as more than one almost full technicolor double spread of the theatrical performance.

dscn9628

In an afterword, Steve Light notes a number of superstitions related to the theatre and invites his audience to explore the pages again to discover all the rules that he has broken in the scenes.
Encore performances will definitely be the order of the day where this story is concerned.

Snowflake in My Pocket

%0a

Snowflake in My Pocket
Rachel Bright and Yu Rong
Walker Books
This is one of those stories that leaves you with a wonderful warm glow inside. It centres on the loving relationship between two woodland characters, a very old Bear and a very young Squirrel. Nothing the two do together is new to bear but doing it with Squirrel makes every experience ‘brand new’ for Bear.

%0a

One night Bear feels the first chills of winter and as the friends stand looking at the moon, he forecasts snow is on its way.

%0a

Next morning an excited Squirrel rushes to his window and having cleared a peephole through the frost looks out on a magical white world …

%0a

Bear meanwhile has a very nasty chill and needs to stay snuggled up in bed. Off goes Squirrel alone but without Bear to share it with him, even his fun-filled morning is less than perfect. The little fellow decides to take a snowflake home to give his friend and having caught ‘the perfectest one’ he puts it into his pocket and heads home. Now youngsters who have done the same will already be anticipating the outcome; and sure enough, when Squirrel puts his paw into his pocket, there’s no snowflake.
No matter, Bear tells him. “Snow comes and snow goes … but one thing lasts forever.” And Squirrel knows exactly what he means …

%0a

How beautifully author and artist capture that joy of experiencing snow for the very first time. Share this one with early years children particularly after a snowfall and let them try taking snow indoors. Share it at home snuggled up with a young listener or two, and follow with a mug of hot chocolate.

Home in the Rain & Home and Dry

%0a

Home in the Rain
Bob Graham
Walker Books
How does pouring rain make you feel? I must admit it doesn’t fill me with feelings of joy, far from it, but when I read John Updike’s quote below the dedication in this wonderfully warm story, I felt I was being chided somewhat. Here it is and it’s key to the story I feel: ‘Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.
A drive home from Grandma’s in pouring rain is the backdrop for Bob Graham’s warm-hearted story. In the little red car are Francie, her mum, and ‘her baby sister’ making her presence very much felt in Mum’s tum. The drive is long and the rain ceaseless; the car makes its way in the stream of traffic and as it does so we see the minutiae of life unfolding around: the baby rabbit diving for cover, the tiny mouse narrowly escaping becoming a kestrel’s next meal …

dscn9144

the fishermen hunched in a line

dscn9147

and the duck family just being, we even see a tiny snail and down below two men out of their cars arguing over a shunt.
The little car pulls off the road: Francie writes on the misted windows to help pass the time; she writes family names and then pauses; her little sister is yet to be named. They eat their picnic lunch and Francie snuggles. On they go and stop again to fill up with petrol: small events unfold: Francie sploshes in rainbow puddles,

%0a

an old man feeds his dog, a small girl loses her sweets and suddenly Francie’s Mum has a name for the new sister. The journey continues, the world moves on; the sun appears.
Bob Graham provides plenty to pore over and to discuss in his tender depictions of everyday life. It’s a lovely book to share, especially in those families where a new baby is imminent.
Also with a rainy backdrop is:

dscn9150

Home and Dry
Sarah L.Smith
Child’s Play
I certainly wouldn’t relish the prospect of living where the Paddling family does – on a small island underneath a large black cloud. A large black cloud from which for much of the year, heavy rain falls. This lifestyle seems to suit the Paddlings – Dad, Albert, a swimming teacher, Mum, Sally, who spends her time fishing, and their young son.

dscn9151

Come summer though, the rain ceases, the water dries up and the family home is now atop a hill. Life changes for the Paddlings who no longer receive their regular ferry delivery of food and mail. Off in search of a place to picnic, they’re unaware that another Paddling – Mr B. Paddling has set out to visit his nephew.
Uncle B. as he’s known, duly arrives to find an empty house so he decides to go back to the station. Down comes the rain, up comes the water …
It takes a rescue to bring Mr Paddling A. and Mr Paddling B. together at last and a celebratory fish supper is served by Albert.
There are echoes of both Sarah Garland and Mairi Hedderwick in Sarah L.Smith’s illustrations in this unusual family story. Much is shown in the watery paintings that isn’t told: most notably that the Paddling family grows from three to four during the story, and that’s before Uncle B. arrives on the scene.

The Building Boy / Here Comes Mr Postman

%0a

The Building Boy
Ross Montgomery and David Lichfield
Faber Children’s Books
This is a powerfully moving story at the heart of which lies the relationship between a boy and his Grandma who had once been an award-winning architect. Before bedtime in the house they shared, the two would snuggle together and Grandma would show her grandson photographs of buildings she’d designed.

dscn8844

That was all in the past but now, she had plans for a wonderful new house she’d build with his help – a home the two would share.
Grandma, all the while is growing ever more frail and one day when he returns home, the boy finds she has died. The lad is overcome with grief.
Such is his love for his gran however, the boy is driven to carry on building. He works on a huge robotic-looking structure somewhat akin to The Iron Woman,

%0a

a seeming reincarnation of his Gran; and she has plans … plans for an amazing journey the two will undertake together …

dscn8847

Where that journey ultimately leads is to a deeply affecting finale – a place wherein the spirit of his beloved Grandma will forever reside …

%0a

David Lichfield, who demonstrated his artistic brilliance in The Bear and the Piano imbues this enigmatic tale of love, loss and finding your calling with a sense of awe and wonder. His use of dark and light transports readers to that dreamlike place where anything is possible and the unbelievable becomes believable …

%0a

What an inspired partnering of author/artist this was and the result is a book that will linger long in the mind.

%0a

Here Comes the Postman
Marianne Dubuc
Book Island
It’s Monday morning and with cart loaded, Mr Postmouse sets off on his rounds. We join him as he delivers letters and parcels to all manner of unlikely animal recipients. The story itself is a straightforward description of the various stopping places but the illustrations are absolutely crammed with quirky details as we look into each home visited. It’s no easy round for Mr P has to scale heights …

%0a

and dive deep …

dscn8734

to complete his round and every stop provides readers an opportunity to peep inside the huge variety of residences and see for instance Dad Rabbit busy preparing a meal, a Crocodile languishing in the bath and another enjoying a book (and a nibble),and some bats – errr – dangling.
After all the hard work, there’s one package left in Mr Postmouse’s cart and it’s a very special delivery he has to make – to his small son, Pipsqueak whose birthday it is.
This is definitely a book to share and to pore over: I can see a fair bit of time being spent over each and every location Mr P delivers to. Terrific fun.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Little Owl’s Egg

%0a

Little Owl’s Egg
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Baby Owl’s response to Mummy Owl’s announcement that the egg she’s just laid will become a new baby owl is anything but positive. “I’m your baby owl. You don’t need a new one,” he insists.
As they take a walk together wise Mummy Owl plays a ‘suppose that’ game with Little Owl, suggesting the egg might hatch into a worm,

%0a

a penguin, a crocodile even; or could it perhaps be made of chocolate.

%0a

Little Owl ponders all these possibilities rejecting each: he, although definitely not his  mother – is more in favour of a dragon egg.

%0a

In fact though, it seems he’s becoming rather fond of the egg; something special must be inside he decides, something like a baby “Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl.” – something that will need a very strange diet.
On the other hand it might after all be better, if what emerged from that egg of theirs should turn out to be a brand new Little Owl, because that would make the present one something even more special – a new Big Owl and that could never change, no matter what.
Tenderly told, this gently humorous story goes to the heart of what many young children fear when a new sibling is on the horizon: that their mother’s love will be transferred away from them to the new arrival. Mummy Owl and Little Owl as portrayed by Alison Brown are totally endearing characters and she captures the inherent humour of Debi Gliori’s narrative beautifully in every scene.
This is just the thing to have on hand when a new sibling is imminent but it’s too much fun to restrict just to such an occasion. I’d share it with a nursery group or class no matter what.

The Velveteen Rabbit

DSCN8787

The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams illustrated by Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow
If this, the first of Nosy Crow’s new series of picture book classics is anything to judge by, they’re onto a huge winner: Sarah Massini’s pictorial rendition of the book is quite simply heart strings-tuggingly beautiful. I just sat stroking my copy for several minutes before even opening it. Margery Williams classic has been a favourite of mine almost as long as I can remember. I expect you’re familiar with the story of How the Toys Became Real – a tale of friendship and the special loving bond that a young child develops with a favourite soft toy -so I’ll concentrate on the new illustrations. I’m sure Sarah has invested a very great deal of emotional energy and love into every single picture, large …

%0A

or small and the result is visual delight at every turn of the page.

%0A

Margery Williams’ original story is not far short of 100 years old having first been published in 1922 with illustrations by William Nicholson. I dug out my 1991 copy to look at the two alongside one another.

DSCN8780

The first thing that strikes me is that Sarah Massini’s front cover rabbit sports a smart jacket and looks, I have to say, much more “bunchy’ that Nicolson’s. The original book has just seven illustrations and really it’s much more an illustrated book, than a picture book. In contrast, the new version for all its 56 pages is to me, very definitely a picture book of the modern kind. Yes, the seven original illustrations have been re-created herein,

DSCN8785

but now, an illustration graces every spread, with text and pictures fully integrated …

%0A

Pure magic: this is a book to treasure, to share and to give. And, it’s set the bar very high for the rest of the promised series. I look forward to the next one.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

Scruffle Bear, Ellie, Cyril Squirrel and Love

DSCN8419

There’s Only One Scruffle
Robert Dunn
QED
Almost all children have a favourite soft toy and so it is with Ellie: she and her bear Scruffle are inseparable. Her parents cannot understand this Scruffle obsession – after all he’s patched, has an eye missing and is more than a little stinky! That reminds me of  ‘Bobby’ a bear I’ve kept ever since I was a very young child in Pakistan many, many years ago.
He must be replaced decides Ellie’s mum and presents her with this … Now you don’t need me to tell you how Ellie feels about this, nor will you be surprised at what she does next …

DSCN8421

Mum remains upbeat, trying to cajole Ellie and persuade her to give the newcomer a try. Ellie decides a walk might help her think and off she goes with new bear on her mind. He’s also on her mind as she assists Grandad with the gardening …

DSCN8423

and while she paints Scruffle a picture. By now, new bear is looking a little less like new and smelling well – disgusting! Not fit to be played with Ellie declares handing Scruffle to Mum who’s still wondering what her daughter sees in him. Could it perhaps be that two smelly bears could be accommodated in Ellie’s household? What do you think? I think a wash is definitely the order of the day …
Young children will immediately empathise with Ellie, giggle over her treatment of new bear and have plenty to say about the ending. The story’s a good one to prompt discussion about favourite toys, as well as coping with change and showing love.

DSCN8443

Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cyril is a lively creature and also very inquisitive; the thing he spends most time pondering on is love: What is it? “Can I find it and keep it? Do I need it?” he wonders. He decides to write a list of questions on the subject to ask his friends Carrie Crow, Dan Deer, Ramon Rat and Dafiya Dormouse, but none can supply answers. Instead, Dafiya suggests Cyril goes to look for love and having left an explanatory note and taken a few supplies, off he goes next day.
On his journey he encounters a bird that is amused to hear what Cyril is searching for and offers a demonstration of its version of love – ‘being held by a warm wing’.

%0A

Other creatures provide different love suggestions: rabbit demonstrates with a warm smile, and with a “Buzzzzzzzzzz,” bee provides a ‘soft, soothing sound’. All these expand Cyril’s understanding of love and on his notepad he writes ‘Some of us have different maps to find love.’
Other animals he comes across further add to his list of ideas – that of Poppa Hedgehog demonstrating how sometimes love can be a bit puzzling …

%0A

until eventually Cyril heads home where his friends are waiting, eager to find out about his quest. It’s in their reception of him that Cyril finally comes to know a crucial fact about that all-important word: that seemingly small acts of love can have a huge impact;

%0A

and not only for those on the receiving end, I suggest.
There are many beautiful picture books on the market with love as an inherent theme. This one, with its cartoon-style illustrations and in-built questions is likely to promote lots of discussion among youngsters and will, I hope help to enlarge their understanding of such a vital concept. To that end there are some suggested activities and a guide for adults on the last two pages. Written by an expert on trauma, parenting and related topics, this is definitely one for the early years shelf in nurseries and for children’s centres.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

15 things NOT to do with a Granny/ Big Bug Log

DSCN8045

15 things NOT to do with a Granny
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The young children in this latest “Not to do’ guide have the whole topic of grannies pretty much sorted and they’ve drawn up a set of ‘simple rules’ for us all, a kind of ways to keep granny happy list. Now the teacher part of me might want to argue with the fact that they start with a whole lot of Don’ts rather than stating at the outset, the kinds of behaviours that are desirable; but then these littles have not, I suspect, begun attending nursery let alone school as yet, so instant forgiveness is the order of the day. And anyway, this small girl and her even smaller brother are just so adorable –tiny charmers no less. I’m sure their two grannies savour every moment they spend with their grandchildren. So what do the children suggest: First, no hiding an elephant in your granny’s bed – as if!
Second is food related: jelly beans on toast for breakfast are a definite no no and putting leftover spaghetti into a gran’s handbag is totally unthinkable …

DSCN8046

The same goes for using her pants as head gear or giving your ted. a makeover with the contents of her make-up bag.
They strongly advise against taking her on in a skateboard race; certain birthday presents are off the agenda as is interrupting her karate practice.

%0A

Grannies tend to hate loud noises, particularly when they’re lost in a good book; and when it’s your turn for a story, don’t completely overwhelm her …

%0A

Grans are to be shared, but never swapped. That pretty much deals with the NO NOs but what about the Do’s?
Walking together is good, listening – definitely, playing ditto, singing, hugging, helping – likewise. But most important of all …

DSCN8050

A wonderfully playful little book: Holly Sterling’s scenes of grans and grandchildren bring delight at every turn of the page. It’s perfect for littles to give their grans and vice-versa. A must for families with young children and for all early years settings. Grans do so much in the way of child-care and many families have come to rely on their goodwill in order to survive Grans deserve celebrating.: so, let’s hear it for all grans everywhere and for the book’s creators, Margaret and Holly – a great team.

DSCN8090

Big Bug Log
Sebastian Braun
Nosy Crow
This is a log-shaped board book that’s absolutely crammed with details and brimming over with humour. It stars young Bugsy Bug who is endeavouring to visit his gran who lives somewhere within the log, but he doesn’t know the right way. Young listeners can help Bugsy on his journey to her home by some puzzle-solving, maze following and clue solving. There are numerous doors to open, speech bubbles to act out, and even a wonderful library to visit – full of bookworms – as you might expect.

DSCN8092

It’s a good thing that there are so many helpful bugs on hand to assist Bugsy too, by giving him instructions and directions. After a lot of twists and turns, the little creature does eventually track down his Granny and a delicious surprise awaits him after all that effort.
This little book is superbly interactive and sure to keep littles involved and absorbed for ages. My only quibble is the bee’s assertion on the back cover: “We think this book is perfect for 3 to 5 year-olds!” I’d put it down to 2s and above.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Up, Up and Away

DSCN7744

Up, Up and Away
Tom McLaughlin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I have a particular soft spot for small boys with large imaginations so I instantly fell for Orson, a boy who loves to make things. On the particular day we meet him, young Orson has his head in a book, and his heart and mind on an extraordinary idea …

%0A

Now unlike many of the inventive ilk, Orson is an organised little chap and so in a short time he’s busy gathering all the vital ingredients for his venture – a cup of rocks, a splosh of water, some chunks of metal and a large amount of nothingness (lots of empty space is required on a planet after all). Naturally, he’s decided to employ the big bang method and has managed to get his hands on just what he needs for the purpose …

 

%0A

And before long BOOM! There in his bedroom, right before his, and our, eyes, is a small swirling spherical object. It’s a case of love at first sight so far as Orson is concerned, but concerned he is ,for the planet he’s brought into being has a decidedly unhappy look about it. What’s a lad to do with a sad planet?
Orson resolves to cheer it up … not very successfully …

%0A

Off he goes to his favourite place to do a spot of research and having genned up on the subject through the night, he proceeds to carry out his plan of inducing planet happiness. He feeds it, dusts its craters, tidies its ocean and voila! By the following morning there’s a decided improvement and significant increase in size … with veritable moons even.
Unsurprisingly, care equals happiness where the planet is concerned but most of us know, though perhaps Orson had yet to learn, that happiness has a tendency to attract … Before long, it’s not ‘ just a few teaspoons and the odd unicycle’ but …

%0A

And come bedtime both boy and big bang ball are equally down at heart.
Next morning, (no doubt Orson’s unconscious mind was in over-drive all night), the boy has come to a decision: braveness is called for – and a release …

DSCN7751

That however, is not entirely the end of the story …
Oh the wit, oh, the wisdom, oh the beauty of Tom McLaughlin’s whole phenomenal enterprise.

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

The Lines on Nana’s Face

DSCN7694

The Lines on Nana’s Face
Simona Ciraolo
Flying Eye Books
Utterly divine was my instant reaction when I saw the cover of this: and so it continued with glorious endpapers and an, oh so beautiful narration by a small girl, of a conversation that takes place between herself and her Nana on the latter’s birthday. All the relations have come to celebrate the day but our narrator is slightly bemused: in addition to looking happy, why does her Nana appear as though ‘she might also be a bit sad, and a little surprised and slightly worried, all at the same time.’ she wonders. Nana suggests it might be due to her wrinkles, “ … it is in these lines that I keep all my memories!
What follows is a glorious exploration of those lines with the little girl leading the way.

%0A

There’s a springtime mystery-solving memory line, a best seaside picnic ever line (or two) – definitely laughter lines those …

%0A

and these are the result of a truly hair-raising first date encounter with Grandpa …

DSCN7697

Memories of a glorious wedding dress made by Nana for her sister are also present – right below Nana’s eyes and there’s a sadness place too – that’s for Nana’s first goodbye …

%0A

Then comes our adorable narrator’s final question: “Nana! Do you remember the first time you saw me?” and Nana’s beatific smile says it all …

%0A

Stunning illustrations grace each and every page of this treasure of a book. I particularly love the alternate ‘real’ (lines) and imaginative (memory) spreads pattern Ciraolo uses as she celebrates both youth with all its promise of times to come, and gradual aging with its memories of times past: essentially, life and living. I for one will never look upon my facial lines in quite the same way again. What a truly tender tale to share with young children, no matter whether you are or aren’t a grandparent though of course, it would be a wonderful present from one grandchild to grandma or vice-versa. And (I keep on saying this), yet another out of this world production from Flying Eye Books: oh that paper – I can almost feel those lines,  oh that spine, oh, oh … hmmm!

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

The Journey

DSCN7043 (800x600)

The Journey
Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books
Having worked in several London schools where asylum seekers and refugee families are part and parcel of the school community, I was privileged to hear some of their moving stories first hand. The author of this book has also heard and indeed collected such stories from people who have, for one reason or another, been forced to flee their homes and undertake long and dangerous journeys in search of safety. Her book is the result of that collection of personal stories and its author/illustrator has done the tellers proud. It focuses on one particular family of four that very quickly becomes three as the narrator’s father is killed in the war, leaving a frightened mother and her two children. It is their story  we share as they prepare to leave their home and undertake a perilous journey – the mother calls it a ‘great adventure’ – towards a ‘safe place’ where they can live free from fear and from constant danger.
Leaving at night so as not to draw attention to themselves, the family is on the move for days, gradually shedding material things as they go …

DSCN7044 (800x600)

and eventually reach the border. Here though, surrounded by forest and blocked by an enormous wall, they are stopped and told they cannot proceed.

DSCN7045 (800x600)

Sleep overtakes them and next morning having eluded the guards, they are approached by a man whom they pay to get them across and on to the next stage of the journey.
After a perilous boat voyage during which stories of monsters give way to stories of magic and kindness …

DSCN7048 (800x600)

finally land is reached once more and the three board a train, a train that crosses borders, heading they hope for a new place – a safe haven – where, like the birds that they watch from the train, they can start afresh  where a new story can begin.
It’s impossible to read this without having tears in your eyes, it’s so beautifully told; part of its power being in the simplicity of the telling; but it is the outstanding illustrations that hold such potence. There is that border guard towering menacingly over them and the trafficker shown as only an enormous silhouette …

DSCN7047 (800x600)

both in stark contrast to the loving mother enfolding her children within her protective arms in the border forest –

DSCN7046 (800x600)

such eloquence.
This truly is a story of our time and one that deserves a place on the shelves of every family, every educational establishment, every library, every place where people come together to talk and to share stories, Beautifully produced though one has now come to expect that from Flying Eye Books; however this one doesn’t shout quality, it embodies quality.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

Loss and Leaving: Shine & Double Happiness

DSCN5531 (800x600)

Shine
Trace Balla
Allen & Unwin
Most writers of books about death for children use fiction as a vehicle and in so doing, provide a ‘space apart’ wherein youngsters can explore this disturbing and difficult experience. As we know however, all story grows out of life, indeed all life is story and Trace Balla’s story was written for her sister’s children shortly after the death of their father and is, so we are told, based on the great love shared between their parents and the love they in turn shared with their children.
“We all come from the stars, we all go back to the stars…” so said Granny Hitchcock, grandmother of the author and her bereaved sister and it’s this saying that is at the heart of Trace Balla’s story.
Shine , so called because his kindness made him sparkly and shimmery, was a young horse that grew to become an amazing one that loved to gallop among the golden stars with the other horses. One day Shine notices some hoofprints in the sand belonging to another horse, the lovely Glitter and together they raise a family. Their little ones are called Shimmer and Sparky and there grows a great bond of love between all the family members.
But then, one day Shine learns that it’s his turn to return to his star. “… my time has come. I love you all so much,” he tells his family as he leaves them to join the other stars in the beautiful night sky.

DSCN5533 (800x600)

That night a heart-broken Glitter and her offspring cry and cry creating an ocean of golden tears. They together then climb a high mountain – a mountain of grief – from the top of which they are able to see and come to understand the enormity of the love they shared.

DSCN5534 (800x600)

And, as they curl up together, far above them shines the brightest of all the stars, their daddy’s star glowing golden and bringing them a sense of peace.
Trace Balla’s use of mythical horse characters that have no solidity works well as signifiers of life’s transient nature whereas the dark solidity of the huge mountain is perhaps, a metaphor of the process of grieving itself: a process that is likely to be very hard and take an enormous amount of time to climb, but which can ultimately be transcended by joy and the power of love in the world.
Yes, this is a book about loss but it also offers children an invitation to think about the possibility of light emerging from darkness, an idea that should fit with any world view. Indeed the restricted colour palette – shades of blue plus white and yellow are effectively used to symbolise the opposing concepts light/dark, life/death, love/loss, happiness/sadness.
In addition to being a book to offer young children who have suffered the loss of a loved one, particularly a parent, this powerfully affecting story has enormous potential for opening up discussions on a number of topics with a whole class or group.

Moving home can also be a very sad time especially for children who have to leave behind their friends and perhaps relations too. Here is a book in which two children cope with the transition helped by their loving family.

DSCN5538 (800x600)

Double Happiness
Nancy Tuper Ling and Alina Chau
Chronicle Books
The book takes the form of a series of twenty four poems relating to moving from a city (San Francisco) to a new rural home. Sister and brother Gracie and Jack both give voice to their feelings as they search for special things to place in their happiness boxes intended to help with the move:
Find four treasures each/leading from this home/to your new.”says their grandmother(Nai Nai) who has given them to boxes
Gracie’s first treasure is donated by Nai Nai, her panda toy – he too is to have a new home.

DSCN5539 (800x600)

But it’s Jack who is first to fill his box, his last object being a blue and green marble.

DSCN5541 (800x600)

Alina Chau’s delicate, detailed watercolour paintings grace the pages, serving to bring the whole thing together into a bitter-sweet account of the family’s transition from old home to new and all that it entails: a looking back and a looking forward – memory and anticipation …

DSCN5542 (800x600)

Use your local bookshop      localbookshops_NameImage-2

Exciting event at Piccadilly Waterstones 23rd-29th October – don’t miss it if you are in London: Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition            C090B987-9FD4-47C9-A6E5-CEEE0DD83F4E[6]