Tag Archives: transformation

The Cranky Caterpillar

The Cranky Caterpillar
Richard Graham
Thames & Hudson

Here’s an uber-stylish debut picture book from Richard Graham based on an utterly ingenious notion and quite unlike anything I’ve seen before:
It revolves round a little girl, Ezra by name and a caterpillar. Nothing very unusual about that, you might be thinking but wait. This particular caterpillar resides inside the piano in Ezra’s home and is anything but happy.

In fact, when the girl discovers the creature, it couldn’t look more woebegone and she resoles to try and improve its lot. After all who could blame the thing having been stuck inside a piano, going round and round, churning out just one sad tune for what feels like an eternity.
Fresh air, a tasty meal …

and a new hat all fail to help the caterpillar change its tune, but then a brainwave strikes Ezra.
She invites her friends Pablo Tuba, Gary Gee-tar and Wassily over one afternoon and along with the house cat, they form a band; a band that fills the room with wonderfully uplifting rainbow colours: imagine the effect upon the caterpillar.
Suddenly from within the piano there comes a resounding ‘BOOM’ and when Ezra looks inside the piano, there’s no sign of its erstwhile resident.
An amazing transformation has occurred …

Irresistibly quirky, this funky tale will enchant readers of all ages especially those with a musical bent.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Night Gardener

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The Night Gardener
Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
William resides in Grimloch Orphanage and as he gazes from his window one morning he discovers that overnight an enormous owl has been fashioned from the foliage of the tree outside. Now if one turns back to the dedication page it’s evident that the same child has been at work, drawing a similar feathered creature in the dust, and that passing by, is a bowler hatted man carrying a ladder and a bag of tools. The title page shows that same man working with his shears on the tree in front of the orphanage building.
Awed by this seemingly magical happening, William spends the day staring at the piece of topiary, and at bedtime he goes to sleep ‘with a sense of excitement’.
The following morning another amazing sight meets William’s eyes and, the scene has taken on a rather more colourful appearance as other members of the community too, have come to wonder at the sight.

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Subsequent mornings bring further wonderful creations (the spreads, in tandem take on more colour)

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and as William ventures forth, excitedly following the crowds, he discovers that not only have some of the neighbours been doing a spot of grooming of their own tatty-looking abodes, but also the topiarist has created his best work yet and celebrations are in full swing.

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As night envelops the town, William returns home and en route, encounters a certain gentleman who is about to change his life for the better (well strictly speaking, he’s already done that and that of the other community members)

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but the gifts he receives, as the seasons change the look of the foliage, will have a lasting effect on everyone in the neighbourhood, not least of whom is William.
This is a superb demonstration – visual and verbal – of how a caring adult, art and a touch of magic can transform the life, not just of one small boy, but also, of a whole community. The text flows perfectly but its combination with the Fan Brothers illustrative artistry puts this into a realm far above most picture books.
FAB-U-LOUS!

Motor Miles

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Motor Miles
John Burningham
Jonathan Cape
A new Burningham book is always a cause for celebration.
Meet Miles, a rather difficult dog. He refuses to come when called, doesn’t like walks, turns his nose up at the food he’s offered and barks way too much. Despite all this he’s managed to win the hearts of his owners, Norman, and Alice Trudge who takes him for car rides, most notably up the hill to a café where he becomes a petted pooch.

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This however, becomes something of a chore for Alice Trudge. Thank goodness then for neighbour Mr Huddy, who builds Miles a car of his very own.

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Miles learns to drive – love that sequence – takes to the road and starts taking young Norman on secret excursions. Some glorious Mr Gumpylike scenes show the two enjoying seasonal jaunts through fields …

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woods and valleys,

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all of which have a positive effect on Miles, who gradually becomes a reformed character. Inevitably however, Norman outgrows the car and Miles stops driving. Perhaps Mr Huddy has another surprise up his sleeve though …
John Burningham’s down-to-earth telling leaves his masterful illustrations of Miles discovering the joys of freedom, and those lyrical landscapes, to do the talking. For me, Burningham still wields a very special magic.

Circle and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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Circle
Jeannie Baker
Walker Books
This moving story begins even before the title page with its narrator lying on his bed wishing, “Ahhhh – I wish I could fly!” When next we meet him he’s on the edge of the beach of a nature reserve watching the ascent of a flock of birds …

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They’re shorebirds – godwits embarking on their long journey north. (In an author’s note at the end of the book we are told this species makes the longest unbroken journey of any animal in the world migrating 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to their southern home in Australia – where Jeannie Baker has lived for many years and where this book begins – and New Zealand.)
It’s a journey that will continue for six days and nights ‘until they know they need to stop,’ with each bird taking a turn as leader of the flock. Increasingly their familiar safe resting places have been replaced with high rise buildings …

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so their search for food has become more and more difficult but eventually they find a place to stop and refuel, eating as much as possible from the rich mud at low tide. The focus is on the godwit with white patches on its wings and finally he flies solo on to the place he remembers. There he makes a nest, attracts a mate and a brood of four chicks duly hatch …

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of which only one survives the ravages of a fox.
After many weeks, the chick is fully grown and again it’s time to move on, feed themselves up in preparation for when an icy wind heralds departure time for the godwit family and a returning flock, that now undertake the awesome nine day flight which takes them full circle back south ‘Following an ancient invisible pathway high above the clouds’ … to the other side of the world where a welcome awaits …

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I learned a great deal from this beautiful book. Its lyrical text and stunning collage illustrations make for a memorable account of godwit migration and thought-provoking glimpses of the child narrator whose personal ‘flight’ is left to readers to interpret: seemingly he too has undergone a transformation.

There’s an altogether different journey in:

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Dr Seuss
Harper Collins Children’s Books
From starting at playgroup or in a nursery class, this book, with its weird and wonderful landscapes

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and some strange and on occasion alarming encounters …

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can accompany you or your child through life’s journey with all its highs and lows, uncertainties and unpredictability. It’ll help you take risks, persevere against the odds, take adversity in your stride – (‘I’m sorry to say so/ but, sadly, it’s true/ that Bang-ups/ and Hang-ups/ can happen to you.’); because as Seuss, the rhymer extraordinaire asserts:
So be sure when you step,/ Step with care and great tact/ and remember that Life’s/ a Great Balancing Act. … And will you succeed?/ Yes! You will, indeed!/ (98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
Empowering? Yes. Thought provoking? Ditto!

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

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