New review: Peace Lily by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey

On International Nurses Day, it’s the perfect time to share this beautiful picture book.  Peace Lily written by Hilary Robinson and illustrated by Martin Impey is the fourth and final picture book in their WW1 picture book series for children, published in the year of the Armistice Centenary marking the end of fighting. The book was published on International Women’s Day (8th March 2018) paying tribute to the contribution of women to the war effort.  

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New review: The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes by Ying Chang Compestine

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The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by David Roberts.

Ming Da is only nine years old when he becomes emperor of China and soon, his three advisers take advantage of the young emperor by stealing his rice, gold and precious stones. But Ming Da has a plan. With the help of his tailors, he comes up with a clever idea to outsmart his devious advisors: He asks his tailors to make “magical” new clothes for him. Anyone how is dishonest, the young emperor explains, will see the clothes’ true splendour, but anyone who is dishonest will only see burlap sacks.  The emperor dons a burlap sack and the ministers can’t help fall for his cunning trick….

This is a fabulous retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes that was inspired by the award-winning author’s childhood and growing up in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, at a time when Western fairy tales were banned.  As a child the author got her hands on a dog-eared translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale and it sparked her own version of the story, now published in this beautifully illustrated picture book.

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The Chinese twist gives a glimpse into the beautiful culture of China and David Robert’s gorgeous artwork brings this all to life. Full of humour and a wonderful example of generosity and courage in Ming Da the young emperor, it is very satisfying to see him win the day!   Readers are invited to make their own Chinese New Year Robe with step by step instructions at the back of the book.  The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes introduces this classic fairytale and the lessons that can be learned from it to a new generation.

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Find out more at www.yingc.com and www.davidrobertsillustration.tumblr.com/

With thanks to Abrams & Chronicle for sending me this book to review.

 

Bookchat: Alison Jay, author and illustrator

banner newThe wonder of books is that there is always something new to discover.  So when Old Barn Books who publish simply gorgeous titles, sent me two books by Alison Jay, I found a new favourite author and illustrator! How I’ve missed her all this time, I have no idea.  I absolutely love Alison’s artwork; her illustrations are beautiful as is her storytelling – whether through pictures, words or both.

In Bee & Me, the story of a little girls’ friendship with a bee is told through pictures. We go on a wonderful journey of discovery, not just of finding new friends but also of seeing the importance of bees to nature. The detail in the drawings is stunning and totally immersive, making you feel you too could fly on the back of a bee!  We learn how crucial these tiny creatures are to our world, and at the end of the story there’s a helpful guide on how we can ‘Bee Aware’.

Looking for Yesterday is quite simply one of the most beautiful picture books I have encountered and it pulls gently at your heart strings.  A little boy wants to get back to yesterday, for that was the best day ever. Touching on thoughts of time and space, the boy tries all sorts of things to get back to the past.  But his grandfather has other ideas and gently shows him how every day gives the opportunity for new adventures! For anyone who has ever been blessed enough to have an inspirational person in their lives, you will appreciate the nostalgia explored in this story; whilst memories are so important, it’s today that matters most!  I just loved it.

I am thrilled to introduce Alison to the blog for a Bookchat today.  Thank you so much for joining us Alison!

Congratulations on the publication of Looking for Yesterday – an absolutely beautiful story. I love the nostalgia of the story but also the message of making the most of today. Can you tell us the why you wrote it? The idea for Looking for Yesterday came to me after listening to a radio programme about the universe and stars. They also talked about wormholes and time travel. I really don’t understand quantum physics but the theory that it might be possible to travel backwards or forwards in time I think is fascinating to both adults and children.

You capture the relationship between Boy and his Grandad so well. Was this inspired by your own family? I never met either of my Grandads unfortunately,  but the Grandad in Looking for Yesterday is a bit like my Dad. He was an engineer and worked for an aeronautical company for a few years. He didn’t ride a classic motor bike but he was always busy making and mending things, including  old cars . The boy in the book is like my brother Mark as a child: he loved everything to do with space and the universe. He was given a telescope one Christmas  when he was about 8 years old and is still fascinated with the universe. He  read The Theory of Everything a few years ago and was even lucky enough to meet Professor Steven Hawking very briefly.

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Your illustrations have a beautiful timeless quality to them. How has your distinctive style developed over time and what has influenced you, if anything/one?My style has developed quite a lot since my college days. I used to work in a much simpler childlike way. I used to make strange 3D figures out of paper and glue. I would paint them then make background sets so they could be photographed. I also worked in pen and ink. When I left college I was told the work was not commercial enough to be published, so after working for a few years in animation studios I gradually developed a new style with paint and varnish and started to get commissions in the new style. I love all sorts of different artists from Breughel to Jean-Michel Basquiat and lots of others in between. I think probably,  like most illustrators and artists, I have developed my style from lots of different influences which sort of melt down and hopefully produce a style which is unique to the individual.

Speaking of time (!) if you could go back to ‘yesterday’ where would you go and why? I think if I could go back to any time in history it would just be to meet members of my family that are long gone. It would be interesting to meet them  but I would just pop back for a few hours. I think I wouldn’t want to stay. I am happy living today. It is more exciting not knowing what is going to happen which is what the book tries to say.

Bee & Me made me want to have a pet bee and plant a garden full of bee friendly flowers! It’s a gorgeous story – I love all the tiny detail in your illustrations. Do you find it easier to tell the story with or without words? Yes, much easier without words. I find writing very difficult. I think my wordless books are more like storyboards for films which probably comes from my days working in animation. In Bee andMe I had the chance to add all the  different peoples lives going on in the windows of the tower blocks. I put a writer, an artist, a cake-maker and lots more. It was really fun to make up little narratives and how things changed through the seasons.

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You have illustrated some wonderful stories. If you could choose to illustrate any story ever written (!), which would it be and why? I have always loved James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, so I would really like to illustrate that book. I have a mad love of painting absurdly large fruit and vegetables for some reason. I also like painting insects even though I am the first to scream if something crawls on me.

What do you most enjoy about telling stories through illustration? I think I love that you can communicate narratives, ideas and emotions with or without words. Visual art  is  very immediate but  with lots of detail it can take a bit longer to look and find other narratives within the pictures. I like the idea that the child or adult notices little things they missed at first. I think it make you want to keep looking through the book  again and again to find new  little stories .

Finally, if you could tell a budding illustrator/author just one thing to help them what would it be? I think my advice would be to find the subject matter and way of working you enjoy most. It will always show in the work and the enjoyment will keep you going for ever.

Thank you Alison for giving us an insight into your work and sharing your inspiration with us.

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For more information visit www.oldbarnbooks.com.

With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me these books to review.

Just in time for Spring: The Book of Me by Adam Frost illustrated by Sarah Ray

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The Book of Me by Adam Frost, illustrated by Sarah Ray

If you ran your school what would your rules be? What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?  Would you rather talk to animals or speak every language in the world? Answer these questions and much much more, with real life comparisons – how do you compare to an animal, another human, or even your parents? Collect your own data and enjoy ridiculous facts, hilarious quizzes and scribbling activities?

From the winner of the Best Book with Facts in the Blue Peter Book Award, comes this fantastically fun activity book.  The Book of Me is much more than your average activity book; it gets the reader thinking about all sorts of things from fame to superpowers, from school to what kind of dad dancing goes on at home!  With loads of facts about life on Earth, the universe and the ideal holiday destination (did you know 22.5 million people visit Niagara Falls every year?!) readers will learn all about the world around them – and best of all, it encourages them to think about how they feel about it too.


The book is full of quirky and often funny illustrations which are the ideal accompaniment to the text.  With so many jokes and funny ideas, it’s sure to be a hit.  It’s also a great way to get even the most reluctant reader on board with books.  I have to say I laughed out loud at the bad dad jokes (for example: “Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other: Do you know how to drive this thing?!”). There’s opportunities for colouring, drawing and testing your knowledge with quizzes and is a great book to keep kids entertained on the go, so very well-timed for the Easter holidays.  But watch out – with a Dad quiz test and a method of measuring how embarrassing mums are, parents will be kept on their toes too! The Book of Me is published today by Bloomsbury.

Find out more at www.adam-frost.com and www.sarahray.co.uk.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review.

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Mr Tweed’s Busy Day by Jim Stoten

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Mr Tweed’s Busy Day written & illustrated by Jim Stoten

When Mr Tweed sets out on his afternoon stroll, he soon finds some friends in need of help. Can you come to their aid and find what they are looking for? 

Mr Tweed is a dog who wears a suit and a very tall hat and who loves to help people.  The story begins with Mr Tweed going for his usual afternoon walk and coming across various friends who are in some kind of predicament, each having lost something which could be anything from balloons to pineapples!  The reader then must help find what has been lost in the spread on the next page, with the number of things to find increasing each time.

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I love that this book combines reading with a seek and find element, as well as counting. It may draw comparisons with other well known seek and find books, but what I liked about this was there is a great story narrative to follow.  For those children who are more reluctant to pick up a book, this is a perfect combination of words and images as well as the ‘game’ element of finding the lost things.

The fantastic characters include Colin Rocodile, Mrs Fluffycuddle and Little Penny Paws, to name a few.  The illustrations themselves are quirky, inventive, colourful and full of detail with lots of different animal characters as well as humans.  They reminded me of the Busy World of Richard Scarry, which I loved when I was young. I am sure children will love Mr Tweed and will enjoy the challenge of locating the missing items!

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And with the added moral of being kind and helping people, this is a great book to have on the shelf.

You can read an interview with the author and illustrator Jim Stoten on the Reading Zone. And find out more at www.jimtheillustrator.co.uk. or on Twitter @jimtillustrator

With thanks to Flying Eye Books for sending me this book to review.