Tag Archives: Illustration

New review & Bookchat: Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher

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Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher from Lantana Publishing is an absolutely stunning book focusing on taking time to enjoy our world and the wonder of it all around us. ‘Time’ is something that perhaps we are all having to reevaluate at present and how we spend it is markedly different from even just a month ago. Whilst the UK publication of this book has been postponed until September (the US release goes ahead on 7th April), so relevant is this book right now I am very pleased to share my review and bookchat with author-illustrator Jo Loring-Fisher today.

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Taking Time is a beautiful poem set against the backdrop of stunning illustrations capturing just how much wonder there is in the world and encouraging us to notice it. From listening to birdsong, to watching a spider build it’s web; from staring into the eyes of someone you love to enjoying the love of your cat or dog – wonder can be found everywhere. Each spread is set in a different part of the world because no matter who or where you are, you can marvel at your surroundings, inspired by principles of mindfulness. It is a simple, calming read, evoking an idea I think we can all embrace at this difficult time. Taking Time is a book to cherish and one that inspires the reader to embrace life in all its beauty and simplicity.

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The good news is that Taking Time is available to buy direct from the publisher. I am so glad to have read it and I am equally glad to welcome Jo Loring-Fisher to the blog for a bookchat today. Welcome to the blog jo!

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What was the inspiration behind writing Taking Time? I wrote Taking Time when I was out walking the dog in my old home of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. I often write when I am walking, jotting ideas down on the Notes app on my phone, which I later email to myself. I was specifically writing a piece with Lantana Publishing in mind. I had just completed illustrating Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh, for them and very much enjoyed working with them and I love their ethos. I was looking up at the trees watching birds and looking for inspiration, when the concept came to me. I knew I wanted the work to be multi-cultural and about the things that connect us as humans. We always hear about our cultural differences, but I feel there are so many more similarities than differences, between us. I like that a child in the UK could be as fascinated by a spider spinning its web, as a child in Nepal, or anywhere else, could. I didn’t start out with the intention of writing about mindfulness, it was my publisher Alice Curry, that saw this. I love that another person can see something in my work, and she was right!

How do you think it can be interpreted for everyday life, especially in the current circumstances? Although mindfulness is an innate skill in many ways, I think it has been lost because we are all under so much pressure and this, unfortunately, applies to children. Consciously bringing mindfulness to our attention in a simple way and accessible way, is important and this is my intention with Taking Time.

The circumstances in which we find ourselves right now, are quite frightening and uncertain. I like the idea that parents and carers can sit quietly with a child, look at each spread and pause to discuss the words and images and perhaps chat about how this relates to the child and children of the world. For example, what does it feel like when you bury your hand in your dog’s fur? I hope that it will do the same for the adults sharing the book as well. We all need a bit of that!

I think the skills of mindfulness are so lost to us that they can be hard to relearn, but they really are a life skill and I hope that the book will prove to be a gentle way to encourage this. When it gets a bit frenetic at home, and in the current circumstances this is going to be an issue, hopefully Taking Time will act as a guide and bring some peace. I think that there is plenty to discuss and relate to in each spread and this can spark conversations about different peoples and cultures across our wonderful world. I would love the book to be the basis of activities in the home or garden. A child could be asked to shut their eyes and try to remember their journey to school, for example. It could then be extended to an imagined place that can be described using all the senses. What does the place, real or imagined, smell like? What sounds can the child hear? What does it feel like under foot? It could be used as a springboard for art and crafts activities or an exploration in the garden or around the house. What object would the child bring with them, for example?

Do you practice mindfulness yourself and if so, how has it helped you and how do you believe it can help others? Those moments that make us stop and notice something outside of ourselves are so important. As a child, I was always the one to point out the spider spinning a web on the way to school, or a fern leaf unfurling and I am unchanged in that way. When I feel stressed or my mood is a bit low, taking a walk outside with my Spaniel, Flossie, always helps. I’m also interested in the idea of forest bathing. Immersing myself in the countryside, particularly the forest, can really help to give me clarity. Being still and becoming more and more aware of those gentle sounds around you, the wind in the tree, birds singing, the feel of a leaf as it brushes past your ear falling to the ground, are wonderful things to connect with. It isn’t quite so easy in the city, but any green space can be beneficial.

The poem encourages the reader to take in the wonder of the world and reminds us how precious life is – even in the small things – how do you think life will change following this period? I really hope that the world as a whole can learn from this experience. My hope is that we will rediscover a more contented and grounded way of life and one which doesn’t exploit the riches of the natural world, or the most vulnerable. I feel that things have been spinning out of control and that this could be a wake-up call, we need to slow down and live more lightly on this planet. I truly hope and pray that we learn from it and a change is brought about in individuals and communities.

Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process? Do the words or pictures come first? Sometimes an idea comes to me as words first and other times it’s images that take the lead. When I’m working the images out, I might jot down a very rough sketch. These are then turned into thumbnails-tiny illustrations that allow you to put together your ideas and help you to see how the spreads will work as a whole. Some images come to me very easily and remain pretty much unchanged, and other times I am unsure of how they will be until I work on them. It was like this with the Ecuador image, where I had a rough idea, but the finished image came to me as I was putting it together. I draw my characters and scan them in to the computer. I’ve made lots of textures using paint and printmaking, and I use them to collage over the drawings using Photoshop.

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What new projects are you working on and how will you be spending your time whilst required to stay at home? In the next few months I have two more books being published, one with Otter-Barry Books and another with Frances Lincoln, so I have been working very hard on them. I’d like to say I’m going to take it a bit easier, but I have new projects that I’m working on and that’s exciting. We have moved fairly recently, so I plan to tackle the garden over the coming months and create some beds to grow vegetables. We had a ready-made veg plot in our previous garden, so I’ve got used to the cycle of planting, picking and cooking the food I’ve grown, and I love it!

What would your top suggestions be to help parents and carers encourage their child’s creativity at home? I have four children, three of whom are adults now, and two pursuing careers in the creative industries. Books played a big role in their upbringing and I know they have been very inspired by this. I have taught art to children and adults, and what I have discovered time and time again, is the notion that each and every mark must be just right and just so and recognisable. I’ve overheard parents correcting their children while they’re drawing something and even take over from them. This creates fear and acts as a barrier to the creative process and really puts children off even trying to draw and very often this lasts into adulthood. I’d say leave children alone to experiment and have fun. Don’t worry if they make a mess (make sure there is lots of newspaper down) and don’t expect the drawing to look like an actual, real thing! Encourage and praise. Tissue paper ‘painting’ is fun, this involves laying pieces of tissue paper down on paper and painting water onto it. Once the paper has dried it can be removed and leaves beautiful, brightly coloured prints. Coloured pencils are also a less messy way for a child to enjoy image making. More than anything, praise children and don’t criticise what they have produced.

With thanks to Jo Loring-Fisher for participating in this bookchat! Find out more at www.joloringfisher.com and follow on Twitter: @JoLoringFisher

Author biography

As a child Jo’s favourite pastime was drawing and writing stories. She grew up in Sussex, close to Ashdown Forest where Winnie-the-pooh was written and felt that forest’s magic! Jo now lives in the beautiful city of Bath with my husband, and two younger daughters. The natural world inspires her greatly, but she also loves to people watch and living in a city gives her lots of opportunities to do just that! Jo says: “Being passionate about art and children’s books, it is wonderful to be able to spend my time combining the two. As a mum of four, I have spent many an hour sharing my love of books with my children and have witnessed the impact this has had on them.”

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to read and review.

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New review: Planet SOS by Marie G.Rhode

A brand new book published by What on Earth Books on 2nd April, brings to life the global environmental crisis for young eco-warriors in a whole new way! Planet SOS: 22 Modern Monsters Threatening Our Environment by Marie G.Rhode shines a light on the biggest issues facing the environment and what young readers can do to help!

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Amazing illustrations and high quality production make this a really stunning book to behold! Mythical monsters are given new names and used to represent some of the biggest threats to the planet such as the Smogosaurus, who fills the air with toxic fumes and the Trash Kong, who thrives on rubbish and waste and the Atmosdragon who is causing global warming.

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The good news is that young eco-heroes can help by learning about these threats and then taking action! Each spread focuses on one threat and has a Monster Card showing what we can do to beat it, from reducing our carbon footprint to eating vegetables! Fold-out guides and a world map along with a glossary, index and source notes keep young readers fully armed with knowledge about how to save the planet.  Imaginative and informative, Planet SOS is a fantastic book full of inspiration and practical ideas – a great addition to any boookshelf.

About the author
On finishing her architectural studies in Sweden, Marie G. Rohde entered a children’s books competition and began a new and unexpected chapter in her life. This book is the result of a lifelong interest in myths and environmental issues. Marie G. Rohde lives in Barcelona.

With thanks to What On Earth Books for sending me this book to read and review. 

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Book of the Month: Sock Story by C K Smouha illustrated by Eleonora Marton

book of the monthSock Story by C K Smouha and Eleonora Marton, is a delightfully funny and light-hearted tale of a pair of socks and what happens during their weekly visit to the washing machine! Published by Cicada Books to critical acclaim in hardback last September, Sock Story is available in paperback this month.

 

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Sock Story by C K Smouha and Eleonora Marton

It’s Phil and Dale’s favourite time of the week – the wash! But when the two socks get separated, Dale must face the prospect of life on his own…

You’ll never look at your odd socks in the same way after reading this story!  I have a bag of odd socks just in case the missing one turns up (which does occasionally happen believe it or not) and I’m definitely not going to get rid of them now….Sock Story brings laundry to life in a lively, humourous tale which is sure to delight young readers (and parents and carers too).

Phil and Dale are a pair of socks and whilst enjoying their usual wash-time acrobatics -attracting eye rolls from the other clothes in the wash with them – Phil gets stuck at the bottom of the machine and Dale is all alone.  Not even a friendly shirt can help him feel better and you can’t help but smile as Dale considers all he is good for now as an odd sock – being a sock puppet or a golf club cosy!

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Colourful, lively crayon illustrations capture the fun throughout, as Dale finally finds Phil – who no longer looks like he did before (as grown-ups will know, clothes can turn a different colour if left in the machine on the wrong wash..!). But Dale must remember all the wonderful things that really make them a pair as he and Phil enjoy the wash together again!  Sock Story is a really great way to spark a conversation on things we have in common, outside of the way we look and will provide lots of laughter at story time.

C K Smouha is the author of Iced Out – review here.

With thanks to Cicada Books for sending me this book to review.

 

Book of the Month: The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore and Roger Duvoisin

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Celebrating the final Book of the Month for 2019, I’m delighted to share Roger Duvoisin’s eye-catching interpretation of Clement C Moore’s classic poem from 1954, The Night Before Christmas, republished for 2019 by Scallywag Press . It’s been a tradition in my house since my children were little to read aloud The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve so I have a huge soft spot for this gorgeous poem.

The poem, also known by the name A Visit from St Nicholas, was first published in 1823, with the author wishing to remain anonymous. It wasn’t until some years later that Clement C Moore claimed ownership. The Night Before Christmas was the first time St Nicholas  – Santa Claus – had been depicted in this way and led to the first visualisation of Santa with his reindeer and sleigh. A few hundred years later, it doesn’t fail to capture the imagination and is still a wonderful festive treat to enjoy with whole family. This version is beautifully presented in a long thin format to depict Santa coming down the chimney. Brightly coloured and eye-catching artwork bring the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve to life; I particularly love the spread of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops. You couldn’t really ask for anything more magical at Christmas time!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.com.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this book to review!

 

 

Reviews, reviews and more reviews! A big blog catch-up.

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How many books can you fit on one blog? I’ve read so many great books over the summer months into autumn– newly published and yet to be published- it’s hard to know where to start, but here are just some of the titles I’ve really enjoyed reading.

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The Doughnut of Doom by Elys Dolan brings us a new kind of super villain in a picture book tale reminiscent of all the best kinds of monster movies. Think King Kong with a slightly stickier coating! Great characters in the shape of different types of talking food – from peanut butter sandwiches to fried eggs to chilli peppers – bring the action to life and create a veritable feast of a story. Hilarious from the first page, The Doughnut of Doom will liven up bedtime reading and spark the imagination of young readers with its lively a narrative and even livelier illustrations.

Available now published by Nosy Crow age 2+

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Gallery of Cats by Ruth Brown is a gorgeous collection of pictures reminiscent of famous masterpieces, with a twist. Each picture features a cat with the characteristics of the painter, described in the accompanying narrative.  The story begins with Tom, a young boy visiting an art gallery and stumbling upon this very unusual exhibition and as he visits each picture the cat featured jumps down to join him on his tour.  Clever and humorous, Gallery of Cats is a fantastic introduction to the world of art and a lovely story to share.

Available now published by Scallywag Press for age 3+

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The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini is a captivating picture book sharing the wonder of the imagination and dreams.  A little girl discovers old dinosaurs bones on a beach and at bedtime wishes with all her heart that the dinosaur will come to life. And it does, taking her on the most marvellous adventure to a secret place where only children play in their dreams!  It’s a lovely tale, beautifully illustrated and captures the magic of children’s imagination.

Available now published by Bloomsbury for age 3+

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Beaver’s Big Adventure A Journey Home by Magnus Weightman is a gorgeous book exploring all kinds of animal homes brought to life in delightful, detailed illustrations. The story tells of Beaver embarking on his big dream to explore the world. From the big city to the forest, Beaver meets all kinds of animals living in different nests, underground burrows and even termite mountains. With illustrations reminiscent of the Busy World of Richard Scarry, this is a fantastic book to explore over and again, each time discovering something new.

Available from 1st October published by Five Quills for age 3+

Kitty by Paula Harrison illustrated by Jenny Lovie is a brand new six-book series introducing superhero-in-training Kitty.  Gorgeous colourful illustrations capture the action, as Kitty braves the night time to solve mysteries and recover stolen treasure in the first two adventures, Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue and Kitty and the Tiger Treasure.  These books are sure to be a hit with young readers, as they meet Kitty and her Cat Crew, including her number one companion Pumpkin the ginger cat!  Themes of bravery and friendship will capture the imagination of all who read Kitty’s adventures and with a Super Cat Facts section at the back of each book, cat lovers in particular will enjoy!

Available now published by Oxford University Press, for age 5+

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The Bakery of Happiness by Ian Beck is a heart-warming (and tummy tempting) story set in a bakery in the beautiful streets of Paris. It’s a sweet story of love and friendship that will surprise and delight all who read it, evoking the feel of a classic romance and the smells of wonderful baking!  The magic of Paul du Pains’ bakery is clear as every customer who enters, leaves feeling happier than before. But the magic doesn’t come from the fabulous cakes and breads he bakes – it comes from Marie, his marvellous assistant who serves each customer and has a voice to brighten even the most miserable person’s day. How will Paul restore the magic to his shop when Marie leaves for the opera? With lovely illustrations, The Bakery of Happiness will remind all who read it to take a chance on friendship and love as soon as it appears.

Available now published by Barrington Stoke for ages 5-8 

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White Fox by Chen Jiatong illustrated by Viola Wang is the first modern middle-grade children’s fiction series to be translated into English from Chinese. The series brings to life the adventures of an orphaned white fox cub, Dilah, who longs to be human.  Myth and magic combine as Dilah embarks on a quest guided by a magical moonstone, which will show him to a treasure that is said to transform animals into humans! An incredible adventure ensues, and Dilah makes new friends and discovers dangerous enemies as he seeks the treasure. Readers will be enthralled by the twists and turns of Dilah’s quest and desperate to find out what happens next to the young fox and his friends. A great read, White Fox is a fantastic introduction to Chinese children’s fiction.

Available now published by Chicken House for age 9+

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Teen Witch by Katy Birchill is fun, teen fiction at its best. Morgan Charmley is about to start a ‘normal’ school at the age of 13. But how will she fit in? Because Morgan is a witch and although she can control her powers, she can also cast a spell with a click of her fingers. And even though she’s passed the Young Witch Exam (after the eight time of taking it) the trials and tribulations of every day school life are somewhat challenging – especially when her witch familiar, Merlin, decides to turn himself into a tarantula on her first day at school. Join in the fun as Morgan deals with this and other incidents, and tries to fit in, inadvertently befriending a warlock.  Great fun!

Available now published by Scholastic for age 11+

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Anna at War by Helen Peters is a brilliant wartime adventure about a young German Jewish girl who finds herself sent away to safety in England.  Leaving her parents is hard enough but then Anna finds herself caught up in a web of spies, betrayal and intrigue as well as dealing with being a German in England whilst the war rages on.  Anna tries not to lose hope for her family and as the plot thickens she realises there are other ways to fight the Nazi’s. Great storytelling shows Anna’s bravery and the narrative is full of heart, capturing wartime efforts and shedding light on the experiences of German Jews. There’s a really beautiful moment towards the end of the story; you’ll need your tissues. Anna at War is a compelling, well-balanced read that will tug at the heart strings and the themes of conflict, courage and wartime displacement are all relevant for today.

Available now published by Nosy Crow for age 8+

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Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse by Jennifer Killick is the fantastic third book in this series about Alex, Jess and their very quirky superpowers. This time the action takes place in a local Zumba class, with Alex’s mum and grandma placed firmly in the danger zone as it appears the evil Montogomery McMonaghan is up to his usual dastardly tricks. Of course it’s up to Alex and Jess and their crew of unusual helpers including Bob the goldfish and Dexter the pigeon to solve the mystery. They meet some new and surprising characters along the way and face some really hairy moments keeping you on the edge of your seat! Alex and Jess are two of my favourite characters in middle-grade fiction today; I love that despite all the bonkers antics – or perhaps because of – they always discover something new about themselves and have a better friendship at the end of each tale.   Great fun, full of humour and totally entertaining, Alex Sparrow never disappoints!

Available now published by Firefly Press age 9+

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Bloomsbury, Firefly Press, Five Quills, Nosy Crow, Oxford University Press, Scallywag Press and Scholastic for sending me these books to review.

 

New reviews: picture books for brightening up the bookshelf!

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Today I’m sharing my reviews of some really delightful quirky picture books, perfect to brighten up any young readers bookshelf and brilliant for sharing.  Step into a world of dinosaurs, cheeky rabbits and magical umbrellas to name a few – you won’t be disappointed!

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The Truth about Dinosaurs by award-winning author and illustrator, Guido Van Genechten, is a wonderful picture book all about dinosaurs – but with a twist! Learn all about what chickens and dinosaurs have in common told from the chicken’s perspective as he takes us on a tour of his family tree. Travel back millions of years and see how dinosaurs evolved and actually really are related to one of our favourite farm yard birds. This is a great fun read, full of fascinating facts and lively colourful illustrations bringing the world of dinosaurs (and chickens!) to life!

Find out more www.fivequills.co.uk

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The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin is a gorgeous story about a very friendly lion, who lives in a zoo in France. Every day he greets the inhabitants of the town as they walk past his enclosure and they always smile and say hello.  But one day when his gate is left open and he decides to take a stroll, all the town folk no longer smile and wave – they run the other way! Except for young Francois who knows just what to do.  The Happy Lion is a lovely tale with wonderful artwork about understanding who you are and finding friends, and is sure to be a firm favourite with a new generation of readers of all ages! A re-issue of a popular classic, The Happy Lion won the inaugural German’s Children’s Book Prize in 1956.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett is a delightful story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.  Albert’s birthday is rather dull until the moment Grandma Z sweeps in and takes him on an extraordinary adventure. Showing Albert how to find excitement even in the most ordinary of things, Grandma Z creates a birthday never to forget. Illustrations leap off the page bringing their adventures to life and drawing you in to the excitement. A perfect story for reminding us of the wonder of the world and just how special our grandparents can be, Grandma Z is full of joy!

Find out more from www.scribblekidsbooks.com

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Nits by Stephanie Blake is a vibrant and cheeky story featuring Simon the rabbit – and some rather pesky nits! Simon is totally in love with the new girl Lou, but she doesn’t notice him – that is until she comes into school with nits! Suddenly she needs a friend and Simon is ready to help with a hug and a kiss. Full of fun, Nits is guaranteed to entertain young children – and tackles the rather itchy subject of nits in a light-hearted way.

Find out more at www.geckopress.com

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Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville is a lovely tale about a magical umbrella. Clara is feeling rather sad as she has no one to play with at the park. She picks up an old umbrella and to her surprise it comes to life! Beautiful muted illustrations capture the magic as, from that moment on, Clara is introduced to a world where anything is possible  – from helping old Mr Roberts climb trees again to stopping the Moodies from crying. The umbrella has the answer for everything where kindness is concerned and we see that friends come in all shapes and sizes. Young readers will want to experience the magic of the umbrella again and again – and see the ordinary become extraordinary! Umbrella is endorsed by Amnesty International because it celebrates our rights to express ourselves and to choose our own friends.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Iced Out by C K Smouha and Isabelle Bunnell is lively picture book featuring the antics of Wilfred the Walrus and Neville the Narwhal as they try and fit in amongst a class of not very friendly seals.  In a story even young children will identify with, Wilfred and Neville are not popular because they’re different – that is until Betty Beluga arrives! Betty changes everything and even though she impresses everyone with all her talents – especially Wilfred and Neville- she isn’t bothered about being popular. She helps Wilfred and Neville see that being different doesn’t matter and they become firm friends.  Bright and expressive illustrations capture the narrative in this engaging tale about friendship and being happy with who you are.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.cicadabooks.co.uk

With thanks to Cicada Books, Five Quills, Gecko Press, Scallywag and Scribble for sending me these books to review.

New review: The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch

 

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Celebrating 30 years of publication, The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business has delighted readers young and old. It is written by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch, a German author/illustrator team, who are highly regarded for their humourous and playful characters. This quirky detective story enjoys a cult following and has been published in ‘plop-up’ format – and would you believe, has even been performed as musical theatre?!

When it arrived on my doorstep, I will admit to being totally surprised by the theme having not come across it before. But it is very funny and given how much toilet humour can be found in many funny books for children, this book was clearly way ahead of its time when it was originally published in 1989.

 

The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business tells the tale of a little mole who wakes up one morning only to find another animal has ‘done it’s business’ on his head! Furious, he sets off to find out who and what follows is a very funny investigation of animals and their varying types of poo! Mole manages to solve the mystery and exact a rather fitting (if slightly smaller) revenge.  I can imagine young children laughing out loud and sharing lots of ‘ewwww’s’ as they hear and see Mole’s journey of discovery!  This would be a great story to read aloud, with the large text and illustrations making it easy to share in a group setting.

There will be Little Mole events at the Edinburgh and Bath Children’s Literature Festivals this year and there are some great downloadable activity packs available from Pavilion here.

I’m delighted to be offering x3 copies of The Story of the Little Mole courtesy of Pavilion to giveaway.  Find out more on my Twitter account.

With thanks to Pavilion for sending me this book to review.

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