Tag Archives: Illustration

New reviews: Wonderful children’s books for Christmas – and all year round!

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on some beautiful picture books written by brilliant authors and illustrators who have created stories that will capture the imagination and bring a smile to readers faces – young and old. These books would make lovely Christmas gifts to be enjoyed all year round!

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales written by Lynn Roberts Maloney and illustrated by David Roberts is a stunning treasury gift collection of these original and captivating takes on fairy tales we know and love. The series has sold nearly 60, 000 copies and delighted young readers (and many adult readers too) with brilliant portrayals of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, each set in a different historical period and showing these familiar characters in a totally different light! No longer the damsels in distress, our heroines are enterprising and resourceful and will inspire a new generation of young readers to be the the same. Spellbinding storytelling and stunning illustration unite to create a beautiful gift edition ideal to enjoy together and share as a family. Published in hardback by Pavilion, find out more David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairytales | Pavilion Books

The Pocket Chaotic written by Ziggy Hanaor and illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett brings to life a delightful family of kangaroos, in a story of a journey towards independence. Alexander lives in his mum’ pocket and despite his sister’s protestations that it’s time he moved into his own bedroom, he insists on staying! But as his Mum gets more and more chaotic, and fills her pocket with everything from her mobile phone to old sweet wrappers, Alexander finds there’s less and less space for him to snuggle. Maybe his sister is right?! Delightful illustrations bring the kangaroos to life and there’s a lovely lesson about the inevitability of growing up – but not being as scary as you think. A quirky tale to enjoy throughout the year! Published in hardback by Cicada Books, find out more The Pocket Chaotic — Cicada Books

The Tooth Fairy written by Samuel Langley-Swain and illustrated by David Ortu is a fantastic new series from The Royal Mint, bringing the Tooth Fairy tradition bang up to date! The series centres on twins Ollie and Grace who have just lost their first tooth. Their Grandpa reveals that for generations, tooth fairies and coin makers have been secretly working together from The Royal Mint, to make sure every child receive a shiny new coin for their tooth! Featuring a host of magical characters, the first two titles The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers and The Tooth Fairy and the Magical Journey are sure to delight the imaginations of young readers all year round! Published in paperback by The Royal Mint, find out more The Tooth Fairy | The Royal Mint

Music A Fold-Out Graphic History written by Nicolas O’Neill and Susan Hayes illustrated by Ruby Taylor is a simply gorgeous book celebrating the history of music, produced in association with The Royal Albert Hall. If ever we needed to celebrate our arts and heritage, it’s now and this books achieves this in spades! Showing how music has been a part of the way we live for thousands of years, children will discover music in prehistoric and ancient times, right up to music we know and love today. There’s a focus on the Royal Albert Hall of Fame and this book brilliantly reminds us why music is at the heart of culture and even has a playlist at the end so children can experience it for themselves. A wonderful book to share with incredible detail and fold out pages, this is a great gift for Christmas. Published in hardback by What on Earth Books, find out more Music – A Fold-Out Graphic History – What on Earth Publishing What On Earth? Books

The Three Wishes A Christmas Story by Alan Snow is a wonderful origin story of some of our most beloved Christmas traditions. If you’ve ever wondered how Santa Claus came to be, how he visits every child in one night, how his reindeer fly and why he wears a red coat, then this story is the answer! With beautiful illustrations and a tale that feels truly authentic, as if it had been passed down through generations, The Three Wishes is an original take on a story we love to imagine. A wonderful book to share with children this Christmas. Published in hardback by Pavilion Books, find out more The Three Wishes | Pavilion Books

With thanks to Cicada Books, Pavilion Books, The Royal Mint and What on Earth Books for sending me these books to review.

New reviews: Picture book roundup!

There is something quite wonderful about picture books. Is it the combination of amazing words and illustrations? The fact that picture books can convey the most important of emotions and concerns in the most simple way? Or perhaps the sheer joy of the stories that are brought to life on each spread? Or all of the above?! Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a brilliant selection of picture books I’ve received over the last few months, out now or coming soon.

Some people have dresses for every occasion but Afiya needs only one. Her dress records the memories of her childhood, from roses in bloom to pigeons in flight, from tigers at the zoo to October leaves falling. A whimsical celebration of a young girl’s childhood, igniting our curiosity and awe at the little wonders of the everyday

A Story About Afiya by James Berry illustrated by Anna Cunha is a gorgeous picture book sharing the joy of childhood and the wonder of discovery. We follow Afiya as she explores her world and each day finds a new memory ‘imprinted’ on her dress. At night her dress is washed clean, ready for a new memory the next day.

Delightfully simple, beautifully described and stunningly illustrated, this is a precious story to treasure. Find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com

You might think that when you sleep the world sleeps with you, but all through the night others are busy. Firefighters wait for the bell to ring, nurses and doctors look after their patients, postal workers sort letters and parcels. Mums and Dads are up feeding their babies…and out in the wild, owls, bats and foxes search for food.

While You’re Sleeping by Mick Jackson and illustrated by John Broadley will spark the imaginations and bring to life a world of activity children might not realise existed! Utterly fascinating with mesmerising illustrations, watch wildlife as they come out to play and forage for food, alongside the busy people working to keep our lives running.

Particularly poignant at this time, this is a great book to bring new perspective on the world we live in and celebrate the people who help us. Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com

The next time you look up the night sky, if you stare really hard; you might be lucky enough to see the sparkling metal planet with all its robots and all their robo-babies. A story about the many ways in which babies arrive into their families, including IVF, donor conception, surrogacy and adoption.

Robo-Babies by Laura Gallagher illustrated by Nicci Martin celebrates the many and varied journeys too parenthood. Heart-warming and informative, young children of all backgrounds will see in simple terms the many different ways a child can be brought into this world, with love at the heart of each family.

Brilliantly accessible with lively and colourful illustrations, this is a fantastic picture book with an important and inclusive message at its heart. Find out more at www.owletpress.com

We have explored every corner of our planet, and yet a whole undiscovered universe of microbes hides within our bodies…. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the connections between microbes and health. Follow the digestive process and learn about this fascinating frontier and the vast ecosystem that lives inside you!

Gut Garden : A Journey into the Wonderful World of your Microbiome by Katie Brosnan is quite simply an amazing insight into our insides! Readers young and old will be fascinated by the ecosystem that exists within the human body and how microbes are such an important part of it – from the digestive process to helping cure diseases. It’s no surprise this brilliant book has been nominated for three awards!

An essential part of our health and well-being, every child (and adult!) should visit the Gut Garden! Find out more www.cicadabooks.co.uk

Disaster strikes! Everyone is in a panic. Can Benny save the day? Will he have to press his bright red button? Benny’s new adventure sees all the robots having to work together when more aliens arrive on their planet. 

One Button Benny and the Gigantic Catastrophe by Alan Windram illustrated by Chloe Holwill-Hunter sees the return of charming and cheeky robot, Benny. This time Benny has to rescue everyone’s kidnapped pet cats, pressing his big red button and visiting an alien planet in the process! With help from his friends, Benny saves the day just in time to enter Sparky his pet cat, into the Cool Cat Competition. Can you guess who wins?!

A lively adventure, full of fun with delightful illustrations capturing the action, children will want to read this again and again. Find out more at www.littledoorbooks.co.uk.

Fia longs to go to the mysterious island, where the air is thick with secrets. One night a moonbeam stretches across the bay and leads her there. She rides on the back of a gilded butterfly, dances up the stars in the sky and down to the bed of the sea….

To The Island by Patricia Forde illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli is a beautiful lyrical tale, full of imagination and wonder. Gorgeous illustrations and a charming narrative take you on a magical journey to the island of Hy Brasil, where the world is full of incredible creatures. Join Fia as her dream comes true and she has the most marvellous adventure through the night sky.

You can’t help but feel Hy Brasil is out there somewhere and if we just believe, our imaginations will take us there! A delightful bedtime story, find out more at www.littleisland.ie.

Feeling tired after a busy day? But you can’t sleep? Then Snooze is the perfect book for you! It will explain how to get the best sleep ever.

Snooze by Eilidh Muldoon tells the story of Owl who just can’t get to sleep. This is a humourous take on a problem many will be familiar with, as Owl’s efforts are hampered by a menagerie of noisy animals. A well-paced narrative and lively expressive illustrations combine to create lots of empathy for poor Owl!

Snooze is sure to bring a smile to young readers as well as help them get a good night’s sleep. Find out more at www.littledoorbooks.co.uk.

That fabulous, fluttering fairy, wherever can she be? Join our intrepid family to find out! In this wonderful adventure, readers will enjoy trying to find the hiding fairy, while meeting magical, endangered wildlife in the way.

We’re off to Find a Fairy by Eloise White illustrated by Cory Reid is a lovely story celebrating the magic that can be found in the countryside that surrounds us. Featuring some of our favourite insects and animals from British wildlife, the fairy may elude the family but there’s still wonder in the woods and meadows! This is one of a trio of picture books that encompass incidental diversity, with the family including mixed race and disabled characters. Children will love joining in with the rhyming narrative and spotting the wildlife in the beautifully drawn illustrations. Publishing on 20th October, find out more at www.owletpress.com

With thanks to all the publishers who sent me these books to read and review. They will be donated to a local foodbank I work with to feed minds as well as tummies!

WINNER ANNOUNCED : Klaus Flugge Prize 2020

The Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 for most exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration has been awarded to Eva Eland for When Sadness Comes to Call.

When Sadness Comes to Call (Andersen Press) tells the story of a young child who opens the door to an unexpected visitor, Sadness, personified as a semi-transparent amorphous shape. As the two spend time together, the child comes to know and understand Sadness, and then one day wakes up to find the visitor has left. Described by the judges as “a masterpiece of minimalism”, it is a sensitive and profound exploration of a complex emotion in a story that will speak to every child, no matter how young.

The book is beautiful in its simplicity with a message that will resonate with all who read it. Whether you have experienced sadness or not, this story will enable understanding about an emotion which can be difficult to deal with, especially for young children. Each spread evokes empathy through minimal use of narrative, colour and line drawing.

Eva Eland grew up in Delft, Netherlands. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the School of Visual Arts in New York as well as at the Cambridge School of Art, where she received a distinction in children’s book illustration. She started working on the book while on the prestigious Cambridge MA course and originally planned to feature other ‘difficult emotions’ such as anger and fear. However, she says: “Sadness was the one that most resonated with me, as it’s a feeling that has frequently visited me since childhood, and one that has become very familiar, almost like an old friend.”

Chair of the judges Julia Eccleshare said “It is very much a book for today when so many children will be experiencing sadness, struggling to understand why and how to express themselves. Yet it also has the makings of a classic, a perfect meeting of intention and delivery, and an example of how much picture books can do.”

On receiving the prize, Eva Eland said: “When Sadness Comes to Call started as a
personal exploration of difficult emotions in images and text during my studies at the MA Children’s Book Illustration in Cambridge and when I took my first version of this book to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, displayed on the stand of the Cambridge School of Art, I thought I had made something very peculiar and niche and had very little expectations of getting any serious interest. So when Andersen Press approached me and wanted to publish the book, I could hardly believe it.
To be shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize was such a delightful surprise and a huge honour, and now I’ve learned I won the award as well! It’s very encouraging to receive recognition like this.”

The judges also chose to award Highly Commended to Sabina Radeva for her book, On the Origin of Species, an illustrated retelling of Darwin’s famous book published by Puffin. Mini Grey, also on the judging panel, said: “It’s a work of ingenious inspiration that is able to take a complicated idea and make it visually simple, and that’s what On the Origin of Species does. Elegant illustrations help us venture deeper into the concepts and work on many levels.”

Now in its fifth year, the Klaus Flugge Prize was founded to honour publisher Klaus
Flugge, a supremely influential figure in picture books. Flugge set up Andersen
Press in 1976 and has discovered and nurtured many of today’s most distinguished
illustrators including David McKee, Tony Ross, Satoshi Kitamura, Ruth Brown
and Susan Varley. Alongside Julia Eccleshare, who is director of the Children’s Programme at the Hay Festival, this years judges are last year’s recipient Jessica Love, illustrator Mini Grey, Meera Ghanshamdas, bookseller at Moon Lane Ink; children’s book consultant Jake Hope; and Pam Smy of Anglia Ruskin University.

Congratulations to the winner and all those shortlisted for the Prize! To find out more visit www.klausfluggeprize.co.uk.

Guest Post: Jamie Littler author and illustrator of Frostheart

We have a guest on the blog today! None other than the author of the brilliant fantasy adventure Frostheart, Jamie Littler, who was recently shortlisted for the Branford Boase Book Award along with his editor, Naomi Colthurst. Frostheart is his first published book as an author/illustrator. Described by The Bookseller as a “A rip-roaring action adventure, full of humour, heart and unforgettable characters”, it holds a well-deserved spot on the shortlist!

Jamie shares his top tips for writing today, with some brilliant insights into what’s important for anyone wanting to get into writing. Welcome to the blog Jamie!

“I was thrilled to be asked to write a guest post for the Book Activist and to share some of the tips that helped me to write my fantasy-adventure book, Frostheart.

It’s definitely the question I get asked the most: ‘Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into writing?’ Now, I could go on about making sure you read lots, (which is important!), or learning how to use proper grammar (which is always nice, I suppose), but those aren’t the things that really helped me to write my book. No, the biggest, most spectacularly important secret to writing a story is this: have fun. That’s it – that’s the secret! Thank you for reading, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Oh, you want an explanation?

Okay, here goes.

I’ve been an illustrator for ten years, but my dream was always to write my own stories as well as to draw them. And I tried and tried, but my stories were always turned down by the publishers. I could’ve made wallpaper out of all the rejection letters I received (and did – but believe me, it’s a very ugly room to be in). At first, the rejections were hard to hear. “You know that story you wrote, the one you worked really, really hard on? Yeah, well, it’s rubbish.” I mean, they were never quite so rude, but that was the general gist of it. And sadly, they were right. I still had a lot to learn, and there were many ways my writing needed to improve. But practice makes perfect.

So, I kept on trying. I wrote another story, and another. And another after that. Some will never leave my work-in-progress drawer (aka the bin), others I was super proud of, but they were never to be. Gradually, the rejections began to change in tone. They now said that the writing was fine, the idea was good, but something was still not clicking. I was banging my head against a wall, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be an author after all?

One day, I was talking to another author about my ideas. I asked which one they thought would give me the biggest chance of getting a publishing deal. They said it didn’t matter what they thought, I had to write the story that meant something to me. Deep down, they said, I knew which one I wanted to write. And it was then that it hit me. I’d been so desperate to get my story turned into a book, I’d been writing what I thought I should’ve been writing, instead of what I truly wanted to write. I’d been looking at what books were popular at the time; the kinds of books I should try to make. But those books meant something to the authors who wrote them, they didn’t mean anything to me.

I vowed to write a story that I would’ve wanted to read, the type of book that kept me turning the pages, something that filled me with excitement, that felt so enjoyable that it couldn’t possibly be considered actual work. I vowed to have fun, even if what I was writing wasn’t the most popular type of book at the time. And if a few other readers enjoyed it to, then all the better.

The next story I wrote became Frostheart, my first published book as an author/illustrator. Writing a story is personal. Try not to focus on what others say a good story should be. If you make something that you enjoy writing, it will shine through on the pages, and the readers will be whisked away by your passion and enthusiasm. They will fall in love with your characters, they will gasp at what happens to them, and they will stay up late to reach the last page. Grammar, spelling, all of that comes later. What’s important is that you’re writing the story you want to tell.

Oh, and try not to make wallpaper out of your rejection letters, it really isn’t a great look.”

With thanks to Jamie for his brilliant advice! Frostheart is published by Puffin Books. Find out more about the Branford Boase Book Award Shortlist here and visit the website here.

New Reviews: A plethora of picture books! Out now and coming soon.

Today on the blog, it’s a picture book kind of day! Picture books are always guaranteed to make you smile and tug at your heart strings. Especially these ones, which are out now or coming soon this summer and have been arriving through the post over the last few months. From unicorns to detective dogs, to finding friends and gorgeous celebrations of life and even washing your hands, these books have it covered! I’m delighted to share my thoughts on them with you and highly recommend adding them to your to be read list.

OUT NOW

I am Brown by Ashok Banker illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat is a delightful story about celebrating the skin you’re in. Beautifully drawn characters on every spread showing how wonderful life is and the variety of opportunities there are. Every page made me smile and I loved the celebration of culture from clothes to language to faiths bringing the wonder of the world to life. Published by Lantana this book is available now.

Don’t Call Me Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre sees Unicorn ready for his biggest adventure yet in another wonderful adventure for our favourite one-horned friend. This time Unicorn and friends are travelling to space but trouble brews as they start to argue about where to go – only the most fabulous planet will do! A great fun story about having patience and appreciating your friends, Grumpycorn will definitely brighten your day! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt by Martha Mumford illustrated by Laura Hughes is a gorgeously illustrated pirate adventure full of treasure and tropical creatures. Young readers will love the lift-the-flap hunt for coins but will have to watch-out for leaping dolphins, colourful parrots, scary sharks and naughty monkeys who keep getting in the way! Lots of fun to be had on this pirate adventure with a suitably summery tropical setting. Published by Bloomsbury this book is available now.

Rex the Rhinoceros Beetle by M.G Leonard, illustrated by Duncan Beedie stars Rex, a little beetle with a big heart! Rex is astounded by his friend Buster’s heroic deeds. He wishes he could be brave like Buster. However, when Rex and Buster are in grave peril, it’s Rex who saves the day and proves who the real hero is! Charming, colourful and with a great message about being honest and brave, this bug-filled book is a celebration of beetles everywhere! Published by Scholastic this book is available now.

JULY

Now Wash Your Hands by Matt Carr is a timely message teaching children the important of washing their hands. Doris the Doctorpus is here to help! She’s going to help the animals to learn how to wash their hands and understand all about where germs can be found and when you need to wash them away. A fun, rhyming narrative and bold lively illustrations help get this important message across and there’s even a hand-washing song at the end to help. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July (A 50p contribution from every copy sold will be donated to NHS Charities Together Covid 19 Urgent Appeal)

Say Hello, Say Goodbye by Cori Doerrfeld firmly establishes this award-winning author as someone who can create emotional resonance and understanding through stories even for the youngest of readers! This lovely story focuses on the difficulty of change and how difficult moments can often lead to positive experiences. Whether it be leaving home to start school, having your snowman melt, facing the death of a pet or having a best friend move away, there will always be a way to get through – and friends to help. Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Found You by Devon Holzwarth is the most beautiful debut picture book about making friends. Little Bird is on a mission: to help lonely children make new friends. Sami has just moved to a new country and is finding it hard to fit in; everything is strange. But Little Bird knows just how to help and Sami quickly discovers there are friends everywhere when you know where to look. Strikingly illustrated, with muted colours that have real depth, this story is utterly charming and will resonate with all who read it. We can all remember a time when we had to make new friends; if only we’d had Little Bird to help us! Delightful. Coming soon from Scholastic 2nd July.

Happy Lion Roars by Louisa Fatio illustrated by Roger Duvoisin features classic character The Happy Lion in a wonderful romance. When a beautiful lioness comes to town with a visiting circus, The Happy Lion pays her a visit and it is love at first sight!  But how will they get to stay together?  It is The Happy Lion’s friend, little Francois, who saves the day again. Like it’s predecessor, this book is utterly enchanting and evokes a timeless world of romance and friendship. I hope we see more of the Happy Lion! Coming soon from Scallywag Press 2nd July.

Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival is a delightful story about Meehsa, a little girl who loves to make things but isn’t very good at making friends. She doesn’t know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that her creativity will help her to make friends and be more courageous than she imagined. A wonderful story about being brave, helping children understand the best way to make friends is to be yourself. Part of Tom Percvial’s Big Bright Feelings collection, this story will resonate with children of all ages. Coming soon from Bloomsbury 9th July.

AUGUST

That Dog written and illustrated by Emma Lazell features a crime caper with a dastardly dog napper and her rather inept accomplice who just can’t seem to dog-nap the right animal! A whole host of hilarious mistakes run through the narrative with a vibrant collection of all kinds of creatures leaping off the pages and a super clever detective dog. Highly enjoyable, this is one to read again and again with guaranteed laughs to be had. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

Scruff by Alice Bowsher continues the dog theme with a story about a very scruffy dog who doesn’t want to be scruffy! His owner could do with a bit of a spruce up too, so that’s just what they do. And their efforts are rewarded in the best way – at the Dog Show, but perhaps not quite as you’d imagine! Striking illustrations and use of colour bring this simple narrative tale to life and a smile to your face. Coming soon from Cicada Books in August.

The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle is the follow up to the award-winning author/illustrator’s The Green Giant and turns our the attentions from the natural world to our seas. Meera and her mother’s day at the beach is interrupted by a very unexpected creature, made of water and sea plants, who takes them on a journey under water. A very timely, beautifully told story, with a simple narrative highlighting a very important message – the seas need our help. A great story to share and show young children what they can do to help. Coming soon from Pavilion Books 6th August.

All in all a lovely selection of books to share with your young readers! With thanks to Bloomsbury, Cicada Books, Pavilion Books, Scallywag Press, Scholastic and Lantana Publishing for sending me these books to review.