Tag Archives: Picture books

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.

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.

BLOG TOUR: Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons

Llama Roundel 6Could there be better moment to publish a picture so full of fun and flamboyance as well as a really important message about acceptance? Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and illustrated by Garry Parsons published by Scholastic is a spectacular story that leaves you with a big smile on your face! 

Today is my stop on the non-stop Llama Glamarama Dance Party Blog Tour! I’m sharing a POOL PARTY playlist from author Simon James Green and participating in the Dance Party Challenge. This is Simon’s debut in children’s picture books and it’s safe to say he’s on to a winner!

Llama Glamarama-cover

I first heard this story at the Scholastic Children’s Book preview event, pre-lockdown and it’s safe to say, it was a huge hit. As Simon read the book aloud, illustrator Garry Parsons drew along and Larry the llama came to life before our eyes. By day,Larry is a very well-behaved llama like all his llama friends; but by night a secret dancing superstar. Larry runs away not wanting to admit the thing he loves most in the world and reveal his true self. But thankfully, he finds a place where he can really be himself, and not only that, it helps him feel brave enough to tell the truth!

It’s impossible not to feel good after reading this story and fall in love with Larry, as he discovers that actually, it’s ok to want to dance and in fact, taking pride in who you are will help you be truly happy! Llama Glamarama is a book to be enjoyed over and again and also one that can open the door to conversations about acceptance and being just who you are.

So here’s my Dance Party Challenge:

1. What’s your favourite dance move? The Twist – Pulp Fiction style!

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2. Favourite song to groove to? Pretty much any on this Dance Party Tour playlist!

3. Favourite song for a slow dance? A Rat Pack number

4. Ballet or hip-hop? Ballet (Noel Streatfeild anyone?!)

5. Jive or tango? Jive – I would LOVE to learn this dance

6. Flossing or flamenco? Flamenco (purely because of Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom!)

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And here’s Simon James Green’s POOL PARTY playlist!

“Maybe Llama Glamarama will be a massive hit, and I’ll buy a villa in Spain with a pool, and call it Casa de Larry. Until that time, these water-themed songs would equally work if you don’t have a pool, but just a tepid bath. Splash, splosh and enjoy!”

Purple RAIN – Prince

The TIDE is High – Blondie

The Day we Caught the Train – OCEAN Colour Scene

The RIVER of Dreams – Billy Joel

It’s RAINING Men – The Weathergirls

Here’s a link to the full ‘Llama Glamarama Dance Party Tour’ playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2ADCN4QeWgEcFosldR5nVv?si=Pp_Y6uQRSoKNmdjvN-GBvA. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour:

Llama Tour 1

With thanks to Scholastic for inviting me to take part  in this blog tour and sending me this book to review.

Bookchat: Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani

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Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani featured as part of my World Book Day Blog.  It is a simply stunning story using the migration of a beautiful swallow to illustrate the journey of a refugee.  The story depicts just how far refugees travel to get to safety, how long and dangerous the journey can be, and how the help and welcome of others is so needed. And of course highlights the wonder of nature and how incredible the migration of birds really is. Published by Lantana Publishing, Boundless Sky evokes real empathy and beautifully depicts the power of nature and kindness; it’s a story we can all learn from.

unnamedToday, I am sharing a Q & A with author Amanda Addison who shares some wonderful insights into the inspiration for the book and how stories can connect us all. Welcome to the blog Amanda!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Boundless SkyThe natural world and travel are both inspirations for my writing and painting. Boundless Sky was inspired by several things coming together to form the seed of an idea about bird migration. Mark Cocker, (co-author of Birds Britannica) lives in a neighbouring village. When I read Crow Country there were so many amazing facts about bird migration that it sowed the seed of an idea to use bird migration in fiction. My first exploration of the idea was in connection with nomadic peoples and yurts in my textile-inspired novel, Laura’s Handmade Life.

Then I was asked to make a piece of artwork for a Bird themed exhibition – birds and migration was circling around in my head! If I had a super power it would be to be able to fly. And that was my ‘light bulb’ moment of telling the story of a migrating swallow from its own Bird’s eye view of the children it meets en-route. I have wanted to write about the refugee crisis in an empathetic way and so the story links the amazing migration of the swallow (something we are familiar with) with an understanding of the lengthy journeys many people fleeing conflict, climate change etc have to make to survive and thrive. Journeys are made to survive and thrive. Bird’s journey can be seen as a metaphor for coming together under the same boundless sky.

However, there is still work to be done in extending people’s intellectual and emotional empathy around this issue. Leila offers Bird the life-giving water it needs to continue its journey when the adults don’t notice. This is my favourite spread as children often notice what is really important.

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My hope is that Boundless Sky will be part of that change and help us to understood migration on both an intellectual and emotion level.

What research did you carry out to inform the story? I returned to some of the bird facts in various books which inspired me to write about bird migration in the first place. I also read accounts of swallow migrations. There were some amazing facts which I couldn’t fit directly into this story, such as how in the past people really didn’t believe it was possible for a bird so small to migrate and so they believed that they hibernated underground! However, I used this belief to inform the beginning of the story:

“Nobody knew,

nobody dreamed,

nobody even considered the possibility

that a bird which fits in your hand

might fly halfway round the world –

and back again.”

How did you work with the illustrator to bring your words to life? When Alice from Lantana suggested Manuela Adreani, I thought her work was a very good fit as she uses bold compositions with a tender use of colour and tone which would be just right. The final images are gorgeous and stylish! I love the echoing of flight shapes, wings, kites, butterflies, hands etc. What I particularly like about the pictures is the way you can look at them again and again and get something more out of them.

We had a few discussions to clarify some things in the text. But in the end (as I used to work as an illustrator and did my first degree in illustration at Chelsea School of Art) I wanted to trust Manuela and give her the freedom to come up with something beyond my own imagination. The best illustrators complement a story and bring an extra dimension to it.  Also, Manuela and I are indebted to the book’s designer the book designer made beautiful use of complementary colours with orange type and spine against turquoise background.

Home has a particularly poignant meaning in these difficult times – what do you think your story can teach people about this today? When I wrote Boundless Sky, I never dreamed that the book’s message of resilience, interconnectedness and helping each other would be so important, in such a different context. In fact, one reviewer said the book is for 5-89 years! as it’s a heart-warming story for us all. As home becomes smaller for us during social isolation, our sense of place and connection with others becomes more important.

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Stories can allow us to be mental travellers, allow us to explore places from our past, our imagination and inter connectedness with the whole world. Times are tough, but as with bird’s journey we are reminded that the world is truly interconnected and we must support each other to enlarge our common humanity. Stories of tenderness, kindness and connection can help us come through this pandemic with our humanity intact.

Finally, can you share what new projects you are working on? I am working on more stories on the theme of home and away for both adults and children. It is difficult to focus at the moment on new ideas, but I am finding it a perfect time to re-write my drafts-in-progress and this is a comfort of sorts. The conservatory, my usual studio space isn’t working out with everyone at home so I have turned part of my greenhouse into an art studio and will be painting from nature!

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Find out more at www.amandaaddison.com.You can download resources for Boundless Sky and watch Amanda read the story aloud here.

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review and to Amanda Addison for participating in this bookchat!