Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture Book Review: Grandma Bird by Benji Davies

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Review: Grandma Bird by Benji Davies

Noi isn’t at all sure about spending summer at Grandma’s. She lives on a remote island and never has time to play. Then Noi finds a bird stranded at sea and gets caught up in the waves. Only Grandma Bird knows what to do. 

A stunning picture book about family and friendship. 

Adults are pushed for time. In the modern world, there is an increasing amount of pressure to be on the go from dawn until dusk, and the rise of technology has seen a decline in the concept of clocking off. Even when we’re at home, we might be expected to answer a phone call or an email. 

Children are competing with work, overtime, and technology for adult attention. While most children don’t have a Grandma who lives on a rock at sea, they will certainly relate to the themes of the story. Sometimes it must be hard not to feel ignored and unwanted. 

Grandma Bird teaches us, in a touching way, that people don’t have to be available 24/7 to have their loved ones’ backs. When Noi is in trouble, Grandma Bird is straight to the rescue. 

Iimg_6586-1 love Benji Davies’s work and have collected his picture books since The Storm Whale came out. There is something special about his remote and homely settings. They are books of adventure and shelter and family. I love the wide vistas, which are as likely to be populated with animals as people. The color-pallette is that of nature – soft greys and blues. 

There is a sense of security and love in his worlds. His protagonists are not afraid to venture away from home, but we know they are loved and looked out for. 

After the success of Davies’s first books, this will doubtless be on many Christmas lists. I can’t think of a better story to share as the nights are closing in.  

 

Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for my early copy of Grandma Bird. Opinions my own.

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Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

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Review: Peek And Seek by Charlotte Milner and Violet Peto

A flock of birds. A troop of monkeys. Peek under each flap to discover different animals, learn fun facts about their species and uncover a great big hide and seek game. With five different flaps and ten things to find in each spread, this book will keep young explorers happy for hours. 

I adore this book because it is a fact-file which is accessible to very young readers. Before we read paragraphs and sentences, before we even recognise letters, we have positive experiences with books. Hide-and-seek games are a wonderful way to share time with children. They are also brilliant for keeping kids entertained and they encourage children to be observant. Trusting that information is on the page, even if we can’t initially see it, is an important step to analytical-thinking. 

peekandseek2The short facts on each spread will encourage reading skills and help children to take an interest in wildlife. With more people than ever out of touch with nature, it is important that we use books and media to pass on our knowledge and vocabulary of the natural landscape. 

Peek And Seek is bold and colourful, with appealing illustrations. Each spread takes us straight into the landscape of the different species, from the snowy mountains where the wolves hunt to the burrows and tunnels beneath tree-roots where rabbits hide their food. There is lots to be learned from the illustrations alone: which other species can be found in a habit, what sort of home the animals keep and whereabouts in the world they might be found. The illustrations promote huge amounts of conversation which will teach children about the natural world. 

An attractive and engaging book which demands to be shared and enjoyed together. 

 

Many thanks to Antonia Wilkinson and Dorling Kindersley Limited for my copy of Peek And Seek. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Sing To The Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn

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Review: Sing To The Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn

Being indoors on a rainy day is boring. One little boy dreams of all the things he could be doing while the rain comes down and wishes on the moon for the rain to stop. Then he finds Jjajja – his grandfather. Together they play games and tell stories until a rainy day no longer looks like a miserable thing. 

A gentle, rhyming story which tackles something known to every small child – boredom. 

In a day and age when adults are always on the go, and children’s hours are filled for them, it is hardly surprising that they are afraid to stop. This beautiful picture book introduces the idea that time to entertain ourselves is one of the most precious and magical things we can experience. 

It is also a touching look at a relationship between a child and his grandfather. Grandparents often play an important part in a young child’s world and picture books about these relationships have been published before … but, most often, the protagonist is white. This story focuses on a grandfather who tells African myths. On a boy who climbs guava trees. Culture is about far more than skin-colour. Food and stories, music and landscape make up the things we associate with our families. It is tremendously important that children from all cultures are represented in book-corners and libraries. 

I love the illustrations and the whole book design – it shimmers and sparkles with the magic of Jjajja’s stories. I love the dark pages with patches of candle-light – they made me feel as if I was in the dark house, sitting around the table with the characters in the book. 

A reassuring and uplifting story which will help children change their approach to rainy days and boredom in general. 

 

Thanks to Lantana Publishing for my copy of Sing To The Moon. Opinions my own.

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books · poetry

Review: I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree – A Nature Poem For Every Day Of The Year

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I am the seed

that grew the tree

that gave the wood

to make the page

to fill the book

with poetry

(From Windsong by Judith Nicholls.) 

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This beautiful collection contains 366 nature poems – one for every day of the year. Every double-page spread is illustrated with pictures of nature.  This is beautifully designed and was clearly thought out with love for the subject.

img_7049The introductory letter explains how Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow publishers was gifted a volume of poetry as a child. Although she read and reread the book for years to come, the lack of illustrations meant that her initial reaction was not one of enthusiasm.  I Am The Seed … is designed to be attractive to the very youngest readers. Its illustrations are bright, bold and take up every single space. Gone are the terrifying pages of black and white. This is a book to pour over. To enjoy. To share.

The length of the poems, too, has clearly been considered. The inclusion of many short poems – some five or six lines long – and poems with short lines makes this collection perfect for newly confident readers.

I often wish I could recapture the magic of reading poems as a child. I didn’t know my modern poets from my Romantics. My haiku from my free verse. I read without discrimination and judged only on the sound. On the experience of reading and being read to. I Am The Seed… is designed to promote such an experience. There is nothing to tell the reader the date or origin of the poem. This allows the reader to pick their favourites free from ideas about what they ‘should’ enjoy.

To have 366 poems on one theme is special. Flick through the book and something special happens – you’re reading about animals and skies. The sea and the woodland and the stars. A picture of the world builds in the reader’s head. A picture which promotes love and respect for the natural world. The pictures add to this experience and it is possible to browse the book for illustration alone.

Whether you read one poem a day or pour through the anthology, this is bound to be a lovely experience. A beautiful anthology which will be treasured by those lucky enough to read it.

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy of I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Bear, The Piano, The Dog And The Fiddle by David Litchfield

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Hector plays his fiddle. Hugo the dog is one of his biggest fans. They have always been the best of friends. Now times aren’t so good and Hector has stopped making money from his music. He puts down his fiddle for good. 

When Hugo picks up the fiddle and gains a big following and joins a famous bad, Hector is jealous. At their parting, he says something he regrets. 

Will the two friends ever be united? 

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A poignant and beautiful picture-book about the lasting power of friendship. 

David Litchfield is a rare talent. His story is as touching and memorable as his illustrations. This isn’t a one-read picture book. It is a story which will stick in your mind. 

I loved the themes of friendship. Even the best of friends fall out and our actions are often motivated by our emotions. Elderly Hector has always wanted to play a famous concert hall but never achieved that success. Seeing his friend rise to fame brings back difficult feelings and Hector says something he regrets. This would be a lovely story for talking to children about how arguments start. Hector is not a bad person. He is a sad person. That understanding can help children to empathise with each other and to understand that, often, nobody is at fault. 

The moment of reconciliation is touching and special. 

img_7098The illustration is top-rate. Litchfield captures the atmosphere of a big city – how it can be both beautiful and ugly, crowded and lonely. I particularly love his use of light – light reflecting from damp pavements. Windows glowing and streetlights casting a narrow beam. I grew up in London and can think of no picture-book which has ever captured this quite so well. 

This is the kind of arty, beautiful book which I would gift to adults. It is also going to be a big hit with the target audience – expect it to become a real favourite and one which your children remember beyond childhood. 

 

Thanks to Quarto Books for my copy of The Bear, The Piano, The Dog And The Fiddle. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture Book Review: Once Upon A Raindrop – The Story Of Water by James Carter and Nomoco

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Review: Once Upon A Raindrop – The Story Of Water by James Carter and Nomoco

Our world is so wet. We need water to survive. Venture on a journey through the world of water. Where does water come from and how does it move around our planet? Those questions and more are answered in this beautiful and informative book. 

This book is both informative and poetic. It immerses the reader into the world of water through questions and language, then gently imparts information about the origins of water and the water cycle. Information books for younger readers have come a long way in recent years. There is suddenly an understanding that information needs to come in small bites and that it needs to be presented in interesting and attractive ways to hold the reader’s attention.

img_7100Once Upon A Raindrop is a masterpiece of design. Kazuko Nomoco has produced designs for numerous brands and clients including The Guardian, The Folio Society, Audi and Moschino. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find she had a background in communications – her designs remind me of the very best infographics. They grab your attention straight away and impart just enough information in one go. 

This is an information book for modern times. 

I love the minimalist colour-palette – different shades of blue and grey are occasionally broken with splashes of colour. The style is impressionistic, with very few lines. 

This would be suitable for children as young as four but would make a lovely gift for any child interested in geography or learning about the water cycle. It would also be a great book to use in art. It would inspire children to think outside the box about how they paint and draw water. 

 

Thanks to Caterpillar Books for my copy of Once Upon A Raindrop. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Moon by Hannah Pang and Thomas Hegbrook

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Review: The Moon by Hannah Pang and Thomas Hegbrook. 

For many years, man has looked up to the moon …

From artists to astronomers, poets to mathematicians to dreamers, the moon has been a source of inspiration and wonder to humankind. Myths have been told about the moon and songs written.

What is the moon and why does it continue to be a source of inspiration?

The Moon is special because it examines a topic from a multidisciplinary-perspective. Instead of being a science book or a history book or a collection of literature it looks at everything together.

img_7025I am a huge believer in this approach. It has always seemed strange to me how quickly children are taught to believe that one subject is more important than another, and concurrently that one subject is separate from another. All knowledge is interlinked and all communication starts with the human mind. The Moon shows how one subject has been approached, studied and communicated from different angles across the course of history.

It is also a beautiful and fascinating gift-book.

This doesn’t have to be read from start to finish, which can be a very attractive thing, especially for young readers. The Moon is the sort of book which will be dipped into. Poured over. I can imagine readers opening to any page and seeing where they land.

The illustrations and design are five-star.

The colour-pallette is drawn from the night sky – and I realise now how many colours we see in the evening. From the dark blues to inky blacks to ochre and pale yellow. This would make a lovely starting-point for anyone drawing pictures of the night sky. After asking children to use the colours they see at night, you could ask them to look at the pictures and ask what sort of colours are used.

I also love the number of people illustrated. The pictures remind us that this book is not just about the moon, it is about our relationship with an understanding of the moon. It is an anthology of human experience.

This would make a beautiful gift and will be high on my recommendations for Christmas 2018.

 

Thanks to Little Tiger Press for my copy of The Moon. Opinions my own.