Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Moosic Makers by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos.

Review: The Moosic Makers by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos.

The Moosic Makers by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos

Nutmeg and Celery love making Moo-grass music. Farmer Joni loves their music too, even though she would like them to include the sheep and donkey and other animals once in a while. But Moo-sic is a cow thing. When the barn roof is damaged, a bit of moo-sic seems the perfect way to raise some money for the farm. 

Spotting Nutmeg and Celery’s potential, a music producer comes along and insists they switch their sound to dis-cow. Will the new sound give Nutmeg and Celery everything they have ever dreamed of, or will they need to rethink their plan?

A witty story about friendship, sticking to your roots and hogging the spotlight. 

Nutmeg and Celery begin with confidence in their own sound. Country music is the obvious choice for a pair of cows and the duo has an established audience. Their plan is to raise enough money for the barn roof and to carry on as normal. Their encounter with a music producer may raise more money, but the barn roof doesn’t appear to be his priority. 

This story offered an entertaining range of cow puns and wordplay. Moo-sic, Discow (that’s disco to us humans) and mootiny spring to mind. It would be a lovely book to encourage wordplay and introduces a range of animal sounds to young readers. 

Themes of sharing and taking turns are explored. Other animals have big ideas about how to raise money for the barn and how the farmyard should sound, but it always comes back to Nutmeg and Celery. Learning to put ideas together and reach an agreed outcome is a big skill and this would be a lovely book to read ahead of group work or a shared project. 

A fun, friendly story where there is as much enjoyment in the language as there is in the story. A picture book which is especially suited to a young audience. 

 

Thanks to Maverick Arts Publishing for my copy of The Moosic Makers. Opinions my own.

Advertisements
Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: No Longer Alone by Joseph Coelho and Robyn Wilson-Owen.

Review: No Longer Alone by Joseph Coelho and Robyn Wilson-Owen.

No Longer Alone

The young protagonist of this story is used to being spoken about. People say how quiet she is. And shy. How she doesn’t like to run about. Everyone gets it wrong. Sometimes it is easier to talk and talk when nobody else is listening and to run riot through the landscapes of her imagination. People don’t understand that the other things are what she did before. 

Before she felt alone. 

Together with her Dad and her little sisters, the young girl in this story explores her feelings and emotions, and bit by bit they start to heal. To find a new normal. Nothing will ever replace the loved one they have lost, but together they start to feel less alone. 

A beautiful book which explores the thoughts and feelings of a grieving child. 

The extraordinary thing about this story is how it shows grief through things which are apparently normal. That is what happens when we lose people we love. We have to act out the old things, the things we did before, and it can feel frustrating and hurtful that the everyday itinerary has changed so very little when everything has changed so much. How can it be possible to get up without that special person to say good morning? Many picture books about grief show the huge, the overwhelming, but No Longer Alone captures that unfairness and wonder of life going on. 

First, our protagonist finds it impossible. She has been left alone and however normal and quiet she looks, there’s a whole world going on inside her head. Then she talks and talks with her family, and together they manage to feel together again. 

This is a story about a child who has lost a parent, although the relations aren’t made clear until the end. This is a clever way of examining feelings of grief which might be universal. It also encourages readers to empathise and question what might be going on. When I was a child, stories about grief were pretty much labeled on the front. They were rarely read to children who weren’t going through it at the time. This encouraged a generation to think of grief as something which belonged in a neat box. Beautiful books like No Longer Alone encourage everyone to know and recognise and empathise with those emotions. 

Certain images have become stock pictures for grief – calm landscapes, pale flowers, and the tide far out from the beach. No Longer Alone turns this on its head. There may be landscapes and oceans but they are brimming with all the energy of a young child’s imagination. There are different types of noise, as the girl in this story is well aware, and it is only when she opens up about her feelings that things become truly still. 

A beautiful, poetic look at grief which has taken the time to imagine and reflect the real experience. This book will encourage readers to empathise with those who are grieving and to go deeper than how things appear on the surface. 

 

Thanks to Egmont Publishing for my copy of No Longer Alone. Opinions my own. 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Billy And The Dragon by Nadia Shireen.

Review: Billy And The Dragon by Nadia Shireen.

Billy And The Dragon

It’s party time! Billy and Fatcat are back, and this time they’re off to a fancy dress party. Fatcat isn’t keen on the dressing up part but is persuaded to put on a dragon suit. Everything is going well until a real dragon swoops down and seizes Fatcat. 

Billy and her friends set out on a rescue mission. They fly up to the top of tall trees, climb mountains and befriend fluffy white rabbits on their quest to see Fatcat safely home. Is it possible he will be OK? Will this all end in a slice of birthday cake?

Another delightful story about Billy And Fatcat from the author of Billy And The Beast. 

Resourceful, adventurous Billy and her grouchy (but adorable) sidekick Fatcat may be my new favourite picture book duo. Certainly, these stories have all the ingredients of memorable picture books. They have strong plots, a fearless main character, and happy endings which don’t feel in any way like a cheat or a letdown. They understand – like The Gruffalo, like Peter Rabbit, that young readers have a higher tolerance for peril than many adults realise. 

Fatcat too is a gem. His disgruntled expression is somewhat reassuring. Small children know well that nursery rhymes and unicorns and jelly and ice-cream can get plain annoying. Tantrums and frustration and rejecting perfectly good things are all part of a stable early childhood and we need more disgruntled characters in their literature. 

Wonderful skies in pink, orange, purple, red and blue add a hint of darkness without being too scary. The quest is broken with moments of light relief too, like Billy’s colourful bunch of balloons and the random chat with a fluffy bunny rabbit. The gang of adorable woodland creatures, too, add humour. Whoever heard of noble knights who looked so cute? 

Billy is a fantastic heroine who represents many young girls. She is bright, resourceful and loyal to her friends. I would recommend her in a second to anyone looking to balance out the princesses with young heroines. It is so important for girls to have strong role models. 

Another hit from Nadia Shireen. I hope Billy and Fatcat will be back for further adventures and I look forward to cheering them on. 

 

Thanks to Penguin Books UK for my copy of Billy And The Dragon. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Small World by Ishta Mercurio and Jen Corace.

Review: Small World by Ishta Mercurio and Jen Corace.

small world 1

When Nanda was born, and she was wrapped in a bundle, the world was safe, small and warm. Over the years her world grew bigger and bigger, from the family dinner table to the playground to riding the roller-coasters at the theme-park. She went to college away from home, and her world grew bigger again as she learned about science and engineering. 

Finally, her dream came true and she set off into space. Her world became a rocket. A helmet. A small blue jewel in a dark galaxy. 

A beautiful story which turns the enormity of space travel on its head and celebrates the achievements of every individual who has ever made a contribution to space science. 

small world 2Small World is one of my favourite titles in the run of books published ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landings. Its jewel-bright colours and geometric patterns make a change from page after page of stars and planets, and it adds a very human touch to a STEM subject. It also shows how an interest in engineering can begin with the smallest of steps. An interest in building blocks, constant observations and measuring the world in patterns and shapes. The best way to encourage interest in a subject is to show that learning begins with very achievable steps. 

Nanda was once a little girl who sat on somebody’s knee at the family table. Who tumbled down the slide, and played in her bedroom. Who went out with her friends as a teenager. Who studied hard enough to get on to a top science course. Understanding what it takes to be an astronaught will encourage readers to aspire to big things.

The illustrations turn the world into a kaleidoscope of colour and pattern, and I would love to imitate this style with watercolours or glass paint. This would be a beautiful book for encouraging artwork and think about how we observe shapes nature. 

A gentle and richly illustrated story which explores the human face of space science. A lovely book to read around the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landings. 

 

Thanks to Abrams Kids for my copy of Small World. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer

Review: Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer

Lula And The Sea Monster

Lula loves her home by the beach, but she won’t be living there much longer. Soon her family will be forced to leave and the beach will be covered over to make way for for a new highway. One morning, Lula makes friends with a little creature named Bean. To her surprise, Bean gobbles up the food Lula brings. He grows and he grows and he grows until he’s bigger than Lula’s house.

When the demolition trucks come, Bean is ready to face them with is tentacles and he chases them away. 

A delightful story about good hearts winning out over greed, with strong messages about protecting our seashore. 

Stories about children in need of help offering food to an angel in disguise are old as time, but this one feels up to date and perfect for our times. Overdevelopment is a major problem, especially the kind which is motivated by money. Lula’s appreciation for her seaside home comes strongly across and will encourage readers to look out for their wild spaces. 

Bean’s name is perfect because he grows and he grows and he grows. Looking at him when he is a full-sized sea monster made me smile because we know that really he started out as just a little blob. This is a perfect metaphor for the first person to speak out and gather support against a cause. 

I especially loved the double-page spreads which focused on Lula and Bean. From little Bean wrapped around Lula’s fingers to their shared picnics and finally Bean’s ginormous eyes peeping out of the water, the progression made this book a real joy. 

 The perfect story to give hope to even the smallest of heroes, and a lovely book about friendship and kindness. 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my copy of Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson and Kate Hindley.

Review: The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson and Kate Hindley.

The Same But Different Too

I am me, and you are you. We are the same, but different too. 

A rolling, rollicking rhyme explores similarities and differences between one being and another. Personality, size, abilities and emotions are all included so that this book gets readers thinking about what defines us as people. Opposites such as ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are also explored in spreads so beautiful they would make wonderful posters.

‘All About Me’ is a favourite subject with younger children (both in school settings and at home), but sometimes it is handled in a heavy-handed way. The difficulty is helping readers identify traits without reducing diversity down to a list of options. Anyone remember, as a kid, searching for their eye-colour in an All About Me book and feeling disappointed that bluey-green with flecks of amber was missing? Right here. How very much worse if that is your ethnicity or your gender identity or your home. The Same But Different Too resists posing Are you this or are you that? questions. Instead, the rhyme opens a new curiosity about everything from height and age to the way we like to drink. 

A wide cast of children and animal friends demonstrate the opposites and traits.

The wide-eyed animals are full of life and humour comes from exaggerated differences. A calm llama turns grouchy and drags a little boy along, while an elephant sticks his trunk into a human cup. The pictures fit the text but seeing these things in life would be wildly funny, and that sense of right but odd provokes giggles. There is a sense that both author and illustrator know what will amuse their young audience well. Bold, colour block backgrounds give this a playful feel. 

A first look at similarities and differences which encourages readers to look around them and feel confident to be themselves. Bright and funny and possible to read over and over, this is a brilliant approach to a familiar theme. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow LTD for my gifted copy of The Same But Different Too. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Only Way Is Badger by Stella J Jones and Carmen Saldaña.

Review: The Only Way Is Badger by Stella J Jones and Carmen Saldaña.

img_9569

One day, signs appear all over the wood with slogans like Badgers Are Best and The Only Way Is Badger. The woodland animals listen to Badger himself, who is so convincing that everyone thinks he must be right. He begins a series of lessons, teaching the animals how to be more badger, and slowly evicts those animals who don’t make the grade. 

Soon only skunk and raccoon are left, and they’re not so certain they want to stay in Badger’s domain. As badger paints the forest into a miserable black and white, everyone else enjoys the colour and diversity on the other side. 

Badger is left to apologise. Who wants everyone to be the same when they could have friends?

Nobody can miss the significance of this text to current political issues. With politicians hashing out different ideas about who belongs in which country, with far-right groups certain that shutting the doors will open up a wealth of opportunities for everyone else, it is more important than ever that we discuss the language and mechanics of hate.

How much of what Badger says is fair? Why did the other animals follow along for so long? What were they expecting at the end? Why did Badger claim to be helping the other animals even as he was preparing to shut them out? This story opens up a wealth of questions which enable conversations about hate and prejudice to happen in the safe sphere of a fictional forest. 

The story offers a stark choice – a beautiful world, a world or a world dictated by narrow ideas. 

This could also be used to discuss echo-chambers and online communication. What is the line between fair expression and hate? Has social media made us less open to other opinions?  It would be great fun to write Badger-style messages, stick them on the wall, and then walk around offering responses to other people. How should we then engage with those responses? Badger’s messages all over the trees, in his perfect forest, would make a brilliant prompt for conversation. 

The illustrations perfectly capture the contrast between a diverse world, bright with colour, or one in which the majority of animals are shouted down by a dictator. The humour in the early part of the book, with the animals trying desperately to do things they aren’t made to do, isn’t so funny at all when the message comes through. The pictures perfectly get the balance between allowing small readers a smile and showing the difficulty caused to the other animals. 

 Although this story ends happily ever after, it leaves us with any number of things to think about. This text is so much of our time and should be known far and wide as a book which promotes diversity and tolerance.  

 

Thanks to Little Tiger Press for my gifted copy of The Only Way Is Badger. Opinions my own.