Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup.

Review: Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup.

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Sometimes a crack grows between people. Maybe it began with a mean word, or anger, or a selfish gesture. It doesn’t matter. The point is, sometimes in life we experience damaged relationships. It can be difficult to know how to go forward. 

Kindness Grows uses metaphors – the crack caused by unkind actions and a tree that grows and flourishes when it is nurtured with kindness – to consider and compare the effect our actions can have on our relationships with other people. It uses double-page spreads to compare the crack on the left-hand page with the tree on the right. The basic principle is that healing begins with a kind action. 

With cutaway details and striking illustrations, this would be a lovely book to introduce readers to the concept that actions have consequences and that our relationships with other people depend on thinking about the way our behaviour might make them feel. 

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This book offers a very visual way to approach conversations about hurt and making up. Sometimes it can be hard to understand why another person is upset with us, and getting back to the root of our words and actions can help us to empathise with how they might be feeling. The same pattern which creates the crack on the left-hand pages becomes a tree trunk on the right. This offers a lovely way to help younger people think about hurt. They might begin by asking questions such as ‘is there a crack?’ ‘how did it appear?’ and ‘how do I turn it into something beautiful again?’  

The book looks at different scenarios, from refusing to play together to not working as a team and offers possible solutions on the right-hand side. It also touches on the possibility of a crack that can’t be mended – this would make an interesting discussion about how we can be certain of our own kindness and redirect it towards other parts of our life. 

A lovely book to help in those moments when we can’t figure out how a divide has grown between ourselves and another person. Remembering that kindness is the way forward is a beautiful place to start. 

 

 Thanks to Little Tiger Press for my copy of Kindness Grows. Opinions my own. 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture books: 4 books about Friendship and Harmony (March 2019)

Picture books: 4 books about Friendship and Harmony (March 2019)

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Lubna And Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus.

When Lubna arrives in the camp a long way from home, she finds the pebble. She draws a face on it, and it becomes her friend through all the time she spends in the tent. Pebble listens to her stories about home and the war. She befriends a little boy called Amir who is very unhappy when it is time to say goodbye. Perhaps Pebble could keep him company too?

A story about the power of friendship in desperate circumstances. 

As Lubna talks to Pebble, letting out all the bad memories of the war-torn country she has fled, we realise that Pebble listens without judgement and is reliably there. These are lessons we can take into our lives even though Pebble is not a human being. 

Lubna puts Amir first when it is time to leave and sees what he needs. There are so positive messages about friendship in this story, and it allows us a small insight into the emotional side of displacement. 

This story only uses the word war once. It is implied that Lubna has lost or become separated from her brothers. Younger readers will only understand as much about her situation as they already know. This would be a lovely story for readers who are just starting to question why terrible things happen, but still need some distance from the horrific details of war.

The illustrations are extraordinary, making much of the tents and arms and sleeping-bags where Lubna finds shelter. In other pictures, we see open grey skies and endless lines of washing. There is a sense that she is lost in the big world and searching for a safe place all at the same time. 

A special book which reminds us that a good friend can make the world feel that tiny bit safer. 

 

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Cyril The Lonely Cloud by Tim Hopgood

It’s a bright and lovely day, the perfect day for a picnic, until Cyril the lonely cloud shows up. Everybody agrees he is a bore and a spoilsport and that things are just plain gloomier with him around. 

Cyril drifts away, floating for miles and miles until he comes to a baking hot land. The animals and people are so pleased to see him, to feel his raindrops and to see the rainbow he casts with the help of the sun. 

A beautiful story about perspective and kindness. Sometimes an apparently gloomy person is just a happy person in need of encouragement. 

We’re not all social butterflies. It is daunting and depressing to constantly be the one who fails to get a laugh at parties. Whose words stumble out in the wrong order. Whose lengthy stories bore others to tears. I saw Cyril as the person who has so much to give and share, who struggles to show that in social situations. This would be a beautiful book to promote inclusion. We all have different strengths and difficulties, and being that bit kinder can bring out the best in other people. 

The story also showed how behaviour isn’t about one person in isolation. We all bounce off each other. When managing our own behaviour, we should think about what kind of climate will encourage others to manage their own. When Cyril is welcomed instead of shunned, he shows his dazzling colours. 

The landscapes in this book remind me of Madeline. We first look side to side, then at all the details crowded into the background. The pictures use an uplifting range of colours and the textures in the backgrounds would be brilliant for inspiring pastel drawings. 

It is impossible not to love Cyril and I adore this uplifting book about empathy and kindness. 

 

 

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This Love by Isabel Otter and Harriet Lynas.

Love doesn’t need words. It is a special language which is understood by all. 

Do you nestle down with a parent or guardian? Share a quiet moment of reflection? Do you have an animal who stays by your side? Has your grandparent taught you a new skill? Love takes many shapes and forms but we all know it when it hits us. 

Love is worldwide and this beautiful picture book takes us in a tour of different loving moments. 

With the news featuring ever more division, it can feel at times as if the world is drifting further apart. This story reminds us of what we have in common and it is also a celebration of those special moments we share with family, friends and companions. 

I was delighted to see bonds with other animals recognised and celebrated. Empathy and love should go beyond our own species and learning to communicate with other animals (and trust me, you learn so many of their signals and gestures) is a precious experience. 

This would also be a lovely book to look at for early geography. Different landscapes and buildings, plants and animal life are shown on this tour of love around the world. 

The illustrations are bright and accessible and I love the many patterns which are used to show different plants and clothes and weather. 

A book which allows us to talk about different types of love: the love we share we our close ones, and the love and harmony we might feel with human beings around the world. A precious and beautiful message. 

 

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Rhino Neil by Mini Goss

Rhino Neil lives in a safari zoo with lots of other animals. The other animals are afraid of him. Everything from his horn to his feet to his huge tummy scares them away, so Rhino Neil is lonely. Then one day an even bigger animal arrives. Elephant Tuscany and Rhino Neil strike up a friendship and are able to keep each other company. 

A story about social exclusion, friendship and the ability to see past our differences.

The reader is rooting for Rhino Neil all the way along. He has never done anything wrong, exactly, but still the other animals are afraid of him. Maybe the reader can think of someone like that in real life. Someone taller or louder or bossier or just plain not like everyone else. The animals who are unable to see past these differences lose out on the friendship of two perfectly kind animals. 

The close-up animal pictures will be a hit with anyone who has ever watched funny animal videos. For all the zebras are shrieking in terror, they look a bit ridiculous and this will gain lots of laughs. 

A wonderful story which allows the reader to question how they treat their peers. 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press, Little Tiger Press and New Frontier Publishing for gifting the books in this feature. Opinions remain my own.

 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue! by Sally Doran and Rachel Saunders

Review: Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue! by Sally Doran and Rachel Saunders

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The King and Queen are very proud of the way they have brought up Princess Hannah. She’s polite and neat, and kind to all her friends. They decide to reward her on her birthday with the special gift of a cake machine. When Princess Hannah refuses to share the puddings which come out, the machine brings out a very special surprise …

A delightful story about the virtues of sharing. 

Princess Hannah, like many children, is good and kind. That doesn’t make her perfect. It was lovely to see the main character in a story about sharing who is basically a nice person. The spoiled-brat stereotype is misleading because the world isn’t divided into good and bad. Good people have moments which they are less than proud of. What matters is how they come back. Princess Hannah throws an almighty tantrum, but she picks herself up and makes a good choice. 

img_8359The machine itself is a thing of delight. Readers will love the illustrations of chocolate eclairs, and jellies and caramel drizzle, and most of all the great big meringue that pops out when Princess Hannah is ready to share. This would be a lovely story to read ahead of a trip to the bakery or another sweet treat. 

I love how the illustrations manage to be pink and sparkly without overkill. There are plenty of contrasting colours and the light shades against a white background prevents them from becoming sickly-sweet. 

This would be a lovely princess book to share with all children, and a brilliant book to encourage sharing and kindness.

 

Louise Nettleton

Thanks to Andersen Press for my gifted copy. Opinions my own. 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Kiss by Linda Sunderland and Jessica Courtney-Tickle

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Review: The Kiss by Linda Sunderland and Jessica Courtney-Tickle

When Edwyn blows Grandma a kiss, she spreads the love and fills other people with joy. A rich man hears about this and decides he wants the kiss for himself. When Grandma won’t give it up, the man steals the kiss. A charming fairytale about the power of kindness and love.

Some books just sparkle with magic. This story spreads warmth and smiles which will make the world a brighter place.

Sometimes we are angry. Or upset. Sometimes we say or do miserable things. Grandma spreads warmth to people who maybe others would condemn. That’s one of the special things about this story. Instead of showing people as just plain nasty it goes deeper.  Maybe they need a little warmth and affection. Grandma spreads that love. I love the idea that this begins with the kiss from her grandchild. Grandma is feeling loved and cherished so she is able to empathise with others and spread kindness.

The story promotes loves over greed. Love over condemnation. Love over hate.

The illustrations have the same magic. I adore the use of brush strokes and patterns to make the background. Many of the pictures show trees and flowers, grass and rainwater and foliage. The effect is like taking a walk through a beautiful meadow. The skies remind me of the time between dawn and the start of the day. Between dusk and night. Lanterns and stars and the kiss itself brighten the darkest of scenes. 

I would recommend this as a bedtime story or to anyone who loves fairytales. It would also be a great book to promote discussion about kindness and empathy. A big hit. 

 

Thanks to Little Tiger UK for my copy of The Kiss. Opinions my own.