Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: What Will You Dream Of Tonight? by Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz.

Review: What Will You Dream Of Tonight? by Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz.

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One little girl flies in a hot air balloon and floats downriver and rides on the back of a polar bear beneath the Arctic Lights. Tuck up in bed. Close your eyes. Anything is possible, anything at all, inside your dreams. 

This book is a lullaby, but inside of focusing solely on encouraging the reader to sleep it is filled with positive messages about living an active life and believing that anything is possible. In a world filled with uncertainty and chaos, it is helpful to remember that there is one place that belongs entirely to us. Good dreams make us stronger and braver during waking hours. 

Each double-page spread is accompanied by a single stanza. Most lines describe the world’s wonders, from cresting waves to stars and waterfalls, but occasionally this is broken up with empowering statements and questions that are echoed in the end: 

You are safe.

You are lovely. 

You are loved. 

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Books offer young people a space to feel safe. The world can be confusing even at the best of times and rhymes like this mean that readers can always find a kind and reassuring place to escape to for a little while. 

The illustrations magic up a strong sense of adventure. My favourite page is definitely the Polar Bear, which is reminiscent of Lyra from Northern Lights but there are so many pictures that could be used as story or conversation starters. Best of all, they capture that sense of wonder that can only be found in childhood. Those times where a young person is so deep in a story or game that they lose all sense of the world around them. Muted blues and purples, and silhouetted details, support the idea that everything is happening within a dream. 

Children, especially young children, spend about half their lives asleep. Reminding them that sleep is a magical and adventurous place is important and this rhyme is not only reassuring but also empowering. A fabulous text with beautiful illustrations. 

 

Thanks to  Nosy Crow for my copy of What Will You Dream Of Tonight? Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Moon River by Tim Hopgood. [Based on the song by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini].

Review: Moon River by Tim Hopgood. [Based on the song by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini].

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Moon  River, wider than a mile,  I’m crossing you in style, someday.

Good song lyrics draw in the listener. They raise questions and images in our mind. Where is this river? Who is this dreamer and will he or she ever cross the river? Why can’t they do so now?

Moon River was written for the score of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and won an Oscar for best original song in 1961, although possibly the best-known version is sung by Andy Williams. This will be familiar to anyone, like me, whose grandparents came of age and were in their 20s during an era jazz music and rock and roll.

Tim Hopgood’s picture book interprets the song as a dreamy lullaby. It is a gentle tune about big dreams and journeys and taking in the magic of life along the way. The images of the moon on the river and the rainbow’s end lend themselves beautifully to Hopgood’s interpretation. This is the perfect book to read before bedtime.

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It follows a girl whose toys come to life and take her down the river. Teddy and Horse navigate their course while pointing out the beautiful scenery. I love particularly how this focuses on details – the light on the water and the other boats ahead. It is important to appreciate the small moments of beauty in the world.

An accompanying CD includes both the Andy Williams version of the song and a guided read-along track. This would be a lovely activity to share with a young reader and the perfect way to wind down for bed. It might also give huge amounts of pleasure to elderly people with dementia who were young when the song was released.

Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are soft and colourful, with lots of attention given to the light and water and the drifting clouds.

A dreamy story, and a beautiful interpretation of the original lyrics.

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my gifted copy of Moon River. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

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I am the small green pea  you are the tender pod. Hold me. 

A little green boat sets out on the high seas. On board are a mother, a child, a baby and a dog. They put up their sails and entrust their care to the rain and the wind. They sail through dark nights and past frozen landscapes until they find a place of shelter.

On one level this is a lullaby. Simple, beautiful words to whisper to a small child. 

On another, it is a story about a young family who climbs into a boat and sails until they find land. 

On a third level, it is a story of humanity. The family leaves a place of barbed wire and darkness and throughout their journey, they have faith that someone, somewhere will welcome them with open arms. It is the story of the world at present, where people are so afraid for their lives that they put their trust in any vessel which will float. That they seek asylum in a world which is increasingly hostile to the displaced. 

I love how the story works on different levels. This is very important in fiction for small children, who may not be ready to face the toughest questions and themes. The way Pea Pod Lullaby is written allows them to give the story as much meaning as they understand. The darkness and terror is represented only by a simple fence which might have been put there to guard the cliff. If readers are not ready to talk about war zones, they will not give it that understanding. 

What they will gain, subconsciously or otherwise, is a message about being welcoming. About tolerance. An appreciation of the great journeys people will undergo to find shelter for their loved ones. 

Glenda Millard’s words are perfection. Not a single word is wasted and she captures the responsibility we all have for people who put their lives in our hands. 

The illustrations are beautiful too. At times it feels as if they have been created by a single brush washed over a page. The gentle strokes and colour-wash palettes fit with the whispered tones of the rhyme. 

Pea Pod Lullaby won a Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2018. This is a major award in Australia and marks the importance and achievement of this book. It would be a lovely addition to any bookshelf, and a lovely text to promote tolerance and respect. 

 

Thank you to Old Barn Books for my gifted copy of Pea Pod Lullaby. Opinions my own.