Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison & Manuela Adreani.

Review: Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison & Manuela Adreani.

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Bird sets off from Alfie’s garden, and flies over the fields. The children wave and smile, knowing that Bird will be back in the spring. 

Bird flies over the blue sea and over the mountains, and eventually she comes to the dessert where Leila gives her a drink of water. 

Following a Summer in Africa, bird sets off to repeat the journey in the opposite direction, but when she reaches the dessert, Leila is nowhere to be seen. It seems that bird is not the only one making a migration. 

A sensitive and beautiful story that reminds us to care for those on the move.

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The story builds up slowly, with beautiful pictures that allow the reader to fall in love with bird. Just like the children who wave and smile in the early pictures, we want bird to reach her destination safe and sound. Meeting Leila in her original home is a simple yet brilliant touch. It reminds readers of Leila’s humanity. She has a home and it wasn’t always troubled. Given the things children might have heard about displaced people, it is vital that they understand that nobody is defined solely as a migrant or a refugee. 

When we learn that Leila is missing, the illustrations give us cause for concern. Why is that home turned over? Where has everybody gone? This story builds empathy in subtle ways long before it shows Leila’s own journey across the sea. 

This book might help children who have been in Leila’s situation to think about their own journey. It is also especially good at helping other readers to empathise with Leila. To show concern and care. To agree that they would welcome Leila, as they welcome Bird, as their neighbour. The final line of the book, welcome everyone, summarises its themes. 

The illustrations are drawn against a background of wide open sky. The skies set the tone of each page, from the gentle autumn breezes at the start to the terrible storms at sea. This would be a lovely book to use for thinking about how weather can be used to convey tone in a picture or a story. 

It is impossible not to be moved by this gentle picture book. A true read for empathy that needs to be read far and wide. 

 

Thanks to Lantana Publishing for my copy. Opinions my own.

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Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Nordic Tales (various authors and translators). Illustrated by Ulla Thynell.

Review: Nordic Tales (various authors and translators). Illustrated by Ulla Thynell.

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Princesses and enchanters and giants. Dragons and polar bears and hags. Enter a world of icy magic with this beautiful anthology of traditional Nordic Tales. 

This collection contains 17 stories, each with a full-page illustration by Ulla Thynell. Her artwork is so beautiful and atmospheric that just looking at them brings an imaginary breeze into the room. They conjure up a world carpeted in white snow, where anything and everything could be waiting beyond the window. Although there are no further illustrations or decorative borders within the text, the pictures are so rich and detailed that they set the scene and draw the reader into the story. 

Tales include East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, The Forest Bride and The Magician’s Pupil. They are categorised by events, so those which contain stories of transformation are together. The three categories are Transformation, Wit and Journeys. This was interesting as a writer because it allowed me to see similarities between stories in each category.

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The stories come from different sources and were rewritten by various translators. A section at the back explains their origin, and credits all involved. 

I was interested in this title because of my love of folklore. I grew up on my Dad’s collection of folk-rock, which led me, in turn, to seek out folk stories as a teenager. The books I found were primarily British or Celtic, although I also read some Greek mythology. It was later that I started to look wider, and discovered stories from so many other places. 

Anthologies like this are magical. The beautiful pictures make the dark nights seem bearable, and possibly even a bit special. Reading this every evening made me want to curl up in front of a log fire and sink deeper into the words. The perfect present for a winter celebration, or the perfect treat to ease yourself into the cold weather. 

 

Thanks to Chronicle Books for my copy of Nordic Tales. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies by James Olstein.

Review: Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies by James Olstein.

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Brains, bones, and bogies. Our bodies are brilliant and there is so much we don’t know about ourselves. 

Did you know that your teeth are as hard as a shark’s? That the muscles in your oesophagus could push food into your stomach even if you were hanging upside down? Did you know that stomach acid is powerful enough to dissolve metal? Between the trivia and the fantastic illustrations, this is the kind of book which hooks the reader and keeps them flicking. 

The genius of this is some of the facts would be covered by a standard biology lesson, while others would probably be classed as trivia. Once hooked, the reader doesn’t care which is which and will absorb information without question. 

The books in this series are a lovely size, perfect for slipping into a backpack or holding with smaller hands. 

I have reviewed a book in this series before and was impressed with the retro-style illustrations and limited colour palette. The energy and humour keep the book right up to date, and the overall effect is striking. This is the sort of book which adults want to buy for children just because of the design. It would also appeal to a broad age-range because it is impossible to resist picking the book up. 

A great addition to a series which makes scientific facts fun. 

 

Thanks to Pavilion Books and Catherine Ward PR for my gifted copy of Odd Science – Brilliant Bodies. Opinions my own. 

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith

Review: The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith

img_7584Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves … and a Partridge in a pear tree. Join in with the song with this beautiful gift edition, illustrated by artist Brian Wildsmith.

The Twelve Days Of Christmas is one of the most popular carols and one often taught to children. The repetition and the counting-rhyme make it an obvious choice to sing with the very young. This edition would make a lovely gift for children or adults. You almost don’t need the words because the illustrations speak so beautifully for themselves.

Originally published in the 1970s, the illustration style is in keeping with picture books from the second golden age of Children’s literature – the works of John Burningham and Eric Carle spring to mind. Some of the pictures are impressionistic and there is a heavy focus on pattern and colour. I love the colour-palette – the reds, purples and yellows have the quality stained-glass or paper decorations.

This new edition is a lovely size – it would fit into most stockings and would certainly make a lovely Secret Santa present or a table gift. A traditional rhyme with retro illustrations. Buy this for the arty friend in your life or for children who appreciate gifts which they will love equally in 40 years’ time.  

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my copy of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Opinions my own.

 

Check out day one and day three of Blogmas 2018. 

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Picture book review: Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and Tony Neal

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Review: Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and Tony Neal

Everyone in George’s family is a yeti. Everyone except George. George explores what it means to be a yeti, and what he will need to do to become one … and that’s when he realises he isn’t a yeti at all. George is a unicorn. A gentle story about self-discovery. 

I loved this book. George *knows* he is a unicorn, knows with conviction, and his family love and support him. It is a book about discovering who we are and learning that people will love and support us no matter how we identify. It is clearly a book which would be useful in early discussions about gender and sexuality. Without being about those things, it helps children to understand that knowing deep down who we are is OK, even if it comes as a surprise to our family. 

I liked the idea of being a yeti as a choice – while some act ‘yeti’ without considering it, George knows that just isn’t him. This would be a lovely introduction to discussions about gender. How much of being a boy or a girl is fixed, and how much is about choice? About what we have picked up and learned along the way? 

There isn’t a negative moment in the story. It is an accepting, inclusive book which encourages young children to accept people for who they are. 

I also adore the illustrations – think snow, think rainbows and think yetis teasing the people who venture up the mountains. 

If you are looking for a narrative of acceptance and self-discovery, this one is perfect. 

 

Thanks to Maverick Arts Press for my copy of Not Yet A Yeti. Opinions my own.