Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler

Review: Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler

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Rumple Buttercup is afraid to take part in the world because he doesn’t look like other people. Ashamed of his crooked teeth and weird feet and green skin, he hides away underground. Not wanting to be lonely, he makes a friend out of sweets and watches the world on special occasions. 

When a couple of boys come to find him on the day of a parade, Rumple learns that most people are insecure about some parts of themselves. 

A gentle and funny story about insecurity and self-confidence. 

I was moved by this story. It is the book I needed as a young teenager, even as a pre-teen when I stood out a little for my wild hair and braces and persistent acne. A few comments made me certain that the whole world was looking. Insecurity begins from the silliest of places but it can destroy people’s ability to function as normal. 

The saddest part is that those things we dislike about ourselves are rarely that noticeable. 

Rumple’s story is like the little message which lots of people need. I love that the book has been produced in small format because it would make a lovely gift for people to carry around when they need that reminder that they don’t stand out in a crowd. If you know somebody with self-confidence issues, or someone who has been affected too much by one comment, pass them a copy of this book. Suggesting that people need to pick themselves up, when they are feeling insecure about themselves already, only comes across as additional criticism, so give them a fictional friend and let them work the rest out for themselves. 

Sketchy, cartoonlike illustrations give the book the same feel as a series of motivational doodles. Humour in the pictures gently suggests that Rumple, with his underground hideaway and tin can chandelier, might have taken things too far. 

This is a beautiful story about self-confidence that people of all ages will relate to and embrace.

 

Thanks to Penguin Books UK for my copy of Rumple Buttercup. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani

Review: Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani

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Mira doesn’t like her curly hair. She wants it to be beautiful and straight like her mama’s. One day, Mira and Mama go for a walk and the rain comes down. Little by little, the curls return to Mama’s hair and Mira sees how beautiful curls really are. 

A touching book about the relationship between appearance and identity. 

Mira’s issue is one which lots of children will relate to, from an early age right through to teens. Images of perceived beauty are everywhere and they can result in peer pressure to look one particular way. When I was a pre-teen is was all about very straight hair. Very straight and blonde was better. There was also lots of discussion about straight noses and facial symmetry.  What I didn’t understand at the time was that this idea which was rife in my school began with Hollywood. With the catwalks. With the narrow images of beauty available to young people at the time. 

This is particularly damaging when children aren’t seeing people from their own culture or people of many cultures and the many kinds of beautiful in the world. Thankfully, social media, for all its faults, is helping to fight this because suddenly there are photographs and hashtags which celebrate curly hair and fuller figures and people of every kind. It is also important that books reflect the diversity of the world from an early age. Mira’s Curly Hair shows how important it is not to look for the kind of beauty we see elsewhere, but to celebrate the things which are beautiful about ourselves.

Bright blocks of colour and beautiful patterns bring this to life and add to the feeling that this is all about celebration. 

A book which offers readers a new way to define and search for beauty. 

 

Thanks to Lantana Books for my gifted copy of Mira’s Curly Hair. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Kate Greenaway Shortlisted Title)

Review: Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Kate Greenaway Shortlisted Title)

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When Julian is out and about with his Nana, he sees some beautiful people on the train who remind him of mermaids. Julian would love to be a mermaid. When he gets home, he takes down the lace curtains, sticks some plants in his hair and transforms himself into a mermaid. Julian is worried about what his Nana might think, but it turns out she knows a thing or two about mermaids.

A story about love, respect and embracing our inner-selves.

Nana wins my fictional role model of the year award. When she comes out of the bath to find her little grandson parading around with the curtains around his waist, she sees right away what the game means to Julian. Offering him a string of beads and a hand to hold, she takes him outside to find some other people who are beautiful and brimming with self-confidence. People of all genders, people of all sizes, people in all kinds of costumes and outfits. 

img_8822There is no dispute that this is about gender. The key moment in the story is when Nana finds Julian and stares at him with a great big disapproving scowl. My heart brimmed at that moment because it became clear that this was about more than a kid dancing around in the curtains on a whim. However, this is a beautiful narrative about all kinds of gender and identity acceptance. Whether a child is questioning their gender or whether they are broadening their definition of what it means to be a boy or a girl, this book offers a comforting message that the happiest people in the world are the ones who love each other and themselves.

The illustrations are a beautiful wash of watercolour which fits perfectly with the theme. It’s as if there is a hint of the watery world even when Julian is in the city. Particular attention has been paid to clothes, with a range of styles, patterns and colours celebrated. 

Julian Is A Mermaid made the shortlist for the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Award. I can only imagine the judges saw the same joy and celebration and in the illustrations which touches me more with every read. 

A picture book which deserves a place on every shelf. Grab some beautiful items from around the house and prepare to embrace your inner self. 

 

Thanks to Riot Comms and Walker Books UK for my gifted copy of Julian Is A Mermaid. Opinions my own.

Lists · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

9 Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression

 

Nine Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression.

 

Mr Tiger Goes Wild – Peter Brown

Mr Tiger lives in a grey place where everybody looks and acts the same way. One day, Mr Tiger has an idea. He changes the way he walks, then the way he dresses. Then Mr Tiger goes WILD.

This book looks at freedom of expression and it also looks at boundaries. The world becomes a brighter place when everyone is free to express themselves. Mr Tiger learns about boundaries. Dressing and walking differently is one thing. Leaping across the rooftops is another.

Key Messages –

  • Individuality makes the world a brighter place
  • Pushing the boundaries of individuality can result in behaviour outside the social norm. There are limits to what other people will accept.

 

 

Elmer – David McKee

All of the elephants are grey. All except Elmer. It never matters that Elmer is a patchwork elephant because his jokes keep the other elephants happy. One day, Elmer hears someone say patchwork elephants are silly, so he finds a way to hide his colours until he realises the other elephants miss their friend.

This is one of the best-known picture books of the past 30 years. It is a story about celebrating individuality and looking beyond appearance.

Key messages –

  • Appearance doesn’t define us.
  • The things that are unique about us are a cause for celebration.

 

 

Up and Down – Oliver Jeffers

There are two friends who always do things together until Penguin decides there is something important he wants to do all by himself. Fly. At first, it seems impossible. Then Penguin signs up as a living cannonball.

The most important point of this story is that Boy doesn’t judge Penguin. He is there when Penguin wants to fly and he supports Penguin when flying turns out not to be the right thing. The best people in our lives are the ones who stand by us and support us whatever stage we are at. 

Key Message:

  • Although nobody can tell us who we are, the people we trust can guide and support us on our journey of self-discovery.

 

Tacky The Penguin – Helen Lester And Lyn Munsinger

Whatever the other penguins do, Tacky does it differently. Tacky is an odd bird. One day the hunters come. The other penguins run away but Tacky confront them straight on.

Tacky may seem like an oddball, but he has qualities and abilities which the other penguins admire. It takes time for them to look past the strange shirt and loud behaviour, but when they do they realise Tacky is a good penguin to have around. 

Key Message:

  • Don’t judge others on superficial grounds.

 

 

Spork – Kyo Mclear 

Forks are forks and spoons and spoons, but where does Spork fit in? One day he decides it is time to choose what he is – a spoon or a fork.

Key Message:

  • Everybody finds their place regardless of labels. This would also be lovely for discussion what we inherit from our parents. Children can feel pressured to live up to one parent or another and need to learn that we will be defined by our own actions and achievements.

 

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Every year, the jungle dance is held, but Gerald feels because he can’t dance like the other animals. The other animals make fun of him when he hits the dance-floor. Away from the other animals, a kindly cricket plays music for Gerald to sway to.

Key Message:

  • The other animals have a narrow definition of dancing, but with a little encouragement, Gerald finds his own rhythm. When we make fun of other people it is often our own prejudice and preconceptions at fault.

 

 

Perfectly Norman – Tom Percival 

Norman has always been perfectly normal until one day he grows a pair of new wings. Should he embrace his wings and fly free or hide them away? Hiding the wings makes all his favourite things difficult and everybody notices that Norman is not himself.

Key Message:

  • Hiding our individuality can draw more attention to ourselves than embracing our differences.

 

The Lion Inside – Rachel Bright And Jim Field

Nobody ever notices Mouse. He is so impossibly small. Meanwhile, Lion has made himself head of the pack with his loud roar. Mouse decides he needs a loud voice. The only animal who can teach him to roar might eat him up. Is Mouse brave enough to approach Lion?

Key Messages:

  • Bravery and confidence aren’t about having the loudest voice. We can speak up for ourselves without changing who we are.

 

 

Petra  – Marianne Coppo

Petra is a rock and this is how she rolls. Everybody tells her she is just a rock but there are so many things she could be. Every time she receives a knock – being thrown across the garden, or taken into a bird-nest – Petra reinvents herself. However many times she transforms herself, Petra remains her happy self.

I love this story. No matter how many times Petra is told she can’t be anything other than a rock she reinvents herself. This is a story about resilience. It is also about not letting other people define you.

Key message:

  • You can decide who you want to be. Don’t let other people’s opinions define you.