Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes


Every time  Molly tries to go outdoors, her fear-monsters appear. 

They follow her down the pavement and prevent her from having conversations with new people. They crowd her and surround her and multiply no matter how far she runs. Eventually, Molly realises that if she ever wants to join in with other children, she will have to face her fears down. 

A beautiful wordless picture book about social anxiety.

The thing about social anxiety is that, on the surface, it can look like nothing is wrong. Like the person in question is being rude, or like they shun the company of other people. The truth is that the experience is intense. The fear that you won’t be liked, that other pepole are laughing at you, and that you’ve done everything the wrong way is a tremendous thing to deal with and it multiples inside you just like Molly’s monsters. 

The trouble is, walking away from social situations doesn’t defeat it. 

The story begins with Molly indoors. She is a happy, creative and intelligent girl whose love of art and reading can be seen around her bedroom. The trouble isn’t that she likes to spend time alone – and this is an important point because sometimes it feels as if society views social pastimes as superior to lone ones. The trouble is that when she wants to socialise, her fears stop her from making friends. I liked how the opening scene shows us how much Molly has to offer. A person skulking away may not look, at first glance, like the obvious friend, but make that little bit of effort and they might turn out to be interesting and kind. 

Molly’s monsters are dark shadows which hang over her. The way they darken any social situation and hound her away from other people is extremely evocative. 

As well as encouraging people to face down their fears and recognise their worries, this book will help others to empathise with people who have social anxiety. The wordless format is brilliant because it encourages the reader to ask what is going on and to take time to read the visual clues which we so often miss out on in the rush of real life. 

A wonderful and relatable book about social anxiety. 


Thanks to Abrams & Chronicle Books for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Meet The Penguins by Mike Brownlow

Meet The Penguins by Mike Brownlow


Meet the penguins. They really want to play, but nobody wants to play with them. Everybody else is busy concentrating, playing complicated games or hurrying along. When the penguins find someone to play with, and they are able to show how many brilliant games they know, they find themselves with a queue of new friends desperate to join in. 

A witty picture book which will be especially relatable to children coping with playground time. 

The penguins are polite to the point of being charming. Enthusiastic. Friendly. They just can’t find anybody who wants to play. This can be a frustrating and frankly baffling situation for children small enough that their world is governed by the rules. Sticking to the rules about good manners and kindness should result in a win. The trouble is, social situations are complicated and other people can have their own agenda. This would be a lovely picture book to open discussions about the fact that sometimes it just isn’t about whether we’ve done the right things. Gorilla wants to focus, Rabbit is in a hurry and Kitty is just plain rude and unfriendly. 

There’s a lovely picture in the middle where the dejected penguins slump down. They’ve given up. The story turns this around and demonstrates that once you’re enjoying your own games, there might be plenty of people looking to join in.

The final page puts a spin on it again when the Penguins stop wanting to let everybody into their games. This would be a great picture for opening up a debate. Did the Penguins do something wrong and unfriendly, or is it just a fact that sometimes there are too many people to play a game properly? 

The illustrations are all about facial expressions, with exaggerated disappointment, pleading, rudeness and enjoyment. The sober backgrounds of the early scenes turn to a riot of colour as the penguins’ games get going. 

A funny and relatable story about friendship and social situations. 

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)


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. 



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. 




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. 



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: Tiny T. Rex And The Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck

Review: Tiny T. Rex And The Impossible Hug Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck


Tiny has little arms. He wants to give his friend a proper hug, but Tiny’s arms aren’t big enough. He sets off in search of advice to learn how to give Pointy a proper hug. Along the way, Tiny tries being mathematical, philosophical and even exercising his arms. When the moment comes, it turns out that the best hugs come straight from the heart.

A humorous and warm story about a little dinosaur with a lot of love.

Have you ever been in that moment? The one where you’re meeting somebody special, somebody you know, but you’re not certain whether they are a hugger, a handshaker or someone who would rather you greeted them without any kind of contact at all? Social interactions can be confusing at the best of times, and Tiny the dinosaur delves deep into the theory behind giving his friend a hug.

Unfortunately, there is also such a thing as overthinking.

What makes this book entertaining is that every new way Tiny finds to think about hugs makes a sense of its own. Hugs could be measured in equations. Hugs are physical actions, and therefore physical exercise could help us perfect a hug. Hugs come from emotion so mindful reflection could make them better. These new ways of looking at hugging are both ridiculous and true at the same time.

The final message is that hugs are spontaneous gestures which come from the heart. I think this message is just right for Tiny and will reassure readers that they don’t have to work these actions out ahead.

I adore the modern art style, with its contrasting colours and bright backgrounds. These dinosaurs live in a totally modern world, with books and exercise routines and table tennis, but occasional palm fronds in the foreground remind us of the dinosaur’s natural habitat. For a story with a cute theme, the art style keeps firmly away from the sugary. The endpapers are a treat too and would inspire potato printing or similar activities. 

A story about a tiny dinosaur which will make a huge impact. Hugger or not, this one will make you smile. 


Thanks to Abrams & Chronicle UK for my gifted copy of Tiny T. Rex And The Impossible Hug. Opinions my own.