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Meg and Ash, two magpies, build a cosy nest in the tallest tree for their four bright blue eggs. But they then start to get worried ‘their nest/ Needed more stuff to make it the best.’ Written in rhyming verse, we stare in amazement at all the things the magpies collect to add to their nest – until there is no hope of seeing the nest, and we can only see the teetering heap of things that have been added on top! Disaster strikes as the tree gives way! Happily, all the animals around help to clear the mess – and create useful homes and shelters out of all the rubbish! A gentle, funny and very beautifully illustrated poem, with a little frisson of anxiety when the tree collapses, about waste and recycling – a good way to introduce children to the idea of recycling useful things. As ever with Emily Gravett – there is a great deal going on in all the illustrations – lots to see and talk about, all beautifully laid out across the double-page spreads. The end papers are particularly fun, containing adverts for some of the items in the book – and also an advert for libraries! I particularly liked the 4 ‘R’s of Recycling right at the back of the book! This will become a class and personal favourite for many people – children and adults alike – and could provide the basis for class projects on recycling, too.
October 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Award-winning Oliver Jeffers will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with this story of a father and daughter making plans to build a world that will keep them safe in the future. Brimming with hope but not ignoring the possibilities that the world and what happens next in it will present challenges, What We’ll Build is founded in the mundane (almost!) as the father and his daughter assemble building tools including a hammer, saw and drill – and a pig! What they go on to build including a place to store love, a hole to hide in, a wall to keep enemies out and a gate to let them, a tunnel to anywhere, a road to the stars and much more and the reasons why they may need them it is summed up in the briefest of texts and Jeffers magical, vividly coloured story- telling illustrations. Inspired by becoming a father, What We’ll Build is a childhood classic that will be shared over and over again.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Full of a sense of tenderness but also possibilities, Songs for our Sons contains every wish you could have for a young boy growing up today, from ‘Never change, fib or follow, just to try to fit in./Be proud, free and happy in your own, unique skill’, to ‘Keep a still place inside, that you can call home/ and know how to find it, wherever your roam.’ The text is touching, heartfelt and always uplifting, while Ashling Lindsay’s illustrations depict children playing in a range of settings, from green fields to desert cities and magic trees, bold colours and shifting perspectives making every turn of the page an adventure. Giving this and receiving it, both will be a real joy.
A Circle of Life Story | Life is everywhere, we read at the close of this exceptional picture information book, and every page prior is brimming with it, so vividly depicted in Daniel Egnéus’ illustrations that you can almost hear the yapping and gekkering of the fox cubs, their mother’s barks, and all the constant bustle and hum of the natural world. Even in death we see there is life: the mother fox is hit and killed by a car but immediately tiny creatures get to work. As the seasons roll round and winter turns to spring, new life grows again and the particles that made up the fox become something else. Text and illustration together explain the circle of life with an extraordinary clarity while retaining a sense of the sheer wonder of it all. Share this with children who want to know what happens when something dies, or who just want to understand our world better.
If ever there was a picture book to be enjoyed in the long winter nights, when there’s a crackle of frost in the air, it’s this one. Snow Ghost comes shimmering out of the air, she soars over hills and woods, darkening as evening draws in, searching for somewhere to settle. Nowhere seems to offer a welcome and she’s lonely and getting tired when on top of a hill she spots a small farm with two happy children in the garden. They all play together in the snow until night falls completely and as the children go in, Snow Ghost settles on the roof, home at last. Snow Ghost is a magical creation in Diana Mayo’s illustrations, floating across the pages almost not there, yet a tangible presence, and we look down with her on the valleys, fields and quiet little town below. The sense of stillness – then joy and hope – is perfectly captured in Tony Mitton’s text which is as graceful and airy as Snow Ghost herself. A perfect story for this time of year, a celebration of hope and belonging.
Big, bold and bright, this picture book tells the tale of the red Spots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary blue Dots who live on the other side of the hill. Wait a minute though, turn it round and it’s actually the tale of the blue Dots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary red Spots who live on the other side of the hill… Both stories meet in the middle when two babies – a Spot and a Dot – get lost and meet up, only to discover that everything their parents and grandparents believe is wrong. Layout, illustrations and the deliciously clever structure of the story as it proceeds from two different starting points – and two different ends of the book – to reach exactly the same place, serve to point out the absurdity of the Dots’ and Spots’ position. Even the youngest readers will understand exactly what the moral of it all is (once they’ve stopped laughing). Helen Baugh’s rhyming text is perfect in its conciseness and Marion Deuchars’ illustrations a triumph, each spot and dot a character of its own. This is one to shelve with other ingenious picture books that entertain and delight while imparting wisdom such as Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ The Little Island and David McKee’s Tusk Tusk.
From the inventive author-illustrator of the award-winning There’s a Bear on My Chair comes this smart sequel, and boy has Ross Collins delivered again. It’s a rollicking, rhyming, visually-pleasing treat in which it turns out that Bear isn’t terribly keen on getting a taste of his own medicine (to begin with, at least). The cause of Bear’s irritation is the presence of Mouse in his house (yes, the very same Mouse on whose chair Bear presumptuously sat in the first book). In Bear’s outraged words, “That rodent can’t live here, oh no! I’ll tell him that he has to go.” Of course, Mouse refuses to leave and proceeds to cause chaos in Bear’s house, before a mob of partying mice turn up. But then - the twist! – when Bear realises “Hey! These mice are nice!” With wonderful interplay between text, illustration and design, this is excellent for reading aloud - the kind of book that will have toddlers urging for it to be read again, and again (and again) while completing the rhymes before adults have chance to read them.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | What a roar-some romp this is! With its read-along rhymes, fun flaps to lift and energetic animals, toddlers will adore grrr-ing, snapping, ooo-ing, hissing and ROARING their way through this jamboree of jungle dwellers. It’s a joy to read aloud, ideally with exuberant accompaniment from little animal lovers. The rhythmic, rhyming text invites readers to engage with larger-than-life animals in their natural habitats - a tiger hiding in tall bamboo, a crocodile lurking in a lilypond, a snake slithering through leaves, a monkey curled in a tree, a lion prowling a plain - while sharing information about their physical characteristics and - of course - the sounds they make. It’s a beautiful book to behold, too - Katerina Kerouli’s style is both bold and understated. Her palette has an elegant mid-century feel, and her animals are oh-so chicly expressive.
Bethan Woollvin won the Macmillan Children’s Book Competition with her first book Little Red and has since produced some wonderfully engaging picture books all looking at elements of traditional fairy tales. I Can Catch a Monster is the story of Erik, Ivar and Bo who live in a land of forests and monsters. Erik and Ivar set off to catch some monsters for themselves, leaving their sister Bo behind as she is ‘too small’. Bo knows she is smart and brave, so she sets off to hunt her own monster. The monsters Bo meets are varied and include a Griffin, a Kraken and a dragon – but rather than fight them (as she knows her brothers will try) she learns something from each of them and becomes the centre of humanity in the book. This picture book tells the story in a series of illustrations which give the impression of being made in old printmaking techniques using a limited palette of colours which emphasizes the bold, simple illustrations used throughout. As one might hope– Bo turns out to be bold, to have more understanding of the natural world – and to be a brave female role model for the readers. This simple take on traditional quest tales will be a favourite – and provides a lovely counterpoint for the old tales with all their slaying and death! Bethan was once asked to describe her books in three words – she chose ‘bold, dark and sneaky’ *– this is most definitely all of those but also delightful and endearing – do read it!