the vagaries of the plot. Incorporating labels, speech bubbles and different perspectives, they vary from page to page – from double-page landscapes that bleed off the page to oval-shaped close-ups, frame sequences and vignettes – to support or expand the text. An enjoyable and lively read, this is the first in a new series.
AF The Queen’s Hat HHHH
Steve Antony, Hodder Children’s Books, 32pp, 978 1 444 91914 1, £11.99 hbk
Wither is Her Majesty bound, one wonders, as she sets out from Buckingham Palace sporting a very smart hat and accompanied by a royal corgi? In a flash though, or rather a ‘swish’ she and the hat part company when the latter is whisked skyward by a sudden gust of wind. Off it soars swiftly pursued by Her Majesty and a whole troop of the Queen’s men. But the wind is so strong the hat is blown over Trafalgar Square, through London Zoo, along the underground, around the London Eye, across Tower Bridge, above Big Ben, higher and higher and then gently down it floats just out of reach of Her Majesty and all her men, not to mention that corgi. Its landing place? Well just about the most perfect destination you can imagine – right on the head of one small infant in a pram who just happens to be in the gardens of Kensington Palace with his parents.
Steve Antony’s choice of red, white and blue plus black as his colour palette is just perfect for this hilarious royal tale. There are chuckles aplenty with every turn of the page and that corgi is a real scene-stealer. The well-chosen words of the spare text allow Antony’s wonderful illustrations to do most of the talking and they certainly do plenty of that. So to will appreciative audiences – both child and adult. Assuredly, if this debut picture book is anything to go by, Steve Antony’s creative talent is one to follow with interest.
JB The Yes HHHHH
Sarah Bee, ill. Satoshi Kitamura, Andersen, 40pp, 978 1 84939 710 0, £11.99, hbk
the Yes, is beset by ‘swarms, flocks and packs’ of inky, squiggly, and smudgy Nos, as he sets out to explore the open spaces of Satoshi Kitamura’s constantly changing idiosyncratic landscape. The Yes comes to a tree and wishes to climb it; he comes to a bridge and wishes to cross it; and so on. All the time the Nos, like flies, worry him with their doubts and warnings, but on he goes, defying them, until, climbing a hill, he shrugs them off altogether and there is ‘only the Yes’, monarch of all he surveys. It’s an obviously didactic book but marvellously well-done by author and illustrator. Curiously, if the Yes had been female (like the book’s author), the book might have been something more challenging than a statement of contemporary conventional wisdom.
CB Secrets of the Seashore HHHH
Carron Brown, ill. Alyssa Nassner, Ivy Kids, 36pp, 978 1 78240 110 0, £10.99 hbk
Described on the cover as a SHINE-A LIGHT book, this truly reveals hidden habitats for dozens of amazing sea creatures. It is a large, almost square book, and at first handling seems a little clumsy to manipulate, but as the reader ventures further, the fun of holding the right hand page to the light to enable the image on the following page to shine through becomes intriguing. The book begins, ‘A rock pool is bustling with life’. Yet the accompanying illustration shows us just a single oystercatcher on the rocks. As we read on, we learn to hold up the book to a window, or torch, to discover a small world of great surprises. It is the best kind of information book for young children, being interactive on every spread. The text is simple, yet the informative, descriptive words are almost poetic, and the illustrations teem with life. The book would certainly enhance any classroom work on sealife, and would be a great for children to share together.
Those Magnificent Sheep and their Flying Machine
Peter Bently, ill. David Roberts Andersen Press, 32pp, 978 1 84939 634 9, £11.99 hbk
In days gone by, the world was a dangerous place and traditional advice was to proceed with caution: ‘look before you leap’. In these more comfortable times (at least in our part of the world), despite our paradoxical obsessive fears for our children’s safety, the accepted wisdom is that anyone can be what they want to be. This picturebook imaginatively conveys the injunction to say ‘Yes!’ to life. A solid red creature on three legs,
This book is just splendid, not to be missed! The illustrator shows great empathy with the storyline, bringing the whole to life. It is such fun to read aloud, with rhyming text and a wonderful bouncy rhythm. Any audience will soon be joining in the flying adventures of Lambert, Eunice, Marty, and Mabs, Old Uncle Ramsbottom, Bart, Ben and Babs. These amazing sheep are beautifully depicted, individuals with such character that each can be identified on every page as they take to the skies in their spiffing, yellow flying machine. Wonderful use of alliteration to heighten the drama, as they declare the world is their oyster, and can-can in France, flamenco in Spain,… visiting numerous other world-wide, breath-taking sights. Eventually they state,’Travel is fun! Every person should try it!’ But there’s no place like home if you want peace and quiet. The resolution is skilful, the illustrations adding more character still to those daring, mischievous sheep. Bently has won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and this
tale is sure to reach dizzy heights too. It has gone straight into my box of favourite books for sharing with children, as a starter for drama, discussion, world map exploration, artwork, writing their own version of visits, examining rhythm and rhyme…… It’s a beaut.
Really and Truly: a story about dementia
Emilie Rivard, ill. Anne-Claire Delisle, Franklin Watts, 24pp, 978-1445119410, £6.99 pbk
Stories about dementia aimed at young children are unusual, and when they are combined with beautifully produced illustrations as well, they are something to shout about. Charlie and his grandpa share a loving and close relationship, and grandpa tells the most glorious stories. Whether about a pirate in the attic or a witch in the garden shed or a gnome in the cellar, his stories make Charlie happy, and they always end with the words, ‘Really and truly, Charlie.’ When grandpa goes into the darkness of dementia and must live in a care home, Charlie and his mum and dad visit every week. Grandpa doesn’t seem to know them or be interested in them, so Charlie decides to make up stories for his grandpa just like grandpa used to do for him, and the stories have a magical effect. They help him focus on his family, to eat when he hasn’t wanted to, to begin talking again, and, finally, and most importantly, to smile. Charlie (and the reader) understands that Grandpa isn’t going to get better, that the dementia has destroyed his mind, but Charlie can make him happier with his stories even though that happiness is brief. The importance of family love and the acceptance of what is happening makes this a ‘really and truly’ great story, and the pictures are exceptional - dark colours when the gloom sets in and bright ones during the fun times, accompanied by little ink-black figures that help the stories along. So many families are distressed when an older member suffers with dementia, and children need to try to understand what is happening. This little book will provide that understanding and will be a catalyst for discussion.
ES Hooray for Bread HHHH
Allan Ahlberg illus. Bruce Ingman, Walker Books, 32pp, 978 1 4063 5262 7, £6.99pbk
Told in rhyming verse, this is a book for early learners to enjoy as they explore all the people and animals who enjoy eating bread. From the beginning of its life as a lump of dough, the adventures of each slice of the loaf are traced through the day, from breakfast toast to tea time soldiers.
Classic Ahlberg text, full of personification,
onomatopoeia and mathematical language, it is illustrated in such humorous detail by Bruce Ingman that the story could also stand alone as a wordless picture book for pre-readers. The ending leaves multiple options for readers to choose, motivating them to rush off and create their own bread-based snack as soon as possible.
As well as being a book for adults and children to enjoy sharing, this would also be an excellent resource on any
Key Stage 1 shelf for projects on bread or food.
GR April the Red Goldfish HHHH
Marjolaine Leray, Phoenix Yard Books, 40pp, 978 1 907912 40 5, £8.99hbk
April is just a lonely red goldfish, searching for the meaning of life and standing out from the crowd because she is different. April may be only little, but she has very big dreams. Sometimes she loves to ponder the deeper, Shakespearean questions of life, and sometimes adolescent angst fills her mind as she tries desperately to escape the ennui. Finally she formulates a plan for her exit strategy by annexing the instincts of her chief predator and she sets off to explore the world.
Anyone who enjoyed Marjolaine Leray’s previous offering Little Red Hood will be delighted to see the return of her signature scribbles. Each scribble is carefully designed to contrast the boredom, anxiety and irritation of life looking out of the goldfish bowl, with the adventurous freedom of life looking in. The end papers enclose the beginning and end of a humorous, witty and elegant story.
Sophisticated and clever in its parody of life, this is not just a book for children, but also a profound moment of philosophical reflection to be appreciated by teenagers and adults alike.
Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!
Pip Jones, ill. Ella Okstad, Faber & Faber, 80pp, 978-0-571-30250-5, £5.99 pbk
Ava is playing out in the garden one day when ‘something appeared/ (or, rather, did not)/ from among the wet leaves/ in the vegetable plot’. Squishy McFluff, an invisible cat, soon becomes Ava’s favourite playmate. Ava takes Squishy in and the pair enjoy lots of fun and games at home, even if Mum can’t see him and sometimes accidently strokes his bottom instead of his head! But Ava’s invisible friend is mischievous and his naughtiness begins to escalate. Soon an intervention is required from Great Grandad Bill, to ensure Squishy McFluff will mend his ways and stay as the family’s invisible pet.
Told in sprightly rhyming verse, with large clear print and three short chapters, Pip Jones’ first book makes an ideal choice for a young reader. With her bright eyes and youthful optimism, Ava is as endearing as the imaginary pet she adores. Ella Okstad’s illustrations match the energy of the text. Expect to see much more from this pairing.
LF Books for Keeps No.206 May 2014 25
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