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reviews


Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant continued The Last Wolf


HHHH


Mini Grey, Penguin, 978-0-8575- 5092-7, 32pp, £11.99 hbk


Little Red puts on her hunting hat and boots, picks up her popgun and her lunch box and sets off to catch a wolf. But wolves are hard to find in today’s


woods until she stumbles across a door; a door that leads into a warm cosy tree-cave. This is the home of the Last Wolf, the Last Bear and the Last Lynx who gaze at her with huge hungry eyes. Is Little Red facing real danger? This gentle


ecological message


story with its strong aimed at the


youngest audience is a delight to


read. Full of the fun details that are such an element of Mini Greys work, nevertheless the presentation has been suitably and effectively pared down. The font is bold and clear and well placed on each spread allowing the eye to move easily across the text. The language has the attractive rhythm of a bedtime story introducing enough jeopardy to create a frisson, but with a reassuring and positive end. The suggestion that one might


5 – 8 Infant/Junior The Rhythm of the Rain HHHHH


Grahame Baker-Smith, Templar, 32pp, 9781787410145, £12.99 hbk


“Dark brown is the river...”


Stevenson’s poem reflects on the path of the river as it flows “away down the valley” connecting children as they play. This is the theme that Grahame Baker-Smith brings to life in his lyrical picture book. We meet Isaac as he plays by a mountain pool; the rain falls and the water flows out of the pool to become a stream then a river. Isaac adds to the flow with his jar of water. The river joins the sea. Isaac watches and wonders where his water will go. But we do not stop; following the currents than run deep under the ocean we reach distant shores. The sun draws the seawater up to become rain which falls on Cassi’s village filling their pool. The water runs out to become a life giving stream and river and so back to the sea – and eventually to Isaac. This is a gentle reflective narrative


that would encourage thought and discussion. Baker-Smith’s prose does not pretend to be poetry, but takes on some of the flowing rhythms of the water. As the narrative describes the path of the river, the moods of the sea, we are made aware that water is not an ornament - it has uses, it is the home of many creatures, it is an element that brings life. The text may be slight; the illustrations are not. Expansive double page spreads overflowing with rich saturated colours draw the reader


landscape. The palette is dark and lush, the water gleams against its background. It is water that subtly dominates


every spread, lucent,


transparent, in perpetual movement, still. From the moment we encounter the book, the rain falling down the covers, through the end papers with rain drops splashing into a pool to a stream tumbling downhill we are aware of water and the way it links us. It is Baker-Smith’s skill that is the key to creating this world. Thoughtful and visually rewarding this should be on every library shelf. FH


The Extraordinary Gardener HHH


Sam Boughton, Tate Publishing, 32pp, 978 1 8497 6566 4, £9.99 hbk


Young Joe lives in a dreary grey world of high-rise flats and office blocks so it’s fortunate that he has a fertile imagination that allows him to mind travel to a world of gigantic plants and extraordinary animals, a world he would love to be real. One night his bedtime reading


sows the seed of an idea in the boy’s mind, an idea that next morning, sends him out searching for the tiny thing - a real seed – that will give life to his idea. Having finally found one, Joe


plants it, waters it, puts the pot on his balcony and waits; but nothing seems to happen, so he forgets all about it and returns to his daydreams. All the while though, unobserved,


that little seed is growing and one day Joe is thrilled to discover a beautiful little tree has grown up. That’s the start of his balcony garden and before long everyone in his neighbourhood has become


involved in project


transformation. The world Joe and his neighbours inhabit is no longer grey and humdrum; instead thanks to one boy’s imagination and infectious enthusiasm it is transformed into a glowing city of gardens absolutely bursting with the glorious colours of nature. With its themes of the importance nature and the power


of into the enthusiasm of for co-


operation, Sam Boughton’s debut picture book is, like the long awaited arrival of spring this year, thoroughly uplifting. Her


the


natural world bursts forth from every one of her mixed media scenes of nature in the ascent; and that splendid final foldout showing the verdant cityscape is topped only by the explosion of riotous colours of the floral endpapers thereafter. JB


We’re Going to the Zoo HHHH


Sarah Bowie, O’Brien Press, 32pp, 978-1847179494, £11.99 hbk


A day out at the zoo is the primary subject of Sarah Bowie’s witty picture book, but beneath the description of a family’s adventures is a wealth of ideas and provocations. It’s the summer holidays and Dad suggests a


trip to the zoo. Kitty is really excited, her teenager big sister Clara finds the idea really boring, but then everything is boring to Clara except for texting. When they arrive, Kitty decides to draw pictures of all the animals, which Clara thinks is weird, why not just take photos. But Kitty’s pictures are more than just images of the animals; she catches


their personalities, adds


notes and extra bits of information. Eventually, despite protesting that drawing is for babies, Clara joins in too. The sisters remember the days when they used to have drawing competitions, and


Clara’s grumpy


teenage mood disappears completely. The mix of family relationships,


tech versus old fashioned methods, and animal information is very neatly done,


and


illustrations capture Kitty and Clara’s characters perfectly.


like her depictions of Clara in her moodiest teen strop. There’s lots to talk about, lots to get


children thinking, and it makes the idea of drawing to convey information or to map out your experiences really appealing. MMa


After the Fall. How Humpty Dumpty got back up again


HHHHH


Dan Sanitat, Andersen Press, 9781783446353, £6.99 pbk


Humpty Dumpty tells his story. We all know about his accident. But what happens next? It seems the king’s men were able to put him together


again – well mostly. It


is certainly possible to mend the physical hurts but not so easy to heal the psychological, And Humpty now suffers from a fear of heights, which means he can no longer enjoy the things he did – in particular his love of watching birds fly. Will he always live with this fear? Can his life be transformed? On one level this is a book that


tells the story of a Nursery Rhyme character


with humour and wit;


on another level it deals with fear, anxiety, determination, perseverance and finally the success that leads to transformation, here in the case of Humpty Dumpty a literal and very logical


transformation. The storytelling is direct and engaging


Bowie’s cartoon-style I particularly


as Humpty takes us through his predicament. Santat’s dramatic use of perspective ensures that we constantly see the neighbourhood from Humpty’s point of view. Our engagement is total – and the joyous surprise at the end an affirmation of what overcoming barriers to a dream can achieve. Throughout, the illustrations extend and enhance the narrative. Little details easy to miss provide depth – from the opening spread where Humpty sits on his wall in sunshine, to the empty wall with a lone bird perched on it and on through the pages as Humpty gazes longingly at the top shelf in the supermarket again glowing with colour and light, and the reader is as drawn into the story as much by the images as by the words. Winner of the Caldecott Medal 2017, it is a book to be shared widely. FH


Juniper Jupiter HHH


Lizzy Stewart, Lincoln Children’s, 32pp,978-1-8603-023-8, £11.99 hbk


Lizzy Stewart’s There’s A Tiger In The Garden won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for 2017, and this is another story about the power of a child’s imagination. Will it be another prize-winner? Juniper Jupiter is a young super-


hero, complete with cloak, and she bravely saves cats from being stuck up trees, is super-strong (lifts Dad with one finger), super-fast and super-super-smart (sits on a pile of books, including There’s A Tiger In The Garden, in a Matilda-like pose) , and she can fly, but “it’s no big deal”. She loves being a super-hero, but sometimes it’s a lonely job - she realises that she needs a sidekick. Her home-made posters, made with Dad’s help, state that the sidekick must be brave, strong, smart, love ice-cream, be good at dancing, and funny… and an awful lot of people , in all sorts of costumes, queue outside her house – this double-page spread is well worth poring over. For various reasons, none of them is quite right, and she is almost giving up, when she realises that she should have looked closer to home – her dog, Peanut, has all the necessary qualities, including a taste for ice-cream. (Does Dad look


Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018 23


plant a tree – even if it might require time to grow – is engaging. The artist’s distinctive style has also been simplified to great advantage. Her bold lines and colourful palate bring the story to life as much as the design in which the careful use of split pages adds to the drama. This is a book to share with a class or with the family. Highly recommended. FH


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