I wish I’d written…

Sarah Lean chooses a book that transcends fashion.

The book I wish I had written is Skellig by David Almond. The first line, ‘I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon’ is genius. I tell everyone to read the book, to go in that garage and find what Michael finds there, to meet the inimitable Skellig. The characters are alive, the writing authentic and lyrical, and the story delivers at every detail.

I read all of Almond’s books while I was studying for an MA in Creative & Critical Writing,

including Heaven Eyes, another

seamless blend of life and other-worldliness. A line in it near the end, ‘She came across the wasteland up above the river’, blew me away as I began to understand how a story could be threaded together. I have never cried so much for joy and at the triumph of the storyteller to deliver such impact.

Sarah Lean’s latest book The Good Bear is published by Simon & Schuster, with illustrations by Fiona Woodcock, 978-1471194672, £12.99 hbk.

Skellig inspired me to put aside any ideas of writing what might

have been fashionable at the time, to pursue my own desire to write what was in my heart. I poured all my efforts into finding a simple way of writing what I had to say. I’m not sure I would have become an author if it wasn’t for Skellig lighting my way.

BfK Julian at the Wedding 

Jessica Love, Walker Books, 32pp, 978 1 4063 9748 2, £12.99, hbk

In this story Julian and his Nana,       winning Julian is a Mermaid, are off to a wedding along with their friends Marisol and her Nana. There are special jobs for Julian, who is tasked with looking after the brides’         girl. In addition to the feasting and dancing Julian and Marisol have fun hiding under the tables and playing games in a willow tree, which in their imagination becomes a fairy house. When Marisol’s dress gets muddy Julian comes up with an imaginative solution, creating a wonderful costume for her.

Fortunately, the

      again and glad they have had fun,

they are not at all perturbed by the messy clothes. This is a joyful, exuberant story about friendship, fun and celebration. Featuring a same sex marriage, it gently encouraging acceptance. Julian’s      wedding as ‘a party for love.’ There is lots to notice in the beautiful and detailed illustrations which glow on the brown paper background. Spend time lingering over the delightful wordless double page spreads and don’t miss the wonderful end papers and title page where the story begins and ends. SMc

The World Made A Rainbow 

Michelle Robinson, ill. Emily Hamilton, Bloomsbury, 32pp, 978 1 5266 2980 7, £6.99 pbk

‘All the world had to stay home today. I wished that it didn’t. I wanted to play.’ So begins this charming story about a little girl who is missing her Grandma, her school and her friends because of the Covid lockdown. Mum suggests making a rainbow so that people passing by will remember that ‘rainstorms pass’ and be happier. In lyrical poems and positive and expressive pictures, we see the little girl and all her family (including a helpful cat) make their rainbow. Some of the rainbow is painted and some of

22 Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020

Skellig by David Almond is published by Hodder Children’s Books, 978-0340997048, £7.99 pbk

reviews Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant

it is collage, and while the little girl is occasionally sad, remembering all she is missing, she is soon cheered up with her artistic adventures, and at one point is able to Skype her best friend. There is much to love about        family all together, the loving support so evident in both picture and text, the diversity shown, and the theme that sad times don’t last forever. I only wish we could have reviewed it sooner, although the lockdown will have effect (and possibly be repeated) for some time, and children will enjoy remembering how they felt during it, as well as the rainbows they painted. Save the Children partnered with Bloomsbury in the making of this special book. ES

Today I’m Strong 

Nadiya Hussain, ill. Ella Bailey, Hodder, 32pp, 978 1 444 94646 8, £12.99 hbk

The little girl likes to tell her big toy tiger everything. He always listens, and she knows she can trust him. She tells him she likes school, she loves school, in fact, and she repeats this so many times that we realise there is a problem. In fact she whispers to her tiger that some days she just wants to stay home with him. The problem is Molly. Molly makes fun of the little girl; she blocks her way to the climbing frame and steals her cake. Molly is, in

fact, a bully even though the word is not mentioned. Is it because the little girl is black and wears glasses? There are other black children in the class, but it is this particular little girl that Molly picks on. It is the little girl herself     Tiger behind her, and when Molly is mean, she ignores her, climbs all the way to the top of the climbing frame and feels ‘top of the world’. ‘It’s not okay to be mean. To make faces. To hold on too tight. To say words that hurt.’ Vivid illustrations and a little girl with attitude make this a winner Great British Bake Off. One suspects she

writes from experience! ES Will You Be My Friend?


Sam McBratney, ill. Anita Jeram, Walker Books, 24pp, 978 1 4063 5160 6, £12.99, hbk

This is a new story about Little Nutbrown Hare from the creators of the hugely popular Guess How Much I Love You? published 25 years ago. Little Nutbrown Hare wants to play, but Big Nutbrown Hare is just too busy. Little Brown Hare asks permission to go off exploring on his own. He tries       shadow but that’s no fun, they are just another version of him. When he

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