reviews Junior/Middle continued

determination and compassion, and must be nurtured if it is to grow. Peruvian-born Issa Watanabe

creates her artwork slowly, avoiding digital interventions and becoming deeply involved with her projects, and this intensity of connection is communicated in her work. There’s      about these otherworldly spreads. Packed with emotion and reminding us of things once known and half- remembered, they resemble frames       we cannot see. They do not tell us what to think, or promote a political         feel, imagine and respond. This book has many meanings and every reader’s experience will be different. But its fundamental message may be that we are all connected, and every individual counts.

‘I think this book is about empathy’

said Watanabe in a recent interview for Gecko Press. ‘Being moved by a character in the story helps us empathise with human beings who are going through such a challenging experience.’ Watanabe and her family have their own stories of migration, but the direct stimulus for this picturebook came from Magnus Wennman’s photographs of Syrian children sleeping in a forest. ‘The looks on those children’s faces… moved me deeply,’ Watanabe said. ‘I did the only thing I could do: draw.’ As her poet father, Jose Watanabe, wrote: ‘When faced with horror, all I can do is allow myself this silent poem.’ And a silent picturebook can be more eloquent than words. Migrants demands and deserves

our attention, and readers of all ages will be moved by its beauty, emotional impact and relevance. CFH

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia


Gattaldo, Otter-Barry Books Ltd, 32pp, 9781913074043, £12.99, hbk

In an era of misinformation and sifting for truths, this is a timely telling of the story of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a tragic car bomb explosion after exposing information about corrupt politicians. Gently introducing the reader to young Daphne, the text explores how her formative years taught          and knowledge and understanding         simplest words have been used, leaving the poetic nature of the struggle to the illustrations, although on one page, the horrible things that Daphne’s enemies did are emboldened. The overall message is simple, but neatly explored. This is a tale of courage, persistence and resilience.

The illustrations feel adult and sophisticated. There is a fusion

     such as the grown-up Daphne playing  more abstract symbolic illustrations, such as the encroaching darkness when she was wrongly imprisoned in her youth, or the surreal reams of paper that surround her when she is shown writing. On most pages there is a quantity of white space that allows the reader to think about what’s being presented, and digest the information. Starkly, this is made even more apparent when on one double spread Daphne is pictured  of loneliness as her predicament left  others were too frightened to stand with her in solidarity. The most powerful image comes in the form of a slightly abstract illustration of Daphne’s ‘enemy,’ seemingly all men who twist and writhe and loom over a small Daphne, pictured armed with a sword. But it is with a pen that Daphne is mightiest, and the second half of the picture book explores how she wrote the truth and struggled against her enemies who did all they could to stop her. This is no ordinary picture book, but one with a clear message, and motive  vain, but has perpetuated the mission of speaking out for what’s right and making the world a better place, not only in Malta but globally and across a diverse range of peoples and cultures. The book includes further biographical details at the back as well as family photos, and informs the reader of the author’s friendship with      from Amnesty International. Journalists are a mere extension of

how we, as children, view the world      fashion. In a time in which peoples’ freedoms are being eroded, it is more important than ever that people are there to scrutinise leadership and governance, and who better to impassion in that venture than the next generation? Fearless follows in the footsteps of the recent surge in biographies for children, and goes an extra step in trying to combat misinformation. CZ

Fearless Fairy Tales 

Konnie Huq and James Kay, illus Rikin Parekh, Piccadilly Press, 176pp, 978-1848128118, £14.99 hbk

The possibilities that open with retelling fairy tales have tempted all sorts of authors from Anthony Browne to Margo Lanagan, Babette Cole to Hilary McKay. After all, these are often  can shape our understanding of the world. Konnie Huq and her writing partner James Kay have clearly thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of bringing some favourite stories up to date and yes, they have been pretty

the narrator’s home planet have the opportunity to spend a month on Earth as a creature, and Leonard chooses to be a ranger in Yellowstone National Park in America. Except that, on the way, something goes wrong, and now he’s a cat in South Carolina. Luckily for Leonard, he’s adopted by a girl called Olive, who embraces animals, and even aliens.    I Cosmo, also starred an animal narrator, and focussed on the healing and  between animal and human. Here, in My Life as a Cat, she develops the idea further,

exploring friendship,

fearless in their approach, using the stories to make some pointed comments on how we live now. Fairy tales after all have always existed to call out unfairness and give voice to those generally underrepresented. In Huq and Kay’s version of Pinocchio for example, the ‘puppet’ is a news anchor on an Italian TV network, run by Sly Fox, whose boss presses him to boost the ratings by telling bigger and bigger lies; you can guess the effect this has on poor Spinocchio’s nose. Their magic beanstalk grows from baked beans and giants move down to the land below, taking jobs as builders and handymen until their new neighbours decide things have got ‘too gianty’ and force them out. If the messages occasionally feel heavy-handed, they’re balanced by humour, so that The Three Little Pugs’ story of a tenancy dispute with their greedy landlord Wolf, resolved by the Canine Advisory Board, is told via very lively rhyme. When Marian is elected new MP for Bottybum, she, ‘set the townspeople’s taxes at a fair level and made sure it was means- tested so that the richest people paid the most.’ The story then concludes, ‘All the tax revenue was spent on roads, schools and hospitals and they all liveth happieth ever aftereth.’ There’s a very different kind of

contemporary issue examined in the surprisingly touching The Boy Who Cried Wool, in which a little woollen toy boy, called Angora, helps explain to macho toys and to his owner that it’s OK to cry, and that it can even be the best medicine for sadness. Written with the same direct-to- camera dash that distinguishes Huq’s Cookie series, this is hard to resist and Rikin Parekh’s illustrations bring in a great set of characters, comic and recognisable. If it occasionally misses the mark, nonetheless this is fresh, funny and very engaging. MMa

My Life as a Cat 

Carlie Sorosiak, Nosy Crow, 256pp, 9781788006088, £7.99, pbk

A delectable sense of humour makes     pulse with (alien) life. On the eve of their 300th birthdays, all aliens from

grief, and the passing of time, and immortality, all the while extrapolating what it must feel like to be a cat, albeit a highly intelligent communicative one, with an alien hive mind. Leonard longs to experience

the simple pleasures of Earth, and Sorosiak delights in bringing these small innocent moments to life, showing that for humans too, it’s the little things in life, such as cheese sandwiches or a trip to the cinema, that can have a stunning effect on feelings and memories. Olive, Leonard’s adoptive human,

is tenderly drawn. She is shy and animal-obsessed, but also dealing with a tumult of family relations, and  development is tracked throughout the novel, and, helped by responsible and reliable adults, she comes to see that what’s important is kindness and open-mindedness. The build-up to the climax, a race-against-time road trip, is told in accessible and wryly funny prose, and is incredibly compelling, whilst also managing to impart a wealth of knowledge to the reader about storms, animals, aquariums and  wondrous depth. This novel shows us what it means

to experience true friendship and   someone feel like they


and above all what it means to be human. With a sly nod to ET, and an understanding of a child’s wonder at life, this is a moving story written with heart and compassion. CZ

Lori and Max and the Book Thieves


Catherine O’Flynn, Firefly Press, 978-1913102357, 220pp, £6.99 pbk

Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel for young readers, Lori and Max, really impressed with its wit, intelligence and the sensitive portrayal of the growing relationship between its two central characters. The good news is that her unorthodox young detectives are back in a new adventure with more mysteries to solve. Max and her  and the landlord doesn’t allow dogs, meaning Max’s beloved Fang has to stay with Lori and her grandma. These added pressures mean that when the mobile phone Max’s mum gave her is stolen at school, it’s even more

Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020 27

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