reviews 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued Visitors to Madame M’s house are

met at the door by a plague-beaked monster – ‘one piece of advice: don’t touch a thing’ - and taken on a tour of a building with more than its fair share of gloomy corners. Accompanied by a laconic and very funny commentary, we’re hustled from hall to sitting room (‘devilishly charming’) and on into the kitchen and beyond. With skeletons in every closet, there’s plenty for us to see and do – as long as we don’t mind sticking our fingers into some pretty nasty locations,

that is. Do

watch out for those knives in the sink, though… and it might be best to give the bathtub a wide berth. Simmering yourself over a low heat could make you sleepy, and that might not be a good idea… Despite the brevity of

the text

there’s a sense of energy throughout, drawing us towards the final page and our ultimate encounter. But it’s the illustrations which really make this book, and which will be explored repeatedly. If books were recipes, you might a Fungus

detect the Bogeyman

flavour about this one, together with a dash of Jan Pienkowski- and maybe a pinch of Fritz Wegner, too. But in The House of Madame M Clotilde Perrin’s imagination, skill and joie de vivre have created an original and distinctly different dish, and it’s a triumph. Enjoy! CF-H

in a farmyard, the insignificant but intense contemplation of an altered world through window glass, or the feel of a warm midsummer day in the park. She rarely strives for effect and the boy in one poem who enlivens his description of ‘A Field’ with warring knights and a unicorn is subtly and sympathetically chided for


all the life that is actually going on around him there. On the other hand, in ‘The Tour’, a poem that echoes the celebrated “Naming of Parts” by Henry Reed, she is firmly on the side of a boy being dragged around a stately home who would much rather be out there running about in the sun. CB

– well and truly! Share this superbly subversive story and you’ll be asked for immediate second servings for sure. JB

Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story


Sean Taylor and Alex Morss, ill. Cinyee Chiu, words & pictures, 32pp, 978-0-7112-4283-8, £12.99, hbk

In this beautifully a natural illustrated

picturebook, the loving bond between a young boy and his grandma illuminates

exploration near her forest home. ‘When it was summer, I stayed at

Granny Sylvie’s house. She knows lots of things. Like the names of flowers and how to spot a deer’s hoof print…’ Sylvie and her grandson have a

Hansel & Gretel HHHHH

Bethan Woollvin, Two Hoots, 32pp, 978 1 5098 4270 4, £6.99 pbk

Deliciously dark and wonderfully

witty is Bethan Woollvin’s topsy turvy reworking of the much-loved Grimm’s fairy tale

told from the witch’s

viewpoint. Said witch, Willow by name, is a good witch who lives in a self-built gingerbread home. It’s little surprise then that when she comes upon two children

behind them she has concerns about small creatures being led to her tasty residence, and asks them to assist her in cleaning them up. Instead Hansel and Gretel ignore

her request and continue on their way. When they reach Willow’s home they start devouring the gingerbread. Willow however, being the good witch that she is, thinks they must be starving and invites them in for dinner.

How Many Points for a Panda? HHHH

Hilda Offen, Troika, 64pp, 978 11 912745 11 1, £7.99 pbk

With the author’s own lively

illustrations, these poems are perfectly pitched for younger readers. There are poems about family relationships; about flights of imagination; about everyday enjoyments and mysteries; and about finding your own place in the world. Hilda Offen has a gentle voice whose chosen subjects are closely observed and deeply considered and expressed in verse that is enviably simple and elegant. Perhaps she is best at capturing fleeting moments, like the memory of holding a duckling

Rather than being grateful for

her hospitality, those greedy guests gobble up every single scrap of food. Still, their host manages to keep her temper in check. From then on things go from bad

to worse until Willow finally snaps. It turns out that she’s not ALWAYS a good witch. The terrific twist Bethan serves

up at the end will leave audiences and readers aloud spluttering with surprise and delight. From cover to cover, her signature style graphics for which she uses a limited orange, black and grey palette, are as always superb: powerful imagery bursting with wonderful details and as for that final spread – the eyes have it

special summer place – a secret glade where they watch a dormouse scampering up a hazel tree. But as the long, warm evenings give way to the bare white snow of winter and Sylvie’s grandson visits again, the dormouse is nowhere to be seen. Sylvie explains that she’s hibernating. The boy wants to know whether other animals are hiding, too, so Sylvie tells him about bats in hollow trees, earwigs beneath the ground and other living things that sleep all winter long. As Granny Sylvie and the boy make through Chinyee Chiu’s

their way scattering breadcrumbs

evocative frozen landscapes, a series of cutaways and unusual perspectives allow us to see things that Sylvie and the boy cannot (a buried bee, the view from a bat roost, fish swimming beneath the ice...) Readers will enjoy eavesdropping on their conversation and there is much to learn, but this book’s value goes beyond its ability to inform. Sylvie is portrayed convincingly as a confident and active older woman, and the warmth and closeness of their cross-generational bond is clear. Written by a duo well-used


communicating with children, Winter Sleep has an appealing text and is well-pitched for its intended audience. The shift to a more conventional non- fiction format occurs quite naturally once the boy has gone to sleep, and its inclusion will equip readers with skills they can apply elsewhere. Winter Sleep is a rewarding book

that will interest children who don’t usually choose non-fiction - as well as those who do – and deserves to be widely shared. CF-H

How the Stars Came to Be HHHH

Poonam Mistry, Tate Publishing, 32pp, 978 1 8497 6663 0, £12.99

With her stunningly beautiful visuals, inspired by nature

and Indian

traditional designs, Poonam Mistry offers a folk tale style answer to the age-old question of how the stars came to be in the sky. There was a time when light came

only from the sun and the moon. This was fine for most of the days each month but left a few that gave the fisherman’s daughter cause to

history of

fear for her father’s safety out at sea at night with no moon to guide him. Such is her concern that one morning the Sun finds her shedding tears and asks her why she is so distressed. Her response fuels the Sun with an

idea. Taking a golden ray, he throws it down to earth where it shatters into a million glowing fragments. These he instructs her to gather up and place into the sky once he’s dropped beneath the horizon. “We will call them stars,” he says. That night the Girl begins her task, placing the brightest star above her head and naming it Polaris. Piece by piece she carefully positions the stars, fashioning them into wonderful images; but no matter how many she uses, her bag still appears to be full. Has she taken on an impossible task? All the while a monkey has been

watching the Girl and as she sits despairing, he grabs her bag and dashes back up to hide in the trees. The Girl follows, a struggle ensues and out tumble all the remaining stars, seemingly ruining her work. But do they? Accidents do occasionally have happy outcomes … Intricately patterned, awesome art shines out at every page turn of this book. JB

The Red Suitcase HHHH

Gilles Baum, ill. Amandine Piu, words & pictures, 40pp, 978 0 71124 550 1, £11.99 hbk

In a world of dragons, some of

whom are fierce and war-like, one small, green dragon takes his empty suitcase on an epic journey, over hills and valleys, through rain and danger and risks, over a sea to a strange place where he can feel safe. When he finally arrives, he is faced with a lot of other young dragons who aren’t really interested in his story, until one is friendly and shares his chocolates. The ‘red suitcase’ is a place of refuge during the journey and is used as a sledge, as a boat, and as a way to keep the rain off. There are great dangers – a large sleeping dragon, crowds of people who must not notice him, barbed wire, and, always, loneliness. This world of fear and horror makes an allegory of homelessness and the refugee crisis, and my only slight criticism of what is a beautifully produced book, is that the message is so subtle that it might be missed if used with very young children who won’t quite understand all the fine-drawn subtleties. The illustrations

are beautifully done

with vast white spaces and the small dragon’s adventures front and centre on each page. Little birds help him along the way, and he does find safety and friendship. A beautiful book with

hope in the end. ES Bad Nana: Older Not Wiser


Sophy Henn, ill. Sophy Henn, Harper Collins, 164pp, 9780008268060, £5.99, pbk

In this vibrant new illustrated series by Books for Keeps No.240 January 2020 23

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