Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant continued The Extraordinary Gardener


Sam Boughton, Tate, 32pp., 978-1-84986-689-0, £6.99 pbk

‘Joe was a boy with a wild imagination. It took him far away to a world less ordinary, to a place very different from the world outside’. The book starts with Joe in a grey world, living in a grey block of flats occupied by grey tenants going about their normal lives. Then over the page, Joe’s world is revealed in glorious colour, ‘with plants as tall as skyscrapers, and animals unlike any other’. Joe longs for his world to come to life, and ‘one night, when he

high as skyscraper… The

was reading his favourite book (title not shown, but encouraging!) an idea began to grow.’ His book shows the growth of a seed, and the illustrations are as a child might draw them with a radiant sun, a fierce rain cloud, a small shoot, and finally a colourful tree, with birds singing and flowers around it. He eventually finds an apple seed, plants it, nurtures it and watches it, and then gets bored and forgets about it. However, the seed in its pot is outside, and it does grow into a little tree. Inspired, Joe plants more seeds, and produces a garden, which is admired by his neighbours, so he shares his garden with people

illustrations cleverly seem

throughout the city, finding suitable plants (e.g. a spiky cactus for the young man with spiky hair) and finally, with a flap opening out to make a triple page, we see the block of flats transformed with a garden on every balcony, so plants really do grow as

5 – 8 Infant/Junior The Last Tree HHHH

Emily Haworth-Booth, Pavilion, 32pp, 978-1-84365-437-7, £6.99, pbk

AIf you were looking for a place to settle after a long journey, would you choose the desert, the forest or the mountain-top? Emily Haworth-Booth’s characters feel instantly at home in the dappled light beneath the forest canopy and spend all summer playing on its mossy floor. With the Autumn, though, comes colder weather, and that’s when the trouble starts. What begins as well-intentioned carelessness

soon unexpected becomes

profoundly destructive. Branches are cut to fuel fires and trees are felled to build shelters – but every action causes


and soon the villagers are running to catch up with themselves as they struggle

to compensate for their

impact on the environment. There’s not enough shade? Chop

down trees to build more porches. A cold wind is blowing? Fell


remaining trees to build a wall…. Little by little, the forest disappears, until only one tree is left, and even that is under threat. Families send their children ‘beyond the wall’ to fell the last tree and fetch more wood. How the tree survives and thrives - and how the children help their parents restore what has been lost – is an enjoyable and timely lesson in environmental action and awareness. Like The King Who Banned the

Dark, Emily Haworth-Booth’s first critically-acclaimed The Last techniques

Tree uses to


picturebook, graphic-novel complex

political and environmental themes in a lively and accessible way. If The Last Tree feels more overtly didactic than its predecessor, that may not be an issue for children who see young people taking action and want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Soft pencil-crayon drawings in a

limited palette have the energetic line and storytelling quality of children’s own artwork, and Haworth-Booth’s

characters inhabit these pages with urgency and vigour. Their ‘haunting eco tale’ has something important to say and a stylish way of saying it, and will find a welcome place on many shelves. CFH

The Problem with Problems HHH

Rachel Rooney, ill. Zehra Hicks, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978 1 78344 871 5, £12.99 hbk

Problems are rather like monsters. They can be big or little, ‘knotty or hairy, slippery or tough’, but they are all different and like to make life miserable for you. You can find them in all sorts of different places, like cafes and the playground, when playing with friends, or even in bed at night. The little ones can be quite easy to deal with. Sometimes they just disappear, or you could try ‘naming’ them and making friends, like the little girl in the story does with a spider she meets. But others are harder to get rid of. There’s really only one answer then, and that is to find someone to talk to about the problem, and because ‘problems like secrets, are terribly shy’ they don’t like anyone else knowing about them. Sharing a problem will help it go away like a puff of smoke. Well, we can hope so anyway! The ‘problems’ are portrayed as monsters, cheerful, happy ones, but monsters none-the-less, and there are huge amounts of scribbly colour to enjoy. This approach should help children feel they can face their own problems with positivity and hope. ES

Boundless Sky HHHHH

Amanda Addison, illus. Manuela Adreani, Lantana Publishing, 32pp, 978 1 9113 7367 4, £14.99 hbk

This is the tale of a journey, or rather, more than one journey. The first journey is that of a bird

small enough to fit into your hand, a bird that pays young Alfie a visit one September morning as he stands in his garden. The tiny bird then

flies away across the fields heading towards the sea and thence south for the winter. Bird continues flying over snow-clad

mountains towards the

desert. There at an oasis, hungry and tired the tiny creature rests briefly and is welcomed by a girl named Leila who offers a much-needed drink. The next part of the journey is

through a jungle, then over plains and grasslands until a lake comes into sight. It’s the Bird’s African home – at last. Summer passes in a flash and it seems little time before Bird must bid the children farewell before starting the return journey. Back over grasslands and plains

towards the desert where she’d met Leila, but when she looks for the girl at her oasis home, she isn’t there. Bird continues her journey across the ocean where a mighty storm rages, tossing so we see, a tiny boat with people huddled close together. Exhausted, Bird pauses to rest in a mountain village then continues on over fields, the sea, the beach, fields, back to the town where her round journey had begun. It’s a warm April morning when she receives not one, but two greetings for there is Leila so far from home, and across the fence is Alfie. Both are excited to see the returning Bird: a joyful reunion indeed. We see much more than we’re told

in this softly spoken, poignant tale of flight, of searching, and of finding a place to call home. This beautiful book will resonate long after


covers have been closed. JB Incredible You


Rhys Brisenden, ill.Nathan Reed, Tate Publishing, 32pp, 978 1 84976 697 5, £6.99 pbk

Everyone has occasional bad days, days when we wish we were someone else, and the little boy in this picture book thinks he might like to be some sort of animal when such days come along. We see his dreams of all the exotic animals he could be and all

the things he could do if he were one.

But then, hold on, what about

him? What can he do? There follows a cornucopia of possibilities. He can use all his five senses, he can ‘do funny voices’ that make his friends laugh, he can run and dance and read and invent ways of doing things. He can play football with his feet and draw with his hands, and at the end of a busy day, he can sleep. Life is full of possibilities, and the most important thing is always to remember to be unique, ‘incredible you’. The pictures are ‘incredible’ too – full of life and dozens of little characters, integrated text, and lots and lots of colour; they will provide hours of looking and enjoying and lots of discussion too. A really superb picture book. ES

The Paper Bag Princess HHHH

Robert Munsch Art by Michael Martrchenko, Annick Press, 40pp, 9781773213439, £11.99 hbk

Princess Elizabeth is going to marry Prince Ronald; he looks every inch the perfect prince. Then disaster – a dragon snatches Ronald leaving Elizabeth with nothing but a paper bag to wear – and a fierce determination to rescue Ronald; except things do not quite turn out as you might expect. It is always good to welcome back a classic – and surely there cannot be a classic more in keeping with the times than this. While it was particularly powerful when it first appeared in 1980, its message of female

empowerment Its success is not and

independence is just as important today.

just the

message, but the storytelling which is direct, uncluttered, immediate – the voice of the narrator speaking the words directly

to his audience

and it is interesting to learn from the afterword by Anna Munsch, that this story started life as one told by Robert to children. Then there is the humour – and the final, thoroughly enjoyable, twist. While the subverted fairytale may now be an accepted

Books for Keeps No.241 March 2020 21

childlike, with Joe’s stick-like limbs and bright blue glasses simply drawn, but it is clear e.g. from the way Joe’s stance is varied that this is deceptive – Sam is an accomplished artist, and her work earns an appreciation on the cover from Anthony Browne. She has recently graduated with an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art, but has already produced this and Hello Dinosaurs, with Hello Bear and Hello Whale to be published soon. Look out for the child, boy or girl, in a stripy T-shirt, which seems to be a favourite outfit! Sam Boughton is certainly an author/illustrator on her way up. DB

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