I LOVE TRACTORS!
author: Davina Bell
illustrator: Jennie Lovelie
Andersen Press (6 May 2021)
Frankie McGee is off on an outing with his Mama to one of his very favourites places…to the library! Zooming in the door, Frankie knows exactly what book he wants, but when he shows it to Mama….Oh no! It’s another book about tractors! Of all the books Frankie could take home, why is it always tractors? Frankie explains everything he loves about tractors and why he reads about them all the time, as Mama begs him to read something else. But, it’s no use. And it’s not really a problem, either, as any librarian will tell you. What really matters is that Frankie likes books….
This picture book, with its’ fast-paced rhyming text is all about….well, yes, tractors and a young boy who loves them to the point of distraction. His joy at finding the book of his dreams is matched by his poor Mamas’ exasperation at the thought of reading yet another tractor book. But, it’s actually a book that points to something more. Frankie likes books. His enthusiasm for choosing his own book; his own interest reading bubbles out through the story. The “let them read what they want’ message, along with buckets of tractor information, is delivered with fun and humour. The bright, animated illustrations are fabulous, funny and filled with charm. Entertainment for the whole family, a book that’s sure to warm the heart, tickle the funny bone and encourage a love of reading….and tractors. Wonderful!
author/illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Andersen Press (6 May 2021)
Something strange happened on an unremarkable day…just before the seasons changed. Suddenly, everywhere all over the world, everyone who was outside went inside and shut their doors and waited. And waited….. The outside was suddenly very quiet and wilder as the grass and trees grew. The wind blew, the birds sang, but the traffic stayed away. Inside, we worried, we laughed, we made things…and we grew too. Everyone together inside, except for some people who couldn’t go inside. Those people had important jobs to do. They needed to go outside….to help wherever, however they could while we waited.
With sparse language and exquisite illustration, this book perfectly (and I mean perfectly!) captures what life in pandemic lockdown has felt like for all of us, both outside and inside, all the while paying tribute to the efforts of key workers and the sense of community that has flooded the planet. It’s something we need to honour, and more than that, remember as we emerge into the world again. The tale gives a sense of understanding and continuity of life. It helps young children make some kind of sense of how the world suddenly changed and why…and the things that didn’t change; the passing of the seasons, the promise that spring will come again. There is warmth and compassion as it addresses the experience we have all shared, though it acknowledges we all experienced it in very different ways. I cried quiet tears of joy and relief because someone finally got it….and spoke to my heart. Lovely, gentle and yet, very powerful.
author/illustrator: Chris Haughton
Walker Books (1 April 2021)
When big monkey leaves for the day, three little monkeys sit high in the branches of the forest and are left to their own devices. They have been told….whatever they do, they are NOT to go down to the mango tree. It doesn’t matter how tasty; how juicy and delicious those mangoes look. There are tigers lurking about. Those little monkeys must stay right where they are. It’s safe. But…maybe a quick, little look would be okay? Surely that wouldn’t hurt? They don’t see any tigers. Maybe it would be safe enough to just grab a few of the closest mangoes? They look so yummy! Maybe…
Chris Haughton has returned doing what he does best; creating yet another impossibly fun and beautiful cautionary tale about pushing the boundaries and learning life lessons. In just a few words, he gives us suspense, humour and memorable characters that are taken to heart immediately. With page after page of vivid, expressive illustrations, this is a story that encourages a little mischievous exploration, the need for observation and interactive, creative play from the little ones, as you can’t resist joining in with the curious monkeys. The bright, primary colour palette and simple shapes and design, this picturebook is so appealing! Cheeky, funny, irresistible…get ready to read this one over and over and over…. https://www.walker.co.uk/Maybe-9781406385526.aspx
author/illustrator: Barry Falls
Pavillion Childrens’ Books (March 2021)
Billy McGill lives all alone on the top of a hill. He likes it that way. Away from the noise and the rush of the city below, his splendid aloneness is without a sound until…a horrible scratching and squeaking disturbs him. A mouse! So, Billy gets a cat to chase the mouse away. When that doesn’t work, he gets a dog. Then a bear, then a tiger…with a terrible cold. Before too long, Billys’ peaceful house is filled with noise and CHAOS! With every solution creating a bigger problem and more noise, what can he do? He has to think fast and discovers it’s not so bad having friends around…but only on Tuesdays.
When the chaos of all the invading animals (and their need for care) overwhelms Billys’ desire for solitude, it causes quite a dilemma. A lot of creative thinking and madcap events unfold to create a workable solution for all. Billy is shown just as he is: someone who loves being alone. But the introduction of so many new characters into his life and the new feelings they bring add that certain ‘something missing’. The casual yet obvious acceptance in the tale sends a gentle, positive message to those introverts out there. You can have both! With a rollicking rhyming text and colourful, zany illustrations, this is a story that finds the balance between happy aloneness and social interaction with understanding and outrageous displays of laugh-out-loud humour. A multilayered picturebook filled with compassion, respect, friendship and fun. *Reviewed for Inis Magazine, issue 62; Childrens Books Ireland*
CERI and DERI: GET YOUR SKATES ON
author/illustrator: Max Low
Graffeg Ltd. (2 February 2021)
Ceri the cat and Deri the dog are the very best of friends. They go everywhere and do everything together. And they are delighted when their friends join in the fun. Dai the duck is determined to be the best at everything he does as soon as he tries it. So when Dai heads down to the skate park, he knows he’ll be the very best at skate-boarding. When he falls down straight away, that’s it for Dai! And all the encouragement in the world won’t make him get up. He’ll be the best at something else. Spelling, playing rugby, inventing…they all take practice and Dai doesn’t want to get anything wrong. But with good friends like Ceri and Deri, Dai soon learns that having fun with friends and doing the things you love is what’s most important. Even if you’re not the best at everything.
A welcome return to the world of Ceri and Deri! These fun and fabulous picturebooks are full of day-to-day adventure, with simple, easy to read text and bright, zany, child-friendly illustrations with much detail hidden in the pictures adding interest and fully engaging the reader. In this story, we see the importance of friendship and encouraging those around us to join in, try something new and don’t worry about being the best. It brings an effortless education message that never bogs down the humour or joy of the tale. Funny, entertaining and chock-full of a warm-hearted life lesson, this is perfect to share at home or in the classroom. https://graffeg.com/products/ceri-deri-get-your-skates-on
SUPERMOUSE and THE BIG CHEESE ROBBERY
Author: M N Tahl
Illustrator: Mark Chambers
Little Tiger Press
Everyone in Mouseopolis has gathered for the grand unveiling of The Big Cheese, the most magnificent morsel of cheese the city has ever seen. With great excitement, the citizens await for the moment when the curtain is pulled back to reveal…The Big Cheese has been stolen! The news of The Big Cheese theft spreads rapidly through Mouseopolis and a list of dastardly suspects is revealed. But who can they call on to track down these cheese-stealing crooks when there is nothing left but a few stinky crumbs? This is a job for…Supermouse!
A marvellous new crime-fighting superhero emerges in this fast-paced chase through the city of Mouseopolis. With page after page of brilliantly interactive die-cuts and attention grabbing ‘newspaper’ coverage, this is a book that is designed to delight parents and children alike (which makes it perfect to share!) The tongue-in-cheek text is loaded with hilarious wordplay, puns and references to old comic-book superheroes that will keep the whole family laughing while you rip along on this exciting adventure. There are riveting escapades, feats of daring and a few unlikely surprises. The lively illustrations, with a palette that lends itself well to the cityscape and nuanced details both in the background and facial expressions, will be examined closely for clues and those extra giggles planted within. Laugh-out-loud funny, every bookshelf should have a copy…you’ll never get bored with Supermouse in the house! (reviewed for Inis Magazine)
DREAMS FOR OUR DAUGHTERS
author: Ruth Doyle
illustrator: Aisling Lindsay
Andersen Press (4 February 2021)
“Born on this star-scattered night; kissed by the cosmos; a child made of moonbeams…”
Beginning with the same words as its’ companion book, Songs For Our Sons (see below) we take now a new road, different, but the same as a brand new baby girl enters the world with her dreams clutched in her ‘small starfish hands.’ With stunning, dreamlike illustrations, wishes and hopes for this new little girl carry us through time-travel, the frontier of space, exploration of the planet, daring visions of dragons, wolves and incredible sea-creatures, flights of fancy and the real world. The lyrical, mesmerising text wafts through the pages sending encouraging words of the possibilities that await on this magical planet, and messages of courage, kindness and vision. Again, this is a perfect gift for parents to celebrate the life-journey of their daughters and will ring true at all key life moments; birth, going off to school or university, or heading off into the world on your own; a gentle, poetic reminder of the dreams to always carry along the way and to be yourself, always…proudly and with great heart. Also, a wonderful book to aid with mental health education as it is calm, reassuring, honest and hopeful. And beautiful; simply beautiful. https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/
author: Patricia Forde
illustrator: Elína Braslina
Little Island (4 February 2021)
When a little girl wakes up in the morning, she decides to tell her Grandma a big secret. She’s afraid of….pirates! But Grandma has the answer to get rid of her fears; imagine them all in fluffy party dresses and playing with their dollies. And it works! No matter how many fears the little girl can name, Grandma has the answer. Ghosts in the rain with straw hats, vampires sucking on their dummies…there’s no fear that the power of imagination can’t fix. But what about the little girls’ biggest fear of all?
A warm and cosy relationship between generations is highlighted in this story about dealing with fears and anxiety through creative thinking. With wisdom and humour, the grandmothers’ voice is reassuring and practical, while adding an element of joy and laughter. She does takes her granddaughters’ fears to heart…they are very real, especially the last fear. But she gives her tools and tons of love to use whenever the little girl needs them. The bright contemporary illustrations are vivid and packed with wonderful patterning and detail, bringing delight to every page and images for every child to draw on. Sweet, charming, funny and bold, this is a story teaching that if we use our imagination and remember to see the funny side, we can conquer any fear. https://littleisland.ie/books/imagine/
THE DEAD ZOO
author/illustrator: Peter Donnelly
Gill Books (September 2020)
Mr. Gray was a very serious man. He wore a serious suit, a perfectly straight tie and kept his moustache perfectly combed. He had an important bunch of keys on his hip at all times. And he doesn’t really like people. Mr. Gray owned an old museum filled with a strange collection of stuffed animals. Everyone called it The Dead Zoo. When people came visit, Mr. Gray had VERY strict rules. No talking; no laughing; no shouting or running about and definitely no touching the animals! It was The Dead Zoo, after all. It shouldn’t be lively. It should be serious…and quiet! But one evening, when Mr. Gray was locking up, he discovered a little life had snuck in…
In this wonderful picturebook, we learn about the difference friendship can make with the introduction of a little mouse and the happy chaos it brings to a dull, grey life. In a crazy chase through the Dead Museum set amidst an array of colourful stuffed animals, happy children and busy city life, Mr. Gray stands out looking stern, grim, and perhaps lonely. Even the tone of the language in the text sets him apart from all around him. As the tale progresses, little by little a change occurs through the adept, designerly use of colour, expression and simple detail that allows the reader to fully understand the impact of friendship and its’ give and take. Funny, vibrant and full of life, The Dead Zoo is an absolute joy. You’ll love it! (originally reviewed for Inis Magazine online:https://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/the-dead-zoo/)
ELMER AND THE LOST TREASURE
author/illustrator: David McKee
Andersen Press (3 September 2020)
Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, Wilbur and a brave troop of elephants set off on a long exploring walk. After a while, they find themselves in a part of the jungle they have never seen. The undergrowth became dark and tangled, and they took it in turns to push through. Suddenly, they stumble upon a palace. Could this be where the Lost Treasure is hidden? As they make further into the palace, looking high and low and everywhere, Elmer discovers the real treasure…
A fun-filled and exciting trek through the jungle with Elmer and his friends is told with warmth and heart. As with all the others, this story is a wondrous journey of discovery, focusing on friendship, sharing and understanding. Elmer shines through with his happy, welcoming personality and fun-loving sense of humour. The whole book is light, bright and filled with joy. A welcome addition to any childs’ library; if you haven’t met Elmer as his friends yet, now is the time! I know you’ll love Elmer. http://www.andersenpress.co.uk/books/elmer-and-the-lost-treasure/
SONGS FOR OUR SONS
author: Ruth Doyle
illustrator: Aisling Lindsay
Andersen Press (1 October 2020)
On a sparkling starlit night, a brand new baby boy enters the world, filled with dreams and possibility. This lilting, rhyming story is the perfect welcome. Filled with wishes and love, it offers great exploration and gentle adventure. There is a poignant message of encouragement; while there will be a life full of expectations, you can be whatever you want to be, feel what ever you feel and follow the path of your choosing. And remember to be accepting and kind of others. They are following their own path, too. The illustrations set the scene eloquently, page by page with colourful, wondrous paintings. The words and use of language lead gently and magical along lifes’ path and express what it means to be a boy in challenging and changing times. This is an exquisite gift for parents and their sons at any key moment in time, be it birth, going off to school, graduation or entering the world on your own. A wonderful tool for mental health education as well. (And don’t worry, its’ companion, Dreams For Our Daughters is coming in the spring.) https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/books/songs-for-our-sons/
RAIN BEFORE RAINBOWS
author: Smriti Halls
illustrator: David Litchfield
Walker Books (1 October 2020)
“Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun.”
A young girl and her fox companion are moving through uncertain times. As they walk through the rain, the dark and across difficult and frightening landscapes, they find others there…they learn they are not alone. There are friends who will guide them, walk with them, help and support them along the way. Soon they discover there is a way out of the darkness and into the light of a rainbow-lit day.
Think to those moments when you suddenly spy a rainbow on a rainy, dark day… that sudden shot of happiness, hope, maybe even relief. That moment is exactly what this simple, lyrical book does for you. The beautifully crafted, poetic story married with rich, vivid, expressive illustrations lends a wondrous feeling of reassurance and quiet joy; it really is quite extraordinary. The language, sparse though it may be, allows the reader to feel, really feel, every emotion experienced on the journey. As the colours gradually move from the deep palette of dismal days and nighttime into the growing brilliance of a fresh new day, the text echoes this sense of emerging back into life with renewed vigour and, yes…hope. Released as a free download back in June, I am delighted to actually hold this book in my hands. This is the picturebook we all need right now; beautiful, uplifting, quietly determined and so very comforting. https://www.walker.co.uk/Rain-Before-Rainbows-9781406382358.aspx
THE MOONLIGHT ZOO
author: Maudie Powell-Tuck
illustrator: Karl James Mountford
Little Tiger Press (1 October 2020)
Evas’ cat, Luna, had been lost for two days and Eva was very worried. Was Luna scared and cold somewhere all alone? Eva wished she would come back. But the a sound from under Evas’ bed leads her to a remarkable discovery….The Moonlight Zoo- a magical place where all lost animals go. Eva is certain, well…hopeful that Luna has come here. With the help of a welcoming wolf, Eva searches among the lions and penguins and parrots, inquires of the monkeys and apes and runs with a rabble of dogs, foxes and wolves in search of Luna. But she has to quick, the Moonlight Zoo fades at dawn.
First of all, this is one of the prettiest books I have seen since Reindeer Express (by the same author & illustrator, strangely enough.) The story is a simple, but told with such imagination and heart that it instantly becomes a favourite. The longing and worry Eva feels for her lost pet is obvious. The urgency of her journey and need to find Luna is told in a way to which we all can relate. And the love! The love permeates every page. The beautiful illustrations, with their vibrant colour, sparkle and dye-cut pages really make this book sing with wonder. This is a must for all picturebook lovers and will enchant any child who finds it in their path. You need this one your shelf. http://littletiger.co.uk/the-moonlight-zoo-1-1
JULIAN AT THE WEDDING
author/illustrator: Jessica Love
Walker Books (1 October 2020)
A wedding is a party for love. Julian and Nana have been invited to a wedding in which Julian and his cousin Marisol have very special roles. After the ceremony, it’s time for the party! Everyone is so happy; dressed in their most beautiful clothes and having a wonderful time. While they are all distracted by celebrations, Julian and Marisol sneak off to explore the venue. They hide under the tables and beneath the willow trees and…oh look! Muddy puddles! It’s the perfect venue for a wedding and a bit of mischief! But what will Nana think when she finds them?
Another glorious picturebook about friendship and inclusiveness that shines just as much as the first little adventure (Julian Is A Mermaid.) There is genuine appreciation of a childs’ eye-view of the world. The wonder and joy they find is genuine, tactile. The gentle mischief Julian and Marisol get up to is definitely smile-worthy. The delicate and vibrant illustrations flow and dance making each page sing with happiness. There isn’t much else to add except….a real celebration of love and acceptance. https://www.walker.co.uk/Julian-at-the-Wedding-9781406397482.aspx
WHO MAKES A FOREST?
author: Sally Nicholls
illustrator: Carolina Rabei
Andersen Press (1 October 2020)
On a walk with Grandpa through a vast, rich forest, the children have to wonder; who makes a forest? Was it a giant, or a wizard? An emperor with an enormous army? A business corporation? Oh no…it takes much more than any of them could ever do. And a lot more time.
A gentle, intriguing story of a walk through the forest takes a grandfather and his grandchildren on a journey through time. With lilting, poetic text, the creation of a woodland is explained simply and eloquently, cleverly explaining how forests came into being. From the barest, stoniest ground with no earth, through the breakdown of rocks and lichen and even creatures of all sizes to the amazing introduction of smaller plants, insects and finally trees, this book adds an understanding of nature, as Grandpa passes on his knowledge and wisdom to another generation. The naturalistic and vibrant illustrations are lush with beautiful and poignant detail. Add to this a nonfiction section in the back of the book explaining the different types of forests across the planet, the different eco-systems they provide for and the impact of deforestation on the Earth and you have a winning formula. Evocative, touching and so incredibly beautiful, this is a perfect story to invite interest and appreciation of the natural world and its’ importance to us all. https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/books/who-makes-a-forest/
GO TO SLEEP, HOGLET!:
The Adventures of An Irish Hedgehog
author/illustrator: Bex Sheridan
O’Brien Press (12 October 2020)
As the seasons change, all the hedgehogs are nestling down for the Big Winter Sleep. But one little Hoglet just doesn’t want to go to sleep. He’s heard about Christmas time and he wants to be awake to see it! So, when all the other animals are safely tucked in their nests, Hoglet sets off on his winter adventure. He jumps on board a big bus and he’s off! Meeting other animals along the way, he fills up on the food he finds and journeys far (but not to far!) Hoglet learns that the Big Scare is more fun than scary, finds himself a nice, wooly coat to stay warm, wishes on the Fairy Tree and spies the Special Sunny Place in the middle of the cold, dark season…and then, Hoglet decides that the best place to discover what Christmas is all about is right back where he started…Home.
First let me say that I am a sucker for a hedgehog story. This one grabbed my attention straight away. A beautifully illustrated picture book, it takes us on a charming adventure with curious and happy Hoglet as he sees the sights no hedgehog gets to see when winter sets in. Full of fun and joy, it maintains a quietly dramatic tone that will keep young eyes wide open, wondering where Hoglet will end up next. The vivid, naturalistic colour palette accentuates the landscape and characters and the whole feel of the book is friendly, cosy and fun. A perfect story to share as the cold winter nights set in bringing us just a taste of the Christmas magic that’s on its’ way! https://www.obrien.ie/schools/picture-book/go-to-sleep-hoglet
WEE DONKEYS’ TREASURE HUNT
author: Erika McGann
illustrator: Gerry Daly
O’Brien Press (21 September 2020)
Grandad donkey would love to travel around Ireland, seeing all the sights there are to see, but his poor old knees are just too wobbly. So Wee Donkey sneaks off on a great adventure across the country, determined to bring back the biggest and best souvenirs she can find for Grandad. Visiting the Jeanie Johnston on the Liffey, viewing the Book of Kells, to the Blarney Stone, the Giants Causeway, swimming in the sea in Galway; Wee Donkey goes everywhere. But she be getting a bit carried away with the souvenirs she’s collecting….
From the author and illustrator that gave us Where Are You, Puffling? comes this adorable story that not only takes us on a jaunt around Ireland, but highlights the love between a grandchild and grandfather. The thoughtfulness and pleasure Wee Donkey has in doing something special for her Grandad is put forth in a light-hearted rhyming text is a joy to read alongside the colourful and bright illustrations that bring the action and locations to life. There is much detail in the pictures, giving opportunity to linger page after page, pointing out the all fabulous and fun places and activities, all rich with history and the natural world. Heartwarming and humourous, this book is a delight…and educational, too. https://www.obrien.ie/wee-donkeys-treasure-hunt
author: Ben Manley
illustrator: Hannah Peck
Andersen Press (3 September 2020)
Peter is the baddest boy in school. He appeared from a faraway land one day with his very strange family, wearing strange clothes, eating even stranger food and doing the strangest, naughtiest things. The teacher was always cross with his behaviour and he was always in trouble…for fighting on the playground, hanging upside down from the ceiling, not telling the truth and much more! But one day, the class gerbil goes missing! And Lucy lets Peter take the blame, even though she knows for sure that he wasn’t responsible.
A fun and lively picturebook that is perfect for this time of year, Vampire Peter also bears a good message about acceptance, responsibility and honesty. Peter certainly does come across as the ‘weird kid’ who disrupts everybody around him, he also makes them laugh, is kind and generous. So, just because he’s different, does that make him bad? Lucys’ attack of conscience brings about a change of heart and opens the doors to a fantastic friendship. Wonderful, child-friendly illustrations that really express the feelings and situations throughout the story. Who doesn’t love a vampire story? Bright, colourful, zany and action-packed. https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/books/vampire-peter/
LUNA LOVES ART
author: Joseph Coelho
illustrator: Fiona Lumbers
Andersen Press (2 July 2020)
Luna is going on a school trip and her mum is a parent helper. The whole class is going to the Art Gallery and everyone is very excited. Except for Finn. He seems like he doesn’t want to be there at all. The Art Gallery is so big and filled with beautiful paintings and interesting sculptures of all kinds. But Finn doesn’t care. He doesn’t even look at them. He just stands there looking at his feet…alone. Maybe Finn just needs a friend.
I love the “Luna Loves….” books and this one is a beauty. This story takes us on a wonderful journey through the Art Gallery, introducing children to a number of famous artists, encouraging them to think about what they see and express themselves, telling their own creative stories about the art. Beautifully, yet simply written, it is also a sympathetic look at families and the variety of shapes they come in. Bright, expressive illustrations weave through the story, filling it with pattern and colour and adding to the fascination of the story. Lyrical, vibrant, joyous and empathetic; Luna Loves Art is wonderful. https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/books/luna-loves-art/
INCH and GRUB: A Story About Cavemen
author: Alistair Chisholm
illustrator: David Roberts
Walker Books (3 September 2020)
Inch and Grub are neighbouring cavemen. Grubs’ cave is bigger, so he thinks that makes him the best. This makes Inch cross, so he adds a water feature and claims now he is the best. But Grub has made fire, which keeps him nice and warm. The Inch makes a chair; then a house and a car (!). And Grub makes a bed and a castle and a train. Their competition to be the best goes on and on and on until, before you know it, they both have huge wobbly piles of improvements and invention and stuff…just so they can be the best. But the piles are too big! Inch and Grub are out of control! And what will they do when the piles come tumbling down?
A timely look at rapid changes in the world and inventions throughout history, this book will keep young readers entertained with every page. As each of the cavemen let their competitive nature take hold, building bigger and better things to outdo the other and their accumulation of ‘stuff’ turns into a toppling, dangerous mess, they learn a valuable lesson about themselves. By the end, they understand they value of sharing, the importance of the simple things in life. The illustrations brilliantly demonstrate this with a subtle palette, expressive drawing and detail and great humour, Page after page is filled with giggles as increasing unlikely scenes appear. A fantastic story to share with little ones about the appreciation of friendship over possessions and what we really need to be happy; lighthearted, quirky, fabulously funny and delightful.
RIDE THE WIND
author: Nicola Davies
illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
Walker Books (6 August 2020)
Javier has a secret. When his fathers’ fishing boat, The Magdalena was rolling and pitching over the rough seas, Javier discovers an albatross caught in lines, barely alive. Javier smuggles the albatross to safety, very much against his fathers’ orders, and begins to nurse her back to health. Each day, she takes a little more food and grows in strength, but she shows no signs of wanting to use her wings. And then one day, Javiers’ father discovers her. He sells her to a carnival before she is able to fly away. Javier is heart-broken and angry at the injustice so he runs off…and frees the albatross! Racing across the land with the police pursuing him, Javier is headed for the cliffs. The albatross feels the wind in her feathers and suddenly, a great desire overcomes her…a desire to fly; to find home.
This is a story embedded with understanding, grief, separation and love. The compelling story of the lost albatross merges with that of Javier and his father as they navigate the complex seas of life after the loss of his mother. The sense of the natural world and human relationship with it is at the centre of the tale, echoing the feeling and bringing an effective, multi-layered, gentle power that sinks into the reader. Here we find adventure and a call to look more closely at what we do in the world. The evocative watercolour illustrations add to the mood and atmosphere, tugging us along and placing us firmly alongside Javier, the albatross and all who cross their path. With a quiet, yet glorious sense of freedom and resolution in the end, this book is a wonder! Heart-felt, compassionate and one to return to again; a very real kind of magic lives here.
HAVE YOU SEEN THE DUBLIN VAMPIRE?
author/illustrator: Úna Woods
O’Brien Press (7 September 2020)
As the sun goes down, the Dublin Vampire wakes up and emerges from his creepy old tree, ready to hop onto the Ghost Bus and ride into the town. If you happen to see him, he’ll lead you on a trip all across the city. Crossing the Liffey, heading up Grafton Street, in the old library at Trinity College, the Dead Zoo or maybe even in a café. Who knows where he’ll turn up? So keep your eyes open! You might see the Dublin Vampire!
With a wonderful, easy to follow rhyming text, this is a journey through Dublin with a most unlikely tour guide, the Dublin Vampire. A positively delightful story, it is sure to be enjoyed by even the youngest readers. The bright, cheerful illustrations light up the background night palette with colour and happy smiling faces as you turn from page to page, spotting our friendly vampire friend all over the city. But everyone in the book is too busy rushing around to notice him! This offers a quiet suggestion that, if you take the time to look around you, you never know what or who you’ll see. Happy, fun and full of charm, you’ll love the Dublin Vampire.
ALBERT THE DRAGON
author: Gareth Chapman
illustrator: Andrea Rossi
Gareth Chapman Books (2019)
After his wings were damaged in a terrible storm, Albert the Dragon spends most of his time in his cave all alone. He tried to fix his wings, but they really are just a mess. Albert has become very shy and embarrassed at the state of himself. One day, Albert slips out early to go into the village. He thinks he’ll be able to avoid everyone, but he bumps right into Holly, a little girl with a warm, welcoming smile. As Albert tells her his story, he starts to realise that he doesn’t have to be alone. And with a little help, a smile and a song, Albert is better than new in no time at all.
This is a warm and cheerful story with a lilting rhyming text and colourful illustrations with an expressive quality page after page. With good characterisation, themes of loss of confidence, friendship and understanding are voiced in a sincere, child-friendly way. Albert the Dragon will bring a burst of reassurance into the heart of any child who struggles with shyness. Tender, heartfelt, a bit quirky, bright and utterly delightful.
LEAP, HARE, LEAP!
author: Dom Conlon
illustrator: Anastasia Izlesou
Graffeg, Ltd (16 July 2020)
A mother hare stands at attention over her leverets in their warm and cosy nest. Danger is nearby. She catches a glimpse of red; a tail tipped in white. In a flash, she leaps! She springs into the sky and the world turns and as she leaps, she travels to places across the globe. Visiting cousins in far off lands, sensing the dangers they deal with, she continues to leap until she finds her way back to the farmhouse; back to her form and her leverets; safe, cosy, home.
In a gentle but exciting journey around the world, we are taken into the life of a hare and her many cousins, wherever they may live. The poetic, simple story has a rhythm that pulls the reader in, introducing new environments and new terminology. There is a perfect balance of tension and relief as Hare travels, facing unfamiliar territory in her quest to get back home. The illustrations paired with the tale are stunning. Filled with a natural palette of colour and form, each page is like a painting and draws the reader deeper into this world. An artistic, poetic vision of differing habitats and predators, we can find both danger and comfort here. A book that will mesmerise children everywhere, while also having huge appeal to adults; even the physical feel of the pages brings enchantment. With the inclusion of hare facts at the end; beautiful, soothing and quiet; this is education and appreciation of the natural world at its’ finest. And it makes a great bedtime story!
THE MOUSES’ APPLES
author: Frances Stickley illustrator: Kristyna Litten
Andersen Press (2 July 2020)
Mouse has been having a wonderful day. Out foraging for her tea, she’s found four plump, juicy apples…the most she’s ever found! Just as she’s about to take them home…uh-oh….along comes Bear. Bear is feeling particularly greedy and mean. He’s going to take every apple for himself. Poor Mouse! All that foraging and she’s going to be left with nothing! But Mouse is brave and she is clever. She comes up with a clever trick to teach Bear a lesson!
This is an utterly charming story that highlights cleverness, resourcefulness and ultimately…sharing. With its’ bright, appealing illustrations, the simple rhyming text pulls the reader along on an adventure with clever little Mouse and hungry, grumpy, huge Bear. His intentions are very clear, but Mouse doesn’t give in to her fears. She musters her courage and uses her wits. But, in the end, this tale also shows us that, in considering others and learning to share, we may even make a new friend. Kindness always wins. A funny, delightful story we can all relate to; witty, warm, mischievous and cosy. A perfect story to share.
MOLLY AND THE LIGHTHOUSE
author: Malachy Doyle
illustrator: Andrew Whitson
Graffeg Ltd (23 July 2020)
The lighthouse was one of Mollys’ very favourite things on the whole island. Every night, it would go round and round, shining its’ light into her cosy room, keeping her company and making her feel safe. She would count…one, two, three…and by the time she got to seventeen (always seventeen), there would be the light again. But one night, Molly woke and realised something was very wrong. She counted and counted, but the light didn’t appear! Molly woke her mum immediately. The island Dads were off fishing and if the lighthouse wasn’t working, they wouldn’t be able to find their way. While Mum ran to the harbour wall to light a signal fire, Molly and Dylan rushed to the lighthouse, only to find the lighthouse keeper, Old Jamesie collapsed on the floor. It’s up to Molly and Dylan to save the day!
Molly is a wonderful character. She is bold, brave and full of life, with freedom and a curious nature that expresses her consideration of the people and world around her. And she is encouraged to be herself, to follow her heart and that bountiful curiosity, as every child should be. Here, we see the things that bring comfort, concern, fear and joy plainly, as if through the eyes of this young girl without any ‘adult interpretation’ of what might be going on in her head. While the story takes place on a small island, the adventure is expressed in a way that brings the reader, wherever they may live, into this world. When the lighthouse light stops shining, we sense the urgency and drama of when comfort is taken away. But we also see the understanding that Molly herself can do; will do something about it. The sense of responsibility and empathy to others is strong, that feeling of coming together to solve a problem. In Andrew Whitsons’ masterful hand, the illustrations tell the story as well as the text, with that same sense of childlike wonder and expression. Each page is a work of art that is perfectly married to the tale. They express the adventure, drama and security of this piece of the world in a way that makes it every childs’ story. The nuance of line, texture and colour, paints a world that is both of the imagination and of the real world.As lighthouses may be unfamiliar to young children, there is a wonderful page at the back of the story; 10 interesting facts about lighthouses.This book is a pure joy; adventurous, intriguing, heart-warming. Both contemporary and timeless, it joins its’ ‘older sisters’ in the series as being a book that will long be cherished and read over and over again. Molly and the Lighthouse is available in English, Irish (Muireann agus an Teach Solais) and Welsh (Mali a’r Goleudy). It is also available as an ebook.
THE WALLOOS’ BIG ADVENTURE
author/illustrator: Anuska Allepuz
Walker Books (4 June 2020)
The Walloos live on a small, rocky island; Big Walloo who loves to build things (especially boats); Spotty Walloo who cooks fragrant soups and fresh salads; Little Walloo loves the tiny plants that sprout up between the rocks; and Old Walloo who loves to tell stories about his visits to beautiful tropical-exotic islands in the old days. Little Walloo loves these stories. How she wishes she could have a tropical-exotic island adventure! And all Walloos love to go on trips…so off they go in a brand new boat (built by Big Walloo, of course.) It isn’t long before they find just such an island. But wait…this island is moving. It isn’t an island at all. It’s a hippo! A hippo with a problem. How can the Walloos help him and continue their great adventure….
This beautiful picture book filled with warmth, humour and a wonderful tale of kindness, friendship and consideration. The Walloos are lovely characters who show us how to work together and see things through each others’ eyes. There is a gentle message about appreciating and respecting the natural world and all its’ gifts; about nurturing curiosity and understanding. The bright, lively illustrations bring an enthusiasm for the environment, showing how to truly engage with each other and the world around. A wonderful escapade that will fast become a favourite; a charming, funny, fantastic journey. So adorable!
THE LITTLE BLACK SHEEP OF CONNEMARA
author/illustrator: Elizabeth Shaw
O’Brien Press (25 May 2020)
Once there was a shepherd who lived far away in the mountains with a basket full of knitting, a sheep dog named Polo and a flock of lovely, fluffy white sheep..and one little black sheep. The little black sheep wasn’t sure if he liked being different from all the others. He knew Polo didn’t like it. Polo wanted the shepherd to sell the little black sheep after shearing time and then all of his sheep would be fluffy and white and all the same; just the way he liked. One day, a storm broke and the shepherd and Polo went running for the hut. They waited out the storm, warm and cosy. In the morning, when they went out to bring the sheep home, the land all around was blanketed in soft white snow all around. The sheep were nowhere to be seen. Until, in the distance, they spotted a little black spot on the hill… Things became very different after that.
Originally published in 1985, this picture book tells the adventures of one little black sheep. Seen as an outcast by the bossy, narrow-minded sheep dog, he saves the whole flock, puts Polo in his place and gives the shepherd a really good idea. The original illustrations paint an idyllic portrait of calm, beauty and constant change. (I take a particular joy in the image of the shepherd knitting alongside an ever-vigilant, cranky Polo.) A celebration of difference, this is a tale of how to become a hero…just by being yourself. Charming, quiet, heart-warming and poignant.
author: Máire Zepf illustrator: Paddy Donnelly
Futa Fata (May 2020)
Míp (Meep) the space robot was built for a very exciting mission. She would travel to Mars, sending photographs back to Earth and seeking alien life. Once there, she started exploring right away, taking pictures of everything and everywhere she went. But there were no signs of any aliens. She zapped rocks, collected samples and took loads of photographs of huge craters and icy lakes. She even sent selfies back to the scientists on Earth…but there still were no signs of alien life. Míp was the hardest working robot ever, and it was beginning to show. Two of her wheels fell off, she was dented and battered and her steering antenna broke to pieces. And then, disaster struck. A huge Martian storm hit and the Earth scientists lost all contact with Míp. It seemed Míp was gone. But that’s not the end of the story…
(written in Irish; leabhar as gaeilge) With lyrical, lilting language, Míp brings all the fascination and excitement of space exploration to life! Page after page of adventure, drama and humour meets the reader as you travel across truly unknown territory. Míp is a wonderful character; full of personality and childlike wonder. It easy easy to feel great attachment and empathy for the little robot, brave, alone, determined and curious. The illustrations are dynamic and expressive, adding meaning and colour to the tale. This is a contemporary story, and one that will be cherished by every young space traveller. Filled with inspiration, happiness and a good few chuckles, Míp is a sparking gem for the entire solar system.
(Thank you to Futa Fata for providing me with an English translation for Míp. It not only aids with the review, but is a great help while I work on my Irish language skills! )
FLETCHER AND THE SPRINGTIME BLOSSOM
FLETCHER AND THE SUMMER SHOW
author: Julia Rawlinson
illustrator: Tiphanie Beeke
Graffeg Publishing (May 2020)
In Fletcher and the Springtime Blossom, the entire forest is looking forward to the new season after a long, cold winter. Fletcher the fox bounces off with his nose in the air, his head spinning with all the new sights, sounds and smells. As he tumbles down the hill, Fletcher finds a shocking surprise. The ground is blanketed in white and the gentle breeze is wafting more soft flakes through the orchard trees. He must rush back to warn his woodland friends…winter isn’t over yet! Or is it?
As summer arrives in the wood in Fletcher and the Summer Show, everything is alive with joyful sounds. Every creature has their own song to sing; even the croaky frog. Fletcher hears a soft, sniffling, sad sound. It’s poor Rabbit. She doesn’t have a song and none of animals can teach her theirs. Rabbit can’t make a single sound…but she can bounce. And with Fletchers’ help, she becomes the star of the summer show!
Graffeg has brought these popular picture books back to life (previously released by Gullane Childrens’ Books as the Ferdie the Fox series) with all their original colour, text and wonderful characters. A real sense of friendship and fun follows a group of woodland residents through the year, giving an understanding of the seasons and the wonder to be found in each. Lyrical storytelling create quiet adventures and is evocative the dilemmas of the diverse group of friends. The illustrations are beautifully rendered and adding just the right amount of detail, with the palette shifting through the books, displaying a lovely view of the ever-changing natural world. The facial expressions and body language allow for an understanding into each creature. These books are simply marvelous. Not only encouraging young children in genuine appreciation of the nature, they also encourage empathy, understanding and a desire to help each other. Evocative, gentle, a joy to look at and filled with wonder.
(Coming from Graffeg 8 October 2020; Fletcher and the Falling Leaves and Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas.)
author: Simon Mole illustrator: Oamul Lu
Frances Lincoln Childrens Books (August 2019)
When David moved to Fivehills, the first thing he noticed was the sky filled with kites; beautiful, fun kites of all shapes and sizes dancing in the air. Everyone had a kite…except David. His old toys didn’t seem to fit. To make new friends, David would need a kite. Then David he found Grandpa’s feather, and Grandpa’s voice echoed in his memory. So, he made a kite of his own. The kite doesn’t seem to be able to join the others high in the sky. All the other children think the kite needs to be different, adding their own ideas, leaving David feeling left out; somehow not enough. Encouraged by Grandpa’s memory, he keeps trying. And soon, something wonderful happens.
With its’ familiar theme of change, determination and friendship written in lyrical, poetic language, it expresses the feelings of a child confronting change and new beginnings with sensitivity. David attempts to design a kite, its’ failure to fly and Davids’ success in the end, perfectly echo his attempts at fitting in with these new people. The story clearly demonstrates the importance of memory in moving forward; finding a way. While the words themselves paint the story, it is the illustrations that bring it to life. Bright, bold colours and texture-rich patterns dance across each page in a stunning display of mood and atmosphere, making it an irresistible story to dive into. Told in evocative, flowing voice with illustrations of such richness and charm, this is a story to read, keep and share.(Reviewed for Inis Magazine online: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/kites/ )
SOME DINOSAURS ARE SMALL
author/illustrator: Charlotte Voake
Walker Books (2 January 2020)
Some dinosaurs are small with tiny teeth for eating fruits and vegetables. Some dinosaurs are big with huge, pointy teeth. And they are always hungry. They take food from small dinosaurs and when they finish eating it, they are still hungry. They go looking for more to eat. Watch out, small dinosaur! Some dinosaurs are small, some are big and some dinosaurs are ENORMOUS!
What young child doesn’t love dinosaurs? Bright, lively illustrations that bounce across double-page spreads bring excitement and fascination to even the very youngest book-lover. The clean primary palette of colours contains a surprising amount of detail, creating a vision of environment and atmosphere. And the facial expressions of small dinosaur! Priceless! Quirky and clever, the pictures speak of difference and comparison, little and large with a simple, easy-to-remember text delivering drama and just plain silliness while encouraging interaction and creative play within the story. Add to this a sense of comfort when realising that, no matter how big the danger, there is always someone there to help and you have a perfect book to share. So joyful!(Reviewed for Inis Magazine online: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/some-dinosaurs-are-small/ )https://www.walker.co.uk/Some-Dinosaurs-Are-Small-9781406376302.aspx
CERI and DERI: YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPER
CERI and DERI: THE VERY SMELLY TELLY SHOW
author/illustrator: Max Low
Graffeg Publishing (9 April 2020)
Ceri is a cat and has stripes. Deri is a dog and has spots. They live in a small town near a big hill and they do everything together. They are the best of friends. And now, they are back with two more adventures. In Young Whippersnapper, Ceri, Deri and their friend Dai the Duck help Davey Dog carry his shopping home. All those cans of baked beans are very heavy! But with Dais’ skateboard, shopping becomes so much easier. They just don’t realise what chaos they’ve caused! This results in a very funny tale that looks at how young people and old people can band together and help each other. In The Very Smelly Telly Show, Ceri and Deri want their buddy Dai to come out and play Frisbee. Dai is determined to stay inside. His favourite show is on the Telly and he really doesn’t want to miss it! But when Ceri and Deri find an old cardboard box that smells like bananas, they create their own TV channel and prove to Dai that live action is much more fun. Dai can’t wait to get involved! The bright, colourful, cartoon-like illustrations add much fun and humour to the easy-to-follow writing filled with adventure. The series has an effortless educational element and a child-like sensibility that makes them perfect for read-aloud time at school or at home. An utterly engaging, very funny collection of stories that must be shared!
BARNEY GOOSE: A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure
author/illustrator: Carol Ann Treacy
O’Brien Press (23 March 2020)
Tom the lighthouse keeper found Barney Goose when he was just an egg washed up on the shore in West Cork. Tom took him home and kept him warm until Barney popped out of his shell. Barney loved living with Tom. He followed Tom everywhere he went, growing up fast with all the leaves and roots and weeds Tom fed him. But when springtime came, Barney couldn’t get over the feeling he had to go…but he didn’t know why. Off Barney flew! To the Skellig Islands, on to Limerick, county Clare, Galway, Sligo and beyond…far, far beyond; making friends all along his wild adventure. And he still doesn’t know why. But every year, Barney pays a visit to his old, best friend Tom…
In this bright, colourful adventure, we follow a young barnacle goose on his trek up the coast of Irelands’ Wild Atlantic Way. Written with an easy-to-read, but none the less exciting text, even the youngest reader learns a lot about the geography and wildlife of the area and the behaviour and annual migration pattern of geese. But there’s more! Woven in is a sweet story of friendship; making new friends and remembering the old; and kindness. We feel a sense of companionship with Barney, presented as a funny, interesting character. Little touches such as the red knitted hat he wears along his way give him an almost human appeal (and makes him easy to spot, for sure.) The welcome he receives as he meets up (finally) with a flock of like-minded geese is heartwarming. With its’ bold palette, beautiful, expressive pictures, and contemporary design, we are given a glimpse of a natural world filled with wonder. A wonderful story, warm and adventurous; this is a book filled with delight.
YOU CAN’T COUNT ON DINOSAURS! An Almost Counting Book
author: Philip Ardagh illustrator: Elissa Elwick
Walker Books (2 April 2020)
Are you ready to count dinosaurs? We’ll start with Rex the T-Rex; he’s number 1; and then Patty the Diplodocus is 2. Hmm… Rex looks a little hungry. Anyway, here’s Brian the Anklyosaurus and that makes 3. And number 4 is…wait a minute! Where’s Brian? Oh no…Rex! You didn’t! Bad Rex! Let’s just try to get on with it, shall we? Terry the pterosaur makes five, but he doesn’t count because he’s not really a dinosaur. Dinosaurs can’t fly. But it looks like Rex can fly! REX! This is going to be hard, because you really can’t count on dinosaurs. (At least not with Rex around…)
The winning team of Ardagh and Elwick have created another brilliant book with a funny, fantastic storyline and wonderful, bright illustrations that will bring renewed enthusiasm about counting to 10. Favourite dinosaurs fill every page with their antics and expressions. The laugh-out-loud story entertains enormously with its’ quirky prehistoric mayhem and twists that will keep you on your toes. Perfect for read-aloud fun, this engaging tale is the perfect way to teach numbers and help you remember which dinosaur is which. Completely bonkers, totally hilarious and SO. MUCH. FUN.
FOLLOW ME, FLO!
Walker Books (2 April 2020)
Flo is very mischievous; always wandering off and never quite following directions. Daddy Duck thinks he’s found a way to make sure Flo follows along when they go to visit Auntie Jennas’ pond. Because Flo loves to sing, Daddy Duck invents the ‘Follow Song’. But Flo thinks Daddy doesn’t sing high enough or loud enough, so she sings her own version of the song. Oh no! Before she realises, Flo is lost! And she’s being followed by a fearsome fox!!! Can she remember the words to Daddys’ song and find her way back?
A Daddy and daughter cautionary tale that will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face, Follow Me, Flo! is full of adventure and fun. The rhythmic, rhyming text is written with a wonderful, appealing sentiment that leads the story through twists and turns with just the right amount of tension and drama (peppered with lots of laughs) to engage little ones and make them want more. The beautiful, free illustrations are done in bright, springtime colours and a wonderful expressive quality. Somewhat reminiscent of the Daisy stories by Jane Simmons, this one is simply joyous!
GROW: Secrets of Our DNA
author: Nicola Davies
illustrator: Emily Sutton
Walker Books (2 April 2020)
Every living thing grows; plants, animals and people. But growing doesn’t just mean what size you get to be; how big or small you are, or how fast or slow you grow. It means changing! This is all because of instructions written in everything and everybody in a code called DNA; our genetic code. While the DNA code combines in a number of patterns that make us all different, we all share some parts of the genetic code. The way you grow and change connects you with every creature living (or that was ever alive!) on the planet.
Written in easy-to-follow language, this book explains clearly the complex concept of DNA as a story. Wrapping the reader in a smooth, flowing text with it’s lively, intricate illustrations, it is both fascinating and enchanting, taking us on the magical journey that is simply life. Both a lovely, gentle work of art and an insightful, factual nonfiction book, this is bound to educate, inspire and delight readers of any age.
BUNNIES ON THE BUS
author: Philip Ardagh
illustrator: Ben Mantle
Walker Books (5 March 2020)
It’s a warm, sunny day in Sunny Town and all the creatures living there are enjoying the gentle buzz of life in this lovely, sunny place. Until… oh, dear! It seems bunnies have commandeered the bus! In a riot of bunny busy-ness, they rollick through the town, speeding past bus stops, hanging out the window and causing bunny havoc! There are bunnies in the aisles; bunnies on the roof and bunnies hanging off the sides. With Little Bunny at the wheel, they’re taking a wild ride across Sunny Town, so get out of the way! These bunnies are bonkers!
A riotous, chaotic journey is sure to bring laughs and excitement to storytime. With a quirky, rhythmic text (try singing it!) filled with word play and repetition, Bunnies On The Bus is fast-paced, furious and easy to remember, so even the youngest will quickly join in. The bright and (very) lively illustrations add to the hilarity and bring in some intriguing sub-plots. Look out for the hamsters traveling in hamster balls, a duck family trying to cross the road, escaped convict squirrels…and so much more tucked in the details of this madcap story. Delightful, hysterical and SO MUCH FUN!
LOVE FROM ALFIE McPOONST (the best dog ever)
author: Dawn McNiff
illustrator: Patricia Metola
Walker Books (2 January 2020)
Alfie McPoonst, the best dog ever has died and his owner, Izzy is so sad. But Alfie sends her a series of letters from his new address; The Nicest Cloud, Dog Heaven. Alfie tells Izzy all about his new home. There are postman to chase. He never has to take a bath! Alfie can have all the dog treats he wants, chases scares the big wolves and can play in hundreds of dog parks. He even watches Izzy from a star peephole. Even though he misses Izzy very much, Alfie is happy…and he will love Izzy forever.
This is a story deals with the very real, very raw pain of loss while injecting gentle humour and a sense of enduring love. It manages to marry Izzys’ day to day life without her beloved dog with a picture of his ‘life’ now and how he misses her, but wants her to know that its’ all okay. The illustrations have a softness and dream-like quality that beautifully the emotional content, becoming soothing reminders of the relationship between owner and pet and begin to allow the happy memories to seep in. Together with the text of the letters, it allows a space to acknowledge the impact of Izzys’ grief while opening up to the (very difficult to grasp at time of loss…any loss) understanding that while those we love may die, the love never does and will carry us through. What remains is a sense of consistency and quiet joy. You will want to have the tissues ready. Simply a lovely, kind story that is most comforting, cosy and genuine.
author/illustrator: Caroline Magerl
Walker Books (2 January 2020)
Nop is not a plush, fluffy kind of bear. In fact, he’s quite patchy in places. He has no buttons or ribbons or spangles…and nothing to say where he belongs. Nop sits on a chair in Oddmints Dumporeum and night after night watches the others stitch and sew, bejewel and besparkle. He watches as everyday, the others the others find somewhere else to go…to belong. But not Nop. Until one day, a new bow tie causes a thought to land like a feather; and a wonderful new adventure begins.
This book is something really special. An economy of language captures the mood and atmosphere of each page as we are drawn into the story until forgetting about the world around all around. There is nothing but the activity in Oddmints Dumporeum and the feelings of a small, forgotten teddy, fired by gloriously descriptive language. Poetic illustrations create a dreamlike world in motion, wafting, changing; perfectly real and perfectly enchanted at once. Every page is an utter delight, filled with wonder and detail that tugs on the heart and imagination. The colour palette shifts ever so slightly to evoke the texture of emotion as the tale builds…but builds compassionately, thoughtfully. Yet it still manages to have those breath-catching moments of anticipation. A tale of adventure that has at its heart a sense of being and belonging, knowing and hoping. A story every child (and grown-up!) will cherish for years, Nop is cosy and comforting, exquisitely beautiful in all ways and filled with a sense of magical possibility.
SNOW LEOPARD: GREY GHOST OF THE MOUNTAIN
author: Justin Anderson
illustrator: Patrick Benson
Walker Books (7 November 2019)
In the high mountains of the Himalayas, the people tell stories of a mysterious animal they call the “Grey Ghost.” It is incredibly rare and hard to find as it stalks along the rocky landscape. But they say, if you are lucky enough to see it, you feel so happy, so excited it is as if your soul is flying. Justin and his guide set out one day to travel up into the mountains. They climb further and further through the freezing landscape when suddenly, tracks appear in the snow. And there, a short distance before them is…a Snow Leopard. And not just one, but two! A mother and her cub. As they follow her, what unfolds is a story of life for the snow leopard…
In this new Nature Storybook, Justin Anderson brings the tale of his journey to find and see the Snow Leopard in her native land. He reveals fascinating insights into the life of these astounding creatures and the harsh, forbidding landscape; how they survive; how they care for their young. It is a fascinating, adventurous and moving story. Illustrated with the spectacular work of Patrick Benson, this world and seldom seen animal is imprinted in the imagination and heart of all. The pictures capture the subtlety of the landscape, the quiet illusive nature of the Snow Leopard as well as the atmosphere, excitement and awe of the book perfectly. Filled with facts throughout, there is a page at the end dedicated to efforts to conserve and protect these animals and why. Eloquently written, there is such beauty related in both the words and pictures that you will be haunted by the extraordinary wonder of the “Grey Ghost.”
NELL and THE CIRCUS OF DREAMS
author: Nell Gifford
illustrator: Briony May Smith
Oxford University Press (May 2019)
The summer that Mummy was ill and had to stay in bed, Nell was sad. She finds a little chick and the two soon become best friends. She takes her inside, names her Rosebud, and the pair spend all their time together. One morning, Rosebud disappears! Nell runs off through the garden and into the fields to find her. Nell finds something else; something beyond her wildest dreams. A circus! Full of colour and lights and happy sounds, the circus is truly a magical event, with Nell and Rosebud as the stars of the show. And while it is soon time for Nell and Rosebud to go home, the magic and joy they take with them last all summer long…and into the next and the next….Filled with a dream-like, almost nostalgic quality, this is a book to take you away on a journey of quiet joy and wonder. The text and illustrations are equally enchanting and set the scenes in a way that pulls you in, making the story come alive, firing the imagination and creativity. The story is written simply, but with care and attention to Nell’s feelings throughout. There is real magic in these words. The illustrations are simply stunning; vibrant and sumptuous with depth and texture. The facial expressions and choice of colour bring to life the words on the page, making each one a work of art. A story of friendship, caring, running away with the circus and bringing home your own brand of happiness.
(review published originally Inis Magazine/Childrens Books Ireland online.)
author: Mac Barnett
illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault
Walker Books (3 October 2019)
It’s bedtime. But it’s never that easy tucking this little one in for the night. This is the time when this child has too many questions about the world to go to sleep. Why is the ocean blue? Why do birds fly south for the winter? What are black holes? The trick is trying to give the best answers. The questions could go on all night! But it is time for sleep, little one!
A tribute to curious young minds and patient parents seeking answers, this is a wonderful addition to any bedtime story collection. The relationship between parent and child shines through; patient, quizzical, imaginative and supportive. But as the father answers more and more questions, a bit tired and ready for the end of the day. Still you see the genuine interest to satisfy this little ones’ queries, while thoroughly understanding his genuine interest for sleep. The illustrations create a beautiful tableau for the quiet action. Beautiful, bold, contemporary and full of charm, each page moves the story through with a dream-like quality, culminating in the perfect ending. Just marvelous, one to which we can all relate (whether parent or child), this is the perfect good night book.
WHAT I LIKE MOST
author: Mary Murphy
illustrator: Zhu Cheng-Liang
Walker Books (3 October 2019)
A little girl shares with us all her favourite things; the things she likes most. At first, there’s her window and the scenes she views through it. Also, there’s her light up shoes; steamy chips that are almost too hot; her red pencil, the river where she has small adventures with her friends; her favourite book. But all of these will change in time. Sometimes the river is peaceful and shallow, sometimes it’s wild and full. Her pencil will grow shorter as she uses it. She will outgrow her shoes. But there is something that will never change. It’s someone she will always love; someone who has always been there and always will be. And that is what she likes most.
Mary Murphy, renowned for her bright, bold picture books, gives us a gentle story of one young girls favourite things. The clear, easy text flows through pages brought to life by the exquisite, attentive illustrations of Zhu Cheng-Liang, taking the reader on a journey through her observations and feelings. As this child sees how even her most favourite things change over time, she is confident that her mother will not. She has always been there, since before she was born and always will be, adding an expanded and warm dimension to every day. It is a tender consideration of the enduring love a child has for her mother. Such a lovely book in every way, it is my new favourite thing. Touching, wondrous and beautiful.
WHAT CAN YOU SEE?
author: Jason Korsner
illustrator: Hannah Rounding
I LIKE TO PUT FOOD IN MY WELLY
author: Jason Korsner
illustrator: Max Low
Graffeg Ltd. (17 October 2019)
These two new books, written by BBC Broadcaster Jason Korsner, are filled with laughs, fun and wonder all aiming to encourage to take a closer look at the world and get excited about language.
In What Can You See?, you will find page after page of lovely, colourful illustrations (by Hannah Rounding) that are loaded with detail. The gentle rhyme leads the reader through the world, asking you to observe, to look closer, find the great variety of things that whirl past our vision daily. It’s a perfect book to interest even babies and the youngest children to look more carefully.
I Like To Put Food In My Welly is a hilarious adventure through language and word-play that is bound to leave you in stitches of laughter. Written again in rhyme, the vivid, child-like, free pictures by Max Low add to the raucous fun and imaginative play. For young readers, this is an adventure that gives the gift of excitement about expressing yourself, poetry and twisting words around to change the meaning and mood.
Both are great fun and if you’re not careful, you just might learn something new.
author: Maria Breen-Fahey
illustrator: Béibhínn McCarthy
Tribes Press (October 2019)
Sammy wakes up to her favourite treat; buttered toast…yum!…then she’s ready for her day. Exploring the town, Sammy finds all sorts of tasty treats and joyous fun are hers for the taking. But, she does cause a lot of silly mischief along the way. Especially when she and Dan head off to the Bertsville Fair! Sammy is hoping to win the “Waggiest Tail” competition. Will a mishap in the pottery stall and a stray chicken spoil her chances? Or is an even bigger surprise heading Sammys’ way?Everyone will love this laugh-out-loud story of happiness, puppy trouble and unexpected triumph. Sammy is a puppy of great character, bringing joy and a bit of frustration to the residents of Bertsville. He is bound to make readers smile on every page with his charming misadventures. It’s well-written, easy-to-read text makes this book ideal for sharing with the little ones or for young readers who are just learning. (And it is a gentle tale that will help them fall in love with reading!) The colourful illustrations are lovely, singing with delights. Sammy will capture your heart. Simply wonderful!https://tribespress.com/product/silly-sammy/
TIBBLE AND GRANDPA
author: Wendy Meddour
illustrator: Daniel Egnéus
Oxford University Press (5 September 2019)
Tibble loves talking to Grandpa. He loves playing with Grandpa. But lately, Grandpa has stopped listening. Grandpa spends all his time gardening. Mum says Tibble just needs to give Grandpa time; so he gives him 6 1/2 minutes. And then Tibble decides to try his favourite game…Top Threes! An amazing thing happens. Grandpa starts listening and talking again!
Oh this book! This beautiful, beautiful book! With a sparse text filled with meaning, the reader embarks on a story of love, loss, the relationship between a grandfather and grandson, memory and healing. In a simple questioning game, Tibble teases conversation and a desire to relate again out of his Grandpa (in that way that only children have) and enter into the adventure that surrounds them both. The illustrations are vibrant and full of detail, echoing the intent and emotion on each page as the two come to understand each other again. I found myself wanting to remove pages for framing…but I won’t. The book is so perfect. The illustrations are breath-taking. The quiet joy that fills this book is infectious. And yes, you quite likely will shed a few tears. Moving, gently powerful and utterly consuming. A picture book that everyone needs!
GASPARD BEST IN SHOW
author: Zeb Soanes
illustrator: James Mayhew
Graffeg Publishing (22 August 2019)
Gaspard is out and about, looking for his friend, Finty the dog. Peter (the cat) having nothing better to do with his time, goes along to help Gaspard, who doesn’t quite know where Finty lives. Following his nose, Gaspard discovers there is a community fete happening in the park, complete with a Fancy Dress Dog Show. Finty is bound to be there! Fearful of being discovered; foxes aren’t particularly welcome at a fete; Gaspard ducks under a clothing table and emerges tangled in a frilly shirt, with a pair of silky shorts on his head like a hat. Gaspard has become a Muskateer! And somehow, he finds himself the star of the Fancy Dress Dog Show….until it all goes wrong.
Another day in the life of an urban fox, and oh my!….it is completely delightful. With a gentle, flowing story line, this book still manages to pack in plenty of action and mischief with great characterisation. It gives the reader a hero they can believe in, an intrepid, bold explorer of the human world. James Mayhews’ illustrations are exceptional, as always, with a natural palette, an abundance of expression and pure joy. This is a story of friendship, community, difference and acceptance. We could all learn a lot from Gaspard and his friends.
As with the previous, at the end of the book, there are many “foxy facts”, some activities and this one even includes a bit about the Muskateers. You really need Gaspard on your shelf, whether at home or at school. Charming, warmhearted, funny, educational, as well…I love Gaspard!
author: Erika McGann illustrator: Gerry Daly
O’Brien Press (4 February 2019)
As the sun comes up over Skellig Michael, it’s going to be a beautiful day…the perfect day for an adventure, thinks little Puffling. Quick as a flash, she out of her burrow, stretching her wings and off to explore. But her puffin parents are worries; they don’t know where she’s gone. “Where are you, Puffling?”, they call out across the tiny island. All the other animals have seen her, but after helping each one she’s run off in search of more friends. When the parents finally spot her, PufflingBased on an original story by Sean Daly (illustrator Gerry Dalys’ uncle), this lively tale takes us on a trek across Skellig Michael with a real sense of fun and adventure that will delight and entertain. With a keen eye, the richness and diversity of wildlife found on this tiny, rocky island off the Atlantic coast are well-represented; full of character and interest. The star of the show is helpful, cheerful little Puffling, acting as a guide that will warm your heart. The illustrations and story work hand-in-hand to create a vivid tale you’ll want to read over and over. Inspiring curiosity; it is completely charming, funny and…be careful; you may even learn a few things.
MUHAMMAD ALI (LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG DREAMS)
author: Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Frances Lincoln Childrens Books (February 2019)
Once, a little boy named Cassius Clay had his bicycle stolen. He was so angry. He wanted to confront the thief, but a police officer told him that before he did, he needed to learn how to fight. Soon, Cassius had taken up boxing. While he wasn’t the strongest boxer, he was the fastest and he dazzled his opponents with his poetic ‘trash-talk.’ He kept training, fighting and winning. He decided he was going to be the greatest boxer of all time. Over the years, Cassius studied the teachings of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He was proud to be himself. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War and showed himself to be a gentle man of principle and dignity. Not only did he go on to be the Greatest, winning the Heavyweight Championship three times, but Muhammad Ali also became a human rights activist and an inspiration and friend to people all over the world. In this moving, inspirational book, the easy-to-read text and contemporary, colourful illustrations provide an exceptional addition to the Little People, Big Dreams collection. Clearly showing the importance of being true to yourself, the story also demonstrates how every hero starts off as a child with a dream and reassuringly shows that it’s okay – in fact it’s important – to dream big, even when it isn’t easy to do so. A photographic timeline of Muhammad Ali’s life is included, bringing the hero home to the reader. Beautifully designed and instantly accessible. (review originally published in Inis Magazine online. https://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/muhammad-ali-little-people-big-dreams/ )
MOLLY AND THE WHALE
author: Malachy Doyle
illustrator: Andrew Whitson
Graffeg Limited (4 July 2019)
Molly and Dylan went down to the shore on the morning after the storm. They were hoping to find some little shells or crabs, or some little interesting thing that had washed up over night. What they found was much more interesting…a whale had been beached in the storm and couldn’t swim out to the safety of deep water! They ran for their Daddy who knew just what to do. Soon the whole island was there with buckets and spades to dig and trench around the whale and pour water over her in hopes of keeping her cool until the tide came in again. Maybe; just maybe the whale would be able to swim back out to sea. It will take a lot of effort, and the whale was getting more and more uncomfortable; more and more unhappy. But Molly sings a comforting song, which the whale seems to like. It takes all day and into the night, but finally….
What a perfect follow-up to Molly and the Stormy Sea. With lovely, simple, emotional text, the reader is placed right in the story; feeling every moment and effort and really invested in the outcome. The touching relationship between Molly and her Daddy is evident throughout and brings a mist to the eyes as the tale moves on. Molly is an amazing voice, echoing all the thoughts and emotions behind the action for the entire cast of characters. Her beautiful gentle song is heartfelt and soothing. The rich, detailed illustrations are amazing and even the youngest will want to spend hours upon hours pondering their depth and expression. There is a real sense of community in this book; reliance upon each other, working together with a common, selfless goal. As the story goes on, the sense of compassion and empathy builds, encompassing every page. (And this is done as much through the illustrations as the text.) Gripping, evocative, caring and quietly joyous.
Available in English, Irish and Welsh language editions.
MISS HAZELTINE’S HOME FOR SHY AND FEARFUL CATS
author: Alicia Potter illustrator: Birgitta Sif
Walker Books (May 2015)
Miss Hazeltine opens her doors to all scaredy cats; cats who are afraid of mice, terrified of brooms, cats who can’t pounce or hiss, cats who are too timid to purr. She brings them in, feeds them, loves them and teaches them everything she knows. But one day, when Miss Hazeltine is in trouble, it’s up to terribly timid little crumb to organise a search party and bring her home safely. First he has to come out from under the bed….and that may take a while.
Delightful, whimsical and heart-warming, this is a picture book about overcoming your fears and finding the courage to help someone in need. The story itself is charming and well-written, appealing to all. The rhythm and cadence is clear and memorable.With the addition of Sif’s gentle, quirky illustrations rendered in a soft, sketchy palette and style, the story becomes a work of art. The use of space in the book is exquisite, with a combination of double-page spreads and pages with multiple images. Overall, it is a picture that needs to be read, over and over. Very soothing to even the youngest child, I simply fell in love with this book…and I’m sure you will, too.
A CHILD OF BOOKS
authors/illustrators: Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Walker Books (1 September 2016)
“I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories. And upon my imagination…I float.”
To describe the plot of this book, you need no more than the opening lines. A young girl, this child of books, sails into the world of a young boy and opens his eyes to the incredible adventure awaiting him in the land of stories. Her world is, given the illustrations, quite literally made up of words. But words make pictures, and this is the gift of stories and the imagination.
Initially (and for the youngest readers…or the reluctant reader), this is a tale of a girl and a boy on a marvelous adventure through a world of stories, using their imaginations to create a journey of discovery. But, as stated previously, this world is quite literally made up of words; words from our most time honoured classic books and fairy tales for children. As the reader of this wonderful book becomes more confident, or more curious, they will read the pictures and there discover Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Frankenstein, fairy tales, nursery rhymes…so much. In the end, the ultimate discovery and lesson…imagination is free.
Incredibly and precisely crafted, this is a magnificent book. It is filled with magic, with beautiful works of art gracing each page. Each illustration is crafted out of text from books that mach the emphasis of the page. For example, the ‘forest’ illustration is composed of old books for tree trunks and branches made from lines out of fairy tales. The journey begins by walking down the mouses tail from Alice in Wonderland (in text from that moment in Alice). And so on, and so on.The attention to detail is such that the fussiest adult reader will get just as lost in the story (stories) as children will.
THE LITTLE GARDENER
author/illustrator: Emily Hughes
There once was a little gardener whose garden meant everything to him. He worked very, very hard morning afternoon and night. But he was just too small; or at least he thought he was. The weeds grew tall, the beautiful plants died and nothing would bloom. Well…almost nothing. In his garden there was one flower that had the most lovely bloom and it gave him hope. One night, feeling tired and hungry and sad, the gardener made a wish… and, after sleeping for a long, long time, he awoke to find his wish came true.
In this picture book, we are transported away to a world very like our own….a world filled with beauty and fantasy in the face of chaos and overwhelming effort. This gentle, beautiful story teaches us the importance of persistence; of belief and having hope. Delicately woven like a tapestry, the magical, luscious illustrations elaborate a story outlined by the simple, clear text. Their detail creates an affect that will captivate for hours at a time. Another absolute joy from Emily Hughes, creator of the beautiful ‘WILD’, one to share over and over regardless of the time of year.
author/illustrator: Emily Hughes
Flying Eye Books (1 April 2015)
An utterly beautiful picture book, filled with colour and vibrancy! Wild tells the story of a little girl who has known nothing but the nature that surrounded her since she was a baby. The birds talk her how to talk; the bears, how to eat and all she learned about playing came from the foxes. One day, she is discovered by a well-intention couple who take her away from her forest and care for her themselves. But they have it all wrong….they don’t talk right or eat right and they certainly don’t know how to play. Will she ever be able to be comfortable in her new home?
What a pure delight this book is! On each page, you discover something new and stunning. The story is quite brief, but entirely memorable. Alive with colour, warmth, imagination…. and the message about what happens when you try to change something that doesn’t need changing. This one sits right alongside “Where the Wild Things Are” (which, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know is my all-time favourite book.) Not enough praise for this gem.
author: Helen Docherty illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Alison Green Books (2015)
Yawnalot is a quiet, sleepy (boring) little town where everybody knows everyone else and nothing exciting ever happens….that is until Abracazebra rides into town with her marvelous magic show. The entire town sparkles and shines! All the animals are enchanted and invite her to stay. But Old Goat becomes jealous and whispers to all that will listen. A sign soon goes up; ‘No Stripes Allowed.’ So quietly one night Abracazebra slips away, taking the magic with her. What will the animals do now?
From the team that brought us the wonderful Snatchabook comes this fantastic new picture book. The rhyming story is delightful and children will revel in it over and over. The lively, glorious illustrations are perfectly matched to create another soon-to-be- favourite about friendship, acceptance and celebrating our differences. There is a subtle, yet important message concerning dealing with negative feelings. But more to the point, there is great joy and the wonder of magic! A must-read for everyone!
HOUSE HELD UP BY TREES
author: Ted Kooser illustrator: Jon Klassen
Walker Books (January 2015)
When the house was first built, there wasn’t a single tree on the lot. They had all been cleared to make way for the house and its’ lawn. But on either side, the lots were filled with trees and bushes. The children grew up with the sweet smell of tree blossoms, playing in the secret places created by the shade of the trees. But time moves on. And so do people. One day, the children have grown and gone and their father, now an old man, moves to the city to be near them. As the empty house begins its’ decline, the trees begin to grow, taking over until eventually, the house is theirs.
A beautifully told, exquisitely illustrated tale. The children and their father appear is props, nearly and the central characters of this story are the house and the trees. Evocative language spins a life story, showing the entire cycle from birth to demise, with the promise of nature to lift us up. As such, it can be very helpful in explaining death and grief. Both text and illustrations are enough to tell the story, but together, what they create is something truly special. But this is not a typical childrens picture book. It stands as an elegy. It is at once uplifting and sad, the language being detached and cool as it relates the story. A very moving book, reminding me a bit of Virginia Burtons’ The Little House. There are so many aspects to this book, I strongly suggest you read it for yourself. Lovely.
author:Helen Docherty illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Alison Green Books ISBN: 9781407116549
“In every house, in every bed a bedtime book was being read…” And so it was and always has been; until one day, all the animals discover that their books are disappearing…. right in front of their eyes! Little Eliza Brown, all cosy and warm in her burrow stays awake to find who (or what) is stealing the bedtime stories. It’s a Snatchabook…. a lonely little Snatchabook who only wants someone to read to him. Once the books are all returned to their rightful owners, the animals
This book is an utter delight, quietly told with detailed, wondrous illustrations that perfectly match the text. An entire cast of favourite fairy tale characters feature throughout. The introduction of a new and unique magical creature makes this story an instant favourite. There is much to see; much to talk about. The well-written, accessible text is happily read over and over. Not only will children love it, but it is an important one for parents (and teachers) to share as it emphasises the importance of storytime and reading together, and demonstrates compassion, even to the youngest reader. Beautiful, fascinating, adventurous… one to add to your permanent collection and enjoy for years to come.