Category Archives: Picture book

The 2016 medals

I was witchier than I thought, yesterday morning. Chris Riddell reported being on his way to the Carnegie ceremony, and I thought to myself ‘he’s not won, has he?’ and ‘no, he’s just going because he’s the children’s laureate.’ It was early. I couldn’t remember who was on the shortlist and who not.

And then I forgot to watch the live presentation of the awards, having only thoughts for my dinner, so I had to consult social media for the results, and watched later. Never having made it to one of these events, it was fun being able to see what goes on, and to hear the winners’ speeches rather than read them.

Sarah Crossan

One won! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse, about conjoined twins, is one I’ve not read, and I was so expecting The Lie Tree to win, that I didn’t speculate that much, even in private. Sarah’s speech was a great one, partly in verse, and it seems she might have brought up her daughter in verse, too. Sarah ended with a few poetic lines about an MP needing to use the toilets at the library, which is something they ought to think about before closing them all down.

Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell, who did win [the Kate Greenaway medal] after all, for The Sleeper and the Spindle (with Neil Gaiman), also spoke about how crazy our dear leaders are, and how children should be allowed to read without having to be tested on it, and all that. This children’s launderette (I believe this is a private joke) praised all his co-shortlistees, pointing out how talented they are, and reminiscing about kindnesses shown him in the past, and how he doesn’t like Campari.

‘Reading gives you ideas.’

And that’s presumably what worries them.

Immi

Your everyday things could be someone else’s treasure.

Immi lives somewhere cold, and she fishes for food through a hole in the ice. One day she catches a colourful, painted wooden bird instead. And after that there are many more such treasures; beautiful things of a kind she’s never seen before.

Karin Littlewood’s picture book about Immi shows the difference something new and beautiful can make to your life. In Immi’s cold, white world these bright and strange things are exciting.

Karin Littlewood, Immi

When the ice starts to melt, Immi decides to throw her wooden polar bear down the hole in the ice, and one day it appears on the warm and sunny beach where – possibly – Immi’s little surprises originated. (I’m imagining a sort of wormhole between somewhere cold and some place much hotter.)

Very beautiful.

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Lucinda Belinda Melinda looks really nice, but that’s all that’s nice about her. This perfect girl in Jeanne Willis’s new picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, is pretty dreadful. She knows how to look good, and she not only tells everyone else how to improve, but she goes right ahead and improves them.

People hide when they see her coming. Lucinda Belinda Melinda even has a go at her poor grandparents, who are not well-groomed enough. And she blow-dries the monster she meets in the park.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that…

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

This is poetry. I really wanted to read the book aloud, but as usual was missing that child who would have loved it. Not sure the Resident IT Consultant wanted Lucinda Belinda Melinda to intrude on his history programme on television. But it just rhymes so very nicely!

And yes, my bottom does look big in those shorts.

Too much chocolate

Daughter and I both remembered this book, Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding by Posy Simmonds. It’s been reissued, and you can’t have too much Posy. Possibly too much chocolate, however, as becomes evident from poor Lulu’s experience.

Posy Simmonds, Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding

She is to be a bridesmaid at her aunt’s wedding, and the anticipation is building up enormous expectations for the day. But children will be children, and somehow Lulu eats rather a lot of chocolate the night before. Nightmares follow and she is sick.

Sick bridesmaids won’t do, so Lulu has to stay behind. (After all that waiting and longing!!) Still tired and under the influence, Lulu dreams a wedding cake dream while she waits for the bride and groom to return.

But all’s well that ends well. The mice get the beetroot and the little bride (off the cake) is found.

There will be no chocolate at Bookwitch Towers today. Well, only a token bit of chocolate substance, and absolutely no wedding cake. The Resident IT Consultant and I are doing what we do every ten years, throwing a party because we are crazy and don’t know better (although we ought to). Never again. Or at least not for another three weeks.

But here’s to not being sick. We won’t even be serving beetroot. (The swede I ate last night doesn’t count.)

Pet Dragon

To be perfectly honest, I’m rather dismayed. I always considered myself as totally up to having a pet dragon. They are sweet and adorable (think Puff), if somewhat large. They are loving and have a charming bit of attitude (think Debi Gliori’s Ffup), or anything else (also Debi Gliori).

M P Robertson and Sally Symes, Pet Dragon

I wasn’t expecting this! Sally Symes and M P Robertson have compiled a fairly comprehensive guide to looking after a dragon. Apparently you have to be mad to even consider it, and not object to feeding whole cows to your pet every now and then.

That is if you live long enough to do much of anything. Dragons are far more hazardous than I’d imagined. They might eat the vet (in which case I fail to see why you should make an appointment with the dragon-specialist. You may as well have the budgie-specialist eaten) and I can see this will be frowned upon by some.

M P Robertson and Sally Symes, Pet Dragon

Curry is no good, except for when it is being eaten. Repent later, I believe.

So, I will probably not get a dragon unless I can have the loveable Gliori kind. That’s a disappointment, but if I can live with that, I’ll be so much happier (than not living with a dragon). But the guide is right there, should you want to read up on where you’re going wrong with yours.

A Hungry Lion

‘or a dwindling assortment of animals’ as Lucy Ruth Cummins’s picture book is also called. (Or ‘cute’ and ‘dark’ from the quote on the cover of this innocent looking little book.)

Lucy Ruth Cummins, A Hungry Lion

Is it trickery? Or is it a bit like Little Red Riding Hood? We all know children’s books are darker than adults tend to think children can cope with. (I once listened incredulously as the mother of Offspring’s friends changed the ending of Red Riding Hood. I thought she was reading an unusual version, until it dawned on me that she couldn’t allow her darlings to hear about characters being eaten, so altered the plot mid-read.)

There is a lion. And there are several other animals. The lion is hungry. The others disappear. You judge for yourself what you think happened.

There might be a comeuppance.

It is actually both sweet, and funny, if the child you are reading to has the normal toughness you find in quite small children.

Or, I suppose there could be a perfectly logical explanation to it all.

Another Scottish Friendly

You might have noticed before that the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tours tend to offer some really rather good authors and illustrators to schools around Scotland. Their past list reads like a Who’s Who in children’s books. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear they were bringing Sarah McIntyre here next.

Sarah McIntyre

Sarah is both an illustrator and an author. She arrives this weekend, for five days in the Highlands, which in this case means she starts right up north in Thurso and works her way ‘south’ to Inverness. Well, to me Inverness is still pretty north, and this week is pretty full of other things, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Sarah and her Highlands will have to be witch-free this time. But there are ten lucky schools who get her full attention.

And occasionally (what am I saying? It happenes all the time) Sarah gets attention in other ways too. She’s not the only one, but the other week she wrote a blog post about it, which is too good not to share. The ‘it’ being hopeful wannabes who ask illustrators to do the illustrations for the book they’ve just written. Usually without any idea of how much work that entails, or that an illustrator would like to be paid, or even being able to be polite once they’ve been turned down. (At least they got a reply!)

The trouble is that even to someone like me who understands that work takes time and you can’t work for free, these professional illustrators make it look so effortless. And I must admit that whenever I daydream about having a book out there that is all mine, my next daydream is who to ask to illustrate it, or at least do some nice cover art for me…

Bookwitch by Sarah McIntyre

Oops. Very easily done.

I am the proud owner of a genuine McIntyre. Digital, but very lovely. I believe it was something Sarah ‘threw together’ on her sickbed, one day when she was too tired to do anything else. She’s made the wicked old witch look quite pretty.