Category Archives: Picture book

Creatures Great and Small

It said in the paper that colouring in is good for the soul. For adults. Not that it isn’t good for children, but they already know this. It’s us old ones who need reminding of the good things in life, yet again.

And colouring in is it.

Many of us would like to be able to draw beautifully, or even just draw passably, but find we can’t. So the ‘cheating’ you do as you colour in what someone else has already drawn, can feel quite good.

In this book it’s Lucy Engelman who has done most of the hard work, and all you need to do is bring paint or pencils, plus your ragged soul. The book has been filled with drawings of animals of every kind. You want frogs? You can have lots of different ones, and they needn’t even be painted green.

Lucy Engelman, Creatures Great and Small

The book is also ready for framing or gifting, in that each page is perforated to be torn out. On the back of each page there are facts about the frogs, or whatever other creature it is you have chosen.

Go on, grab those felt tips. You know you want to.

Tents

Not sure if we lasted the whole night or if we gave up after a couple of hours. Such is my memory of the time my cousins and I put the tent up in our summer garden and planned to spend the night. Cold, damp and smelly I can remember. But it’s the planning and doing that’s the fun. Doesn’t matter if it’s totally successful.

I just read in a magazine that nature is the new religion for Swedes, and I can well believe it. I like to be near the sea as well as the next witch, but draw the line at forests. Some people actually like them.

Mick Manning and Brita Granström, Wild Adventures

Brita Granström was probably drawing on her Swedish nature memories when drawing her latest book, Wild Adventures, with her husband Mick Manning. ‘Look, make, explore – in nature’s playground’ is what they call it. And it’s definitely got enough ideas to last several school holidays, always assuming your parents either play with you, or let you be indpendent, playing in nature on your own, the way it used to be.

It’s all about putting up tents and other shelters, and finding and using everything out there. Personally I’m keener on nettle soup than I am on frogs’ skulls. Mick and Brita tell the reader about sounds and smells and tracks and what you can eat and how you cook out in the wild, and anything else you could conceivably want to do.

I’m very relieved we had no such book when Offspring were small, or there would have been no peace.

In Sarah Garland’s latest book about Eddie and his family they actually go camping. Eddie’s Tent and How to go Camping also has rules and instructions for how to holiday in nature, enjoying it while not destroying it.

Sarah Garland, Eddie's Tent and How to go Camping

It’s a lovely book, but I’m glad I’m not Eddie’s poor mother, who simply has to go on with the mothering she always does, but in harder conditions. Tom plays at cooking and making fires, but a mother’s work is always the same, except when it’s worse.

Eddie and the girls love it, however, and they make friends and they have fun and they learn to fish, and to eat fish. It’s all pretty wonderful, once they have braved the motorway jams to get there. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. As long as you are not a mother.

I’m sure mine realised early on that I wouldn’t last long in that tent. I suspect it was the same old tent she had used when she was young too.

Jeanne Willis, butter and how to draw a cow

While we’re in a farmyard mood, I was quite pleased to find the two page advert for butter in the Guardian Weekend the other weekend. Surprised, but pleased, because it featured a large photo of Bookwitch favourite Jeanne Willis.

Jeanne Willis

It left me slightly confused at first, but I gather Jeanne has written a buttery sort of children’s book about some Friesian dairy cows, called The Tale of City Sue, which most likely isn’t going to pop up in ordinary bookshops, and I don’t actually know how or where you get hold of a copy, but I do hope it ends up in the hands of many children.

Perhaps if their parents buy the right kind of butter.

It’s been illustrated by Dermot Flynn, and he offers a short lesson on how to draw a cow. I feel even I could now draw a passable cow if I needed to.

The question I am left with is whether it’s all right to write a book for advertising purposes. I think it probably is. Just the other day I was reminded of the Weetabix atlas (simply because there is still a copy of it in Mother-of-witch’s bookcase), which was pretty good. Offspring must have been at the right atlasy stage when it was available to people who ate plenty of Weetabix. We had so many tokens to use (we saved them when there was nothing we wanted, and then used them all when there was something good to order) that we got a pile of atlases for school as well.

I think what I’m saying here is that Offspring did ‘read’ that atlas a lot, and that any book that comes to a reader and is appreciated is good, even if you do have to eat Weetabix, or butter. In our case it’s not even as though we didn’t buy books, but we felt it was a good offer.

So if I could just lay my hands on The Tale of City Sue, to read about this close-knit sisterhood of dairy cows…

Where, Oh Where, is Rosie’s Chick?

I feel like I have missed the party here, but that can’t be helped. I never read the classic picture book Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? is described as the long-awaited sequel, and a wait of 47 years is indeed fairly long. But here it is!

Pat’s illustrations are straight out of the end 1960s or early 1970s, and are thereby highly desirable again. It’s all yellows and browns and greens, and the book made me feel strangely nostalgic.

Pat Hutchins, Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie's Chick?

Rosie has laid an egg, but as it hatches she loses her chick. Somewhere. Where is it?

I can’t decide if it’s comical, or just sweet, the way the baby chick stumbles round the farm, part of the shell still covering its eyes. There are plenty of possible dangers, but as Rosie searches frantically, the chick seems to evade its predators, who meet somewhat unexpected obstacles. Who ever heard of fish eating apples?

It is rather funny, and in the end Rosie and her baby are reunited.

Better than a goldfish

New babies can, but some can better than others. When Daughter was born she arrived bearing a gift. Her brother was delighted with his new road mat, which was just what he wanted. Whereas, in this New Royal Baby book by Martha Mumford, with more of those cute illustrations by Ada Grey, it seems the New Royal Baby gives Royal Baby George a goldfish.

Martha Mumford and Ada Grey, Hooray! It's a New Royal Baby!

OK, so he did want a goldfish, but it doesn’t take long for him to discover how boring they can be, swimming around the same way over and over again.

In Hooray! It’s a New Royal Baby! we witness Royal Baby George’s doubts over this brotherhood business. It’s quite possible that the New Royal Baby will dribble all over his favourite toy dinosaur. Better with no New Royal Baby at all.

But once the boring goldfish has been ignored again, Royal Baby George discovers that the New Royal Baby is actually a lot of fun.

Martha Mumford and Ada Grey, Hooray! It's a New Royal Baby!

Even for non-royal children this book might help with the transition of having someone new join the family.

A big welcome to the New Princess! (Although I do think a road mat would have been better.)

Azzi a second time

I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I reviewed Azzi In Between. I don’t often review books a second time, and I won’t here either, as you can follow the link and see what I said then.

Sarah Garland’s book is out in paperback now, and what with the election looming and everything else that sometimes feels overwhelmingly bad, I need to mention Azzi again.

There are all these powers (-to-be, in some cases) who expect nothing good to come of immigration and refugees. Many who don’t want any strangers coming here at all. Because we are all so nice here and no one else can possibly be worthy of our paradise. Nice, apart from me, because I’m not from here.

The book about Azzi is one that has stayed with me. In my mind, as well as physically sitting on my shelf. We need to see that people need to leave the place they consider to be home. They don’t come here for what they can get, unless that is to survive.

Next week, please vote sensibly. And always, please welcome those who are scared and in danger and have nowhere else to go. If you find your imagination isn’t up to this, I suggest you read After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross. That way you too can be a refugee.

Totte, or Thomas

Author and illustrator Gunilla Wolde died earlier this week. I realise that many of my English language readers won’t know her. On the other hand, you might. I was surprised, and delighted, to find that author Guy Bass made his parents read Thomas bakes a cake every night for two years. That’s the kind of tenacity that pays off eventually. (Or they try and have you adopted.)

Gunilla Wolde, Totte badar

As with many Swedish authors, Gunilla’s books came too late for the young Bookwitch to read at the appropriate age. But being classics, they were widely available when Offspring appeared on the scene. (I’m actually not sure, but I suspect I owned mine well before Offspring arrived. I think I just liked the look of the books.)

I tried searching for them now, so I could tell you more, but couldn’t find where I’ve stashed them. The one that has stayed in my memory the most, is when Totte – or Thomas, as he is in translation – goes to the doctor. There is something about toddlers facing injections, or putting plasters on their teddies, that makes a lasting impression on you. (Perhaps I didn’t dare show Offspring those injections, in case they thought that’s what happens when you go to the doctor’s.)

Looking for cover images you find so many, in several languages, which brings home to you quite how popular Gunilla’s books were. Are. And if you study the ‘Swedish’ images page carefully, you will find illustrations that might be too, well, too Scandinavian for readers in some countries.

So you’re probably safest with Thomas bakes a cake.