Category Archives: Picture book

Pandora

Many years on, I am no nearer to understanding the other mothers in the school playground. I had mentioned mending. Ooh, they don’t do that! I could tell. Hems falling down, and worse. I am fine with others not repairing clothes, and buying new instead. When I get stressed with life, I do too. Wasteful though it is. But I see no reason for looking down on the mend/repair/recycle efforts of others.

Our world needs a bit more re-use.

Having got this off my chest, I want to introduce you to Pandora. She is a lovely, but lonely, little fox in Victoria Turnbull’s new picture book.

Pandora lives ‘in a land of broken things.’ Rubbish dump, really. But she has made a home there out of all the things discarded by people. She collects and lovingly restores what she finds. But she has no friends. No one comes to visit.

One day an injured bird comes. Pandora nurses it back to health, enjoying the company, until the day the bird leaves again, and she is alone once more.

Victoria Turnbull, Pandora

But as this is a story for children there is a happy reunion.

I hope there will be a little more recycling in this world as well. Pandora is a sweet and inspiring picture book.

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Benny’s Hat

I cried, simply on leafing through this picture book, the way I often do as I want to see what it’s like, even when I’m sure it will be good. And I knew that already, because Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray had posted a brief video online, about their picture book about dying.

And reading Benny’s Hat, I thought my heart would break.

This is not a bad sign, however, and I’d urge everyone to read the book, whether or not you need help right now on grieving or explaining serious illness or what a hospice does, and more.

Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray, Benny's Hat

Juliet Clare Bell has written such a tender story about Friz and her older brother Benny, who is terminally ill. And in this instance, I can’t imagine an illustrator other than Dave Gray, to provide the pictures to Juliet Clare’s words.

There might be one scene of normal life at the beginning, when we see Benny and Friz playing, but from then on the adult reader can see that Benny is unwell, where perhaps the child reader will learn along with Friz that he is ill, and that it’s a bad illness, and an illness where Benny can’t get better. And then we follow the family as Benny’s condition deteriorates, seeing how sad the parents are, how hard they are trying, and the sweet friendship between the siblings.

Until Benny dies, which is handled beautifully, and we see how all three are struggling with their grief. And how there can be better days, and maybe something good again.

And I’m sorry, but I need to go and find a tissue.

Fathers and their children

Ah, fathers! You’ve got to love them, don’t you? They’re so wise and gentle and handsome.

In Dragons – Father and Son, by Alexandre Lacroix, with beautifully fierce dragon drawings by Ronan Badel, and translated by Vanessa Miéville, we meet young Drake and his father, at home in their cave.

Alexandre Lacroix and Ronan Badel, Dragons - Father and Son

The time has come for Drake to go out and burn down a few houses where the humans live. It’s tradition. Drake’s not keen, but he goes. But of course he doesn’t burn anything down; the humans are too canny. I mean, they are so kind that he just can’t.

He learns a few things from the humans he encounters, though. Enough to placate his father when he gets home. It’s better to be admired for your good looks than how much you scare people. I’d like to think that in future Drake can continue just breathing fire on his intended meals (which seems awfully handy, as skills go).

In Me and My Dad by Robin Shaw, we find a little girl going out for a walk past the local shops with her Dad. She likes everything about their walks, but the best always comes last.

They see dinosaurs and crocodiles (this is a typical British town) and all kinds of magic creatures. But the best bit is at the end.

And when you get to the end you realise why the little girl can see all these fantastic things en route. It’s because of what’s at the end. It’s teaching her to use her imagination.

Robin Shaw, Me and My Dad

It’s a bookshop, with a café. She and her Dad choose a book, and sit down with a hot chocolate and read.

They might even read about dragons. Humans like them. And if not, there’s always hot chocolate. Potentially another crocodile in the puddle on the way home.

The Story of Paintings

There is so much beautiful art in this book on History of Art for Children, that at first I didn’t see Mick Manning or Brita Granström in there, and they are the ones who made the book.

I ought to be used to their style of educating children with the help of art and carefully researched facts, but still I saw only the classic art. And that’s perhaps as it should be.

From cave paintings to Jean-Michel Basquiat, it’s all there. The adult reader will not be surprised to see all the classic paintings, and this is a fine way for children to learn.

Mick Manning and Brita Granström, The Story of Paintings

Each page has a work of art alongside information about the artist and then some of Brita’s drawings to show how the artist might have looked as he/she worked, and with individual comments that make each painting special.

There is a glossary at the end, explaining the bare minimum of arty words. Enough, but not so it gets boring.

Fantastic book and so beautiful to look at!

A Home Full of Friends

In times like these it’s more important than ever to set a good example. And doing good deeds is obviously also essential.

In Peter Bently’s story about Bramble Badger, with adorable illustrations by Charles Fuge, we meet a rather lonely badger. The weather is bad and he’s going home to feel more comfortable.

But the awful weather has the effect that some of his friends need to look for somewhere else to stay, and they invite themselves to Bramble’s house. He’s unable to refuse, which is good, but it worries him.

What about food and where will they sleep? He does what most of us do, and runs around trying to make his home a little tidier, with enough chairs and enough food. And then his visitors turn up with even more visitors!

But you know, there’s no need to fret. Together is better, and having friends is the best thing in life.

You share what you have.

Peter Bently and Charles Fuge, A Home Full of Friends

Lulu Gets a Cat

Anna McQuinn shows how children can prove they will manage something they want very much. In this case it’s Lulu who loves cats (I counted ten toy cats in her room!), and who really, really wants a real cat.

Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw, Lulu Gets a Cat

By pretending that one of the toy cats is real, she shows her parents that she understands the work involved in having a live animal to look after, and her mum gives in. (They – nearly – always do, don’t they?)

So after some reading up on facts they visit the cat shelter, where one of the cats ‘chooses’ Lulu. Plenty of shopping for cat things later, it is time to pick up Lulu’s new friend.

This is lovely, and should inspire children that maybe they can influence what happens in life.

Memorial

The trouble with time is that it passes. When I was younger I felt it completely natural that soldiers from WWI were still alive. Now it is the people who fought in WWII who are barely still with us. What was once very big, ceases to have relevance to new generations. Whatever it is, it feels hard for those who do remember; that the thing that changed their lives so completely gets relegated to the history books.

Gary Crew and Shaun Tan, Memorial

In Gary Crew’s book Memorial, with illustrations by Shaun Tan, this is evident. It is not a new book, but a re-issued classic, almost. First published in 1999 it shows us a young boy who visits his (Australian) town’s memorial to The Big War with his great grandfather, and the personal memories this man still has, of those who fought with him, and those who didn’t come home. And of the planting of a tree next to the statue.

Then we meet his son, the boy’s grandfather, with his own memories of the next war. And the boy’s father, who was in Vietnam. A lot has happened under the tree; at the various homecomings, but also in everyday life.

The trouble is that the tree has grown quite big, and its are roots damaging the road, which by now is much busier than it was. And the council wants to remove it.

Can you remove a Shrine of Remembrance?

Or is there something else that people remember you by?


Reading this book now, another 18 years have passed, and the kind of family continuity it describes is no longer possible. Soon this boy will be able to tell the story to another generation, but it will be someone who hasn’t met the former soldiers.