Category Archives: Picture book

The Snow Queen

I appear to have come to a Hans Christian Andersen spot. It’s a nice place to be, now that December gets a move on, and it’s Advent. It doesn’t all have to be Andersen, however. Even though The Snow Queen originally is his, this version is by Geraldine McCaughrean.

But however great they both are, and you know they are, what really truly makes this book are the illustrations by Laura Barrett. The are simply fabulous, and I’d be quite happy to ‘read’ only her pictures, with no words at all. Done in silhouette in black and white with some pale blue, this is the most beautiful volume.

Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett, The Snow Queen

The story is the same it always was, about two young friends torn apart when the Snow Queen whisks the boy away to her palace. And then the girl searches everywhere for her soulmate, never giving up until she finds him.

It’s all very satisfying, at least if you don’t have to endure the cold, and it’s nicely romantic, and just as a fairy tale should be.

Dinosaurs vs Humans

I wasn’t much in the mood for a picture book about dinosaurs, to be honest. But then I had a little look, and it’s not really about dinosaurs. Except, if you have a small dinosaur fan, it obviously is a book about dinosaurs. And humans.

Matt Robertson, Dinosaurs vs Humans

Matt Robertson’s Dinosaurs vs Humans is a sensible little story about how two very different tribes of creatures don’t like each other. They simply must fight with or not get on with the other lot. Because they are so different.

Sound familiar? We’re all like that, to some extent. Those others, who are not like us. There just has to be something wrong with them.

But as with Romeo and Juliet, at some point two beings, one from each group, will meet and become friends. And the others won’t like it.

It will take some kind of disaster to make the two sides understand they have to work together, and that they have much in common. In fact, once you’re past the first hurdle, it’s obvious the others are lovely and you have no business not getting on.

And when I realised that’s what the book was about, I was a fan. In times like these we absolutely must get on with others, even if they are blue all over, or have pink hair.

Hugless Douglas Plays Hide-and-Seek

The adorable Hugless Douglas is introduced to the game of hide-and-seek. He’s too big to hide successfully, and reckons he’ll be better at seeking.

He is. He even finds little ones who were not playing. (Those were two very surprised ducks.)

David Melling, Hugless Douglas Plays Hide-and-Seek

This little story might be about teaching children how to play hide-and-seek, or Hotter, Colder. But it’s probably more about taking care of your friends and not forgetting anyone when you’re out. You need to be home before it gets dark. If you are lost, you should do something sensible until you are found again.

And it’s obviously there to help you count to ten.

The Wind in the Wall

Why don’t adults read more picture books? By which I mean picture books aimed at older readers. They exist, but I don’t believe I’ve come across very many.

Sally Gardner and Rovina Cai, The Wind in the Wall

Well, here is one by Sally Gardner, with illustrations by Rovina Cai. The Wind in the Wall is beautiful, and in a way quite like a children’s picture book, were it not for  the more mature content of cultivating an amazing amaryllis, or a prized pineapple.

It’s full of magic, which must be how the pineapple grew so perfect and caused our main character so much anguish. He is the Duke’s deposed gardener whose fondness for amaryllis lost him his job when the Duke decided he wanted pineapples from now on.

And who enjoys being replaced by a charlatan? Someone who’s both successful and cruel. A bully.

You are swept away by what happens, but at the same time you don’t really know for sure what’s going on. Just as we loved our childhood picture books, The Wind in the Wall enchants the adult reader.

Keeping up with Findus

Yes, it can be hard keeping up with Findus. He’s a hyper-active cat who never stops. But Hawthorn Press are doing well with their publishing of Sven Nordqvist’s Findus and Pettson in translation by Nathan Large. This latest book is original 2019 vintage and just as enjoyable as the previous ones have been.

Sven Nordqvist, Keeping up with Findus

You have to feel a little sorry for Pettson. He’s old (-ish) and wants a quiet life, but with a cat like Findus, what can you do?

Well, you can refuse to ‘hop on both feet and bounce all the way to the house.’ But after that he gives in and gamely attempts Findus’s challenges. You can guess who wins, can’t you?

This is another sweet story, and the apple tree-climbing took me straight back to my childhood summer paradise. The nostalgia almost made me cry. And I must point out that my paradise had no apple tree in it. That’s how strong the Pettson and Findus magic is.

I hope children will never grow too old or too cool for this kind of book.

Once Upon a Bedtime

Right now I’m thinking about going to bed. On time. Just so I can wake up when I need to.

David Melling, Once Upon a Bedtime

Like the creatures in David Melling’s Once Upon a Bedtime I have routines. Things that have to be done. But not quite as many as they do.

His Rabbit must have a bath. After which getting dry seems imperative. There’s pyjamas and teeth-brushing (that crocodile has a lot of teeth!) and stories with cuddlies.

But I have yet to discover a Thing under my bed, looking for its cuddly, without which this going to sleep business just can’t happen.

This is another gorgeously sweet ‘please-go-to-bed-now-darling’ book. You just can’t have too many of them.

Willow and the water

It’s the small successes that count the most. Or so I’d like to think.

The Resident IT Consultant and I popped in to have dinner with friends. Our hostess pointed to Giles Andreae’s and Guy Parker-Rees’s Be Brave Little Penguin, which she had lying next to the sofa.

I gathered that it’s been a big hit with little Willow, her grandson, and it’s been read many times.

While it’s obviously a rather lovely book, about the penguin who’s afraid of going in the water, it has some relevance for Willow. This summer he went to the beach with his mother [and the rest of the family, so he wasn’t alone] and she went right into the sea and disappeared! By which I mean she likes to put her head under water, so she did. And Willow did not like it. Not one bit. Mothers are not meant to just disappear.

So he’s not all that keen on swimming and water and all the rest. He’s only two, so may come round one day, but until then… It’s good, and useful, to find yourself in literature. In this case, I suppose Willow is Little Penguin.

But to end on a Swedish proverb, perhaps mothers shouldn’t ‘ta sig vatten över huvudet.’ At least not when your toddler is watching.