Category Archives: Picture book

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.

Thank you, Jackson

Being polite never hurt anyone. That is the lesson for the farmer who owns a donkey called Jackson.

The farmer needs Jackson to walk to market with him, carrying all the food the farmer has to sell. He does so, until the day when he’s had enough and refuses to move, no matter what the farmer says or does.

Niki and Jude Daly, Thank you, Jackson

His wife Beauty sends their son Goodwill after the pair to help. And she has truly brought up a lovely and thoughtful boy, because Goodwill knows what Jackson needs.

He wants his owner to be polite.

‘It’s the little things, like saying please and thank you, that make a big difference in the world.’

Good Colours

Aino-Maija Metsola’s Colours may well be the most perfect ‘educational’ boardbook in existence.

Let me make a confession here. I have a thing about colours. I like to load glasses and mugs and similar into the dishwasher in a pleasing way, colour-wise. Same with hanging the washing. If I can, I will put things that look good next to each other. Likewise wardrobe contents. And so on.

Aino-Maija Metsola, Colours

So it stands to reason that a book about colour, which has a double page for each colour is very near perfect. If things are to be orange, they are all orange together. The yellows are the pages before the oranges. Each double page also has one ‘wrong’ colour which doesn’t belong, for the young reader to find the odd one out.

I don’t mind this so much, as the cuckoos in the nest are fairly small and in no way ruin the beautiful arrangement of reds or blues or purples. And there are flaps to lift, which is always fun.

Aino-Maija is Finnish, with a Marimekko past, which explains the colour sorting. I don’t usually hang on to boardbooks once I’ve ‘read’ them, but this time I’m tempted. Orderly colours are really very soothing.


And for Easter Monday a replacement bunny in the shape of a sloth called Sparky.

You know how it is, a child wants a pet and the parent does not want a pet. In Jenny Offill’s book the narrator of the story wants either a bird or a bunny or a trained seal, but her mother says no to all three. But, she can have any pet she wants as long as it doesn’t need walking, bathing or feeding.

With the help of the school librarian, our heroine finds that a sloth will be perfect. (Mother had not expected that!) The girl names her pet Sparky.

Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans, Sparky!

Sparky sleeps well. All the time. His owner trains him, but he doesn’t train terribly well. Our heroine needs to prove what a good pet she has, so plans a Trained Sloth Extravaganza, offering ‘countless tricks.’

Well… at least Sparky is good at playing dead.

There is some lovely humour in this book, with atmospherically slothy illustrations by Chris Appelhans.

On withered carrots

Can you just imagine the sadness of writing a story with the title The Withered Carrot? No?

Well, our next Easter rabbit has done just that. Poor little Fuzz McFlops is a famous rabbit-writer, but he is rather depressed, so mainly produces sad stuff. One of his ears is shorter than the other and it has always caused him much anguish.

But all of a sudden he gets fan mail from someone who claims to both like what he writes, and who comes up with suggestions for improving the writing as well, which makes Fuzz very angry. And then – partly because this makes his short ear feels funny – he thinks that maybe there is something in these letters after all.

Eva Furnari, Fuzz McFlops

Romance, dear reader. After some correspondence, Fuzz meets up with his fan Charlotte. She’s very nice, and not at all beautiful.

And you know, there is love, and no more withered carrots. Very sweet.

(Translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. We may not have heard of Eva Furnari before, but she’s big in Brazil.)