Category Archives: Picture book

To Tobermory

The Resident IT Consultant went to Tobermory the other week. ScotRail was offering a deal – for ‘old’ people – of a return anywhere in Scotland for £17, I think it was. To be fair, he struggled a bit. Many destinations can be reached for less, anyway. At least if you are old. And some trips he’d already done.

So, Tobermory it was. He started early and returned late, and managed something like two actual hours in Tobermory. Trains, ferries and buses took most of his time.

I meant to tell him (=suggest) to go to the bookshop, but I forgot. And then I wasn’t awake when he left.

But it seems a Resident IT Consultant can be trusted to find, and visit, bookshops anywhere. Not surprising really.

Halfway through the day a photo arrived by email, showing me the interior of the bookshop and a table laden with Debi Gliori’s Tobermory Cat books, and a ‘cat’ and lots of other great books to do with Tobermory, and Scotland.

Bookshop in Tobermory

I was also out and about, at the other end of Scotland, and isn’t it amazing how two old people can share photos across the country like that?

Apparently it’s a very nice little bookshop, with a nice selection of interesting books.

And yes, he did buy a book.


Love is all around us

At first I tried to brush the blossom off, before I discovered that it was part of the book cover of In Blossom by Yooju Cheon.

This beautifully monochrome picture book with pink blossom is rather romantic. It fits in with how some of us might feel today. Cat comes to sit on the bench under the cherry blossom to eat her packed lunch.

Soon after Dog comes to sit next to her, to read his book. And the dangers with cherry blossom is how it might blow from one sensitive little nose to another, and then…

Yooju Cheon, In Blossom

In Teresa Heapy’s book Loved To Bits, her illustrator Katie Cleminson shows us what one little boy’s teddy looks like. Looked like.

Because during all those exciting adventures the boy and his ted have, bits of him fall off. It can be hard to have fun and not lose the odd ear or arm.

This boy loves his ted, no matter what, and eventually when there is less of him, it makes ted even more loveable.

Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson, Loved To Bits

Hello Lighthouse

Sophie Blackall’s new picture book Hello Lighthouse is a work of art. It’s a story, too, of life in a lighthouse, but you could very easily just drool over the pictures.

Sophie Blackall, Hello Lighthouse

There is something very special about lighthouses. I adore them. It’s the architecture, and the fact that they stand so alone, either by the sea or in the sea. They’re romantic, too, but probably more so for those of us who don’t live there.

I suppose this is a children’s book… It’s all quite grown-up, beginning with a new lighthouse keeper arriving, seeing him work and how lonely he is. Then he is joined by a wife, who shares in all the hard work. The dangers, the isolation, the heroic saving of people in emergencies, the heroic giving birth to a lighthouse baby. Family life at sea.

It’s beautiful. And if it weren’t for all the stairs, I’d live in a lighthouse.

Leo and the Lightning Dragons

Leo and the Lightning Dragons is about a real boy called Leo, written by his mother Gill White, and illustrated by Gilli B.

Gill White and Gilli B, Leo and the Lightning Dragons

‘Both’ the Leos have a very bad kind of epilepsy, and I can see why Gill would want to put this in a book. When your child has daily health battles, it can be good to know there is a book about you. Makes you feel special. And if you’re not Leo, you might have some other kind of illness, or epilepsy, and it’s empowering to find yourself in a book. Or there is nothing the matter with you, but it’s good to learn how other boys, and girls, live and fight.

I was a little worried this wouldn’t work, but it does. It’s a lovely book, showing just how much fighting some people have to do on a daily basis. And how the people around them also have a fight on their hands, and how everyone works very hard to make this bad thing better.

First we learn that an epileptic attack is like crackling lightning inside your head. It comes without warning. Not fair! Neither witches potions nor calming songs help. Wizards have tried to poison the dragons.

In the end Leo gets angry and decides to fight back, which is easier to do when so many people are helping.

This is obviously a really tough situation, but it shows that it’s possible to keep going. I’d like to think this will provide support for many little Leos out there.

(All royalties from the sale of this book will go to CHAS, Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.)

Everybunny’s Amazing

We like finding ourselves in books, whoever we are; yellow spotted pet dragons, little boys in wheelchairs, or friendly bunnies and foxes.

And eventually, they all go to bed. I think that might be what they have in common.

Steve Antony, Amazing

Zibbo – that’s the dragon – and his young master do everything together, and I have to say they can be quite naughty. Although, the mess in the fridge could possibly be blamed on untidy parents?

They race in the park and they play ball, but above all they enjoy parties. Just don’t let Zibbo – that’s the dragon, remember? –  near the candles on the cake. Or your cat. Who might be a ‘real’ pet.

Steve Antony’s Amazing ends with our two tired friends going to bed and sleeping. Because they’ve had fun.

In Ellie Sandall’s new book about the bunnies – Everybunny Dream! – they are all out playing with their best friends the fox cubs. Until it’s time to come in and put pyjamas on, wash, brush, comb, clean, trim, and HUG.

Ellie Sandall, Everybunny Dream!

When all the bunnies are in bed, there is a noise, and it’s Mrs Fox returning an errant bunny. Then they all snuggle up for a story, bunnies and fox cubs together.

Let’s hope these two books will inspire some tiny humans to go to bed too.

Disappearing act

Eleven years after writing about Kriktor the boa constrictor, my thoughts return to this old childhood favourite.

I was reminded of Kriktor’s disappearance from the library when reading about the young Lucy Mangan’s search for The Phantom Tollbooth. Some things are easier today, now that we can search all over the world for almost anything we want or need.

When Lucy’s teacher had read the book to the class, Lucy understandably wanted a copy for herself. But there were none; the library had no longer got it. My Phantom Tollbooth copy is an ex-library one, as was one of Lucy’s subsequent [three] copies, when she finally found them, years after falling in love with the book at school.

We can probably assume that the London libraries near her got rid of this book because they saw no need for it. My Kriktor’s tale was different. He was ‘borrowed’ and never returned. Used for a television programme, I suspect his disappearance was not unusual. Busy people in a busy studio won’t stop to consider one picture book, and whether it should be accompanied ‘home’ to the safety of its library, where more children can enjoy it.

There are other ways of losing books from libraries, of course. I have often thought of writing about the wicked ways of the world here, but stopped before giving anyone ideas.

In my early twenties I had a boss, who told me about this fantastically funny novel she liked, and how hard it had been to source another copy when hers went missing. Eventually one was discovered in a library, and she borrowed it, before going back there, apologising for ‘having spilled coffee’ on the book and offering to pay for it.

All right for her, and as it was anything but a literary marvel, possibly not the end of the world for the library. But it’s the principle of the thing that bothers me.

And then she lent it to me to read.

Before you get too excited, I gave her the book back when I’d read it. I have no recollection of either the title or the author, but she was right; it was very amusing and a fun read. And there was not a single stain of coffee anywhere.

The Gruffalo is 20

Offspring were always too old for the Gruffalo. I’m quite relieved to discover this fact, as I tended to worry about why we didn’t read Julia Donaldson’s book. What was I missing?

I learned to recognise Axel Scheffler’s illustrations, and I fondly believed the Gruffalo wasn’t so much a monster; more an ugly, but otherwise really friendly creature.

Instead it seems there is a clever little mouse who really knows how to look after himself in many a tight corner. First he scares his neighbourhood bullies – the dangerous animals in the forest – by making up the dreadful Gruffalo. And when the Gruffalo turns out to be real, he avoids being eaten by fooling this monster, while ‘proving’ to the other animals he was telling the truth.

So, that was a surprise.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo

There is now a 20th anniversary special edition, with a forest play scene and cutout animals and everything. You could have lot of fun with that. Because judging by the queues for Julia Donaldson wherever she appears, her books remain extremely popular, and the Gruffalo is very well known. Look at me, I knew it without knowing it, or even being right about the book. We all know something.

(I still think he looks adorable, and that mouse is a sneaky little thing.)