Tag Archives: Michael Foreman


When they need to, ducks can find both the letter A and a home to call home.

In Kes Gray’s and Jim Field’s Quick Quack Quentin it’s all about the alphabet and how letters, especially vowels, work. Well, mostly. It’s also about a determined duck called Quentin who’s lost his A. His quack is quick because it lacks an A. He merely manages to say quck.

And that’s not good.

Kes Gray and Jim Field, Quick Quack Quentin

The doctor can’t help, nor can the animals at the farm, despite wishing to be helpful. They need their A and the other vowels don’t work so well. But you know, at the zoo there is an animal with a definite A surplus. See if you can work out who.

Michael Foreman makes the most wonderful of picture books! In Tufty he tells the story of the little duck who gets lost but who finds love. Just the sort of thing we like. And need.

Tufty leads a right royal life with his parents and siblings. But he’s a little slow, and when winter comes he can’t keep up on the flight south. Tufty needs to find somewhere safe to land, a place to stay.

Michael Foreman, Tufty

This story shows how a small refugee can hit jackpot and find somewhere to make a life for himself. Heartwarming, and with the gorgeous illustrations you come to expect from Michael.

A. Home. Success for both of today’s ducks.

Bookwitch bites #130

At times this summer it has felt as though everyone has died. I know that’s not true, but over a few weeks, many people left us. One such person whom I’ve not mentioned earlier, was Helena Forsås-Scott. She was Honorary Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

I only met her a couple of times, but we had enough in common that it was nice to speak to her. She was a filosofie magister from Gothenburg, and so am I. She also had a PhD from the University of Aberdeen, which I don’t. But you know, the similarities were there. Helena attended the Nordic conference in February, and she was most friendly and supportive of Son in his work at the department.

Moving slightly south of the Scottish border, Newcastle’s Seven Stories has just re-opened. When I was there a few years ago, I felt everything was perfect, but it seems you can improve on perfection, which is what they have achieved with their recent overhaul. Some of the things they have to offer are Painting with Rainbows – A Michael Foreman Exhibition, Rhyme Around the World, A Bear Called Paddington, and a new Harry Potter installation in the Attic. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Who knew spoons were so important? I didn’t, and I speak as one who uses them every day. Explorer and education advocate Justin Miles travelled in Kenya, and he found that if school children could use a spoon to eat their food, instead of their fingers, it’s possible to stay healthier, save on days lost from school, and hopefully prevent spreading disease further.

QED Publishing have just agreed to donate at least one spoon to ‘Educate The World’ for every copy of Justin’s Ultimate Explorer Guide for Kids sold. You can support the cause by donating or raising awareness for the #SpoonAppeal.

In our rich western world we worry about other things, like how untidy our children’s rooms are. Here is a clip of Nicola Morgan talking about the way teenagers function, and showing photos of one teenager’s very messy bedroom. There might even be a spoon or two lying about in there. Nothing to do with me though… Or very little.

Who’s calling?

Yes, who is that?

Well, in Michael Foreman’s Moose, the poor Moose finds himself in the firing line when Bear and Eagle begin to shout at each other. He just happens to be in the middle, which becomes an uncomfortable place to be.

Michael Foreman, Moose

So he has to do something, especially once the sticks and stones start flying. His solution is unusual, and one which appeals to all the other animals in the woods. As for Eagle and Bear, they can’t do much.

In That’s What Makes a Hippopotamus Smile! by Sean Taylor and Laurent Cardon, a little girl is startled when she opens the door and finds a big hippo outside. He wants to come in, so she lets him.

She needs to find out what will make him happy, so they play and eat and have a bath. When hippo next calls at her house, he is not alone. It was that much fun.

Families are where people love you

Jeanne Willis, ably assisted with lovely illustrations by Adrian Reynolds, mixes her families up in Upside Down Babies. Somehow the baby animals end up with the ‘wrong’ mummies, but that works, too. In some cases, anyway.

And then the world is put right again, even if some mums actually hang on to their ‘wrong’ babies. Very sweet, for all of us who have worried about separation.

Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds, Upside Down Babies

So, you’re different. Doesn’t mean you don’t belong, as very big mouse Enormouse finds out in Angie Morgan’s book. The others appear to be poking fun at him for his size, so he leaves to go and find the rats, who look just like him.

But the rats aren’t like him, and Enormouse decides to ‘go home’ again, where he has been badly missed. Home is where you belong, whatever your shape.

Angie Morgan, Enormouse

That could be in two homes, as Baby Bird finds in Two Nests by Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone. His parents fall in love, and Baby Bird is born and everything is fine.

No it’s not. Things get bad, until his parents do the sensible thing and build a second nest on another branch. Baby Bird has two homes, and two parents who love him.

Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone, Two Nests

Counting how much you love your Little Bear becomes hard work for Dad. Little Bear can’t sleep, because he needs to know his Dad loves him more than… They go on and on until Dad falls asleep. And suddenly Little Bear finds he can sleep as well. I Love You Too! is a sweet bedtime story by Michael Foreman. It’s as if you can’t ever have too many bedtime books. Especially about bears.

Michael Foreman, I Love You Too!

Ros Asquith is spot on – as always – in her It’s Not Fairy. The It’s Not Fairy has a hard job sorting everyone out. That’s everyone who moans and says ‘It’s Not Fair!’ and they needn’t be just children. Parents are as bad. Children squabble over ice cream treats, and parents disagree on who works the hardest.

Well, that would be the It’s Not Fairy. Eventually she falls into her own trap, because she just has so much to do.

Ros Asquith, It's Not Fairy

A Medal for Leroy

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s book about Walter Tull, comes another one, inspired by Walter. It’s almost unavoidable that we will have a run of war books this week, and it’s also unavoidable to have one (or two) by Michael Morpurgo. But he does them so well.

Michael Morpurgo, A Medal for Leroy

A Medal for Leroy features both World Wars and many generations (where my one gripe is that I’m wondering what’s happened to Mr Morpurgo’s arithmetic, which had me counting and counting and concluding that the ages of his characters don’t fully add up) and is all the more powerful for it. I used to think the two wars were far apart in time, but looking back you see that if one generation escaped, then the next one would be ready to go out into the subsequent war. Very sad.

Young Michael is around ten in 1950 and lives with his French mother in London. His pilot father Roy died before Michael was born. They often visit his aunts in Folkestone, as they had brought his father up. And then Michael finds out more about his father’s parentage, especially Roy’s unknown father Leroy, who died in the first war.

It is Leroy who is losely based on Walter Tull, and it’s uncanny how many similar young men go to war and never come back. As in James Riordan’ book, A Medal for Leroy also features the old Michael, and his grandchild. And there are many generations of dogs called Jasper, who have all played an important part in the lives of the three male characters.

This book is perhaps more about paying homage to an early black soldier, than about the wars as such. It’s what happened to the people at home. The prejudice, and the private courage. And quite a lot of the plot apparently comes from Michael Morpurgo’s own life. You don’t need to make these things up.


These two – no longer so recent – books by Michael Foreman are about saving your world. Newspaper Boy and Origami Girl deals with one kind of problem, while Superfrog and the Big Stink features a totally different situation.

Superfrog – which is probably for slightly younger readers – lives in an idyllic corner of the world, until there is a bit of a stink coming his way. Rubbish floats down the river. People become unwell.

Michael Foreman, Superfrog and the Big Stink

In Pied Piper fashion Superfrog leads hordes of children to the people who are misbehaving, ruining the environment. And they convince the ‘bad guys’ to repent and improve. (As a very old person I wish I thought this would be possible, but it is a lovely idea, which will hopefully inspire children.)

In Newspaper Boy and Origami Girl, Joey the newspaper boy is the victim of a crime. But when all seems lost, he suddenly discovers Origami Girl (who ‘lives’ in his newspaper bag). She helps him set things right, and while they are sorting out Joey’s smaller crime problem, they also deal with a larger scale one.

Michael Foreman, Newspaper Boy and Origami Girl

Joey is a hero, and Origami Girl disappears back into his bag. Until next time.

Very satisfying book about dealing with bullies. The power of newspapers? (Good version, obviously. Not you know who.)

Christmas beans

The trainee witch once (almost twice) worked in a bookshop in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This was in the days of Christmas Eve getting the Saturday treatment, shop hour wise. So we closed at twelve, and I recall I had a Saturday bus to catch soon after, where I was the only passenger, on the last bus for a couple of days.

Where was I? Oh yes, in the bookshop, before the last bus. It was quite nice working on Christmas Eve (well, one had a Mother-of-witch doing the kitchen stuff at home…), and something I noticed was that the world is full of people who don’t shop until there are mere hours between the buying of and the opening of presents. It takes a cool and steady mind to be that late.

They come in and spend anything, just to get the deed done. And obviously they require wrapping and all that.

According to Son it seems the wellknown online bookshop can offer the same these days, as long as you live somewhere civilised. Order on Christmas Eve morning and have it delivered that afternoon. It will cost you, but as I said, the Christmas Eve shopper can afford it.

What I’m trying to say here, in a roundabout and waffley way is that you could still manage to buy Magic Beans. I’m truly sorry for being so late mentioning this perfect Christmas book, but I’ve been feeding the cake brandy. And various other minor things.

In Magic Beans you have absolutely the cream of children’s authors doing their thing with classic fairy tales. Adèle Geras retells the The Six Swan Brothers. It’s wonderful with such sibling love. But I wonder what happened to the old King and his witchy wife? It’s funny how Princes and Kings wander around finding themselves wives all over the place.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Henrietta Branford before. Here she retells Hansel and Gretel, without too much gruesomeness. And why do witches and stepmothers get bad press all the time? Berlie Doherty’s The Snow Queen is icy and season appropriate. And below you can listen to Jacqueline Wilson talking about Rapunzel.

Other particpating authors are Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Kit Wright, Alan Garner, Gillian Cross, Susan Gates, Malorie Blackman, Linda Newbery and Tony Mitton. And since it’s not only writers you get, every single fairy tale has been illustrated by some pretty creamy artists like Debi Gliori, Ian Beck, Lesley Harker, Nick Sharratt, Patrice Aggs, Peter Bailey, Nick Maland, James Mayhew, Siận Bailey, Ted Dewan, Michael Foreman, Sue Heap and Bee Willey.

By good fortune I have also just found out that some of these stories can be bought as ebooks, so if you’re really desperate…

Don’t say I haven’t provided a useful suggestion. And if you were to go for the old-fashioned dead tree version you get a nice, fat volume with pictures. I’ll even wrap it for you. If you come here, that is.