Tag Archives: Ros Asquith

The Great Big Book of Friends

How I love these Great Big Books of… with words by Mary Hoffman and those loveable illustrations by Ros Asquith! Here is their latest one, The Great Big Book of Friends.

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, The Great Big Book of Friends

Friends are so important, but unlike family, or bodies, say, you might feel you don’t have any. But don’t worry, Mary explains that you probably do, anyway. And if you don’t, that’s OK, too.

You can be friends with your grandma. Or with the cat. You can have an imaginary friend, or a special blanket, or book. Or you can have friends all over the world; maybe lots that you’ve never met. Yet.

Here is advice on how to get a friend, and on keeping your friend. They point out that even when you’re really old, like your parents, you can stay friends with someone you’ve known all your life. Maybe because your parents were friends.

There are so many possibilities.

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, The Great Big Book of Friends

Both the words and the pictures in this book are so encouraging. They make you feel normal when maybe you believe you are the odd one out, who will never be like everyone else.

Go on, chat up the human being over there! Could be the best thing you ever did. And maybe they like frogs as much as you do.

I do hope there will be more Great Big Books.

The Great Big Body Book

One phrase in The Great Big Body Book really jumped out at me; ‘we are more alike than different.’ Those are the kind of words we need to come across more often, the way things are.

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, The Great Big Body Book

The Great Big Body Book is the latest in a row of Great books by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, who do a Great job of putting fun and interesting facts together and then providing pictures to help us see better. The body is so simple, in a way. You have the outside, the inside and the skeleton. Interesting bits can be found in all three.

And did you know your dentist was once a baby? (Mine is still about 22, so that wasn’t such a long time ago.) I’m glad only 8% of people have blue eyes, having grown up in a place where being a brown-eyed beauty felt all wrong and boring.

And don’t get me started on colours! I bought a purple and orange (girl’s) t-shirt for the toddler Son, and had Daughter’s credentials as a girl queried by someone who felt her neutral coloured coat was wrong. Had there not been a few navy blue flowers to rescue her, she’d probably still be a boy.

It’s normal for teens to spend hours looking in the mirror, but no, that fat man is not pregnant. Older people are not necessarily useless, and we will remember our dear ones who have died.

At the back there is an illustration of Mary and Ros. I didn’t know Ros is tall and thin. I know Mary is short, but she is definitely not round. But whatever their shapes, they have yet again made a rather lovely book.

Feeling Three Men in a Boat-ish

Tell me honestly; do you think it was the smelly Danish cheese that did it?

I suppose it was karma. I put the cheese in the Resident IT Consultant’s suitcase, thinking we’d just be travelling for the day and the cheese would be all right, and so would we. I mean, we were all right. And once the cheese had recovered in the fridge overnight, so was it. In fact, I had a very agreeable lunch sandwich with just the right degree of smelliness. The cheese. Not me.

Although it was hot, and we could all have done with more to drink.

You’d have thought that three out of four trips across the North Sea going somewhat wrong would be one or two too many? I felt we’d had our share of unexpectedly travelling via Oslo or the three of us flying on separate planes, to last us several months.

But on Tuesday our plane had scratches, not previously noted in any flying logbooks. So we sat there, and we sat there, and they gave us so much juice and water that they ran out, and then they told us to get off the plane and wait in the terminal. Luckily, Kastrup is a nice airport, and Daughter very nicely bought the two old people an almond croissant. Each.

Once the scratches had been deemed safe we were back on board, with people panicking nicely over possibly or definitely missed connections in London. We didn’t worry, because we knew we should make the last plane to Scotland. Until the purser came and said we wouldn’t. Until the people at Heathrow said we would, and we did. The plane was so empty they could easily accommodate each of us sitting separately from the other two, which is how we like it (unless we travel on separate planes).

And the only reason I’m boring you with this is because all the will we, won’t we, and getting home late meant I needed to give Debi Gliori and Ros Asquith a miss at Charlotte Square. And Xinran.

Sigh.

But I did get some reading done.

The Great Big Book of Families

It’s Mother’s Day, but it’s a bit of a nonsense, really. Let’s make it Families’ Day instead and talk about The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith. Much more fun, and no need for bath salts, or dinner out in an overcrowded restaurant.

As Mary and Ros show us, a family can be anything. All you need are two people who belong together, somehow. They show us many different types of family constellations, and I’m sure there are many more.

My own, and by that I mean the one I was born into, was a two person family. Sometimes I find that any group bigger than that is pretty large. All I needed was Mother-of-witch.

Now that I ‘have the right’ to celebrate Mother’s Day (I don’t, much, though) from the opposite perspective, it feels rather unreal. Somehow I can only see mothers as an older person; not the one I am.

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, The Great Big Book of Families

But one thing Mary and Ros (mainly Ros, I suppose, as it’s an illustration) have got right for our family is this lovely picture. That’s me, and – erm – someone close to me. And if the hair wasn’t wrong, it could also be me and Mother-of-witch. The spiders skipped a generation.

To stop being frivolous – although I don’t see what’s wrong with a bit of frivolity – this book is another fantastic collaboration, ready to show young readers that they are normal and everything is fine, and you don’t need to be like those others who might seem to be ‘the real thing.’ (You know, the kind of family the Government have in mind as the only acceptable life form. Which always makes me wonder what’s wrong with single people.)

Happy People’s Day! Please pass the shower gel.

(PS. I was a very good daughter. Obviously. Sometimes. I rose at dawn and went into the woods to pick a bunch of lily of the valley, before serving breakfast in bed and/or homemade dinner and nice, wobbly cake. Not all in bed, or at the same time.)

The Great Big Green Book

The world needs trees. And water. And children need this book, The Great Big Green Book by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith. I’d love to think that it can make a difference. The world needs people to do things that will make a difference. A positive one, obviously.

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, The Great Big Green Book

Children are nearly always very open to new ideas, and are far more prepared than adults to change their lifestyles. They just need to be told what they can do.

Words can change a lot, but I wonder if pictures – especially ones like these by Ros – do even more. You just need to see those polar bears on their shrinking piece of ice to understand.

Children do need words, though. I was reading just the other day that a children’s dictionary had got rid of a number of nature words, in favour of more ‘in’ terminology; out with the blackberry and in with the Blackberry. It can be hard to save a world of things when you don’t have words for what needs saving.

Recycle, turn the lights off, compost, don’t flush the toilet every time and share a shower. Well, actually, I might skip that last idea. Re-use, don’t fly everywhere and put another blanket on the bed.

And remember the world almost stands and falls with the bees.

Welcome to the Family

There are more than one kind of family, as most of us who are not politicians know. And knowing isn’t always enough. You want books about your own family type. In Welcome to the Family you get so much variation that surely just about every type of family has been covered?

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Welcome to the Family

Families can have one or more adults. Any number, really. Any combination of the sexes. There can be one child, or lots of them. As for colour, any combination is possible.

Welcome to the Family shows the child how they might have arrived with their parents. It can be anything from ordinary homemade babies, to fostering and test tube babies. There are gay parents and single parents. Mixed colour families and same colour families.

This is not a story book, but more a way of telling a child that they are normal, whatever their own reality. It shouldn’t be necessary to have books like this, but unfortunately we still have a long way to go before some kinds of family are seen as so natural that there is no need to mention them.

The usual wonderful illustrations you expect from Ros Asquith accompany Mary Hoffman’s text.

I’d happily belong to any of these families, but of course, I have my own. Both the one I was born into and the one I helped make. Both different, and both good.

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

Max the Champion

Did I ever mention how much I love Ros Asquith’s illustrations? In general, I mean. Well, I do. She can brighten up almost any ‘dire’ situation with her take on how people look. (I miss reading the Guardian Education and her spot-on observations on life in our schools.)

In Max the Champion it is Ros’s pictures that make the book. My sincere apologies to Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick who wrote the words. (You should have chosen a really rubbish illustrator…)

Stockdale, Strick, Asquith, Max the Champion

Max is a crazy, but also completely normal, little boy. He is crazy about sport. He lives and breathes sport, and I do believe there was even sport in his breakfast cereal.

He wakes up, he eats his cereal. He goes to school. He and his classmates do the sorts of things you do at school. Max turns everything into sport. His still life ‘fruitbowl’ full of (sports) balls is quite something.

In the afternoon they do sport at school, and he loves it.

As a reader you are halfway through the book before you realise that’s a hearing aid in Max’s ear. And he’s so excited he’s got his inhaler out. His classmates are also a little ‘different.’ One is in a wheelchair. One has an eye problem.

Apart from Max’s sheer enjoyment as he goes through his day with nothing but sport on his mind, nothing much happens. But that’s fine. We want to see those ‘different’ children behaving just like everyone else.

We shouldn’t need a special book to do so. But we do. Here it is.

Lots of new books

And some old ones, too. You can never re-issue certain books too many times.

It’s understandable that the publishing world would pick a day like today to publish lots of books. 6th of June has a lovely ring to it. It’s sort of made for books, I’d say.

Originally I was going to review something today, just because it had a 6/6 publishing date. But then I discovered it’d be almost impossible to choose which one. (And I sort of ran out of time, too. I kept working on the May books for longer than I should have. They were good, too. Don’t misunderstand me. But June beats everything.) So I’ll let you have a June book tomorrow. And later.

Terry Pratchett’s publishers have really gone to town today. I’d like to think they had me in mind. But maybe not. Anyway; Terry’s Johnny trilogy is out again, and it is such a fantastic set of stories. I think I sometimes say stupid things such as I like Johnny and the Bomb best, but then I remember that I don’t necessarily, because they are all great, so I won’t say that. At all.

And, Maurice and the rodents are also back, and you just can’t not read it, if you haven’t already.

Theresa Breslin’s Queen Mary book is out in paperback, and Sam Hepburn’s Chasing the Dark is also available now. Andy Mulligan has a new book today (thank you!) and so does Elen Caldecott.

Kate Maryon and Margo Lanagan, likewise. Nicholas Allan. Sean Stockdale, Alexandra Strick and Ros Asquith.

So perhaps it becomes clear why I don’t read all of the books, however excellent and marvellous they are, or seem to be. I will read some, and some I will put in my ‘house arrest’ box. They will be most welcome when the time comes.

Actually, I will leave you today with an almost review. Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart have a new picture book, Just Imagine. It has many very lovely pictures. Naturally. The kind you could sit for hours finding new details in. It has words, too, including the word ‘bewitching.’ Despite that, and despite the fact that there is a witch in the book, I don’t think they have covered just what I’d want; the time to read all the books I would like to read.

Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart, Just Imagine

Just Imagine shows the reader a lot of different scenarios for what or who they could be. Since the book-reading-time thing isn’t on offer, I’ll go for ‘parent-frightening’ which actually sounds quite fun.

Grrrr! (Although that is only if you don’t go out and read one of the books I’ve mentioned. One of the very special 6th June books.)

Margo Lanagan, Yellow Cake

(Or I could scare you with Yellow Cake by Margo Lanagan. It’s a great title. I’m just a little scared of Margo, whose writing is not exactly run of the mill.

The other titles I’ve not mentioned yet are Theresa Breslin – Spy for the Queen of Scots, Kate Maryon – Invisible Girl, Nicholas Allan – The Royal Nappy, Stockdale, Strick and Asquith – Max the Champion, Elen Caldecott – The Great Ice-Cream Heist, Andy Mulligan – The Boy with 2 Heads, Terry Pratchett – The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.)

The Great Big Book of Feelings

I almost approached this book out of a sense of duty. You know how some books appear to be so ‘worthy’?  I thought that The Great Big Book of Feelings might be one of those. It’s not.

Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith, The Great Big Book of Feelings

Instead Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith have come up with something really beautiful. Put simply, it’s a book that describes feelings, and as such I reckon would work quite well for aspie children (perhaps even older people) who need to learn what faces look like for different emotions.

But that’s not why I think it’s so great. It seems so full of life, somehow. (Except for the page about bereavement, which actually had me in tears within seconds. That’s how powerful the combination of Ros’s illustrations and Mary’s words is.)

Right, I will turn the page over and leave the ‘biggest rain cloud ever.’

It’s almost strange that you can get away with a book that just lists feelings, but it seems as if Mary has found every feeling you’d want, and Ros has drawn the loveliest pictures. I know that she always does, but still feel I must point it out.

(Have to admit that the Swedish proverb had me stumped. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention that day.)

And I have never been scared of knees. Thought you’d want to know…

Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith, The Great Big Book of Feelings