Beasts and Baskets

Picnic
John Burningham
Jonathan Cape
There are echoes of the wonderful Mr Gumpy’s Outing in Burningham’s latest book. Boy and girl invite sheep, pig and duck to join them for a picnic. Their search for a picnic place proves protracted. They are chased by bull and have to hide in the woods, the wind whisks sheep’s hat away, pig drops his ball and duck loses his scarf. When all the items are retrieved they share the picnic basket spread and after fun and games the tired picnickers return to boy and girl’s house on the hill and bed.
Burningham’s peerless pictures in crayon, ink and watercolour and his spare, clear short sentences with engaging questions are in perfect balance within the empty spaces of each page.
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Big Book of Beasts
Emily Gravett
Macmillan
Emily Gravett has a co-creator for her latest offering; it’s Little Mouse (from a Big Book of Fears). Said rodent proceeds to edit her efforts throughout, daubing, nibbling, scribbling and generally interfering with every spread. As the author attempts to present ten animals pictorially with accompanying verse, Little Mouse offers his own take on each one. So, he proceeds to silence the lion’s roar, placing mittens over its claws, swat the worrying wasps with a specially pressed newspaper, and put dainty high-heeled shoes on the feet of the rampaging rhinoceros; but can he avoid being swallowed by the crushing Boa-Constrictor? Seemingly so, for after one final confrontation, what do we find fleeing across the final end-papers but a small, white, paint-spattered mouse?
Purists may be left aghast at mouse’s defacement but the rest of us will revel in this ingenious, truly interactive creation with its mini book of origami, wasp-swatting newspaper, healthy teeth guide, flaps to open and holes throughout.
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The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train
Peter Bently and Steve Cox
Hodder Children’s Books
This adventure starts when a mouse – a skitter-scattery one – living in the stationmaster’s house, steals a piece of cheese and is seen by Carruthers the cat. The mouse is trapped, escapes and is hotly pursued by Carruthers but as he crosses the track, the cat takes a tumble getting his tail stuck in the rails. The minutes tick by and a large red steam train is speeding ever closer, Carruthers promising to chase him no more, begs the mouse to stop the train. Can that tiny creature get back and warn the stationmaster before the train makes mincemeat of his much-loved moggy? Suffice it to say that by the end of the day there is a third resident in the stationmaster’s house, and now he’s entirely welcome.
This rhyming tale, like the train positively races along and one can almost hear the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the track echoing when reading the book aloud. There’s some delicious alliteration too and the tension builds as the stopwatch counts the minutes to ten o’clock when the train is due.
Full of humour and pathos, Steve Cox’s bold bright illustrations mirror the gathering pace and tension of the text. For additional fun, spot Cat and Mouse among the cogwheels, clocks and pipes of the endpapers.
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The Lion and the Mouse
Nahta Noj
Templar Publishing
Cleverly interactive die-cuts really make this version of one of the most retold of Aesop’s fables distinctive.
Standing out against the flat colour backgrounds, composite, collage-style cut-outs help build up the bold images which are truly striking. Jenny Broom’s retelling too is noteworthy and further enlivened by variations in the font size, and weight with lines of print sometimes following the outlines of the illustrations.

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A great book for the primary classroom or for individual sharing.
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Little Evie in the Wild Wood
Jackie Morris and Catherine Hyde
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
One afternoon, wearing red and carrying a basket, Little Evie sets off alone into woods. Following the path ever deeper, her senses alert, she emerges into a clearing and there encounters a great black she wolf. Shades of Red Riding Hood; but, Evie has been sent by her Grandma to find the wolf and share with her seven blood-red jam tarts. After their meal, as the sun sets, the wolf carries Evie on her back to the edge of the wood where she can see the cottage and her waiting mama.
It’s not so much the story, but the manner of the telling that is so striking. Its lyrical, powerfully atmospheric, eerie haunting quality draws you right in from the start creating an air of wonder and mystery.
Visually wonderful too, Catherine Hyde has used acrylics to conjure soft-focus woodland scenes suffused with glowing sunlight, which intensify the air of mystery.
Truly, a book to enchant young and old alike.
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The Day the Crayons Quit
Oliver Jeffers and Drew Daywalt
Harper Collins
Have you ever thought about the crayons you give children to use; did you know for example that they have feelings? No? Well, this hilarious book/story by the brilliant Jeffers (no prizes for guessing which medium he has used) and debut author, Daywalt might make you think again.
Duncan wants to do some colouring but when he goes to use his crayons, he discovers a bundle of twelve letters all of which contain strong words of admonition for the would-be artist.
Red complains that he is even has to work on holidays, Purple is upset that Duncan won’t keep his colour within the lines, Beige is fed up with playing second fiddle to Brown, Grey is demanding a break from colouring large animals, White feels empty and Black doesn’t want to be limited to outlines, Green is happy with his use but wants Duncan to settle a dispute between Yellow and Orange over which is the rightful colour of the Sun, Blue is bothered that he is almost completely used up and Pink thinks she is being discriminated against because Duncan is a boy. And finally, Peach doesn’t want to leave the crayon box because Duncan has peeled his label off leaving him naked.
Needless to say, this wonderfully wacky, creative picture book has plenty of colour particularly after Duncan takes on board all the crayons concerns. I’m not convinced that Beige will be entirely happy though.
Don’t miss this one.
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Eddie and Dog
Alison Brown
Little Tiger Press
Eddie lives close to an airport; he spends time watching the planes and dreaming of adventures in faraway places. One day he spies a small dog in a basket on the luggage carousel and invites him to play. The two briefly enjoy some adventures together but on their return home, Eddie’s mum sends his new playmate to a more suitable home. Next day however, dog is back and despite further attempts to send him packing, Eddie’s determined canine pal returns. Moreover he has a plan: a clever one involving a rooftop space whereon he and Eddie construct a garden compete with lawn, topiary, a tree-house and more.
I like the fact that imagination, determination and perseverance win the day in this story for which Alison Brown’s illustrative style creates the illusion that the characters and objects have been created with a modeling medium.
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One thought on “Beasts and Baskets

  1. Thanks for the wonderful review of Little Evie. You can buy from Amazon if you wish, or from Solva Woollen Mill for signed copies, or, better still, your local independent bookseller. Lovely, lovely review. So good when someone ‘gets it’! Thank you.

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