Patience, Miyuki

Patience, Miyuki
Roxane Marie Galliez and Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

I’ve not met Miyuki before although this book is a follow up to Time for Bed, Miyuki and it seems slightly strange to receive for review as summer gives way to autumn, a story about the magic of spring. Nonetheless it’s a beauty and so worth drawing attention to.

Miyuki is excited at the arrival of spring and cannot wait to revel in the joys it brings. On her walk with her Grandfather she notices a flower that is yet to open. “Be patient” she’s told, this delicate little flower needs the purest water.

At these words she’s off on a mission to find that water to make the flower burst into bloom.

Her quest leads to an encounter with a toad in a well, a pretty cloud, a beautiful waterfall

and a boy watering his garden who does provide her with what she seeks.

In her haste to return however she trips, hurts her leg and spills the water.

As a result she has to stop and in the silence of the moment she hears the song of the river. “Be patient,” it says promising to take her home.

Lulled by the water, she falls asleep and the river keeps its promise carrying her home, borne by an origami swan to her Grandfather.

Next morning, the second day of spring, Grandfather is able to get her to be still

so that she can observe the wonderful surprise that awaits.

There’s a dream-like quality to this sweet, soft-spoken story that is reflected in Seng Soun Ratanavan’s beautiful jewel-coloured, occasionally playful, illustrations of the natural world, some of which include traditional Japanese objects.

Enjoy the moment is the message of this book, and it’s one we could all do with paying heed to in our increasingly busy times, whatever the season.

One Fox / The Button Book

Just right for an early years collection are:

One Fox
Kate Read
Two Hoots

One moonlit night down on the farm, with his two sly eyes, one famished fox is on the prowl. Lots of lovely alliteration describes the happenings:

The three plump hens need to keep their ears and beady eyes open.
However that fox is in for a big surprise when he takes six silent steps towards the hencoop and taps seven times upon the outside …

In a dramatic and satisfying climax (although not for the fox), debut author/illustrator Kate Read takes us right up close to the action in her counting story.

With an economy of words she creates a visual comedy that is both exciting and gently educational; but It’s her superb visuals that carry the power – bright, textured art combining paint and collage – that build up expectations of the outcome

and then turn the tale right over on itself.

The Button Book
Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin
Andersen Press

Take a group of inquisitive animals and an assortment of ‘pressable’ buttons of different shapes and colours; add several generous spoonfuls of imagination and stir. The result is this playful interactive picture book for little ones.

Squirrel starts the whole thing off by prodding at the red button with his stick and wondering what will happen. It beeps, and that sets off the button investigation.

To discover which is the clapping button, which one sings songs;

which blows a raspberry;

what joys the yellow button delivers, and the pink and purple ones, you need the fingers of a child or so, and the willingness to indulge in some pretend play.

This is children’s / YA author Sally Nicholls debut picture book and it appears she’s had as much fun creating it as will its intended preschool audience. The latter will take great delight in all the noisy, occasional mischievous activities offered at the mere touch of a button. Adult sharers on the other hand might well be relieved to learn what the white button does.

Seemingly too Bethan Woollvin had fun creating the illustrations; she’s certainly done a cracking job showing the seven characters having a thoroughly good time as investigators and participants in their own comedic performance.

Under the Great Plum Tree

Under the Great Plum Tree
Sufiya Ahmed and Reza Dalvand
Tiny Owl

This is a new addition to Tiny Owl’s smashing One Story, Many Voices series.

I felt very pleased with myself for realising as I started reading that the names of the two main characters in Sufiya Ahmed’s version of an Indian fable from the Panchatrantra are the Hindi for monkey and crocodile, only to find on finishing the book a note at the back saying just that. Still it didn’t say that hati is Hindi for elephant!

Now let me introduce the two characters who have formed a rather unlikely friendship under a plum tree in their jungle home. There’s the always kind-hearted Miss Bandari and well past his hunting days crocodile, Mr Magarmach.

The latter regales Miss Bandari with his tales of days gone by but one day instead of his regular story, he invites his friend to lunch as repayment for all her kindness.

That’s an offer too good to turn down so Miss Bandari leaps onto Mr Magarmach’s back and off they go down the river.

After a while they encounter Dame Hati who warns of a terrible danger that awaits should they proceed: the always hungry King Crocodile no less.

Now this troubles Miss Bandari but Mr Magarmuch assures her that King Crocodile wants only to see her big golden heart.

Luckily Dame Hati has her wits about her

and assists Miss Bandari in avoiding a terrible fate.

But the result is that the long-standing friendship between Miss Bandari and Mr Magarmach is tested close to its limits.

Fortunately though the latter’s courage prevails when King Crocodile’s true intentions are revealed and all ends happily.

Sufiya Ahmed’s lively rendition is a great read aloud, while reminiscent of Gujarati Pithora art, Reza Dalvand’s stylised, multi-patterned illustrations flow freely over the pages seducing the eye, making the entire reading experience an absolute delight for audiences and those sharing the book.

My Monster and Me

My Monster and Me
Nadiya Hussain and Ella Bailey
Hodder Children’s Books

Nadiya Hussain has recently spoken out about her own anxiety issues and now has written a picture book intended to give little ones and their carers a starting point for talking about anxiety and worries.

The narrator is a small boy who talks of his ever-present monster that nobody is able to banish; a bossy creature that gets in the way of everything the lad wants to do. It prevents him from playing with his own toys and even his friends.

After school one day the monster is waiting – huge and bad tempered – and it follows the boy all the way to his grandma’s house.

Seeing how upset he looks, Gran listens to her grandson’s tale of woe

and as he talks the monster starts to shrink and that’s when the boy gains control.

The monster never completely goes away but now it no longer wields the power.

Told in a straightforward manner that young children can easily relate to, Nadiya’s reassuring tale is made all the more so by rising star, Ella Bailey’s smashing illustrations. She portrays the monster as a mischievous rather rotund creature, rather than a scary one.

With ever more children of all ages having anxiety issues books such as this one can be an absolute boon for parents and teachers to share.

Lights on Cotton Rock

Lights on Cotton Rock
David Litchfield
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Totally out of this world, breathtakingly brilliant is this science fiction picture book by David Litchfield.

It begins with star-grazing Heather whose chosen place to contemplate the universe is Cotton Rock. Here she sits and with torch directed up, sets her sights towards the star spangled sky in the hope that someone in the inky black of space will see her light.

Believing that there are others somewhere in outer space she flashes her torch off on, off on … until lo and behold, it looks as though her wish has been answered for into the forest glade there appears …

Sadly the ensuing awesome encounter is over all too soon

and the spacecraft departs.

Is this to be a once in a lifetime experience?

Heather certainly hopes not for she goes back to Cotton Rock at intervals hoping that her alien friend will return and transport her far away.

As she grows older Heather’s visits to her rock become less and less frequent but she never loses that hope …Could it happen?

Or could it be that what we most yearn for isn’t in fact what will ultimately come to mean most to us; maybe what we are truly looking for is just so close we can’t see it …

With every book David creates, I think to myself, he just can’t better that, but then he goes and proves me wrong. I can think of very few illustrators whose use of dark and light comes anywhere near what is between the covers of this book, at every single turn of the page; it’s utter genius.

I keep on going back to it and gaining new insights but then that’s what happens with the very best picture books.

Caspian Finds a Friend

Caspian Finds a Friend
Jacqueline Veissid and Merrilees Brown
Chronicle Books

In a lighthouse lives a boy named Caspian whose loneliness we feel right from the opening spread that reveals the stark beauty of his location.

How does someone find a friend whose every night is spent casting light into the darkness waiting for someone to arrive, but nobody does.

Then one day Caspian decides to write a message and use his flower jug to cast it into the ocean.

Weeks pass, then months as the boy waits and waits. Eventually he discovers something ‘a glistening nestled in the rocks.’ It’s his bottle and inside is a single word response.

He rushes to his little boat and under the night sky with its shimmering constellations he rows on the gentle sea until he falls asleep.

Waking next morning now in icy waters, Caspian finally meets that which he’s longed for …

and together they journey back to the lighthouse.

The combination of Jacqueline Veissid’s lyrical text and debut illustrator, Merrilees Brown’s beautiful art, which is a mixture of oil paints, relief print and charcoal digitally combined, creates an almost dreamlike gentle adventure story to delight and perhaps to encourage little ones to realise that within themselves they have the power to make changes happen.

Beast Feast

Beast Feast
Emma Yarlett
Walker Books

Emma Yarlett serves up another yummy picture book, this time about a beast who, despite appearances, has a rather soft heart.

When said Beast catches a delicious meal he decides that rather than consuming it all by himself, he’ll invite his beastly pals to share in a ‘Beast Feast’.

Off go four invitations and it’s not long before the replies start coming. Although all the guests are eager to partake of the delicious meal, each includes as part of the response, some cooking instructions on how to make Dinner all the more wonderfully grim and grisly.

Dinner on the other hand is anything but keen to be consumed, feast or no feast.

Consequently he offers his own suggestions for improving the recipe so that it’s the juiciest, saltiest, slimiest and best chilled meal

the Beast’s demanding guests are hoping for on feast day.

But can he succeed in saving his skin with his playful notions …

With her own yummy ingredients – a smashing story, endearing main characters and crazy items of correspondence – Emma Yarlett’s lip-smacking offering, whether shared around Halloween time or on other occasions, will be met with demands for immediate extra helpings from story-hungry youngsters.

(Don’t miss the recipes – disgusting and yummy – inside the front and back covers.)