The Midnight Fair

The Midnight Fair
Gideon Sterer and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Walker Books

Oh WOW! This is such a superb wordess book ( wordless save for the occasional fairground signs) – definitely one of the very best I’ve seen and way too good to restrict to a particular audience.

As the book opens, forest creatures – bears, squirrels, deer, a stoat, racoons, a badger, a fox, rabbits, mice, a wolf – watch from beyond the fence as the fair unloads. From the edge of the woodlands they see the fairground filling up with humans large and small who spend the entire day enjoying the thrills, leaving only as night descends. The keeper switches off the lights.

From the shadows the animals emerge – it’s their turn now for some of that fun. In they come eyes aglow, through a gap in the fence, two racoons reactivate the power and the place becomes theirs. We also feel it’s ours, so immersive are the illustrations. As well as revelling in the rides and other attractions the animals take on the roles of the stall holders using various natural objects – acorns, pinecones, shells, leaves, fungi and wild flowers – as payment and we can almost inhale the scents of popcorn and candy floss.

At daybreak, the keeper wakes; it’s time for the animals to leave. Tired but very happy and a tad messy, they clear up the entire place and hurry away in the nick of time,

leaving only some of their currency on the ticket counter. But, their business is not quite done yet: as the others bed down, wolf carrying the goldfish won at the hoop-la stall, heads down to the lake and releases it into the water.

With clever use of both dark and light, and the natural world and the human one, Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s mixed media spreads, both detailed frames and expansive double page scenes, are a satisfying mix of the whimsical and the wondrous. This is one of those books that the more you read it, the more emerges.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers
Lauren Tobia
Walker Books

Oscar’s mum takes him to stay with his grandmother for a while in this wordless, wonderfully warm story. He bids a sad farewell to his mum and then despite reassuring hugs from his nan, the boy spends a very difficult first night away from home.

Next morning though his nan observes Oscar’s interest – a picture he draws, and his careful watering of a seedling.

She takes him to a very special shop where they buy all kinds of gardening things including seeds.

Back in nan’s apartment, Oscar plants and tends the seeds

until her entire residence, both inside and out, is alive with flowers, greenery, even vines. There are certainly sufficient plants to make gifts to the other residents of the block, especially a little girl who soon becomes his friend.

No words are needed here: Lauren Tobia’s gorgeous vignettes and full page scenes say it all. The emotions of the characters are made palpable both through their faces and their body language all the way through to the happy reunion of mother and child.

Perfectly paced, this is a super book to share nestled up with one child or a few, taking time to focus on and relish all the wonderful detail in every spread and both endpapers.


Pete Oswald
Walker Books

Wordless save for some environmental sounds and labels, this is a truly beautiful book. 

It begins one evening as a man bids goodnight to his child in a room littered with outdoor gear.

Next morning the father wakes the child who packs the gear into a rucksack, the two get into a jeep and head off from their city home into the countryside for the day.

We follow the two as they walk into the forest where they see wildlife aplenty, 

sharing in occasional small dramatic moments as the child copes with some scary challenges. 

The two stop to share snacks, take photos, enjoy the view and finally carry out the task they’ve come to perform – the planting of a sapling they’ve brought with them and the taking of a selfie beside it.

As dusk descends, they leave the woods and drive home. Once there, they don pyjamas, share some cookies and look through a photo album.

Totally immersive, this wonderfully heartwarming book, open to more than one interpretation, is one that needs slow and careful reading of every page: I love the variety of perspectives and the wealth of visual clues we’re given. I love too, how Oswald shows us the natural world through the lens of the close child/parent relationship. A special day and a special relationship. 

To sum it up, I’ll borrow the title of a very old song ‘Memories are made of this’.


JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books

I loved JiHyeon Lee’s debut Pool and this story too is wordless or virtually so.

It begins with a boy finding a key and following a flying insect through miserable-looking humans to a door.
Having turned the key and ventured forth he finds himself in a new world populated by strange-looking creatures, the first being one carrying a large musical instrument case. Alarmed, the lad runs off …

only to encounter another creature, who also speaks to him.

Overcoming his initial alarm, the boy allows her to take his hand and lead him to join a group of picnickers.

After partaking of some food, the boy swings,

climbs trees and generally has a fabulous time, as more doors appear through which many more creatures enter.

One of them is a bride and then we discover where everyone has been heading: a very special celebration.

Differences in language and kind matter not: all are welcome at this joyful occasion so wonderfully depicted in Lee’s intricately detailed, enchantingly whimsical scenes. The speech bubbles show many different languages being spoken but the understanding comes not through the words, rather it’s the inclusive, all-embracing attitude of the creatures that speaks of open-heartedness and warmth.

Observant readers will notice that as the story progresses, the boy’s appearance changes from a frightened grey to rosy, full colour.