Monkey On the Run

Monkey on the Run
Leo Timmers
Gecko Press

This wordless picture book starts with a father monkey collecting his little one from school and right away their funky motorbike is in a nose-to-tail traffic jam.

Rather than sit frustratedly in the side car, Little Monkey gets out and starts wending his own way home.

Every spread offers potential stories aplenty so this definitely is not a book to hurry through. Rather one needs to slow the pace and relish the on-the-move fire fighting scenario; Little Monkey’s cake-lifting episode from the royal ‘feastmobile’…

cake he subsequently consumes in the crow’s nest of a wheeled boat.

There follow a confrontation with a rooster; a circus-like dangling act from a very bendy drinking straw

and later on Dad monkey gets an ice-cream surprise from above.

Then our inventive traveller secures a wonderful gift box

that he presents to his mum when father and son finally reach home.

Timmers’ vehicles are veritable inventive wonders, every one; and the way in which the interaction on each spread occurs is sheer comic genius. I’m sure readers will discover new things to relish on every re-reading, of which I’m sure there will be many.

B is for Baby

B is for Baby
Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank
Walker Books

Here’s an absolutely cracking circular story that’s simply bursting with love. Atinuke’s verbal narrative focuses entirely on things starting with the letter B as she takes us on a journey through a West African rural landscape.
First though we meet the titular Baby; see her mother Beading her baby’s hair and Baby raiding the Banana basket, toppling in and partaking of some Breakfast.

Brother is next on the scene; in he bops and loads said basket complete with baby, on the back of his bicycle ready to go to visit Baba.

Oblivious to his stowaway passenger, he pedals along the Bumpy road towards Baba’s bungalow.

Passing beneath the Baobab – a Big one – they emerge into an area with fields either side; and a bird from the previous spread is now seen in full view with its gloriously coloured plumage – Beautiful – as is the blue butterfly that flies behind the bike, while ahead are trees filled with baboons.

As they pass under a tree a Baboon grabs the lid from the basket revealing the stowaway baby.

The journey continues with baby handing out a banana to a child leaning from the Bus window as they pause before crossing the Bridge (B is for Bridge) and before long they arrive as their destination: a Bougainvillea surrounded Bungalow outside which waits a happy-looking Baba … ‘B is for … Baba!’

That happiness increases enormously though when he opens the basket …

One shocked brother and an overjoyed Baba.

After all that there’s only one thing to do: sit down together and partake of some yummy snacks – ‘B is for Biscuit!’ as well as some bubbly bottled liquid refreshment; and I bet they polish off the whole lot.

A sensory delight if ever there was one, is this rural ride from one much loved family member to another. (The last two spreads show the return journey, which culminates back where the siblings started, and finally, a relieved-looking mama clutching tight her Baby.) Visually stunning, vibrant and infused with humour, the entire book is bursting with energy, warmth, rich colour and beauty.

A total treat to share and to pore over; an enriching must have for home, nursery or school collections and another terrific Atinuke/ Angela Brooksbank collaboration.

My City / In The City

 

My City
Joanne Liu
Prestel Children’s Books

A small boy, Max, is given the job of posting a letter and sets off to the post box.
His route through the city takes him past a launderette where he stops to watch the swirling whirling clothes in the machines;

then he stops at a crossing to look in a puddle (in stark contrast to the other people many of whom have their eyes on their phones)

and has an encounter with a rubbish collector and his truck. He chases after a leaf as it’s whooshed by the wind, catches it and eventually presents it to a man on a bench.

Each of these small happenings is followed by a shift in perspective that puts the reader as it were, behind the boy’s head as he meanders, ever watchful through the bustling city and through the day, all the while open-armed as though embracing each and every new experience until finally, he arrives back home to his watchful mother, and the mail box right by their house.

Almost wordless, Joanne Liu allows her vibrant, textured paintings to tell the story while allowing readers to create their own too, perhaps about the spotty dog that appears in several scenes.

A visual delight to explore and re-explore making new discoveries on each reading.

In The City
Dominika Lipniewska
Button Books

Dominika Lipniewska takes readers on an exploratory journey from the stirrings of early morning through twenty-four hours back to another sunrise.

Her graphical style urban landscapes have the playful appearance of a construction block city, comprising Lego-type figures, buildings and vehicles.

The streets and railway are full of hustle and bustle as commuters hurry on their way to work or perhaps take a more leisurely walk with a dog.

Noise is at times overwhelming, but not everywhere is so frenetic; there are green leafy spaces where wild life abounds, and quieter spots to pause and partake of some rest and repast.

Different as people may be, they share much in common including a love of ice-cream and engaging in fun activities as well as shopping – be that in a shopping centre

or smaller shops on the street, as well as the market, a great location for buying fresh produce.

Like most cities this one has other places of interest: a large variety of eating places, museums and art galleries, a zoo and more; and it’s both ever-changing and never still for some people work through the night to provide essential services.

Every spread offers enormous potential for observing and talking; in fact the whole book is visually appealing and immersive.

Has Anybody Seen A Story?

Has Anybody Seen a Story?
Mandana Sadat
Thames & Hudson

‘Once upon a time, there were three Thingummies called Sadie, Spike and Smudge. They lived in the middle of Nowhere in a place called Floatyfish, surrounded by soft fluffy clouds. The Thingummies had everything they needed – plenty of water, plenty of fresh air, and plenty of flutterberries, a delicious kind of flying fruit that you catch with a net.’

So begins Mandana Sadat’s wonderfully quirky meta-fictive picture book wherein we join the Thingummies in their search for adventure.
Three days of walking leads the threesome to a crossorads and they choose first to follow the Fairytale Trail. This foray finds them coming face to face with the exceedingly ugly, very old and mighty frightening ZOMBEAST.

Its threat to erase them entirely sends the friends fleeing for their lives back to the crossroads.

Next they select The Future Freeway, a bright shiny, ‘whizzy and busy and bright’ sort of place where a friendly-seeming robot makes them feel welcome and refreshed but not for long. When the mechanical monster starts unloading its own woes, the three Ss decide to beat a hasty retreat before it’s too late.

The Poetry Path sounds entirely promising so off they go again, discovering a place, the air of which is enriched by beautiful thoughts and wonderful words: Now who wouldn’t want to spend time there imbibing such delights.

Alluring though this location is, Spike decides they should try the final road, so having returned to the crossroads they proceed deep below ground to Bedtime Boulevard. Therein resides famous storyteller, Madame Mole and she’s happy to help the story searchers. So soothing is her voice that it has a soporific effect on the three seekers and they soon drop off to sleep,

only to find themselves next morning back at the crossroads.

There they make a startling discovery when they come upon a signpost they’d not seen previously. It’s a discovery that relates to the true nature of story, those ‘what ifs’ and the power of the imagination. That however is not quite the end of their tale for the three decide to follow the road into the Maze of Mumblings and … and … and … ultimately they do discover a story that is worth the telling …

Let the celebratory party begin!

Absolutely bursting with diverting details (verbal and visual) to relish, Mandana’s story quest world is likely to entrap readers for a considerable time, and having escaped once, they’ll find themselves drawn back for further flights of fanciful fun and new revelations.

Pip and the Bamboo Path

Pip and the Bamboo Path
Jesse Hodgson
Flying Eye Books

Thanks to deforestation, poaching, an illegal pet trade and accidental trapping the red panda population is critically endangered.

It’s on account of deforestation that little red panda Pip and her mother have to leave their Himalayan forest home and go in search of a new nesting place.

“Find the bamboo path on the other side of the mountain. It connects all the forests together and will lead you to safety.” So says an eagle, and the two pandas set off on a trek through the mountains in search of the path.

Their long, perilous journey takes them high into the cold shadowy mountain regions

and across a rocky ravine until eventually they reach the edge of a brightly lit city.

It’s a chaotic place but is it somewhere they can make a nest? And what of that bamboo path: do the fireflies know something about that? …

The spare telling of Jesse Hodgson’s story of endangered animals serves to highlight their plight and her illustrations are superb.

From the early scene of sinister silhouettes of the tools of destruction,

shadows and inky darkness powerfully amplify Jesse’s portrayal of Pip and her mother’s journey in search of safety.

Isle of You

Isle of You
David LaRochelle and Jaime Kim
Walker Books

The unseen narrator invites a sad-looking child to leave all worries behind and take a journey (a sailing boat awaits) to a very special place – the Isle of You. This fantastical land is one bathed in soft llght and on shore are a host of welcoming animals and small humans ready to indulge their visitor.

Choices abound: there’s a waterfall in which to swim, a stallion to ride, mountains to climb or perhaps a ride on the back of an eagle, or a restful stretch in a hammock is preferable.

‘Take your time. The choice is yours.’ That’s the assurance.

There’s entertainment laid on courtesy of dancing polar bears

and a delicious-looking feast to partake of before perhaps, a moonlit stroll on the beach before it’s time to depart, safe in the knowledge that ‘Someone loves you very, very, very much.’

This reads like a guided visualisation in picture book form – mindfulness for little ones after a bad day.

David LaRochelle’s gentle whimsical story is a sweet one (perhaps some will find it overly so) and Jaime Kim’s glowing pastel shades of yellow, pinks, blues and purples help bring feelings of comfort and an otherworldy atmosphere to a fantasy that will help youngster listeners, (safe in the knowledge that it’s sometimes okay to feel sad), to set aside the day’s trials and worries and undertake a mindful journey to a magical place, that’s closer than they think, the ISLE OF YOU.

Red and the City

Red and the City
Marie Voigt
Oxford Children’s Books

If you thought you knew the story Little Red Riding Hood, then think again. I certainly thought I was pretty familiar with a considerable number of versions both traditional and the ‘fractured’ variety, (especially as this blog is a variation on the name), but Marie Voight’s is something altogether different.

Red has now become sufficiently trustworthy and grown up to visit her Grandma on her own.Taking a cake as a present for her gran and Woody the dog as company, she begins by following her mum’s instructions to “Follow the heart flowers”, cross the road carefully, stay on the path, and not speak to anyone.

Hunger pangs however strike and Red decides to have just a small piece of the cake; but it’s an especially tasty one and pretty soon, the child has devoured the whole thing.

She decides to buy her Grandma some flowers as a gift instead. This means just a small, brief diversion from the path or so she tells Woody.
Soon though, Red has completely forgotten about her mission and instead wanders here and there making a purchase but not of flowers;

and before long she is utterly lost and in the grip of the consumerist urban wolf.

Indeed, she’s swallowed up.

Suddenly a bark wakens her and remembering what really matters, Red finds her own way back onto the path and eventually reaches her Grandma’s home, albeit rather late in the day.

All ends happily with talk and cake – one Grandma has specially baked for the occasion earlier – and a bedtime story … I wonder what that might have been.

This contemporary telling of the traditional tale is, can you believe, Marie Voigt’s picture book debut and what a delicious one it is.

From start to finish, children will simply adore discovering the wolvish elements in her scenes as they relish Marie’s telling, whether or not they fully appreciate the issues of consumerism and self-determination that older readers might.
The limited colour palette is perfect for the story and the special loving bond between Grandma and Red shines through in the final spreads.