Tag Archives: a journey

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.

The Girl, The Bear and The Magic Shoes

The Girl, The Bear and The Magic Shoes
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books

Perhaps like me you have a particular penchant for shoes, especially trainers (and boots).
How would it be then to purchase a brand new sparkly pair of red ones like the little girl in Julia Donaldson’s super new story. Not only that, but to discover that they are magic and have the power to morph into every possible kind of footwear you need at exactly the right moment, as you attempt to flee ‘Click-click!’ from a backpack-wearing polar bear, ‘Pit-a-pat’.

The first transformation comes at the bottom of an imposing-looking, seemingly unclimbable mountain. Perfect for ‘Crunch, crunch’-ing upwards, albeit pursued still by that bear.

Once at the summit, descent is necessary, so another change produces ‘Whee’, whizzy skis,

then squelch-withstanding yellow wellies,

followed by super splishy,splashy flippers.
All the while though, that bear is hot on the trail; but why would a polar bear be pursuing the child so eagerly? That would be telling – certainly he has no egregious intent.
To find out, hot foot it down to your nearest bookshop (no not shoe shop), bag a copy and discover for yourself.
Oh! I forgot to mention, there’s one final transformation before the shoes reassume their initial jazzy red trainers incarnation.

Lydia Monks’ wonderfully expressive, alluringly bright, funny illustrations sparkle as much as Donaldson’s text. The latter is sprinkled liberally with delicious-sounding onomatopoeia (perfect for helping to develop sound/symbol associations) and irresistibly join-in-able.

To add to the delights, those cracking, textured scenes provide a super tactile experience for young hands to explore. Look out too for the visiting ladybird that keeps popping into and out of view.

A sure fire winner!

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz
L.Frank Baum adapted by Meg McLaren and Sam Hay
Egmont Publishing

This is a version of the Baum classic like you’ve never seen or heard before.

In Meg Mclaren’s 21st century retelling, Dorothy has become Little Dot, a pre-schooler and it’s she who is indoors when the tornado whisks her home with her and Toto inside, up and away, far, far away to a strange land.
It’s there where she meets all manner of unusual characters, one of the first being the Good Witch from the North, identifiable by her starry cloak (as opposed to sparkly silver boots – those are worn by The Bad Witch that Dot’s house has just squashed).

The Good Witch tells Little Dot to go home forthwith but when Dot tells her that she has no idea of the way, instructs her to “Follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and get help from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Donning the Bad Witch’s silver boots, the little girl sets off accompanied by Toto. Thus begins their big adventure.
Before long they meet first, Lion, looking very worried, and shortly after, the talking Scarecrow without a brain.

They both join Dot on her journey, the former hoping the Wizard will make him braver, the latter hoping to be given a brain.

Their next encounter is with Tin Can, a diminutive being in need of a heart; he joins the journeyers and they cross a bridge.

Suddenly “Boo!” Out jumps the Even Worse Witch who’s been lying low, waiting to ambush them. Fearless Dot soon deals with her, courtesy of a host of ginormous jelly snakes that emerge from beneath the surface of the road

and a yogurt that she whips from her backpack and squirts at their assailant just in the nick of time.

Having seen the evil witch off, the friends proceed to the Emerald City wherein waits The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Dot tells him their story and is surprised to hear the wizard’s response: they’ve done the job themselves, they don’t need his help after all. He even awards each of them a ‘good work’ sticker.

Now there’s just one remaining matter; that of getting Dot and Toto home. Apparently Dot herself is wearing the answer to that …

Highlighting the importance of friendship, kindness, bravery and home, this is ideal for early years audiences who will be enchanted from the sparkly front cover right through to the satisfying ending. Along the way they’ll thoroughly enjoy meeting the unusual, mainly endearing, cast of characters as portrayed in Sam Hay’s engaging scenes.

The Best Sound in the World

The Best Sound in the World
Cindy Wume
Lincoln Children’s Books

Most of us have a favourite sound, or perhaps several we really like. I love the sweet notes of a song thrush in the early morning; a cascading waterfall and the voice of Roberta Flack, to name just three.

For Roy, the little city dwelling lion in this enchanting picture book, music is his very favourite thing.

Being an urban dweller, Roy is surrounded by sound, particularly that of neighbour Jemmy lemur, another lover of music although Roy who has aspirations to become a great violinist merely regards his musical efforts as agitating.
So he sets out in search of beautiful sounds and those that please him, he puts into small bottles to take home. However, none of them seems to be beautiful enough when he plays them on his violin and those Jemmy offers are totally rejected.

Roy boards a train to go further afield seeking the most beautiful sound the world has to offer. (Observant readers/listeners will notice that someone else is also making the journey.) The rain in the forest yields ‘plip-plops’;

birds flying in the high mountain provide ‘twitter-tweets’ and the desert whistling wind gives him ‘woooos’. To these he adds tidal waves sounds and the chit-chat of the souk.

His confusion deepens with each new sound: which is THE most beautiful of all?

To add to this muddle in his head, Roy is struck by loneliness: it’s time to return.

Sadness surrounds him as he enters his home sans that elusive sound.

Perhaps however, that which he really sought is somewhere he’s never thought to look …

Friendship rules in this totally enchanting debut picture book: Cindy’s scenes be they urban or in the wilds, are wonderful, especially those where music flourishes thanks to the notes furnished by Roy’s violin and the various other harmonious sounds.

Sheer joie-de-vivre abounds in the final pages, though listeners could have fun looking for pleasant sound possibilities in every spread.

In Cindy Wume, an exciting new talent has emerged.

The Artists (Tales from the Hidden Valley book 1)

The Artists
Carles Porta
Flying Eye Books

This is the first of the Tales from the Hidden Valley series.

Summer is on its way out in the secret hidden valley and changes are afoot as the leaves take on their autumnal hues. As the birds start flying south to warmer climes, Sara with her drum stands atop the mountain watching and wondering. “What if all the leaves are flying to the same place?” she asks herself as they twirl and whirl from the trees.

Meanwhile, deep in the very deepest part of the forest Ticky prepares to leave his nest. He’s anticipating the arrival of his tardy best friend Yula who should be coming to bid him farewell.

She however is yet to leave home; she’s still engrossed in painting a farewell message for Ticky and has lost track of time. Suddenly though, her reverie is interrupted by a large gust of wind. “Careful of the giant wave!’ her two strange-looking grandmothers warn as the wind whisks her painting from her.

Yula chases after it to where is lands in a dark, damp, deserted part of the forest. The painting is now a soggy mess.

Eventually Ticky sadly decides he must leave without a farewell.

Back in the cave, a strange ballerina-like being rescues Yula’s painting adorning it with brightly coloured spatters.

But is it too late; or will she eventually be able to give Ticky his present?

The answer is: Ticky has left in the company of a little bird, called Yellow; Sara, still chasing those leaves sees them in flight; Ticky, concerned about Yula, has second thoughts and returns to check her home where he exchanges words with those grandmothers of hers. He then comes upon Sara who wants to help in the Yula hunt, which is eventually successful: the entire cast of characters minus those grans end up in a jumbled heap buried in an enormous pile of leaves, and happiness and friendship reign.

Wonderfully whimsical both visually and verbally; Carlos Porta’s telling twists and turns rather, so a second read is probably necessary to ensure all the fragments of her upbeat storyline fall into place. It’s sheer delight nonetheless.

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles
Jeanne Willis & Jarvis
Nosy Crow

Suddenly finding yourself without your defences isn’t something anybody would want to happen, but it’s the fate of hedgehog Spike who awakes one morning to discover that all his prickles have fallen out overnight. The unfortunate fellow is spineless, completely bare no less. “I’m in the nude. How rude!’ he says. “What will the neighbours think?’ And off he goes in search of something to wear that will cover his embarrassment.

He dons a paper lampshade and sallies forth only to have rain render it useless

and expose his nether regions to the amusement of all around.
Having fled to the woods he comes upon, of all unlikely things, a china cup and plate – the latter being a perfect bottom cover. But then the cup/hat tips and the poor creature trips; you can imagine the fate of his new outfit.

Badger has things to say about his lack of spikes next, but before long Spike finds a sock, albeit a rather whiffy one, but it serves as a smock. Little does he know however, that as he wanders merrily on his way, the thing is slowly unravelling and yet again he’s the butt of some unwelcome comments.

Blushing, our spikeless pal dashes on until he spies a bunch of balloons of all hues. Now he’s the object of the other animals’ admiration as he floats off skywards.

The sun sinks, the moon rises and Spike drifts until he’s made two circles of the world.

Suddenly he sees his home once more below, he waves and …

Now why might that be? It certainly looks as though it’s time to celebrate …

This book is an absolute treat to read aloud; not only does Jeanne Willis’ rhyme flow without a single spike, but Jarvis portrays the entire journey in his own inimitable brilliant way and there are SO many wonderful details to linger over. The colour palette is splendidly summery but this is a tale to share at any time; and its finale is an absolute hoot.

A winner through and through.

The Poesy Ring

The Poesy Ring
Bob Graham
Walker Books

Subtitled ‘a love story’ this truly is, visual poetry.
It tells of a poesy ring engraved with the message ‘Love never dies’. (Such objects have been given since the Middle Ages as symbols of love and friendship.)

We follow the ring from 1830 when it’s tossed away into a meadow by a tearful young horsewoman in County Kerry, on the west coast of Ireland.

Seasons come and go, and the years pass as the ring is once again tossed, by a deer this time.
It gets reburied and eventually picked up by a starling, becomes airborne and then dropped into the ocean depths where a fish swallows it.

Trawlermen retrieve it from the fish’s belly and it’s sold for cash.

We’re now in New York City 1967 where, after a day’s work, two subway buskers with love in their hearts and a pocket full of money, make a very special purchase …

There’s symbolism aplenty in this exquisitely crafted story – a story of history, of life and most importantly, of love.
Graham shows the passing of time masterfully: an acorn becomes a vast oak tree shedding its own acorns, for example;

and through all the changing decades – almost two centuries – one thing remains constant: the ring never loses its shine, for true to its message, ‘Love never dies’; it’s always there if you know how to look for it.
Each of his illustrations is simply exquisite and is worth careful attention to appreciate the fine detail; indeed there’s a whole story in each spread.

A book to return to over and over, to share, to discuss and most of all, to treasure.

Caterpillar Dreams

Caterpillar Dreams
Clive McFarland
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What a wonderfully positive message concludes Clive McFarland’s superbly uplifting tale of having the courage to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. That is just what Henri the Caterpillar does as he first dreams some big dreams, and then determines to follow his dream to see the world beyond his garden home. His minibeast friends do their best to discourage him: “Seriously, Henri, an adventure? Sounds exhausting.” is Slug’s comment but happily, Toad is on hand to offer encouragement: “Here’s the thing with dreams, Henri. If you don’t chase them, they always get away.” Wise words indeed. Thus it is that our stripy creature, aided and abetted by Bird, Mole and Fish starts out on his ‘amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventures.‘ Having crossed a wall, a road and a lake,

Henri discovers a giant hot-air balloon; but before he can climb to the top, he starts to become encased in a cocoon. Surely his dreams aren’t about to be thwarted before lift off? Young audiences familiar with Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, will know the seeming setback is only temporary. Far from being robbed of his dream, his metamorphosis allows Henri to take flight and travel anywhere he wants; and what he wants is to go to “The most amazing, incredible, impossibly possible place of all.” …

Inspiring, – don’t you love Henri’s politely determined help-seeking persistence as he appeals to Bird, Mole and Fish? What dauntlessness: what a journey; this scene reveals the scale of same, and allows audiences to enjoy the sight of those facilitators again.

Clive’s crisp, mixed media, digitally assembled collage pictures, with those wonderful characters and delectable details, make the whole thing a complete charmer of a book that quietly packs a powerful punch.

I’ve signed the charter