The New Girl

The New Girl
Nicola Davies and Cathy Fisher
Graffeg

Softly spoken, sensitively rendered and enormously moving is Nicola and Cathy’s latest picture book narrated by a member of the class into which the new girl arrives ‘wrapped up like a parcel’ and not understanding a word that was said by her classmates.

Almost unbelievably, the newcomer is set apart to eat her lunch on account of its ‘funny’ smell and as school ends she walks away quite alone. This cruel behaviour continues day after day as winter arrives bringing with it dark and dreariness.

Then one day into that dark something wonderful appears on the teacher’s desk.

Each day after that another one appears somewhere in the classroom bringing with it feelings of warmth and cheer until the beautiful objects stop coming.

At their teacher’s suggestion, the children start trying to make their own paper flowers, the narrator unsuccessfully … until the new girl shows her how.

Flower making isn’t all that’s learned in that classroom on that particular day though; so too is a new language and the importance of accepting difference, of understanding and of friendship …

Cathy Fisher’s illustrations are startlingly realistic, full of feeling and atmosphere – the ideal complement to Nicola’s text.

Primary classrooms should definitely add this to their collections.

Mrs Bibi’s Elephant

Mrs Bibi’s Elephant
Reza Dalvand
Flying Eye Books

Mrs Bibi has a rather unusual and very large pet, an elephant.

The town’s children have enormous fun creating a pachyderm playground every morning in the street

but the rest of the townsfolk are anything but enthusiastic about the enormous creature Mrs Bibi takes for a daily walk.

Too big, too noisy and a traffic hazard is their opinion; the woman’s time would be better spent on sensible activities such as reading the paper, checking the stock market and keeping up to date with economics.

Mrs Bibi however would rather have afternoon tea and cakes with her pet elephant, tell him tales to ensure he has pleasant dreams and laugh about the past.

Then comes an edict from the town judge: the elephant is to be taken to the zoo the following morning.

What can Mrs Bibi do?

Having followed her usual bedtime routine with her beloved pet, sadly for readers and indeed for the townsfolk, Mrs B. disappears next morning determined to stop the terrible event.
Only then do the close-minded, materialistic, townsfolk gradually come to understand what really matters in life …

Reza Dalvand’s gentle fable is verification of the importance of companionship and love. His illustrations are an absolute delight. With elaborate patterns adorning clothing, furnishings, and townscapes, every spread offers a wealth of detail to feast the eyes on. Artwork done with love for a tale of love and a tale to love.

Monty and the Poodles

Monty and the Poodles
Katie Harnett
Flying Eye Books

Whether or not you’re a dog lover, you’ll find it hard not to be enchanted by Monty and Ginger, stars of Katie Harnett’s new picture book.

Monty is a stray living on the north side of town, Ginger a pampered poodle residing at Poodle Mansions on the opposite side.

One day the two meet in an art gallery, and thus begins an unlikely friendship.

When Monty sees Ginger’s home he really wants to live there too.

Ginger likes the idea but there’s a problem in the form of Miss Lillabet. This battle-axe enforces a strict ‘Poodles Only’ policy at the Mansions.

Ginger enlists her fellow poodles in operation transformation,

but will their crafty canine ruse have the desired effect?

Poodle Mansions certainly does gain a new resident …

but perhaps a rule governed life, albeit a peachy one, isn’t for everyone, or rather, every dog.

Is there maybe another way for the two friends to be together …

Told in a direct manner, celebrating difference and inclusiveness are at the heart of Katie Harnett’s humorous story.

Rich in pattern and with a flattened perspective, her playful pictures, which range from full double spread to vignette, give a cinematic feel to the book.

Katie has created another winner with this one.

Albie Newton

Albie Newton
Josh Funk and Ester Garay
Sterling

Albie Newton is a thinker, a ‘child genius’ so we’re told, learning a new language almost every week and he also loves to tinker.
The lad starts school mid term and in the hope of making some friends, decides to build a special surprise gift for his new classmates.

It doesn’t take long for the newcomer to start rubbing the others up the wrong way. In addition to shining in all areas of the curriculum,

his behaviour is more than a little disruptive, particularly when he appropriates items from the classroom; and the noises he makes are nothing short of ear shattering.

Albie however, is completely oblivious to the effect of his actions; his social skills are clearly nothing like as developed as his intellectual and inventive ones.

Fortunately for Albie though, one of his classmates, Shirley by name, has been keeping an eye on his secret activities and seems willing to give him a chance. She thinks that perhaps Albie is well intentioned. Can she convince the others to give him the benefit of the doubt?

Perhaps, when they see that special gift he’s constructed …

It will be pretty obvious to adults, especially teacher readers of Funk’s seemingly light-hearted rhyming story, that Albie is wired differently from the other children.

With in-built messages about accepting difference and building empathy emerging, it offers plenty to discuss; and illustrator, Ester Garay ‘s bold bright illustrations have plenty of details to amuse, as well as effectively conveying Albie’s abundance of mental and physical energy.