The Hike / What John Marco Saw

The Hike
Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

In this smashing book we share an outdoor adventure with three lively young human protagonists and dog Bean whose favourite thing is hiking.

With Wren seemingly, acting as narrator, we see them setting off together up Buck Mountain running ‘like maniacs’ through the forest until a patch of ripe berries slows them down and having gorged themselves, El teaches the others how to make leaf baskets.

Continuing on up a steep narrow trail, they get lost. But thanks to Hattie’s map- reading skills, they find the way back onto the trail.

Taking delight in the fauna and flora they pass – the tiny snail, the fleetingly-there deer, the birds, the fish, the wild flowers (each one labelled) – eventually the girls reach the summit.
There, under a beautiful yellowish-pink sky they celebrate by waving a flag (Wren), reading a poem (El) and releasing feathers into the wind (Hattie).

Celebration over, they head back home beneath a starry sky.
There’s SO much to love about this uplifting story: the children’s determination and perseverance, their camaraderie and above all, their joie-de-vivre and the pleasure each in her own way, takes in the natural world.

Within the pleasingly designed gouache, ink and pencil spreads the hikers share with readers, comments via speech bubbles, additional details courtesy of Wren’s sketchbook and after the story eight further pages of illustrated, more detailed notes from the sketchbook.

Immersive, exciting, and hopes this reviewer, a book that will motivate youngsters to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature whatever the weather.

What John Marco Saw
Annie Barrows and Nancy Lemon
Chronicle Books

In contrast to his family and neighbours who are preoccupied with their own private worlds, young John Marco notices the world around him.

But nobody’s interested in the big green grasshopper with black bulging eyes chewing grass,

the worms or the fossil in the rock, not even the big old orange cat with her stomach ‘almost dragging on the ground she was so fat’ that went ‘prr-rrup’ when he sat close by.

Surely though when he reports that there’s a tree falling down in the front yard – albeit slowly – somebody will pay attention. But despite Mum’s ‘Trees don’t just fall down” – yes, she does finally come and look – fall it does just like he’d said several times before.

Could this event herald the start of John Marco receiving what he and the things he reports on, deserve – the attention of everyone around. Maybe, just maybe …

An unusual, wryly observed demonstration that it’s wise to listen to what children have to say, and a reminder to us all to slow down and take note of the small things in life.

Search-and-Find Bonanza – The Walkabout Orchestra, Mice in the City London and Cycle City

The Walkabout Orchestra
Chloé Perarnau
Wide Eyed

What has happened to the members of the orchestra? They’ve all gone missing and there’s an important concert coming up in a few days. Seemingly they’ve dispersed to locations all over the world from where they’ve sent the maestro postcards telling of their various activities. These appear in the top left-hand corner of each locale spread.
In a desperate effort to locate the musicians, the maestro, together with his side- kick, sets off in search of them. Their journey takes them to such diverse places as a fishing village in Iceland, Tokyo, a campsite in France, the pyramids of Egypt, carnival in Brazil and a football field in Abidjan.
In addition to finding the missing musicians, almost every place has a little yellow bird whose speech bubble provides something additional to search for in the lively scenes of the musicians’ sojourns.
Each one is packed with amusing details so that finding the musicians is often no easy matter. However they do all appear within a large arena ready for the concert with their maestro ready to conduct, bird atop his head.
Don’t start reading this if you are short of time, unless you are happy to cheat and look at the answers on the two final spreads.

Mice in the City London
Ami Shin
Thames & Hudson

It’s a mouse takeover: London had been invaded by an army of tiny rodents; some – The Mouses of Parliament for instance, – have jobs to do, others are there to enjoy the sights and some are turning Tate Modern into complete disarray. One daring mouse has even installed herself as Queen Mouse in Buckingham Palace.
A verse introduces each location, opposite which is a detailed whole page pastel coloured illustration of the particular tourist attraction under mouse occupation: every one is full of things to delight and entertain.
The purpose of the book, in addition to enjoying what the mice are up to, is a game of ‘hide-and-squeak’ that entails finding eight things – Inspector Mouse, a stripy tailed cat, Bumble-mouse, a mouse in a bin, a teddy, a Union Jack top hat, a mouse hiding in a top hat and a balloon seller.
Happy Hunting! You’re in for some fun with Ami Shin’s mice.
In the same series is Mice in the City New York. Oh my goodness! Think of the chaos the little creatures might cause in The Strand Bookstore!

Cycle City
Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

It’s the morning of the Starlight Parade in Cycle City but the parade committee has yet to send out the invitations so they decide to call on the assistance of Mayor Snail.
Can he get all those invites delivered in time for the evening? Perhaps, with the help of Little Ella Elephant who has come to visit one of the city’s residents, her Aunt Ellen. If so, who will play the important role of Grand Marshal at the big event?

A captivating search-and-find for slightly younger readers: this one has a clear storyline and a plethora of speech bubbles and is populated by a vast array of anthropomorphic animals. The spreads are less densely packed than some of its ilk, but have plenty of lovely details, and the endpapers are a visual glossary of all the different bicycles included.

I’ve signed the charter