Looking for Yesterday / Oh No! Where did Walter Go?

Looking for Yesterday
Alison Jay
Old Barn Books

It’s most often children who live their lives forward, eagerly anticipating what might come next, whereas adults tend to reminisce about what has already past.
In this story though, it’s the little boy narrator who is eager to turn the clock back: thinking nothing can ever be as good, he wants yesterday all over again.
Employing all his knowledge of science, he searches for a way to travel backwards in time …

and eventually turns to his grandad for help.
Instead, Grandad shares his own treasured memories of things he’s done;

but also shows the lad that there is much to look forward to, for every new day brings the possibility of exciting new adventures.
Although comparatively brief, Alison Jay’s text embraces notions of time and space, of hopes and memories, and of happiness.
Her illustrations add a surreal fantasy element to the story encouraging readers and listeners to embark upon their own flights of fancy. The whole book offers plenty to think about and discuss, especially to those teachers who have community of enquiry sessions with their children.

Oh No! Where Did Walter Go?
Joanna Boyle
Templar Publishing

Meet best friends and partners in crime, Olive aka Master of Mystery,  and the Duke of Daring, Walter her parakeet.
One day Walter goes missing and immediately Olive goes into detective mode following footprints, amassing evidence, interviewing the local residents and sticking up ‘Missing’ posters all over town.
Just when the whole search is becoming a tad overwhelming she receives a helpful pointer and off she speeds to the park: a very green place indeed.

How on earth is she to find her friend there among all those trees and bushes?
Undaunted Olive looks high and low but her search is fruitless: Walter is nowhere to be found and now she too is lost.

Will the two friends ever find one another again and if so, how will they manage to find the way back home?
Unless you look at the final page before embarking on the story, it’s not apparent that Walter is also searching for Olive and puts in an appearance on every spread; (although observant readers will probably spot him lurking somewhere as the narrative progresses). This adds a fun search and find element to the whole book and ensures that once the two characters are reunited, children will immediately want to go back and enjoy hunting for Walter all over again in Joanna Boyle’s stylish illustrations be they multi-framed strip sequences or expansive single scene spreads.

Mummy! / First Words & 123

Lerryn Korda
Nosy Crow
What a cool idea: a lift-the-flap board book with an ancient Egyptian setting published in association with The British Museum.
A small girl has been separated from her mummy and is searching for her: “Where’s my mummy?” she asks repeatedly as she looks in various likely locations: the market, the lotus pool,

by the enormous sphinx, among the foliage by the river and in the temple.
Finally, she reaches her own home and …

With nine visual references to artefacts belonging to the British Museum, (each with an associated hieroglyph to discover), this is such a fun way to introduce very young children to history. (The final spread is devoted to photographs of these and there’s a QR code to scan for more information about the objects shown.)
Equally, with such engaging illustrations and simple repeat pattern narrative it’s also great as a beginning to read picture book.

Some interesting reissued board books are:

Alison Jay’s 123
Alison Jay’s First Words

Templar Publishing
In 123, Alison Jay uses a fairytale landscape for counting as a girl dreams that she travels upon a golden goose to different fairytale scenes.  Each new spread features a number from 1 to 10, and then counts back down to 1 again.  Observant readers will notice that on every spread, the artist includes other sets of the number featured.  She also leaves a visual clue that suggests the next spread and perhaps beyond.

First Words begins with a grandfather clock face surrounded by decorative images that point to the four seasons and to what is to follow on subsequent pages. There are visual allusions to nursery rhymes in addition to the opening Hickory Dickory Dock (yes there’s a mouse atop the clock); we see Jack and Jill climbing up the ‘hill’; while for instance, ‘hat’ and ‘fish’ allude to ‘12345 once I caught a fish alive’

The book spans a whole day, but moves through the seasons too. Featuring seemingly random objects, Jay also uses foreshadowing in this book – an added talking point for children and adults; and each page having just a single word leaves readers free to make up their own stories.
In fact I see both these not so much as concept books but as starting points for promoting talk and visual literacy.

I’ve signed the charter  


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Alison Jay
Old Barn Books
Currently living just outside Stroud, Britain’s ‘First Bee Friendly town’ I knew straightway I wanted to review this wonderful wordless book. Wordless it may be but every spread, nay every single picture speaks for itself. The story’s set in a city, a very busy one where, in an apartment block, resides a little girl. Now, like me you probably dislike being buzzed at by bees, let alone stung, so I suspect the girl would have had your sympathies, had she whacked the bee that bothers her. But something stops her. Instead she does this …

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followed by …

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and some time later, she carefully releases the creature, thinking, one imagines, that’s that.
But along comes a rainstorm and what should reappear at the window looking bedraggled and in need of some T.L.C. but Bee.
And that is the start of a burgeoning friendship …

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full of adventures that take the two far afield and back again. Back with some of nature’s bounties

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that will ultimately yield not only benefits, but beauty and joy to those residing in the city, be they human or bee.

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There is gentle humour running throughout this uplifting tale or rather tales, for this is a multi-layered, multi-faceted telling. One facet shows another unfolding friendship – one between the girl and the boy living above in the same block of flats. And there is a multitude of incidental stories to conjure up through the glimpses of other people’s lives shown through the windows of the neighbouring apartments.
Pictures are such a powerful means of storying: in the right hands, as eloquent as words and just as thought-provoking, as Alison Jay so adroitly demonstrates here. Is it the floral curtains that draw Bee to the girl’s apartment? The passage of time is conveyed through Bee’s growth, and the coming of autumn by the leaves blowing through the city street and the pumpkins outside the florist’s shop –

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Words do have their place though – after the story’s end. With a final ‘BEE AWARE!’ information page, giving facts and helpful hints on bee requirements and preferences, readers themselves can take up the vital role of BEE-ing friendly.

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