Ella’s Night Lights

Ella’s Night Lights
Lucy Fleming
Walker Books

Ella is a tiny, moth-like girl who longs above all else to see the sunrise; but she has to avoid the sun, so delicate are her feathery wings. Consequently, Ella leads a nocturnal existence collecting light from all that glows and glimmers by moonlight and sleeping by day. 

This light she would share with anyone who needed some help in the dark, while repeating her heart-warming chant “Here’s some bright light, here’s a night light. / A little ray to calm your fright.”
One night she bestows this light upon a little fox named Sable 

and the two become friends, searching together nightly for ‘shimmering light’.

Another night – a snowy one – she shines a calming light on a lonely little owl in a tree; then Luna joins forces with the light-givers, and the animals always ensured that little Ella was safely back before sunrise.

One night her animal friends decide that it’s time that Ella’s kindness is returned: together they create a very special gift to show their appreciation of her thoughtfulness and altruism, a gift to make her dreams come true.

Through both words and pictures, this story positively exudes charm, and sweetness – of the magical not the cloying kind. It’s a lovely warm-hearted book to share with youngsters especially now when we all need some light and kindness to help us through these difficult times.

Helping Hedgehog Home / Grotwig the Goblin

Helping Hedgehog Home
Karin Celestine

This is the ninth adventure of Karin Celestine’s Celestine and the Hare series in which friendship, fun and kindness are the essence. The characters are little felt animals, particularly the Water Vole family comprising Bertram who likes sewing, his gardening lover dad Bert, Grandpa Burdock a nature expert who makes others laugh with his silliness, Granny Dandelion, fixer extraordinaire and Bertram’s mum Beatrice, explorer and inventor.

When a hedgehog in a hot air balloon crashes into the pond while Grandpa Burdock is investigating it for possible newcomers, he learns that the prickly creature has been shut out of her log pile home in the garden next door on account of a new fence. Now her balloon has burst and Hedgehog has no way of getting back.

While she refreshes herself with tea and bramble biscuits, Grandpa’s head buzzes with ideas for getting their visitor home. As his drawings of possible contraptions get ever more dangerous-looking,

Granny has been otherwise occupied, but when she appears on the scene and learns of Hedgehog’s plight, she too gets busy to find a solution.
Her workshop resounds with sawing and hammering and before long Granny reveals something that sends Hedgehog’s heart soaring with happiness …

This super-sweet altruistic tale bubbles over with kind thoughts and deeds; with a papier-mâché hot air balloon making activity and information about hedgehogs and how to help them at the end, it’s a delightfully playful, warm-hearted book for sharing with little humans.

Grotwig the Goblin
John Swannell
John Swannell Studios

‘Where’s Wally?’ and ‘a needle in a haystack’ sprung to mind on opening this photographic book, even though there’s not a haystack in sight.

Narrated in rather creaky corny rhyme by goblin, Grotwig, we share in his ramblings through the countryside: ramblings that, at different times of the year take him, as we see in Swannell’s photographs of topiary, pine and mixed deciduous woods, dry stone walls and hedgerows, ancient Yews and Oaks,

moorland hills and byways, and tranquil lakes, through all kinds of terrain.

There are times when the goblin asks readers to find him (with the aid of a magnifier housed in a pocket on the inside front cover) in the photos, This makes us slow right down and look closely at each of the rural landscapes. In itself, that is a good thing: the photographs are lovely and the peaceful scenes well worth paying attention to,

reminding this reviewer of some of the walks taken around the Gloucestershire countryside.

Children are increasingly pressurised and tend to seek escape on screens rather than going outdoors. A book like this might help to tempt them to do the latter and although they won’t encounter any goblins, there’s nature’s magic aplenty to discover in the great outdoors.

There’s Room for Everyone

There’s Room For Everyone
Anahita Teymorian
Tiny Owl

The narrator of this book, whom we first meet in his mother’s womb, takes us through his growing understanding of the notion that no matter how small or large, space can always be shared, so long as those involved are empathetic, understanding and willing to accommodate others.

The boy observes the plethora of toys that fit into his bedroom, the sky that contains all the stars and the moon, the garden that has room for all the birds and the library that can hold all the books he wants to read and more.

As a grown-up, he takes to the sea exploring the world. On his travels he sees the plethora of fish (and whales) the sea can contain; the places on land that are home to vast numbers of animals.

Sadly however, he also observes humans fighting for space – on public transport,

at places of work, in loos even; and much worse, fighting wars over territory.

However, his travels have, as travels do, widened his horizons and his understanding of the best way to live, and it’s that crucial understanding he shares on the final spread.

I read this book on a lovely sunny morning, having just returned from Waitrose where I observed in the car park an interaction between two car owners. One belonging to an elderly couple, who had parked their car in one of the comparatively few spaces allocated for those with infants and pushchairs. (The rest were already in use). The other was a large estate car driven by a man (presumably with a child on board, though I couldn’t see). He was blocking the access to all the parking spaces while in the process of being extremely verbally abusive to the couple just getting into their car: the language he hurled at them isn’t fit to be included here. The car park had plenty of other empty spaces. I thought to myself how ridiculous and unthinking the guy was being, swearing horribly at the two, who were just getting back into their car anyway. Yes, perhaps technically they were in the wrong; but surely it was a demonstration of what the essence of Anahita Teymorian’s heart-warming, and oh so true picture book is showing us and what its narrator shares on the final spread: ‘If we are kinder, and if we love each other then, in this beautiful world, there’s room for everyone.’

Looking further outwards though, the book is also a pertinent reminder of our sad, for some, inward-looking BREXIT times, as well as of the way our country now appears a hostile place for those looking to live here, be that as refugees and asylum seekers, those with medical skills, seasonal workers, musicians, artists or whatever.

Beautifully illustrated with a quirky humour, its messages of kindness, peace and understanding, of altruism and sharing what we have, are crucial reminders for all who care about humanity at large, rather than just their own little niche.

Let’s break down boundaries, not only here but in other parts of the world where barriers, real and virtual, are set up for selfish, inward-looking reasons.

Between Tick and Tock

Between Tick and Tock
Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay
Egmont Publishing

Most of us lead frenetic lives, dashing from here to there, mostly doing rather than being; but what would you want to do if you were able to stop time?

Liesel, the little girl in this story does just that. Liesel lives in a city, a city of hustle and bustle, a city of Grey, of loneliness, where almost everyone is far too busy to notice the details.

Not so watchful Liesel. She knows what is needed. She must pause the clock – just for a short time –bringing everything to a halt. Then she quietly springs into action working her way through the city beautifying the Grey with deft strokes of colour and creativity, showing kindliness to humans and creatures alike

and restoring calm and happiness.

She knows though that she cannot hold back time for longer than a very little while: that tick must be allowed to become a tock, that stop must once gain become go. Only now a transformation has taken place: things will never be quite the same again;

but just in case they ever should, Liesel knows exactly what to do …

Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay’s enchanting day time story is every bit as beautiful as the nocturnal evocation they created in The Night Box, if not more so. Once again, lyrical words and pictures work in perfect accord to make a memorable, magical book.

Goat’s Coat

Goat’s Coat
Tom Percival and Christine Pym
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Alfonzo is a goat with a brand new, dapper coat; wearing it makes him feel on top of the world. He also has a kind heart so when out strutting his stuff in his stylish garment and he comes upon a family of homeless frogs in need of help Alfonzo is faced with a dilemma.

Altruism wins: the frogs sail off in a new blue boat; Alfonzo walks on in a cuffless coat.

But then he discovers a trembly cat, her tail in a trap. A bandage is required to stem the blood …

Soon the cat’s tail is covered: the goat’s nether regions anything but.

Further encounters with a panic-stricken hen …

and shivering hedgehogs leave the benevolent Alfonso alone and entirely coatless. Snow falls as night approaches.

Will the goat freeze without his coat?

Tom Percival’s rhyming cuddle of a tale is the perfect antidote to the current political climate demonstrating so beautifully that happiness lies not in possessions or self-interest but in friendship and selflessness. Christine Pym’s illustrations for his heart-warming story capture the feelings of helper and helped perfectly, injecting appropriate touches of humour along the way.

Counting with Tiny Cat / The Fox Wish

Counting with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Tiny Cat is an energetic bundle of mischief with a particular penchant for red wool. At the outset there isn’t any but then yippee! A ball of the red stuff rolls right along. That quickly becomes TWO! THREE! FOUR! Which is all the creature can really juggle; but still they keep coming.

Clearly Tiny Cat’s counting skills have yet to develop further, though oddly the feline’s vocabulary encompasses ‘ABOUT A DOZEN– emphasis on the about here I should add.

Still though, the creature’s appetite for the red stuff isn’t satisfied: ‘LOTS’ leads to a very greedy ‘AS MANY AS YOU CAN GET’ but even that isn’t sufficient. SOME EXTRA gives way to …

Will the frisky thing ever realise that enough is enough?
A wonderful visual comedy with a delightfully playful star: Tiny Cat most definitely commands the performance, and viewers will definitely demand instant encores.

The Fox Wish
Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books
A small girl – the narrator – and her younger brother return to the playground in search of the skipping rope left behind earlier. There’s no sign of their rope but they follow some sounds of laughter and in the clearing, come upon, not the friends they’d anticipated. but a group of foxes enjoying a skipping game.

Doxy, foxy, / touch the ground. / Doxy, foxy, / turn around. / Turn to the east, / and turn to the west, / and choose the one that / you like best.
The children decide the foxes are less adept skippers than they on account of their tails and Luke lets out a giggle. Fortunately the foxes aren’t offended: instead they approach the children and ask for some coaching. Soon animals and humans are playing together happily, taking turns to hold the rope ends. When the little girl’s turn comes to do so, she notices the name, painted on the handle.

It’s her name, but also happens to be that of one of the foxes; and, the little creature has assumed it now belongs to her because of a wish she’d made.
Does the little fox’s wish come true: what does the little girl decide to do?
A wonderful, slightly whimsical tale of empathy, altruism and kindness, and a delightful portrayal of the way young children so easily slip between fantasy and reality, told with sensitivity that is captured equally in Sakai’s glowing illustrations and Aman’s words, which in their direct simplicity, echo the voice of a child. Such exquisite observation.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Elephant’s Umbrella


The Elephant’s Umbrella
Laleh Jaffari and Ali Khodai (translated by Azita Rassi)
Tiny Owl
Elephant, a kindly pachyderm, is always ready and willing to share his prized possession, a brightly coloured umbrella, with his fellow animals whenever the need should arise.
One day though while the elephant is taking a nap, the wind whisks his umbrella away and it ‘gives’ it to the leopard.


There’s a proviso however issued by the umbrella: ‘If I become yours … Where will you take me when it rains?’ Leopard’s far from satisfactory response causes the umbrella to continue on its wind- born journey … towards a bear. Bear too wants to take possession …


but his “I’ll take you to the bees … I’ll take their honey. And then I’ll sit under you and eat all that honey by myself.” response to the same question, has the umbrella again chasing the wind.
It begins to rain …


and the umbrella searches for the elephant, finds him and the two are re-united. You can no doubt imagine what happens next …
This seemingly simple, mild tale has much to say to us all; themes of selfless concern for others, humanitarianism, compassion, empathy and kindness spring to mind immediately. No doubt readers and listeners will come up with more suggestions. As ever, Tiny Owl has provided a beautiful and thought-provoking book that deserves a place on family bookshelves; and it’s a gift for discussion in early years and primary school departments, particularly those that have “Community of Enquiry’ sessions on the curriculum.
Ali Khodai’s use of a lush palette in his illustrations is perfect for the jungly, rainy setting of the tale.

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