That’s Nice Love / Dare We Be Dragons?

That’s Nice, Love
Owen Gent
Book Island

We’ve all seen it many times and probably on occasion been guilty of what the adult in this book does when she accompanies her small child to the park. So distracted is the parent by her mobile that she fails to take a single scrap of notice of anything the excited child says about climbing the big tree.
As the boy ascends he has the most amazing adventures – or perhaps flights of fancy. First a multitude of butterflies dance before him as he gazes skywards; then comes an orchestral recital by a group of squirrels,

followed by a scary moment with snakes. To compensate for that though, a troop of monkeys crowns him king, he helps a super-sleek leopard and becomes its friend and finally, he flies with a bird. As he excitedly informs his parent of each event the child receives merely the response, ‘That’s nice, love.’

On the way home, the boy tells the parent that he sometimes feels distant despite their physical closeness and when the two eventually reach home, the child seems to have got through to the adult by revealing a few items he’s collected.
He’s then invited to regale the entire adventure again. Will that parent do what is promised on future excursions; I hope so …

Portable screens may seem amazing but are no match for the richness of a child’s imagination, stimulated by the wonders of the natural world that may be found in the branches of a single tree.
Owen Gent gives his imagination full rein in a series of sublime sequences that explore and expand the spare verbal narrative.

Also celebrating the imagination is

Dare We Be Dragons?
Barry Falls

As a father prepares to bid his daughter goodnight, he embarks on an exciting sequence of flights of fancy, each of which arises out of seemingly ordinary everyday things or events. For when these two go adventuring together even such things as a grassy hill walk becomes a huge erupting volcano, tree trunks morph into giants’ legs and a playground swing is the means for launching them on a moon flight and a sandy shore becomes a place whereon lions play.

There’s a sequence of spreads where Barry Falls splits each one into two : the verso shows the everyday reality and the recto, a show-stoppingly imagined fantasy that occupies the entire page drawing the reader right into the adventure.

Along with a wealth of wonderful worlds to explore so vividly shown, there is a more understated portrayal of the loving bond between parent and child. For this is a playful, supportive father who promises always to be there through the years that constitute that wonderful adventure called life; and so he says in the rhyming narrative that complements those splendidly spirited illustrations.

Wild Child

Wild Child
Dara McAnulty and Barry Falls
Macmillan Children’s Books

This is such a beautiful book written by award-winning author of Diary Of A Young Naturalist and gorgeously illustrated by rising star, Barry Falls.

With his distinctive voice, Dara McAnulty invites readers to take a close look at the world around, journeying into and exploring with all your senses, the five different locations that he describes both poetically and scientifically.

First off is a look through the window, after which we go outside into the garden, wander in the woods, saunter up onto heathlands and meander along the riverbank. At each location we pause while Dara provides a lyrical introduction to the habitat followed by a wealth of factual information about the wildlife – both flora and fauna – to be found there.

This includes a discovery spread where in turn, you can learn the collective nouns for eleven different birds,

take a look at classification, find out how various trees propagate

and about migration and metamorphosis.

An activity to do once you get home concludes most sections: make a bird feeder, make a terrarium, create a journey stick (I love that).

Assuredly this will help any reader, young or not so young, connect more deeply with the joys and wonders of the natural world, and find their inner wild child.

The author finishes with some sage words about the fragility of nature and caring for the countryside, plus a glossary.

Altogether a smashing book for families and schools.


Barry Falls

Living in a little house atop a hill, young Billy McGill is a reclusive individual. “This is my hill, … I live here alone! Always have, always will” he asserts and so it is.

Down below the town is a bustle with traffic and people but none ever venture near Billy’s abode.
Sheltered within he barely hears a sound until the fateful day when he detects an unwelcome, indeed unacceptable, intruder …

It’s an occasion that calls for a visit to town to purchase a moggy that will chase the creature away and peace will be restored.

That’s not quite what happens however and before long Billy’s residence is accommodating a host of creatures large and small including a stripy one that develops a cold – so the vet informs Billy. She offers to knit the sneezer a warm fluffy coat but for that yarn is required. Hmm.
But although things go from bad to worse, to downright terrible, through all the trials and tribulations,

the up and downs, Billy McGill continues repeating his “This is my hill … “ litany.

Just when it seems the situation might be about to improve a terrific storm blows up whisking away an all important pacifier and Billy is almost at breaking point; but he’ll do pretty much anything to find peace and quiet, even embarking on a journey across land and sea, and scaling another high hill.

It’s there that as young Billy ponders on the possibility of solo living once more, something drifts into sight.

Now he’s faced with a decision – should he or should he not stay?

In addition to the pleasing circularity – almost – of the rhyming tale, there’s much to enjoy about this book. Barry Falls’ quirky illustrations are a wry delight as they depict the catastrophic concatenation of crazy events involving the growing cast of characters both animal and human.

It’s Your World Now!

It’s Your World Now!
Barry Falls
Pavilion Children’s Books

This upbeat rhyming picture book offers three lessons to young ones, lessons about the world, what it has to offer, the disappointments that sometimes befall us all, and how to live life to the full. Barry Falls’ rhythmic narrative calls to mind the Seuss manner of delivery in The Cat in the Hat.

The first lesson talks of a wealth of delights – singing birds, brightly coloured butterflies … autumn leaves / and splashy puddles. / Chocolate cake and ice-cream sundaes, / never-ending-summer-fun-days.’ Now who wouldn’t want those?

But more important is the assurance to the small child that ‘your future’s bright’ (not so bright with BREXIT looming, I fear) and that she and others like her ‘ … can choose whate’er they want to be / and be that thing, quite splendidly …’ Not of course, without hard work and application though; and the sky’s the limit – literally. I love the fact that pushing boundaries and rule breaking are acknowledged as lesson one draws to a close.

Life though isn’t always peaches and cream as the second lesson says and youngsters must be aware of the likelihood that along the way, things will go wrong, others will win or do better; some might seek to disenchant you or thwart your enthusiasm and determination, try to push you around or block your goals.

But each must follow his/her own path and purpose: that way lies fulfilment and ultimate success.

The final and most important lesson is a love-fuelled sending forth into the future, safe in the assurance that in this magical world of the next generation, these particular children are cherished no matter what.

Fascinatingly detailed and vibrantly illustrated (other than in lesson 2 – which has some rather menacing images) this is a wonderful celebration of the worth and potential of every child.