The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears
Alastair Chisholm and Jez Tuya
Walker Books

This is essentially a bedtime story treasure trove – a fairy story with a very clever twist or two, or even more.

It begins with Dad asking son Jamie what kind of bedtime story he’d like. Jamie requests “A made-up one!” to include the titular characters and so Dad does as he’s bid and begins to tell his tale within a tale and a right rambling yarn it is into which Jamie insists breaking with questions and interjections. Dad then weaves these into his telling, no matter how far off piste they might be or how irritating. “Why couldn’t the Princess rescue the Prince? … Mum says Princesses in stories are rubbish.” Dad eventually concedes only for Jamie to decide, “No actually I want the Prince.” …

The Princess has been incarcerated in a tower by “her wicked aunt, a Witch with an Evil Eye, ” Dad continues and so it goes on.

We discover that the castle is made (to Jamie’s disgust) entirely out of broccoli and the Witch is really a Ninja. Uh-ha! And if that’s not enough topsy-turvyness, then I’ll have you know that as they approach Castle Broccoli the Prince is actually carrying the horse

and the Princess isn’t all she seems.

Nonetheless all ends happily – twice over- in this splendid romp of a bedtime tale telling experience that will delight both receivers and deliverers. It well and truly flips the traditional fairy story right on its head and not only is it a smashing bedtime offering (albeit not a brief one); it’s absolutely bursting with classroom potential too; and not simply because Dad promises a continuation involving the Bears on the following night.

Yes, Alistair Chisholm’s telling is terrific, but Jez Tuya’s illustrations are pretty cool too – or should that be hot – certainly so here …

and full of hilarious, chortle worthy details.

The Light in the Night / The World Book Day Monster

The Light in the Night
Marie Voight
Simon & Schuster

Young Betty absolutely loves the night time for it brings with it the most amazing stories, one of which features Cosmo.
Cosmo is a bear that is terrified of the dark and just when Betty is wishing that she could tell him that he has no need to fear it, POP! There he is.
Together they set off, hand in hand, on a journey of discovery. Led by a firefly they walk into the woods where they find a cave
Betty reassures her friend and they follow the firefly inside towards an inky lake whereon a rowing boat awaits to take them further.
The cave grows ever darker as they go deeper within until they come upon a sign.

Overcoming her own initial fear, Betty does as the sign says. An amazing sight meets their eyes and it’s anything but scary.
Once back outside, it’s Betty’s turn to feel anxious; she makes a confession …

With roles reversed, Cosmo now does the reassuring until the two reach Betty’s house safely once more.
Back indoors over hot chocolate (what else) the two talk of their journey until it’s time for Cosmo to leave.

Betty gives him her lantern and a special message.

In the morning she wonders if it had all been a dream: what do you think? You’ll need a copy of this magical book to find out.

Rising star, Marie Voight’s illustrations are adorable and her two characters totally endearing making this a thoroughly reassuring, warm-hearted bedtime story for you and your little ones as well as a lovely one to share in an early years setting.

The World Book Day Monster
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Ada Grey
Egmont

World Book Day is fast approaching, her school is celebrating but Anna has a dilemma. What should she dress up as?

Dad’s suggestion that they pay a visit to the bookshop proves fruitful and thanks to a helpful suggestion from the bookseller, Anna goes home fired with enthusiasm, carrying a book.

After multiple reads she enlists parental help to make her costume and next day she excitedly rushes off to school to show her friends.

Their response however isn’t particularly positive; they all ask, Anna, what are you?” over and over throughout the day.

Happily her head teacher’s reaction is very different; it was a favourite of hers when she was a child and she’s eager to share the book Anna is clutching with the class.

A magical story time ensues that is much appreciated by all her classmates, which leaves Anna thoroughly satisfied, and so she should be as she demonstrates the power of story to thrill and enchant.

Adam and Charlotte’s rhyming text coupled with Ada’s spirited scenes make for a fun book to share around World Book Day or at any time one wants to attest to the power of a story and the importance of the imagination.

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping
Mariana Ruiz Johnson
Chronicle Books

Words there are none, but this picture book is absolutely brimming over with stories.

We start with a view through a window of a mother reading a goodnight story to her child …

then on the next spread, tiptoeing out of the bedroom as the youngster falls asleep.

The view widens as we see both inside the house, and outside in the urban setting where fantasy and realism mix. Under a starry sky what appear to be animal characters from the storybook cavort, while in their homes people eat, chat, cook and embrace. We see a nurse and patients in a hospital, an artist working at an easel, someone with a telescope and more.

The lens widens still further revealing two animals on a jetty carrying a large object.
Keep turning and you see all six characters from the book cover have left the city and are paddling out across the ocean in a kind of long canoe (note the pattern and compare with the child’s bedspread).

They reach the shore of a wild jungle and there in the darkness, light torches and build a bonfire around which they play instruments and dance.

Then, something even more amazing takes place: the bonfire rises up into the sky becoming the morning sun.

Back in the city dawn breaks, the child awakes and a new day begins …

The magical realism of Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez come to mind as the story slips effortlessly between its real and dreamlike, surreal elements.

This is a book that demands close attention and several readings during which, new details will be discovered and fresh possibilities emerge from the dazzling folk-art hues of Johnson’s scenes.

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver
Claire Freedman and Carrie May
Templar Publishing

Claire Freedman (of Aliens Love Underpants fame) has created a lilting lullaby telling how as night falls the flowing-haired weaver of dreams spreads her wings, fashions from nature and stows in her sack magical fantasies for soon to be slumbering young creatures.

For her first recipient, Little Bear …

it’s mountain flowers and snowflakes that will create a dream of playful mountain slope sliding with snow bears as companions.
Upon Little Tiger she bestows a dream of flying in space; Little Monkey’s dream is woven from: ‘Grains of sand on a distant shore/ Pink pearly shells from the ocean floor./ Long-lost treasure, a mermaid’s kiss, The shimmering scales from a rainbow fish.’ and will take him to swim with dolphins and dance to the tune of a mermaid’s song.

Her final dream is soft, white and full of love: this will be for the young child just on the edge of sleep; the child who has shared in the magical experiences of the baby jungle animals and is now, lulled by the sibilance of the rhyming text, ready for his or her own nocturnal adventure.
Debut artist Carrie May conjures up a lush nocturnal forest setting for the ethereal dreamweaver to scatter her dreams. The star-spangled dream scenes have for the most part, a somewhat softer palette of predominantly pinks, corals, turquoise, aquamarine, lemon yellow and white.
Just right for bedtime sharing or for other times when a spell of calm is required.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rockabye Pirate / The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit

Rockabye Pirate
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Don’t expect loud shouts of ‘Avast me ‘arties’ and similar in this pirate tale; far from it, for Knapman’s text is a lilting, under the covers-luring, lullaby for mummy pirates or daddies for that matter, to share with their pirate offspring at bedtime.
Yes, it’s full of freebooters, the likes of Black Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail and Freddy the Fright, but they’re not doing the wicked deeds upon the seas, rather they’re performing their ablutions

albeit with some maternal assistance in preparation for the most important part of their daily ritual …

After all, their day has been packed with mischief and mayhem, so now it’s time for some tucked-up-cosily-under-the-duvet dreams. I wonder what those might feature …

Ada Grey’s piratical characters, far from alarming, are portrayed as an endearing bunch of marauders as befits the inhabitants of a gentle bedtime story. Having said ‘bedtime’, this fun picture book could equally be shared with an early years group especially if they’re engaged in a pirate theme.

The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit
Peter Bently and Gerry Parsons
Hodder Children’s Books
The Tooth Fairy returns for another adventure, this time responding to a missive from Her Majesty the Queen informing of the loss of her great grandson’s first tooth. Come nightfall, the little fairy is palace bound but has a few obstacles in her path

before she finds a way in.
Once inside there are still further hazards – corgis, a cloth-wielding maid and some undies …

Finding the little prince’s bedroom is none too easy and the Tooth Fairy finds herself assisting in another ‘toothy’ search before receiving assistance for her troubles.

Will she ever make that all-important coin/tooth exchange and get home for some shut-eye?
Bently’s rhyming text is full of read-aloud fun with some unexpected encounters and, some expected ones: the corgis seem to find their way into every Royals’ picture book as do members of the Queen’s Guard. Garry Parsons’ exuberant illustrations provide gigglesome details at every turn of the page. All in all, a right royal chuckle.

I’ve signed the charter