The Path / Why?

These are two thought-provoking picture books from minedition – thanks to GMC Distribution for sending them for review

The Path
Bob Staake

As we follow a small character walking along on a winding path, we soon realise that this path is a metaphor for life’s journey and its challenges. ‘You will walk along a well-worn path that many others have taken before you.” we read at the outset. To start with the walk is easy; but inevitably there will be bumps and obstacles along the way, perhaps a dark forest will replace those valleys of wildflowers bathed in sunlight. You may even get lost, face terrifying dangers or encounter what seems to be a dead end. Prepare to be surprised.

Like the character, you will emerge elated and ready to forge a path of your own making head held high.
Poetic and to the point, the thoughtful narrative has a gentle lyricism but for me the real show stealers are Staake’s digitally created illustrations of the ever changing landscape through which the character journeys.

A wonderful conversation starter that could be used at various stages in a child or young person’s life from moving to KS2 in a primary school right up to a new graduate. Essentially this is a book of possibilities, perspective and an individual’s outlook on life: the message is that it’s the journey not the destination that matters.

Nikolai Popov

As this wordless story begins a frog sits peaceably atop a rock holding a flower, a serene expression on his face. Suddenly, from a hole very close up pops a mouse clutching an umbrella. They look expectantly at one another. Could Frog be anticipating making a new friend of mouse. It certainly doesn’t happen: the mouse has designs on the frog’s flower, leaps at the creature and steals it. Up come two well built frogs and see the mouse off. Very soon more frogs and mice enter the battle, the tools of which become increasingly powerful

and eventually the conflict escalates into a full-scale war; the result being the entire terrain lies wasted,: there are no winners in this war, just total devastation all round.

All this we see in the the artist’s delicate watercolour scenes with their droll animal characters against the backdrop of blasting guns and explosions that make the reality of the situation even harsher. Then there’s that final spread.

Why? Oh why? we ask ourselves. Why indeed.

With what is happening with the increasingly ugly war in Ukraine, this question and indeed Popov’s powerful condemnation of war in this allegory is particularly pertinent. Why, oh why can’t a certain despot see the utter futility of war?

Pets Lost, Pets Found

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My Pet Book
Bob Staake
Andersen Press pbk
Imagine having a book as a pet – not possible? Well then you need to get hold of
Staake’s wonderfully crazy tribute to books and young bibliophiles.
The young boy protagonist in this story wants a pet, but not one like a dog or cat; he doesn’t care for the former, the latter make him sneezy (me too).
A book would make the perfect pet!” his mother advises so off he goes to the Smartytown local bookshop where he discovers just the thing: a small ‘frisky red hardcover!’

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Oh joy! It never makes any demands on our hero – no eating, drinking, pooping (naturally) no fleas, no bathing, easy to take walking,

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doesn’t make a sound and best of all it’s full of wonderful tales to inhabit. The two are practically inseparable.
But then oh woe! The boy comes back from school one day to discover the book has gone – given to a charity shop by the well-meaning maid. Off dash maid and boy hoping to retrieve the book but, where is it? Certainly not where it should have been – on the bookshelves, or even with the coats, lamps or bears. Tears ensue but then the maid has a brainwave: the hiding place is discovered,

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the book retrieved (none the worse for its experience) and, boy and book reunited, back home they all go.
Bonkers? Yes assuredly, but Staake so cleverly demonstrates in his crazy rhyming caper with those mega-bright, digitally manipulated illustrations packed with daft details and ebullient extras, what Clyde Watson’s poem ‘A book is a place’ says ‘Just open a book and step in.’ With this one, you’ll be glad you did.

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Farewell Floppy
Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
This story concerns abandonment or rather, a boy’s attempts at same.
The young boy narrator introduces his pet rabbit, Floppy and then proceeds to explain why he can no longer keep him as a best friend “I’m not a baby.” he tells us. “So I had to let him go.” Has he been reading Hansel and Gretel one wonders as we hear of his intentions “to take him far enough into the woods that he couldn’t find his way back all alone.”
Floppy however, is his usual procrastinatory self and progress is very slow. Eventually, deep in the forest, the boy finds a tree in a clearing and it’s there that a now somewhat reluctant parting takes place; but that’s only after some determined action on the boy’s part:

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He ties his rabbit to a tree with a length of unravelled sweater wool

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and beats a hasty retreat.
Before long though, struck by anxiety and remorse, back goes the narrator only to discover nothing but a length of wool tied around the tree. Tension mounts as he dashes through the forest sending crows flying as he follows a trail that leads him …

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… eventually to a small cabin.
Therein – joy of joys – he discovers his beloved pet ably cared for by a little girl. (The same girl he’d spied earlier during his losing Floppy attempts.)

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Reunited, somewhat shamed, and with some new knowledge, boy and bunny take the route back home – together.
Poignant and perverse, thought provoking and infused with a playful humour, this longish narrative might alarm some pet lovers but only if they misunderstand the tale as a whole.

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(The five to sevens I’ve shared it with certainly have enthused about it.) Chaud’s warmth and mischievousness permeate his gorgeous illustrations, perfectly illuminating the boy’s changing feelings; Floppy though appears totally unmoved by the entire adventure.

Use your local bookshop l

Unlikely Friendships


Cat & Dog
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
We had an unlikely friendship between a cat and a fish in Michael Foreman’s Friends: unlikely friendship is again at the heart of his latest offering
When Cat leaves her kittens to go in search of their breakfast, little does she suspect that she’ll be carried off far away from her offspring.


Along comes a scruffy dog as the kittens huddle together to await the return of the fish van and with it, their mother. His first thought is “breakfast, lunch and dinner”; his second is that like him, the kittens are all alone in the world, so he beds down to sleep close by and before long, he and the kittens are snuggled up together. Morning comes and with it the van’s return and joy of joys, there is Cat in the driver’s arms. There’s a happy reunion but then Cat notices the old dog and turns on him.


The kittens tell her how he has befriended them and they settle down together to hear of Cat’s seaside adventure. Next time that van heads off to the sea, the fish man has some additional passengers aboard and their arrival is just in time to see a beautiful sunset which is followed by supper


and some fishy moonlit thoughts on the pier.
As ever, Foreman’s lyrical watercolours have that wonderful quality of luminosity; those seascapes are just glorious. I particularly like too, the scenes from below the city bridge with graffiti and the multitude of greetings in a whole gamut of languages from Hindi to Swahili and Hebrew.
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Andersen Press have also reissued an old Foreman classic from the 70s


Michael Foreman
Andersen Press pbk
Herein we meet the horned animal of the title who is disturbed by the shouting match between Bear and Eagle. Moose fails in his efforts to resolve the conflict but ends up constructing – with the help of others who had got drawn into the combat – a wonderful place where all can meet harmoniously. But what of Bear and Eagle? Well seemingly they never learn but perhaps one day …
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Bob Staake
Andersen Press pbk
With its New York City setting, this wordless picture book is a portrayal of a friendship that develops between a boy and the Bluebird of the title. Said bird watches the boy through his schoolroom window as he is taunted and shunned by his classmates, then follows him homewards.


They share a cookie, visit the park and sail a boat.


The boy is set on by a gang of bullies who attempt to snatch the boat, hurl a stick at the boy and kill(?)


the bird. Then a veritable host of birds of different colours fly down, lift the boy, who is still clutching his friend, bearing him skywards towards the clouds,


where we watch him release his blue friend to fly heavenwards, up, up, up …
It’s the feeling of hope that transcends all the other powerful emotions – loneliness, bullying, guilt, grief – embraced in this eloquent story told through moving, multi-framed pictorial sequences rendered in blues, greys, white and black. The total absence of words (other than streetscape signs) allows space for readers to bring their own interpretations to the nuances of the story.
Not a book for everyone; rather it’s one for individuals to peruse and ponder over, with new meanings and possibilities emerging with each reading.
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The Zebra Who Ran Too fast
Jenni Desmond
Walker Books
Triangular friendships are often tricky to sustain though Zebra, Elephant and Bird have done pretty well. Elephant would entertain Bird and Zebra with his curious facts; Bird made Zebra and Elephant laugh with his jokes and Zebra, the fastest runner, knew the best games. Then one windy day Zebra’s zest for life makes the others feel dizzy but he ignores their requests to stop.


Next day he is shunned. Zebra spends a hot, lonely time pondering on his pals and their pastimes and his behaviour until, along comes wise, kindly Giraffe. The two bond and by nightfall, Zebra is feeling better. His erstwhile pals meanwhile are frightened by the storm that has blown up and are missing their friend. Off they go in search of him and before long it’s a case of “Four best friends together.”



This beautifully portrayed story about the real meaning of friendship set in the African savannahs is a visual delight, particularly the range of expressions on the animals’ faces. The vastness of the African plain and sky with the gathering storm are so powerfully evoked one can almost feel the wind and hear the thunder.


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