Just In Case You Want To Fly / Read to Your Toddler Every Day

Just In Case You Want To Fly
Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson
Walker Books

All parents and carers want to do their best to ensure that their little ones have what they need in any eventuality and so it is here in author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Christian Robinson’s second collaboration.

It begins ‘just in case you want to fly, here’s some wind / and here’s the sky’ going on in rhythmic rhyme to provide such uplifting words about potential needs as ‘here’s a cherry if you need a snack/ and if you get itchy / here’s a scratch on the back’

as readers and participants move through the day perhaps pausing and ‘just in case you want to sing / here’s a la la la’ and to pick up a book or two …

getting ever closer to bedtime,

while in the bedroom there awaits ‘a pillow, a song and a tissue’. Before that though come a warm bath and  a honey-sweetened drink.

Christian Robinson’s final collage and paint, bedtime tuck-in spread shows the young child safely snuggled beneath a cover patterned with most of the items mentioned in the text.

With its reassuring messages that no matter where you journey, or what you try to do, something or somebody will be there for you, this is a tale to share with youngsters at bedtime or any other time of the day,

Also just right for sharing with that same young audience is:

Read to Your Toddler Every Day
Lucy Brownridge and Chloe Giordano
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Following on from their nursery rhyme book Read to Your Baby Every Day, the same team have collaborated on a collection of twenty folk and fairy tales and fable retellings from around the world – from Scandinavia to Syria

and Cambodia to China to read to slightly older children.

Once again Chloe Giordano has created gorgeous hand-embroidered illustrations and there’s at least one for every story. You’ll find animals of all kinds, shapes and sizes including mice and elephants from India,

Anansi the spider and a turtle from the Caribbean, as well as humans such as the couple whose snow girl came to life in the Russian “Snowflake, the Snow Child’, and the Stonecutter named Haru from Japan.

Each of Lucy Brownridge’s retellings is just the right length for bedtime reading providing an enriching way to end the day with your little one (s).

When’s My Birthday?

When’s My Birthday?
Julia Fogliano and Christian Robinson
Walker Books

For young children, birthdays are possibly even more eagerly anticipated than any other day of the year and here we have a book that can be shared in the days running up to that special celebration.

Everything about this is sheer delight. First there’s the unusual, attention grabbing shape of the book. Then come the striking but simple candle endpapers, after which begins  Fogliano’s spare chant of a text wherein she captures perfectly the voice of the child.
‘ when’s my birthday? / where’s my birthday? how many days until / my birthday? ’ asks the repeat refrain that holds the whole narrative together as the excitement builds.

That artist Christian Robinson has a deliciously playful sense of humour is evident in the joyful collage style illustrations such as this one with its visual pun on ‘ice-skating’ …

No child’s birthday is complete without other vital ingredients including singing and dancing: ‘will we sing so happy happy? / will we dance around and round? / will we jump and jump and jump?’

Presents and cake too are contemplated: how wonderfully the artist plays with size as here …


and these children know precisely what must comprise the birthday tea, but when it comes to the party, everyone is invited both human and animal and any kind of dress is acceptable.

Spirited, inclusive and the ideal gift for a small child whose birthday is fast approaching; a ‘happy, happy day’ for sure.

I’ve signed the charter  

Last Stop on Market Street


Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
Puffin Books
A little boy, CJ, waits for the Market Street bus in the rain one Sunday after church. “How come we don’t got a car?” he asks his Nana; and this isn’t the only thing he shows dissatisfaction over. Nana however, has a wonderfully playful imagination: “We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” (Mr Dennis, the driver obligingly produces a coin from behind CJ’s ear and hands it to him.)
As their journey progresses Nana helps her grandson to start seeing things differently – more as opportunities for delight: a big tree drinks rain through a straw; a man who cannot see with his eyes, watches the world with his ears.


A real live guitarist passenger playing is far better than using a mobile to listen to music as the two older boys do, and when the man starts singing, CJ too closes his eyes and is transported:.‘He saw sunset colours swirling over crashing waves … He saw the old woman’s butterflies dancing free in the light of the moon … He was lost in the sound and the sound gave him the feeling of magic.


Later as they walk back through their neighbourhood towards the soup kitchen,
Nana gently offers another reminder in response to his comment about everything being dirty: “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.” CJ then notices a ‘perfect rainbow arching over their soup kitchen’ and it causes him to wonder how his nana always finds beauty in places he’d never even think to look.


So much in this uplifting book is about connectedness: connectedness between a young child and a much older adult; between – thanks to Nana – all the passengers on the bus, between the city and both CJ and Nana, between the city’s dirt and its beauty be it fleeting or long lasting; and between both main characters and their surroundings. All of this comes through in de la Peña’s superb text that enables readers and listeners to immerse themselves in the multi-sensory experience of the shared journey. In total harmony, Robinson’s energetic illustrations, executed in a warm palette, capture the poetry of the text perfectly.
A quietly beautiful book with a very potent message relating to acceptance, finding joy in the simple things of life with all its diversities, and the possibilities this brings. I hope it gets the large audience in the UK it deserves: I intend to share it widely.


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Leo a ghost story
Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books
Leo is a house ghost – we readers can see him but others can’t. He’s been in his current residence for years, drawing and reading,

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but one spring day a new family moves in and Leo becomes a host ghost. His efforts definitely aren’t appreciated by the incomers who immediately decide the house is haunted and call in all manner of exorcists.

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Leo decides to move out anyway and goes a-roaming in the city. People walk past or even through him until his wanderings eventually result in an encounter with a young pavement artist, Jane who mistakes him for an imaginary friend.

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If I tell her I am a ghost, I will scare her away,” he fears.
Then late at night a thief enters Jane’s home, Leo apprehends him by donning traditional ghostly garb

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and finally gains acceptance as the being he truly is.
Christian Robinson’s wonderful retro-style illustrations, executed with collage and paint in suitably spectral shades work so well in combination with author Mac Barnett’s  matter of fact, economic narrative style: ‘ A squad car came and hauled the man off the jail. That was that.’ he comments when the thief is taken by the police.

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And, “Jane I told you a lie. I am a ghost … I am just your real friend.” “Oh!” said Jane. “Well that’s even better.
This is a wonderfully wise, warm story of friendship and acceptance, and a great one for sharing at this, or any time of the year, especially accompanied by honey toast and mint tea.

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The Mystery of the Haunted Farm
Elys Dolan
Nosy Crow
Newly moved into the farm, Farmer Grey is more than a little discombobulated by the phantoms that seem to have invaded his residence during his somnambulatory activities.

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So, the terrified fellow calls in the Ghost-Hunters who quickly confirm that neither the pond, nor the farmhouse itself have any ghosts – according to their Scare-o-Meter, the Phantom Finder 5000 that is. So it’s off to check the barn, but the seeming invasion by ‘terrifyingly gooey supernatural creatures’ doesn’t register on that PF5000 either. What can be going on?
But then, a clue leads to the chicken coop up on the hill and it’s a case of follow those goats and see what’s going on in that ‘incredibly creepy chicken coop’

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Once inside and down the stairs, those Ghost-Hunters are amazed at the sight before their eyes: an underground fear factory the likes of which they’ve never seen before.
But why are all those animals taking on ghostly or ghoulish appearance? Mother Hen starts to explain and all is about to be revealed in an amazing show-stopping finale …
I won’t reveal the rest of this brilliantly funny romp but suffice it to say that the moon has something to answer for and those Ghost-Hunters put a pretty clever training plan into action, which is highly effective …
most of the time.

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Definitely other winner from the stupendously clever Elys Dolan

For older readers:

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Emma Fischel
Nosy Crow
Flo, the modern young witch with a worldy-wise, rather eccentric Gran and a sceptical mum returns for a second Haggspitt extravaganza. Herein she has to take on the horrifying Haggfiend – head and arms of Hagg and body of Fiend with ‘evil in her cold cruel heart’; but is she real or merely a character from that book of Magical Myths.
As with the first story, there’s plenty of excitement and humour sizzling away between those gorgeous Chris Riddell covers. I can’t envisage many 8s to 10s not being caught up and swept along by this super, spellbinding story narrated by Flo herself.  I was!

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

For plenty of visual thrills visit the wonderful Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October         C090B987-9FD4-47C9-A6E5-CEEE0DD83F4E[6]