Ingenious Edie Master Inventor of Tiny Town

Ingenious Edie Master Inventor of Tiny Town
Patrick Corrigan
Flying Eye Books

Meet young inventor Edie, one of the tiny inhabitants of Tiny Town. She loves nothing better than to create new contraptions and her aim is that each new one is even better than any of her previous inventions. She always keeps what she’s working on top secret – no help from anybody else, ever.

However that is until the arrival of Magpie; he with a particular penchant for all things shiny and a plethora of disguises. Edie decides this marauding meanie has to be stopped so she sets to work inventing clever Magpie traps but none is successful in doing the job. 

The girl is distraught especially after needing to call for assistance from her friends to extricate herself from entanglement engineered by Magpie. 

As she sits sobbing at her failures, first Ladybird and then others of her pals suggests that this is an occasion when they should all work together if they want to trap the thief.

The following day there appears on Tiny Town’s street something ‘new and mysterious’. Surely an irresistible attraction for any creature on the lookout for shiny objects. Could this be a case of community action winning the day?

That the power of the imagination and creativity play a vital role in scientific, technological and engineering discoveries and advances is demonstrated so well in Patrick Corrigan’s illustrations of Edie’s inventions. I love the miniature world created in this story, the demonstration of the importance of community action and wholeheartedly recommend sharing it with young children at home and in the classroom.

Ella and the Useless Day

Ella and the Useless Day
Meg McKinlay and Karen Blair
Walker Books

Having had a good look around their house, Dad and Ella decide it’s time for a serious clear out and so they get to work right away. Together, they search, scramble, sort, poke, pick and pile all the useless stuff they find into the trailer to take to the rubbish tip, where useless things go. However, before they’ve even set off, their neighbour delightedly relieves them of the tricycle, calling it “Absolutely perfect!” and so it goes on until by the time they reach the dump, their trailer is almost empty,

even the holey blanket has been given a new lease of life. Then Ella realises that the final item is one they can make use of back in her own bedroom.

Meg McKinlay tells a subtle, gently humorous tale of recycling and reusing, creativity and community, that is highly pertinent in our throwaway society, where we all ought to be giving serious thought to living more sustainably. One wonders what on earth can be done with the “fashion disaster” of a suit,

the leaky goldfish bowl, the broken crockery and other things but young listeners/readers could have fun thinking of possibilities before turning to the final wordless spread where in a series of vignettes, Karen Blair shows just what their new owners did with them. Throughout the story, her watercolour and pencil illustrations provide lots of delightful details and underscore the wry humour of the words.

Princess Minna: The Enchanted Forest / The Allotmenteers

Princess Minna: The Enchanted Forest
Kirsty Applebaum, illustrated by Sahar Haghgoo
Nosy Crow

Ideal for solo readers just making their first forays into chapter books, this is one of a new series giving a new, fresh twist to traditional fairy tales. Each spread is enticingly laid out with Sahar Haghgoo’s bold, bright artwork taking at least half of the space.

Residing in Castle Tall-Towers with the King and Queen and a wizard named Raymond, Princess Minna is a confident, determined and capable young girl, always up for a challenge. In this story it comes in the form of preventing a curse taking effect. Said curse was laid by a bad fairy upon Prince Welling-Tunboot on the day of his birth to come into play on his tenth birthday, the day the King and Queen receive urgent pleas for help from the prince’s parents.

Off she goes aback her best friend, dragon Lorenzo, walloooping towards Tunboot Palace in the centre of the Enchanted Forest, pausing en route to come to the aid of various other characters that also come aboard the dragon.

All the while the clock ticks ever closer to the sundown hour by which time the sleeping prince must be awoken or remain asleep for ever more.

With its girl-power element, this very funny subversion of the Sleeping Beauty story will assuredly enchant newly independent readers and leave them eagerly awaiting further episodes in the life of this spectacle-wearing little princess.

The Allotmenteers
Theo Moore, illustrated by Sarah Van Dongen
Ragged Bears

This small gem is full of life lessons for youngsters, especially those just starting out on chapter books. It features the Brown family. Changes are afoot in the family with young Tim about to start ‘big school’ thus enabling Mum to return to her old job at the library. Yes, that means more money but the downside is she’ll no longer have any time to spare for looking after their allotment, something the older children Tom and Sally are very upset about.

Determined not to let it happen they persuade their mum to let them take charge of the allotment and thus they become The Allotmenteers of the title, their first job being to replant the herb garden.
Very soon, the children are able to offer some of the veggies grown to their neighbours thereby changing the diet of at least one of them. Each of the three further chapters tells a different story though they all mesh well together, as more members of the local community are brought into the unfolding events and Tom and Sally become adept problem solvers as well as gardeners.

With recipes and tips on growing, this slim book is full of warmth, charm and community spirit, made all the more so by Sarah Van Dongen’s illustrations.

The Good, The Bad and the Spooky

The Good, The Bad and the Spooky
Jory John and Pete Oswald

With more than 150 spooky stickers for youngsters to have their own fun with, this is a Halloween themed continuation of Jory John and Pete Oswald’s popular series presented by a sunflower seed, aka The Bad Seed.

Now despite Halloween being the Seed’s favourite time of year he’s in an extremely bad mood on account of not being able to find a truly awesome costume for the big night. Nothing he’s tried seems to hit the spot or come anywhere near things he and his friends have dressed as on previous occasions and now everybody seems to want to be independent.

It appears that there’s only one thing to do and that’s to make everyone else think the big holiday event has been postponed. Seed looks as though he’s making a return to his baaad ways: an announcement is made.

Then, enter stage left a good neighbourly pumpkin seed proffering some words of wisdom for our narrator Seed to consider … What will he do – sabotage the whole event and spoil the fun for everyone or focus on what the evening is really all about?

With Jory John’s witty, pun-punctuated narrative that delivers some life lessons and Pete Oswald’s hilarious illustrations, this is a thought-provoking charmer that’s just right for pre Halloween sharing.

Moose’s Book Bus

Moose’s Book Bus
Inga Moore
Walker Books

With a dearth of storybooks among his friends, Moose who has exhausted his repertoire of new tales to tell his family after supper, sets out to find the town library. he’s fortunate to discover a wealth of exciting books await him and Moose borrows all the librarians’s s suggestions and more.

That same evening, no sooner has he settled down to regale his family with one of the storybooks than Bear brings her cubs along to hear his Little Red Riding Hood rendition.

Word spreads and it’s not long before Moose’s evening story times become exceedingly popular

with his living room rather crowded ‘like being in a sardine tin’. Now what’s a bright creature like Moose to do next …

Ingenious creature that he is, Moose finds a wheeled solution and it’s one that benefits his entire community in more ways than one.

This is a brilliant book, paying homage as it does to the power of story, of books and of libraries (something not every community is fortunate enough to have nowadays). With her somewhat whimsical cast of woodland characters, Inga Moore’s soft-edged, earthy rural scenes with their wealth of detail and gentle humour draw the reader in from the start.

I can’t wait to share this terrific book far and wide; it’s my favourite Inga Moore story so far.

The Cartoons that Came to Life / We Made a Movie

The Cartoons that Came to Life
Tom Ellen, illustrated by Phil Corbett
Chicken House

Having recently moved to a new town, Finn Morris (who dreams of becoming a famous cartoonist), finds comfort in creating his own comic strips featuring his favourite characters Arley and Tapper. But when school bully Barney Divney tosses Finn’s sketchbook into a wet hedge spoiling the ARLEY & TAPPER strips FInn loses not only his cartoons but his ideas and self confidence to continue drawing.

Until that is next morning, when he awakes to discover there in his bedroom staring right at him are his two cartoon creations come to life. Surely it must be a dream.

But no, and he certainly mustn’t let his parents discover them for as Finn tells them, “It’s just that people around here aren’t used to seeing cartoons walking around. Especially ones with massive noses and fox ears and floppy tails.” 

Chaos ensues rapidly …

and thus begins a desperate race against time, aided and abetted by his classmate Isha Kapesa to get the characters back to their own Toon World. That entails defeating the heinous Professor Fart-Munch and getting to the bottom of what is going on with Yorky who Finn says is the coolest cartoonist ever.

Utterly zany and huge fun, this is the first of an action-packed comic series, an adventure that in a relaxed manner, deals with the incapacitating effects of children’s anxiety while also celebrating friendship, loyalty and individuality. 

Who wouldn’t find themselves rooting for Finn Morris to find his lost muse? Youngsters will love the combination of Tom Ellen’s telling and Phil Corbett’s wacky illustrations.

We Made a Movie
Charlotte Lo
Nosy Crow

It’s a year since narrator Luna’s family won an island and life, is more or less on an even keel: her dad’s whittling keeps him busy (despite much of it resembling poo) and her mum’s yoga retreats have plenty of takers.

Now property developers are threatening their existence and Luna is determined to put a stop to their plans. No ‘Las Vegas of Scotland’ for her. Opinions are divided among the townsfolk and even in Luna’s family, with her sister Margot and her Dad in support of the proposals.

Luna’s plan is to make a movie showcasing the unique nature of the locality but with everybody trying to get their voices heard, the path of movie making is anything but smooth and disasters ensue. Luna however is passionate about her beliefs, truly wanting to make the area a better place for all – she won’t allow property developers to intimidate her – though she hates being at odds with her sister.

Readers will definitely be rooting for such a girl? But will she succeed in winning the case against the developers?

With serious themes of family loyalties, the importance of local community, conservation and sustainability, the chaos, craziness and confusion aplenty mean that the book is funny and never feels heavy. It’s not easy to achieve this mix but Charlotte Lo does it with panache. If you’re looking for a staycation destination this summer, then where better to spend some time.

Stella and the Seagull

Stella and the Seagull
Georgina Stevens and Izzy Burton
Oxford Children’s Books

Young Stella (5¾) lives with her Granny Maggie in a flat beside the sea where a little seagull visits them frequently, often bringing a small gift. Lately though, rather than such things as shells and pebbles all her gifts are plastic rubbish of one kind or another, including a wrapper from Stella’s favourite chocolate bar.

Then one day, the little seagull fails to visit and concerned about her absence, Stella and her Gran go down to the beach and look for her. What they see is troubling: the poor bird looks sick.

Off they go to the vets right away where the vet takes an x-ray of the seagull and tells Stella that the bird has consumed a lot of plastic and shows her the alarming picture.

Leaving the seagull in the care of the vet, Stella realises that the beach must be where the bird found the plastic and so she and her Granny start picking up the litter, soon admitting that there’s far too much for them alone to collect. Then a poster gives Stella a great idea – “a Beach Clean Party” and as soon as they get home they set to work poster making. Before long, notices about the beach clean are all over the town.

Back home Stella spots the address of the chocolate company on a wrapper and decides to write to them, mentioning what has happened to the seagull and inviting them to the beach clean up party.

When she and her Gran go to post the letter it’s evident that lots of other people are also concerned about the seagull and many of the shops have stopped selling plastic items. But will they join the beach clean up and what about the Delicious Chocolate Company?

Let’s just say that one small passionate girl has galvanised not only her community but a manufacturing company to take action and make a BIG difference.

Written by sustainability advisor and campaigner, Georgina Stevens and wonderfully illustrated by Izzy Burton whose use of vignettes, single, and double page spreads make readers feel fully immersed in the story, this is a lovely demonstration of community power in action that will surely inspire young listeners to get involved in making change happen, especially with regard to single use plastic.

Definitely one to add to family bookshelves and classroom collections.

The Neighbourhood Surprise

The Neighbourhood Surprise
Sarah van Dongen
Tiny Owl

Redbird Road, where both Koya and Mrs Fig live, appears to have a strong community feel, with Koya and her friends, Hassan and Alex often visiting their elderly neighbour, and friend, Mrs Fig. She enjoys telling them stories of days gone by, creating costumes for dressing up and sharing the yummy cookies she bakes.

Needless to say, when they hear that Mrs Fig is moving away, the children are very upset and decide to organise a ‘going away party’ to show how much they’ll miss her. Dad suggests involving the entire street and so they do.

Kaya decides that the cake she and her dad bake must make allowances for the fact that Hassan is vegan. Hassan and his mum’s offering is falafel and a spicy curry,

while taking into account Mrs Fig being vegetarian, Alex and her family make a vegetable pie.

The afternoon of the party is a sunny one so Mrs Fig’s surprise party is to be held outside. She can hardly believe her eyes when she opens her door to discover …

A wonderful time is had by all, made all the more so when Mrs Fig announces that her new home is very close by, near enough for regular visits and another party the following year …

Rich in pattern and detail, Sarah van Dongen’s illustrations for her wonderfully warm-hearted story are a joy to contemplate. She also includes a final spread explaining vegetarianism and veganism. I was concerned to read there that honey is on the ‘no’ list for vegans so I’ll have to reclassify myself.

Molly and the Lockdown

Molly and the Lockdown
Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson

Molly and her mum and dad are island dwellers only now Dad is stuck on the mainland because the island – like many other parts of the world – is in lockdown. Inevitably Molly misses her dad who is staying with her Uncle Ed, though she talks to him on the phone and promises to do everything she can to help her mum.

Despite all the precautions taken, the virus reaches the island making a few people so sick they have to be taken to the mainland hospital.

With her mum assisting Nurse Ellen, there’s plenty to keep Molly busy. She does almost all the jobs around the house, cares for the dog and the hens, and makes masks for the islanders.

The lockdown drags on. School is closed so Molly chats with her friends on the phone, reads and rereads her books, does her jigsaws super fast, improves her fiddle playing and hears her Uncle Ed’s bagpipes in the background whenever her Dad rings.

Eventually school reopens, albeit with precautionary measures in place, they hear good news about a vaccine

and finally, everybody goes down to the harbour to welcome home Molly’s father – hurrah!

Most of us have experienced a spirit of community during the last year: this is encapsulated in Malachy Doyle’s story of the lockdown, COVID 19 and the affects on a particular family and their small community. Molly’s anxiousness and concern – feelings that so many children have suffered – comes across clearly in Andrew Whitson’s, richly patterned illustrations. So too does the wonderful warmth of the islanders coping as best they can with the crisis.

An ideal book for sharing with children as we begin to emerge from the restrictions; it offers a great opportunity for them to talk of their own experiences and to share future hopes.

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone
Lucy Morris
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This story starts high up in a tiny window one morning when a sweet sound issues forth. A boy on his way to school stops to enjoy the music and in so doing his loneliness is forgotten. He though, isn’t the only one affected by the beauty of the tune: an old lady is enlivened and filled with joy,

and gradually as the music continues to float on its way, all the townsfolk receives something that has been missing from their lives. Most important though, is that they start to feel a sense of connectedness as they ‘share food, stories and kindness.’ It takes just one small thing to change an entire perspective.

Then one day unexpectedly, the music stops: total silence fills the town.

Dispirited, the townsfolk come together to discuss the absence of the magical music and the lonely schoolboy takes it upon himself to climb up to the window and investigate.

Two days pass and then joy of joys, a sweet sound drifts out through the window and once again the townsfolk are transported by the beauty of music flowing through the streets and through their lives : truly a song for everyone. And the identity of the singer? It’s revealed on the penultimate spread, but story spoiler I won’t be.

A gentle tribute to the power of music, of community and of loving kindness, all of which are more important than ever in our lives at the moment. Without actually using musical notation, Lucy Morris has created a wonderful representation of music as it flows across the pages and over the story’s characters on its transformative way through the town There’s lyricism too in the words Lucy has used in this lovely debut picture book.

The Invisible

The Invisible
Tom Percival
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

With very little money, Isabel and her family are unable to afford the things that some people take for granted. Isabel takes notice of the beautiful things in life and she loves her family dearly – they’re all she needs.

One day though there’s not enough money to pay the bills or the rent, so the family have to leave their home and move to the other side of the city. Now Isabel feels she doesn’t belong; she’s unable to find a single cheering thing in this cold, lonely environment where nobody seems to notice her at all; it’s as though she’s become completely invisible. Never once though, does she complain.

Strangely though, the less Isabel is seen, the more she is able to see other invisible people in her new locality. Overlooked they might be, but each one in his or her own way, is quietly helping out..

And so it comes about that Isobel too decides to do things to help: she plants flowers, cares for stray animals and joins in with fixing things. Gradually other people join her endeavours;

eventually nobody is invisible: Isabel has done something truly amazing: she’s made a difference.

Moving and compassionate, Tom’s story shows how it’s possible for everyone to feel that they belong, and indeed have a right so to do. It’s a tale that is very personal to its creator who himself grew up in poverty living in a caravan for six years as a child often feeling overlooked; but it’s also the story of everyone who, for whatever reason is overlooked by society. Not all of those as lucky as Tom who says in his author’s note, that as well as love and beautiful countryside, he did have, thanks to a mobile library, plenty of books. Clearly those helped make his world a better place.

This beautifully illustrated, poignant story is one that everyone should read. Tom’s use of colour, or lack of it, mirror Isabel’s changes in circumstances. Readers can almost feel the chill of the ice and snow in the wintry scenes and the contrasting warmth in the spirited energy of a supportive collaborative community.

Thank You

Thank You
Joseph Coelho and Sam Usher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Inspired by the NHS Thursday 8pm Clap for Carers earlier in the pandemic, award-winning performance poet Joseph Coelho wrote this gorgeous story, to demonstrate to children how they, like the child in this book can show appreciation for, and celebrate the key workers, in their own lives.

The story tells of Tatenda, a thankful child who says thank you whenever he gets an opportunity: thank you to mum and dad for making breakfast, thank you to the post lady for delivering his favourite comic, to the teacher for marking his work and to the shop staff who stack the shelves.

Of late though, nobody seems to hear his words of thanks, they’re too bogged down in their fears and worries.
Consequently, the boy decides that a much bigger thank you is needed: here’s what he does …

Suddenly this thank you turns into something colourful, full of energy and movement. Out the front door it whizzes and off down the road, followed by his parents, the post lady whose smile makes the thank you ‘grow and glow’, all the way to school where’s it’s given further sparkle from the teacher’s eyes. Then off into the market it goes, with everyone touched by it in pursuit, spreading joy and colour till it reaches a massive oak tree. And there among the branches it sticks.

Eventually after a massive team effort, Tatenda is able to reach  and liberate the thank you, whereupon it continues on its way spreading colour and joy throughout the community and helping everyone feel better!

This wonderful, lyrical celebration of Joseph’s, superbly illustrated by Sam Usher, is a brilliant manifestation of the power of gratitude and of community strength.

For every book sold 3% of the retail price goes to Groundwork, a charity that helps some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic: another great way of showing appreciation is to get your own copy.

I Am One / Our Little Kitchen

I Am One
Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers

It’s never too soon to introduce a young child to the idea that s/he can make a change in the world and this gorgeous book by a team whose books I greatly admire, shows the way.

Subtitled ‘A book of Action’ this one is clearly much more focused on being active than several of the others in the series and it’s a pitch perfect demonstration, given by a child of how seemingly simple actions can make all the difference.

Here we witness the planting of a single seed, a brushstroke, a note ‘to start a melody’, a step to set off on a journey, and I particularly love the “One brick to start breaking down walls’ sequence of actions

so pertinent in our increasingly troubled times.

The harmony between Susan Verde’s words and Peter H. Reynolds’ signature style illustrations is what truly makes this such a special introduction to social activism; it’s tender, inspiring and uplifting.

Furthermore, Peter has dedicated the book to Greta Thunberg and in the final author’s note, (that also contains a beautiful meditation) Susan writes that her inspiration came from a quote from the Dalai Lama: what more can one ask?

A conversation opener, but equally or more importantly, an impetus to seize that inner power and take action.

Also about taking action – singly and as a community is:

Our Little Kitchen
Jillian Tamaki
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Inspired by her own experience of volunteering in a community kitchen, here’s a really tasty, deliciously diverse, offering from Jillian Tamaki. Now, with hands washed and aprons on, we’re ready to go in the community kitchen. We’ll create a meal – something that happens every Wednesday and it’s a bit of a squash to accommodate all the enthusiastic volunteers.

Luckily, they have their own little garden so there’s no need to look too far afield for ingredients; and there appears to be a fair bit stored away that needs using up and there are donations from the food bank. (Beans again – can they be creative?) It’s definitely a case of waste not, want not (although the odd item is clearly no longer fit for human consumption.

This team clearly makes its own music as they work: ‘glug, glug, chop chop, sizzzzzzzzle, pick! Peel, trim, splash! Toss, squish, mmmm!’ Then comes the shout, “Fifteen minutes!’

The countdown is on as the hungry start coming in; they clearly know one another – there’s plenty to chat about while they wait.
Eventually the leader gives the order “Let’s go!” and in comes the food – yummy and very ‘SSSSSSLLLLLUUUURRRRRPPPP!’- worthy.

Speech bubbles abound, providing a running commentary by the workers and the recipients of the bounty produced by the team; indeed, the entire atmosphere is cheery and relaxed,

made so evident by Jillian Tamaki’s vivid colour palette and the fluidity of her lines. In fact the entire book is a veritable feast for all the senses. There are even recipes on the front and back endpapers.

What Will These Hands Make?

What Will These Hands Make?
Nikki McClure
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Having posed the title question on the first spread, a grandmother narrator explores various possibilities encouraging her audience to join her as she imagines and celebrates a plethora of crafts that are used in creating the various items that might be made.

So, ‘will these hands make: ‘a teacup for a child / a bowl round and shiny / a quilt to warm / a chair for listening?’

Venturing into the great outdoors, the ’Will these hands’ refrain is repeated and answered thus ‘a hat for a baby’s head / a wall to walk along / a gate to open / a garden for many?’

Nikki McClure’s signature cut-paper, beautiful inky scenes extend  the words as she continues to ask ‘WILL THESE HANDS MAKE: … ’ on a further eight spreads between which are double spreads – superbly detailed wordless scenes of a townscape, a busy street, people going to a birthday celebration

and a close up of same.

By the end we see a community wherein all feel safe and nurtured;

and the final spread provides two large ovals asking the reader to consider “What will your hands make” and to trace one hand in each circle.

In most illustrations, McClure uses a pop of colour – red, creamy yellow, blue or white – to highlight fabric, hair, a bicycle frame, a boat.

There is so much to love here: the ‘what if? nature of the entire book; the collaborative community created as we follow the unfolding story the author/illustrator fashions of a family preparing to go to the party; the wide age range the book speaks to; the notion that the best gifts are those made by hands, voices and hearts – our own or other people’s.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers

I can’t think of a better time than now for this continuation of the Questioneers series to appear: young Sofia Valdez has a vision to make the world – in particular her own neighbourhood – a better place.

From a very young age Sophia has been a caring, helpful child and one morning on the way to school with her much loved Abuela (granddad) a squirrel chasing dog precipitates the downfall of a huge mountain of rubbish, causing an injury to her grandfather.

Thereafter, Sofia decides to become an environmental activist leader who campaigns for the mess mountain to be cleared and a community park constructed in its place. Her neighbours are on board with ideas but then Sofia has a crisis of confidence.

However, despite feeling daunted she heads to the City Hall next morning and after being directed from one office to another,

she eventually rallies the support of all the employees including the mayor.

Operation Blue River Creek Citizens’ Park is underway.

A slight departure from STEM subjects, this fourth, rhyming story adds a social science/citizenship strand to the series: stand up for what you believe is right is one message in this tale of empathy, finding your own voice, courage, leadership, community spirit and creativity. For adults wanting to encourage any of those in youngsters, this is must have book. Along the way readers will enjoy meeting some old friends from previous books before David Roberts’ wonderful, uplifting final spread.

Tiny and Teeny

Tiny and Teeny
Chris Judge
Walker Books

On the outskirts of the bustling buzzing Glengadget, in a shiny red apple lives Tiny with her pet Teeny.

Tiny spends the weekdays helping others

and by this particular Friday evening, she’s so tired that before she even gets indoors she falls fast asleep dreaming of flying through space.

As she slumbers disaster strikes her home, squishing it absolutely flat.

Despite being given a room in the Grand Hotel, Tiny misses her old home.

Now though it’s payback time: the following week all Tiny’s friends rally round and come Friday a truly wonderful surprise awaits …

which all goes to show that by working together a small community can make a big difference.

Simply bursting with love, is this itty-bitty story, with its enchanting spreads packed with quirky details and antennaed characters doesn’t bring a huge smile to your face then I’ll eat a whole watermelon (and they’re one of my most unfavourite fruits).


Elena Arevalo Melville
Scallywag Press

Imagine a world where everyone is kind and forgiving, and where anything is possible. How wonderful would that be. That is the world Elena Arevalo Melville creates in this uplifting story that begins one morning with Clara without anybody to play with in the park.

But then she comes upon an umbrella, albeit somewhat worn, but Clara picks it up and places it gently on a bench close by. To her surprise the umbrella thanks her and goes on to say, “Look inside me. Anything is possible!”

And so it is, for when she opens it up she finds herself face to face with a splendid playmate. Now for Clara at least, the park is quite simply perfect as it had been to near neighbour, old Mr Roberts when he was a boy.

But from his wheel chair he can only look up towards those tasty-looking apples in the tree and think, ‘if only’. Not for long though for Clara is there telling him ‘anything is possible’, with the umbrella urging him, “Look inside me.”

Before long, not only has Mr Roberts got an umbrella full of the yummy fruit, but he’s asking his helper to pick enough for everyone.

And so it goes on until the park is alive with magic and music courtesy of the butterfly band. Everyone joins the dance

except one rather unsavoury character watching from the side with his eyes firmly on that umbrella; a foxy gentleman with only one thing in mind – a very selfish thing.

Can that umbrella work its own special magic yet again and perhaps enable a state of perfection to pervade the entire park?

Debut author/illustrator Elena Arevalo Melville’s use of a minimal colour palette until the penultimate spread serves to make that illustration all the more perfect too. Her somewhat surreal tale of empathy, kindness and community is one to share and discuss at every opportunity.

Then I’d suggest asking listeners to make their own wishes. Perhaps they could write them down and drop them into a partially open umbrella safely secured in a strategic spot.

The Antlered Ship

The Antlered Ship
Dashka Slater and The Fan Brothers
Lincoln Children’s Books

Fox Marco has an insatiable appetite for knowledge: ‘Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?’ he wonders while his fellow foxes merely ponder upon the nature of their next meal.

When a huge antlered ship docks at the harbour, Marco goes down to the waterside where he discovers from crew members that the ship has got lost (they admit to being poor sailors).

Intent on discovering more foxes to answer his questions, Marco, along with a flock of pigeons, joins the crew

and they embark on a voyage bound for an island upon which tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees grow.

Their journey is hard: the sailors battle against stormy weather, their own fears and meagre rations. Days of drifting dampen their enthusiasm for adventure and it’s left to Marco to keep up the spirits of his fellow travellers.

Finally though, having fended off a pirate attack,

the ship reaches the island. Thereon his fellow crew members sate their appetites for sweet things but Marco’s hunt for foxes yields not a single one.

Instead though he does make some important discoveries and draws some conclusions about the nature of friendship and community, asking questions and seeking answers.

As with The Night Gardener and The Darkest Night, the Fan Brothers attention to detail in their pen and pencil illustrations is immaculate. Be they seascapes or portrayals of the happenings below deck, there’s a crepuscular quality about many of their richly textured scenes, while those on the island take on the brighter verdant hues of the animals’ surroundings.

Dashka Slater’s is a story to get lost in, and one to provoke questions of the philosophical kind among thoughtful readers and listeners. Who can but marvel at the artistic brilliance of Eric and Terry Fan and delight in the portrayal of such characters as the peg-legged, red bandana sporting pigeon?

Good Morning, Neighbour

Good Morning, Neighbour
Davide Cali and Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press

It all begins when Mouse decides to make an omelette, the problem being he lacks an egg. Mouse asks his neighbour Blackbird.

Blackbird doesn’t have one but offers flour and the suggestion they make a cake. They both call on Dormouse but instead of an egg, Dormouse provides butter for the cake and suggests they find Mole who has sugar – still no egg however.

Could Hedgehog oblige perhaps. The animals roll up at his home and ask.

No luck; and so it continues as the group adds fruit, cinnamon (for flavour) and raisins to their list of ingredients but as yet not that elusive egg.

Thank goodness then for Bat.

The culinary activities begin with all the animals doing their bit.

Now who can offer the use of an oven? Owl obliges and the cake is duly ready to eat.

“How many slices should I cut?” asks Owl. All who contributed an ingredient must surely get a piece but what about Mouse. Surely he won’t be left out; or will he?

Young listeners and readers will delightedly join in with the growing list of animals as well as the “Good morning, neighbour,” refrain.

Davide Cali’s tale of collaborative endeavour is illustrated in rather charming folk-art style watercolour illustrations that embody the feeling of camaraderie that exists among the forest animals and in the end the ingredients of warmth, friendship and teamwork that contribute towards its making are as important as the edible ones that go into the cake.

A tasty tale and a great lesson in co-operation and sharing that provides plenty of food for thought.

Errol’s Garden

Errol’s Garden
Gillian Hibbs
Child’s Play

Urban tower-block-dwelling Errol loves to grow things; he knows he’s good at the job as his family starts running out of space in their cramped home. The green-fingered lad dreams of having a real garden to cultivate and one day discovers the perfect spot: a flat roof on top of the very block he lives in.

With the help of his Dad and small sister, he researches

and then enlists the help of all his friends and neighbours and together they draw up a plan.

Everyone has something to contribute …

and they each take on a different aspect of project garden until together they create a smashing green space that’s full of plants both edible and beautiful to look at.

What joy to be able to harvest produce from right there atop their very own place of residence

and to have a place that’s constantly changing and surprising them.

As well as a celebration of cultivating a community garden, this smashing story celebrates diversity and co-operation.
Errol is both enterprising and inspiring: a lad to emulate no matter whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural environment.

I am at present living in a house in the country with a huge garden, so I know the enormous pleasure of being able to consume home-grown produce – plums, apples, strawberries, beans, tomatoes and chard – to name just some of its bounties, for several months of the year. You can’t beat that and it’s what bursts forth from Gillian Hibbs’ super spreads.

Thoroughly recommended for families and classrooms.

The Dog that Ate the World

The Dog that Ate the World
Sandra Dieckmann
Flying Eye Books

Down in the valley the various animals live alongside each other peaceably, birds with birds, bears fishing with bears and fox playing his fiddle to other foxes.

Then, one fateful day across the pastures comes an unwanted canine intruder, large and greedy. He helps himself to whatever he wants in the way of food and drink, growing ever larger.
In an attempt to assuage the hunger of the beastly dog, the fox with his fiddle approaches him and plays a song.

He’s rewarded for his efforts by being consumed by the dog, but despite this the fox continues playing his song from within.

It’s heard without by a trio of brave bunnies that resolve to rescue the fox,

but they too end up inside the dog.

Peace-makers attempt to talk, trick and tire the beast, all to no avail; the dog swallows the lot.
Trapped within, the animals light a fire, talk and work, until eventually as life continues to flourish, so too does hope.

Nonetheless the gluttonous and now prodigious, dog continues stuffing himself until finally, down too, goes the sun and the entire sky. The beast has eaten his entire world.

And what of the other animals? Let’s just say that brightness surrounds them. In their world, there’s no place for such an animal as that voracious dog and all is peace, harmony and togetherness.

The forest animals in Sandra Dieckmann’s second picture book demonstrate so well to us humans, the importance of friendship and community when disaster strikes. Her striking colour palette, mixed-media, richly detailed scenes of flora and fauna, and slightly mystical landscapes draw one in and hold you while you ponder both composition and meaning.

Surely an allegory of our times and one that is open to many interpretations. However one sees that all consuming metaphorical dog, be it as consumerism, capitalism, or evil itself, this book is sure to engender discussion no matter the age of the audience.

Information Briefing:Bees, Gardening & Cities

What on Earth? Bees
Andrea Quigley and Paulina Morgan
The author and illustrator of the latest in the ‘What On Earth?’ series offer a cross-curricular approach to a fascinating and vitally important insect, the bee.
It’s packed with fascinating information, interesting things to investigate, art and craft activities, poems, stories – I had a good laugh over the folk tale from Thailand telling ‘When bees were friends with elephants’; there’s even a recipe for delicious honey flapjacks – mmm!
Most pertinent though, since our native bees are under threat, are the projects which aim to increase potential nesting spots: for bumble bees ‘Make a bumble bee ‘n’ bee’; and ‘Build a solitary bee home’ for bees such as the leafcutter and mason bees to nest in.
Although each spread is chock full of information, the presentation with copious bright, attractive and sometimes amusing, illustrations, speech bubbles and factual snippets on bold colour blocks is never overwhelming.

This stylish book is certainly worth adding to a family book collection or primary school topic box.

The Children’s Garden
Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan
Little Bigfoot
This appealing story inspired by a real community garden for children in Seattle is a debut book for both author and illustrator.
A sign on the gate welcomes readers in to ‘listen, see, smell, touch – even taste’
and to read this book really does feel like a multi-sensory experience.
We start with the deep, dark soil, ‘rich with rotted grass, apple peels and onion skins,’ into which the children dig and then scatter their seeds. They pat, water …

and weed and soon are rewarded by the appearance of tiny sprouting plants.
It’s not long before the whole space is filled with a profusion of ‘tomato clusters’, ‘sunflower stands’, ‘green bean tents’, ‘strawberry clusters’ and more.

Peppermint to smell and chew.

A rich reward for their labours but also a place to have fun and to relax.

Imaginative language and bold, bright illustrations and splendid seed packet endpapers make this portrait of a bountiful co-operative gardening project a delight.
I’d like to think it will inspire adults to help youngsters seek out similar local projects or failing that, contemplate starting such an enterprise for children in their own neighbourhood.

In Focus: Cities
Libby Walden et al.
360 Degrees
You can be a globetrotter without moving from your sofa in what is very much a bits and pieces look at ten of the world’s most iconic cities – their culture, their character and their civilisations – landmarks and artefacts of cultures ancient and modern (largely hidden beneath the gate fold flaps).
Starting with New York, and encompassing Tokyo,

Paris, Rome, Moscow, Istanbul, Sydney, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro and London, each of the destinations has a different illustrator, ensuring that the diversity of the cities is heightened.
The author manages to pack a great deal of information into each fold-out spread so that readers will find themselves becoming engrossed in such unlikely topics as tulips and Turkish delight (Istanbul), or catacombs and cancan dancing (Paris).
An appetite whetter and an engrossing one at that!

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Everybody’s Welcome

Everybody’s Welcome
Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott
Caterpillar Books
In our increasingly troubled times, picture books such as this, with its strong inclusivity message, are more important than ever.
It came about as the result of a strong desire on the part of Tom Truong of Caterpillar Books in reaction to the shattering news that the UK had voted to leave the EU, to produce a book for parents like himself to share with young children that embodied ‘ideals of refuge, inclusivity and friendship’.
Currently living in Stroud, a town that since the Syrian crisis, has adopted the catchphrase ‘Everyone welcome in Stroud’ I felt immediately drawn to this poignant, political tale of empathy, acceptance and collaboration.
We start the story with mouse standing in a forest clearing, dreaming of building ‘a great big happy house’.

It’s not long before mouse is joined by a frog who has lost his pond and has nowhere to go. Together they start constructing and before long are joined by some runaway rabbits fleeing from an eagle; they are only too willing to help with the project. Next to come is a misunderstood brown bear; he has much to offer the enterprise and is welcomed with open arms.

Building continues apace with more and more animals coming to join in and a spirit of co-operation rules throughout.
What this allegorical rhyming story shows so clearly is that despite superficial differences, we all have much to offer one another. With open arms, open minds and open hearts we can embrace our fellow humans in a spirit of co-operation and unity.

Greg Abbott’s animal illustrations, with his use of cut down pages, really do bring out both the woefulness of the displaced animals, and the spirit of collaborative bonhomie as each one is welcomed, accepted and a new open community is formed.

A thoughtful Emmanuelle whose final comment on Everybody’s Welcome was  “We all need to be kind.”

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Adelaide’s Secret World


Adelaide’s Secret World
Elise Hurst
Murdoch Books
Adelaide’s life has become a solitary one: her once busy world of wonders now shrunk to a behind the red-curtain, glass-jar-filled existence. From the window she observes the sunrise, the ships entering the port and the loners in the city below. In the evenings, she uses her art to re-create what she’s seen by day; but there always seems to be something lacking.


Then one day, feeling restless Adelaide heads out, despite the gathering clouds into the hustling, bustling city. As the storm gathers apace, she notices by chance a fox dropping his book as he dashes through the crowds. Without a moment’s thought, Adelaide retrieves the book – a sketch book – and follows its owner back to his home; and through the window the sight that meets her eyes is one of recognition. ‘And she knew them all – the dancers, the lost ones, the midnight cat and herself, Adelaide.


Then the door is opened and ‘though her heart called out she could make no sound.’ – Such a beautiful portrayal of coming face to face with your true soul mate.
Having handed over the book and dashed home, Adelaide’s world spins in turmoil


and a change happens: the seemingly impossible becomes the possible. It’s not only her world that changes though: things in the city will never again be the same: there’s laughter and music … ‘And those who had once been lonely and silent … found their voices.’
To read this is to step onto a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s just SO breathtakingly moving and ultimately, uplifting. I particularly love the way that red curtain behind which Adelaide has retreated, and its unravelling, by and by becomes the means through which she and other lonely residents of the locality reach out and become linked to one another.


Books such as this are so important at the present when there’s so much talk of building walls, with countries breaking away from one another, looking inwards rather than outwards: it’s a timely and potent reminder that open-heartedness and the courage to reach out, to speak out against xenophobia, racism and the like can, little by little, bring change for the better.
There’s a near sublime quality about Elise Hurst’s oil-paintings and the way in which these, interwoven with her equally poetic words, create a synergy that moved this particular reviewer to tears and at the same time, fuelled a determination to continue working as a bridge builder in the spirit of Adelaide. What a gamut of emotions her colour palette arouses too: the contrasting greys and deep greeny-blues and browns of the storm both external and within the main character; and the contrasting orange and especially, red that is ever present representing a spark of spirit, warmth and the power of the imagination.

The Night Gardener


The Night Gardener
Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
William resides in Grimloch Orphanage and as he gazes from his window one morning he discovers that overnight an enormous owl has been fashioned from the foliage of the tree outside. Now if one turns back to the dedication page it’s evident that the same child has been at work, drawing a similar feathered creature in the dust, and that passing by, is a bowler hatted man carrying a ladder and a bag of tools. The title page shows that same man working with his shears on the tree in front of the orphanage building.
Awed by this seemingly magical happening, William spends the day staring at the piece of topiary, and at bedtime he goes to sleep ‘with a sense of excitement’.
The following morning another amazing sight meets William’s eyes and, the scene has taken on a rather more colourful appearance as other members of the community too, have come to wonder at the sight.


Subsequent mornings bring further wonderful creations (the spreads, in tandem take on more colour)


and as William ventures forth, excitedly following the crowds, he discovers that not only have some of the neighbours been doing a spot of grooming of their own tatty-looking abodes, but also the topiarist has created his best work yet and celebrations are in full swing.


As night envelops the town, William returns home and en route, encounters a certain gentleman who is about to change his life for the better (well strictly speaking, he’s already done that and that of the other community members)


but the gifts he receives, as the seasons change the look of the foliage, will have a lasting effect on everyone in the neighbourhood, not least of whom is William.
This is a superb demonstration – visual and verbal – of how a caring adult, art and a touch of magic can transform the life, not just of one small boy, but also, of a whole community. The text flows perfectly but its combination with the Fan Brothers illustrative artistry puts this into a realm far above most picture books.

Mr Tweed’s Busy Day


Mr Tweed’s Busy Day
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Mr Tweed is a dapper dog on his daily walk to town. En route he meets and comes to the aid of, all manner of members of his local community searching for various lost creatures or items. Little Colin Rocodile has lost his new kite.


Turning the page reveals a park spread full of almost surreal scenery and all manner of animal characters depicted in purple, orange, green and blue hues.
Thus a pattern is established: one double spread presenting the problem followed by another with the scene to search for the lost items, a search readers will enthusiastically undertake in Stoten’s various whimsical locations.
Mrs Fluffycuddle has lost her 2 kittens, Mr McMeow’s 3 pet mice have escaped in – of all places – the library …


After which there are 4 goldfish, 5 arrows – those shot by Big Bear Bob somewhere in the woods, 6 pineapples (a prickly matter) but of course Mr T. is quite up to finding those too; after all, they’ve just got to be in that busy market.
Oh my goodness, now what can be the matter with tearful Little Penny Paws?


Oh no! The wind has whisked away the bunch of flowers she’s bought for her mum and 7 flowers are floating somewhere on the river …


Young Billy Webber’s socks are also a victim of the wind so 8 of them need spotting, as do the 9 balloons belonging to Pingle located somewhere among the rides at the fair.
Job done, Mr T starts heading home. Then who should come running up but Pete Weasel and seemingly now the helpful dog himself has one more search to undertake – at the street party the grateful folk he’s assisted are throwing for him as a ‘thank you’; and there are 10 surprise presents all for him, to be located.
There’s a kind of ‘Where’s Wally?’ feel to this with an added counting element. Mr Tweed is an enthusiastic helper and of course his tasks are – ultimately, thanks to the reader – rewarding. Readers in turn are rewarded by the fun of the search and find aspects, as well as the sheer wackiness of the whole book.
Hours of visual exploration and further hours of potential talk herein, especially if groups of children together participate in the search.


Frog and Beaver


Frog and Beaver
Simon James
Walker Books
Frog and his friends the duck family and the vole family live together sharing the river and life’s pretty peachy. Then one day what should come swimming down the river but a beaver, a beaver in search of a place to build his very first dam.


Frog’s enthusiastic welcome sells the place to him and straightway Beaver sets his chompers to work.
Next morning though, much to the consternation of Vole and Duck, there’s a decided lack of water in their stretch of river.


Frog sets off to have a word with Beaver but the creature’s too wrapped up in his endeavour to heed Frog’s anxious words and after several attempts to get him to see their point of view, Frog is forced to pass on the Beaver’s suggestion, “Why don’t you all move up here?” to his friends.
Less than happy, the water voles and ducks shift upstream and set about making new homes. Beaver meanwhile continues building enthusiastically, paying no heed to repeated warnings about the volume of water building up, and is finally ready to show off his completed construction. But then …


Has Beaver finally learned his lesson about doing things in moderation and can Frog truly become friends with someone so different and so wrapped up in his own concerns?
Simon James’ gentle humour pervades the riverside scenes executed in his signature style pen and watercolours.


The small close-ups of Frog enthusiastically leaping up and down on Beaver’s back to expel all the excess water he’d swallowed are a hoot.


Du Iz Tak?


Du Iz Tak?
Carson Ellis
Walker Books
Google translate often comes to the rescue when one is confronted with a piece of text in an unfamiliar language. I doubt it would be of help here though for the characters in this story speak ‘insect’. It’s delivered in dialogue – nonsense dialogue unless of course, you happen to be a damselfly or another insect.
Du iz tak?” one asks the other as a pair of damselflies gaze upon an unfurling shoot. “Ma nazoot.” comes the reply. Now, as this brief exchange is contextualised by the picture we can take a guess at its meaning ‘What is that?’ and ‘I don’t know.’ in the same way somebody learning English as an additional language might.
Time passes: The shoot continues to grow and to the left, the dangling caterpillar has become a pupa. More bugs discuss the ‘thing’ -a plant, but what kind? They need something:“Ru badda unk ribble.” We need a ladder – context again.
They call on Icky who lives, conveniently, close by …


A ladder is produced, a cricket serenades the moon …


and work on building a ‘furt’ starts. Then danger presents itself in the form of an ominous arachnid


that soon starts enveloping their enterprise in a large web, until that is, along comes a large bird putting paid to that. Happily the gladdenboot remains intact and eventually, fully unfurled delights both the whole insect community and readers.


That however is not quite the end of the story for the cycle of nature must take its course with further transformations – plant and animal – so the whole thing can start over … and over and …
By this time readers will most likely be fluent readers of ‘insectspeak’, but whether or not this is so matters not: the superbly whimsical story visuals carry you through with their own spectacular grammar.
I do wonder whether despite being from the US, Carson Ellis could be having a satirical dig at the nonsense words six year olds are asked to read in that ridiculous phonics test they’re faced with towards the end of Y1; the one that many who read for meaning come unstuck with; the one the government insists is assessing reading. It’s not. At best, it’s merely assessing one aspect – decoding. Rant over: this extraordinary book is a total delight.

At Sea with Captain Cranky & Mayday Mouse


Captain Cranky & Seadog Steve
Vivian French and Alison Bartlett
Little Door Books
Captain Crankie lives with his canine pal Seadog Steve beside the sea. They spend their days taking villagers and visitors to watch seals and dolphins in the Mary Rose, and their evenings together in their tidy home. However, the locals are a messy lot: they leave all kinds of rubbish lying around spoiling the look of the place and upsetting the captain. Enough’s enough, he decides and he and Steve drag and haul all the rubbish back to their house, load it into the Mary Rose and set off out to sea where they jettison the lot overboard, leaving it to sink down into the depths. Before long though, there is a whole lot more rubbish …which also ends up in the same place deep under the waves much to the consternation of mermaid Millie. She resolves to speak to Capain Crankie and next evening she’s there waiting atop a rock as the Mary Rose heads out with another cargo of rubbish. Before long Millie is leading the Captain and Seadog Steve on a deep sea dive to see the results of the Captain’s thoughtless dumping.


What’s to be done? It seems Seadog Steve might have a good idea up his sleeve…


The result of the villagers’ fishing expedition is certainly some unexpected hauls; but it’s not long before everything has been put to a new and exciting use and everyone is happy.


An important environmental message is embedded in this charming story. It’s told in a straightforward manner that is easy to read and easy to absorb without being simplistic, by Vivian French; and through Alison Bartlett’s richly coloured, detailed illustrations.


Mayday Mouse
Seb Braun
Child’s Play
I really love Captain Mouse’s spirit of determination and optimism in the face of adversity. She sets out in her walnut shell boat one sunny day with an important mission – to deliver her brother’s birthday present. Her friends bid her “Bon voyage” warning her to keep watch for “big waves and watery perils” and instructing her to shout “MAYDAY” should she need their help. Mouse however is convinced all will be well; but then the wind drops. Undaunted, she whistles a sea shanty three times and lo and behold, back comes the wind and off she goes again with the wind getting stronger and stronger …
Suddenly, down comes the rain, the boat starts filling with water and a storm blows up …


tossing mouse and boat into the air and towards a crashing sound and ‘a dark and dangerous cave’.
Quick-thinking Captain Mouse steers past only to find herself about to crash into some large rocks and the next moment …


What is it that Mouse is thinking? Surely not “This is the end of me!” as she hurtles onto a small sandy island where, cold and exhausted, she’s soon fast asleep.


Is she going to be left stranded or will she eventually reach her brother and deliver that birthday surprise? It’s fortunate then, that she keeps her cool, remembers her resourceful friends’ instructions and …


Here they come with everything needed for a quick repair to her boat and off they go.
There’s a lovely musical finale that delighted my audience and had them joining in with the birthday greetings .


Despite the very damp interlude, this is a thoroughly heart-warming story with a plucky little heroine. Good on you Captain Mouse. Did you spot the polluting object in that final scene? It was certainly a hazard for our heroine.

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Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat


Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat
Katie Harnett
Flying Eye Books
For an ailurophobic reviewer (the creatures make me wheezy and sneezy) to admit to being in love with a moggy means he must be something special; and Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius (I’ll henceforward call him ASOVCT), resident of Blossom Street, is surely that. The thing is this animal has a place in well nigh every residence on the street: belonging to everybody and nobody, he strolls from home to home, seemingly assuming a different guise for each friend he calls upon. Indeed this feline character has acquired a different name at each house: hence he’s Archie at breakfast time with Mr Green at number three …


Snufflekins and more at number thirteen, Madame Betty’s residence …


Moreover, he participates in a whole gamut of activities in one single busy day.


However, there is one house ASOVCT never visits, in fact no one ever visits number eleven, residence of the lonely Mrs Murray. Her life is far from busy; she passes her time knitting, watching TV and warming her feet by the fire.
Then, one day our moggy decides to pay Mrs Murray a visit …


and from that day on, everything begins to change on Blossom Street …


Perfectly pitched and paced in its telling, inhabited by a host of wonderful characters, not least our enormously endearing hero ASOVCT; and warmly illustrated with gentle humour and touches of pathos, this is a book that will certainly resonate with children and adults – young or not so young. In addition to being a wonderful story, the book speaks volumes in this age of smartphones and social media about the importance of face-to-face human interactions, a sense of community and belonging.
Let’s hear it for Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius, his creator Katie Harnett, and for Flying Eye Books for yet another glorious picture book.

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Mabrook! A World of Muslim Weddings

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Mabrook! A World of Muslim Weddings
Na’ima B Robert and Shirin Adi
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Mahbrook, the title of this fascinating book means ‘congratulations’ (or I think, ‘you are blessed’) in Arabic, certainly a sentiment one would want to pass on to a couple who have just got married: ‘Muslims from around the world share the same religious rites, but they celebrate in different ways in the four corners of the world.’ We then visit various countries to get a glimpse of the particular celebration that might take place when Muslims living there get married.
First stop is Pakistan where there’s a pre wedding henna party in full swing:

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the bride’s hands and feet are being adorned with beautiful, intricate henna designs while family and friends enjoy some dancing. The following day, the groom rides in on a white horse, the bride, bedecked with gold, hides beneath her silks awaiting her husband to be. There’s a huge feast awaiting everyone once the baraat arrives and other formalities have taken place.
Morocco is the next wedding venue. There, weddings are community affairs when all the neighbours spend days cooking delicious food: couscous, roast lamb with olives and pickled lemons sufficient to feed the huge number of guests expected. The bride changes her dress seven times at the waleemah (feast for the community) into which she is carried by the crowds. There is much joy as the bride dances in a circle of song.

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Traditional Somali dance to drums music and song is part and parcel of a wedding in Somalia …

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In Britain the bride might wear a white hijab and have guests from many different faiths and backgrounds. Here’s one happy celebration:

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Those are just some of the ways Muslim weddings are celebrated but in addition to having the same rites there are formalities that will be common no matter where the celebration takes place: important family meetings and discussions, a marriage contract, conditions that must be respected, guidance is sought for a blessed union and the groom pledges the mahr be it gold, a home, a ring or whatever she wishes – a dowry for his bride to be, the ceremony, in front of witnesses, is performed by the imam.

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A new journey awaits the happy couple …
With its beautiful mendhi designs adorning the inside covers, glowing illustrations on every spread, and fascinating facts about aspects of wedding celebrations, this is a book to inform, to delight, to draw on for RE discussions and most of all, to further the celebration not only of the particular topic herein, but of the rich cultural diversity that is part of what makes our world such an exciting place.

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