Flights of Fancy: How to Drive a Roman Chariot / The Girl and the Dinosaur

How to Drive a Roman Chariot
Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves
Simon & Schuster Children’s

This tenth Albie adventure that celebrates young children and their imagination, begins as he’s out with his mum feeding some horses when the rain starts.

Taking shelter in a barn, Albie comes upon a girl named Julia with her problematic knitting. The next thing he knows is that he is whisked back in time to Ancient Rome and he and Julia are chasing after a runaway chariot.

Having managed to leap aboard as the horses gallop straight for the crowded market, a fearless Julia grabs hold of the reins and steers the chariot clear.

That however isn’t the only thing she wants to do: young Julia is determined to prove to everyone who says they can’t, that girls CAN drive chariots. Can they win races too, I wonder?

Whoever said ancient history is boring?

The Girl and the Dinosaur
Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Just imagine if you had a dinosaur: that is what happens to the little girl Marianne we see digging on the beach of a seaside town on the first spread of this book. Watched by the fisherfolk concerned about her lack of friends, Marianne methodically digs up and assembles (Mary Anning style) a complete skeleton that she names Bony.

Back in bed that night she wishes life into her ‘stony bones’ and in a sky aglow with dreams, awakens a deeply slumbering dinosaur and takes off on its back into a beautiful world of wonder and magic.

The two go first to the sea and then after a dip, visit an enchanted forest alive with fairies and unicorns.

They climb to the top of a mountain, then taking a ‘mighty leap of faith’ soar up and away towards a magical island among the clouds to a very special party for children and their dream world creatures.

However eventually slumbers call, the party must end; and reveries over, it’s time to return to those empty beds.

Thereafter the story comes full circle and we’re back on the beach, only now Marianne is not alone and the fisherfolk are no longer concerned, for the single girl has been joined by lots of other children each one digging for their very own dinosaur.

Hold fast to dreams as you share Hollie Hughes’ lyrical rhyming story and Sarah Massini’s wonderfully whimsical, atmospheric illustrations of the real and dream worlds.

A great snuggle up at bedtime tale that will linger long in the mind and perhaps fuel the dreams of your little ones as, lulled by the soporific nature of the narrative, they too head off to slumberland.

Sleep Well Siba & Saba / The Frog in the Well

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn
Lantana Publishing
Sisters, Siba and Saba are inveterate losers of things, be it sweaters – seven of them; silver sandals ‘on sandy beaches at Ssese islands’ ; even their bedroom slippers go missing.
Strangely though, they never manage to lose one another; and when their papa had sung them to off sleep, “Sula bulungi, Siba and Saba,”, the sisters would find their lost possessions in their dreams.

One night though, their dreams are of things not lost – a silver shilling for Siba and a ‘stiffly starched school uniform’ for Saba.

Sisters as close as these two share everything, so when they wake from their slumbers, Siba and Saba share their dreamtime sorties. The following day two very unexpected things happen: I expect you can guess what they are: rather than be a story-spoiler though I’ll just say that from that day forward, those sisters always set their sights firmly on the future and what it might bring …

Such eloquence of words and pictures; this simply sparkles with brilliance.
Isdahl’s sibilant text combines with stunningly beautiful scenes of the sisters both inside and outdoors in the African landscapes.

The Frog in the Well
Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
An oldie but goodie: I think I may somewhere have a very old edition of this enchanting book from way back when I used to visit the USA fairly frequently. Now it’s been given a new lease of life by the New York Review. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it centres on a well-residing frog who leads a contented life thinking his well is the whole world; “The world is nothing but moss-covered rocks … with a pool of water at the bottom.” is what he tells himself. But then the well-water dries up and the frog is forced to emerge into “the end of the world”

Deciding to take a look around, he discovers all kinds of ‘end-of-the-world’ creatures, learns a few things and eventually becomes a very wise, wide world-loving frog ready to take the longest leap he’s ever made …

For, “A foolish frog can be happy all alone at the bottom of a well, but a clever frog can be much happier out here.”
With its supremely brilliant visual perspectives and thought-provoking words, this still has much to offer 21st century readers and listeners, who will bring to the story an entirely different perspective from that of audiences when it was published in 1958.
More classic Duvoisin comes in:

The House of Four Seasons
Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
A wonderful celebration of colour, the seasons and endeavour: and built into this uplifting story are lessons on colour mixing, and a demonstration of how to create a colour wheel.
Both books offer a great opportunity to discover or re-discover some vintage gems from over 60 years ago.

I’ve signed the charter  

Magical Journeys of the Night

DSCN6996 (800x795)

Before I Wake Up …
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel Publishing
As she sails away on a flying bed, a little girl narrator takes readers on her dream journey into the glowing moonlit world and, pausing first to take on board her lion friend, into her imaginary ‘world without end’. Cares and worries are left far behind as – child enfolded in Lion’s strong arms – they weather storms …

 

DSCN6997 (775x800)

then rock gently on calmer waters. Leaving Lion aboard the boat, the little girl swims with whales and other marine animals …

DSCN6998 (800x415)

and then the two are transported into a wood dark and deep – a wood full of wild creatures that wander free …

DSCN6999 (800x406)

creatures that present no danger to the narrator. For with her protective lion always close at hand, she feels fearless and longs to remain in the murky world on the shadowy forest. But as morning light begins to show, it’s time to flee from dark and move into the bright of day’s dawn; time to bid a fond farewell to her furry nocturnal friend, safe in the knowledge that after another day, his arms will always be there waiting to welcome her once more.

DSCN7002 (800x405)

I’ve long been a fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work but this one might just be my favourite. Imagined worlds are conjured into being in her wondrous dreamy scenes rendered in a glowing collage style that is densely layered and alternates between rich earthy hues …

DSCN7003 (800x405)

and more subdued ones.
Share this one at bedtime, morning time, any time, but share it you must, it’s a real beauty.

DSCN6992 (736x800)

Goodnight Spaceman
Michelle Robinson and Nick East
Puffin Books
It’s bedtime and we join two small child narrators as they bid goodnight to the various items in their small world space set,

DSCN6993 (800x439)

putting them carefully into the toy box at the end of the day. Then having also bid goodnight to their father’s rocket ship deep in space, the children embark on an imaginary flight far out into the darkest world of outer space. There, they rendezvous with the space station –

DSCN6994 (800x443)

meet the crew …

DSCN6995 (800x439)

and with their dad, enjoy a space walk addressing the extra terrestrial sights as they go. ‘Goodnight Neptune. Goodnight Venus. Goodnight light years in between us. Rocket ships and shooting stars. Saturn, Mercury and Mars.’
All too soon though, it’s time to return to earth and snuggle down in their cosy beds with thoughts of their spaceman dad ever in their minds.
Inspired by the mission of British astronaut Tim Peake, who himself has two young sons, this lyrical space odyssey will delight young listeners around the age of the two protagonists who will revel in the adventure at bedtime or anytime. In all my years of teaching young children I’ve not come across many who do not take delight in space stories and play with small world space theme toys. Let’s hope that this book will, as Tim Peake suggests in his introductory letter to readers, ‘inspire a new generation of boys and girls to look up at the stars and not just ask questions but to go there and seek answers of their own.’ Nick East’s dramatic illustrations should certainly go some way to fuelling that inspiration and their imaginations.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Jane Ray’s The Nutcracker

DSCN5803 (800x600)

Dolci is entranced by the story.

The Nutcracker
Jane Ray
Orchard Books
From its peep around the curtain opening I was totally captivated by Jane Ray’s rendition of the well-known Nutcracker story. With one breathtakingly beautiful spread after another she turns it into something truly magical – a must have book for this Christmas season (and all year round).
The tale of Clara and her unusual gift – the toy soldier Nutcracker from her toymaker godfather – is tenderly and eye-wateringly rendered as readers are treated to first, the anticipation of things to come in the welcoming guests to the party…

DSCN5892 (800x600)

the gathering around the tree scene and the arrival of Herr Drosselmeyr. Then follows Clara’s sadness at the accidentally broken arm of her Nutcracker, followed by another happy gathering – around the dinner table this time.
Possibly my favourite view of all comes next: the one Clara sees having crept downstairs from her bed when ‘The house was shadowy in the moonlight. The candles were all snuffed out and the fire had burnt down to a heap of glowing embers. The only sounds were the ticking of the grandfather clock, and an owl calling from the snowy garden. ‘ (How beautifully the prose flows.)
In a dark corner by the tree, Clara could just make out tiny lights glowing.’

DSCN5894 (800x600)

Next come scenes of the mouse army and the toy soldiers rallying and the challenge of the Mouse King by a transformed Nutcracker who, aided and abetted by Clara, sees off the attackers. Thereafter comes the voyage of Clara and the Nutcracker to his realm, the Kingdom of Sweets, to see the Sugar Plum Fairy …

DSCN5895 (800x600)

and the other amazing dancing delights from every land. This, as adults know, culminates in an invitation for Clara and the Nutcracker to join the dazzling dance …

DSCN5896 (800x600)

and the dream fades … to Christmas morning.
The awed silence of my audience, quickly followed by “again, again” requests, speaks for itself.

Use your local bookshop         localbookshops_NameImage-2