Christopher MacGregor and Emma Yarlett
Picture Corgi pbk
This is by way of a companion volume to Daddy’s Going Away from the same author/artist partnership, only herein it is Dad who is left in charge when Mum is elsewhere. Again we share the feelings of an alien child narrator as she assists her mum (and herself) prepare for the departure; and then it’s over to Dad to keep the ship afloat
and provide jellybeans to help in the countdown until her return. In the meantime of course, there are letters and phone calls to be exchanged,
not to mention emails.
Having a Mum who comes and goes like the one in this rhyming story is very hard for children of all ages to cope with but this particular family are up front and talk about everything; and that helps enormously. But at last, there are preparations for Mum’s homecoming to get under way
and then …
In setting the story in a virtual alien world, as Emma Yarlett does, she somehow allows children more easily to enter that place from which to become aware, the space which is so important for young children to be able to access that is provided by a good story.
Alfie and Grandma
Red Fox pbk
This is more of a repackaging than completely new material in that it brings together three previously published stories which focus on Alfie’s relationship with his Gran; it’s a treat (especially for Grans and their grandchildren) to have them in one book nevertheless. And if you are an Alfie fan and don’t already have the books these tales originally appeared in, then you’ll surely want to have this one.
In the first story, we join Alfie, Annie Rose and Grandma as they help a neighbour hunt for her missing tortoise, Winnie. They spend all day looking but to no avail and at suppertime Alfie in particular, is very upset. So, after supper, Grandma takes them on one last Winnie hunt before bedtime. Alfie fears the animal might have fallen into a ditch somewhere
but an exhaustive search along the road yields nothing so they start back empty-handed.
Then, Alfie stops to look carefully at the stones in Mrs Hall’s cottage garden; one of them certainly isn’t white like the others, so could it perhaps be…
The second story is a delightful description of Alfie, Annie Rose and Grandmas’ wet day as the rainy outdoor adventure they start out on gives way to a rather drier, indoor one that takes them on A Journey
to the North Pole, which also serves as Grandma’s attic.
Alfie and Gran assist a strayed sheep with a mind of its own get back to the rest of the flock
in the third story and the book ends with a map showing Grandma’s House and all the places around it that have been mentioned in the episodes, helping to put everything in context.
Pure pleasure, as are all things Alfie.
Grandma in Blue with Red Hat
Scott Menchin and Harry Bliss
The boy narrator of this story goes to a Saturday morning art class at the museum, an exciting activity where his teacher maintains that “Anything can be art. Toys, hair clips, guitars, water bottles. Anything”. After some musings on the part of the narrator, there follows a discussion among the children about art and artists. “… it’s beautiful.” says one, “different,” another thinks;
but it can also tell a story, come from far away, make you feel good, be funny or unique, suggest others.
This discussion induces in the young protagonist an interesting, indeed inspiring notion. His Grandma ought to be in the museum, he decides and even goes so far as to suggest it to the museum curator. Fortunately for both boy and Grandma, his offer is rejected and the boy has a much better idea. His beautiful, different, funny, story-telling relation who makes him feel good and comes from far away can instead become the subject for an exhibition to celebrate her amazingness.
And so she does, when the young narrator puts together an entire mixed-media collection.
Bliss in contrast, uses watercolour and pen and ink for his re-creations of famous works of art, and the human characters who populate the story. In combination with Menchin’s minimal text and speech bubbles, this author/artist partnership offers young readers the opportunity to become art critics as well as perhaps inspiring them to venture down the creative path with some family portraits of their own making. And one thing all readers are likely to come away with is an abiding memory that Picasso “liked to paint in his underwear.”
Fun, expansive empowering and inspiring.
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