You Can!

You Can!
Alexandra Stick and Steve Antony
Otter-Barry Books

Here’s a book that began with children: those children from diverse backgrounds who responded to Alexandra Strickland’s question what they would say to their younger selves to inspire, reassure and enthuse them about the future. This wonderful book with Steve’s brilliantly inclusive illustrations using fourteen child characters, represents their answers.

We then follow these characters as they grow from babies (on the front endpapers), to toddlers, to young children, to older children and finally, into young adults (on the back endpapers). The cast of characters truly is diverse, as their wide variety of interests, identities, friendships and futures develop as readers turn the pages.

It’s definitely no holds barred: you can be anything you want, do anything you want (including ‘love a good picture book whatever your age’) hurrah! –

safe in the knowledge that it’s fine to be sad or angry, to talk about your feelings and discover what makes you happy.

Equally, it’s important to have big dreams and pursue them using whatever path it takes, be a leader or a follower, not forgetting to make time for playfulness and silliness along the way.

It’s important to realise that those fears of yesterday will be today’s challenges and tomorrow’s achievements, practice can be fun and learning should be enjoyable.

We see that seemingly small individual actions can inspire other people and together all those small somethings can and do make a difference. Equally though everybody has rights.

Not everybody needs to do things in the same way, but all honest ways must be equally valid: doing something differently is doing it nonetheless.

On this journey through life, it’s crucial to know that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process; it’s important too, that you forgive yourself as well as others, and ask adults for help if you need. Be yourself, for yourself, determined, supportive, an individual who doesn’t allow others to categorise you, is kind and empathetic: self-belief is key probably now more than ever.

Hugely empowering and inspiring, this a book that needs to be in every home and classroom. Children and adults will love the gentle humour and playfulness in Steve’s illustrations: each spread deserves close study.

Girls Can Do Anything

Girls Can Do Anything
Caryl Hart and Ali Pye
Let’s hear it for girl power!
This is a celebration of what girls can do narrated in Caryl Hart’s enormously empowering jaunty rhyme:
“I’m a GIRL! I’m FANTASTIC! I’m strong, brave and proud!” so say a huge diversity of girls in no uncertain terms as they talk about their attire – anything goes; demonstrate their unique prowess as sports participants and students favouring a huge variety of subjects – maths, writing, science, music, art and more.
The older they get, the more amazing they become: there are environmentalists, vets, zookeepers, scientists of all kinds, machine operators

and life-savers.

They can be rough and tough or soft and gentle, they can speak up for others …

and a great many help improve people’s lives.

Ali Pye’s cast of splendidly inclusive young females have enormous va-va-voom;

and the front endpapers are a gallery style presentation of possibilities for the future, while those at the back are fifteen named portraits (some more recognisable than others) of high achievers in many walks of life including Malala Yousafzai, Serena Williams, Olympic medallist LGBTQ boxer Nicola Adams, first woman-British firefighter Josephine Reynolds and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Having read the book together with a five year old in the park after school , I spent 15 minutes exploring the endpapers with her; a woman came and sat on our bench with her phone. After a couple of minutes she put it away asking if she could listen as she thought the book ‘so brilliant’. I said ‘Be my guest’. She then called her friend over to share the experience. Five-year-old Emmanuelle instantly recognised Serena Williams but I had a fair bit of explaining to do with several of the others. Well worth the effort though.

In short, in this highly infectious adulation, it’s a case of no holds barred when it comes to girls; they’re undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, cheered and applauded. Once again, let’s hear it for girl power!



the Yes
Sarah Bee and Satoshi Kitamura
Andersen Press
The Yes, a large blobby orangey red being, is a creature after my own heart – determined, divergent and a defier of the odds. . . . and of the Nos; the Nos that pop up everywhere with their continual negativity:
No, too big… “
“No, you’ll fall… “
“No you couldn’t… “
“No you shouldn’t … “
“No, beware!”
“No, don’t dare!” …  NO!


But does the Yes pay heed to them? Oh No – No – No – not even when he comes to a scary dark wood,


or the bad barren places… on to the big rolling hill. Thereon the Yes realizes that however great their number, the sum total of all those Nos in all the Where is merely a no, a no that is mere dust and nothing, that never really was and gradually, the Yes rises above those diminishing noises of the Nos till there is nothing left but the Yes.
This book is quite unlike anything I’ve come across before and I have read many thousands of picture books. The language used is superb – inventive, playful and thought provoking; take this for instance: ‘The Yes rumbled on and on. He went scrumbling by the marches and flundering through the fields.’ And the story is brilliantly imagined, empowering and leaves gaps for the reader or listener to fill.
The choice of Kitamura as illustrator is inspired.


His wonderfully conceived scenes are built up with seemingly random shapes, patterns, lines and smudges – pure genius and working in perfect harmony with Sarah Bee’s words. What an amazing debut picture book for the author.
So, should you invest in a copy of this one? Yes or No? The answer, of course, is YES! YES! YES!
If you are in a primary school and do ‘Community of Inquiry’/’Philosopy for Children’ sessions with your class or group, then this book offers a great deal of food for thought.
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