George and His Nighttime Friends

George and His Nighttime Friends
Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

George, the lonely child protagonist in this nocturnal tale lies awake unable to sleep on account of his fear of the dark. “I wish I had a nighttime friend, even a small one,” he says one night. Surprised to hear a voice responding in the darkness, the boy sees beneath his bed a tiny mouse offering to help.

The mouse leads George downstairs and into a wonderful adventure in his very own house. The two explorers’ first encounter is with book guardian Mole,

then an elegant, piano-playing rabbit with stage fright, followed in the bathroom by a little penguin with a fear of the water and lots of other things. The four friends plunge into a warm bath to help Penguin with his frights and then during their search for towels they discover in the dryer a panda.

Said Panda is in need of a badminton opponent to help fulfil an ambition. There follows a crazy badminton game which fuels their hunger

and results in a new encounter in the kitchen and the making of another nighttime friend.

At last, surrounded by the host of new friends, George realises that night isn’t so scary as he’d supposed. A cosy bed calls and now it’s time to bid farewell to his friends and …. zzzzz …

Wonderfully whimsical, and wondrously illustrated in Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s richly patterned trademark fashion, this book is a perfect bedtime treat for youngsters and adults to read together. Both will savour the magical scenes – sometimes comforting and reassuring, sometimes playful – with their unusual perspectives, wealth of detail and superb use of light and shadow, throughout. Be prepared for an extended bedtime experience as youngsters will want to spend ages poring over every spread.

I Love You, Bunny

I Love You, Bunny
Alina Surnaite
Lincoln Children’s Books

A warm glow emanates from the cover of this debut picture book and stays with you all the way through the story.

Mum has just tucked Suzy up for the night with her comfort Bunny. Suzy however is concerned about the possibility of monsters coming while she sleeps.

Mum assures her that Bunny will chase off any monsters and keep her safe.

Bunny does his job as lookout through the night until dawn breaks and that is when something dark comes creeping into Suzy’s room reaching out for her sleeping form, or so it seems, and then disappearing again.

That’s when Suzy stirs and realises that Bunny is no longer by her side: he’s completely disappeared.

Putting on a show of bravery she gets up to search for her toy but there comes a sound from behind her. She turns and sees …

“A MONSTER!”

Then dashing in fright from her room the child runs straight into the waiting arms of her mother. “A monster ate Bunny!” she sobs.
Shortly after the cause of Bunny’s disappearance is revealed, Suzy is reassured that there is no monster after all

and returns to bed for a little while longer.

Many young children have phases of being scared in the dark, particularly those with powerful imaginations.
Alina Surnaite uses pastels to create her soft focus, crepuscular scenes of familiar domesticity, casting a mood of gentle reassurance, which should help assuage such nocturnal fears.

Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx
Joe Todd-Stanton
Flying Eye Books

Yay! A new addition to the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection series is certainly something to cheer about.
Herein the Prof. recounts the gripping tale of how young Marcy decides to try and prove herself a real adventurer by following her father, Arthur, to Egypt on his quest to find an ancient book trapped in the belly of the Sphinx.
It’s a journey that will surely test not only her fear of the dark, but much else besides.
Marcy’s first Egyptian encounter is Thoth who demands she bring him Ra’s magical moon eye in return for her father’s release.
Acting quickly …

she manages to haul herself aboard Ra’s sun boat and soon finds herself face to face with the great god himself and pouring out her story to him.
To reward her honesty Ra, offers his help in her rescue efforts and before they part, gives her his left eye to guide her through the darkness.
Still though, she has to solve the Sphinx’s riddle, gain entry to the tomb and attempt to complete her quest.

It’s going to test more than just her fear of the dark; and it’s as well she doesn’t suffer from ophidiophobia .

Even with her father safely outside once more, there’s still Thoth waiting for what he’s asked Marcy to bring him. …
The young girl really does prove herself a worthy daughter to Arthur, star of the Golden Rope adventure, demonstrating that by drawing on our inner reserves, we can achieve the seemingly impossible.
Gripping, fast-paced and illustrated with pizzazz, this is likely to win more fans for the series as well as pleasing existing ones.
Love the gentle humour and detail in this …

The Darkest Dark / Ludwig the Space Dog

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The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
Macmillan Children’s Books
The dark is for dreams – and morning is for making them come true.’ So says Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut on whose childhood this book is based. Herein we meet him as a boy, a boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut, flying to the moon or Mars.
Chris however, was afraid of the dark. For him the darkness that filled his bedroom when the lights were turned out was a darkness filled with aliens, very scary aliens.

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One particular night, he has to overcome his fears and sleep in his own bed or miss the opportunity to visit a neighbour’s house the following evening to view the Apollo 11 lunar landing. So on the night of July 20th 1969, as he watches the TV (the only one on their island home) and sees the events unfolding, he realises just how dark space is – ‘the darkest dark ever’.
This is a turning point for the would-be astronaut. Chris has lost his fear and for the very first time he appreciates ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.’ And in that dark your dreams await, dreams that can become your life, not tomorrow morning but some time …
The illustrators of this story really bring out both the mystery of darkness and the depth of young Chris’s nyctophobia when everything around him takes on a brooding, sinister appearance …

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Certainly this is an inspiring story to share with youngsters who fear the dark, as well as those with an interest in space, whether or not they aspire to become astronauts: one never knows. Stories can generate dreams and you’ve read what Chris Hadfield has to say about those …
There’s more for space lovers in

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Ludwig the Space Dog
Henning Löhlein
Templar Publishing
I guess if I had to choose an alternative world in which to live, I’d be pretty happy with the one wherein Ludwig and his five friends reside. It’s a world of books no less and unsurprisingly Ludwig loves to read, especially books about space. These books – as books generally do – generate dreams and ideas; and for Ludwig those ideas are about space and flying.
Try as he might though, Ludwig just cannot stay in the air for more than a very short time;

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but then something unexpected crash lands right before his eyes. From that something steps its pilot – a space explorer who is in urgent need of assistance. And that is the starting point for a whole new life for Ludwig. Having fixed the rocket’s engine, he accepts the explorer’s invitation and finally takes flight on an amazing exploration of space.
Children can enjoy entering the bookish world of Ludwig and his friends, and joining the dog on his space adventure through the 3D glasses provided in the pocket inside the book’s front cover.
I love those quirky collage style illustrations of Henning Löhlein, which, even without the glasses, have in places, a three-dimensional look.