Daisy’s Dragons / Green

Daisy’s Dragons
Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest
Studio Press

Here’s a picture book that encompasses dealing with your feelings, owning a pet (or several) and even perhaps coping with pandemic reds, greens and silvers, and sometimes blues, pinks, and purples too. These colours refer to the pet dragons that young Daisy has and only she knows they’re there, each playing its own particular role. That is until one day when everything goes haywire on a visit to the ice-cream shop

and the result is that three of Daisy’s dragon friends go missing, and Daisy herself gives vent to her own emotions as she becomes scared, angry and sad, sending the others away.

In an attempt to bring back the absent Happy dragon feelings, the little girl plays with her toys and as she does so she realises that it’s actually very important to have the entire range of emotions: “None of you are bad,” she says, confirming what an apologetic Sad has already articulated with “But all of us are part of you … and none of us are bad.”

Told in Frances Stickley’s rhyming narrative and with Annabel Tempest’s splendidly portrayed dragons, this is an engaging story that opens up opportunities to talk about the all important topic of emotions with young children. I suspect that by the time the story’s told, both adult sharers and young listeners will have developed a fondness for all six special dragons.

Green
Louise Greig and Hannah Peck
Farshore

There’s always a slight quirkiness to Louise Greig’s books that I love, and so it is with this one.
Ed becomes downhearted when he’s no longer the owner of the best sled of the slopes. Back to his shed he goes to build an outstanding one, spending many a wintry day and night to that end. Despite knowing that he’s missing out on lots of fun he just can’t bring himself to go out and join his friends who are eager to see him.

Unbeknown to the boy, during the time he’s been working away, the days have been growing longer and warmer, and when he finally emerges he fails to hear the song of the blackbird and see the blue flowers peeping through. Then unexpectedly after a shower, everything turns green, speckled with white daisies. Now what will he do with a sled, even if it is THE best?

Suddenly he hears his name being called: it’s his friends saying how much they’ve missed him. Now at last Ed feels the sun’s warmth and he’s filled with joy but feels somewhat foolish as he explains what he’s been doing. Soon he realises that he’s missed so much: the companionship and exhilaration he now experiences are the things that really matter; they’re way more important than having something biggest and best.

Told in Louise Greig’s poetic text with Hannah Peck’s scenes that perfectly capture the feelings of the characters and their movement, this is a thought-provoking story about emotions, showing how envy negates the pleasures of the here and now.

Colours, Pretend Play, Nursery Fun and an Angry Bear

Colours
Tim Hopgood
Oxford Children’s Books

Here’s a lovely introduction to the wonderful world of colour for the very young. After presenting the primary colours with gorgeous images of the natural world, Tim Hopgood next shows the result of mixing first red and yellow, then yellow and blue, folllowed by blue and red. He then goes on to say that some things change colour during the year: a rose that’s pink in spring might fade to white in the summer, while summer’s green leaves often turn brown when autumn comes. Whereas ripening tomatoes change from green to red as the sun helps them ripen and yellow bananas, if left eventually blacken.
Best of all however is the final gatefold, opening to reveal a glorious … rainbow.

Let’s Pretend: Animal Hospital
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott
Little Tiger

An animal hospital is the backdrop for young children’s role-play in this new title in the My World series. Thomas Elliott’s illustrations are a fusion of photograph and digital imagery showing the children giving a check-up to a dog, sharing the contents of a vet’s medical kit, showing the range of animals they treat and the variety of tasks they perform on pets large and small. Nicola’s narrative gives voice to the young children imagining what it might be like to be part of the team whose job is to care for the animals that visit their hospital.
This shaped-book would make a lovely addition to a role-play area in a nursery or other early years setting.

Bear & Mouse Go to Nursery
Nicola Edwards and Maria Neradova
Little Tiger

Best friends Mouse and Bear return and now they’ve started going to nursery. It’s there little humans can enjoy spending the day with them as they experiment with paint, have fun outside in the playground, share their snacks, take a nap and participate in a noisy music making session. With flaps to lift and sliders to move, this is another book of interactive fun delightfully illustrated by Maria Neradova who includes just the right amount of detail in each of her colourful spreads.

Angry Bear
Dr Naira Wilson and David Creighton-Pester
Little Tiger

Very young children, babies even, enjoy tactile books such as this one from the publisher’s Touch & Feelings series. Herein we’re introduced to Bear who on this particular morning is feeling grouchy, particularly round his middle.
perhaps keeping to his normal routine that includes some sweet tasting honey might help improve his mood unless … oops, you drop it. GRRRRR – that’s the best way to vent your anger; after which hopefully, you’ll be back to your normal calm, contented self: breathing deeply helps.
As though speaking directly to her protagonist, clinical psychologist specialising in childhood mental health, Dr Naira Wilson writes in a chatty style and the book is illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, whose pictures of the bear show the character’s range of feelings with gentle humour.

All About Ben / The Giant from Nowhere

All About Ben
Dorothy Markham & Aileen O’Donnell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Here’s a little book for children from around five to the age of Ben, the narrator who is eight, particularly those who have attachment issues, but equally for children who have a Ben character in their lives either as a friend, member of their peer group or relation. It aims to help children like Ben understand their feelings and emotions and how these cause them to behave in certain ways; and to develop the confidence to open up to an adult who can help them manage all their different parts.

Ben introduces himself, part by part: his action parts and nine feeling parts.

He goes on to talk about and give examples of, how different situations cause him to feel different parts – when playing with friends he feels his happy part whereas falling out with a friend brings his hurt part into play;

when he helps others he feels his caring part; and it’s the combination of all these different parts that makes him who he is.

Readers are then asked about their own feeling parts to add to Ben’s lists and we learn how feeling parts affect action parts (cause and effect) – which is important for children’s self understanding.

The final pages are devoted to the crucial roles of talking and listening (including the role of a trusted adult) in the development of a secure, integrated, happy and confident person able to understand and manage his/her emotions.

Reassuring and helpful, this is a useful book to have in primary school classrooms.

The Giant from Nowhere
Frances Dickens and Peter Hughes
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

When the Giant from Nowhere sets out to find a place with some company, little does he know that his sheer size is going to cause him problems. So it is in the little village of Somewhere. Its residents are terrified when he appears in their midst, and tell him in no uncertain terms to go away. His angry response causes damage to their homes and the Giant departs.

The villagers then decide to hunt him down and put him on trial. After a newspaper report and a police search, the Giant is found and eventually a little boy succeeds in getting him to answer some questions.

A trial follows and the defendant pleads guilty. The boy speaks up for him and the judge decides on a community sentence.

To reveal what happens thereafter would spoil the ending but suffice it to say all ends happily for everybody.

This is an insiders and outsiders story that should encourage plenty of discussion on such themes as empathy, mutual understanding and inclusivity.

A class of primary children could have fun acting it out in addition to participating in some of the activities included at the back of the book.

I Want My Dad! / With My Daddy / I Love You Dino-Daddy

I Want My Dad!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Tony Ross’s latest slice of humour, Little Princess style, has the heroine considering her dad the King, making comparisons with other dads and finding him wanting in many respects. He’s much shorter that they are, is useless at baking, gets wheezy in the presence of any animal large or small, is totally inept in the water

and unlike the Gardener who takes his offspring on forest walks, gets lost in his own castle.

I wish my dad was as much fun as other dads!” she cries to the Maid. … He’s useless.

Her response is to teach the young complainer. First it’s pony riding, then baking, followed by swimming and walking in the woods, none of which are a resounding success. Our Little Princess is left feeling cold, decidedly damp, with hurting teeth and head, and exceedingly hungry.

In short, she feels absolutely useless.

As she heads for home who should happen along but his royal highness out walking and when he hears about her failures, just like all dads, he knows just what to say to put everything right.

With My Daddy
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

In this sturdily built book, a little girl talks about how she feels when she’s with her dad.
He arouses the whole gamut of emotions: a hug makes her feel like ‘a little bird in a warm, comfy nest, … safe.’

He can also make her feel unafraid, ‘brave’ in fact, ‘daring’, ‘confident’ because he inspires self-belief,

being ‘adventurous’ particularly when it comes to swimming, ‘playful’ on the most ordinary of days, ‘calm’, and ‘excited’ especially when he plays at being a monster. Sometimes though he invokes anger but it’s a storm that quickly passes thanks to Dad’s gentle calming hands on the narrator’s back.
Interestingly we never see the complete dad, or even indeed his face. Rather it’s only huge hands, or feet and legs on the final page, that are ever visible. In this way, Christine Roussey emphasises the huge amount of love he bestows upon the small narrator and the scope of his influencing power upon her feelings and emotions.

I Love You Dino-Daddy
Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

According to his offspring, Dino-Dad is a pretty cool guy with all manner of useful attributes. He’s full of fun on trips to the park, , ace at building with blocks, great at playing monsters, pretend wrestling, giving pony rides and doing magic tricks (especially where cake is concerned) ; he’s even great to play with – albeit unknowingly – while taking a nap.

As described in Mark Sperring’s jolly rhyming text and portrayed, with his dapper blue shoes and striped scarf, in Sam Lloyd’s exuberant illustrations, this Dad is a doted-on dino. who is sure to charm your little ones; and this is a lovely fun-filled, love-filled book for dino-littles to give to a dad on his special day be that Father’s Day, a birthday or for that matter, any other day they want to bring a Daddy smile.

What Makes me a ME? / Words and Your Heart

What Makes me a ME?
Ben Faulks and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Here’s a diverting book about identity: “What makes me a ME?” Who am I and where do I fit into this world? – these are questions that everyone ponders.
For the boy narrator it’s a mind-stretching poser as he acknowledges that at different times he’s like a whole range of things: sometimes he’s slow like a snail but he’s not slimy and his eyes don’t stand out on stalks.

He doesn’t have a tail so he can’t be exactly like his puppy Monty, despite being full of energy.
Is he perhaps like a sports car; he’s certainly lightning fast, but that’s thanks to his legs rather than wheels.

No matter what he likens himself to, essentially he’s just himself – special and unique.
Faulks’ funny rhyming stanzas documenting the five year old narrator’s search for an answer to his philosophical question provide Tazzyman plenty of space to conjure up some wonderfully comical scenes, and the boy himself with snub nose, specs and bobble hat is cheekily enchanting.

Words and Your Heart
Kate Jane Neal
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Words are powerful things: they can make your heart soar; they can make your heart sink; they can make your heart sing; they can make your heart hurt.
Words can be a force for good; or they can be a force for causing pain.
All this and more is demonstrated through characters Pip and Cat in author/illustrator Kate Jane Neal’s debut picture book.
‘This book is about your heart.
The little bit inside of you that makes you, you!’

So begins this unassuming book that goes on to say ‘the words that enter your ears can affect your heart.’
Her simple, but compelling message is a wonderful demonstration of how we can all contribute to making the world a better place by being mindful of the words we use to, and about, other people.

Executed with minimal colour, the illustrations, together with the empathetic and compassionate text that is orchestrated by means of changes of font, put forward a message too important to ignore.

A book to share and talk about at home, in playgroups and nursery settings, and in schools.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Big Bad Mood / Everyone …

The Big Bad Mood
Tom Jamieson and Olga Demidova
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Beware the Big Bad Mood; he’s always lurking somewhere around on the off-chance that you’ll be having one of those days when everything in the world seems to be conspiring to ruffle your feathers and make you feel thoroughly bad tempered. It’s such a day for young George – total tantrums are the order of his day. “There’s a big bad mood hanging around you today” says his mum.
George isn’t convinced: he can’t see the thing anywhere, which only makes him feel …

Then, seemingly out of nowhere there appears right before him a large blobby being announcing itself as “the Big Bad Mood”. His sole purpose, he informs George is to make everyone just like him – big, bad and moody; and he wants the boy’s help.
Off they go on their mischief-making mission and before long rather a lot of people are in big bad moods, including a fair number of George’s friends.
All this behaviour is pretty exhausting though, and after a while, George at least is starting to think constant big bad moodiness is not his thing; it’s silly, noisy, and upsetting for his friends.

Consequently, he bids farewell to his erstwhile companion who stomps off to find another partner in crime. And George? Maybe you can imagine what he did thereafter; let’s just say that he does apologise to all concerned; and he’s changed – somewhat!
A cleverly constructed, fun story to share and open up discussions about bad moods and anger-related feelings. Olga Demidova’s scenes of domestic moodiness, and the mayhem George causes out and about, will bring on giggles aplenty.

Everyone
Christopher Silas Neal
Walker Books
Emotions are at the heart of Christopher Silas Neal’s debut as author/illustrator. I’m familiar with his wonderful artwork in Over and Under the Pond and this is somewhat sparer, or rather, for this feelings-centred book, the artist has chosen to use a restricted colour palette.
Herein, by means of a small boy character he explores the power of human emotions, demonstrating that they are perfectly normal. All of us experience them: all of us need to accept them for their universality. Neal’s focus is on the way in which as humans, our emotions are drawn into a relationship with the natural world – the birds, the sky, flowers.

His prose is simple, yet lyrical; his voice authentic sounding. “Sometimes, you just need to cry, and that’s OK,” he says as the boy’s tears become birds flying into the grey sky.

With Personal, Social and Emotional Development being one of the prime areas in the EYFS, books such as this one are just right for encouraging young children to talk about how they and others show their feelings.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Painting-In Book / Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad

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The Painting-In Book
Anna Rumsby
Laurence King Publishing
All young children have the potential to be creative; they just need a supportive adult, some basic resources and opportunities to experiment.
Early years teachers will be familiar with the techniques herein (and have offered similar kinds of activities); parents may not be; and they I think, will welcome this large format, bumper book of thirty activities for budding young artists. All that’s needed to get going are: an apron, water-based paints, a mixing dish, paint brushes of various sizes, a sponge, an old toothbrush, some bubble wrap, cotton buds and a container for water. (I’d add to this, a plastic sheet or old newspapers). Activities – and they’re all exciting, fun and educative in the art sense, – range from colour mixing, hand-printing …

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printing with cotton buds, bubble wrap printing, toothbrush paint flicking (a favourite with nursery age children), painting with a sponge, and adding lines to wet paint with the end of an inverted paintbrush.

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The paper used is high quality and the sheets easily removable. Perfect for wet days and holidays when you can’t get outside – or if you can, then move outdoors and do a spot of painting there.

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Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad
Yasmeen Ismail
Laurence King Publishing
Whoppee! Donkey, Cat and Dog come together for the third in the fabulous Draw & Discover series by the super-talented artist, Yasmeen Ismail. Twenty five emotions/feelings from curious to cranky, (where Dog’s hunger is ‘making him cranky’ and the reader/co-creator is asked to put some food on his plate); annoyed to afraid, guilty to gloomy and startled to scared, are presented through delightfully silly situations such as this: what could it be that has scared Dog and Cat? …

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Every single scenario is truly funny; it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can imagine many children would go for this embarrassing situation for Dog who has had a slight accident and now needs some dry pants …

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Charter logo FINAL.indd

Feelings

Red Reading Hub is Happy that Caterpillar Books invited me to be part of the FEELINGS blog tour and thanks too, to the book’s creators, Richard and Libby for …

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Feelings
Richard Jones and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books
Emotional literacy and well-being are at the heart of the Early Years Foundation Stage and Every Child Matters, and yet still, as we’re told in the PR for this book, ‘One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 (have) a mental health problem.’
So what happens once children move into primary school at age five? Here is not the place to discuss this issue although I have strong views on what I see to be some of the contributory factors: rather, I welcome anything that can help children to explore their own feelings and emotions openly and within a safe context. Many picture book stories offer this possibility; now here we have a lovely, specially written and illustrated book to this end.
Richard Jones, the illustrator, places the child right where he or she should be: at the heart of this book …

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and then, after the introduction, assigns a double spread to the exploration of ten different feelings/emotions: Brave, Sad, Angry, Happy, Jealous, Alone, Embarrassed, Excited, Afraid and Calm. Each one is beautifully atmospheric.
Vitally important as personal feelings are, it is also essential, in order to function well in society, to be able to see things from other people’s viewpoints. So after acknowledging that we’re all different and that this is mirrored in our own personal feelings, Libby Walden (or rather her child narrator) makes this final suggestion: ‘Try to walk in someone’s shoes to see how they might feel, /For though you cannot see them, their feelings are still strong and real.’ How many times a day or week do those of us who teach in the foundation stage or spend time in Early Years settings say to individuals after an incident, something like “Now how do you think so and so feels about that?”
The rhyming text makes use of metaphor to look at what happens when one is overwhelmed by a particular emotion: Sad is a ‘river … bursting through its banks’ covering the land and creating a ‘sea of salty tears with no sign of the shore.”

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Angry is ‘a fire-pit in the ground ‘blazing, spitting, bubbling and swirling and finally, erupting …

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Jealousy, in contrast, is a rolling ‘emerald mist’, churning, seething and eating away at you from inside, blurring your vision and fixing your mind on something you don’t have.
For many children, particularly younger ones, pictorial representation is the easiest (and for them, safest) way to explore their feelings. With this in mind, I shared the book and asked some children to talk, reflect and respond in their own way: here are a few of their pictures.
Angry seemed to be the one feeling that was all-engulfing: Gracie has become an enormous bear with jagged teeth and claws …

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Interestingly Richard himself mentions jagged shapes and fiery colours in his discussion of illustrating Angry for the book. Saba too has jagged lightning in her Angry scene …

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Happy for Daniel is doing sport …

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for Shahan lots of sweets to eat, especially his favourite gulab jamun …

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For Lexi, it’s celebrating a birthday …

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Sad, for Shifan is broken toys …

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for Frankie it’s bullying …

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Excited for James is activities that allow him to release his boundless energy …

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If these responses are anything to go by, Feelings should certainly prove to be a very valuable resource for teachers and other working with children.

Mood Musings

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Smile Cry
Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft
EK Books
This ‘Beginner’s book of feelings’ is really two books in one. We share reasons to smile courtesy of three pals – a cat, a piglet and a rabbit who have many things that bring on an upbeat, break into a smile feeling. There’s that ‘cosy under blanket smile’ – we all know that kind; the rather embarrassed ‘what to do now smile?’ – adults will be very familiar with this one; and the totally satisfied ‘ate all the pies smile

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I think my favourites though are the ‘walking in the forest smile’

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and the ‘quiet with the nightlight smile’

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Turn the page and you’ll find the final ‘wrapped in a cuddle smile’ … and that’s the time to flip the book

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and share some tear-jerking moments with our friends.
Who doesn’t feel a bit tearful at the ‘ice-cream plopping down

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and we all empathise with rabbit’s ‘Perhaps it’s lost cry’ and that ‘Goodbye cry”; and what about this one …

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It probably all depends, (though the gorgeous illustration almost brings tears to the eyes.) Jess Racklyeft has done a brilliant job imagining and illustrating Tania McCartney’s situations. Every single page brought a big smile to the face of this reviewer but then who could resist smiling over the tickle treatment or that totally satisfied, just stuffed my face smile of the three pals (not forgetting monkey).
Perfect for sharing with young children at home or in an early years setting. It’s certain to generate a great deal of discussion and is bound to bring on a whole lot of smiles; not too many tears though, I hope.

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The Very Grumpy Day
Alison Edgson and Stella J Jones
Little Tiger Press
What begins as a ‘perfect day’ for Mouse at least, soon becomes anything but as the kind-hearted creature goes off to deliver a yummy looking cake to his pal Bear. Bear meanwhile has grumped off in a foul temper upsetting every animal unfortunate enough to cross his path as he stomps on his way creating a chain of havoc in his wake.

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Eventually everyone in the clearing is in a mood as bad as Bear’s and to make things worse, the rain starts to fall.

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Thank goodness then, for Mouse’s offering, which Bear discovers on his return home; it sets off a second chain of action and reaction. This time though, everyone ends up with a big smile

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and the day concludes happily with sunshine and a story …
A gently humorous tale that demonstrates how easy it is to infect others with your bad mood and how much better to spread happiness instead; it’s just a matter of looking on the bright side. Alison Edgson captures those changing moods beautifully in scenes large and small.

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In My Heart

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In My Heart
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
I received this book on the day we heard the terrible news about the second terrorist attack on Paris. So today (and yesterday) are days on which, as the small girl narrator says, “my heart feels heavy as an elephant. There’s a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain. This is when my heart is sad.

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Indeed it could be said that one feels that way whenever there’s a news item about those seeking sanctuary from the crisis in Syria, and in other parts of the world.
However, right from its rainbow die-cut layered heart shown on the cover (its depth decreases as the pages are turned), this is  largely a book of hope and joy, wonder and positivity; as the child narrator tells readers, “My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside.”

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Every turn of the page reveals a new feeling or emotion be it bravery or fear, happiness or sadness, anger or calm; it might be a heart that feels hurt – broken and in need of healing with extra kisses, or one that is hopeful and “grows tall, like a plant reaching toward the sky.”

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How beautifully the author selects similes that help young audiences better appreciate each feeling: “Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.” – that’s happy; or when calm, “I bob along gently like a balloon on a string. My heart feels lazy and slow and quiet as snowfall.” This is mirrored by the choice of colour the artist employs for the symbol on the recto of each double spread.
As the heart-size diminishes with each turn of the page, we have a heart full of giggles (silly), a small treasure to hide away – a shy heart …

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and eventually, a garden full of hearts and a final question “How does your heart feel?” to ponder.
Elegantly and appealingly designed, gorgeously and sensitively illustrated and so full of heart, this is a must have book for all early years settings and families with young (and not so young) children.
As I said, I came to this with a heavy heart: I left it with one full once again, of hope … it’s the only way to be.

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