My Friend Earth

My Friend Earth
Patricia MacLaughlan and Francesca Sanna
Chronicle Children’s Books

The combined talents of award winning writer Patricia MacLaughlan and illustrator Francesca Sanna have created a wonderfully inspiring celebration of Mother Earth.

Through Patricia’s lyrical text, seemingly spoken by a child narrator, and Francesca’s beautiful, boldly coloured scenes with their intricate layered die-cuts, youngsters are invited to share in and savour nature and its beauty.
The message is soft-spoken yet its subtle gentleness wields a power that will definitely inspire children as they savour the changing seasons, starting with Earth waking from its winter nap roused by the sounds of spring – the farmer at work in the garden, the bird song.

Not just the sounds though, the sights – of a ‘silent seed, / the spider spinning silver, / the robin and the wrens.’;

and larger creatures too – an albatross on the wing, a tunnelling mole. She gently guides animals to their sleeping places and to their mothers.

There’s such beauty in the landscapes too, be they grassy prairies, icy arctic;

beneath the sea.

Each one is affected by the elements – the heavy rains; the fierce autumn winds; the soft, silent whispers of snow as it blankets ‘… my friend Earth’ with its flora and fauna waiting for the arrival of the sun that heralds spring once more.

There’s beauty too, and tenderness, in Patricia’s alliterations: ‘the baby black bears are born in soft darkness’

though every sentence, every phrase, is a joy to read.

Francesca’s art is a perfect complement for the text – those enticing die-cuts set into her lovingly portrayed scenes of nature, helping to create at every page turn, a time to savour the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Yes Earth is our friend but most important, we all need to be Earth’s friends – before it’s too late.

You might want to use this wonderful book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (22nd April) with its theme of climate change. In the meantime buy it, share it, give it.

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear
Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books

Following on from her Amnesty Honour book The Journey, Francesca Sanna has created another beautiful, very topical companion picture book, Me and My Fear, with an integration theme. Herein she explores fear from the viewpoint of a little girl, a recent arrival from another part of the world.

Fear takes on a persona that accompanies the girl narrator all the time, everywhere she goes, whatever she does. It has stayed beside her, keeping her safe from harm.

Since she’s arrived in this new country though, Fear has just kept on getting bigger and bigger. So big that it prevents her from going out to explore her new neighbourhood.

Hating her new school, Fear also makes the narrator dread going at all and then find fault with things once she’s there. It isolates her; it, as much as the language difference, is a barrier to understanding.

Observant readers will notice that all the time the girl wrestles with her fear at school, there’s a little boy watching.

Once back home it’s all consuming; its dreams so loud they prevent the narrator sleeping.

Her loneliness increases: in short, Fear overwhelms and engulfs her completely.

Then one day in class, something happens to initiate a change.

In addition the narrator discovers that she isn’t the only person with a secret fear: her new companion is also afflicted.

Thereafter, both children’s fears start to shrink and in tandem, the girl and boy’s reassuring awareness that pretty well everyone is fearful about something …
Friendship grows and with it a sense of belonging.

Digitally painted illustrations in blue, pink and ochre hues soften the feelings of the characters without dampening its powerful impact; the curvaceousness of Fear makes it all the more enveloping in this memorable tale that shows how friendship, connectedness and empathy can overcome even the most overwhelming negative emotions.

Having spent almost all my teaching career working in and with schools in the London Borough of Hounslow where many asylum seekers and refugees arrive in the schools, often traumatised and overwhelmed with all things other, and watching how well they seemed to become a part of the community, this book is a stark reminder of what they must have been going through (and many still are) when they arrived from such war-torn places as Somalia, The Sudan, Afghanisthan, Sierra Leone, Iran, Bosnia, and now, Syria.
It needs to be in every primary school in the country and every other setting that has dealings with children of families who have experienced displacement trauma.

The Journey

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The Journey
Francesca Sanna
Flying Eye Books
Having worked in several London schools where asylum seekers and refugee families are part and parcel of the school community, I was privileged to hear some of their moving stories first hand. The author of this book has also heard and indeed collected such stories from people who have, for one reason or another, been forced to flee their homes and undertake long and dangerous journeys in search of safety. Her book is the result of that collection of personal stories and its author/illustrator has done the tellers proud. It focuses on one particular family of four that very quickly becomes three as the narrator’s father is killed in the war, leaving a frightened mother and her two children. It is their story  we share as they prepare to leave their home and undertake a perilous journey – the mother calls it a ‘great adventure’ – towards a ‘safe place’ where they can live free from fear and from constant danger.
Leaving at night so as not to draw attention to themselves, the family is on the move for days, gradually shedding material things as they go …

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and eventually reach the border. Here though, surrounded by forest and blocked by an enormous wall, they are stopped and told they cannot proceed.

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Sleep overtakes them and next morning having eluded the guards, they are approached by a man whom they pay to get them across and on to the next stage of the journey.
After a perilous boat voyage during which stories of monsters give way to stories of magic and kindness …

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finally land is reached once more and the three board a train, a train that crosses borders, heading they hope for a new place – a safe haven – where, like the birds that they watch from the train, they can start afresh  where a new story can begin.
It’s impossible to read this without having tears in your eyes, it’s so beautifully told; part of its power being in the simplicity of the telling; but it is the outstanding illustrations that hold such potence. There is that border guard towering menacingly over them and the trafficker shown as only an enormous silhouette …

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both in stark contrast to the loving mother enfolding her children within her protective arms in the border forest –

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such eloquence.
This truly is a story of our time and one that deserves a place on the shelves of every family, every educational establishment, every library, every place where people come together to talk and to share stories, Beautifully produced though one has now come to expect that from Flying Eye Books; however this one doesn’t shout quality, it embodies quality.

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