The Queen on Our Corner

Thank you to Katrina and Lantana Publishing for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for this book

The Queen on Our Corner
Lucy Christopher and Nia Tudor
Lantana Publishing

This story told from the viewpoint of the child narrator was inspired by the author’s real life encounters with homeless and displaced people.

It appears, at the start that the only person aware of the lone woman who sits with her dog, is the narrator herself, although even she merely walked past at first. Conferring on the woman, the name Queen, the child envisages possible battles the woman has participated in, the journeys she might have taken, her countless adventures, 

perhaps even encounters with dragons; she eventually wins her mother around and the two of them offer simple acts of kindness to the woman. 

But that still leaves all the rest of the local people to convince of her worth and deservedness of their attention.

Attention is what the lone woman pays as she keeps a protective watch over the area looking out for any possible danger. Then, one windy night danger does indeed come in the form of a fire that grows and spreads; readers will suspect who is the person to shout the alarm call that galvanises the local people into action and brings the fire trucks to douse the flames.

Seizing her opportunity, next to shout is the girl narrator who informs everyone that because of ‘our Queen’ and her quick thinking, their homes and belongings were saved. At last, the woman receives, not only heartfelt thanks, blankets and water, but as the narrator suggests, they work together to create a home for their hero, a place from which she can regale them all with her stories.

Demonstrating the power of community, and the fact that everybody needs a place they can call home, this timely, thought-provoking tale coming in the wake of the terrible plight of the Afghanistan people, shows the importance of recognising the inherent worth of everyone – and homeless people especially, – no matter their circumstances or appearance.

Nia Tudor’s powerful scenes capture so well the changing feelings and emotions of the characters, particularly the narrator and the ‘Queen’. Her use of light and dark accentuates the unfolding drama and there are lots of interesting details to discover: look carefully for instance, at the final scene where the Queen is washing up.

Definitely a book to add to your home or classroom collection.

THE QUEEN ON OUR CORNER is now available in all good bookshops! OR, buy your copy from Lantana’s online shop and donate a book to children who need books the most with your purchase: www.lantanapublishing.com

A Cat Called Waverley

A Cat Called Waverley
Debi Gliori
Otter-Barry Books

Born in a park in Edinburgh, moggy Waverley has learned much about life, not least being how to make friends, his very best friend being Donald with whom he has supper every night for years.

Then one day Donald packs his bag and leaves his place of residence instructing Waverley to stay behind. One after another, all the cat’s other friends vanish from his life and unbeknownst to Donald who is at war,

his house is demolished.

What next for Waverley?

Off he goes to the railways station to wait for Donald. He waits and waits and it’s not long before people notice him, take photos and even bring him food, though he allows nobody to pick him up.

But despite the kindnesses shown by the station staff, nothing assuages his loneliness. Indeed Waverley misses his best pal more and more over the years.

Then one day as he makes his way down onto the platform, the cat hears, “Spare change. Spare a few pence for the homeless.” Surely that familiar voice belongs to his beloved Donald?

Debi’s story is written and illustrated with such empathy and sensitivity, it will surely bring a tear to your eye as you turn the pages of this book. Perhaps even more so when you read at the end that it’s about a real homeless war veteran for whom she wrote the book (as well as for all the countless other homeless people who share our world.)

The Old Man

The Old Man
Sarah V. and Claude K. Dubois
Gecko Press

Softly spoken and compassionate, this little book has amazing power to move.

In the city, morning has come; it’s time for everyone to begin the day. The children set off for school and beneath a blanket, an oldish man, a rough sleeper stirs, slowly and reluctantly. Anonymous, he’s freezing cold, in need of coffee and very hungry. He walks and as he does so his hunger increases.

As he grows wearier, he slows and stops for a rest and watches the passers by; memories of his past drift into his mind until he’s suddenly awoken and told to move on.

Belly rumbling, he heads for the shelter in the hope of sustenance but when his turn comes he cannot even recall his name so leaves – empty.

A bus affords a brief shelter from the wet and cold but his sleep is interrupted by unkind words from which he flees as soon as possible.

His loneliness is pervasive as he wanders on and through a park until towards the end of the day, when he’s wrapped himself in his blanket once more, a little girl approaches him smiling; she offers him her sandwich

and likening him to a teddy bear, walks on. No sandwich has ever tasted so good.

Fuelled by her kindness the man heads back to the shelter once again. When asked his name this time, “Teddy” comes his response.

A wonderful demonstration of how it often takes a young child to take notice, to see beyond the surface, to show empathy, reach out and make that vital connection.

Claude Dubois’ soft watercolour pencil sketches with their loose imagery underline the mood and the chill of this drifting tale of our times. Entirely unsentimental yet enormously heart-warming, this is a book that needs to be shared and discussed everywhere, not least by policy makers in government who have, dare I say, been instrumental in creating the circumstances like those of this homeless man.

The Last Chip

The Last Chip
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

In the light of the recent controversy over rough sleepers in a certain royal wedding town and my concern and distress at the increased number of rough sleepers I observed in Bristol the other day, Duncan Beedie’s latest picture book particularly resonated with me. Actually, the book is set in Bristol and it’s subtitled ‘The Story of a Very Hungry Pigeon’.

Percy is the pigeon’s name and his life on the streets is a tough one. Percy’s patch is the railway station and it’s here that the hungry creature heads at the start of each day in the hope of picking up a few tidbits dropped by commuters.
On one particular morning though, a gang of voracious pigeons has beaten Percy to it. He’s shoved out of the way and ends up with not so much as a single crumb.

With a rumbling tummy, Percy decides to try his luck at the park and off he flies …

only to discover that he’s no match for the greedy ducks that consume everything that’s tossed their way. They certainly have no intention of sharing, so Percy heads to the seaside.
Here too though, he’s insulted and also physically abused by a resident avian, one giant seagull.

In despair, a very weak Percy heads back from whence he came; but dizziness overtakes him and he crash lands onto the city pavement amidst the melee of homeward bound commuters. Dazed and hungry, suddenly, he hears a voice offering him something very special: “Would you like my last chip?

There’s one spot on a street in Bristol that is a whole lot less tough on that particular night.

From his debut, The Bear Who Stared, Duncan Beedie has gone from strength to strength and it’s great to know that 10% of UK profits from sales of this new book will go to The Trussell Trust, which runs some 425 food banks across the UK.
Beadie’s message is a powerful one but he delivers it with a gentle humour and without a hint of preachiness. From his cover illustration, my heart went out to Percy; and the greedy birds, be they pigeons, ducks or that giant seagull, are deliciously nasty characters.
A thought-provoking story that deserves to be shared and discussed widely.

A Home Full of Friends

A Home Full of Friends
Peter Bently and Charles Fuge
Hodder Children’s Books

Peter Bently does rhyming narrative with aplomb and it’s once again the case here.
Kind soul, badger Bramble doesn’t quite know what he’s letting himself in for when he offers Scuffle the dormouse, toad Tipper

and Boo the hedgehog a bed for the night when they’re made homeless by a storm. Rather that’s all he thinks he has to contend with as he hurries home concerned about his messy sett, stretching his supper to feed four and there only being one bed.
Bramble busies himself making preparations: makeshift they may be but entirely adequate for a badger and three pals.
His thoughts are interrupted by a loud knock at his door and the sight that meets his eyes is more than a little shocking. Three entire families are standing on his doorstep …

Fortunately though, they’ve brought with them everything they’ve managed to salvage from their wrecked homes and it’s not long before, with full bellies, they’re having a wonderful time playing games and sharing a bedtime story

before snuggling up for the night.

Warm-heartedness shines out of Charles Fuge’s beautifully detailed scenes which, together with Bently’s text, make a read aloud book with a compassionate message which is particularly pertinent given recent weather disasters and the ever increasing numbers of displaced people in various parts of the world.