Nook

Nook
Sally Anne Garland
Sunbird Books

This is a gentle, sweet tale that shows the empowering quality of the kindness of others.

Nook is a small, shy rabbit; she speaks little and prefers to stay in quiet spots with somewhere against which to press her back so she feels safe.

Her most favourite place of all is the deep hollow in an old elm tree, the ideal place from which to watch the other animals play. Try as they might to entice her out to join them, Nook prefers to keep her body feeling safe in her nook, but in spirit she’d be a participant in their games.

‘Nook’s place’ is what the hollow becomes known as, a place where other creatures know not to sit. Or rather, not quite all of them, for one day filling the hollow she finds …

The surly creature claims the space as his own, leaving Nook with welling tears and panic stricken.

Not for long however for her fear gives ways to surprise when the other animals stand behind her and speak out in her support. As they edge forward, the little rabbit feels protected and encouraged so that at last she feels confident enough to let them lead her away and play …

Do you think she continued so to do? You bet.

As it is with little animals so it is with young humans; some are outgoing and happy to be one of the crowd from the start, others – the introverts – need empathetic understanding and encouragement so they don’t stay forever on the sidelines.

Sally Anne Garland uses bold brush and coloured pencil strokes to imbue her animal characters with kindliness and humanity while also including in her outdoor scenes, lovely details from the natural world – a ladybird, seed heads, small flowers, for instance.

Definitely a book to share with foundation stage children, and individuals at home.

Race Cars

Race Cars
Jenny Devenny ed. Charnaie Gordan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This book, is the result of a collaboration between author/illustrator Jenny Devenny who uses the metaphor of a car race to introduce institutional and systemic racism to children, and diversity and inclusion expert, Charnaie Gordon who edited the story. (Both have written an introductory note).

Meet best friends Chase and Ace. Chase is a black race car; Ace a white race car and they both love racing. Chase is super speedy and in his first year of entering, becomes the very first black car ever to win the ‘world-famous, annual race-car race.’ To his Ace friend who finishes fourth , it matters not: place is unimportant. However the race committee (all except the youngest, pink-tyred Grace, being white male autos) are anything but happy and resolve to alter some of the rules in favour of the white cars, thus disadvantaging the other cars in future races.

The route change they introduce for non-white cars

enables Ace to win the next race the following year and in the subsequent one, an official stops Chase before he enters the magic forest, demanding to be shown his ID. These two demonstrations of blatant discrimination result in Chase failing to qualify for the next year’s race. Now Ace starts to think perhaps something isn’t right: but even worse, Chase now feels inferior.

At a further committee meeting, Grace quietly talks of making the race ‘fair and equal for all’, but only one or two others agree, while the rest, fearing change, keep quiet.

The following year Chase is there spectating and supporting his friend who starts off at super speed. But as Ace approaches the magic forest, he notices something he’d not previously been aware of

and decides to take the route intended for non-white cars. Consequently he gets lost.

Back at the track the committee are worried about their star race car Ace not having crossed the line. Now, Grace knows she must speak out and so she does, with the result that Chase agrees to search for his friend … and finally they finish the race together.

Designed to be accessible to a young audience, and intended as a starting point for opening up discussion, this book has been engineered to tackle a difficult and sensitive topic. To this end there are discussion notes after the story. Almost every time I turn on the news I hear something alarming and upsetting concerning the ill-treatment of a person or persons of colour, so it’s clear that opportunities such as this book offer to get children talking are much needed.

It’s My Pond / Looking for Lord Ganesh


It’s My Pond
Claire Garralon, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Book Island
There is a pond and a duck – a yellow one that comes upon same. “Wow, nice pond – it’s my pond!” it declares and plunges in. Bliss. Enter stage right another duck, white this time. It too wants the pond. Its “Why don’t we split it in two?” suggestion seems ideal. Another duck appears, a red one …

but that’s no problem: divide the pond three ways. And so it goes on: more and more ducks of all colours of the rainbow appear one by one, and the pond is split into ‘tiny bits and pieces.’ Then … consternation on the part of the in-the-pond ducks … none of them, it transpires, is actually having any fun at all.
“We don’t swim” says green duck. “We just stay put.” “We’re bored, “ says pink duck “and we can’t move!
Leave it to black duck though: it has the perfect solution.

But then what should happen along but a huge hippo: uh-oh!
Wonderful wit on the part of the book’s creator is evident in both words and pictures. Young listeners will have a good laugh over the lovely lessons on negotiating and sharing; and they’ll delight in the notion of what look like the kind of ducks they’ve seen at the fair or school fete being characters in a picture book.

Looking for Lord Ganesh
Mahtab Narsimhan and Sonja Wimmer
Lantana Publishing
I have a fairly large collection of Ganesha images both 3D and 2D so was more than a little amused by the title of this book. A friend asked me the other day, ’Why do you collect them?’ My response that Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, was all that was needed. Herein it’s Anika’s grandmother who had always told her to ask ‘Lord Ganesh’ for help when the girl is anxious over something. Anika has recently emigrated with her family and now is missing her home city Mumbai greatly. However she has made a friend, Hadiya and now has a dilemma.

Anika has the opportunity to join a soccer team but without her new friend, so, she borrows her mum’s tablet and e-mails the god of wisdom asking for advice.
What happens thereafter involves a whole lot of soul searching on Anika’s part, a wise choice (without the help of a response to her mail) and ultimately, an outcome that works for all would-be players, every one of them.

Sonja Wimmer’s vibrant, richly patterned illustrations convey beautifully, both Anika’s and her friend’s thoughts and emotions in this touchingly different story about friendship, inclusiveness, finding your feet in a new environment and discovering your own inner strength to hold fast to what you believe to be right. It offers an excellent starting point for discussion and explorations of a cultural and/or, religious nature.

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Surprise! Surprise!

Surprise! Surprise!
Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books
Mr and Mrs Tati live together in a little yellow house, but one thing is missing from their otherwise happy life: Mrs Tati longs for a “sweet little baby”.
Mr T. visits the Baby Shop asking for a “fat, happy baby” for his wife but all they can offer are all the things that, without a baby, she has no use for at all. On his way home however, he encounters a man offering baby pigs for sale. Could one of those be the answer to Mrs Tati’s dreams?

For a while the Tatis are blissfully happy with the new addition to their family and eventually Potter is old enough to start school and that is when the trouble starts …

Potter’s parents decide their attempts to turn him into a little boy were a mistake and he’s allowed to be messy with mud and sleep outdoors instead of going to school.

Weekends though are inside times; and it’s on one such occasion that Mrs Tati makes another wish. A wish that leads to a whole chain of further wishes culminating in Mr Tata’s wish upon a falling star. “I wish, I wish, I wish, that when we wake up in the morning … we will all look the same.” …
Do you think his wish came true?
This corker – or should it be porker? – twist-in-the-tail story is an absolute delight. With themes of family love, acceptance and diversity, this is perfect for sharing both at home or school. Niki Daly imbues every illustration, large or small, with his wonderful wit and joie de vivre.

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