Just Like You

Just Like You
Jo Loring-Fisher
Otter-Barry Books

The nameless little girl narrator is just like other children everywhere. ‘I’ve got two eyes. / I’ve got two ears. / I’ve got one mouth. / And one nose.” she tells us …
‘My feet can take me a long, long way.’

Like other children too, she sometimes feels happy

and sometimes feels sad. She loves cosy cuddles and has dreams when warm and safe.

However, as the penultimate spread shows, this little girl is going on a journey and as we see at the end, as she speaks she’s living in a refugee camp and that is what makes her different from most others. Nevertheless, ‘I am just like you.’ this brave girl concludes.

This simple, beautiful, moving story with its surprise final spread exudes warmth and empathy. Equally important though, it is infused with hope.

Jo’s compelling images ensure that the feeling of togetherness is indisputable as the narrative takes us towards its final revelation.

If you are looking for a powerful picture book to introduce the theme of refugees or displacement to young children, this is one I’d strongly recommend.

Wolf Girl

Wolf Girl
Jo Loring-Fisher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Sophy tries her best to fit in at school, even wearing her wolf suit, that helps her to feel fierce and perhaps a bit brave, but no matter what she does, her shyness takes hold, she just cannot find her voice and the other children laugh at her.

Safe at home once more, she lets her tears flow and then something amazing happens. Sophy is transported to a magical snowy woodland world and there she finds herself face to face with a wolf and her pup. The pup and girl romp together in the snow becoming friends

but as the snow falls faster the three seek shelter in a cave.

Once inside, the roaring Sophy suddenly hears is both without and within, and there before her is a huge bear. She’s terrified but somehow finds her inner wolf and sends the bear packing.

However, on reflection, she has a change of heart and realises that there’s another way to show her bravery, one that’s more important than any other …

Through both words and pictures, Jo has created a totally credible child in urban-residing Sophy; (indeed I’ve taught many Sophys in my time in the classroom) though she leaves her sensitive, lyrical illustrations to do much of the talking, speaking powerfully of the importance of drawing on your inner strength, finding your voice and friendship.

Definitely a book to share and discuss – with individuals, in the classroom or foundation stage settings especially.

Taking Time

Taking Time
Jo Loring-Fisher
Lantana Publishing

This is simply exquisite. In eleven different parts of the world, children savour the moment: on each double spread there is a gorgeous, mixed media scene showing a young boy or girl in an everyday setting relishing the beauty of the surroundings.

A little girl somewhere in India pauses to listen to the song of a bird;

a boy collects pink blossoms as they fall from a tree: ‘ Taking time to listen to / a bird’s song on the breeze. // Taking time to gather up the blossom dancing free.’ (I love Jo’s use of rhyming couplets on consecutive spreads here and throughout the book).

Far away in Alaska a child snuggles in the soft fur of a husky dog; indoors another child feels a soft cat, ‘taking time to feel the beat’ of its ‘rhythmic purr’.

A spider spins its web watched in awe by a little girl in Nepal, while in the Egyptian desert, clutched by a loving adult, a small child contemplates their journey.

The immensity of the evening sky, a passing flock of colourful birds,

the kind, reflecting eyes of a grandparent, soft snowflakes as they float gently down, the imagined sounds of the sea echoing in a shell – all these too are cherished moments for those who take time for awareness of the here and now.

On the final spread all the children come together in a verdant green field to share their wonderings as they play harmoniously with their special keepsakes: ‘Taking time to cherish you, / and also cherish me.’

Both sets of endpapers show details from the illustrations, the front ones annotating a world map marking the children’s homelands – Alaska, Ecuador, the U.K., Norway, Russia, Egypt, Tanzania, India, Nepal, China, and Japan;  the back ones depicting just the keepsakes, cleverly creating a matching game for readers to play.

If you have, or work with, young children, I urge you to share Jo’s beautiful book, showing similar slow mindfulness to that demonstrated by her characters in Taking Time.

Maisie’s Scrapbook


Maisie’s Scrapbook
Samuel Narh and Jo Loring-Fisher
Lantana Publishing

Five-year-old Maisie is the narrator of this celebration of unconditional parental love. In the end papers she shows us her scrapbook: her Dada shares tales of the spider she saves the world from (aka Ananse), while her Mama tells her ‘a bull is not a pet’.

In between, the main narrative compares and contrasts the differing parenting styles of her Dada and Mama.

Steeped in folklore, the former nurtures Maisie’s flights of fancy

while her Mama endeavours to keep her grounded with games such as hide and seek, and protects her from the bull she imagines herself riding.

As the seasons pass we see examples of the all encompassing parental love this fortunate child receives – Mama’s arms surround her as she’s frightened by the bull;

Dada ‘shows her clouds painting pictures of the ancient worlds in the sky’.

Mama cooks risotto whereas Dada’s speciality is jolof rice; Mama plays a viola, Dada the marimba, but they both nag her in the same way and love her in the same way;  The result of this parenting is a spirited child who appreciates what she has: two loving parents, a rich, mixed cultural heritage and a bundle of self-confidence.  Above all, love is what matters most in Samuel Narh’s beautifully expressed, moving tale.

Reflecting the different heritages of her parents, there’s a wealth of cultural references in Jo Loring-Fisher’s mixed-media illustrations of Maisie’s life both in the expansive outdoors and the more confining walls of her home: the Ghanian Sankofa bird on the window-sill, the framed Gye Nyame (supreme being) symbol; the ancient buildings painted in the sky.

Positive in every respect this is a book to share, share, share again and then to talk about within the family and in school or nursery.