The Song of the Nightingale

The Song of the Nightingale
Tanya Landman and Laura Carlin
Walker Books

Based on a creation myth, this fabulous book is a neo pourquoi tale about how the animals got their colours and a feathered creature acquired something very special.

In powerful prose Tanya Landman presents a dramatic unfolding of a spectacular creative enterprise by one named as ‘the painter’.
With the young earth and its flora already rich in colour, she summons all members of the animal kingdom together in their dreary drabness, speedily organises them and then, in a determined manner (sleeves rolled up), she opens her paintbox. Starting with the fiddly wrigglers, sets about adding colour to each and every creature – small and great.

Enter illustrator Laura Carlin to wield her own paintbrush bestowing with sweeps, daubs, splashes and spatters upon the grey creatures their rich array of tints and tones until all earth’s fauna have undergone a remarkable transformation. Some such as the mandrill

and the parrots are instrumental in their own colour schemes.

But what of the one that comes after the painter has closed her box for the day? That shy little creature too scared to leave the shadows until nightfall when the painter’s colours are, seemingly all used up – or are they?

With consummate skill Laura captures both the wit and the lyricism of Tanya’s telling; the combination of the two make the book itself such a wonderful work of art. It’s most definitely one to return to over and over wherever it’s read.

King of the Sky

King of the Sky
Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin
Walker Books
Peter is starting a new life in a new country and what he feels overwhelmingly is a sense of disorientation and disconnection. Only old Mr Evans’ pigeons bring him any reminders of his former, Italian home.

Those pigeons are Mr Evans’ pride and joy, his raison d’être almost, after a life spent underground in the mines, a life that has left him with a manner of speaking sufficiently soft and slow for the boy narrator to comprehend.
There is one pigeon in particular, so Mr Evans says, that he’s training to be a champ. This pigeon he gives to Peter who names him “Re del cielo! King of the Sky!” Together the two share in the training, not only of Peter’s bird, but the entire flock; but after each flight, Peter’s bird with its milk-white head, is always the last to return. Nevertheless the old man continues to assure the lad of its winning potential. “Just you wait and see!” he’d say.
As the old man weakens, Peter takes over the whole training regime and eventually Mr Evans gives him an entry form for a race – a race of over a thousand miles back home from Rome where his pigeon is sent by train.
With the bird duly dispatched and with it Peter thinks, a part of his own heart, the wait is on.

For two days and nights Peter worries and waits, but of his special bird there is no sign. Could the aroma of vanilla ice-cream, and those sunlit squares with fountains playing have made him stay? From his bed, Mr Evans is reassuring, sending Peter straight back outside; and eventually through clouds …

Not only is the pigeon home at last, but Peter too, finally knows something very important …
Drawing on the history of South Wales, when large numbers of immigrants came from Italy early in the last century, Nicola Davies tells a poignant tale of friendship and love, of displacement and loss, of hope and home. Powerfully affecting, eloquent and ultimately elevating, her compelling text has, as with The Promise, its perfect illustrator in Laura Carlin. She is as softly spoken as Mr Evans, her pictures beautifully evoking the smoky, mining community setting. The skyscapes of pit-head chimneys, smoke and surrounding hills, and the pigeons in flight have a mesmeric haunting quality.
A truly wonderful book that will appeal to all ages.

I’ve signed the charter