Classic Inspirations: Once There Was a Bear / The Little Prince

Once There Was a Bear
Jane Riordan, illustrated by Mark Burgess
Farshore

To celebrate the 95th anniversary of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, having previously written two standalone Pooh books, Jane Riordan has created a prequel collection of ten stories, again in the style of Milne. It takes readers back to where it all began, when Pooh was bought in Harrods as a gift for baby Christopher Robin. Using a similar style to that of E.H. Shepard, Mark Burgess illustrates each episode with panache depicting Pooh and his friends Eeyore, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Tigger.
The original Pooh books have an enduring appeal for those who met them first as children; however this one has a charm of its own with many of the adventures taking place outside of Hundred Acre Wood. I loved the museum outing wherein dinosaur skeletons with their ‘bothersome long words’ for names prove unusual ladders for a bear to climb upon.

This is definitely worth getting hold of if, like this reviewer, you’re a fan of Pooh et al.

The Little Prince
Louise Greig and Sara Massini
Farshore

Award-winning author and poet Louise Greig has adapted Antoine de Saint- Exupéry’s classic as a picture book for a younger audience than the original novella: it’s illustrated by Sara Massini who has also won many awards. The result is a thing of beauty, mysterious and poetic both verbally and visually.

I’m not sure whether the stranded pilot’s encounter with a little prince who visits neighbouring planets will appeal to children; its enigmatic nature will certainly provoke much thought and lots of questions for, as the author says, ‘What is hidden is beautiful.’ That in itself is well worth exploring.

Daisy’s Dragons / Green

Daisy’s Dragons
Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest
Studio Press

Here’s a picture book that encompasses dealing with your feelings, owning a pet (or several) and even perhaps coping with pandemic reds, greens and silvers, and sometimes blues, pinks, and purples too. These colours refer to the pet dragons that young Daisy has and only she knows they’re there, each playing its own particular role. That is until one day when everything goes haywire on a visit to the ice-cream shop

and the result is that three of Daisy’s dragon friends go missing, and Daisy herself gives vent to her own emotions as she becomes scared, angry and sad, sending the others away.

In an attempt to bring back the absent Happy dragon feelings, the little girl plays with her toys and as she does so she realises that it’s actually very important to have the entire range of emotions: “None of you are bad,” she says, confirming what an apologetic Sad has already articulated with “But all of us are part of you … and none of us are bad.”

Told in Frances Stickley’s rhyming narrative and with Annabel Tempest’s splendidly portrayed dragons, this is an engaging story that opens up opportunities to talk about the all important topic of emotions with young children. I suspect that by the time the story’s told, both adult sharers and young listeners will have developed a fondness for all six special dragons.

Green
Louise Greig and Hannah Peck
Farshore

There’s always a slight quirkiness to Louise Greig’s books that I love, and so it is with this one.
Ed becomes downhearted when he’s no longer the owner of the best sled of the slopes. Back to his shed he goes to build an outstanding one, spending many a wintry day and night to that end. Despite knowing that he’s missing out on lots of fun he just can’t bring himself to go out and join his friends who are eager to see him.

Unbeknown to the boy, during the time he’s been working away, the days have been growing longer and warmer, and when he finally emerges he fails to hear the song of the blackbird and see the blue flowers peeping through. Then unexpectedly after a shower, everything turns green, speckled with white daisies. Now what will he do with a sled, even if it is THE best?

Suddenly he hears his name being called: it’s his friends saying how much they’ve missed him. Now at last Ed feels the sun’s warmth and he’s filled with joy but feels somewhat foolish as he explains what he’s been doing. Soon he realises that he’s missed so much: the companionship and exhilaration he now experiences are the things that really matter; they’re way more important than having something biggest and best.

Told in Louise Greig’s poetic text with Hannah Peck’s scenes that perfectly capture the feelings of the characters and their movement, this is a thought-provoking story about emotions, showing how envy negates the pleasures of the here and now.

Sweep

Sweep
Louise Greig and Júlia Sardà
Egmont

We all find ourselves in a grumpy mood from time to time but for Ed it’s massive.
Ed is in a BAD mood. It had begun as a very small trip induced one but rapidly escalates until it’s blown up into a huge raging storm engulfing everything in its wake.

All the while Ed keeps his head right down, eyes to the ground where so his mood seems to say, are interesting things.

If only he’d chosen to lift his gaze he’d have felt uplifted by the sight of beautiful things, but no. Determined to proceed in this manner, on he goes, Ed and his bad mood.

Finally it’s become so bad, the whole town is in its thrall: no birdsong, no flowers, just a huge blackness.

Now Ed is conflicted: his bad mood still wants him continue in this way but Ed begins to wish the whole thing had whirled and swirled its way into oblivion.

How much longer can he keep this up, especially as fatigue and hunger pangs begin to manifest themselves.
But has he gone just too far? Can he give up this overwhelming bad mood?
Something must change surely?

And sure enough something does. Up springs a new wind, small at first but growing and growing until the world looks different: much brighter, making Ed feel a little foolish. Was it all for naught?

Not quite, for he suddenly spies something before him on the ground,

something that might possibly be a spirit lifter … a bad mood extinguisher that enables him to see the beauty surrounding him. Not only that, he knows he has two ways to look at life; it’s up (or down) to him …

Author Louise Greig delivers another powerful story, rather more punchy than Between Tick and Tock and The Night Box. This one, with Júlia Sardà’s dramatic, sombre hued illustrations feels altogether different, but equally absorbing and finally, uplifting.

Between Tick and Tock

Between Tick and Tock
Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay
Egmont Publishing

Most of us lead frenetic lives, dashing from here to there, mostly doing rather than being; but what would you want to do if you were able to stop time?

Liesel, the little girl in this story does just that. Liesel lives in a city, a city of hustle and bustle, a city of Grey, of loneliness, where almost everyone is far too busy to notice the details.

Not so watchful Liesel. She knows what is needed. She must pause the clock – just for a short time –bringing everything to a halt. Then she quietly springs into action working her way through the city beautifying the Grey with deft strokes of colour and creativity, showing kindliness to humans and creatures alike

and restoring calm and happiness.

She knows though that she cannot hold back time for longer than a very little while: that tick must be allowed to become a tock, that stop must once gain become go. Only now a transformation has taken place: things will never be quite the same again;

but just in case they ever should, Liesel knows exactly what to do …

Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay’s enchanting day time story is every bit as beautiful as the nocturnal evocation they created in The Night Box, if not more so. Once again, lyrical words and pictures work in perfect accord to make a memorable, magical book.