The Girl Who Noticed Everything

The Girl Who Noticed Everything
Jane Porter and Maisie Paradise Shearring
Walker Books

Little Stella is a wonderfully imaginative child who notices everything around her – clouds shaped like horses, a lonely glove waving from some railings, dustbins with faces, birds so cold they need blankets to keep them warm,

a man with upside down hair and another wearing a cat on his head. She excitedly shares her observations about all of these with her Dad as they walk to the park to meet their friends. He though is concerned that Stella’s forthright comments might hurt people’s feelings, so after a while she stops talking about what she sees.

However once they reach the park, she just has to draw her Dad’s attention to the colourfully dressed but sad looking woman walking very slowly calling, “Frankie! Frankie! Frankie?” His response is that they should play not noticing things for a while but that doesn’t stop Stella spotting a beautiful blue feather, which she picks up and tucks in her pocket.

Once at the park, Stella’s cross feelings disappear as she joins her friends in the sandpit. Even there though her eyes are busy looking everywhere especially at the nearby tree with its ‘pleated paper’ bark and toffee coloured leaves. Suddenly she spies a bright flash among the branches and shortly after comes a squawk. It’s this sound that makes her recall where she’d seen those bright colours before.

Now she knows that she really needs to speak out. What she says results in a joyful reunion, followed by a walk home during which both Dad and Stella both notice all manner of exciting things and Stella gives Dad a very special present. What he says in return should ensure that his daughter continues to speak out, and to use her observation skills and her imagination wherever she goes.

Jane Porter’s wonderfully empowering story is a must to share with young children at home and in nursery or school. Maisie Paradise Shearring’s brightly coloured scenes, expand the telling with a wealth of detail, not spoken of – small animals, birds, flowers, patterns, textures, and more. Having read the story in its entirety first, I’d like to think an adult and young child would spend ages looking at and discussing each spread.

The Boy Who Loved Everyone

The Boy Who Loved Everyone
Jane Porter and Maisie Paradise Shearring
Walker Books

Dimitri is new at nursery. “I love you,” he tells everyone and everything from his classmates to the ants and the tree in the playground.

Come the afternoon the other children are finding all this loving rather too much.

At bedtime Dimitri and his mother tell each other they’re loved, but the following morning Dimitri doesn’t want to go to school. “I told everyone I love them, and no one said it back” he tells his mum as they get ready to leave the house.

Her response is that people have different ways of showing their feelings, not everyone says ‘I love you’ in words; it can be felt and takes root in new places.

On the way, they see the old man feeding the stray cats – his way of telling the cats he loves them, Mum explains.

Further examples of non-vocal ‘I love you’s are observed in the park and in the school playground where Dimitri is still unsure of his welcome. Not for long though as his classmates invite him to join them.

A feeling of warmth begins to spread through Dimitri and by storytime it seems that everyone wants to sit with him. Dimitri is accepted at last.

Tenderness and warmth emanate from both Jane Porter’s telling and Maisie Paradise Shearring’s illustrations in this book about the power of kindness.

I’m Actually Really Grown-Up Now

I’m Actually Really Grown-Up Now
Maisie Paradise Shearring
Two Hoots

Meena’s parents are having a party but, so she’s told as she reluctantly goes to bed, it’s for grown-ups only. Party loving Meena however makes her own plan.

The following morning she makes a very important announcement to her family, “I’m actually really grown-up now!”

What’s more she is having her own party – parents welcome.

Raiding mum’s wardrobe to find the perfect outfit is fun;

but grown ups also have to work and of course the party itself needs to be prepared.

Who will be invited? What about the food – that has to be bought. (with Dad’s assistance).

Before too long, Meena realises that this grown-up business isn’t all easy or fun.

And as for the party? Perhaps best not to expect too much

and just go with the flow …

The author’s skill at appreciating and portraying the spirit of adventure young children have in this wryly humorous story of the ups and downs of childhood is superbly presented in both her playful narrative and illustrations. Both exude warmth and understanding while her protagonist is an absolute delight – determined and resourceful, and ready to capitalise on whatever situation she finds herself in.

Anna and Otis

Anna and Otis
Maisie Paradise Shearring
Two Hoots

Imagine befriending a snake. Not keen probably, but snake, Otis is the unlikely best friend of young Anna and the two spend happy, adventurous days together safe in the confines of the garden.

One day though, Anna announces to Otis that tomorrow they ought to go exploring the town, a suggestion that leaves Otis lost for words. After all neighbours and delivery people tended to tread very cautiously when they spied the reptile, so an entire town, Hmmm!

Nevertheless, next day, Anna having attempted to allay Otis’ concerns, the two sally forth.

Anna’s words however are very soon proved wrong: seemingly everyone in the town gives the impression of being as she’d put it earlier, ‘very silly mean’ people.

Inevitably, Otis is sad; Anna angry, though she tries to be reassuring. Bravery and direct approaches are her suggestions, first stop being Silvio’s hairdressing salon. The visit proves a success and word starts to spread.

Emboldened Anna purchases a skateboard for herself and a set of wheels for Otis.

Pretty soon, people at the skate-park are impressed at his wheelie prowess; the bush telegraph springs into action again and come lunch time it’s more of a party than a meal for two.

By the time the day’s over the friends are very tired. Anna invites Otis to spend the night and thereafter the friendship continues apace, sometimes just the two of them but on other days it’s a trip into town to visit all their wonderful new and very welcoming pals.

In her funny tale of overcoming fears and gaining acceptance, with gently humorous illustrations full of wonderful details to delight and linger over, the author portrays an unusual friendship that should, if not endear readers to Squamata such as Otis, at least help overcome their angst about them.

Stuck for more summer reading for your children? Try Toppsta’s Summer Reading Guide