A Song in the Mist

A Song in the Mist
Fiona Woodcock and Corrine Averiss
Oxford Children’s Books

In this breathtakingly beautiful book we meet Chi, a shy panda that loves to listen. She’s never alone though for being silent and attentive brings all manner of sounds to her ears: the swishing of the bamboo, the chittering of tiny birds and on one particular day, something altogether different, a sound new, gentle, sweet and musical comes floating on the breeze. Following it, Chi is led close to a small house,

close enough to discover that the sound is emanating from a little boy’s length of bamboo.

The boy stops his playing and looks at Chi but she dashes away taking cover in the forest and the safety of her own tree where all is still. Until that is, she hears first a twig snap and then a voice that makes her heart beat faster.

Remaining hidden in the canopy, Chi follows the boy through the forest as the evening mist begins to descend.

Suddenly the boy trips sending his flute tumbling to the floor and shortly after comes a cry, ‘Grandpa, help! I’m lost!’
Picking up the bamboo, Chi now needs to summon up all her courage and overcome her shyness to use it …

Happily she does and thus begins an understanding that leads not only to the safety of the boy flute-player, but also to the forging of a wonderful friendship: a friendship that is sustained by bamboo, breath and of course, love and kindness.

Corrine’s lyrical narrative combined with Fiona’s gorgeous grainy scenes powerfully evoke the misty beauty of the bamboo and conifer forest setting through which you can almost hear those musical notes drawing the reader gently but urgently though the story.

Friendship Rules: Lucia & Lawrence / The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack

Lucia & Lawrence
Joanna Francis
New Frontier Publishing

Lucia and Lawrence live next door to one another; their interests are very different: Lucia is dreamy, wildly imaginative and creative; Lawrence has an analytical mind, filling his head with numbers.
One rainy day when Lawrence first moved in, Lucia introduced herself with an invitation to play.

She also asked him to imagine a rainbow, something her neighbour couldn’t do; nor did he have the courage to go out and play with Lucia, so she takes matters into her own hands.

Before long the two have become friends. Lucia decides to invite Lawrence to her birthday party but still he cannot bring himself to accept.

Instead, busy in his room, he finds his own way to celebrate the occasion. That night he contacts Lucia again, informing her that he has made something for her.
The wait next day is long but eventually in her inimitable effervescent way, there she is …

It turns out she’s also brought her crayons along and with those puts the finishing touches to her gift. But the very best present of all, both for Lucia and Lawrence, is their togetherness.

There’s a wonderful whimsiness about Joanna Francis’ illustrations for her warm-hearted story of reaching out, find a way, understanding and finally, friendship.

The Sasquatch and the Lumberjack
Crix Sheridan
Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch)

If you don’t know what a sasquatch is, let’s say it’s a kind of yeti type creature, huge and hairy – think Bigfoot.

In this wonderful tale with minimal words, Sheridan creates a tale of a highly unlikely friendship that grows between a woodcutter and a sasquatch after they encounter one another in the forest and experience the seasons in each other’s company.

Together they have a lot of exciting adventures: the richly hued Autumn provides a foragers’ feast.

Winter offers icy surfaces for skating and and snowy ones for ski-ing and sledging.

Spring brings renewal to the forest with fragrant flowers,

hiking and biking while Summer brings surfing, and swimming under golden skies.

Then Autumn is back and the cycle begins all over with the friends ready for a fresh round of delights.

It’s terrific fun and full of heart with Sheridan’s cracking illustrations doing most of the talking.

Jessica’s Box

Emmanuelle, who starts school this week,  engrossed in the story.

Jessica’s Box
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

Jessica’s mind was too busy for sleep. / Her thoughts are already with tomorrow.’ …
‘tomorrow’ being the day Jessica is starting school. The whole family is excited. She’s determined to make friends and to that end, with her to school goes a large cardboard box.
On the first day it contains her teddybear; but the other children are unimpressed and leave her alone. The second day is really no better: she fills the box with cupcakes.

They quickly draw a momentary crowd, but ne’er even a thank you.
Time for some serious thinking.
On the third day, Jessica takes her dog, Doris in the box. She has a temporary success but then the school caretaker steps in and Doris is returned home.
Day four arrives and Jessica takes an empty box ….

Then a little boy notices her and the seeds of a friendship are sown …

Carnavas’s potent images, with and without full colour, need few accompanying words to relate the emotional rollercoaster of Jessica’s first few days at school. The message is clear, just be yourself: true friends will love you for what you are; you cannot ‘buy’ friendship however hard you try.
A perfect, starting school story; but equally, with its friendship theme, a lovely book to share at any time: the author really does see things from behind the child’s head.

I’ve signed the charter  

This is Not a Cat! / Later, Gator!

%0a

This is NOT a Cat!
David Larochelle and Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books
Using only the words from the title, Larochelle has created a book that is absolutely perfect for beginning readers and it’s lots of fun.
We join three little mice as they arrive at school; three little mice each with a chunk of cheese for lunch. Their first lesson is already displayed as they sit down already looking more than a tad bored …

%0a

Now this is an old fashioned school with transmission style teaching – desks facing front so one can perhaps excuse the lack of a security system (but that’s getting ahead of the action). One pupil at least is paying attention as the teacher continues: “This is not a cat.” the assumption being he’s writing notes on the lesson; the other two are already distracted and playing around. No one notices what’s already appearing outside the window, not even the grinning goldfish.
This is not a cat.” … “This is not a cat.” continues the teacher oblivious to the fact that a certain intruder is on the verge of entering …

dscn9315

Suddenly the whole atmosphere in the room changes as the presence of the visitor is noticed, first by the teacher and then as realisation dawns …

dscn9316

The pupils flee leaving the intruder to enjoy the spoils left behind, but just who IS that greedy guzzler.
Clever as the text is and it’s undoubtedly so, without the illustrations the book wouldn’t be anything like as funny as it is. Wohnoutka’s cartoon style scenes are full of comic detail: the changing expressions of the goldfish, the antics of the pupils – note the cleverly aimed paper aeroplane, the cheesy shapes chart to mention a few; and of course, there’s the grand finale.
Also fun for those in the early stages of reading is:

%0a

Later, Gator!
Erik Brooks
Sterling Children’s Books
It’s hard moving to a new home especially having to say farewell to all your friends. That’s just what young Gator discovers having moved to a distant neighbourhood with his parents where there isn’t a soul he knows. He decides to write to his old friends telling them how he misses them and eventually back come some letters. Yes, his pals are missing him too but their communications are also encouraging …

%0a

And made him feel a little bit bolder, bold enough to start making a whole new set of friends …

dscn9320

The text is minimal but the amusing illustrations speak volumes.