Every Child a Song / Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Every Child a Song
Nicola Davies and Marc Martin
Wren & Rook

This book was written in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sensitive and thought-provokingly Nicola Davies uses the idea of every child having a song to explore some of the things contained in the 54 rights that all children should have.

Easily understood, her beautiful words highlight the right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to an education; the right to relax, play and participate in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities indoors and out, to be both an individual and part of a loving community.

Nicola’s is a song of love indeed and a vitally important one that reminds us all that there are still children whose access to these rights is limited by the chaos of hatred and war

yet still they are able to sing and to have their songs heard by people the entire world over.

Marc Martin’s illustrations don’t shy away from the darkness but the bright light of hope prevails as the final spreads show how by raising our collective voices we can make sure that ALL children, wherever they are, can sing their own song; a song that starts from the day they are born – a song of love, of joy and of freedom ‘–unique and tiny. Fragile. But never quite alone.’

Truly an inspiration to children everywhere.

Just now in the present difficult situation that are all share, think about what you can do at home with this book as your starting point.

Like the Moon Loves the Sky
Hena Khan and Saffa Khan
Chronicle Books

‘Inshallah you are all/ that is gentle and good // Inshallah you feel safe, / like all children should.’
These are the opening lines of Hena Khan’s lyrical text (each verse being based on a verse of the Quran) expressing new parents’ hopes for their tiny child to show gentleness, be safe, kind, reflective, to seek knowledge,

to stand strong, to embrace change and much more, prefacing each one with the “Inshallah” (in Arabic – if God wills it).
Debut illustrator Saffa Khan has created exquisite ink textured, digitally rendered scenes in rich, vibrant hues for every spread. I particularly like her carefully considered, inclusive one for ‘Inshallah you travel / to thrilling new places.’

Throughout, not only does she imbue the book with a sense of security, contentment and happiness, but also with hope and kindness, and feelings of awe and wonder,

perfectly complementing and extending the author’s over-arching tender, peaceful message of unconditional love.

This is a book that will resonate with people of all faiths and none, for as the author reminds us ‘Inshallah is used … to reflect the idea of a greater force or power beyond ourselves’.
Gorgeous!

Lots

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Lots
Marc Martin
Big Picture Press
Prepare for a visual tour that takes in places as different as Delhi and Antarctica, Alice Springs and the Amazon rainforest,

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Tokyo and the Galapagos Islands and the wonderful and exciting things to be found at each destination. There’s a plethora of people to meet, amazing and common or garden animals to encounter – the inevitable abundance of dogs in Paris, and the elephant shrews of Cape Town. Tokyo seems almost over-run with vending machines and Kawaii (cute things), whereas cats are curiously common in Cairo;

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and Delhi is replete with rickshaws of various kinds; and chai wallahs are always on hand to provide you with a cuppa.

chai wallhas at work

All this and much more, is contained within Marc Martin’s vibrant, jam-packed illustrations printed on beautifully matt spreads – one per location.
There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to his choice or arrangement of destinations: Ulaanbaatar with its ubiquity of yaks and Reykjavik, home to lots of Annas and Jóns clearly interested him so there we are.
Amusing snippets of information are scattered over the large pages, some such as Lenin almost ‘accidentally’ being an honorary member of the Beatles are funny, or that New York is sometimes called ‘The City that Never Sleeps’ (probably on account of the coffee!) Martin suggests.
So, if you want to be an ‘armchair traveller’, this is for you; better still, get hold of the book, be inspired by one of the destinations herein and then pay it a visit, to learn more about its people, wildlife, buildings, food, transport and landmarks for real.

A River

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A River
Marc Martin
Templar Publishing
This beautiful book comes from award-winning Marc Martin and begins in a child’s bedroom from where we are taken on a journey– real or imagined? – in a silver boat, down a river as it winds on its long journey through high rise city with its ant-like zooming cars and smoke-belching factories, meandering past farms with a patchwork of fields …

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into hills and alleys rich and green, cascading down a waterfall;

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then, watched by dozens of eyes, through lush tropical forests alive with birds and animals, past mangroves and on to the ocean smelling of salt and seaweed

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where a storm is gathering strength … and then returning to the bedroom once more, there in the gloom are those same pictures and objects that inspired the whole journey.
This journey is more than merely a visual one; truly it’s one that engages all the senses as we smell and taste that belching smoke …

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hear the running water as it murmurs along and then cascades down a waterfall, listen to the bird and animal sounds of the jungle,

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feel those watching eyes in the dark jungly depths …

 

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and of course, every spread is an arresting feast for the eyes.
Make sure too, to look for the tiny sailboat itself with its adventurous navigator as it charts its course through all those amazing landscapes so richly hued and textured. See how many animals you can notice dotted throughout the pages: look closely and be captivated. You’ll be reluctant to rejoin that child as she returns to the bedroom where raindrops pelt against the windowpane and a soft light shines, perhaps calling her forth once more. I certainly was.
When you do though, pay careful attention to those inspirational endpapers.
This truly is a book rich with potential for inspiring children’s creativity, for environmental and geographical discussions and more. First though let it be enjoyed and savoured for its aesthetic riches both visual and verbal.

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Old Friends and New

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Max
Marc Martin
Templar Publishing
Most of us will be familiar with the empty feeling that comes when circumstances separate close friends. In this affecting story by an award winning Australian artist, the avian protagonist certainly does.
Max is a seagull – a very fine looking one and slightly mischievous, so a gull after my own heart. He has a particular penchant for fish and chips

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and a special friend, Bob who keeps him supplied with the latter. And the former? The friends spend their evenings together catching those: life is pretty peachy for Max.
Then one day when Max arrives at Bob’s shop, he finds it empty; but where oh where is Bob?
Max waits a long time but then decides it’s time to take flight and off he goes searching …

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until as he flies above a city, a familiar smell pervades his nares.
Down he swoops and eventually finds …

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Wonder of wonders – there is his old pal and a joyful reunion is the order of the day, along with a few chips of course.
Oh, and their after hours fishing trips are resumed too …
Beautifully rendered through mixed media illustrations and a spare text that allows observant readers and listeners plenty of room to fill the gaps, this is a tender-hearted celebration of friendship triumphing against the odds. For instance we are never told about the fairground and its possible impact on the shops it dominates but it’s shown several times in the early scenes.

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Delicious!

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Best Friends
Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater
Hodder Children’s Books
Crazy capers ensue when three balls are thrown: these are immediately pursued by Dexter, Daisy and Lily, three altogether different dogs. Dexter McFadden McSimmons McClean (imagine yelling ‘Come here DMMM’ in full when he charges off) is a dashing greyhound, Daisy is a somewhat dreamy-looking dachshund and Lily, a prettified poodle.
Hot on their trails go respective owners, William – at a mad dash, Jack at a more leisurely stroll and a somewhat embarrassed Maddie, sporting a new haircut. But Dexter crash-lands right into a rather genteel picnic;

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Daisy somehow scares a reader and Lily becomes entangled in a kite. That however, is nowhere near the end of the canine-caused chaos …

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There’s a soaking in store too and it’s not just for those demented dogs

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But, with new friendships forged, all ends happily in Mara Bergman’s hilarious rhyming romp. It’s told in a jaunty fashion entirely in keeping with which are Nicola Slater’s superbly energetic, retro-style illustrations that have all the verve and vigour of Lynley Dodd’s well-known and much loved, Hairy Maclary.
Definitely a book that will stand up to the many re-readings I’m sure young listeners will demand, mine certainly have. I found myself falling for all three of those canine charmers despite being dog-phobic.

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Friends
Eric Carle
Puffin Books
A boy and a girl are close friends playing together and sharing each other’s secrets until one day the girl is gone; she’s moved somewhere far away. The boy counts to ten then sets off to find her. Having swum across a cold river, slept under a starry sky climbed up a steep mountain and down into a grassy meadow. He journeys through the rain till sleep overtakes him. Next day off he goes once more through a shadowy forest and a garden where he gathers flowers and eventually finds his friend again. “I have found you!” he shouted. “I knew you would come,” she said.
Much of the journey features only the landscape, which is conveyed through abstract brush-strokes and collage forms, with the children appearing just at the beginning and end. This serves to allow the reader to step into the shoes of the boy and in so doing get a feeling of the enormous distance he travels. Certainly the lad was a determined over-comer of obstacles.
The final pages show a photograph of Carle and a girl friend from his early childhood in 1932 from whom he was separated when his family moved. Seemingly this friendship was part of the inspiration for the book, although the real-life friends have never been reunited.

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A Forest & It Might Be An Apple

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A Forest
Marc Martin
Templar Publishing
Once there was a forest – an ancient one that had grown up thick and lush over thousands of years; but then along came people with saws and axes and they began to cut down the trees, Just a little at a time at first and with care, replacing what they’d taken.

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Greed soon replaces judiciousness though and gradually trees give way to smoke-belching factories. There instead stands a city – all but treeless and thick with pollution. Then comes a terrible storm with rain so strong it destroys the entire built environment …

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leaving just one small tree.
Thank heavens for that one tree for, as the years pass it develops into another forest.

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Let’s hope those greedy people stop and think this itme.
This alarmingly thought-provoking fable – a debut book for Australian illustrator, Martin – is a timely (and timeless) reminder of the terrible damage mankind can all too easily do to our precious environment. His mixed media scenes are a felicitous amalgam of digitally manipulated watercolour and fine-lined, close packed pen work.

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It Might be An Apple
Shinsuke Yoshitake
Thames and Hudson
When you see an apple before you on the table, what do you think? Probably, like me – ‘Hmm! yummy – just what I need’ – and you proceed to bite into it.
Not so the boy in this brilliantly inventive, romp of a book. His thoughts are much more philosophical in nature: is it really an apple? Might it perhaps be a jelly-filled cherry, a red fish curled into a ball or an egg? Could it even be packed with clever devices

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such as an engine, a flavour generator, a redness regulator?
Our investigator’s imagination continues to flow – onwards, up and out – till it becomes an amazing house, then an entire crazy fantasy planet populated with tiny apple aliens. Seemingly the possibilities are endless when entertained by our lad herein: does it have feelings? Siblings and other family members? A desire to learn about our narrator? A funky new hairstyle?

 

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Even,’Is everyone else an apple?’

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Then of course, there’s that existential question ‘Why is it here in the first place?’
And much more …

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Not only has Shinsuke Yoshitake picked a common or garden item and peeled off its skin to reveal a world with a multitude of possibilities and more, he also encourages youngsters (and perhaps adults) to adopt a questioning attitude towards the world around. Those comic strip sequences and full spread scenes are fantastic; thought provoking and highly entertaining – in more ways than one. I feel a community of enquiry coming on.
Do, I urge you take a bite of this one; and then go back for more and more and … And, in case you are wondering whether our boy narrator finally samples this object of wonder,

 

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well you’ll have to get hold of this delicious book and discover for yourself. Superb stuff.

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