We’re Going Places

We’re Going Places
Mick Jackson and John Broadley
Pavilion Children’s Books

After their terrific debut picture book While You’re Sleeping, author Mick Jackson and illustrator John Broadley pair up again and the result is another exciting, engrossing book, this one being somewhat more philosophical than the first.

Travel and journeying is the theme here and through Jackson’s playfully poetic narrative and Broadley’s meticulously detailed scenes, readers follow a child’s development from adult dependence, through those first unstable steps, to assured confident strides out and about, then onto wheels – ‘tricycles, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates’.

More and more possibilities open up – perhaps a trip in a hot air balloon, or something that needs to be done speedily such as a train ride to somewhere exciting – another country even.

Some journeys however are meant to be done slowly, slowly, allowing plenty of time for pausing to watch and ponder upon the host of other creatures that, while they might be part of your particular journey, are also undertaking their own, some on foot, others on the wing such as bumblebees or migrating birds.

It might be that a journey is seasonal, on a frozen river for instance; or that of a bee ‘bumbling from blossom to blossom’ (love that alliteration); it could even be made by something inanimate such as a raindrop on a window pane.

There have always been divergent thinkers who like to try doing things differently and in this ever-changing world of ours, what seemed once impossible will one day be part and parcel of everyday.

With choices to be made and a wealth of possible ways to go, none of us can ever be absolutely sure of the twists and turns our life will take.

However one thing that’s almost certain is that as people grow old, their journeys will likely be much slower, and less confident perhaps, almost as though we’ve come full circle, with what’s past always there, deep within.

There’s an absolute wealth of texture and pattern, as well as potential stories on every spread, so that readers will undoubtedly find themselves pausing on their journey through the book, adults possibly pondering upon their own life’s journey past, present and future, perhaps like the grandmother sitting in a chair, shown on the final spread.

Assuredly this is a book to return to over and over with the likelihood of new questions and fresh understanding emerging on each reading.

While You’re Sleeping

While You’re Sleeping
Mick Jackson and John Broadley
Pavilion Books

Interestingly this collaboration brings together Booker Prize shortlisted author Mick Jackson and illustrator John Broadley, both well known for their books for adults, in a first book for a child audience; and what a superb enterprise it is.

Herein children will discover that during the time they spend sleeping, a myriad of humans are wide awake actively engaged in their world. So too are countless creatures be they owls on the hunt, foraging foxes, bats or hungry hares searching for food.

Imagine what it would be like if those cleaners hadn’t been busy on the buses and trains people take to work and school, while others clean the offices, shops and streets.

Then there are lorry drivers delivering their loads of food and other goods; post-office workers busy sorting all the mail; bakers cooking;

firefighters ready to answer emergency calls; those twenty-four hour shops and cafes; dedicated hospital staff on night duty; and ships with their crews under starry skies.

There’s a reminder that elsewhere in the world, while some children slumber, others will be in their classrooms or perhaps doing sporting activities and when their day is over, the sleepers wlll awake.

Speaking directly to young listeners/readers in a friendly tone, the narrative is a wonderful read aloud be it at bedtime or during the day. While with echoes of Eric Ravilious, John Broadley’s incredibly detailed illustrations are truly beautiful works of art (I’d love any of them as an original print on my walls.)

To open this book is like opening a gorgeous box full of jewels – each page is stunning – so too are the endpapers, the cover: the entire production in fact and to read it is like being shown around a gallery by a wise, gently spoken curator eager to open our eyes to how the world works.

Ella May Does It Her Way!

Ella May Does It Her Way!
Mick Jackson and Andrea Stegmaier
Words & Pictures

Let me introduce young Ella May; she’s a little girl who lives on a boat and knows what she wants and how she’s going to do it. Good on you Ella May, you’re not about to let anyone push you around.

One day, Ella’s Mum gives her something new to eat saying, “It’s good to try new things.”

The idea appeals to Ella and so later in the park she decides to try walking backwards and having pretty much got the hang of that, she does a whole lot of other things backwards too.

Despite her Mum hoping she’ll soon tire of the backwards notion, it’s not long before Ella has got her Mum as well as pretty much everyone else in the neighbourhood joining the backwards walking parade through the town.

Having harnessed their enthusiasm though, Ella decides enough is enough with walking backwards; but being Ella she’s not going to revert to a normal way of moving around. After all there are plenty of other ways and as she says in parting, “It’s good to try new things!” And so it is.

Billed as the first of a series, I look forward to seeing more of Mike Jackson’s determined character in further funny episodes. Andrea Stegmaier’s illustrations are an equal delight: I love her colour palette, her portrayal of Ella, her Mum and the bit part players, all of whom contribute to the splendid scenes of purpose and tenacity the Ella May way. Long may young Ella continue.