There’s a Lion in the Library!

There’s a Lion in the Library!
Dave Skinner and Aurélie Guillerey
Orchard Books

Here’s a simply delicious reworking of The Boy Who Cried Wolf fable starring a little girl named Lucy Lupin. Lucy might appear a little sweetie but in fact she’s a holy terror whose favourite thing is to tell lies – absolute whoppers!

It all begins one Monday morning when this young miss makes the titular announcement to the librarian, claiming the creature is chomping through the history books.

An emergency is declared and the library evacuated while a search takes place.

A similar thing happens on the Tuesday when our mischief-maker informs the caretaker that the lion is devouring books in the romance section. Then come Wednesday the announcement is made to the coffee shop manager who insists all library visitors run for their lives.

For the third time the search for said creature proves fruitless.

The three library workers have a meeting to consider this mysterious visiting creature. Could it perhaps be that when it comes to sweet-looking little girls, appearances can be deceptive?

A day or two later, young Lucy Lupin returns to the library. On this particular day however, things go a little differently …

I’m a terrific enthusiast when it comes to fractured fairy tales and fables, and this one is a cracker to read aloud. Aurélie Guillerey’s illustrations have a slightly retro look reminiscent of Roger Duvoisin and her characters both human and leonine are splendid.

The Long Island

The Long Island
Drew Beckmeyer
Chronicle Books

This is an enigmatic debut picture book – a modern fable essentially – that will I suspect, have as many interpretations as there are readers.

We follow a group of five friends as they contemplate and then endeavour to visit the other side of the island they live on.

They set out in a canoe only to discover the far side is ‘too rocky to land on’; one of the crew is lost overboard. Four encounter vegetation ‘too dense to cut through’ where big cats stalk and the explorers’ number is reduced to three.

The trio construct a slide down which they eventually slither in so doing losing another one of their number

leaving the remaining two to discover they are unable to get back from whence they came.

The elaborate edifice they co-construct eventually attracts outsiders who start destroying the beauty of the place

and as the book concludes we see just a single one of the original five setting out alone …

This is a long book with a kind of circularity, richly illustrated in textured crayon, which raises many questions, leaving readers to ponder and to try and draw their own conclusions. It would be an interesting one for community of enquiry discussions, be that with primary or secondary age children, or with students in college.

The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily

The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily
Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas
Hodder Children’s Books

I’m anything but a lover of cats – they make me sneezy, wheezy and itchy-eyed but the ginger creature staring out from the cover of this book is totally irresistible and goes by the unlikely name of Tantrum O’Furrily.

What we have here is a story within a story and it all begins one wild and windy night with stray cat, Tantrum O’Furrily dancing across the rooftops with her three hungry little kittens and offering to tell them a story.

Slightly disappointed to learn that stories aren’t edible, they start to listen to their mother’s song. She tells of a small kitten; Smallpaw by name, a very pampered pet living with Mrs Worrykin who, when asked for a story responds that only stray cats – the robbers and fighters – are story cats.

One night Mrs Worrykin forgets to close the catflap and seeking adventure, Smallpaw pokes her head outside into the dark sniffing for a story of her own.

The fox she encounters is more than willing to oblige and begins his tale thus: “Once upon a time there was a delicious little kitten with fur as soft as butter, who was bored of being indoors…

Recognising the similarities with her own story, Smallpaw is intrigued and allows herself be lured outside, bounding right up close to the foxy gentleman who, as foxes do, has his eye on the main chance.

Fortunately for her, there happens to be a stray cat on hand with tiger-like claws and tenacious teeth; she sees off the wily predator …

and gives Smallpaw some timely advice.

Smallpaw does return to her keeper but from then on, Mrs Worrykin always leaves the catflap open. The best of both worlds becomes the order of the day – and night – for, as that wise stray once said, ‘A cat with courage makes her own story.’

Beautifully told by wonderful weaver of words, Cressida Cowell whose modern fable is complemented by Carmelite Prize winning illustrator Mark Nicholas. His superbly smudgy scenes, executed with a minimal colour palette, detail the action with panache.

The Orange House

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The Orange House
Nahid Kazemi
Tiny Owl Publishing
Down at the end of the alley lined by tall buildings Sky, Star, Sea and Moonlight, stands the Orange House and Orange is far from happy. The reason being she is the only remaining old house, and while the other buildings all watch and comment on the nearby, as yet nameless new building,

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single storeyed Orange House stays silent. She doesn’t have a lift, nor amazing plumbing or even beautiful bricks or windows as the others have commented. Puzzled by her continued silence,

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Turquoise, the first of the more recent buildings, continues speaking, recalling when like Orange, other houses in the alley had gardens with trees, ponds, birds and fish. The rest join the conversation, reminiscing about the lost beauty and gradually realising the impact they themselves have had on the locality, Turquoise commenting on the quality of the air (cleaner and easier to breathe back then).
Suddenly Orange notices workmen approaching with picks and shovels; but then so do the others. Deciding it’s time to make a stand against further development, the tall buildings form a barricade around the Orange House making her invisible to those would-be destructive humans who give up their search and walk away.

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And thus stands Orange House, smiling and happy surrounded by her new friends and protectors.
This is a powerful fable of our time, when thoughtless, money-grabbing developers are often too ready to knock down buildings and destroy open spaces in the name of progress.
With its naive perspectives, Nahid Kazemi’s quirky, offbeat illustrative style delivers the message with a punchy panache.

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