The Friendship Bench

The Friendship Bench
Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus
Oxford Children’s Books

New beginnings is the theme of this beautiful story that celebrates young children’s creative play.

Tilly has just moved to a new home beside the sea: the setting looks gorgeous but she’s very disappointed when her mum tells her that her beloved dog Shadow can’t go into her new school on her first day. Nothing is the same without her canine friend.
At playtime, Tilly is alone and when her teacher notices this he suggests she try the Friendship Bench. However when she gets there, the bench is already occupied. Back to the teacher goes Tilly who tells her to have another try.

The little boy hasn’t vacated it however, so she joins him and after a bit they both decide the bench needs fixing to make it work. They set to work improving it until …

On the way back from school that afternoon Tilly tells her Mummy about how she and Flint transformed the Friendship Bench and about their future plans.

As always, there’s power in both Wendy’s straightforward, finely honed telling and Daniel Egnéus’ dreamlike illustrations. I love his warmth, the occasional gentle humour in the details and the way he puts readers right close to the action.

One to add to foundations stage/KS1 collections and family bookshelves.

Saving the Butterfly

Saving the Butterfly
Helen Cooper and Gill Smith
Walker Books

This is a timely and very moving story about trauma, the way different people respond to it, empathy and the possibility of recovery.

Two children, a big sister and her small brother are rescued from a boat adrift on the dark sea; they’ve lost everything. The younger one remembers little of his ordeal whereas his sister appears more resourceful, talking to rescuers and being instrumental in finding them shelter in a broken house.

However, while she remains inside dwelling on what’s gone before, her little brother ventures outdoors and begins to make friends.

Feeling greatly concerned about what to do to help shift that ‘dark in her mind’ the boy, keen to coax his sister outside, catches a beautiful butterfly and brings in back to their refuge.

The girl upsets him by telling him to release the tiny thing that begins hitting its wings against the walls. It needs space and it needs time, she tells the boy. The boy goes out again; his sister counts the colours of the butterfly’s wings to calm her breathing. Eventually the girl opens the door; the butterfly settles on her hand. She steps out and blows the tiny thing. Can she now find the courage to follow the butterfly as it takes flight towards the sun where it belongs?

Helen Cooper’s heartfelt telling shows how, in their own ways, the siblings help one another to begin to move forward after such a life-changing ordeal. To me the blackness of the sea at the start represents their loss and the butterfly symbolises transcendence of that dark fearful state. Equally poignant, Gill Smith’s stunningly beautiful illustrations perfectly capture the feelings of the siblings in those early stages of rebuilding their lives.

Every primary school classroom needs a copy of this one.

Nop

Nop
Caroline Mageri
Walker Books

Meet Nop resident of Oddmint’s Dumporium, a dusty place piled high with assorted goods all in need of some mending, fixing or fancyfi-ing by those that work by candle light.

When it comes to Nop though, nothing, be it button, ribbon, or spangle quite fits the bill. Seemingly the bear is doomed to remain on the unwanted shelf instead of being placed in a splendidly crinkly paper bag and carried away in the arms of a happy customer.

But then he spies something red on the floor just waiting to be transformed into an exciting adornment and thus embellished with same, an idea floats into his mind.

Come morning, stitch by stitch

the idea becomes the means to start an exciting adventure in the big wide world where, who knows, perhaps a new friendship awaits.

Spendidly whimsical, Caroline Mageri’s Nop with its themes of hope, enterprise and new beginnings is an uplifting, lyrically written delight.