Yellow Dress Day / What’s In My Lunchbox?

Thanks to New Frontier Publishing for sending these two recent picture books:

Yellow Dress Day
Michelle Worthington, illustrated by Sophie Norsa

Ava has a particular penchant for dresses, dresses of all colours and she chooses which of them to wear according to the feeling she has about the day, when she greets it each morning.

The red dress is reserved for warm, sunny days; on pink dress days her garden is all abuzz with bees enjoying the flowers; purple dress days are those when rainstorms are around;

snowflakes swishing, swirling and sparkling in the sky signify the need to select her blue dress, while yellow dress days have a whistling wind that shakes the tree branches and send their leaves all a-scatter.

On one such whirly, windy day, Ava’s dress isn’t to be found in any of its usual places …

but then she recalls that the previous day had been similar. Oh dear! Now she can locate its whereabouts but she can’t put it on in the state it’s now in.

Perhaps her mum can find something of the appropriate colour for her to use instead so she can go out and enjoy the day playing with her pup.

Michelle Worthington’s story with a scattering of onomatopoeia  that young listeners will love, is great to read aloud, and equally fun illustrations by Sophie Norsa, capture the different moods of the days beautifully.

What’s In My Lunchbox?
Peter Carnavas, illustrated by Kat Chadwick

This book really made me laugh. I was expecting it merely to be a story about a picky eater but it’s SO much more than that.

The boy narrator is something of a fusspot when it comes to the contents of his lunchbox – he eschews the apple; fish is a definite no-no – I don’r blame him on that one;

ditto the egg. I’ve no idea how what emerges on day four has managed to hide itself in a container with so small a capacity, and even more so the item for day five.

I imagine day six’s lunch item would definitely discombobulate any self-respecting boy …

so what about day seven? Could something therein on that particular day perhaps cause a rethink on the narrator’s part?

WIth its repeat patterned text, every page of this story is a starting point for another story – one that a child creates in response.

Ideal for those in the early stages of becoming readers to try for themselves, or for class sharing, when anticipation will be high throughout, and with Kat Chadwick’s terrific illustrations, this is such a fun read. Make sure you sample the front inside cover too.

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding / Santa’s Tight Squeeze

Here are a couple of Christmas treats from New Frontier Publishing both written by Alex Field

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding
Alex Field and Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

Another delightful episode in the life of duck, Mr Darcy and his friends, this time with a seasonal feel.

It’s ‘Stir-up Sunday’ (the day five weeks before the big day, so the final note explains, when the Christmas pudding is traditionally made). Mr D. is busy with Christmas preparations at Pemberley Park.

Having saved his friend Maria from the clutches of Mr Collins the cat, he takes her indoors just before the rest of his friends arrive to help make the pudding.

While they are busy so doing who should appear at the window but Mr Collins looking wan and chilly. Mr Darcy’s reaction is to close the curtains and carry on with the stirring once more.

The sweet, kind Lizzy however causes Mr Darcy to have a change of heart and Mr Collins is allowed in to help with the stirring, till wishes and all, the mix is just perfect.

Come Christmas Day everyone gathers to share in the Pemberley hospitality and all’s right with the world.

Alex Field’s text is as always, wonderfully whimsical and combined with Peter Carnavas’ enchanting illustrations, makes for an enormously enjoyable, thought provoking festive read aloud.
From the same author comes:

Santa’s Tight Squeeze
Alex Field and Karen Erasmus
New Frontier Publishing

As Santa whizzes around the world (love his flying goggles) on his Christmas Eve round, the offerings left by various hopefuls cause his girth to increase considerably.

So much so that well before he’s finished his task, he knows that all his treat eating has to cease: instead he gives the goodies to his reindeers.

Not all of them however, for he saves some for his elves as a thank you for their labours. Then back beside his fire, it’s time for him to tuck into a rather sizeable slice of Christmas cake.

Karen Erasmus’ mixed media illustrations provide the perfect degree of humour to this enjoyable story.

Just right to share with little ones before a sing-along to the nursery favourite ‘When Santa got stuck up the chimney’.

The Children Who Loved Books

The Children Who Loved Books
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

The title alone made my heart sing: a story about book-loving children. What more can a book-mad reviewer of children’s books ask? Perhaps just that the book is as good as one hopes, and this one definitely lives up to my expectations.
It features a family of book lovers that have replaced almost everything else with books. There’s no car, no television, and they live in a caravan: no matter: everything they really need can be supplied by books.

There comes a day however, that their home just can’t accommodate any more books: it’s time to take things in hand …

Needless to say, things are NOT the same thereafter: the table is a tad unbalanced; Angus can’t see out of the window and the family, with so much space between them, begin to grow apart.
One day Lucy brings home a library book in her school bag and the magical experience of reading, with its power to enrich and unite, is rekindled, and with it comes a realisation that although it is wonderful to own books – lots of them – libraries have much to offer too.

The undisguised message at the heart of this is two-fold: the first concerns the powerful effects books and reading can have on a family; the second – one we adults need to keep reminding ourselves – is that a lot of material things are unnecessary for happiness.
With visual touches of Bob Graham, and a nod to Anthony Powell’s Books Do Furnish a Room …

Peter Carnavas has created a wonderful celebration of the power of sharing books and of libraries with plenty to think about and discuss with both children and adults.
I’m delighted to see New Frontier Publishing making his enchanting picture books available in the UK.

I’ve signed the charter  

Last Tree in the City / Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Last Tree in the City
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

Edward lives in a city, one that appears totally devoid of beauty or colour. However, he knows of a tiny oasis in this concrete jungle.
At the end of his street stands one last tree and for the little boy (and his companion duck) it’s a place of joy; a place surrounded by nature where the two would spend many a happy time.

One day however disaster strikes: Edward’s tree has gone.

He’s devastated; but then he makes a discovery that brings hope to his heart, a tiny glimmer of hope that just might alter the city’s future in the very best way possible …

With minimal words and superbly eloquent watercolour and ink illustrations, Peter Carnavas has created a modern fable that has much to say to all of us; not only with its subtle ecological message but also with the empowering thought that one person really can make a difference.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
Lisa Papp
Old Barn Books

Madeline Finn, the story’s narrator, is a reluctant reader: she really does NOT like to read anything at all, not even the menu on the ice cream van. The trouble is that she finds the whole reading thing very hard work and sometimes her classmates make fun of her attempts at reading aloud. “Keep trying,” her teacher tells her giving her ‘Keep Trying’ hearts for her efforts.

Madeline though is desperate for a star sticker but those are only given to ‘good readers’: that teacher really needs to think about what she’s doing there.
On Saturday, Madeline’s mum takes her to the library where the girl reminds the librarian of her dislike of reading.

Miss Dimple however shows her a room where children are reading to dogs and offers her the opportunity to do likewise, introducing her to Bonnie, a large white dog.
Bonnie is a great listener; she ‘s non-judgemental, forgiving and patient; and week by week Madeline gains the confidence to make mistakes, to go at her own pace, and to take risks as she continues to read to the dog.

After many weeks, she is ready to read out loud at school. She starts out a bit wobbly but imagines herself reading to Bonnie and suddenly she’s done it.
Lisa Papp’s gentle watercolour illustrations capture the little girl’s feelings so beautifully in this encouraging story, which has a lovely surprise ending, both for the main protagonist and for readers.

I’ve signed the charter  

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  

I Wrote You A Note / Mr Darcy

I Wrote You A Note
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books
Herein we follow the journey of a note written by a little girl sitting beside a stream, as it travels from her hands until it finally finds its way to the intended recipient.
During its journey the note becomes briefly, a sail for Turtle’s raft; a resting place for some baby ducklings; a bridge for Spider.

Bird then uses it as nesting material; it’s discovered by a restless squirrel; Snail mistakes it for a house; Mouse fashions it into a sunhat;

Rabbit makes a basket from it; Dragonfly rests beneath it; Goat – well he can’t read so abandons it in favour of grass.
Finally the wind whisks the paper skywards dropping it in just the right place for a friend to find. But what does the note say? Aah! You’ll need to get hold of a copy of this enchanting book to discover that.
This is a lovely, rhythmic read aloud with some natural sounding repetition and gentle humour throughout. Lizi Boyd’s gouache illustrations are enchanting. They, along with the stream, seem to flow across the pages as the note makes it journey; and the sender is, all the while, exploring and interacting with the natural world around her. It’s absolute delight from cover to cover, with text and illustrations working so perfectly together.

Mr Darcy
Alex Field and Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing
Meet Mr Darcy, a genteel, refined and shy character living alone on the edge of Pemberley Park. One day he receives an invitation to tea from Lizzy and her sisters who live in an ordinary park. Seemingly considering himself a cut above such creatures, Mr D. tosses the invitation aside

and goes on his way, cutting short the sisters as he passes by.
The following day, Mr Darcy embarrasses himself by crashing right into a tree while endeavouring to ignore Lizzy, and then suffers another disaster of a very messy kind.

Once again its Lizzy together with several others, including Mr Bingley who, despite Mr Darcy’s rudeness, come to his aid.
Grateful for his assistance, Mr Darcy decides after all to accept the invitation to tea and once there, he feels ‘quite loved and not alone at all.’
If any of this sounds familiar, then it’s because the author, a Jane Austen lover, chose to create this rather softer character in her reimagined Pride and Prejudice for young children with its basic plot, main characters and settings remaining intact. Alex Field’s charming tale about shyness, encouragement and the joys of friendship, demonstrates beautifully how easy it is for shyness to come across as rudeness. It’s made all the more enjoyable by Peter Carnavas’s gently humorous, painterly portrayal of the characters.

I’ve signed the charter