She Heard the Birds

She Heard the Birds: the story of Florence Merriam Bailey
Andrea D’Aquino
Princeton Architectural Press

In this inspiring picture book biography author/illustrator Andrea D’Aquino shines a light on key moments in the life of the pioneering American ornithologist and nature activist Florence Merriam Bailey who was born in 1863.

Daughter of a camping enthusiast father and astronomer mother, Florence grew up surrounded by nature in which she developed an early interest, especially when it came to birds. These she found the most fascinating and she spent time learning as much as she could about these feathered creatures.

As a young woman, while visiting the city, Florence was appalled by the sight of people – dedicated followers of fashion – wearing hats decorated with feathers and the bodies of birds. She was even more disgusted by the sounds of the gunshots in the woods of those ornithologists who thought it acceptable to shoot birds in order to study them.

Determined to make a difference, Florence, armed only with her tools for observing birds – knew she must answer the calls for help of the birds and to do so she must dream big.

She put the information she’d collected into print, writing field guides, and other bird books some giving suggestions about how readers too could learn about these precious creatures becoming peaceful observers of birds in nature too.

Thus guns could be replaced by binoculars and listeners to their songs taking heed of her ‘Shhhhhhh! Listen. What are they saying?’would be filled with delight and share her determination to push forward crucial changes.

Thus it was that one person’s mission gradually became that of many;

the end result being that ‘The world became safer for the birds, and more beautiful for us all.’ How this was actually achieved we aren’t told but it’s evident that the millinery trade and others got the message that began with a single woman nature lover.

In her hand-painted collage, oil pastel, and pencil illustrations, Andrea D’Aquino focuses the reader’s attention on her subject’s personal mission while using rich colours to emphasise the overwhelming importance of nature and its beauty, and giving the birds centre stage.

In addition to giving more detail about Bailey’s life, the final spread contains a reminder that the struggle to protect birds continues and there are some recommendations for readers who want to help.

George and His Nighttime Friends

George and His Nighttime Friends
Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

George, the lonely child protagonist in this nocturnal tale lies awake unable to sleep on account of his fear of the dark. “I wish I had a nighttime friend, even a small one,” he says one night. Surprised to hear a voice responding in the darkness, the boy sees beneath his bed a tiny mouse offering to help.

The mouse leads George downstairs and into a wonderful adventure in his very own house. The two explorers’ first encounter is with book guardian Mole,

then an elegant, piano-playing rabbit with stage fright, followed in the bathroom by a little penguin with a fear of the water and lots of other things. The four friends plunge into a warm bath to help Penguin with his frights and then during their search for towels they discover in the dryer a panda.

Said Panda is in need of a badminton opponent to help fulfil an ambition. There follows a crazy badminton game which fuels their hunger

and results in a new encounter in the kitchen and the making of another nighttime friend.

At last, surrounded by the host of new friends, George realises that night isn’t so scary as he’d supposed. A cosy bed calls and now it’s time to bid farewell to his friends and …. zzzzz …

Wonderfully whimsical, and wondrously illustrated in Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s richly patterned trademark fashion, this book is a perfect bedtime treat for youngsters and adults to read together. Both will savour the magical scenes – sometimes comforting and reassuring, sometimes playful – with their unusual perspectives, wealth of detail and superb use of light and shadow, throughout. Be prepared for an extended bedtime experience as youngsters will want to spend ages poring over every spread.

Chickenology / Milly Cow Gives Milk

Chickenology
Barbara Sandri and Francesco Giubbilini, illustrated by Camilla Pintonato
Princeton Architectural Press

This introductory book contains everything you ever wanted to know about chickens and probably a lot more too. There are five sections (listed on contents page but not mentioned thereafter) into which is packed an incredible amount of information presented in a highly readable manner with well-designed, stylishly illustrated spreads, every one of which has just the right amount of text so that at no time does the reader feel overwhelmed.

It starts with pages on identification; how to tell the difference between a hen and a rooster, courtship and mating, a spread on shape and size – astonishingly a Jersey Giant is almost the height of a three year old child. Communication is given a double spread; feathers have two and the Leghorn spread presents a dozen different varieties of the same breed, something I didn’t know.

Last in the first section is an exploration of the question ‘Can chickens fly?’

The next part begins with a look at the anatomy – internal and external and then comes a section comprising an egg-sploration of eggs.

My favourite section is ‘Chickens and Humans’ that encompasses some history, symbolism, folktales and more.

And last of all is a presentation of just some of the estimated 300 different breeds.

There’s likely something of interest to readers of all kinds here.

For a younger audience is:

Milly Cow Gives Milk
Deborah Chancellor and Julia Groves
Scallywag Press

Ask a group of young children where milk comes from and if my experience is anything to go by, some of them will name a supermarket. Now here’s a simple picture book (endorsed by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers), the first of a series, that goes right back to grass roots, to Farmer McBean’s farm to be precise.

There, in the company of a child, we meet Milly, one of a well cared for, ’happy herd’ and learn the basic facts about her daily life as she grazes on tasty grass in summer and is fed lots of hay to see her through the winter. Molly has to chew and chew what she eats to help its passage through her system, as well as drinking large amounts of fresh water, inevitably making lots of cow pats in the process.

Readers get right up close to her swollen udder as it bulges with milk and watch her being led to the milking parlour (which happens at sunrise and sundown). I was astonished to learn that Molly’s daily yield is around sixty pints and that along with the milk from the rest of the herd, is made ready for drinking and eventually once packed, it does reach the shelves of supermarkets and other outlets.

The final pages gives some further, basic facts about cows, milk and dairy farming. Julia Groves’ clean, bold illustrations and Deborah Chancellor’s straightforward account show that milk production involves a lot of hard work and for many people, it’s a vital item in their daily diet, unless like me they happen to be vegan.

For foundation stage and KS1 topic boxes.

Where the World Ends

Where the World Ends
Davide Cali and Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press

With nothing better to do on a sultry summer’s day but lie around watching and discussing the clouds, why not go on a quest to discover where the world ends. That’s just what three friends Zip, Trik and Flip decide to do in this quirky story, having first packed plenty of peanuts and other essential items such as skis, binoculars, pencils and paper.

En route they stop several times asking for directions and receive a number of less than helpful answers -“Why would you want to go there?”

… “not here for sure”, “You can’t … nobody has ever been there. I forbid you to cross here!” … “at the peak of a nearby mountain” for instance. One more considerate boatman does take them across a lake though, and others are a tad more obliging in their comments.

On trudge the three, meandering, like Cali’s narrative, hither and thither, over hill and down dale,

up mountains and down, through a forest until finally driven by the logic of children at play they find that which they seek …

It’s only by turning to the final endpapers that we see a child-like map of the route the friends have taken.
Yes, the ending is somewhat strange and some may not find it satisfying, although the adventurers certainly did.

Executed in watercolours, Maria Dek’s sunny scenes are delightfully whimsical making every one a place to pause and enjoy its inventiveness.

Patience, Miyuki

Patience, Miyuki
Roxane Marie Galliez and Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

I’ve not met Miyuki before although this book is a follow up to Time for Bed, Miyuki and it seems slightly strange to receive for review as summer gives way to autumn, a story about the magic of spring. Nonetheless it’s a beauty and so worth drawing attention to.

Miyuki is excited at the arrival of spring and cannot wait to revel in the joys it brings. On her walk with her Grandfather she notices a flower that is yet to open. “Be patient” she’s told, this delicate little flower needs the purest water.

At these words she’s off on a mission to find that water to make the flower burst into bloom.

Her quest leads to an encounter with a toad in a well, a pretty cloud, a beautiful waterfall

and a boy watering his garden who does provide her with what she seeks.

In her haste to return however she trips, hurts her leg and spills the water.

As a result she has to stop and in the silence of the moment she hears the song of the river. “Be patient,” it says promising to take her home.

Lulled by the water, she falls asleep and the river keeps its promise carrying her home, borne by an origami swan to her Grandfather.

Next morning, the second day of spring, Grandfather is able to get her to be still

so that she can observe the wonderful surprise that awaits.

There’s a dream-like quality to this sweet, soft-spoken story that is reflected in Seng Soun Ratanavan’s beautiful jewel-coloured, occasionally playful, illustrations of the natural world, some of which include traditional Japanese objects.

Enjoy the moment is the message of this book, and it’s one we could all do with paying heed to in our increasingly busy times, whatever the season.

A Life Made by Hand: The story of Ruth Asawa

A Life Made by Hand: The story of Ruth Asawa
Andrea D’Aquino
Princeton Architectural Press

I have to admit that despite my interest in art the name of this book’s subject is new to me.

Brought up on her family farm in California, Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa was from an early age, mesmerised by the flora and fauna she saw around her.

Her close observation of such things as insects she saw led her to make representations of them from wire or folded paper, and she also loved to draw in the dirt with her feet.

At weekends, instead of working on the farm, Ruth studied Japanese calligraphy and later she went to art school where she gained further inspiration from dance choreography, and her teachers, in particular Buckminster Fuller and Josef Albers.

Travelling to Mexico she learned wire weaving from local craftsmen who twisted the metal to make baskets.

Back home Ruth experimented with this medium and finally knew what was THE medium for her.

Her sculptures are enormously complex, beautiful graceful pieces that are now to be found in art museums mostly in the US

where they inspire others to look closely, imagine and create for themselves.

This short interesting introductory biography for youngsters with an interest in both art and the natural world omits the darker events in the life of Asawa and her family, but the author provides factual notes on these, as well as an explanation for her own inspiration in creating the book, and instructions for making a paper dragonfly.

D’Aquino’s collage style illustrations – a combination of charcoal and colour pencil drawings with hand-printed and monoprinted paper are quirky and arresting, and may well inspire readers to experiment with collage too.

My Island

My Island
Stephanie Demasse-Pottier and Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

“To dream and to invent allows you to discover yourself,” So said Stephanie Demasse-Pottier, the author of this book that she wrote as a tribute to the inventiveness of her two young daughters. Hurrah for her flagging up the link between the imagination and the power to be inventive – in whatever field.
The little girl narrator of the story conjures up an imaginary island world filled with flying fish, birds, constantly blooming flowers, and animals aplenty.

In this place she has tea parties for the animals, she reads, makes coffee, interacts with snails, arranges flowers – all in her own little house.

We too can share in the riches of this place, so long as we know ‘how to sing’, ‘how to share’

and ‘how to dream’.

 

What adult wouldn’t want their child/ren to gain access to such a place – this extraordinary and wonderful world created by the imagination of the intense, creative little girl. A place where they too can wander, or pause awhile, letting their imaginations soar, further fuelled by the vivid scenes conjured by Seng Soun Ratanavanh in her watercolours, coloured pencils, and red thread stitched illustrations (which serve both to link together what the narrator imagines and to leave gaps for readers’ imaginations to enter).

Not only is this a tribute to two little girls, it’s a tribute to the power of the imagination itself.
Remove all technology and let youngsters take that leap and linger long. Who knows what might happen …

Good Morning, Neighbour

Good Morning, Neighbour
Davide Cali and Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press

It all begins when Mouse decides to make an omelette, the problem being he lacks an egg. Mouse asks his neighbour Blackbird.

Blackbird doesn’t have one but offers flour and the suggestion they make a cake. They both call on Dormouse but instead of an egg, Dormouse provides butter for the cake and suggests they find Mole who has sugar – still no egg however.

Could Hedgehog oblige perhaps. The animals roll up at his home and ask.

No luck; and so it continues as the group adds fruit, cinnamon (for flavour) and raisins to their list of ingredients but as yet not that elusive egg.

Thank goodness then for Bat.

The culinary activities begin with all the animals doing their bit.

Now who can offer the use of an oven? Owl obliges and the cake is duly ready to eat.

“How many slices should I cut?” asks Owl. All who contributed an ingredient must surely get a piece but what about Mouse. Surely he won’t be left out; or will he?

Young listeners and readers will delightedly join in with the growing list of animals as well as the “Good morning, neighbour,” refrain.

Davide Cali’s tale of collaborative endeavour is illustrated in rather charming folk-art style watercolour illustrations that embody the feeling of camaraderie that exists among the forest animals and in the end the ingredients of warmth, friendship and teamwork that contribute towards its making are as important as the edible ones that go into the cake.

A tasty tale and a great lesson in co-operation and sharing that provides plenty of food for thought.

Creative Manipulations – Nature Origami & From Morning to Night

Nature Origami
Clover Robin
Nosy Crow

You’re in for hours of pleasure from this origami book published in collaboration with the National Trust. Containing thirteen nature inspired things to make from shells to squirrels and snails, and minnows to moths and mice, each one is allocated a double spread with a beautiful illustration by Clover Robinson on the verso while the recto has concise step-by-step instructions prefaced by a short poem by poets including Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetta, Lilian McCrea, Kenneth Grahame

and William Wordsworth.
The back part of the book is a pad of 50 sheets patterned on one side, plain on the other, which are the ideal size and weight for the projects.
Each of the projects is graded, there being a mix of each of the three levels of difficulty, the third level requiring considerable dexterity, not to mention a degree of patience.
If you scan the QR code inside the book you will be able to link to ‘how to’ videos for each object.

From Morning to Night
Flavia Ruotolo
Princeton Architectural Press

Flavia Ruotolo has a design background which she uses to great effect in this little book that plays with line, colour and form, creating sixteen pairs of objects manipulating the elements of the ordinary one to fashion something new.
She uses just two complementary colours to play with so that for instance a morning meal becomes a magic mushroom …

an orange becomes a planet, a piano is transformed into a robot toy and an open book morphs into a pair of adjacent beds.

It’s easy to see the visual relationships between the pairs but imagination is required to link for example, an orange segment on a plate with a crescent moon in orbit around a planet.
I’m all for books that help in the development of the imagination: this one certainly does that in a playful way and at the same time offers plenty of opportunities for storying. It might also encourage readers to try their own creative manipulations.

Art, Artists and Some Science Too

Art Up Close
Claire d’Harcount
Princeton Architectural Press

Art enthusiasts of all ages wlll enjoy this search and find game based on twenty three famous works of art from around the world.
Each large spread is a high quality reproduction of one named artwork that is credited and dated, in the same border as ten to twelve floating bubbles each containing a small detail from the whole piece. It’s these tiny visual elements that readers are asked to search for, some being a whole lot easier to locate than others.
The arrangement of the selected works is chronological beginning with Egyptian papyrus paintings from the Book of the Dead (around 1300BC). This is followed by a 6th century Byzantine mosaic, an Arabic manuscript (1400s), the Limbourg brothers illumination (1416) and other 15th century European painters.
Then comes an early 16th century Aztec manuscript, a Flemish tapestry, a Bruegel (the elder) and a Veronese painting.
From the 17th century are the younger Teniers, and Jan Steen’s Village School. This chaotic classroom scene, which includes a child drawing on the wall and back end of a rat that is tucking into the contents of someone’s lunch basket certainly made the teacher part of me smile; and oh my goodness, the place is so dark, it’s hardly surprising that half the people therein look as though they’ve fallen sleep or are about to do so. All this and more while the two ‘teachers’ appear totally unaware of what’s happening around them.
There’s a Japanese woodblock print from the early 19th century; Impressionism is represented by a Renoir and an Ensor; and we then move into the 20th century with surrealist, Miró,

Picasso represents cubism and the final work is a 1952 Jackson Pollock, Convergence.
Then follow ten pages wherein D’Harcourt discusses each of her chosen examples individually; and the two final spreads have lift-the-flap mini paintings of each work that reveal the whereabouts of the details in the bubbles, and also provide short notes on the artists.
Of the 23 works, only five are non-western, but what disappointed me more was the lack of a single woman artist. Nonetheless, the whole enterprise is absorbing, educational, fun, attractively presented and well worth spending time over.

Vermeer’s Secret World
Vincent Etienne
Prestel

In what is an essentially introductory book, art historian and author, Etienne, traces the life and work of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, one of history’s most distinctive artists who lived in 17th century Delft for his entire life.
There are fifteen full-page reproductions of his works …

as well as eight smaller ones.
If you can’t manage to visit London’s National Gallery or one of the other galleries exhibiting Vermeer’s paintings, then this short book is a good starting point to begin to appreciate the Delft master, an artist whose focus was very much on people rather than places.

Trick of the Eye
Silke Vry
Prestel

Subtitled ‘How Artists Fool Your Brain’, this book offers a host of examples that demonstrate that deceptive imagery in art, far from being a new phenomenon, has been in use by famous and popular artists for centuries.
Vry uses paintings by, to name just some, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Hogarth, Turner, Vermeer, Paolo Veronese and Georges Seurat, as examples of optical illusions, as well as more modern artists including Salvador Dali, René Magritte,

M.C. Escher, Bridget Riley, and Banksy.
In addition to paintings, some objects such as the Athens Acropolis and the Scala Regia in Rome are used.
The end pages offer solutions to the questions posed during the discussions of the various works of art, as well as instructions for some creative projects for readers to try themselves that were previously flagged up in the those discussions.
Absorbing, illuminating and a novel way of looking at some works of art.

For those readers of a more scientific bent:

Optical Illusions
Gianni A. Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber
QED

Both the creators of this fascinating book are experts in brain training and cognitive sciences, and herein they offer readers the opportunity to find out about the science behind the illusions that trick our brains.
After a brief ‘Is Seeing Believing’ introduction; the book is divided into five sections: Light, Lines and Space,

Motion, The Brain and finally, Experiments.
Each topic explores a variety of effects: for example Light demonstrates colour assimilation, complementary colours and after image, and colour contrast.
Since buying a book on MC Escher many years ago, I have been fascinated by the idea of optical illusions. This book has refreshed that fascination, but a word of warning: I spent ages poring over its hypnotic pages; don’t sit down with it unless you have plenty of time to spare – you’ll most likely be hooked, eyes and brain in sensory overdrive mode.

Stomp! Stomp! / Count on Goz / Night and Day

Stomp! Stomp!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In this new addition to the ‘Can you say it too?’ board book series, a handful of dinosaurs have hidden, or rather attempted to hide themselves, in Sebastien Braun’s brightly illustrated spreads.
Very young children will get lots of pleasure manipulating the flaps (plants, a cloud and a rock) to discover what’s hiding beneath them, as well as getting their tongues around the names and noises.

Children beginning to read often find words such as ‘triceratops’, ‘diplodocus’, ‘stegosaurus’, ‘pterodactyl’ and ‘tyrannosaurus’ easy to recognise especially in a meaningful context, so why shouldn’t infants just starting to talk encounter them early on too, perhaps even with that older sibling reading the book with its short, predictable text, with them.

Count on Goz
Steve Weatherill
Steve Weatherill Books
Goz the baby goose has just taken his early morning swim but now he’s managed to lose the other geese. In his search he encounters in turn a cow and her calf, a sheep and 2 lambs, a mother cat and her 3 kittens and a dog with 4 lively puppies. To each he says, “Hello. Are the geese here?” but is greeted with “No, only me and my …” followed by a “Moo!”, “Baa, baa!” and so on …

until finally beside the big pond we spy …
Guess what is tucked in the nest beneath that large wing.
In addition to the baby animals revealed by opening the flap on each spread, the final page has 6 swallows, 7 sheep, 8 eggs, 9 newts and 10 tadpoles for those who want to continue their counting.
First published over 25 years ago, Goz has certainly stood the test of time. In addition to being a first counting book, this re-issue is, with its brief, predictable text, just right for beginning readers and far better than the rubbishy reading schemes offered to children starting to read in schools nowadays.
Equally it’s perfect to share with a small group of listeners in a nursery setting or an adult or older child to read to a younger sibling.

Night and Day
Julie Safirstein
Princeton Architectural Press
In ‘A Big Book of Opposites’, as the subtitle says, Safirstein uses simple shapes, clever design and bold colours together with flaps of various sizes, pop-ups, fold-outs and other interactive devices to help demonstrate opposing relationships such as tiny/ huge (and sizes in between); left/right – which has a secondary numerical element …

high/low; night/day – in this instance a large tree unfolds to illustrate both.
Circular sliders can be manipulated to demonstrate alone/together and next to/far (with ‘in the middle’ also included for good measure).
The whole thing is a handsome and inventive production …

and even the finale is ingenious; a gatefold is lifted to ‘open’ a bright red flower after which the book is ‘closed’ as printed on the back cover.
Once in their clutches, young users will I suspect spend a considerable amount of time with the book ‘open’, being reluctant to ‘close’ it, thoroughly enjoy playing with the various moveable parts so it’s as well the whole thing is sturdily constructed. It might even help them develop a few concepts while so doing.

The Quiet Crocodile / Hey Willy, See the Pyramids

The Quiet Crocodile
Natacha Andriamirado and Delphine Renon
Princeton Architectural Press
Fossil the crocodile is a lover of peace and quiet, preferring to be alone and away from hustle and bustle. He has however, a ‘few friends’ so we’re told although the endpapers in particular, belie this: some two dozen named pals large and small, (each with a colour-coded dot so we can keep track of them) line up thereon, seemingly ready to move.
And move is just what they do, one by one, across the pages of the book and find a place upon Fossil’s back until he resembles first an outsized sofa and then a climbing frame or a circus balancing act as the animals pile precariously up on his length.

All the while Fossil has a large grin on his face and despite our being assured that ‘He’s afraid of scaring his friends’ sceptical readers may be beginning to doubt that.
Things take something of a turn textually however when our narrator informs, ‘… as everybody knows, they’re fierce. Even in books!’ Hmm!
Are all his friends right in issuing that “Come and play with us!” invitation? And did anything accompany that hat of Piggy’s into his grinning mouth?

Surely he’d never even consider eating any of his friends, or would he?
Irony and wry humour abound in Andriamirado’s text which, accompanied by Renon’s stylised illustrations of intricately detailed animal characters, is likely to please those with a penchant for the quirky and open-ended.

Hey Willy, See the Pyramids
Maira Kalman
New York Review of Books
This is a re-issue of an early Kalman book and quirky it surely is.
Young Alexander has trouble falling asleep and asks his elder sister Lulu to tell him stories: a million are requested but she agrees to five and ends up by telling eleven. They’re all very short – flash fiction really – and therein she mixes the familiar with the downright bizarre and surreal.
One tells of a dog that wants to live in Paris and be a poet; another features a green-faced scientist.

There are crazy parties and fish flying into the sky.
Punctuating the stories, in white lettering printed on black, are brief conversations between sister and brother further adding to the overall strangeness of the book.
Maira Kalman has, seemingly, plumbed the depths of her imagination for both narrative and illustrations of this far out offering. It’s not for the very young, certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth a look if you’re into the highly unusual in picture books.

Lift-the-flap and Colour: Forest & African Animals / Drawing in Space

Lift-the-flap and Colour: Forest
Lift-the-flap and Colour: African Animals

Alice Bowsher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Pens and crayons ready? Alice Bowsher has added two new habitats to her activity books series, which are published in collaboration with the Natural History Museum.
In Forest we meet deer, squirrels busy collecting nuts, a family of dormice, owls and even howling grey wolves.
On the African savannah – elephants and their calves soak up the sun, springboks graze, lion cubs leap, a cheetah chases some ostriches, giraffes graze and as the sun sets, zebras stroll down to the waterhole …

Each book has five playful spreads to colour; and there’s a final information paragraph that gives some additional facts about each habitat.
Fun, interactive learning that might inspire children to go on to create their own natural world dioramas.
For slightly older readers is:

Drawing in Space
Harriet Russell
Princeton Architectural Press
Part activity book, part information book, this stylish and engaging offering takes readers through the solar system.
It begins, appropriately, with the Big Bang and proceeds to the planets, the moon, stars, galaxies and beyond, telling readers, ‘… there are many other solar systems besides our own.’
There’s a wide range of activities, (over thirty in all) one of my favourites being in part, a humorous dialogue between two stars, one round, the other with five points.
Equally amusing is an unhappy Pluto speech explaining how its status was downgraded from planet to dwarf planet; and then meeting with another dwarf planet and discovering it’s one of five known dwarves.
Other possibilities include games, puzzles and lots of drawing, including drawing a galaxy based on star-shaped objects – some examples are given …

and it might be fun to go out searching for suitable items, or perhaps, creating some in 3D.
Fun, educational in the broadest sense, and a jumping off point for further exploration of the topic.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Walk in the Forest

A Walk in the Forest
Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press
In the forest, wonders await’. Thus begins what feels like a truly heartfelt advocacy of the joys to be discovered by taking up the author’s invitation to leave behind the civilised world and join the child narrator in an exploration of a magical place. What actually happens is that readers, immediately engaged, find themselves standing behind the boy’s head, or even in his shoes, as he becomes ensphered by the greens and browns of a jungly canopy; drags a stick behind him, chases dragonflies and goes down on his knees to observe some things he’s found (vignettes show these); runs wild amid brightly coloured birds and tree-coiling snakes.

Then gives full throttle to his vocal chords: and who can ignore the pull to ‘Follow footprints. See where they lead you.’ and even more important, ‘Look! Find treasure.’ Here Dek focuses our attention on the textures and shapes of those treasures – flowers, feathers, fir cones, stones and the tail of a lizard.

The contrasts are stark: ‘All is small in the forest. All is big. And deep.’ Who can resist the unspoken invitation to shed footwear and ‘Wade in’ feeling the cool of the pond and the tickle of those water plants and fishes?
Secrets surround: birds have them; trees have them – if you listen; and patience might result in an encounter with a fox
and perhaps one of the many forest burrowing animals that tend to keep themselves out of sight.
A treasure of a book; and with its constantly shifting perspectives …

an eloquent, visual and verbal evocation of nature: especially, it’s one to visit whenever you’re feeling a bit down. It will surely help lift your spirits and after re-reading, send you out in search of a wooded place where further joys await.
Dek’s watercolours do the flora and fauna of the natural world proud with her lush scenes and surprise, sometimes stunningly stark, discoveries.

Like those of Frost, her ‘woods are lovely, dark and deep’. But I too have promises to keep and so reluctantly, must leave the meditational peace and tranquillity of this debut children’s book creator’s verdant world and just say, you need this picture book gem; everybody does.

I’e signed the charter