Tag Archives: Richard Jones

Happy / As We Grow / We Are Together

Here’s a trio of books from Caterpillar Books one of the Little Tiger Group imprints that I was excited by on my return  home after three weeks away in India.

Happy
Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey
Caterpillar Books

Mindfulness is a popular theme at present and we’ve had several books on the subject for children in recent months, possibly as a response to the growing concern about the pressures even very young children are under in their everyday lives both in school and at home.

I know from experience that offering youngsters a brief period of quiet, calm time each day when they can be in the here and now away from the stresses and strains of life leads to a happier, more relaxed classroom or home atmosphere.

This beautiful book encourages children to become mindful, offering them some ways to be in the moment, to explore their emotions by tuning in to their senses in a meditative manner. They can listen to the natural sounds around them; or tune in to and focus on their feelings. Tension can be released not only from our minds but also our bodies in a manner similar to that at the end of a yoga session when participants are encouraged to tense and relax the muscles in their bodies one by one until the whole body is completely relaxed.

How many of us really pay attention to what we eat, to savour every mouthful noticing the texture and flavour as we chew: it’s a really great way of being mindful and perhaps more appreciative of our food.

Touch too is a way of connecting and calming, particularly when outdoors in natural surroundings; looking with awareness too works to calm and connect as do smelling and deep slow breathing.

The gorgeous illustrations and gentle, rhyming text herein will surely encourage children to slow down and become mindful, to discover that place of peace that’s deep within us all.

As We Grow
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

This Walden/Jones collaboration is a great way to look at life as a journey full of changes, challenges and joy, that begins as a very tiny babe totally unaware of what is to come as we grow and travel through the years. What we can be sure of though, is that each stage will be different, full of excitement and new adventures. There’s that toddling stage that opens up a myriad of new experiences and quickly gives way to the more assured young child full of imaginative ideas, when language develops rapidly and words are a toy and a tool. Fuelled (one hopes) by mind-opening books a plenty that help with those ‘hows’, whys’ and whats’.

The transformation into a teen is a dramatic one when times are unsettled, restless and confusing, a time of self-discovery prior to adulthood; in the early stages of which independence and challenge go hand in hand before perhaps settling down and maybe even becoming the parent of a new little one.

Like life, this entire book is full of beautiful, memorable stopping points

richly portrayed in Richard Jones gorgeous scenes and Libby Walden’s lyrical text.

We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books

Britta Teckentrup celebrates human diversity through a rhyming text and her inimitable vibrant style illustrations with their peep through cut out pages.

What better way to encourage young children to value togetherness than these opening lines: ‘On our own we’re special, / and we can chase our dream, / But when we join up, hand in hand, / together, we’re a team.’

Readers are then presented with a sequence of gorgeous scenes of children out together in the natural world that will surely encourage positive feelings in youngsters both about themselves and others.

Perfect for sharing in foundation stage settings and a great starting point for a circle time discussion.

Secrets of the Mountain / Rock Explorer: Minerals & Rock Explorer: Fossils

Secrets of the Mountain
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

The mountain referred to in the title of this breathtakingly beautiful book is I think, part of the Rocky Mountain Range.

Libby Walden’s narrative takes readers to spend a day on the mountain observing the plethora of animals that make it their home be that on the plains, the slopes or the mountaintop.

It begins as the sun rises and starting at the summit, day dawns. A breeze moves down the mountainside waking the furry pikas to look for their morning food.

At midday, the forest erupts with birdsong and sunlight glows among the trees.

Animals large and small are on the move.
Then come sundown, the air is cool: night is drawing in and the bears can sense it …

Then is the time to seek a place to sleep and let the nocturnal hunters take over in the shadows of the night-time forest while, watched by the patrolling wolf, the moon illuminates the rolling plains and the mountain lion stands waiting for yet another dawn to awaken the chorus of birdsong.

Everything has changed, yet everything is the same: evolving and ever constant, both.

From gorgeous front endpaper to back endpaper (the final one comprises 48 small named pictures of the mountain fauna), every one of Richard Jones’ spreads is simply stunning in its beauty.

Rock Explorer: Minerals
Rock Explorer: Fossils

Claudia Martin
QED

These are two titles of the four in a series of very visual books that introduce aspects of geology to younger readers. This is an under represented topic and yet once children are introduced to it, they are often fascinated.
Minerals looks at their formation, location and use. Did you know for instance, that fluorite is used in toothpaste and feldspar is used in making glass and pottery?

Fossils explains what a fossil is, outlines how they form, where to hunt for fossils and what we can learn from them. I was intrigued to discover that the Victorians first discovered fossilised Dinosaur poo – hmm.
Clearly and invitingly presented with good quality photographs, both are worthwhile additions to a primary classroom or school library.

Bird Builds a Nest

Bird Builds a Nest
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

Back in the day when I was studying physics at O-level I recall learning things about forces with no real understanding of the concepts as they were never demonstrated practically and I’m sure terms as straightforward as ‘push’ and ‘pull’ were ever used; how I passed the exam is anybody’s guess. It was only when I began teaching young children and everything was done through playful activities that I realised ‘oh so that’s what that statement I recall really means’.

Now here’s a cracking little book that introduces forces through a story about a bird building her nest.

Oh joy, it’s a sunny day and the little creature needs to find a juicy worm to feast on and here she is about to apply a pulling force …

No luck with that particular worm but eventually she finds a suitable smaller, less strong one and out it comes. Yum! Yum!
Breakfast over, she heads off in search of twigs to build her nest. Some inevitably are too heavy but Bird perseveres, pulling and lifting, to-ing and fro-ing, pulling and pushing the twigs into place, over and over until the outer construction is ready.
Then she collects softer, light things to make a cosy lining cup…

And finally the eggs are laid …

Already a big fan of this Science Storybook series of narrative science books for young children, I’m now an even bigger one. It’s so simple and yet so effectively explained both through the main narrative and in the smaller printed factual statements.
There’s an additional investigation on the forces topic using ping pong balls to try at the end.

Once again, Richard Jones has created a series of beautiful mixed media, textured illustrations in earthy tones to complement Jenkins’ text to perfection.

 

The Squirrels’ Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

From the creators of Fox in the Night is a new addition to the Science Storybook series, this time about the seasons and changes in the weather.

We start in winter and just like today when I’m writing this, it’s very cold, the pond is frozen and snow covers the ground. The animals are tucked away in warm places until they have to go out and search for food.

Spring brings warmer weather with bird song, croaking frogs, scampering squirrels hoping to find juicy maple buds on the trees or bulbs they can unearth; but they’ll have to be quick for there’s an owl on the prowl.
With the summer come hotter days, the need for shade, and longer hours of daylight with a chance of thundery weather.

Come autumn and the frogs have gone to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud;

many birds have flown to warmer climes and the squirrels start collecting for their winter store in preparation for hibernating.
All this is presented through an engaging, at times poetic, text, together with some basic scientific facts, and in Richard Jones’ textured illustrations.
His beautifully crafted scenes work in perfect harmony with Jenkins’ descriptions, his colour palette mirroring the seasonal hues superbly.
Look how perfectly this embodies the hushed arrival of winter’s snow …

A fine example of non-fiction for the very young.

The Snow Lion / Toby and Tabitha

The Snow Lion
Jim Helmore and Richard Jones
Simon & Schuster
Caro and her mum move to a new house in a new neighbourhood. Then, into the whiteness of everything comes a snowy lion inviting Caro to play hide-and-seek. Their play fills her day bringing cheer instead of loneliness; but can this new animal friend encourage her to venture outside and have fun with the local children?
That proves something of a challenge but little by little, with the lion’s help, Caro starts to find her inner courage and joins in with the other children.

When mum suggests adding colour to their new abode, and invites her new friends round for a ‘painting party’, Caro is concerned that the lack of white will mean no more visits from her wildcat pal.

He no longer appears anywhere inside her brightly painted house, but surely he can’t have deserted her altogether, can he?
A lovely, gentle, reassuring tale about moving and finding new friends.
Richard Jones’s mixed media, warm-hearted scenes of friends real and imaginary are enchanting.

Toby and Tabitha
Alexander Bar and Emma Proctor
Walker Books
Have you ever heard of dancing tortoises? No? Me neither. I suspect nobody has other than young Lucy, whose grandfather owns, the pet shop, Animal Palace. This establishment is full of all manner of desirable pets and one of Lucy’s favourite places. She loves to help with the animals whenever she can, her favourites being two tortoises, Tabitha and Toby.
Lucy has a secret though: when the shop is closed and darkness falls, the two creatures respond to her singing by leaving their beds and dancing together in the moonlight, with Lucy joining them in a ‘Tea for One’ rendition of her own.
Then one day, disaster strikes: Lucy arrives at the shop to find Toby alone: Tabitha has a new home with a little boy, so her Grandpa tells her.

When the boy returns with a question, “what do tortoises like to do?” Lucy has a dilemma. Should she share her secret with Tabitha’s new owner, or keep it to herself?
Who would have thought that a couple of dancing tortoises could be the catalyst for a burgeoning friendship between two children?

This debut picture book written by Mike the Knight creator, Alexander Bar and illustrated by Emma Proctor is a delight.
Bar uses a child-friendly, chatty narrative style with playful language and opportunities to join in and Emma Proctor brings out the humour of the story. Her exuberant, mixed media visuals are such that you want to stop and explore the plethora of whimsical details in every spread.

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse
Richard Jones and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books
There are numerous versions of the Aesop classic tale to be had; I have a fair few myself, but this has now become my favourite. Libby Walden renders the story in a measured, beautifully readaloudable rhyming text telling of the house swap between the mouse cousins: the ideal solution to Town Mouse’s hectic bustling life fatigue and Country Mouse’s yen to become ‘a mouse about the town!
Invitations are sent, received – love the postie frog –

and responded to, bags packed (don’t you love Town Mouse’s roller-wheels and little black bag); with high expectations the two sally forth …

and the swap begins.
Less than twenty-four hours later though, all is not well: Town Mouse is disturbed by the dawn chorus, and the never-ending ‘beeps and creaks and clinks’ result in a sleepless night for Country Mouse. Food is problematic too: Town Mouse almost breakfasts on poisonous berries;

and the tasty chunk of cheese Country Mouse has set his sights on for his morning meal, is in a trap.

Their walks are equally stressful: Town Mouse is totally unenthusiastic about country rambles in the rain: Country Mouse finds the whizzing wheels and lurking cats downright alarming. It’s time to return: farewells are said and with heads whirling with unforgettable memories, the cousins head for home. Assuredly it’s a case of ‘thank you’ but ‘no thank-you’ to one another’s ways of life.
This particularly resonated with me and my present struggles with having moved out of London to the country a few years ago, and now feeling the call of London life pulling strongly at my heartstrings. Richard Jones’ truly beautiful artwork makes both town and country look wonderful places to live. I love the cleverly conceived, strategically placed die cuts and the cutaway page, making the reading experience all the more pleasurable. A totally gorgeous fable reimagining to share and discuss, over and over.

Feelings

Red Reading Hub is Happy that Caterpillar Books invited me to be part of the FEELINGS blog tour and thanks too, to the book’s creators, Richard and Libby for …

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Feelings
Richard Jones and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books
Emotional literacy and well-being are at the heart of the Early Years Foundation Stage and Every Child Matters, and yet still, as we’re told in the PR for this book, ‘One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 (have) a mental health problem.’
So what happens once children move into primary school at age five? Here is not the place to discuss this issue although I have strong views on what I see to be some of the contributory factors: rather, I welcome anything that can help children to explore their own feelings and emotions openly and within a safe context. Many picture book stories offer this possibility; now here we have a lovely, specially written and illustrated book to this end.
Richard Jones, the illustrator, places the child right where he or she should be: at the heart of this book …

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and then, after the introduction, assigns a double spread to the exploration of ten different feelings/emotions: Brave, Sad, Angry, Happy, Jealous, Alone, Embarrassed, Excited, Afraid and Calm. Each one is beautifully atmospheric.
Vitally important as personal feelings are, it is also essential, in order to function well in society, to be able to see things from other people’s viewpoints. So after acknowledging that we’re all different and that this is mirrored in our own personal feelings, Libby Walden (or rather her child narrator) makes this final suggestion: ‘Try to walk in someone’s shoes to see how they might feel, /For though you cannot see them, their feelings are still strong and real.’ How many times a day or week do those of us who teach in the foundation stage or spend time in Early Years settings say to individuals after an incident, something like “Now how do you think so and so feels about that?”
The rhyming text makes use of metaphor to look at what happens when one is overwhelmed by a particular emotion: Sad is a ‘river … bursting through its banks’ covering the land and creating a ‘sea of salty tears with no sign of the shore.”

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Angry is ‘a fire-pit in the ground ‘blazing, spitting, bubbling and swirling and finally, erupting …

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Jealousy, in contrast, is a rolling ‘emerald mist’, churning, seething and eating away at you from inside, blurring your vision and fixing your mind on something you don’t have.
For many children, particularly younger ones, pictorial representation is the easiest (and for them, safest) way to explore their feelings. With this in mind, I shared the book and asked some children to talk, reflect and respond in their own way: here are a few of their pictures.
Angry seemed to be the one feeling that was all-engulfing: Gracie has become an enormous bear with jagged teeth and claws …

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Interestingly Richard himself mentions jagged shapes and fiery colours in his discussion of illustrating Angry for the book. Saba too has jagged lightning in her Angry scene …

saba- angry

Happy for Daniel is doing sport …

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for Shahan lots of sweets to eat, especially his favourite gulab jamun …

shahan-Happy

For Lexi, it’s celebrating a birthday …

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Sad, for Shifan is broken toys …

shifan - sad

for Frankie it’s bullying …

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Excited for James is activities that allow him to release his boundless energy …

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If these responses are anything to go by, Feelings should certainly prove to be a very valuable resource for teachers and other working with children.