Say Goodbye … Say Hello / The Happy Lion Roars

Say Goodbye … Say Hello
Cori Doerrfeld
Scallywag Press

Change is inevitable no matter what, and young children often find transitions tricky.

Through her gentle, lively illustrations and soft-spoken, simply expressed text, Cori Doerrfeld offers little ones a story exploring  the nature of change and the possibilities that embracing it can offer.

Stella, while reluctant to leave her mum and board the bus, soon discovers a new friend, Charlie, once she gets to school.

Before long the two are almost inseparable. We follow them through the seasons and goodbye summer means hello to autumn and goodbye to outside means hello to inside;
’Goodbye to snowmen … is hello to puddles!’;

and through the days when “goodbye to long walks, butterflies and the sun … is hello to long talks … fireflies and … the stars.’

But then, comes something much more difficult for Stella to cope with: the need to say goodbye to her special friend, when Charlie moves away and holding tight must be followed by letting go.

Physically yes, but not completely, for Stella is soon busy writing and posting a letter to her friend.

There’s also the possibility of someone else on the horizon, not a replacement for Charlie, but perhaps a new friendship for the making…

Splendidly expressive illustrations show both the ups and downs of change, as well as the passage of time. Ultimately however, however difficult some changes might be, as the story closes we’re given an indication of Stella’s resilience as she greets a newcomer …
A gorgeously warm portrayal of friendship, loss and the possibilities of new beginnings.

Completely different but also with a focus on friendship and new beginnings is this oldie but goodie:

The Happy Lion Roars
Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin
Scallywag Press

Nostalgia rules in this Happy Lion story I remember from my childhood. In this book the Happy Lion is most definitely not living up to his name, spending much of his time looking downright miserable, so much so that a doctor is called. He merely prescribes pills and departs; but the medication is totally ineffective in the face of loneliness for that is what is wrong with the Happy Lion.

Then one day into town comes a small circus and he and his friend Francois go to watch the acts. However, the Happy Lion has eyes only for the Beautiful Lioness in her cage.

Suddenly his sadness is a thing of the past and one night he goes to the cage of the Beautiful Lioness, opens the door and together they walk through the park back to his home.
A search ensues,

followed by some subterfuge, the Happy Lion’s loudest ever roar, and finally, thanks to Francois, a deal leaving not one, but two felines exceedingly happy.

Superb art and a lovely story where friendship and freedom reign supreme, characterise this classic re-issue.

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland
Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley
Macmillan Children’s Books

Demonstrating the true meaning of Christmas, this is a marvellous mix up of two classics– Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas.

It begins thus: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, a dark snowy night / When St Nick and his reindeer were just taking flight.’

Debut picture book author, Carys Bexington manages to sustain the jaunty rhyme unfalteringly throughout the tale. Therein she gives Santa aka St. Nick a turn to go adventuring down the rabbit hole when he responds to the plea of the Princess of Hearts who sends a letter begging for a Christmas present after her parents have said no.

Having made their way down the royal chimney St. Nick plus reindeer come upon a decidedly unseasonal scene and disturb the Queen of Hearts. She, we learn hates Christmas because as a little princess, her Dear Santa letter missed the last post on account of the White rabbit’s tardiness and so she was presentless.

As a consequence, presents, along with tinsel, mince pies and good cheer are all banned.

Now though, at long last, it’s time to deliver that gift to the erstwhile little princess.

Can St. Nick succeed in restoring the ‘Happy’ into Christmas? Perhaps, but only if her royal grumpiness, the Queen of Hearts responds positively to Rudolph’s assertion, that alluded to at the start of this review.

A full cast that includes the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, are depicted in Kate Hindley’s absolutely priceless scenes of seasonal mayhem and festive frolics, each of which is bursting with delicious details and Kate’s own brand of brilliance.

The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore and Roger Duvoisin
Scallywag Press

If you are looking for a version of the classic Clement Clarke Moore seasonal poem this year then I’d wholeheartedly recommend this superbly designed one first published in 1954.

Its tall, slim shape and size is perfect chimney shaped design and here we follow Santa – portly and with an enormous beard – as he alights on the rooftop and slides down the chimney of the narrator’s residence (in how many homes would that be possible nowadays?).

Observant readers who are familiar with Duvoisin’s creation for Louise Fatio’s The Happy Lion will spot the striking resemblance of one of the soft toys left as a gift, to said lion.

Retro brilliance this!

I Am A Tiger / The Happy Lion

I Am A Tiger
Karl Newson and Ross Collins
Macmillan Children’s Books

Ignorance? Bravado? Or playfulness? What is driving Karl’s Mouse protagonist to insist that he’s a tiger. Fox, racoon, snake and parrot in turn, challenge the small creature to prove himself but his lack of size, stripes and tree climbing skills do nothing to convince the others of his claim and that growl is – let’s say somewhat feeble.

Suddenly along comes another animal proclaiming …

The ‘not-tiger’ then goes on to try and persuade the stripy character that HE is in fact a mouse with some deft moves.

These he follows with some further ridiculousness

before departing in search of lunch.

This sees our little grey friend heading towards a watery place wherein he spies his reflection and there he learns the error of his claims …

With it’s wonderful surprise finale, this is a grrralectable piece of comic theatre picture book style delivered through Karl’s droll mouse narrative and Ross Collins’ brilliantly expressive scenes.

Hilarious, and I look forward to the next of the promised Karl/Ross creations; they’ve certainly set the bar pretty high with this one. Young listeners will absolutely love it and it’s a gift for those who enjoy throwing themselves into story sharing.

The Happy Lion
Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin
Scallywag Press

This is a new edition of a classic story originally published in the 1950s and is set in a French town.

In that town is a zoo, the home of the Happy Lion. He leads a contented life there with daily visits from friends young and not so young, as well as being entertained by the town’s band on Sundays during the summer.

One day, the keeper forgets to close the door and the lion decides to go out and visit all those kind people who were his regular visitors.

Their reactions however are not at all what the Happy Lion expects; he’s barely acknowledged by the animals and the humans are terrified.

Bemused he stops, meditates, concludes, “this must be the way people behave when they are not in the zoo” and continues on his way hoping to find a friend.

He does so, after some drama involving a fire engine, firefighters and their very long hose; and all ends happily with the Happy Lion and his young friend walking back to the zoo together …

With alternate black and white, and three-colour, textured spreads, Duvoisin’s illustrations – wonderful, sketchy, smudgy scenes – still hold their magical charm – for this reviewer certainly – providing the perfect complement to Fatio’s tale.

Sleep Well Siba & Saba / The Frog in the Well

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn
Lantana Publishing
Sisters, Siba and Saba are inveterate losers of things, be it sweaters – seven of them; silver sandals ‘on sandy beaches at Ssese islands’ ; even their bedroom slippers go missing.
Strangely though, they never manage to lose one another; and when their papa had sung them to off sleep, “Sula bulungi, Siba and Saba,”, the sisters would find their lost possessions in their dreams.

One night though, their dreams are of things not lost – a silver shilling for Siba and a ‘stiffly starched school uniform’ for Saba.

Sisters as close as these two share everything, so when they wake from their slumbers, Siba and Saba share their dreamtime sorties. The following day two very unexpected things happen: I expect you can guess what they are: rather than be a story-spoiler though I’ll just say that from that day forward, those sisters always set their sights firmly on the future and what it might bring …

Such eloquence of words and pictures; this simply sparkles with brilliance.
Isdahl’s sibilant text combines with stunningly beautiful scenes of the sisters both inside and outdoors in the African landscapes.

The Frog in the Well
Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
An oldie but goodie: I think I may somewhere have a very old edition of this enchanting book from way back when I used to visit the USA fairly frequently. Now it’s been given a new lease of life by the New York Review. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it centres on a well-residing frog who leads a contented life thinking his well is the whole world; “The world is nothing but moss-covered rocks … with a pool of water at the bottom.” is what he tells himself. But then the well-water dries up and the frog is forced to emerge into “the end of the world”

Deciding to take a look around, he discovers all kinds of ‘end-of-the-world’ creatures, learns a few things and eventually becomes a very wise, wide world-loving frog ready to take the longest leap he’s ever made …

For, “A foolish frog can be happy all alone at the bottom of a well, but a clever frog can be much happier out here.”
With its supremely brilliant visual perspectives and thought-provoking words, this still has much to offer 21st century readers and listeners, who will bring to the story an entirely different perspective from that of audiences when it was published in 1958.
More classic Duvoisin comes in:

The House of Four Seasons
Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
A wonderful celebration of colour, the seasons and endeavour: and built into this uplifting story are lessons on colour mixing, and a demonstration of how to create a colour wheel.
Both books offer a great opportunity to discover or re-discover some vintage gems from over 60 years ago.

I’ve signed the charter  

Will & Nill / Donkey Donkey

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Will & Nill
Farhad Hasanzadeh and Atieh Markazi
Tiny Owl Publishing
Will and Nill are two alley cats, both very hungry. That’s about their only similarity though, for while Will is up and about at cock-crow, Nill yawns and continues to doze. Having tried unsuccessfully to persuade his friend to join him, off goes Will alone. Not to forage first though, for he accepts the invitation to play hide-and-seek with a passing sparrow –

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at least it provides a distraction from an empty tummy. Not only that but he is eventually rewarded by a half-eaten fish he discovers poking out from the top of the sparrow’s third hiding place.

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Then having promised another game the following day, Will sets about sating his appetite on the tasty treat that awaits him before returning to an even hungrier Nill, and a contented sleep.
This fable playfully demonstrates that making just a little effort can make a big difference. There are probably elements of both Nill and Will in all of us, but unexpected good fortune seldom comes to those who do nothing: serendipity seems to favour those that have a bit of get up and go.
The flat, almost perspectiveless renditions of both cats and cityscapes are at once arresting and wryly winsome; and despite Nill’s somnolence, Atieh Markazi really does manage to bring both characters to life in her cat portraits.

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Donkey Donkey
Roger Duvoisin
The New York Review Children’s Collection
Meet Donkey-donkey (or maybe reacquaint yourself with same, as this story was first published over sixty years ago). He has plenty of friends and a very kind master …

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and plenty of his favourite food to eat. Everything is as it should be – yes? No actually; for as having caught sight of his reflection in the stream, our Donkey becomes dissatisfied with his appearance, his long ears being the particular cause for a sudden attack of self ridicule. Off goes the tearful creature to seek advice from various other animals as to how best to sport those super-sized sound receptors of his.

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Having consulted all the farmyard animals and done his utmost to alter his appearance with some very amusing and sometimes painful results …

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Donkey-donkey eventually comes around to accepting his ears as the beautiful appendages they truly are.
Self-acceptance and appreciating our own uniqueness are oft-explored themes in picture books but, with its direct narrative and delightfully droll watercolour illustrations, this golden oldie still packs a punch.

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