All Around Bustletown: Nighttime

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime
Rotraut Susanne Berner
Prestel

The award-winning creator of the seasonal Bustletown series of large format picture books shows us the town’s nocturnal happenings across an hour in this latest offering.

Look very closely – that’s always what you need to do to get the most from each spread – and you’ll see on the opening pages that it’s ten o’clock on a kitchen clock in a multi-generational residence. There’s still a fair bit of activity in and around the building: a boy (Joshua) is spending the night under canvas and reading by torchlight while his father (presumably) points to his wristwatch.
A couple (Cara and John) are taking a stroll – we learn the names from the back cover – and a cyclist, Frank rides past, sans light.
If we follow these characters, stories unfold. As Frank passes a petrol station with a police car being filled at the pump, one of the officers notices the lack of lights on his bike

and Tony chases after and eventually apprehends him several minutes later. I love the sleepover on the same spread – how many of the literary pictures do you recognise exhibited in the cultural centre?

Turn over and Frank is now pushing his bike, the strollers sit on a bench watching as the police deal with an attempted break-in at the dentist’s above the bookshop and a dog takes Cara’s hat.
On the penultimate spread we see the police have now caught the burglar, and the dog (plus hat) are hotly pursued by a man. In the final scene said hat is once again spied by Cara; Frank chains up his cycle outside a food outlet in front of which the police car is passing.
If you turn back to the beginning, you might decide to follow the man in black seen sitting in the police car in the final scene. Indeed it’s possible to trace all the recurring characters and Berner poses several questions on the back cover that will likely send you back for another read.

With the same mixture of a look-and-find and chances to invent your own stories, there’s hours of fun to be found in this totally immersive, cleverly created book.

All Around Bustletown: Summer / All Around Bustletown: Autumn

All Around Bustletown: Summer
All Around Bustletown: Autumn

Rotraut Susanne Berner
Prestel Publishing

Completing the seasonal visits to Bustletown are these two seek-and-find books from Hans Christian Andersen award winner, Rotraut Susanne Berner.

The only words in the books apart from the plethora of signs, shop names etc. in the seven scenes of each, are found on the back cover. Nevertheless children will enjoy look, look, looking, over and over, inventing their own tales about the characters they meet on the pages; or instead, taking one particular scene and making up a story about what’s happening thereon.

For instance, there is a woman who is celebrating her birthday and has invited all her friends to a party in the park. Or why not follow Martha the penguin-loving nun who delightedly adds a penguin balloon to the fan she’s carrying only to have it blown away in a sudden squally downpour? Does she manage to retrieve it? You can find out on the final party spread.

Then there’s bookseller Wyatt, another party invitee: I’m sure Cara will be happy with his surprise gifts, not to mention the love element between the red-helmeted guy and the woman in checked-cut-off trousers. Do they make it to the party or head off elsewhere?

Oh! There’s also a mouse hiding in plain sight on every spread too: he needs to watch out for Tom the cat.

Autumn is the time when Bustletown holds a special festival and everyone is busy preparing. There’s an abundance of pumpkins large and small ready to be carved in the competition and the kindergarten we saw being built in the Summer book is now celebrating its opening with a lantern parade: so look out for children carrying all kinds of wonderful lanterns on every spread.

Martha the nun is there with her penguin too as well as, when she reaches the café on the final page, a funky ladybird lantern.

Oh my goodness: George and Anne’s huge pumpkin looks so heavy they can hardly manage to lift it up the steps and into the cultural centre where the carving is to take place.

Once again, there’s an absolute wealth of stories told and more waiting for readers to invent: just so many ways youngsters to let their imaginations soar here. The sturdy board book build of these two means that they should stand up to the enthusiastic use I envisage they’ll get if you add them to your collection.