Things to Do with Dad / You Can Never Run Out of Love

Things To Do With Dad
Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books

Dad and a small boy make and consume breakfast pancakes together. A promising and joyful start to the day but then Dad turns his attention to the ‘Things To Do’ list tacked to the fridge door – not so joyful.

Dad makes a start with the chores with his son playing alongside. Washing up and bookcase building go smoothly enough but after a vacuuming incident,

the boy seizes the to-do list and his green crayon, and amends the list, starting with the title.

From then on imaginative play rules: ‘Make the beds’ becomes ‘Sail a pirate ship; ‘Hang out the laundry’ is changed to ‘Join the Circus’ and best of all methinks, ‘Water the garden’ morphs into a fantastic jungle adventure.

Good old Dad; he enters into the spirit of things heart and soul, so much so that at the end of the day, an exhausted but happy father and son snuggle together for a well-earned rest under a tree.

With only the list for text, Sam Zuppardi lets his own inventiveness flow in superb scenes of playfulness and the power of the imagination: the characters’ expressions say so much without a single word being spoken between the two.

The ideal way to turn boring chores into a fun-filled day: bring it on. We’re even supplied with a list of further ideas on the final page. I wonder which chores might generate these items.

You Can Never Run Out of Love
Helen Docherty and Ali Pye
Simon & Schuster

‘You can run out of time. / You can run out of money. / You can run out of patience, / when things don’t seem funny. BUT …// You can never (not ever), / you can never / run out of LOVE.’

That’s part of Helen Docherty’s tender, gently humorous rhyming text celebrating love- giving and accepting – and its inexhaustibility. Other things might be in short supply, but never love.

We see, in Ali Pye’s warm-hearted illustrations love in many forms – love between family members; love between friends, love for animals, love between a boy and girl next door …

Affectionate? Yes. Joyful? Certainly. Slushily sentimental? No; but it’s inclusive and perfect for bedtime sharing with young children.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Food of Love


Playing From the Heart
Peter H. Reynolds
Walker Books
There’s a whole lot of heart in this, the latest Peter H. Reynolds story. Herein we meet young Raj who, as a small child, starts as a piano plunker, delighting in every sound …


and without lessons develops into a creative player making up his own music. Impressed, his father hires a piano teacher who teaches him the skills and techniques …


but despite his accomplishments, there’s no joy and eventually Raj stops playing altogether.


Raj grows up, leaves home and goes to work in the city. His father grows older and notices the silence left by the absence of his son. Time passes and then Raj hears that his father is not well. He hurries home and his father has a special request: he asks his son to play him a song, not one he’d been taught but that one of his own making – the one that flows straight from his heart.


Like his protagonist’s playing, Reynolds surely creates this from the heart. It’s a plea to nurture, rather than stifle children’s natural creativity: to let imagination and enjoyment thereof, not precision and preoccupation with the ‘perfect form’ to lead the way.
Everything about this book is a delight: the hand-lettered text which somehow serves to heighten the intensity of the telling, the mixed media (pen and ink, watercolour, gouache and tea) illustrations. Reynolds’ use of colour too speaks volumes: his palette is limited to browns, greys and blues with a touch of gold and purple except where Raj is in creative mode; then the notes flowing from the piano are brightly coloured ‘whispery and sweet’.
A beautiful and timeless tale, (for parents, almost a cautionary one) that will resonate long after the covers have been closed and the book set aside.


Jack’s Worry
Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
Jack loves to play his trumpet and eagerly anticipates his ‘first-ever concert’ with his mum in the audience. On the big day however, the lad awakes with ‘a Worry’. And no matter what he does and where he goes, the Worry is right there with him.


So overwhelming is the wretched Worry that Jack finds even playing his trumpet doesn’t shift the thing: seemingly it’s there to stay. Then comes the time to leave for the concert and that’s when the poor boy feels completely overwhelmed …


Eventually he confronts the THING and explains to his mum: “I don’t want to play in the concert … I’m worried I’ll make a mistake and you won’t love me anymore!
Fortunately he has an understanding mum whose reassuring words Jack takes on board and later, even passes on to his classmates: “The concert isn’t about playing perfectly. It’s about having fun and sharing something you love with people who love you.”
By the time Jack gets to school, the Worry has shrunk to tiny proportions and he and his friends  all enjoy their performance tremendously.


Brilliantly empowering: a cracking book to share with children faced with any potentially tricky situation; and in particular one to help youngsters understand and deal with their anxieties. It’s sympathetic without being sentimental and Zuppardi’s whimsical style illustrations really do capture the intensity of Jack’s emotions superbly well.

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Golden Domes, Perfection and More

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Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini
Chronicle Books pbk
In this lovely book, a young Muslim girl narrator shares with readers the colours and objects that are a part of her everyday life. She starts with the red prayer mat her father uses five times a day when he faces towards Mecca to pray,

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then we see her mum’s blue hijab, the glowing gold of the mosque dome and minarets, the white kufi (the cap her Grandpa wears), the black ink she uses to write Allah in Arabic letters. The verses continue: “Brown is a date,/ plump and sweet/ During Ramadan,/it’s my favourite treat.” Orange is the colour of the henna designs made on the hands,

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purple an Eid gift, the zakat box filled with money given to charity during Eid is yellow, the Quran has a green cover, and finally, there is a shiny silver fanoos (lantern).
There is also a glossary which gives succinct explanations of the Islamic terms used and the end papers show beautiful Islamic patterns.
In addition to being a great introduction to the world of Islam, this is an important book now when there is so much misunderstanding and misconception about, and prejudice against, Muslims and their faith (which is essentially peaceful). Here a loving Muslim family is shown in a positive light going about their everyday activities in peace and harmony. Beautiful Islamic designs and patterns abound throughout – on clothes, buildings and other objects:

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these are universal and could as easily be found in the UK, India, the USA, the Middle East or any part of the world where there is a Muslim community.
This one should definitely be in every early years classroom or nursery to be shared, enjoyed and discussed.

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Nobody’s Perfect
David Elliott and Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
As he sits on his bottom stair, a boy shares with readers, his thoughts about perfection – or rather imperfection. Gigi, his little sister is extremely noisy; his best friend, Jack is a bit of a show-off and his mum stubbornly refuses to listen when he explains that it’s his dog Ralphie that should be sitting on the “naughty step” for sleeping on our narrator’s bed, not he himself.
The narrator however, does put his hands up to his main imperfection – messiness

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and there’s certainly no getting away from that one. Messiness however, can lead to creativity and

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the  narrator definitely knows it.
Actually though, Jack’s showing off can sometimes be fun, as can Gigi’s cacophony

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and even Mum has times when she does listen and that’s pretty good. Seemingly near perfection will suffice after all.
I love Zuppardi’s exuberant, scribbly style illustrations with their bright acrylic backgrounds and the first person narration works well though there is a slight inconsistency in the pattern of telling.

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I Wish You More
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
This little book is brimming over with good wishes – literally.

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Every single one of these wishes is one I’d want to give to a young child, indeed to anyone young or old. They are wishes for inner and outer happiness and peace: ‘more ups than downs’, ’ more give than take’,

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‘more we than me’ , ‘more hugs than ughs’, ‘more will than hill.’ I particularly like the reflective

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And …

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Small things? Yes, some perhaps, but profoundly big in impact.
Powerfully and playfully positive and full of love, with occasionally tricky, semantic wordplays that may well need explaining to the very young.
A little gem and one that could be given at birth, a naming, as a valentine’s gift or even perhaps, a wedding.

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Creativity is THE Thing

Here are four books that are a true testament to the power of creativity and
the imagination:


Ike’s Incredible Ink
Brianne Farley
Walker Books
Would-be author Ike is a blobby looking being with straggly (spindly) limbs who, having read all manner of incredible stories, wants to write one himself. He sits himself down, very briefly, and then the displacement activities begin: finding that favourite pen, calling up a friend, vacuuming (he must be desperate) but still things aren’t right. Ink is the missing something Ike decides, his very own ink. Thus begins a search for the special ingredients – shifty, shady, mysterious shadows, soft, floaty feathers from the Booga-bird, and a round, velvety ‘something’ from the dark side of the moon (that one involved constructing and flying a rocket). These – and what magical sounding items they are – Ike stuffs into his big bag and then it’s back to reality for some very messy mashing and mixing and then at last the vital ink is ready.


So too is the author who, with problem solved, finally finds his ideas begin to flow: his process has become the story.
Anyone who has ever tried writing will immediately recognize Ike’s procrastinating tactics and that important period when ideas and possibilities need to gestate, float around in your head or just ‘be’ for a while. Educators take note!
Farley’s spare, quirky illustrations executed in ink – of course – and digital collage using a limited colour palette are ideal for this off-beat adventure.
Buy from Amazon


The Nowhere Box
Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
Sam’s younger brothers are a pesky nuisance, derailing his train set, demolishing his brick constructions and following him wherever he goes. Enough is enough, George decides and sets off in search of a place where they cannot follow: a place called Nowhere. And how does he get there? In the way that most young children can, if they have a very large cardboard box and various other assorted items of junk, plus scissors and pens – via his imagination. Before long George has ridden on a switchback,


zoomed through space in a rocket and sailed the seven seas of Nowhere. But no matter how amazing, magnificent, and fantastic it might be, there’s a distinct lack of enemy pirates, dragons, anyone at all in fact. Perhaps not such an exciting place after all, thinks our would-be adventurer and maybe those little brothers might have some uses after all.
A great debut for Sam Zuppardi. Playful, and quirky; the mixed media illustrations beautifully capture the creativity of young children. I shall certainly be on the lookout for his next book.
Buy from Amazon


Aaron Becker
Walker Books
It’s virtually impossible to do justice to this amazing wordless book in a short review. Essentially, a little girl, lonely and ignored by her busy parents, takes up her red crayon and draws herself into a magical journey through a door she draws on her bedroom wall and out into a forest illuminated by strings of glowing lights and lanterns. With her crayon she draws a boat that takes her down river to a castle where further adventures begin;  adventures involving a flying balloon, a purple bird, a rescue and much more. It would spoil the wonderful tale if I continue but suffice it to say there’s a wonderful ending involving a surprise encounter.
There is a brief nod to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon and a wink to Anthony Browne’s Bear stories in that the crayon is used to draw the adventure but this Journey is much more complex and symbolic. Here the crayon unleashes the girl’s imagination as she makes a scooter, a door in the wall, a boat, a hot air balloon and a flying carpet. Once the adventure starts, the girl moves from a sepia toned world into one of colour and brightness: worlds wherein her feelings are palpable as she experiences loneliness, cruelty and danger and finally finds joy.
There is an element of steam punk too, which gives the book a wide age appeal.


In fact there is so much for anyone and everyone here: adventure, danger, sadness, joy, beauty, wonder, and most important of all, creativity and the imagination. All these are so brilliantly encompassed within this amazing story. Truly it is the JOURNEY not the destination that is so important as Becker has so powerfully shown. Each double spread can be the starting point for a personal flight of fancy and where any one person’s journey will take them as s/he follows this story is, well, another story and another …
I think this has to be my FAVOURITE EVER wordless picture book.
It’s a must for anyone who believes in the importance of the power of the imagination.
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Mr Wuffles!
David Wiesner
Andersen Press
If ever there was a fussy moggy, it’s Mr Wuffles. This black and white cat rejects all the specially bought toys and then he comes upon a very interesting looking object. This is in fact a miniature spaceship containing not one but five little aliens resembling robed grasshoppers. But, after a rough play session courtesy of Mr W. their spacecraft is in need of repair so the aliens go off searching for suitable materials. The watchful Mr Wuffles spots their move and is all set to pounce when his attention is diverted by a flying ladybird. His prey make their escape under the radiator and there make a kind of alliance with the resident insects. Despite a language barrier, the two groups manage to communicate through pictorial representation


and eventually, thanks to a co-operative effort, an escape is engineered. ‘Oh, Mr Wuffles!’
This near wordless masterpiece is completely absorbing. It needs careful attention to follow the action and to appreciate the wealth of detail Wiesner has so cleverly embedded within the comic strip sequences. Ingenious.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookseller: