Tag Archives: Sarah Massini

The Boy and the Bear / This Book Just Stole My Cat!

The Boy and the Bear
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

It’s not much fun playing alone as the little boy in this story knows so well; he longs to have a friend to share in such games as hide-and-seek and catch.

One day as he sits alone, he spies a paper boat floating towards him; on it is the brief message, BOO! Could perhaps it be from the best friend he so longs for? Messages are exchanged and a meeting arranged.

Bear however isn’t exactly the kind of best friend he so desires. Nevertheless he does invite the bear to play hide-and-seek. The game is not a success, neither are the other activities they try.

Bear however does have other positive qualities that are revealed one morning in autumn. The two then embark upon a collaborative project –

one that once complete results in a special time together.Time doesn’t stand still though and as autumn gives way to winter, Bear has to depart leaving the boy with a realisation of all that he’s lost. But not lost forever: come the spring boy spies not one but three message carrying paper boats …

Tracey’s enchanting tale of the joys of establishing and maintaining a special friendship is illustrated in Sarah’s equally enchanting spreads that show how the friendship develops across the seasons.

A lovely book to be shared over and over.

This Book Just Stole My Cat!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

A certain book seems to have an insatiable desire for furry creatures (and other items on occasion): first it consumed a dog and here it’s become a cat thief. Poor Ben, for it’s his cat that’s gone missing, followed shortly after by Bella who has kindly offered to help in the search.
Along comes a rescue vehicle and guess what …

That leaves only Ben (and a tiny fluffy rodent) to proceed with the rescue mission: Ben however doesn’t last much longer.

Not long after, a message appears requesting the reader’s assistance: tickling seems to be a possible rescue facilitator for said book is bound to respond to a dose of tickly fingers by emitting a rather forceful sneeze.

Yeah! Success! There’s only a slight issue that needs to be sorted now …

Another fun, interactive tale of Ben and Bella for little ones; it’s great for beginning readers too.

Birdy & Bou / A Recipe for Playtime

Birdy & Bou: The Floating Library
Mandy Stanley and David Bedford
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

I’m always on the lookout for stories that promote book loving and library use to very young children and here’s a great little book that does both of those things.
Bou is a red-eared panda and Birdy is, well, a bird.

Bou is an avid reader and when the floating library makes its regular stop at the village, he cannot wait to get his paws on his favourite book again.

Once aboard, he searches high and low but no matter where he looks, Bou cannot find his beloved book. Someone else has got there before him.

Off goes the little panda to track down the borrower, which he does eventually, although its borrower, Birdy, hasn’t quite grasped how to read it. Time for a demonstration and a spot of book-sharing.

So absorbed are the new friends that by the time they reach the river again, the library boat has departed. How can they return the book now?

With its bold, bright artwork, simple storyline and lovely surprise ending, this book with its toddler friendly wipe-clean pages, from the duo that created Roo the dinosaur, have another winner in Bou.

A Recipe for Playtime
Peter Bently and Sarah Massini
Hodder Children’s Books

Following on from their A Recipe for Bedtime, Bently and Massini have created a celebration of play. The toddler herein finds delight in block building, painting, constructing and imaginary play indoors,

before heading outside where there’s a slide, a sandpit, swings and lots of places to hide in when it’s time for a game of hide-and-seek with the toys.

Back indoors once again, it’s time to tidy away before snuggling up for a goodnight story – the perfect way to end the day.

Peter’s jaunty rhyme together with Sarah’s scenes of the fun and games, really do capture the joyful exuberance of the very young at play.

I’ve signed the charter  

Star in the Jar

Star in the Jar
Sam Hay and Sarah Massini

Abortive attempts to discover the owner of the extra special treasure found by the narrator’s younger brother result in ‘finders keepers’. The little boy takes his new -found star with him everywhere.

But although the boy is happy, the star, despite its shininess, definitely is not.

That night there appears a message in the sky.

Try as they might though, brother and sister are unable to relocate the star in its rightful place far above them: but then big sis. has a bright idea – a very bright idea and a message is sent to the little star’s astral friends way, way up in the dark.

The lost star is rescued; the boy is sad but then comes a realisation that although he’s lost one treasure, it has been replaced by something even more special …

Full of warmth, this is a lovely story of siblings, friendship and doing what’s right that is perfect for sharing just before sleep but too enjoyable to be restricted to bedtime reading only.

With a plethora of enchanting detail, (including what looks rather like a small velveteen rabbit) Sarah Massini highlights the tenderness of the sister/brother relationship and the problem solving, of Sam Hay’s tale.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Velveteen Rabbit


The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams illustrated by Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow
If this, the first of Nosy Crow’s new series of picture book classics is anything to judge by, they’re onto a huge winner: Sarah Massini’s pictorial rendition of the book is quite simply heart strings-tuggingly beautiful. I just sat stroking my copy for several minutes before even opening it. Margery Williams classic has been a favourite of mine almost as long as I can remember. I expect you’re familiar with the story of How the Toys Became Real – a tale of friendship and the special loving bond that a young child develops with a favourite soft toy -so I’ll concentrate on the new illustrations. I’m sure Sarah has invested a very great deal of emotional energy and love into every single picture, large …


or small and the result is visual delight at every turn of the page.


Margery Williams’ original story is not far short of 100 years old having first been published in 1922 with illustrations by William Nicholson. I dug out my 1991 copy to look at the two alongside one another.


The first thing that strikes me is that Sarah Massini’s front cover rabbit sports a smart jacket and looks, I have to say, much more “bunchy’ that Nicolson’s. The original book has just seven illustrations and really it’s much more an illustrated book, than a picture book. In contrast, the new version for all its 56 pages is to me, very definitely a picture book of the modern kind. Yes, the seven original illustrations have been re-created herein,


but now, an illustration graces every spread, with text and pictures fully integrated …


Pure magic: this is a book to treasure, to share and to give. And, it’s set the bar very high for the rest of the promised series. I look forward to the next one.


Treats for Tinies

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Kiss it Better
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Massini
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
How many times have you said the title words in your dealings with young (or not so young children? I suspect you’ve lost count.
This tender celebration of the healing power of kisses is charmingly presented courtesy of a bear family as they, in particular the two young bears, go about their daily lives with those inevitable thrills and spills. No matter those ‘down in the dumps’ feelings when a tumble has been taken there’s always a kiss to make it feel better.

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There are playful kisses too, and those that mean ‘I’m sorry’ when the siblings come to blows.
Then comes the cheer-up kind after a bad day at school or nursery and the wonderful goodnight, go-to-sleep variety that help shoo any of those bedtime storybook monsters that might be lurking
No matter the time of day or night, whether you’re feeling poorly or grumpy a kiss will help. Or maybe more than one … and they never run out. Kisses work no matter how big or small you are In fact everyone needs a kiss from time to time …

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Sarah Massini’s bears are truly adorable and a perfect match for Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ gentle rhyming text. Just the thing to have on hand in the home or an early years setting; you never know when a kiss and cuddle up with this delightful book might be called for.

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Good Night, I Love You
Caroline Jayne Church
Hodder Children’s Books
We join a brother and sister as they embark on their nightly bedtime routine: splashing,

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scrubbing, wrapping and brushing. Then it’s on with those pjs and time to share a story before snuggle down and lights out time.

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Told in rhyming couplets, it’s gently playful, cosy and just the thing to round off the day with your toddler.

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Jane Foster’s First Words
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
Here is a beautifully illustrated board book introducing twenty items – one per page to babies and perhaps those learning English as an additional language. The uncluttered nature of each page and the single word label make it obvious at once what is being so clearly named. The images themselves – animals,

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transport, a house and some things you’d find in and around a house – are for the most part, richly patterned reflecting Jane Foster’s background in textiles;

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and on occasion, the image is set against a softly patterned, textured background.
Altogether a stylish little book for babes and their parents/carers to share:

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despite its apparent simplicity, this is rich in language potential.

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Hide and Seek Bob and Flo
Rebecca Ashdown
Oxford University Press
The endearing penguin pals are back in the nursery again and it’s a rainy day so Bob’s brought his brolly. This triggers a game of hide-and-seek and Bob’s first to hide – so he thinks. The trouble is Bob is at the developmental stage where he thinks if he can’t see people (or penguins) they can’t see him and even after a bit of coaching he’s still not quite getting the hang of things.

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Sam and Flo decide to give him even more help; they go off to play in the kitchen giving him much longer to find a good hiding place.

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Can Bob manage to disappear this time? And what’s cake got to do with all this?
Gentle, playful humour delightfully delivered by Rebecca Ashdown and perfect to share with those around the age of Bob and Flo.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2


Love Always Everywhere …

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Love Always Everywhere
Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow pbk
In a follow up to her gorgeous Books Always Everywhere, Sarah Massini brings us another visual treat, with an amorous theme this time. Small children engage in all manner of loving activities including hugging pets, sharing a book,

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making music, dancing, playing together on the beach and in the park as they snuggle, dance, build sandcastles, eat ice-creams, bounce on space-hoppers and much more all to the accompaniment of a brief rhyming text.

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Totally lovable – what more can one say?

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Frog in Love
Max Velthuijs
Andersen Press pbk
Hurray! Andersen Press has reissued the very first of Max Velthuijs’ brilliant Frog titles just in time for Valentine’s Day. Herein Frog learns from Hare (courtesy of his large book) that the reason for his feeling out of sorts is that he’s in love. He sets about painting a picture of his beloved Duck and goes off to deliver it anonymously. The next day he leaves flowers. Duck is puzzled about the identity of the sender who meanwhile is getting desperate and has resolved to win Duck’s love by performing a reckless attempt at the world high jump record. During this feat however, disaster strikes and Frog crash lands right at the feet of the very one he wants to impress.
All ends happily despite the disaster

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and since then, (that’s about twenty five years in book time) the green frog and the white duck have loved each other dearly for as the author rightly says, ‘Love knows no boundaries.’

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If you didn’t get hold of a copy the first time around do so now, it’s just great.

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Guess How Much I Love You
Anita Jeram
Walker Books
It’s over twenty years since the first edition of this neo-classic picture book. Now, in time for that special day, Walker Books offer a lovely mini fold-out edition in a slip case. Perfect as a special gift for a special person.

I don’t often feature teen fiction but I couldn’t resist this one:

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Love Hurts
Malorie Blackman
Corgi pbk
Within the covers is a splendid collection of over twenty short stories and extracts from young adult writers, compiled by the wonderful Malorie Blackman. Young love in its many forms is contained herein and all are favourites of the compiler who has herself also written a new story for the book. As one would expect from Malorie, there’s not a dud among them: and the judiciously selected extracts offer great starting points for readers to meet authors they may not yet have tried.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Toddler Time

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A Recipe for Bedtime
Peter Bently and Sarah Massini
Hodder Children’s Books
Baby, baby soft and sweet,
Almost good enough to eat!
It’s night-night time so come with me,
And hear my bedtime recipe.

We are invited to share a bedtime ritual along with teddy (who has the perfect recipe book), and other assorted toys who help put the human infant to bed. After a snack, there’s a cuddle, clothes off, into the bath with lots of warm water and bubbles, then a rub-a-dub with a huge towel – perfect for a quick game of Peek-a-Boo,

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a tummy softening squirt– thank you elephant, into those jimjams and a drink of milk. Now put said infant into a warm place with a sprinkling of kisses and a cosy cover, not forgetting a sleep-inducing ‘Hush-a-bye’ song; now climb in everyone. Night-night.
With its tender, gently soporific rhyming text and pictures so beautifully in tune, I can imagine this becoming a bedtime favourite with many a toddler.

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Are You My Mummy?
Mary Murphy
Walker Books
In this enchanting board book we join a little pup as it travels around the farm asking the various animal inhabitants, “Are you my mummy?” After encounters with a sheep, a cow, a horse, a cat, a pig

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and a duck, our persistent pup finally finds a large dog and joy of joys, her response is “Yes … and you’re my lovely puppy!
Cute animals, a simple patterned text and flaps to open revealing each mother’s little one are the key ingredients of this new addition to the Baby Walker series. It’s just the thing to share with the very youngest child… again and again I suspect; and slightly older, beginner reader siblings might well enjoy reading it to a baby brother or sister.

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Where Do You Live Snail?
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
Snail sets out visiting mouse, the busy bees, a fluffy bird, a shiny fish and hoppy frog asking them in turn, “Where do you live?” Each time he receives the answer, “I (or we) live in … ” The frog then asks snail about his home and discovers that snail has a mobile home on its back.

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The predictable question and answer format together with Petr Horacek’s gorgeous mixed media illustrations make for a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Baby Walker series. This one has a wheel that when turned, makes the stars shine on snail.
Another beautifully illustrated title in the same series is:
A Surprise for Tiny Mouse
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
As we accompany Tiny Mouse through the seasons we share her enjoyment of nibbling the corn in the sunshine, moving in the crackly leaves on a windy day, feeling the crunchy night-time frost

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and the snow tickling her nose. What she doesn’t like though is splashy rain so off she scampers to hide until out comes the sun once more, and if the wheel is turned …
Cutaway pages and peep-holes further add to the enjoyment of this one.
In my experience beginning readers also get great pleasure from these books if left in early years book baskets for individuals to try reading for themselves.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:


May Paperback Selection

Lost in a book: Daniel and James with their picks.

Lost in a book: Daniel and James with their picks.

Lucy Ladybird
Sharon King-Chai
Templar pbk.
Shunned by the other ladybirds for having no spots, Lucy Ladybird flies off despondently. Before long she comes across Fred Frog who pays her a morale- boosting compliment and gives her a spot. She flies on through the seasons meeting in turn, Carla Caterpillar, Felicity Fish and Bella Bird. Each of them also compliments her and gives her one of their spots, so she returns home feeling like a true ladybird, albeit with four different coloured spots. Despite Lucy’s misgivings on account of her variegated spots, the other ladybirds come to the conclusion that difference is a good thing and before long, not only they but each and every creature, is sporting spots of many colours and designs.
Vive la difference is one theme of this story; others are friendship, acceptance and sharing. My audiences of three to five year olds immediately warmed to Lucy’s plight and delighted in the outcome of her flight through summer, autumn, winter and spring, clapping and demanding immediate re-readings.
As well as discussions on sharing and being a good friend, the response each time was a whole lot of different multi-coloured spotty creature creations clearly inspired by the paintbox hues of the mixed media illustrations. Several children noticed the artist’s use of leaves and wanted to emulate this idea.
Buy from Amazon

Lulu Loves Nursery
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury pbk.
Lulu loves her Mummy and Daddy and all the exciting things they do together, things like sharing stories, splashing in puddles and (on really special days) eating ice-cream. One day though, Lucy does not have her usual happy face; she looks a bit worried. That’s because it’s her first day at nursery so, she has to say goodbye to her mummy for a while.  At first Lucy feels rather shy in the noisy, busy nursery but her teacher seems nice. After reluctant hugs with mummy, Lulu resolves to be brave, finding a story to read as well as lots of exciting things to do and is soon having great fun. At snack time she makes a friend and before long it’s time to go and there with outstretched arms is mummy waiting to share her ‘first day at nursery certificate’? First days are special days and of course, Lucy remembers what happens on special days.
Depicted with humour and charm, and with a removable ‘First day at Nursery Certificate’ inside the back cover to fill in, this is primarily a story for those who are starting nursery. The manner of its telling, with questions to think about and noises to join in with, ensures that young listeners immediately feel involved in Lucy’s first day whether they are looking forward, or looking back knowingly.
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Gillian Shields and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Hodder Children’s Books pbk.
Spolit little Ellie has everything, so it seems. But then she demands an elephant, refusing to do anything until her father provides one and that is when she discovers she cannot have things all her own way. Despite Ellie’s resulting tantrums, the elephant certainly meets with her father’s approval, making use of all her things and playing with her friends at school. Now the tables are turned and it’s Ellie who has to meet the demands of her large visitor or face an enormous elephantantrum.  However the elephant’s intentions are to help Ellie curb her selfish behaviour and to teach her some manners both of which he succeeds in doing; but it’s when he says it’s time for him to leave that her sharing is really put to the test.
Amusing, highly patterned, mixed-media illustrations and a slightly ridiculous storyline make an appealing combination.
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Babies, Babies, Babies!
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Orchard pbk.
There is so much to enjoy and explore, visually and verbally, in the Anholt’s latest look at very early childhood. The text is in rhyming couplets and accompanies spreads depicting adorable little ones with things they love – Food, Colours, Animals, Clothes, the Seaside, Mums and Dads, Going Fast, Playing, New Things, Laughing and finally, Cuddle Time. There’s a cute bunny to find on every spread
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Daniel clearly thought Superkid was hilarious.

Daniel clearly thought Superkid was hilarious.

Claire Freedman and Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic pbk.
All manner of scenarios are imagined in which an ordinary looking boy, albeit one sporting glasses behind which lie his x-ray eyes, zooms to the rescue. For Superkid can sort out bubble-gum pinching bullies, gobble up your hated green veggies, tidy the messiest of bedrooms, rescue you from pirates who intend feeding you to sharks and more, all at lightning speed.
Told in jaunty rhyme that reads well aloud and in effervescent, wacky cartoon capers, it all goes to show, young listeners, like Superkid, can be superheroes just so long as they believe in themselves. Look out as you read for Super Hamster, silent bit-part actor who makes frequent appearances though is never acknowledged – just one of the visual niceties that makes this book such a treat
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Zac and Zeb and the Make-Believe Birthday Party
Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow pbk.
Zeb is feeling down in the dumps. “Your birthday is next,” his friend Zac had told him after his own party but that had lead to misunderstanding, and disappointment on the following day. So it’s down to Zac’s, with his improvisation and imagination to save the day or indeed do more than that when the pair blast off on a lunar adventure for the best ever, pretend birthday celebration.
The changing moods of the characters are beautifully portrayed in the charming mixed-media illustrations; Sarah Massini delights at every turn of the page.
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A day with the Animal Builders
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk.
It’s apprentice Donkey’s first day at work on the building site; he’s got so much to learn, not least to keep his feet out of the wet concrete. Fortunately for him though, there’s a whole team of builders on hand to teach him about important things like brick laying, carpentry, drilling, operating a crane, using a drill, plumbing, electrical work, operating a digger and a drill, all supervised by foreman Bert who is in charge and says when it’s time for a cuppa. The builders have to build an architect-designed house for the Penguin family and satisfy all their demands, which include a helter skelter and an ice-rink. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a tricky task. Donkey learns about all the different stages from flattening the ground to painting and decorating. He particularly loves using the heavy machinery not to mention testing out the helter-skelter and the ice-rink and finally has an opportunity to discover what he is outstanding at. And yes, that dream home is eventually finished but not without a host of mishaps and near disasters.
There’s an abundance of fine detail in the funny pictures, plus pictorial lists and labels galore to explore – enough to keep inquisitive young readers interested for hours. This is a great book to have in an infant or nursery class especially if you have a theme that includes building. (the Three Little Pigs for example) There is plenty to make adults chuckle too.
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There, There
Sam McBratney, illustrated by Ivan Bates
Brubaker, Ford & Friends pbk.
Little Hansie Bear loves to try out new things, things such as walking like a duck, digging the deepest hole ever, or swinging really high in the trees. It’s just as well then that his dad is always close at hand to give him a big hug and make him feel better when he gets hurt. Then when his father has a thorn in his foot, Hansie is there to try and help and once mum has pulled out the offending object, Hansie knows exactly what is needed to make his dad feel just right again – one of his tightest ever bear hugs.
This lovely story has a real ‘feel good’ factor. It’s beautifully and sensitively told (from the author of Guess How Much I Love You one would expect no less) and the text feels honed to perfection. Equally the relationship between Hansie and his dad is portrayed to perfection in Ivan Bates’ tender illustrations. The soft colours of the paper and the pastel tones of the pictures are just right. An ideal collaboration and a book that’s not to be missed.
It would make wonderful Father’s Day present but nobody needs an excuse to buy this one.
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Snail Trail
Jo Saxton
Frances Lincoln pbk.
In this lively and accessible rhyming book, a snail invites readers to join him on a walk of discovery. Leaving a silvery trail for us to follow, he takes us to visit several pieces of modern art, including among others, works by Picasso, Dali and Pollock, briefly presenting each, before he arrives at his own portrait by Matisse.
Thoroughly engaging and an ideal way to introduce modern art to the very young.: Not only will children want to try their hands at making their own collage versions of The Snail but will very likely want to try some of the other techniques presented too.
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The Elephant’s Friend and other tales from Ancient India
Retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams
Walker Books pbk.
Marcia Williams’ retellings of eight stories from Indian folklore are taken from three sources: The Panchatantra, Jataka and Hitopadesha Tales. To visit India is an onslaught for the senses : sights, sounds (and smells) can be almost overwhelming – a truly magical experience. With these comic strip style retellings Williams has given readers a taster of what that might be like. They exude warmth and wit, and her illustrations veritably glow with the bright, almost jewel-like colours one associates with the subcontinent. So too the swirling patterns and floral designs which she uses to create borders, to decorate fabrics and to texture aspects of the landscapes. A truly spellbinding collection.
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