I Don’t Want To Be Small

I Don’t Want To Be Small
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The little boy narrator of this rhyming tale rues his lack of stature; “It’s not fair,” he says. Frequently overlooked, he’s the smallest among his friends and big bro’s castoffs are way too large.

In a fit of pique the lad tosses his Teddy Bear skywards only to get it stuck in a tree out of reach.
Nothing he tries succeeds in getting Ted down;

superfast consumption of green veggies merely serve to give him wind and attempting to become flower-like is let’s say, a damp squib.

His “I JUST WANT MY BEAR” shout causes a tall girl to come and offer her assistance; but not even she can reach Teddy.

Light bulb moment: teamwork might just do it suggests our narrator, and … hurrah! Success; but much more important, is what  ensues.

Laura’s spirited illustrations abound with humour and pathos, and her seemingly simple, funny story with its powerful messages about self-acceptance and the importance of co-operation, will resonate with all those who feel inferior for whatever reason.

Rumple Buttercup

Rumple Buttercup
Matthew Gray Gubler
Puffin Books

Just a quick look at green-skinned Rumple Buttercup with his wonky teeth, odd sized feet and just three strands of hair might indicate that this creature is something out of the ordinary – weird – so the author tells us at the outset of his immediate interest snarer.

Convinced that his unusual appearance with scare people, his residence is a sewer  – albeit nicely decorated,

where he listens in to conversations of passers-by, longing to be a participant but making do with pretence.

The one time Rumple feels safe to sally forth as part of the community, is his favourite event, the Annual Pajama Jam Cotton Candy Pancake Parade; a day nobody will, he thinks, notice him amid the carnival revels.

Having eagerly anticipated the day all year, his excitement rises but then on the morning of the event, there’s a distinct lack of banana peel in the bin beside his home.

Devastated and deciding he must stay below ground and miss all the fun, the creature suddenly hears a voice calling down the drain to him.

What he discovers is that he’s not quite as strange as he’s always thought – unique perhaps, but then we’re all strangely different in our own ways.

So let’s join him in a celebratory wave and an acknowledgement that self-acceptance, flaws and all, is the way to go and that there are others out there who will celebrate our individuality, no matter what.

This delectably quirky, slightly surreal offering – a blend of picture book and chapter book – is one that will appeal to a wide readership, young and not so young.

Mira’s Curly Hair

Mira’s Curly Hair
Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani
Lantana Publishing

How many of us are satisfied with our natural hair? We often deem it too straight or too curly and spend countless hours styling it and making it look different. I for one have given up on the straighteners other than on very rare occasions but like Mira, the main protagonist in this story, would really like effortlessly straight and smooth hair.

Like Mira too I’ve tried pulling it down to get rid of the kinks and I know from my daily yoga practice that headstanding has absolutely no effect when it comes to hair straightening.

Mira even goes to the lengths of piling books on her hair but inevitably once she moves those curls spring up as if to say, we told you so.

The child covets her mother’s long, smooth straight locks but then one day while out walking with her it starts to rain heavily. They run for shelter ‘neath a palm tree but as they wait, Mira notices to her amazement, something different about her mother’s long locks. They’re straight no more; thanks to the moisture her hair is curling and curling … and Mira loves it.

Thereafter there’s only one hairstyle for both Mira and her mum; it’s natural and it’s curly.

With its theme of self-acceptance, this simple story is beautifully told by debut picture book author, Maryam al Serkal

Prize-winning Argentine illustrator Rebeca Luciani’s scenes executed in jewel-like acrylic colours and digitally worked are superb. I especially love the way items such as toy soldiers and hair styling tools are woven into one illustration,

while others feature modern and traditional Islamic style architecture, as well as richly patterned clothing both traditional and modern.

Another wonderful addition to the culturally enriching picture book list that is Lantana Publishing.

Jungle Jamboree

Jungle Jamboree
Jo Empson
Puffin Books

The jungle is alive with anticipation. The coming of dusk is the opportunity for all the animals, great and small, to show off their beauty; but which one will be judged the most beautiful of all?

One after another the creatures dismiss their natural beauty: Lion says his mane is too dull; bird’s legs are too short; zebra’s stripes are too boring; leopard’s spots too spotty and hippo’s bottom is well, just too big.

None of them expects to win the crown.

A passing fly is interested only in his lunch and while the other creatures all set about getting themselves ready for the jamboree, he happily sates his appetite.

At last all are ready but they’re hardly recognisable with their fancy adornments and new-found confidence.

The fly, in contrast talks only of the beauty of the day’s ending.

Finally the long-awaited hour of dusk arrives. Judges and creatures assemble ready to strut their stuff; but all of a sudden the clouds gather and a storm bursts upon them.

The animals are stripped of their flamboyant accoutrements and left standing in darkness as the storm finally blows itself out. Now it’s impossible for the judges to see who should receive that crown of glory.

Then the little fly speaks out, offering light, for this is no ordinary fly.

How wonderfully one little firefly illuminates all the creatures, now clad only in their natural beauty; but which will be declared the most beautiful of them all?

Jo’s story is funny, thought provoking and a superb celebration of kindness, self-acceptance and every individual’s unique beauty: her electrifying illustrations are a riot of colour and pattern and likely to inspire children’s own creative efforts.

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry
Jarvis
Walker Books

Come with me to Coral Reef City, home to the most flashy, dashy array of fish you could imagine. It’s also home to Terry. Terry has no dazzling scales or funky fins to flaunt. He does however have two good friends, Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail with whom he lives and plays.

The three and their games of Dodge-a-Dolphin, Shark Speed and Hide-a-Fish are shunned by the tropical fish on account of their drabness. Terry’s pals try to cheer him up but he still hankers after that dashing, flashing life.

A plan is needed and next day, with the help of his friends, operation transformation Terry is put into action.

Now he verily outshines everything else in Tropical City.
At last he’s one of the fishy dazzlers and much too busy with his new acquaintances to bother with Steve and Cilla.

One day however, Eddie the Eel arrives on the scene and Terry’s life in is great danger. What can he do to escape becoming an eel’s next meal?

There’s only one way to find out: get your fins on a copy of Jarvis’ tale of friendship and sea changes and read the rest of this piscine picture book.

Jarvis never fails to delight: his deep-sea adventure is certainly one to dive into.

Frank the Seven-Legged Spider

Frank the Seven-Legged Spider
Michaele Razi
Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch)

Frank the spider enjoys spinning beautiful webs;

he also enjoys scaring humans; most of all though he likes his eight ‘beautiful, glorious legs.’

One day though, Frank wakes up minus one of his prized limbs: with only seven legs, is he still a spider?

Once he’s got the hang of being a tad lop-sided, Frank sets off in search of his missing leg. He tries several likely spots including a dark, warm cave

but no matter where he searches there isn’t any sign of his lost leg.

Fortunately just when everything seems totally dismal some ants come along and what they tell him makes Frank realise that all the things that make him spidery – web spinning, leg wiggling and scurrying – are still on his can do list.
Hurrah! Identity crisis averted; bring on self-acceptance; for sure, despite his physical disability, Frank’s lost none of his capacity for pranks.

That final spread doesn’t quite hold the last laugh though. After it come a credits page showing another spider holding something that might just belong to our protagonist …

Michaele Razi’s straightforward text and abundance of speech bubbles, in combination with her uncluttered illustrations executed in a carefully considered colour palette, present the physically challenged arachnid as a positive character ready to take on whatever life throws at him. Pretty cool!

Baby Bird

Baby Bird
Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka
First Editions
First Editions is a new ‘sub-imprint’ of Lincoln Children’s Books that is entirely devoted to debuts and this book is one of its first.

‘Birds are born to fly’, thinks Baby Bird but this little bird was born with one misshapen wing that fails to develop fully and so when the other hatchlings are ready to leave the nest Baby watches them take flight but, try as s/he might, Baby’s efforts to follow them end in disaster.

Determined to learn to swoop and soar like the others, the little creature keeps practising, refusing to give up until suddenly a monstrous face appears from the shadows and there is, not a monster but another bird calling itself Cooter.

Cooter offers to assist Baby by becoming a buddy and the two spend the afternoon endeavouring to get Baby airborne, all to no avail and although Cooter tells Baby that he’s having fun, the fledgling most definitely is not.

The friendship is further tested when Cooter tells Baby something exceedingly distressing that precipitates a fall, a rescue and a revelation.

What follows changes the entire mood; it’s something called Coot Scooting and from then on, Baby’s outlook on life and flying is altogether different.

Baby Bird embodies the spirit of determination against all the odds in this tale of friendship, self-acceptance and inclusivity.
Both author (who sadly did not live to see the book’s publication) and illustrator’s portrayal of the fledgling is uplifting and inspiring.

I’ve signed the charter