The Big Trip

The Big Trip
Alex Willmore
Tate Publishing

In these days of physical distancing, self important Bear would most definitely be in serious trouble from the powers that be.

Said creature was anything but a respecter of personal space,  showing no concern for other animals as he perambulated around the forest barging and trampling his way wherever he chose to go.

One day while out strutting his stuff as usual he encounters Moose blocking his path. Unlike the smaller creatures, Moose stands his ground

forcing the arrogant Bear to divert from his chosen way and causing him to take an extremely uncomfortable downhill tumble … YEOUCH! … and land unceremoniously in stinky subterranean surroundings.

Pride most definitely came before a fall in Bear’s case.

Talk about humiliation: the other animals are hugely amused but then Moose speaks out.

Perhaps it’s time for every one to pull together, but will that self-aggrandising Bear finally come to see the error of his ways and start to become a bit more community minded?

Alex’s modern cautionary tale is a timely reminder of the power of co-operation especially now when it seems to be the only way forward.

The Weed

The Weed
Quentin Blake
Tate Publishing

When the Meadowsweet family find themselves at the bottom of a huge crack that’s formed in the earth they decide to set free their mynah bird Octavia.

This proves to be a wise move for it’s not long before she’s back with a seed.

This seed becomes their means of escape from a very tricky situation as little by little then ever more rapidly it grows towards the earth’s surface eventually bursting through.

Up, up, up climb the Meadowsweets through the increasingly lush foliage working up an appetite in so doing. “I hope there’s something left to eat when we get up there. I’m starving,” comments Mr Meadowsweet.

Happily though, they don’t have to wait that long, for the profligate plant puts forth fruits aplenty, as well as foliage, as Mrs Meadowsweet discovers tucking in enthusiastically; but in her eagerness she slips and falls.

Fortuitously, a large comfy leaf cushions her fall and the tendrils of the remarkable plant reunite her with the rest of her family.

The journey of people and plant to the surface is finally accomplished and at the surface the luxuriant and verdant world of a garden of Eden surrounds them after their Jack and the Beanstalk style climb.

We probably all feel like we’re at the bottom of a deep hole just now and we are all looking forward to those green shoots of recovery. So, this fable could be read as a message of hope during these difficult times. Remarkable as its creator Quentin Blake is though, he is not an oracle and one suspects he was merely creating a fun and fantastical story for us all to enjoy.

The Extraordinary Gardener / The Five of Us / Incredible You

Celebrating the paperback editions of 3 Tate Publishing titles:somehow they all speak a similar message to us in this current crisis:

The Extraordinary Gardener
Sam Boughton

Wildly imaginative, Joe lives in an ordinary apartment in an ordinary city but in his inner world, plants flourish growing taller than skyscrapers and wondrous animals abound.
Then thanks to reading one night in bed, a seed of an idea is planted in his mind; it’s colourful, aromatic and joyful sounding. The following morning he sets about transforming that idea into reality, starting with an apple seed and some basic tools.

His idea seems to take ages and ages, almost forever; so much so that Joe forgets his seed and returns to imagining colour into his grey existence. But then one daydreaming day Joe spies something outside, colourful and REAL!

Tender care and new seedlings turn that single tree into a stunningly beautiful garden; a garden admired by his neighbours and that ignites his imagination once again.

More seed gathering ensues and gradually the entire neighbourhood is totally transformed into a riot of colour. Just the kind of awesome moment we all need in our lives just now, and the message too about reaching out to neighbours and strangers.

The more you look at this book, the more you see – the detail is awesome; and Sam Broughton’s way of using greyness and gradually bringing more and more colour into her scenes is wonderful, culminating in a glorious fold-out.

Time to get yourself some seeds, go into your garden (or failing that grab some containers), and begin growing something amazing …

The Five of Us
Quentin Blake

This is an enormously powerful story about how five friends, set out for a picnic into the countryside, in a big yellow bus driven by Big Eddie. Now what we’re told about the five is that each of them has a special, amazing ability: Angie can see things miles away; Ollie’s hearing is supersensitive; Simona and Mario are extraordinarily strong and as for Eric – he’s not yet aware of his superpower, but of that  … more later.

During the picnic Eddie starts feeling “ a bit peculiar’ and suddenly the children have an emergency on their hands. Now more than ever they need to work together

but which of them is going to end up saving the day – or will it be a wonderful collective problem-solving effort.

Quentin Blake’s genius shines forth in every way in this book; his characters are wonderfully portrayed and he leaves plenty of space for readers to bring their own interpretations to the story, though one thing is absolutely clear: do whatever you can – a crisis situation can bring out the most awesome talents in every single one of us.
Written 6 years ago, this is just as timely now – or perhaps even more so.

Incredible You
Rhys Brisenden and Nathan Reed

We all have a bad day from time to time and perhaps like the boy protagonist in this book, on especially bad ones, we might wish to be someone or something else.

This boy however, having run through the gamut of ordinary

and less ordinary animals and the possibilities offered by so being, comes back round to the senses that he himself possesses and the wonderful wealth of possibilities these can generate.

In short everyone is uniquely AMAZING!

Amazing too is the combination of Rhys Brisenden’s rhyming text and Nathan Reed’s colourful scenes of upbeat characters, animal and human, demonstrating the multitude of ways of being yourself.

Hours of visual stimulus and an abundance of potential talk herein.

How the Stars Came to Be

How the Stars Came to Be
Poonam Mistry
Tate Publishing

I’ve loved Poonam’s art since I saw her first collaboration with Chitra Soundar, so was totally thrilled to learn of her new solo picture book.

Perhaps like most people you’ve wondered how the stars came to be in the sky and this story offers one possibility.

Way back in time the only light came from the sun and the moon.

A fisherman’s daughter loved feeling the Sun’s rays on her during the daytime while at night she would lie in her bed thinking of her father on his boat out at sea with only the light of the Moon to guide him.

That’s fine, other than for the few nights every month there’s no visible Moon at all, leaving the fisherman to work in total darkness. This troubles the Girl so much that one morning the Sun discovers her shedding tears and asks what’s upsetting her.

On hearing the girl’s concern and pondering upon it, the Sun takes one if its golden rays and throws it down to earth where it breaks into a million glowing fragments.

“Gather together all the shining pieces,” the Sun tells the Girl,  “…Then tonight when I drop beneath the horizon … place each of them into the sky. … We will call them stars.”

The Girl does as she’s bid, naming the brightest Polaris; then continues her task creating wonderful images with her positioning of the pieces.

Week after week she works on her skyscape but months later her bag still seems full of stars. How will she ever complete her work?

Meanwhile a Monkey has been watching the Girl and while she’s distracted he descends, seizes the bag and dashes back up into the tree.

A tussle follows,

and out of the bag tumble all the remaining stars, spoiling the work of the Fisherman’s daughter.

Or perhaps not; for sometimes accidents have happy outcomes …

This is an incredibly beautiful book – let’s call it a neo pourquoi tale – where every spread stuns you with its awesomeness. Poonam’s art is inspired by her love of nature, and her gorgeous, intricately patterned work, is based on Indian designs and colours that I as a frequent visitor to India appreciate all the more.

I wish I could show you every single illustration but for that you’ll have to get hold of a copy for yourself.