A Hero Called Wolf

A Hero Called Wolf
Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle
Macmillan Children’s Books

There are all kinds of heroes in storybooks – big ones, small ones, male and female, but wolves? No, never. That is certainly the experience of the one in author Lucy Rowland and illustrator Ben Mantle’s new book. It’s a wonderful take on the world of fairy tales starring a reformed wolf who now, thanks to the library, has become an avid reader who loves to share that book love with his new friends.

One day however, he pays a visit to the library looking very downcast. He’s come to the realisation that no matter what kind of heroes he meets in the books he reads there’s never, ever one of the lupine variety: wolves are always portrayed as the baddies. The librarian makes a suggestion: write the kind of story you want to read. Do I have what it takes, he wonders, far from sure. Then into the library storms a woodcutter with a blunt axe.

Shortly after a troubled knight appears, followed by a handsome prince, all of whom wolf helps with the aid of books, the prince actually calling him “My hero!”

Suddenly there comes a shelf-shaking stomp heralding the arrival of a giant. The others want to send him packing.

Can Wolf summon up his courage to act … ‘For heroes are BRAVE and they’re CLEVER and KIND.’ Could that now be Wolf? …

The combination of Lucy Rowland’s rhyming text, which is a joy to read aloud, and Ben Mantle’s playful, often arresting illustrations make for a stereotype-challenging tale. As well as being huge fun to share, it demonstrates that everybody can be a hero, no matter who or what they are. That, and giving a real plug to the importance of libraries and the power of reading.

The Bookshop Cat

The Bookshop Cat
Cindy Wume
Macmillan Children’s Books

In rising star Cindy Wume’s new book we meet a bibliophile black cat.

One day, while out exploring the city, said young moggy lands his dream job at the children’s bookshop thus acquiring his titular name too. He’s certainly an ideal assistant and before long proves himself both to his family who had despaired at his insistence on putting reading before achieving, and to the shop’s young customers for each of whom he manages to find just the right book.

Then one morning, disaster strikes: torrential rain causes the pipes to burst and a flood in the bookshop; outside is also under water. The result is that for several days nobody at all comes to the shop: both young Violet the owner’s grandaughter and the Bookshop Cat are thoroughly downcast.

Back at home, the Bookshop Cat’s family decide to pitch in and help. Happily Violet comes up with a wonderful idea:

if the children don’t come to the bookshop, the bookshop must go out to them. Indeed the entire city is transformed into a library and not only that, the workers find a way to get the customers back into the shop. Hurrah!

It’s an absolute delight with superb detailed illustrations; and what a wonderful demonstration of the power of reading, of books and bookshops, as well as an affirmation of the Bookshop Cat’s words early on in the story, “With a book, I can go anywhere and be anything.”

The Lost Book

The Lost Book
Margarita Surnaite
Andersen Press

Of all the rabbits in Rabbit Town Henry is the only one who isn’t a book enthusiast; he much prefers real life adventures. Then one day when he discovers a book in the hedgerow, he finds himself drawn into an adventure of his very own, not in Rabbit world but in the world of humans.

He sets off to try and find the owner of the Lost Book and is puzzled to find that those he encounters have no interest in books, they’re all absorbed in their mobiles and seemingly oblivious to everything around them.

Feeling rather lost and beginning to lose hope, Henry starts reading the Lost Book and then an encounter takes place with a little girl. Getting lost isn’t so bad after all for, by the end of the afternoon a new friendship has been formed.

So much fun does Henry have with his friend that he forgets about his mission until the little girl’s mum appears and it’s time for her to go.

What better parting thank you gift could he give to make sure his new friend doesn’t forget him than the Lost Book?

Back home in Rabbit Town that evening Henry’s family greet him in relief and come night-time, a certain little rabbit tells his first ever bedtime story.

An enchanting meta-fictive tale with a meta-fictive poser in its tail that little ones may or may not wish to consider. Doubtless though they’ll become absorbed in Margarita Surnaite’s debut picture book with its techno-saturated visuals be they double page scenes, comic strip sequences or a combination of both full page and vignette strips that on occasion reminded me of   Edward Hopper’s work.