Prudence and Her Amazing Adventure

Prudence and Her Amazing Adventure
Charlotte Gastaut
Thames & Hudson

Amazing is something of an understatement when it comes to young Prudence’s flights of fancy that take place as she blocks out her parents’ increasingly urgent calls to tidy up and get ready to go out.

Out she certainly does go, far, far away to wonderful woodlands,

incredible tropical jungles, deep down into the ocean and way, way up among the stars.

All kinds of creatures, strange and stranger still, as well as some more expected ones, inhabit the landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes she visits on her imaginary journey; until eventually those parental voices once more break into her fantasy worlds and it’s time to answer their call.

As well as her awesome double spread illustrations, French artist extraordinaire, Charlotte Gastaut has included cut-outs and translucent pages to flip back and forth, as readers join the little girl on her incredible adventures.

There is SO much to see in every scene, some of which almost leaps from the page thanks to Charlotte’s bright pink colour pops, whereas other details are less easily discernible hidden between the swirling textures of the rocks, stones and foliage.

Who would want to tidy up a room when it can furnish such breath taking experiences as Prudence’s?

A stunning book to immerse oneself in, and to visit over and over, losing track of time just like Prudence.

My Island

My Island
Stephanie Demasse-Pottier and Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press

“To dream and to invent allows you to discover yourself,” So said Stephanie Demasse-Pottier, the author of this book that she wrote as a tribute to the inventiveness of her two young daughters. Hurrah for her flagging up the link between the imagination and the power to be inventive – in whatever field.
The little girl narrator of the story conjures up an imaginary island world filled with flying fish, birds, constantly blooming flowers, and animals aplenty.

In this place she has tea parties for the animals, she reads, makes coffee, interacts with snails, arranges flowers – all in her own little house.

We too can share in the riches of this place, so long as we know ‘how to sing’, ‘how to share’

and ‘how to dream’.

 

What adult wouldn’t want their child/ren to gain access to such a place – this extraordinary and wonderful world created by the imagination of the intense, creative little girl. A place where they too can wander, or pause awhile, letting their imaginations soar, further fuelled by the vivid scenes conjured by Seng Soun Ratanavanh in her watercolours, coloured pencils, and red thread stitched illustrations (which serve both to link together what the narrator imagines and to leave gaps for readers’ imaginations to enter).

Not only is this a tribute to two little girls, it’s a tribute to the power of the imagination itself.
Remove all technology and let youngsters take that leap and linger long. Who knows what might happen …

Ruby’s Sword

Ruby’s Sword
Jacqueline Veissid and Paola Zakimi
Chronicle Books

However hard she tries, spirited, young Ruby always seems to get left behind when out with her two older brothers. Pausing for breath on their walk, she discovers three long sword-like sticks in the grass; and feeling ‘invincible’ she offers two of the ‘dragon-fighting swords’ to her brothers.

They however only proceed to play with each other leaving her out once again. Disappointed she storms off.

Then, she comes upon an apple tree bearing ‘a royal feast’; she spears the fruit with her sword, which she also uses to help a colony of ants ‘Loyal subjects saved’, as well as to decorate the dirt with her creative efforts.

When a storm gathers scattering swallows, Ruby lifts her sword, whipping the wild winds, swishing at the rumbling, grumbling clouds, the raindrops and, when a huge gust of wind rips a sheet from a clothesline, she catches it on the tip of her sword and uses it to construct a tented dwelling.

Inevitably this attracts the interest of her siblings who are given the cold shoulder when they offer their help.

Now it’s their turn to feel snubbed and off they march but return soon after with handfuls of peace offerings.

Then all three work together to create a ‘magnificent castle’ – the perfect place to shelter loyal subjects – noble knights as well as animal friends.

Jacqueline Veissid’s charming story of sibling squabbles and reconciliation pays tribute to the power of the imagination in her softly spoken narrative, while in her digitally worked watercolour and pencil illustrations, Paola Zakimi clearly shows the siblings changing feelings and adds some lovely details of flora and fauna, along with touches of whimsy through the activities of her playful furry creatures.

A debut story for the author; I shall look out for more from her.

When I Was a Child

When I Was a Child
Andy Stanton & David Litchfield
Hodder Children’s Books

You’re swept away with this enormously heart-warming book right from Andy Stanton’s opening lines, ‘ “Back in the days before you were born, “ said Grandma, / “when the world was a rose’s dream … “ / There was butterfly-and-daffodil ice cream.‘

Back in the day, so she tells her grandchild, the world was ‘a crystal jewel’ full of beauty and magical events: ‘… in the summers of long ago, / when the world married the sun, / there was music in everyone.’

Now though that magic has gone, thinks the world-weary gran. But perhaps it hasn’t.

It’s down (or rather up) to young Emily to re-awaken the ability in her grandmother to see the world as that place of magic, with its beauty and hope once more: ‘ I can show you how to see.” Take my hand and come with me … she gently urges her gran as they embark on further flights of fancy, this time under the child’s guidance.

If you’re not brimming over with the joy it exudes having read this book once, then start over and soak up the transformative power of young Emily’s imagination as she finds magic, wonder and awe even in the most seemingly ordinary things such as  flowers and raindrops.

‘The world is a spinning star … no matter how old you are’ is what’s said on the book’s final spread.

A child’s wisdom is as fresh and young, and as old as the world itself; that is something we all need to remember especially in these troubled times of ours.

Totally immersive, tender and uplifting, this stunning creative collaboration between two  favourite book creators is also a celebration of a special intergenerational bond.

Verbal and visual poetry both: Awesome!

A Kid in My Class

A Kid in My Class
Rachel Rooney illustrated by Chris Riddell
Otter-Barry Books

This is an absolutely smashing collaboration between prize-winning poet Rachel Rooney and former Children’s Laureate, illustrator Chris Riddell.

As the author says at the outset, readers will likely see elements of themselves in not just one, but several of the characters portrayed in her superb poems and Chris’s awesome artwork.
It’s pretty certain too that school-age youngsters will be able to say, ‘that person’ in any of these works ‘is just like so and so’. I recognise all of the members of Rachel’s learning community; I suspect I’ve taught each and every one of them, many times over. There are those who’ll drive you crazy, make you laugh, cry, leap for joy; but no matter what you’ll love them all.

There’s First; this pupil is always first to arrive in the playground; first on the register; first to put her hand up to answer a question; first to have that new item that becomes a craze. This young miss can be more than a tad annoying.

As a teacher I’ve always had a soft spot for a Daydreamer; one who’s head and mind are somewhere far away from classroom reality perhaps during circle times or when the register is called.

I could have been the model for A Girl; the bookish child with ‘a farway look. // Head in the clouds. Nose in a book.’
… ‘Views the world in black and white. … Thinks. //… has pale, thin skin. // Bones of a bird. Heart on a string.’ Still am pretty much, even now; that’s me.

Then there’s The Artist, the inveterate doodler who cannot resist adding the personal touch to the photos in newspapers, who fashions a tattoo ‘ a black and blue rose’ around a bruise, or adds creatures to crawl up the brickwork.

I could go on raving about each and every person that is part and parcel of this class; imbued with one of childhood’s most crucial features, a boundless imagination, they can all engage in flights of fancy, imagining him or herself as fighter of a grizzly bear and astronaut in training (Don’t Walk, Run!);

or ‘speedier than googling Wikipedia’ potential Thesaurus, Wordsmith; even the class pet hamster has the ability to see itself as  muscle exerciser, French learner, Kandinsky recogniser.

Recently it’s been reported in the news, that poetry doesn’t really have a place in classrooms nowadays. What utter rubbish. It’s a book such as this that will most definitely demonstrate the absurdity of such a statement. Share a couple of these poems with a class or group and I’ll guarantee they’ll be clamouring to get their hands on a copy.
Totally brilliant!

Raj and the Best Day Ever!

Raj and the Best Day Ever!
Sebastien Braun
Templar Publishing

Meet young and entirely lovable tiger, Raj and his cool Dad.

They’ve drawn up a plan of the adventure they’re about to embark upon and are super-excited about the whole enterprise. Then it’s a case of back-pack packed and they sally forth.

First stop the library and book chosen, it’s time to show your library card. Oh NO! Disaster! Dad hasn’t brought his wallet. Without that all the things on that list have just flown out of the window so to speak.

Raj is convinced that their perfect day is ruined before it even begins., especially as down comes the rain.
Time to get those imaginations powered up …

Off they go and before long, it looks as though the day might just be rescued,

but then the wind whisks their list up and away and in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad style, Raj fears that without their list, they won’t know what to do.

Good old Dad! Imagination rules again and off they go once more.

With a wonderful twist in its tale, Sebastien Braun’s story is an absolute winner. Sadly my copy arrived too late for Father’s Day but this is a perfect share on any day: a Dad who’s willing to pitch in and enjoy life no matter what; a book enthusiast offspring equally willing to look on the bright side – two colourful characters superbly portrayed by Seb Braun whose books just keep on getting better.

This one could be the perfect distraction from that seemingly wall to wall soccer and it’s a cracking demonstration that companionship and imagination are all that’s needed for the very best day ever: no money, no technology, just free-flowing fun.

Robinson

Robinson
Peter Sis
Thames & Hudson

Drawing on an episode from his childhood as well as the Robinson Crusoe story that he loved as a boy, award-winning author/illustrator, Peter Sis has created an absolute dream of a picture book.

The narrator and his pals’ favourite game is pirates so when their school announces a costume party it seems as though everyone will go in pirate gear. Until that is, Peter’s mum suggests he should go as Robinson Crusoe and he does.

His excitement as he walks to school is quickly shattered when his classmates make fun of him for having the confidence to be different. (Presumably they aren’t familiar with the Crusoe story.)

Peter’s mum takes him home, tucks him up in bed and at this point in a feverish state, Peter’s imagination takes over.

There follows a dream-like sequence where, in stages, his bed is transformed into a three-masted sailing ship heading towards an island.

On the next spread Sis seems to be paying homage to Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are when he says, ‘I float in and out of hours, or maybe days, until I am cast upon an island.

On this island, Peter encounters verdant tropical landscapes, one a maze comprising amazing flora and fauna.

He builds himself a protective shelter, makes his own clothes, finds food and becomes friends with the resident animals;

and all the while the lad is growing in self-confidence, though he still keeps his eyes open for pirates.

Finally, with new-found fortitude, the boy does connect once more with his friends and the story ends in a wonderfully satisfying way.

Sis experiments with several artistic styles in his pen, ink and watercolour illustrations and this serves to intensify the fantastic quality of his island landscapes and his whole journey, both inner and outer.

Thoroughly immersive: this is a book to linger over, read and re-read, and a wonderful demonstration of the power of literature to shape and expand the imagination.