Gloria’s Porridge

Gloria’s Porridge
Elizabeth Laird and Toby Newsome
Tiny Owl

Elizabeth Laird’s story is a reimagining of an Ethiopian folk tale that begins with the making of some porridge. Gloria tells her cat she’s so hungry that rather than sharing with him as requested, she intends gobbling the whole lot herself. First though she needs to fetch some water to make it less gloopy so off she goes bucket in hand to the stream.

As you might expect the cat can’t resist sampling what appears to be delicious porridge – just a lick from the spoon, he thinks. But in no time the pot is empty. Back comes Gloria with the water and rather than listen to the cat’s explanation,

she grabs the spoon and shakes it at the creature scaring it, whiskers awry out of the house. 

This action sets in motion a chaotic concatenation of events comprising shaking trees, angry bees, a frightened hen, scattered corn and a shouting, meowing, braying, buzzing, clucking, ear-splitting din.

A passing fox pauses to ask what on earth is happening and a protracted explanation ensues to which all involved add their bit. Having listened, the fox then asks a further question. 

The end result is peace and harmony are restored, and apologies are offered and accepted; after which comes the sharing of a new pot of porridge …

Accompanying Elizabeth’s spirited telling, Toby Newsome’s illustrations, inspired by his South African home environment are full of fun and animation. Together, the result is a highly entertaining and enjoyable read aloud story.

The Snowman and the Sun/Dandelions

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The Snowman and the Sun
Susan Tahdis and Ali Mafakheri
Tiny Owl Publishing
Even very young children know that when the sun shines on a snowman it melts. Some know that means he becomes water but most will not know what happens thereafter. Now, thanks to this gorgeous picture book told from the snowman’s viewpoint, they can become aware of the whole water cycle through a charming story. In this way they are more likely to remember the facts – if that’s all you want.

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However, the publishers’ blurb tells us that it’s a ‘modern-day fable about how our attachments to people and things live on, though they change and sometimes disappear; this demonstrates how a good book can be read, interpreted and appreciated in many ways at different levels. The telling is gently humorous and in places, poetic: ‘The snowman ran as water over the ground. The ground tickled him. “What warm ground!” said the watery snowman.’
With both a science background and latterly a spiritual (though not religious) one I’d put the latter (fable) interpretation first but would happily share it with early years children after a snowy day when it could also lead to a science discussion.
Throughout the circular whole runs a delightfully playful visual subtext involving a cat, some fish, an ice-cream,

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a bee on a bike (that one is a hoot)

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and the boy builder of the snowman – love those odd shoes.

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Love too, the graph paper background, in fact pretty much everything about this unassuming book.

Also showing the circular nature of things is:

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Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan
EK Books
What is a weed? A flower growing in the wrong place, perhaps. That would certainly seem to be the case in this uplifting, understated debut picture book. At least it’s the view of the little girl narrator’s father who as the story opens has just mowed the grass, cutting down the dandelion puffballs she was wanting to blow. His daughter however loves the dandelions – the fuzziness of their petals, the delicate frailty of those parachute seeds. And she knows that although her favourite flowers have been mown down, they will come back. “I just have to wait now!” she says to her Dad. Yes that may be so but first there is a wonderful surprise awaiting her …

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Immediately forgiving, the girl disperses the seeds blowing with her Dad, sending them drifting and spinning far out of reach …

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chased for a while by father and child. Then the two of them lie down and imagine those parachutes (here the narrator’s voice loses some of its direct child-like simplicity) ‘swirling in the wind’ past the roses in the yard, the poppies lining the street, over the sunflowers in the park

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and on, whirling round the weeping willows beside the river, beneath the oaks and out of town, twirling above the countryside eventually to be ‘collected by the sun.’ Here that child voice simplicity has returned.’ “Where do they really go, Dad?” I ask.’ And Dad himself completes the dandelion life cycle explaining how once dispersed, new plants will grow from the seeds, flower again and …

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Magic? To a young child who hasn’t lost that innocence, yes perhaps. Certainly children retain their capacity to find beauty in, and treasure, simple things in the natural world, so long as we adults allow them time so slow down and be in the moment.

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The warmth of the bond between father and daughter is beautifully portrayed in Kirrilli Lonergan’s soft, watercolour scenes, that have just a touch of whimsy to their summeriness.

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