Tag Archives: Tiny Owl

There’s Room for Everyone

There’s Room For Everyone
Anahita Teymorian
Tiny Owl

The narrator of this book, whom we first meet in his mother’s womb, takes us through his growing understanding of the notion that no matter how small or large, space can always be shared, so long as those involved are empathetic, understanding and willing to accommodate others.

The boy observes the plethora of toys that fit into his bedroom, the sky that contains all the stars and the moon, the garden that has room for all the birds and the library that can hold all the books he wants to read and more.

As a grown-up, he takes to the sea exploring the world. On his travels he sees the plethora of fish (and whales) the sea can contain; the places on land that are home to vast numbers of animals.

Sadly however, he also observes humans fighting for space – on public transport,

at places of work, in loos even; and much worse, fighting wars over territory.

However, his travels have, as travels do, widened his horizons and his understanding of the best way to live, and it’s that crucial understanding he shares on the final spread.

I read this book on a lovely sunny morning, having just returned from Waitrose where I observed in the car park an interaction between two car owners. One belonging to an elderly couple, who had parked their car in one of the comparatively few spaces allocated for those with infants and pushchairs. (The rest were already in use). The other was a large estate car driven by a man (presumably with a child on board, though I couldn’t see). He was blocking the access to all the parking spaces while in the process of being extremely verbally abusive to the couple just getting into their car: the language he hurled at them isn’t fit to be included here. The car park had plenty of other empty spaces. I thought to myself how ridiculous and unthinking the guy was being, swearing horribly at the two, who were just getting back into their car anyway. Yes, perhaps technically they were in the wrong; but surely it was a demonstration of what the essence of Anahita Teymorian’s heart-warming, and oh so true picture book is showing us and what its narrator shares on the final spread: ‘If we are kinder, and if we love each other then, in this beautiful world, there’s room for everyone.’

Looking further outwards though, the book is also a pertinent reminder of our sad, for some, inward-looking BREXIT times, as well as of the way our country now appears a hostile place for those looking to live here, be that as refugees and asylum seekers, those with medical skills, seasonal workers, musicians, artists or whatever.

Beautifully illustrated with a quirky humour, its messages of kindness, peace and understanding, of altruism and sharing what we have, are crucial reminders for all who care about humanity at large, rather than just their own little niche.

Let’s break down boundaries, not only here but in other parts of the world where barriers, real and virtual, are set up for selfish, inward-looking reasons.

Caged

Caged
Duncan Annand
Tiny Owl

Wordless books say so much without uttering a single syllable. They challenge us, move us – sometimes to tears, make us laugh or make us feel joyful; they offer us a different way of looking at the world; sometimes they make us feel hurt or anger.

Duncan Annand’s picture book does all these, certainly for me.

Herein we see, simultaneously two threads of interwoven visual narrative, one constructive, the other, in its way destructive, although a construction project is under way. The latter is the work of two eccentric-looking architects.

As the story opens we see the two men busy in the process of destroying what looks like virtually the last remaining tree; a bonfire is ablaze close by and on a branch, a bluebird perches with a twig.

While the men work at bringing cages of brightly coloured parrots and using them to build a circular-based edifice, the bird flies hither and thither building a nest of twigs.

As the construction takes shape its architects perform some perilous climbing and precarious dangling feats to secure the cages in place.

All the while the bird keeps a watchful eye on the process.

By the time the dome is atop the enormous aviary – for that is what is being built – the bird has laid her eggs.
Job done all round. The men certainly appear to think so as they enter their edifice.

Not so the bird however; she has one final act to perform and it’s one of both liberation and entrapment …

Like the architects in his story, Duncan Annand has set the bar incredibly high for his debut picture book that tells a cleverly constructed, enormously satisfying story of environmental vandalism, just desserts and freedom.

This is most definitely a book for all ages and all people in all places. Like those parrots on the final spread, it’s one to make both hearts and imaginations take flight, particularly, the final denouement.

Priceless!

Cinderella of the Nile

Cinderella of the Nile
Beverley Naidoo and Marjan Vafaeian
Tiny Owl

Cinderella is one of the most often told and recognised stories all around the world with its themes and motifs appearing in the folklore of many cultures.
Rhodopsis is an ancient Greek/Egyptian tale said to be the earliest Cinderella story.

Now, Carnegie award-winning author Beverley Naidoo retells this little known tale, the first in the publisher’s ‘One Story, Many Voices’ series. I was particularly excited to see this book having become interested in how stories cross cultures and wrote an assignment on this theme in relation to the Cinderella story while studying at London University’s Institute of Education many years ago.

In this version, unlike the Cinderella most young children are familiar with, a young Greek girl, Rhodopisis is captured by pirates and sold into slavery.
Her master has a special slave, the storyteller, Aesop who becomes friendly with the beautiful red-haired girl and the only one able to make her smile.

After a while her master, unhappy at her unwillingness to smile for him, sells her to a merchant travelling to the Egyptian port of Naukratis.

There she is bought by a Greek merchant who, having heard her story, treats her kindly, rather like a daughter, angering his Egyptian servants, in particular, three sisters who do unkind things to the girl behind their master’s back.
One day her master sees her dancing barefoot down by the river and so he gives her a pair of beautiful rose-red slippers.

Not long after, the Pharaoh sends out an invitation to his subjects asking them to a feast at his palace. Hearing that he was looking for a bride, the three sisters lie to their master and set off to attend.

The kind-hearted Rhodopsis is left to do all the chores and while she does so, Horus, the falcon-god seizes one of her slippers and flies off with it, dropping it into the hand of the Pharaoh Amasis.

Taking it as a sign from the god, the Pharaoh orders messengers to seek out the slipper’s owner: it is she who will become his Queen …

The ancient origins of the story is evident through Marjan Vafaeian’s use of the side on figurative imagery found in the Greek art of the period as well as in Ancient Egyptian wall paintings. Her stylised patterned landscapes in opulent shades of red, brown and green are stunning and a perfect complement to Beverley Naidoo’s fine telling.

World Make Way / Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

World Make Way
New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
ed. Lee Bennett Hopkins
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” so said Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci who was also a poet.

Award winning poet Lee Bennett Hopkins and the Museum asked a number of poets to look at and respond to classic art from the Museum’s collection and create poems that reflect their feelings.

The outcome is this collection of eighteen poems in many different styles by poets some of whom are completely new to me, as are some of the wonderfully diverse works of art from artists including Gustav Klimt, Mary Cassat, Henri Rousseau, the contemporary Kerry James Marshall whose Studio painting inspired Marilyn Nelson’s ‘Studio’ poem.

and Han Gan whose handscroll painting is dated c.750.This was the inspiration for Elaine Magliaro’s ‘Night-Shining White’.

Hopkins has included brief notes about both the artists and the poets at the back of the book.

It’s a beautiful book to savour both visually and verbally, and equally, one to share and discuss with both primary and secondary age children.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me
Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi
Tiny Owl

Eloise Greenfield is a well-known poet in the USA and I was fortunate to come across some of her books when travelling in the States many years ago and still have them in my collection. Her poems are not however, well known in the UK so it’s wonderful to see that Tiny Owl are publishing this as part of their programme to ‘promote under-represented voices and cultures in literature’ and have Iranian artist Ehsan Abdollahi (When I Coloured the World and A Bottle of Happiness illustrator) to provide the art work for the book.

The book comprises sixteen poems, which focus on a boy named Jace, his dog aptly named Thinker and the friendship between them. Many are penned from Thinker’s viewpoint; in one or two, dog and boy converse while others – also conversational – have Thinker and Jace writing on the same topic.

There’s a sequence beginning with You Can Go wherein Jace tells his dog about the next day’s event at his school. Next comes ‘Pet’s Day’.

This gives Thinker’s musings on being in the classroom for the occasion; it’s followed by Jace’s ‘That’s My Puppy when his proud owner talks thus:
I thought Thinker might / shame me, but I am proud / of him. I pat him on the back’ …
The dog’s response ‘Thinker’s Rap’ is the grand finale– a dog poet that can create rap – how cool is that!

This is a delightfully quirky poetry book with each poem different in style, some very brief including

‘Birds Fly’ and this ‘Weather Haiku’,: ‘Cool out here today, / but I don’t need my sweater. / My hair is enough.’

It’s most likely to appeal to animal loving children and may well motivate readers to take up the author’s suggestion to ‘take some time, now and then, to write a poem or two.’

Inspired by Ehsan Abdollahi’s wonderful collage style illustrations, readers may also emulate the book’s artist and create their own collage pictures.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Drum

The Drum
Ken Wilson-Max and Catell Ronca
Tiny Owl

One of the highlights of the school year in three of the primary schools I taught in before moving out of London was the annual visit of multicultural music workshop providers, Earthsong.
Storm and fellow musicians would come with their van filled with exciting musical instruments from different parts of the world – in particular, an amazing collection of drums – and give first a whole school presentation and then individual class workshops of music and dance for the children, often based on a theme that we had flagged up beforehand.
Once those drums came out and the children got their hands on them, even the most challenging of individuals became totally engaged and remained so throughout the session.

It was evident that drum circles (such as those Earthsong provided) were an opportunity for the children to feel totally connected with themselves and with one another and equally, that playing a drum was a terrific mood booster for every individual, many of whom came from less than ideal home situations.

Author Ken Wilson-Max and illustrator Catell Ronca capture those feel good experiences in their splendid little book for young children that features African drummers captivating both the players themselves and their audience

who cannot resist the invitation to follow Ken’s instructions to ‘Clap your hands … Stomp your feet … Move your shoulders from side to side

… Feel the beat in your belly … Feel the drum in your heart’

and who can ignore the appeal to ‘Shake your body and dance’. I can almost feel the beat and rhythm of the drums in Catell Ronca’s vibrant illustrations and want to start moving in concert with the children portrayed therein.

Spencer feels the beat

I can’t wait to see further titles in this new Tiny Owl series ‘Children, Music, Life’.

The New Baby and Me!

The New Baby and Me!
Christine Kidney and Hoda Haddadi
Tiny Owl

Five brothers speculate upon the arrival of their new baby brother.
Each of them puts forward his idea as to what the infant will be like, bestowing on it a characteristic similar to his own so they can share adventures.

The first sees them as fellow explorers discovering new lands and rare creatures.

The second gives the babe the qualities to be a scientist.

Brother number three declares that his baby brother will share his artistic talent and join him in enhancing the world with their creative endeavours.

A treasure-seeking pirate is brother number four’s prediction, whereas the remaining sibling, a dreamer, sees his little brother joining him in finding wonder in the world.

What a surprise they have when the new baby finally appears.

Let’s just say, this new family member has elements of all the brothers but is very much an individual …
Each of us is different; our aspirations should not be limited according to our gender. No matter whether we are a boy or a girl the world’s opportunities should be open to all of us. This is the message that comes through in this unusual take on the ‘new sibling in the family’ story by debut author Christine Kidney.

Hoda Haddadi’s spirited collage illustrations are a wonderful embodiment of children’s boundless imaginations and bring a joyful sense of eager anticipation to each spread until the baby appears.
Her collage technique is one that children will likely be inspired to try for themselves.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Elephant’s Umbrella

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The Elephant’s Umbrella
Laleh Jaffari and Ali Khodai (translated by Azita Rassi)
Tiny Owl
Elephant, a kindly pachyderm, is always ready and willing to share his prized possession, a brightly coloured umbrella, with his fellow animals whenever the need should arise.
One day though while the elephant is taking a nap, the wind whisks his umbrella away and it ‘gives’ it to the leopard.

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There’s a proviso however issued by the umbrella: ‘If I become yours … Where will you take me when it rains?’ Leopard’s far from satisfactory response causes the umbrella to continue on its wind- born journey … towards a bear. Bear too wants to take possession …

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but his “I’ll take you to the bees … I’ll take their honey. And then I’ll sit under you and eat all that honey by myself.” response to the same question, has the umbrella again chasing the wind.
It begins to rain …

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and the umbrella searches for the elephant, finds him and the two are re-united. You can no doubt imagine what happens next …
This seemingly simple, mild tale has much to say to us all; themes of selfless concern for others, humanitarianism, compassion, empathy and kindness spring to mind immediately. No doubt readers and listeners will come up with more suggestions. As ever, Tiny Owl has provided a beautiful and thought-provoking book that deserves a place on family bookshelves; and it’s a gift for discussion in early years and primary school departments, particularly those that have “Community of Enquiry’ sessions on the curriculum.
Ali Khodai’s use of a lush palette in his illustrations is perfect for the jungly, rainy setting of the tale.

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When I Coloured the World

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When I Coloured the World
Ahmadreza Ahmadi
Tiny Owl
I tend to discourage the use of erasers – in school at least – and especially for the very young who all too easily become obsessed with using them, needlessly rubbing out their so called ‘mistakes’. Not so the child narrator of this beautiful fable wherein we see how colour can change the world and the way we look at it. Her judicious use of a single eraser and her box of crayons makes the world a place of joy and peace, hope, playfulness and much more, filling it with red roses, yellow lights, blue sky to play beneath,

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silver rain and drizzle to eliminate the floods, wheat growing green, peaceful light blue, orange spring filled with scented blossom, dark blue for song and dance, purple laughter, gentle breezes of violet, healthy glowing pink for healing, orange for people whose age is immaterial …

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and finally, with another wielding of the yellow crayon …

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I love the way the author has captured the child-like innocence of this wonderful, empowering book. It’s one I can envisage being shared and discussed widely in schools as well as being enjoyed at home and it’s a great starting point for children’s own colourful, world changing artistic creations.

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Fern rubbed out sadness and wrote happiness in yellow “For sunshine so children can dance and sing outdoors.”

 

 

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Beth rubbed out despairing and wrote celebrating in red.

 

Ehsan Abdollahi, the book’s illustrator too has captured that special child-like simplicity in the uplifting scenes that are aglow with wonderfully patterned, richly hued images.
What riches Tiny Owl is bringing to the UK with the publication of such truly beautiful books from Iran. I hope they achieve the wide audience they merit.

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Bing Paint Day
Ted Dewan
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Anyone who knows Bing (and that is countless preschoolers and their parents and carers) will anticipate the outcome of letting the young Bunny loose with a paintbrush, paints and a pot of water. As usual with Bing, things begin fairly calmly and he is busy producing a colourful scene

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but then a tornado hits and …

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It’s a good job that there’s a single colour left and it just happens to be Bing’s favourite orange; so all ends happily in true Bing fashion because as we know “It’s a Bing Thing”.

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Exploring Big Ideas: Grandad’s Island & Alive Again

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Grandad’s Island
Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books pbk
Sometimes along comes a book that moves me to tears; this is such a one. It really tugs at the heartstrings as it tells how young Syd accompanies his beloved Grandad on a final journey. With Grandad at the helm,

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the two of them set forth on a tall ship across the ocean and its rolling waves to a far distant island. Abandoning his stick, Grandad leads Syd into the thick jungle where they come upon an old shack.

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Having made everything ‘shipshape’, the two of them sally forth to explore and come upon a perfect resting spot.

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It’s there that Grandad breaks the news to Syd that he is going to remain on the island, assuring him that he won’t feel lonely.
So, after a loving farewell, Syd returns home alone. It’s a lonesome journey and a long one and when Syd returns to Grandad’s house, there’s nobody there. But then he hears a tapping at the window and there, sent by special mail is …

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Poignantly beautiful both visually and verbally: Benji Davies has done it again.

 

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Alive Again
Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Nahid Kazemi
Tiny Owl
The well-regarded Iranian poet Ahmadi is the author of this seemingly simple, thought-provoking tale.
One by one, things that a boy loves disappear from his life: are they gone forever, he wonders. Can blossom, rain and wheat come back?

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They can and will, but each in its own good time.
The author’s spare prose allows children to create their own interpretations and fill the gaps left in the telling. Ahmadi gives the impression of being close to young children and the kinds of ideas that preoccupy them from time to time. Themes of change, loss, death, rebirth and renewal, and the cycles of nature

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are all possible ideas to explore having shared the reassuring book with young listeners.
As with all the Tiny Owl titles, the production is excellent and the illustrations superb. The collage style illustrator Nahid Kazemi used here has a child-like quality about it and is likely to inspire children’s own creative endeavours.

 

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A box of interesting fabrics, some decent backing paper, fine-line pens and glue is all that’s required.
A wonderful book for primary teachers looking to further children’s spiritual and imaginative development.

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The Parrot and the Merchant

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Carmen engrossed in the story

The Parrot and the Merchant
Marjan Vafaian
Tiny Owl
Exquisite, jewel-like illustrations grace every page of this thought-provoking retelling of the ancient fable from the pen of 13th C poet/philosopher Rumi. Gloriously visualised by Marjan Vafaian who has made the merchant a woman, it tells of said merchant, named Mah Jahan who collects and cages beautiful birds for her own pleasure, and one particular bird, her favourite an Indian parrot. A parrot that is able to talk.
When Mah Jahan is set to return to India on a trading mission, she asks her servants what gifts they’d like brought back. She also asks her parrot whose response is this: “Please say hello to my parrot friends in India. Tell them that I miss them, and that makes me sad. Ask them if they have any advice for me.”
Mah Jahan promises to do so and sets off on her journey…

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In India, with her trading complete, Mah Jahan heads for the jungle in search of the parrots. She passes on the message as promised and although the parrots are unable to speak they can communicate. Indeed, one becomes completely still and then plummets down from the tree.
Mah Jahan decides to keep quiet about this terrible alarming occurrence but when confronted by her own enquiring parrot on her return, she decides to say what happened. Her account is met with a silent response and then he too drops to the floor. Convinced he has died, a weeping Mah Jahan carefully lifts the bird only to discover it is still alive. Thereupon it flies into a tree rejoicing in its freedom – the gift she’s brought from India. As the parrot takes flight to its true home, a confused Mar Jahan then realizes, how much she loves that bird, that freedom is what it needs and that freedom will bring her happiness too.
A truly wonderful amalgam of words and pictures for all ages.

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Pictures inspired by the story

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