How To Light Your Dragon

How To Light Your Dragon
Didier Lévy and Fred Benaglia
Thames & Hudson

What do you do when you discover that your much-loved pet dragon’s spark has gone out? This delicious book with its exciting amalgam of words and pictures offers a range of possible curative strategies.

The dragon belonging to a child owner emits not a single flicker when first we encounter it but the child remains upbeat as ideas are put forward one by one in the manner of an instruction guide.

What about lifting his rear legs and giving him a ‘good shake’? Nothing doing?

Maybe use his tummy as a trampoline. No? A feather duster toe-tickle, underarm feathery feel or a nasal nudge duster-style maybe. Uh-uh, no go!

Make him really, really angry by cheating at cards or make a large cake complete with candles – irresistible surely? Actually no; and even the oven shop with its jealousy-inducing latest models pointed out fails to spark a response.

By now said dragon appears decidedly downcast and even consumes the false flames stuck on his snout then flops down defeated and immobile.

Perhaps the time has come for an entirely different approach; unconditional love – now there’s an idea … recollections of good times shared, a big smacking kiss right on his nostrils and … TA-DA!

The fusion of near show-stopping typography, arresting design, and wildly bright colours is powerful enough; but even that is eclipsed by the message that someone or here, something, is loved no matter what, gives the book its hottest, most radiant magic.

Didier Lévy and Fred Benaglia most definitely lit my fire with this one.

My Hand to Hold / How Do I Love You?

My Hand to Hold
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Friend
Hodder Children’s Books
Love shines through no matter what, is the message in this sweet rhyming book.
Through the seasons and through the highs and lows of everyday life, we follow an adult and infant as they interact with each other;

with the natural world they inhabit and occasionally, with others …

Smriti’s heartfelt verbal evocation of unconditional love is made all the more enchanting by Alison Friend’s pastel and watercolour illustrations.

I think this is their first picture book collaboration; it’s certainly a harmonious one.

How Do I Love You?
Marion Dane Bauer and Caroline Jayne Church
Hodder Children’s Books
Using the well-known line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a starting point, Bauer uses comparisons with aspects of the natural world to show that parental love is ever present. ‘I love you as the thirsty duck loves a sudden shower.

Or, ‘I love you as the waking bear loves the smell of spring.
The small girl, the only human shown throughout, is clearly the centre of a parent’s world; this also suggests an ‘at oneness’ of child and nature no matter the landscape she happens to be in.

Caroline Church’s mixed media style collages have a pleasing texture: the duck’s wings bear a floral pattern, the bear’s fur has a hatched appearance not unlike parquet flooring; the cat’s fur is gently brushed with a darker shade contrasting beautifully with the child’s madly wavy tangled tresses.
The final spread fuses present and future with ‘And as our friendly Earth/ loves to spin around. / I love you as the moon / loves each shining star. // I love all that you will be / and everything you are.’ So be it.
An enchanting interplay of words and pictures for adult and child to savour together.

I’ve signed the charter  

Small Matters

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I’ll Never Let You Go
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
An inexhaustible supply of love no matter what, is something everyone needs, particularly in those early years when everything is new and exciting; when you’re finding out about the world around and testing those boundaries …

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when things don’t go just right and you get in a tizz…

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When you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or ready for sleep. Then again when it’s time for an adventure or you need to feel that little bit more brave …

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An understanding adult is on hand to share those moments with his or her unique brand of unconditional love as Smriti Prasadam-Hall’s gentle rhyming text tells. Alison Brown’s scenes beautifully capture the highs and lows these little ones experience in this celebration of love and life as shared between adult and toddler animal style.

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Hug Time
Patrick McDonnell
Orion Children’s Books
Meet Jules, an endearing kitten with an enormous globe-trotting mission. What’s behind this tiny feline’s massive adventure you might be wondering? The clue’s in the picture (and the title of course). ‘He wanted to give the whole world a hug.’
And to ensure that he fulfils his intentions, the little fellow’s first job is a ‘Hug To-Do List’.

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Thereafter it’s a case of starting with those closest to him then off he goes over land,

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and sea …

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First port of call is Africa with its elephants, chimps, giraffes, hippos, baobab trees even.
India is the next destination where stillness and determination finally bring rewards but there’s no time to waste with wombats and wallabies still to be hugged. Then comes the North Pole, a lonely place …

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but just in time there’s a polar bear offering – guess what. And then it’s time to head home to bestow a special hug to Doozy, the one he loves best of all.
Delivered in rhyming couplets and through a series of wonderful illustrations (the book’s real strength), this story of universal kindness and unconditional love really does demonstrate how one simple act can make a massive impact. How splendidly McDonnell portrays each animal’s reaction to Jules, be it benevolence, surprise, delight, or downright indifference, in those small watercolour pictures.
Right now in these troubled times, there’s no need to undertake a globe trotting journey such as Jules’; but we certainly need to embrace his sentiments to all those, who for one reason or another, are in desperate need of some warmth and kindness.

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Hush-a-Bye Bunny
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
It’s almost little Bunny’s bedtime. First though there’s milk and supper to be eaten, followed by ‘a ‘Rub-a-dub, scrub-a-dub, /Down to your toes.’; then a game of peekaboo and into those pyjamas for a snuggleup with Teddy. Best of all though are those magical moments with a storybook

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and off with the light.
So what can possibly be troubling that baby bun who doesn’t want to let go of Mummy?
No matter what comes, her reassuring words are ready to help,
Hush-a-bye bunny,
Now tell me your fears.
I can hug away worries
And kiss away tears.”
And of course, she does just that before finally putting her loved one back into bed and turning down the light.
Tender moments shared through suitably soft watercolour illustrations and a lilting lullaby. It’s perfect just before bedtime reading to share with your tiny or tinies, particularly when there might be moments of separation anxiety before lights out and a bit of extra comfort is required.

For even younger ones:

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Goodnight Baby!
illustrated by Sarah Ward
Little Tiger Press
One of the ‘To Baby, With Love series’, this one bids goodnight to all manner of soft toys as they prepare for sleep: there’s Bunny and Lion, Penguin and Mouse,

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Giraffe and Bear, not forgetting little Pup. They’re all ready in their pyjamas for a snuggly bedtime story with Elephant before everyone is tucked up ready for “zzzzzzzzzz”. Shh! Don’t wake them till morning when they’ll all be up and ready for a game of:

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Peekaboo Baby!
There are plenty of things to hide under, behind and maybe inside, or even have a little nibble on, which is fine so long as you don’t get caught in the act. OOPS!

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With a flap on every double spread and a surprise ending this companion board book is just the thing for a playful session with your baby.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2