This week two rather special picture books landed on my doormat. Their arrival was timely. On Monday some of our youngest children will return to their schools for the first time in many weeks. Their classrooms will look different, school life will have altered and their experiences over the last two months or so may have been unsettling. Teachers face the task of reassuring their small pupils and providing a sense of security for them. Picture books can help. Especially picture books that radiate kindness and hope. Bloom and Perdu are very different stories and yet they both feature a small child who makes a difference. Not by slaying dragons or defeating villains, or with magic or secret powers. These two little girls change lives by being kind. These hopeful, reassuring books empower little ones as they listen or read. They see that even the smallest voices can make a big difference when they are used to be kind. A valuable message for them in the world today.
Bloom written by Anne Booth and illustrated by Robyn Wilson- Owen
‘Good morning, beautiful flower’ she would say. ‘I think you’re wonderful. Thank you for being here for us. I love you.’
Each day a little girl admires a pretty flower that flourishes in a garden she passes on the way to school. She talks to it and appreciates its beauty; every morning it cheers her as she walks past. Unfortunately the man who lives in the house is possessive of his garden and shouts angrily at the small girl to stay away. Over the coming days without the little girl’s visits the flower droops and its beautiful petals no longer open. The furious man tries everything. He tells the flower how lucky it is, how important he is, he waters it and instructs it to grow however despite all his efforts the flower continues to pine. He has run out of ideas so perhaps the little girl can help him?
Text and illustrations combine in this thoughtful picture book to convey ideas and themes that matter. The child in her joyful innocent way appreciates the things about her that bring her happiness and she displays this appreciation in her behaviour and attitudes. The old gentleman is unable to do this. Materially he has more than the little girl and her family and yet he does not lead a happy life. The illustrations highlight this difference. On opposite pages we can observe as the girl, her brother and mother share meals together in the kitchen of their flat while the man meanwhile sits alone at a big table with people serving his meals. The children enjoy colouring together while the man leads a solitary, unhappy life complaining about others in his large house. Finally when he asks the little girl for her advice he discovers what a little kindness can achieve.
This is a lovely story tenderly told which ensures young children will be comforted and reassured. More perceptive children may ask why the old man is so grumpy and this could be an excellent prompt for further discussion. Sometimes we all need a small reminder of what matters most in life and Bloom confirms for us the importance of appreciating what we have, sharing our good fortune with others and showing kindness even to those who may not be kind to us, These can be difficult lessons to learn sometimes but this gorgeous story encourages readers to nurture one another.
Bloom is published by Tiny Owl Books on 11th June and this celebration of optimism and kindness is perfect for sharing with young children at the moment.
Perdu by Richard Jones
“I must find my place thought Perdu. I must find my somewhere”
Perdu, the little lost dog is all alone with no place to call home. Captivated by a fluttering leaf that floats down the stream alongside him he follows it in the hope that he will find ‘a place to be’. We follow his journey as he travels through forests and fields, the stream gradually becomes a river and he slowly makes his way to the large city in the distance. Poor Perdu finds the city a busy, noisy, scary place when you are feeling lost and small. But the observant reader may already realise that someone has noticed him and that this particular someone cares.
This is the first picture book that Richard Jones has both written and illustrated and it is a gem. The text captures the sights and sounds of Perdu’s journey beautifully; “the grass was cold beneath his paws”, the leaf “landed with a whispery tap on the water”, “tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip went his claws on the concrete”. The writing draws attention to the aspects of city life a small dog would notice such as the smells, the loud noises and the feel of things against him. It is beautifully done.
Although Perdu is growing increasingly anxious the reader may have noticed the small girl watching the little dog. Her red woolly hat matching Perdu’s beloved red neckerchief. I don’t think I am spoiling things by saying yes, there is a happy ending. When their paths cross the little girl speaks ‘softly’ and looks at Perdu with ‘kind eyes’. All will be well!
The illustrations are beautiful with gentle colours and are a perfect match for the story. Richard Jones conveys Perdu’s emotions in the small but determined figure trotting along through the fields and in the droop of his head and tail in the city as he cowers after being shouted at. There is a lovely touch when a visitor from The Snow Lion makes an appearance and children who have read that book will be reassured to know an old friend is keeping an eye on things.
In addition to the small lost dog, (Perdu is such a perfect choice of name) there are parallels to others who may be trying to find a place where they can belong be that those displaced from their own countries or people struggling to fit in with others. This is a soothing book to read and a celebration of the power of kindness. I loved it.
Perdu was published in April by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.