September saw saw a surge in the publication of new books for children and I am still working my way through a wonderful variety of fiction and non-fiction titles. Picture books sometimes blur the boundaries between story and information or can be used to guide and encourage young children through difficult emotions or experiences. These picture books, all published last month, are examples of this.
In When I’m Big by Ella Bailey (Flying Eye Books) when Fern the baby dinosaur hatches from an egg deep within a forest there is no sign of her parents. So little Fern sets out to try to discover what sort of dinosaur she will grow up to be. She meets dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. Surely among all these dinosaurs, Fern will find out who she is and where she fits in. This is a charming story about finding your place in the world and accepting who you are and the cheerful illustrations match the tone of the text. There are double page spreads of the forest which include plenty of vegetation sharing the name of our little explorer plus vignettes depicting episodes along the journey. It’s a nice touch to show all the different dinosaurs, suitably identified, on the endpapers enabling young children to learn their names. This would be lovely to share with young children enabling them to see that the most important thing to be is themselves.
What the Elephant Heard by Charlotte Guillain illustrated by Sam Usher (Welbeck Publishing) combines gently rhyming text, subtly illustrated landscapes and information about these threatened animals and the challenges they face. A picture book that tells an important environmental story. The matriarch of the elephant herd tells of the traditions passed on from one generation to the next but also of changes experienced by these beasts of the African savannah brought about by man’s actions. The non-fiction pages incorporate facts about the animals themselves, the threats to their existence and how people can help. The detailed watercolours capture the changes to the landscape caused by humans in a moving manner with the subtle changes in colour emphasising the impact and the endpapers reflecting the glowing African sun. A beautiful non-fiction picture book.
Tiny Owl frequently publish picture books that prompt thoughtful discussion and Rock and Roll by Hazel Terry is a wonderful example. It tells the story of two boulders who have stood proudly together at the top of the mountain for a long, long time. One stands flat and the other stands tall. When people discover the two rocks they bring gifts and adornments for them. Sadly Rock and Roll become jealous of each other and gradually their discontent spreads. Each time I read this I ask a different question and wonder. It has themes of difference, interconnection, jealousy and sharing and is a book to savour and talk about. There are fascinating fossil prints throughout and brief details about them on the final page. This, I think, would be suitable for a wide age range.
Lily Takes a Walk by Satoshi Kitamura was first published in the 1980s but thanks to Scallywag Press a new edition of this classic is now available again. When Lily takes her dog, Nicky, for a walk she sees many lovely things. Meanwhile, Nicky and the reader, see something rather different. Scary apparitions depicted in Kitamura’s instantly recognisable style are apparent on every double page spread. What is that lurking in the tree, peeping out of the postbox, hovering in the night sky or even jumping out of the bin and over the wall? While Lily relates the details of her lovely walk to her parents the traumatised dog lies exhausted in his basket only to be confronted by one more surprise. There is enough horror to thrill but hopefully not to prompt nightmares and this book would provide an opening to discuss irrational fears with children. Parents may of course remember this story from their own childhood which adds an extra level to the sharing and understanding of this classic picture book from a much celebrated illustrator.