grit

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King

So there’s chocolate and there’s books. Two favourite things of mine. Sylvia Bishop clearly feels the same for she has transplanted the idea of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory into a book about bookshops.

Property Jones was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was just five. Now she lives with the owners – a mother and her son. She loves living there, with her adopted family, but as was the case with Charlie Bucket and his family, they are impoverished. And Property is impoverished in more than one way, for she is harbouring a terrible secret – she is illiterate and cannot admit it.

And then, fortunes appear to change when the family win a competition to own Montgomery’s Emporium of Reading Delights, perhaps the greatest bookshop in the world. The shop smells of books, the rooms are themed on a grand scale: a dictionaries room in which everything has a brown tag label; the room of knights and castles books with stone walls and tapestries, books of woodland tales in a room in which the floor is covered with pine needles – and so on, all operated with a series of levers and pulleys – stacks of rooms in loops.

But with more power comes more responsibility, and possibly great danger, not in terms of the grumpy cat who resides there, but the grey man who lurks mysteriously in the shop.

This is an old-fashioned adventure story, wrapped up in the fantastical delight of limitless imagination. There are forgeries and baddies, befuddled old gentlemen and oddball cats, and children seeing and doing more than the adults. But above all, a shining colourful adoration for books.

The ultimate message is one of honesty – being true to yourself and others, and seeing what’s true and what isn’t. What message could be more pertinent in this era of fakery and falsification? And most of all the text and characters feel fresh; the premise may not be new, but it has been executed as if it is – the prose reads freely, the plot moves like liquid gold. If I was seven again this is the book that would make me fall in love with reading. And bookshops.

I was sent this book to review in the early proof stages, but have been promised (and given a sneak peek) of the illustrations that will embellish the book. I have no doubt that they too will be as exquisite as the text.

Don’t miss out – this could be your child’s golden ticket to a lifelong love of books. Suitable for age 6+ years.

You can buy your own golden ticket/bookshop girl here.

Creating Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie

A guest post today from Mathieu Lavoie (don’t worry, it’s in English) about creating his wonderful picture book, Toto’s Apple – my review of which you can read here. Mathieu is a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as the creative director and co-founder of Comme des Géants, a children’s book publisher based in Montreal.

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Our night time routine with the kids involves reading books aloud and once that’s done, we turn the lights down and make up a story for them, on the spot. One very special night, I came up with the story of a little worm that had a hard time reaching an apple, but never gave up. As I was telling the story, which was not as polished as the printed version, I thought I had something interesting. After I was done and the kids were happy, I kissed them good night and rapidly went into my studio and wrote down the first draft of Toto.

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That first draft is very different from the final version. It’s more “written”, with more descriptions and a much slower pace. I had not yet come up with the more concise writing. The evolution of the story and its style slowly happens in the next few months. I let the story sink in as I re-tell it to myself many times. It haunts me in my everyday life. It’s as if it was continuously whispering in my ear: “I’m the one, listen to me!” At one point, I realised I could make a book with it and I started writing a second draft. From there, I made a storyboard and started cutting out vignettes and playing around with them, with pacing.

toto_2_storyboard

In the early version of Toto, Didi chooses to pick up Toto and swallows him, satisfyingly. That ending was later dropped because we thought it might just be too weird and cruel and we wanted Didi to retain her naive and pure character, echoing Toto’s personality.

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After I’m satisfied with the pacing, I make the drawings that will be used for the final illustrations. Those drawings are quite small at approximately 3 by 4 inches for a full spread. Therefore, I enlarge them with a photocopier.

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I am now ready to start painting with gouaches. It takes me around one month to create the illustrations.

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After that, I send the illustrations to my publisher who takes it from there. Oh wait, I am the publisher as well! Seriously, throughout the whole process of writing and illustrating Toto, I consult with my good friend and associate at Comme des Géants. Between the two of us, we try to make books as best as they can be!

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and Toto’s Apple as well!

With thanks to Mathieu and Phaidon for this guest post. You can buy a copy of the book here

Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie

toto apple

Every time a foreign children’s book lands on my doorstep, I think of Daniel Hahn, author of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, translator, and a key advocate for imported fiction. He’s certainly right in that there are some gems being published abroad to which the UK’s children deserve access.

This is one such book – a marvellous picture book that extols the virtues of grit, determination, and overcoming failure, yet also providing a witty text and a surprise ending. It reminded me of You Can Do It, Bert by Ole Konnecke.

Toto is a worm attempting to get an apple. His first issue is position.

“The apple is up high.
Toto is down low.”

Each time Toto comes up with a plan – he is a very resourceful worm – and each time the plan fails. The plans are nigh on ridiculous and at the same time wonderful. Toto transforms himself into various other objects or animals in order to obtain his apple. None works. In the end, Toto does get his apple – but simply by a piece of good luck. After all the effort he’s put in though, he pretty much deserves it.

The book doesn’t end here though – it finishes with a rather surprising and whacky twist.

The beauty of this picture book lies in several elements all coming together. The text is delightfully minimal, the illustrations are blocks of bright colours – easily identifiable objects with minimal detail and plenty of white space – both aspects making this a pacey picture book. The white space and minimal text combine to give plenty of opportunity for the readers to discuss what they think will happen, as well as what they would have the worm do next.

Other factors include the playfulness with opposites, and the transformations of the worm – these will inevitably lead creative sorts to experimenting themselves with turning simple block images into other images. The illustrations were made using gouache – a type of opaque watercolour – and it enhances the story beautifully. The blocks of colour can be seen even at the back of the classroom, and close-up they hone the attention.

This is an excellent picture book for young readers. I’m cheering on Toto, even though he’s a worm. Find out how Lavoie created it here. You can buy a copy here.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

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Hugely popular in the States, children’s author and twice Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo hasn’t had the same traction this side of the pond. Yet. Her latest novel, Raymie Nightingale, a coming-of-age tale set in small town America in 1975, looks likely to be a big hit.

Ten year old Raymie thinks that she can entice her estranged father home. She decides to enter and win a local pageant, thereby ensuring her photo will appear in the local newspaper, and her father will see it and realise what he’s missing, and return home. The reader first meets Raymie at a baton-twirling lesson, taught by 50 year old Ida Nee.

And it is precisely this intersection of the innocent and somewhat naïve ten year old girl with the grownups in her community that defines this book. Raymie makes two new friends at her classes, and they adventure together, climaxing in a night-time escapade to free an ill-treated dog, and a mishap with a shopping trolley and a pond – but it is Raymie’s dawning realisations about relationships that turn this slight plot into a marvellous insight into love and loss:

“Something about this made Raymie’s soul even smaller and her toes even stiffer. It occurred to her that nobody really knew what anybody else was upset about, and that seemed like a terrible thing.”

From Raymie’s undertaking to do a good deed for her pageant application form – she volunteers at the Old People’s Home and has a wonderful encounter with a true personality, to the influence of Old Mrs Borkowski, to her memories of her ‘Life-saving 101’ teacher, who carefully made his own ‘dummy’ for them to practise lifesaving. From her father’s secretary, whom Raymie rings at the insurance offices to hear her reassuringly say ‘How may we protect you?’ when she answers the phone, to Ida Nee and her baton trophies, the misfits, oddbods and ordinary people make up a community that has a long-lasting impact on a little girl’s life – just as much as her peer friendships.

Raymie’s emotions are laid out by DiCamillo as reflections on how her soul is doing – whether it is squashed small inside her, or soaring and filling like a balloon. It’s simple and effective, and seems true to the innocent young girl being portrayed. But what also pushes through, as well as the three girls’ transparent emotions, is their absolute determination and grit to win through, despite their confusion with the grown up world.

“’How were the lessons?’ She [Raymie’s mother] asked when Raymie got in the car.
‘Complicated,’ said Raymie.
‘Everything is complicated,’ said her mother.”

And it’s the writing that shines in this book. Unbelievably light and simple prosaically (barely a word a nine year old wouldn’t know), and yet nuggets of brilliance abound so that the odd phrase feels as if it were plucked from the likes of Elizabeth Strout and simplified for children. DiCamillo manages to convey themes of loss and belonging, or transience and strength despite the extreme lightness and simplicity of the phrasing. Each word carefully chosen, each sentence crafted to perfection. This is the ultimate stripped prose. There’s not much description in the book, but where it appears, it sparkles like a pageant dress:

“The front porch was sagging and the chimney was tilted to one side, as if it were considering something important.”

When Raymie meets her friend Louisiana’s grandmother:

“It was like looking at Louisiana in a fun-house mirror.”

There are bite-sized slices of humour embedded in the text too, from the school librarian’s speech imploring Raymie to ‘diversify’ her reading material, resulting in Raymie’s borrowing of a book about Florence Nightingale, which “looked like a horrible, depressing book”, to Raymie’s own inimitable way of taking grown-ups literally, as she ‘flexes her toes and isolates her objectives’ before starting on a task.

The writing begs another look at Kate DiCamillo’s other books, including the famous Because of Winn-Dixie. It’s a privilege to put books like this in the hands of children. Letting them soak up pared down yet excellent writing, so that they can discern what works and what doesn’t, and learn how to be excellent wordsmiths themselves. With the backdrop of a rather quirky little story. You can buy a copy here.

Girls Rule by Sarah Forbes (An Elspeth Hart books guest blog)

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In the past year, one trilogy has generated more excitement in my primary school library clubs than any other, and that’s the Elspeth Hart series. In 2015, for my summer reading list I suggested Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs, a tale of orphan Elspeth who works as a servant in the Pandora Pants School for Show-Offs, sweeping up mouse-droppings and dodging stuck up horrid students. Comic fun, school setting, feisty heroine. Sparkling with wit and personality. So I’m delighted to welcome author Sarah Forbes onto the blog with a guest post today. And after her post, you can read my review of the third and final book, Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue, publishing April 7 2016.

I wanted to talk a little bit today about how much I enjoyed writing the feisty female characters in the Elspeth Hart books. I truly didn’t set out to do this, but in the first novel, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, I ended up with a strong heroine (Elspeth) a very nasty pair of female cooks (Miss Crabb and Gladys Goulash) and then a clique of rather evil schoolgirls (Tatiana Firensky, Esmerelda Higginsbot and Octavia Ornamento). The male characters all turned out a bit less tough: Professor Bombast, the headmaster, is silly and easily led, and Rory, Elspeth’s best friend, is much more timid and anxious than Elspeth.

The theme continued in the sequel, Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage, where we met gung-ho Cassie, who helped Elspeth and Rory defeat Crabb and Goulash while on a massive cruise ship travelling to New York. And in the third and final book, Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue, we head to Australia, where we meet Uma Gumboots, a fearsome woman who runs rings around Rory’s butler, Mr Tunnock. Uma is a big tough woman who runs a nature reserve, and she likes crocodiles more than people. She was so much fun to write, and the illustrations James Brown created made me laugh out loud. James and I also thought it would be funny to give fastidious Mr Tunnock a kind of jokey love interest, and at the end of Magnificent Rescue, we’re left wondering if Mr Tunnock will stay with Uma Gumboots in Australia. Could there be love on the horizon? We’ll never know…

Isn’t it fun to write (and read about) strong women, good ones and bad ones? I do think there’s a really long lineage of impressive female protagonists in children’s literature, but it is curious that I ended up with most of the main players in my books being women. Without planning to at all, I seem to have sidelined the blokes or made them a bit inept and bumbling (sorry, chaps!).

It feels strange saying goodbye to Elspeth Hart but the third book ties up her adventures (no spoilers, in case anyone reading this wants to read it!). It’s been a blast writing Elspeth over the last few years, and having the books illustrated by James Brown was a joy. I’ll be squeezing in as many school visits and readings as I can this summer, because meeting readers is one of the very best things about being an author.

And then, it’s time to think of new projects… which is always fun. At some point I will work on a book with a male protagonist who kicks ass… truly, I will!

But until then, I’m quite enjoying having girls rule the world.

With thanks to Sarah.

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MinervaReads review of Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue by Sarah Forbes, illustrated by James Brown

Our feisty heroine Elspeth is on her final quest to be reunited with her parents. The only problem is that her parents have themselves been duped into looking for her in the depths of the Australian rainforest. And the dastardly and despicable Miss Crabb and Gladys Goulash are on the trail too because they still want to steal Elspeth’s top-secret family recipe for sticky toffee sauce.

Elspeth has her trusty friend Rory to help her, and some other helpful friends she gathers along the way, but unfortunately for her, she gathers some enemies too. And in the setting of a wild rainforest with crocodiles and spiders, what could possibly go wrong?

It’s easy to see why this series captures children’s imaginations and why it’s so wildly popular. It’s a page turning adventure with a determined heroine, who shows quick-wittedness, gumption and grit, surrounded by other smart children and not so smart adults. There’s also a healthy dose of hilarious and eccentric villainy comparable with the best of Roald Dahl.

The adventures are slightly quirky, and yet not so wacky that there isn’t an intensity of emotion too. The reader positively roots for Elspeth all the way through, whilst admiring her sensitivity and quick-thinking. The story isn’t too long – and punctuated with powerful and detailed illustrations that capture the children’s emotions.

But above all the writing is fun, cheeky and punchy:

“We’re not eating anybody, you nincompoop!” Miss Crabb said. She did a little dance of rage.
“Enough of your stupid ideas. You’re only here to carry my stuff.”

With unexpected twists, lots of fun, and above all heart, this is a superb little series for 7+yrs. Buy the latest book here.

Bikes, Trains and Boats

No information books about transport here, but three lively stories for newly independent readers. Each contains phenomenal illustrations, making these all easy transitions from picture books.

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The Secret Railway by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Sam Usher

This is a sparkling book, everything one could want for a young child starting to read, as it bursts with joy and magic and the silliness of fantasy lands where anything is possible. Wendy Meddour is the author of the quirky series Wendy Quill, as well as more recently, How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel, and she does have a wacky way of looking at things, which is a delight in a young children’s book.

A gorgeous sibling relationship between older brother Leo and younger sister Ella develops throughout the story. The children have moved house and while the parents unpack, the siblings go exploring and discover a secret railway in the station workshop of their new station house. But of course it’s not just a disused train line, but a magical railway that leads to the Kingdom of Izzambard where Griselda, the Master Clockmaker, has stopped time.

Riding the train in error, Ella and Leo are informed that they must return the magic magnifying glass to The Chief Snarkarian at The Great, Grand Library of the Snarks, and receive a key in return that will help them back to their own world. It’s as crazy as it sounds, but satisfyingly eventful and imaginative. With swooping mechanical birds, butterfly spies, and a marketplace full of beavers reminiscent of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, this is a jam-packed story of wonder and adventure. For an early reader it bursts with action and non-stop fun.

The book talks to the reader with text that is spunky and full of vitality, from the beginning where it asks for the readers’ tickets, to the description of ‘ordinary children’:

“Ella and Leo Leggit were not ordinary children. ‘Well, of course, you’ll say: ‘No children are’
And you’d be right. I’m sure you’re very peculiar. But what I mean is, Ella and Leo were extremely not ordinary.”

Each chapter is a different platform number, and the entire story is accentuated by Sam Usher’s now distinctive and endearing illustrations. Usher draws the sort of children that you want to hug, and manages to make every scene seem three-dimensional – you could just step into the story.

More to follow in The Secret Railway and the Crystal Caves in July 2016. You can chug along on the first Secret Railway here.

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Grey Island Red Boat by Ian Beck

A Little Gem by name (from Barrington Stoke’s Early Reader series) and a little gem by nature, Ian Beck writes a story that makes you want to sink back into a comfortable chair and be sailed away into the magic. He tells a modern day fairy tale with his own illustrations punctuating the text, and has dedicated it to his grandson. It’s exactly the tale you would imagine a grandparent telling a grandchild.

A princess lives with her father, the King, on the Island of Ashes. As the reader may expect from the name, everything on the island is grey. The sea, the sky, the land. The black and white illustrations convey this too. It rains all the time, and the month is always November. The princess feels that something is missing, and the tone of the text is muted, sad and withdrawn.

Then one day a small boat washes up on the island – and there’s something different about it. It’s red. Before long the stranger aboard has disembarked and is colouring the world with every touch of his hand. Some people are bewitched by this – the Princess and others feel “tickled” by it. But the King fears change, and takes action to prevent it, although change proves inevitable.

Ian Beck brilliantly captures the rhythm of a fairy tale or legend, as well as an underlying depth beneath the simple story. Reading the book was like feeling a warmth spread across one’s body. Children will adore the gradual introduction of colour into the illustrated landscapes, and the perfectly easy descriptions of the feelings colour gives the people on the island. Adults will see the depth of the message. You can buy it here.

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Flying Fergus: The Best Birthday Bike by Chris Hoy, with Joanna Nadin, illustrated by Clare Elsom

Sometimes I feel reluctant to review ‘celeb’ books on the blog, knowing that they will probably gain a huge audience in the wider press anyway. But the publishers have paired Hoy with children’s author Joanna Nadin quite brilliantly, and the result is a hugely entertaining story.

Fergus desperately wants a Sullivan Swift for his ninth birthday. A stupendous bike with “24 gears, hydraulic brakes and state of the art suspension.” When he receives a rusty old second hand bike, he’s a little disappointed. Until he discovers something magical happens when he rides it in the right way.

The story whisks the reader into a fantasyland, complete with a princess (who wears mismatched welly boots), a Swamp of Certain Death, and some rather ridiculous rules.

Clare Elsom’s illustrations deserve great credit. The book is jam-packed with them, and each is as funny and madcap as the text. The princess in particular, with her dishevelled hair and wonky eyes, is a sight to behold. There are also two maps at the beginning.

But despite cramming this slim little early reader with oodles of fun and endless adventures, there are still some great messages within. Fergus has a heart-warming relationship with his grandfather, who is endlessly encouraging about Fergus’s ambition to win a cycle race. But he firmly believes that it’s not about luck – it’s about hard graft.

There is also some poignancy within the story as Fergus’ father has been missing from his life for nine years and Fergus still dreams of finding him and making his father proud.

There are so many facets to this book that each child will be able to extract their own enjoyment – whether it be fantasy, the reality of the bullies, a missing father, a princess, or simply ambitions and dreams. A good start to the series. Pedal your way to your copy here.

 

 

The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth

Daisy Fitzjohn

Tania Unsworth has written a most compelling thriller for children, using a mixture of tense suspense and magical realism to tell a story of depth, mystery and adventure.

Daisy lives with her mother in a huge, crumbling mansion called Brightwood Hall. She has never left the grounds, so when her mother goes on a shopping trip and doesn’t return, Daisy is left completely alone. She has to make a crucial decision – should she venture into the wider world or wait at home in the house and surrounding gated grounds until her mother returns.

Then a stranger arrives, and secrets in her family, and those contained within Brightwood Hall, begin to be revealed and cast Daisy into more danger than she could possibly have imagined. She must decide again whether to protect the mansion and her ‘friends’ within, or whether to find help outside the gates.

As well as a weaving a spellbinding tale, Tania Unsworth has threaded immense depth into the book, with themes of memory and the power of imagination. Daisy’s mother is a hoarder – she keeps objects from each day as memories inside ‘Day Boxes’, which stack up inside the mansion. Added to this are Daisy’s own conversations with an imaginary friend, and her belief that the objects that make up the mansion are living and can talk with her – from the portraits lining the walls, to the topiary hedge shapes in the garden, to the animals roaming the grounds.

This magical realism enables her to explore her own mind and memory, and prepare her to battle the dangerous stranger who invades her space.

Of course, as with all great books about a character being alone, the protagonist has to resonate extremely strongly with the reader, and gain their sympathy – and Daisy does. She is likeable, introspective but interesting, and brave despite her increasing vulnerability. Her fears of abandonment, her anger at her mother, then her despair and loneliness, are tangible and realistic – as juxtaposed with the ‘magic’ of things around her. The two concepts spar brilliantly with each other – and the reader is left to decipher what is real and what isn’t – and what the mind does when left to its own devices, and how it deals with the world when it is fighting for survival.

The setting itself is striking and highly visual – the expansive grounds, some wild some tamed, the house with its towers of ‘Day Boxes’, old artefacts, and plentiful rooms – some shrouded and hidden – others open and comforting.

Yet despite the depth within the text, this is a thrilling adventure/mystery story that is easy to read – the plot skims along at pace, the characters are well-drawn and identifiable, and it promotes thought. It’s a highly memorable book, and one of my top reads so far this year. For age 9+. You should definitely read this book – and if you want to, you can buy it here.

 

I was sent a copy for review by Orion publishers, but also worked on some readers’ notes for this book.

New Year Grit

It’s the New Year. A time for resolutions, and thoughts about what’s to come. For children it’s never too early to learn the key skills of steering your own life – personal responsibility, determination and grit.

In fact, ‘grit’ has been acknowledged recently as an important indicator of academic success. It’s a tricky one as it’s a fairly undefinable characteristic – but is associated with character traits such as resilience, and perseverance. Not hanging around for ‘good luck’ to happen, but focusing on personal growth and a drive to improve. This goes back to Albert Bandura’s definition of self-efficacy as one’s belief in the ability to succeed in a situation or to accomplish a task. The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk has been fairly well touted as a definitive guide to grit. But for the young, who may not understand a full TED talk yet, there are numerous picture books that also espouse ‘grit’:

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
This is a wonderful picture book tale of grit. A young girl (a regular one, the author makes clear) sets out to make something, assisted by her dog. The reader isn’t sure what it will be, but the girl knows it will be something magnificent. From the cover page it’s clear that this is going to be an assemblage of junk yard items, but firstly the girl starts by drawing a plan of it.

The text is simple, playful and as everyday as possible. The reader sees that the ‘regular’ girl makes things all the time, and this will be “Easy peasy!” Hilarious illustrations accompany the text, adding an extra dimension – there is a lovely scene where the girl hires her dog as an assistant – she is posed looking over glasses at the paperwork. Then when she starts to work, her American city neighbourhood is shown in the background – the buildings in black line drawing, the characters at the front – colourful and as diverse as can be.

Then the book really springs into life with the girl’s work. The vocabulary is fabulous – she “tinkers, hammers, measures,” and later “smooths, wrenches and fiddles”. After numerous attempts it’s still nowhere near magnificent. Her face shows much grit, determination and perseverance. She re-examines, she “twists and tweaks, steadies, fixes”, and even draws a crowd. But it’s not right.

Then of course, as is natural, she loses it! She “smashes” and “jams” and “pummels” and the vocabulary becomes less and less constructive, and more and more destructive, as she fails to build what’s in her imagination. She ends up hurting herself and quits.

But after a long walk with her trusty assistant, she comes to the realisation that with careful and slow work, and no distractions, she could try again. There are some brilliant learning points here – her explosion is “not her finest moment”, her discarded inventions are found to be useful by others, the illustrations show that her imagination is piqued by what’s around her on the walk….

What she makes in the end is magnificent (even though it is not perfect, and the author is keen to point out it has taken all day) – the girl and her dog are not disappointed and nor will the reader be. This reviewer certainly found the book to be a magnificent thing.

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The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino
More about doing what’s deemed impossible by others and following dreams than having grit, this picture book still aims to show that unless you attempt something you won’t achieve it. In magnificent watercolour, what stands out most in this picture book is the subtlety of the illustrations versus the unsubtlety of the premise.

Tina is a curious cow who reads books and comes up with ideas. Her sisters reject each of them. Then one day Tina disappears, and in order to find her, the cow sisters must follow her example and climb trees and see where she might have gone. In the end, they too believe that anything is possible – cows can climb trees, fly and even go to the moon.

The humour inherent in the illustrations is great. When Tina looks at a book, her three sisters are pictured leaning against a tree chewing the cud languorously, eyes disbelieving. When Tina explains to them about taking a rocket to the moon, the sisters are shown eating again – but this time around a kitchen table. A disinterested mouse strolls off the other side of the page. Likewise when she explains to them ridiculously incredulous stories of her meeting a vegetarian friendly dragon at the top of the tree she climbed, they are pictured dismissively strolling up the stairs to bed (mouse too).

These cows walk on two legs – the trees are pictured with round colourful watercolour leaves, almost like balloons, and when the sisters do follow Tina, they climb behind a pig on his way to flying lessons.

It’s a cute, yet beautifully composed picture book about attempting the previously thought impossible. Buy it here.

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss
I’m sticking a classic picture book in here. Not all book purchases need to be of new books – many of my favourites are from the back catalogues. This is a quintessential book about keeping going, because good and bad things will happen to you, but it’s all about persevering and pushing through. Written in second person – referring directly to the reader, and also in future tense as if the reader is just beginning on the journey of life:

“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.”

What’s great is that despite all the realism within – you’ll face slumps, be left in the lurch, lose because you’re playing a game alone, you’ll spend time alone, and be confused and sometimes frightened and face problems – you’ll get through it all, and keep moving onwards – there is eternal hope and enthusiasm on each page:

“With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of guy!”

Classic Seuss illustrations from fantastical creatures to colourful flying balloons, weird contraptions, balancing houses, imaginative landscapes like the craziest crazy golf you ever played – it’s all here in wondrous colours. A poem to keep you going. You can buy it here.