Lili by Wen Dee Tan: The Book Blog Tour

Today I am pleased to be part of the Lili book blog tour. This is a stunningly beautiful picture book with exquisite artworks, but is also a book about how our actions can change other people’s perceptions of us.

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Lili’s hair is not only fiery red, it is as hot as fire itself. Lili struggles to make friends with anyone because they are frightened of her fiery hair, and is generally shunned. Until the day comes when her hair proves useful in saving some village children, and Lili’s courage shines through. From that day onwards, the other children and people of the village accept and include her.

The magic of this picture book is Wen Dee Tan’s amazingly powerful illustrations. Each spread is like a painting on the wall, simple charcoal lines depicting the whole story, bar Lili’s hair, which is a raging fire of orange burning through each page. Not only does it appear fiery, it truly looks like hair – the reader is enticed to touch it, although knows that it is fiery hot. It’s challenging, and yet simple and enriching for a young reader. There is simplicity in the drawings throughout – both in the faces of the children, but also in the implied terror when the village children are lost in the woods.

Lili spread

Author and illustrator Wen Dee Tan won third place in the Macmillan Prize 2013 for her Lili illustrations and on her blog talks about the joy of holding a pencil and making marks on paper. She’ll certainly be making her mark on the children’s picture book scene with Lili.

You can visit Wen Dee Tan’s blog here.

Two other visually arresting (yet in a completely different way) picture books in which the opinion of someone is changed based on their actions are Mr Big by Ed Vere and How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens.

Mr Big

Mr Big tells the story of a gorilla who is big. So big that
“anywhere he went, all everyone saw was someone big and scary.”
Mr Big buys a piano because it looks alone, like himself, and his sadness inspires him to play beautiful music. Everyone else in the city can hear the music and recognises its beauty but they don’t know who is playing. They invite the ‘mystery pianist’ to join a band, which he does, and subsequently he becomes hugely popular. It’s a lovely story that explains that friends come in all shapes and sizes. Ed Vere’s book explores emotions in a simple way for picture book readers, and his use of bright colours in his unique style make this book stand out. I haven’t yet read it to a child who didn’t love it and ask for a re-read.

How to Hide a Lion

How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens is very different although the underlying principle is the same. Just because something is ‘other’, doesn’t mean it has negative attributes, and somebody’s actions can change our perceptions of them. A lion strolls into town to buy a hat, but the townspeople shy away in horror. In fact Helen Stephens depicts a rowdy mob chasing the poor misunderstood lion with brooms and rolling pins. A small girl called Iris is not scared and takes him in, hiding him from her parents as apparently “mums and dads can be funny about having a lion in the house”. In the end the lion is discovered and runs away again, only to foil burglars at the town hall. His good deed is rewarded – he is hailed the town’s hero and given what he came for the in first place. It’s a clever little story with endearing illustrations.

With thanks to Fat Fox Books for the sneak preview of Lili.

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