Double Dipping – Blue Cats and Purple Elephants

Don't Think about Purple ElephantsRecently I looked at picture books where bedtime procrastination prevails. However what about the times when your child is desperate for sleep but harbours worries too numerous to overcome? Their efforts meet with repeated defeat. New concerns infest their sleep-deprived psyches until they convince themselves they are unable to sleep no matter what.

This perpetuating cycle of anxiety is not only detrimental for children but distressing for parents as well. Here are two new picture books that deal with this dilemma with bright originality.

In Susan Whelan’s and Gwynneth Jones’ debut picture book, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, Sophie is a bit of a worrier. Her worries don’t intrude much on her life during the day. She draws, plays, and day dreams like most seven-something year-olds. But at night, ‘when everything is quiet and still…Sophie starts to Susan Whelan and Gynneth Jonesworry’. Oh, I hear you, Sophie!

Of course, most of these worries are merely over exaggerated unreasonable ‘what if’ thoughts but if faced with just brussels sprouts for dinner, you’d be rather toey too, I expect.

Caught in an awful tangle of tortuous thoughts, Sophie is losing sleep and hope faster than she can count to ten sheep. Then, one night before lights out, Mum calmly advises Sophie to NOT think about purple elephants.

Purple Elephants illo spreadPerplexed, Sophie tries to follow her mum’s suggestion and fails, spectacularly. The result is the best night’s sleep Sophie has had in ages. Could this be the start of a coloured animal invasion?

Not thinking about Purple Elephants is an approach to insomnia that I am definitely trying and a picture book I highly recommend for its touching narrative and sumptuous, whimsy-kissed illustrations.

EK Books April 2015

Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat by Jason Hook and Ilaria Demonti, is another equally captivating bedtime tale for pre and primary schoolers that just might tip the scales on bedtime tension.

Wendy is a young girl who has explored nearly every avenue to reach slumber including chucking cartwheels on her bed! Frustratingly, nothing works so mum and dad pack her off to Grandpa Walter’s, a place she has never been before. It’s a house of many rooms decorated with the most wondrous wallpapers Wendy’s ever seen. She and teddy are enchanted by their new surroundings. As if by magic, the rose patterned wallpaper smells of…you guessed it, roses and she can handpick oranges from the orchard-decorated room. But it’s when Wendy steps into the room papered with her favourite nursery rhyme charterers that the real fun begins.

She chooses this room as her temporary nocturnal chamber, wondering just how she’ll fit sleep in with so many marvellous distractions on the walls. It’s the fiddle-welding blue cat that leads her on a merry cavort through each landscape and garden and ultimately, into blissful slumber. Jason Hooks’ delightful circular narrative includes enough repeating phrases and quirky character idiosyncrasies to hook young readers and those reading with them.

Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat illoLavishly illustrated by Milan based illustrator, Ilaria Demonti, the wallpapers in Grandpa’s house are from real wallpapers, all designed by English artist, Walter Crane (1845 – 1915). Crane’s designs often included pictures from fairy tales and nursery rhymes and featured on many a child’s nursery walls in the 1870’s including those of Mark Twain’s children’s. You can still see these at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who published this book.

If a trip to the UK is not on your imminent horizon, pick up Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat, here. It’ll cure your insomnia whilst exacerbating your appreciation of fine art.

V & A Publishing May 2015

 

 

Review – WANTED! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar

Wanted Ralfy Rabbit It is wise to start a new year on a positive note. Many begin with a resolution. A new book excites me. But how do you choose the perfect title that will not only entertain and enthral but also convince you to pick up another, again and again? Best to begin with a tale of intrigue, mystery, and devil-may-care with a convincing love story involving passion and redemption. Happily, I found such a (picture book) tale so began the New Year with Ralfy the Rabbit!

Ralfy has a touch of OCD. He likes making lists and is a bit of an over-sharer all because he harbours a passion that runs deeper than a need for carrots. Ralfy loves books. In fact, he can’t get enough of them.

And, as some obsessions are wont to become, Ralfy’s soon evolves into one of criminal dimensions. Ralfy can’t stop taking other people’s books in order to satisfy his need to read.

It appears Ralfy’s bibliophilic book thief existence is unstoppable until he meets Arthur, who also loves books and becomes more than a little agitated by the loss of his favourite title. Unable to curb his lust for books, Ralfy is finally nabbed by PC Puddle. At first, Arthur rejoices but then sympathises with the bookworm in Ralfy.

Emily MacKenzieHow can Arthur save Ralfy from imprisonment and cure his burglary tendencies without curtailing his lifelong love? Tune into author illustrator, Emily MacKenzie’s Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar to find out.

MacKenzie’s bouncy picture book text and adorable crayon/watercolour illustrations give wonderful insight into the heart and soul of would-be criminal, Ralfy. Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, demonstrates to young readers how two very different people can find unity because of a shared common passion and, in this case, become best (book) buddies.

I love how Wanted!… ultimately celebrates books and unashamedly encourages reading at every level, on almost every page. One can’t help but giggle at Ralfy’s’ expansive To Read, Read and Favourites Lists which include some time honoured literary masterpieces such as: A Hutch with a View, Warren Peas and The Hoppit.

the children who loved booksThe Bush Book ClubLike several other picture books before it, namely: The Children Who Loved Books, It’s a Book, Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books, I Love You Book, and Bush Book Club, Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar embraces the literal physicality of books and re-establishes the importance of the havens that show case them (libraries for instance) by subtly emphasising their significance in our world. Ultimately, a book about loving words and libraries and treasuring the worlds they harbour.

This one is definitely going on my Favourites List. Fantastic reading for 5 – 8 year olds and five out of five carrots from me!

Bloomsbury Publishing January 2015

 

Five Faves from Afar

Summer has nudged spring well and truly out of the garden but there’s still time to sit back, cool off and relax with this month’s Fave Five. Five sweet, syrupy offerings to help you remember the mellifluous moments of last season before we dive head first into the next silly one…

Wake up Do Lydia LouWake Up Do, Lydia Lou!Julia Donaldson and Karen George. 2013 Macmillan Children’s Books UK. From the creators of Freddie and the Fairy, comes this utterly divine, not so scary story about a ghost who is bent on trying to give Lydia Lou a fright. He tries everything in his ethereal powers, enlisting in the vocal stylings of mooing cows and booing babies, but nothing can stir Lydia Lou from slumber. What does happen when she finally wakes to a roomful of noise makers? Children as young as three will hang on every word of this amusing collection of alliterative and repeating verse. It’s a fun and innovative way of introducing sound and word associations with just a smidge of spook thrown in. Too good to wait for next Halloween to share.

Clara Button and the Wedding Day SurpriseClara Button and the Wedding Day SurpriseAmy De La Haye and Emily Sutton. V & A Publishing 2013 (in corporation with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum). When in London, a visit to the V & A museum is imperative. If an overseas sojourn to Europe with your little ones seems a long way off, whet their appetites and infuse their senses with culture with this gorgeous picture book, the very first published by the museum. Amy De La Hayes’ Clara Button is an innovative, creative type who is all in a dither over a friend’s upcoming wedding. She loses herself in a dream of what to wear and how to personalise her outfit. When things go horribly wrong, Clara’s lateral thinking turns disaster into something fantastic which ironically suits the wedding theme to a tee. Wedding Day Surprise is oozing with more intricate detail and fascination than the Portobello Road haberdashery itself. Captivating for 4 – 7 year olds.

Amelia and Nanette Sparkly Shoes“Amelia and Nanette: Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties Sophie Tilley. 2013 Bloomsbury Publishing UK. Still very much in the slightly convoluted manner of English orientated picture books, is this spring time release by Sophie Tilley. In spite of an over-flowery narrative, the look and feel of this book is sumptuous and sublime. I love the Bloomsbury penchant for clothbound hard covers. It’s a winsome look at two best friends who revel in each other’s shared dreams, loves and delights. Even when Amelia’s ‘large and really rather naughty dog’, Pilou, attempts to sabotage the girls’ perfect picnic day, their friendship endures, strengthened by hugs and supportive mothers. Younger school aged girls in particular will find this picture book as delicious as drinking a strawberry smoothie.

Dragon Loves PenguinDragon Loves PenguinDebi Gliori 2013 Bloomsbury Publishing UK. Another English author illustrator who should need no introduction is Debi Gliori. Her latest picture book is a gorgeous, read again and again tale of ‘need’ finding the perfect fit with ‘want’ and develops into an enchantment about the power of love, and being brave and unique. Two unlikely characters, a dragon and a penguin, are magically brought together with Gliori’s loose charcoal line and watercolour illustrations, a fusion which melts the iciest floes. Sensitive storyline and sublime art for 0 – 5 year olds, although my 8 year old can’t get enough of this one.

Penguin in LovePenguin in LoveSalina Yoon. 2013 Bloomsbury Publishing Australia, 1st published in the US 2013. Sticking with the Antarctic theme and rival for top pick over Dragon Loves Penguin, is Penguin in Love. Author illustrator, Salina Yoon, weaves a tender-hearted tale of looking for love and friendship and finally finding it under a mountain of woollen beak cosies. “Love is a big adventure” especially if you are small and alone but worth the risk of seeking out as Penguin discovers. Told with big bold beautiful illustrations, this picture book is certain to warm the very cockles of your heart not to mention those of 3 – 5 year olds.

Stay tuned for more exciting stocking filling ideas in my next post.