Books of Love – For Kids

How will you be celebrating this Saturday February 14th?  Some see it as a chance to demonstrate the most romantic of gestures, showering their special ones with gifts of affection. Others only need to show an act of kindness to prove they care. Either way, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, International Book Giving Day or Library Lovers’ Day for you, this Saturday marks a day of appreciation for those we adore (including our love for books).
Here are some heartwarming stories that beautifully incorporate tenderness, charity, compassion, friendship and giving.  

514TikhmbnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Hooray for Hat!, Brian Won (author / illus.), Koala Books, 2014.

Hooray for Hat! is an entertaining story that explores feelings, generosity and friendship. Depicted with a black scribble above his head and a wrinkled brow, Elephant woke up feeling grumpy. But an unexpected present at the door soon changes his mood. A marvellous multi-tiered hat immediately cheers up Elephant. Here, the book makes full use of the double page spread by turning Elephant on his side and includes large, colourful text, ”HOORAY FOR HAT!” Eager to show Zebra, Elephant discovers that he, too is grumpy. ”Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” As the story continues, Elephant carries on spreading the cheer by gifting each animal with a magnificent hat, bringing them out of their terrible mood. Showing concern for Lion’s friend, Giraffe, the group plan a spectacular surprise; a very grand, loving gesture.
With gorgeously strong and colourful illustrations, repetition and boldness of the text, Hooray for Hat! is a fun read-aloud book about friendship and compassion that young children will love.  

AllMyKissesAll My Kisses, Kerry Brown (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.), ABC Books, 2014.  

Another book about inspiring generosity is this story of a loveable piglet in All My Kisses. Abby is very kissable. She receives lots of kisses at bedtime, and likes to collect them in a special bucket. Abby is over-protective, claiming the kisses are too precious to share around. The overflowing bucket of kisses eventually turn into bleak, grey pebbles, so she discards of them in the playground. Soon Abby discovers that her pebbles are more than just that; they are a source of joy and delight for other children, with magical glowing properties at night. Abby eventually realises that sharing her kisses makes them much more valuable than keeping them to herself.
The message of spreading warmth and togetherness flows across the pages, depicted by the soft and gently painted pig characters. All My Kisses is a tender story about encouraging affection. It is a beautiful bedtime story for toddler to preschool aged children.  

61VkdeZCUsL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Scarecrows’ Wedding, Julia Donaldson (author), Axel Scheffler (illus.), Scholastic UK, 2014.
From the dynamic duo that brought us The Gruffalo is Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s, The Scarecrows’ Wedding. A story of love between two scarecrows, Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay.
In beautiful, sophisticated rhyme, the verses tell of their journey as they plan their big wedding day. Hunting around the farm for the necessary items, the animals are more than charitable in offering to help with the dress, music, jewellery and flowers. But when Harry goes astray on his quest, the farmer replaces him with an obnoxious, greedy scarecrow called Reginald Rake. Luckily, Harry returns to save his future wife from deadly peril, Reginald abandons the scene, and the lovebirds enjoy the best wedding yet.
Scheffler’s characteristically enticing and bright illustrations, and Donaldson’s delightfully rhythmic and humorous text, proves The Scarecrows’ Wedding to be both a fun and heartwarming read that kids and adults will love to share many times over.  

517Hb7bBBAL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Spots: One bird’s search for the perfect plumage, Helen Ward (author / illus.), The Five Mile Press, 2014.

We love this story of a guinea fowl who just wants to fit in. It is a book about learning to love yourself, and spreading warmth around with something so simple… a smile.
This particular guinea fowl is missing his spots. So he orders a delivery, only to discover the spots were all wrong. As more spots arrive, he finds they are too small, too invisible, and too bright. Join-the-dots spots are not quite right, and neither are splats, dots from i’s, freckles, leopard or ladybird spots. The spots that he finally wears are certainly unique and unashamedly eccentric, and this acceptance of himself assures his happiness.
Beautifully simple text in rhyming prose, with the elements of humour and ingenuity. The illustrations are equally whimsical and expressive, and include interesting texture; both seen in the paintings and felt on the paper.
Spots is an endearing book about giving, receiving and appreciating what you’ve got, and is perfectly suited to preschool-aged children.  

the+swapThe Swap, Jan Ormerod (author), Andrew Joyner (illus.), Little Hare, 2013.

From the late Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner is a story of sibling love (in disguise); the award-winning The Swap. Here we have a classic case of a mother ogling over her precious baby, and an older sibling feeling the jealousy curse. Caroline Crocodile is tired of hearing how gorgeous her baby brother is, and how he takes up the room on her Mama’s lap. She just wants some smacky-smoochy love for herself. When Mama Crocodile asks Caroline to look after her brother for a little while, it is what happens next that really hooks us in. Caroline decides to take her dribbly baby into the Baby Shop, and it is one of those laugh-out-loud moments when in a surprising twist, the shopkeeper agrees to swap him for other animal babies. With all good intentions, Caroline trials one at a time, only to discover that none of them quite match the brief. With a ‘gorgeous’ ending, Caroline understands why her brother is special and accepts him just the way he is, dribbles, smells and all. She also gets the reward from Mama that she always longed for.
The warm, humorous text matches perfectly with Joyner’s illustrations, including terrific character expression, plenty of fun and interesting details in every scene, and the soft pastel colour tones and patterns that reflect a bit of a groovy, retro vibe.
Classy look, classy tale, The Swap is a true all-round classic that is irresistibly lovely for children and adults, alike.  

So which beautiful books will you be sharing with your loved ones this Saturday?  

Review – The Croc and the Platypus

The Croc and the Platypus I commented recently on the Further Adventures of the The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Julia Donaldson and Charlotte Voake. Donaldson’s ineffable lyrical style does indeed take Edward Lear’s nonsense tale one step further and is a jolly expedition for the reader to navigate through. As you’d expect, it’s a very good picture book. Then I found an even better one.

Jacki HoskingWith ute-fulls of respect to Donaldson and Voake, Jackie Hosking’s and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s debut creation of The Croc and The Platypus is a very, very good picture book.

Fans of Lear’s will relish the lilting musical quality of Hosking’s verse as she transports us as effortlessly as Julia Donaldson through the Australian outback with as an incongruous couple as the Owl and Pussycat; Croc and Platypus.

Hosking is spot on with this ingenious retelling of a childhood classic however, somehow makes it feel much more loose and flowing and bizarrely, even easier to read than the original. Her narrative sings with a down-to-earth gritty realism but is delivered with Lear’s same congenial, nonsensical joie de vive. Hub caps ring and didgeridoos blow as Platypus and Croc ‘play up a hullabaloo…baloo.’

I love Hosking’s incorporation of recognisable Aussie icons; Uluru, tea and damper and lamingtons to name a few as Croc and Platypus trundle across the plains eventually camping under the Southern Cross after cleverly procuring their tent. For those not so familiar with ‘click go the shears’ terminology, there’s even a neat little glossary.

Extra applause must go to Marjorie Crosby-Fairall for her truly epic acrylic and pencilled illustrations. The outback is vast and engulfing as are the illustrations of this picture book with gorgeously generous helpings of full colour, movement and sparkle on every single page.

Hosking’s appreciation of, commitment to and finesse with the rhyming word are self-evident. She works them all to perfection in this richly Aussie-flavoured celebration about embracing unlikely friendships and sharing stellar moments with those closest to you whilst enjoying a good old Aussie road trip.

The Croc and the Platypus has every reason to glow proudly alongside The Owl and the Pussycat, and dare I suggest outshine it. Croc and Platypus launch invite June 2014

Discover and rediscover all three books here. For those in Sydney around early July, make sure you don’t miss Jackie’s launch of The Croc and the Platypus.

Walker Books Australia June 2014

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.