Children’s picture books – Spring 2015 Overview
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- Published on Thursday, 05 March 2015 11:15
- Last Updated on 14 April 2015
- Monica Costa
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To those who say that the world of paper books is dying off, I’d say brace yourself because this Spring more than ever the book market is over-flooded with original new picture books all with a common denominator: incredibly quirky and colourful illustrations. The up and coming authors get younger and younger and classic authors are revisited in modern adaptations.
Why do we love Picture books so much? I find myself reading children’s books to myself all the time, not just because I am in publishing and a writer but also because I personally find them fascinating and they provide a constant source of inspiration for my writing. To say that I read 100 books every year is an understatement but I am still not a paperless person and find it hard to focus on a tablet. Despite being geeky and a tech lover I still love the smell of new books (my nose always ends up in the middle of the pages for a couple of seconds), the noise of the flipping pages, the colours, illustrations I can touch with my fingertips. 2015 will be a great year for children’s picture books. Publishers are bringing out lots of new titles, sequences of already successful stories (such as Tom Gates) and new authors (like Cbeebies’ star Carrie Burnell).
I recently had the honour to meet Liz Pichon, author and illustrator of the Tom Gates‘ series (by Scholastic).
As I love Tom Gates and Liz too much I will leave you with only with these images of her first hand written drafts of the very first books. It felt so amazing to have the chance to flip through these incredibly well illustrated notebooks… Watch this space as we will have a special video interview on our channel soon as well as an interview in our next print magazine.
Cbeebies presenter and author Carrie Burnell is a wonderfully entertaining storyteller and I was honoured to meet her at a recent Scholastic presentation of her new book Mermaid. The illustrations are colourful and funny. The story is also very educational and aimed at teaching children that we are all different and we need to accept other people for what they are.
This Spring the publisher that has impressed myself and my young reviewer Diego is probably Flying Eye Books. Their best titles are Beautiful Birds and Black and White.
BEAUTIFUL BIRDS is a stunningly illustrated alphabet book that serves as a lyrical introduction to the world’s most beautiful birds. Swiss-French graphic designer and writer Jean Roussen and Canadian (but now London resident) animation director and illustrator Emmanuelle Walker pay homage to an alphabet of birds in all their feathery fancies. From Warblers to Blue-tits and Kakapos to Owls, Roussen’s playful poem is complemented beautifully by Walker’s delicate illustrations. It is aimed at children between 3 and 7 but I found it really inspirational due to the quirky and yet artistic drawings. This book can certainly be appreciated by bird enthusiasts of all ages. Another peculiar feature of this book is its FSC approved paper with a bright, pink Fluo pantone, which you would totally miss if you only read it on a tablet. RRP £14.99 Hardback
BLACK AND WHITE is American author, artist and illustrator Dahlov Ipcar’s classic picture book re-mastered from the original (published in 1963) and traditionally printed using the same bold spot colour. I have a quite a big collection of dogs-themed books and this one will have a special place there. It’s the story of two little dogs who frolic and dream of adventures beyond their wildest imaginations, from jungles of the Congo with towering ebony elephants to the whitewashed, frigid arctic where the icy white polar bears roam. Dahlov Ipcar pairs her timeless illustrations with fresh original verse that celebrates the unity, wonder and beauty of the living, breathing natural world around us. A true master of colour and organic form, Ipcar’s timeless stories have captured the hearts of children across the world. Some fifty years later, her
books are still in print and continue to be cherished for the beauty of their art and quality of the narrative. I love the story behind this picture book which was originally published during the height of the US civil rights movement and was intended to promote equality within the turbulent political landscape of its time – a tale of friendship and dreams. This title is suitable for children from 3 years old but very enjoyable to all book lovers. RRP £11.99 Hardback
Every one of us mums feels a bit grumpy like Pom Pom sometimes (not to mention the children). A universally appealing, delightful and hilarious new character from author and illustrator talent, Sophy Henn, creator of the popular picture book, Where Bear?. When Pom Pom Panda wakes up in a BAD mood one morning, nothing is right. And then things go from bad to worse. A fresh and funny new take on toddler tantrums, that will strike a chord with parents and young children alike. Published by Penguin.
How Many Legs? (published by Orchard Books / Hachette)
If you thought you were good at maths, think twice after reading this rhyming counting story. I personally love it as it is a math challenge in its own right but you get so distracted by the laugh-out-loud and quirky illustrations that you forget about counting. It comes from the award-winning Kes Gray (one of the Independent’s TOP TEN children’s authors and winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award) and the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Field. How many legs would there be if a polar bear came for tea? How high would the leg count go if a squid rode in on a buffalo? As more and more animals join in the fun, count along if you can!
From the same award-winning duo Kes Gray and Jim Field, comes Oi Frog!, another hilarious rhyming tale about a frog who discovers that all animals have their special places to sit! Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools and gofers sit on sofas, but Frog does not want to sit on a log! Jam-packed with beautifully illustrated animals with lots of funky colours and silliness, this original rhyming story will have young children in fits of laughter.
Kipper’s Toybox is a classic Mick Inkpen’s book. Someone or something has nibbled a hole in Kipper’s toybox. When Kipper identifies the culprit he thinks his troubles are over – but in actual fact they are only just beginning! Mick Inkpen is one of the top-selling picture book artists and writers in the world. The Kipper and Wibbly Pig stories have become classic stories and not surprisingly have millions of readers worldwide. He is a multiple awards winning author and Kipper even won a BAFTA for best animated children’s film in 1998. I will certainly treasure this in my own dog books collection for the years to come even when my son will be outgrown this literature! I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading picture books. I will probably keep them for my grandchildren then…. In their paperless era these magnificently illustrated books will be so retro.
Twinkle by Katharine Holabird and Sarah Warburton
This book is very girly and glittery. My boy does not appreciate it as it is clearly aimed at little girls who love pink and purple as much as fairies. It is written by the same author of Angelina Ballerina. I find the illustrator Sarah Warburton’s own blog inspirational as she explains how she comes up with the drawings.
Ten Little Princesses written by Mike Brownlow and illustrated by Simon Rickerty (published by Hachette Children’s Books)
Ten little princesses going to the ball,
Trotting on their ponies, past the castle wall.
Are they looking for ward to their very special day?
Ten little princesses all shout, “Yay!”
Mike Brownlow is well known for the picture book Little Robots, which was turned into a major animated TV show for CBeebies and screened in over 70 countries worldwide.
Is it just me or since Kate Middleton married Prince William, there are a lot of new Princesses’ books out there? Parragon Books has also launched a brand new Glitterbelle range, a series of glittery, sparkly, creative books with stories and activities for girls aged 6 and up. Poor boys… they are so left out! Glitterbelle is a fun and friendly, shimmery and glittery, modern day princess. The easy-to-follow stories explore the world of Glitterbelle, her best friends, and pet dog Bob, as they attend school and practice wide-ranging hobbies such as singing, dressing up and baking – but with extra special sparkle! Glitterbelle’s world is brought to life through stunning, elaborate, miniature sets, each skilfully created by hand. We love in particular Glitterbelle: The Sparkliest Princess Ever Picture Book. The main character is unsurprisingly a glittery, sparkly, extraordinary princess. But she has one not-so-sparkly very ordinary problem… she will not eat her peas (quite ironically reminding us to the famous fairytale)! When the queen explains her that every princess in the family should love peas because of that famous one that was hidden under the mattresses. Glitterbelle worries that she isn’t a true princess at all. How can her friends and family convince her that she really is the sparkliest princess ever? A beautiful picture book with gorgeous collage-style art to admire.
Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa and Ted (Hardcover)
This is a book for both boys and girls (finally!). It is very educational and reminds me of when my grandmother used to tell us grandchildren stories to teach us some lessons in life. Here is how it goes: Even during a sunny, fun-filled day of biking and playing on the beach, Lisa and Ted have times when they feel annoyed and impatient. Bingo, their dog, tells us about how they use special tricks to feel happy again. And, he surprises them with a special trick of his own! Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa and Ted teaches effective techniques for overcoming feelings of impatience, frustration and anger. Joining in with Lisa and Ted is a fun way for children to see how meditation can help them. Combining deep breathing with smiling, visualization, gentle movements, touch and sound vibrations, the techniques are based on the Healing Heart Sound, an ancient form of qigong meditation that has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This engaging and brightly illustrated picture book is perfect for children aged 4 to 8 and will teach healing techniques to use whenever impatience and frustration strikes, helping them to be calm, happy and healthy. It certainly worked for my 8 year old son. Great book.
In the Eyes of Picasso
Modern Art is sometimes difficult to explain to young children but there’s now a series of interactive engaging and witty activity books made in France which capture the imagination of its users whilst peaking your curiosity with their unique topics. I particularly love the Picasso themed book which my son enjoyed as the Spanish painter was the subject of their art studies at school for a while so he enjoyed the quizzes and quirky facts about Picasso.
With 6 catchy titles including Oh Naughty Me!, If I Were an Artist, Once Upon a Time… Picasso, In the Eyes of Picasso, Draw Me a House and Oh If I were Prime Minister (they retail at RRP £5.50 each) their vibrant colours, humorous illustrations and entertaining content will keep the children and the parents alike continuously amused. Their miniature size allows you to pop them in your handbag and pull out anytime whether it’s in the doctor’s surgery, on a roadtrip to France, in the queue or on a train.
The idea behind the concept was to make smart and entertaining activity booklets to inspire simple moments of togetherness between adults and children however these activity books appeal to all with their quirky and enjoyable themes. What I love about the French publisher of this series Minus is that they use an environmentally friendly paper and they also entrust all of their delivery shipments to a work assistance centre dedicated to helping disabled workers.
Sew Fab is a style and sewing workbook for any girl aged 8 to 13 (and beyond – mums will like it too) who loves fashion. It will teach you not just to sew, but how to wear your creations with flair. Start by finding your style tribe, learning to accessorize, identifying the best colours for you and more. Now get ready to sew. Make yourself a mini studio, stock your sewing basket and try out some hand stitching. Finally, make some Art to Wear. There’s a mix of easy step-by-step projects to sew by hand or using simple machining, from a hair bow to a little black dress (but in the colour that suits you best!). Packed with gorgeous illustrations, step-by-step project s, tips and fun activities, you will be creating unique clothes and accessories in no time. It is an inspirational reference book which you will find useful for a long time. It can be a useful publication to encourage creative talent and unleash teenager potential to become a fashion designer.
Genius! The most astonishing inventions of all time is published by Thames & Hudson on 13 April 2015 and covers gripping stories of brilliant, brave inventors from Archimedes to Tim Berners-Lee from all over the world. Author Deborah Kespert has managed to create a lively and yet educational children’s book about the great inventions that created our 21st-century world and the inventors who dared to think the unthinkable and do the impossible.
Among the most exciting and important inventions presented with the support of unique and high-quality photographs, paintings, diagrams and reconstructions, there are Archimedes’ machine for carrying water up hill, Edison’s electric light bulb, the Wright brothers’ first powered flight, the Saturn V space rocket, Gutenberg’s printing press and Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the worldwide web. The manual is organised thematically, the introduction is followed by chapters on ‘Pioneers’, ‘Communication’, ‘Technology’, ‘Transport’ and ‘Space’. From codes and computer science to the birth of the motor car, Genius! will appeal to children who already have a keen interest in technology, science and history, and those who have yet to find a fun and exciting way into these subjects. Children aged 8+ will enjoy the drama of the stories, the inventors’ struggle and perseverance told in fascinating detail and fascinating facts. Unlike other publications on the history of invention, Genius! combines a fun approach with meaty information. RRP £12.95
Talking about being a genius, I was impressed with the book Nature Creatures written by 11 year-old Mariam Bah that celebrates the beauty of Nature through quirky images and explanations.
Mariam Bah may only be eleven, but she already has a staggering three published books to her name. In Nature Creatures, she helps fellow young readers appreciate and embrace the nature that surrounds them. From creepy crawlies to furry friends, the book paints a wild portrait of just how much nature is out there… Most 11 year-olds come home from school, throw down their bag and do all they can to avoid picking up a pen until the next morning. Not Mariam! And for that she is a true inspiration.
If you have managed to read my feature up to this point, well done! Now not just know everything about the latest picture books releases but you are in for an extra treat! In fact the last book I am writing about is not a picture book, but an ANTI PICTURE BOOK which is utterly funny (particularly for children) and deserves more than a mention. The most talked about (non) picture book in recent years, The Book With No Pictures turns the notion of the picture book on its head, by delivering a text-only story book for young children. Designed to make any reader into an extraordinary storyteller, it is packed with warm and playful humour.
The author is award-winning US actor and comedian B.J. Novak who shot straight to number one across all book categories on Amazon.com after claiming the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list within a week of publication of this book. I am not surprised by its success. Parents want to laugh and see their kids enjoy the storytelling. B.J. Novak was struck with the idea for the book when a friend’s son thrust a picture book into his hands and ordered him to read it. “There is something special and distinct about the time when a book is something that is read to you,” says B.J. “The whole idea of a book is still new and exciting, and the experience is about the bond between the adult and child just as much as it is between the child and the book. I thought it would be fun to find a twist on that experience: what if the book and the child ‘teamed up’ to force the adult to say silly things? It could be a whole new way to introduce children to the idea of what a book can do.”
B.J. Novak’s YouTube video of him reading the book to children has had over 2 million views:
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums