Once again I have the pleasure of bringing some wonderful picture books into the spotlight. With November officially designated as Picture Book Month, there are many wonderful books (new and old) to celebrate and enjoy with readers young and not-so-young. Build a fire in the fireplace, grab a mug of hot chocolate (don’t forget the marshmallows) and settle in to enjoy some great family reading.
A boldly illustrated picture book read-aloud about how everyone gets sad—ninjas, wrestlers, knights, superheroes, everyone . . . even daddies have emotions!
Did you know wrestlers have feelings? And knights. Even superheroes and ninjas feel sad sometimes. In fact everyone has feelings—especially dads who love their children. Children will love recognizing their feelings in Keith Negley’s bold illustrations which accompany a fun-to-read-aloud narrative.
Parents can joyfully engage with children in a lighthearted discussion about emotions and how they affect us all!
This vivid and deceptively simple picture books talks about how even ‘tough guys’ can have hurt feelings, be lonely, miss their family and have other related emotions. The use of ninjas, superheroes, knights, motorcycle dudes and racecar drivers who show emotions you wouldn’t expect to see on a supposed tough guy is a brilliant way to talk about those times when things don’t always go right.
As a starting point for male role models to discuss feelings with younger boys, this book hits all the right notes. No one is mocked for their feelings, there is no gender reference as to expectations for male and female feelings, and the illustrations demonstrate examples when each character might feel unhappy in some way. The book gently explains that sometimes people feel lonely even when they are with their best friend, and that ‘not everything works out’ (as a cowboy falls off his horse).
Best of all for me were the lovely end pages that echo the storyline, with the “tough guys” at the back of the book now playing with their brother/dad/uncle/grandpa, just as the young reader is shown reading with a male grown up in the final scenes.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) is published by Nobrow Press Ltd. It is available for purchase November 10th, 2015. ISBN: 9781909263666
Louis I, King of the Sheep is a funny philosophical fable about a sheep who finds a crown, and power. Readers will delight in Louis’s increasingly elaborate fantasy of what comes with being a supreme ruler: the pleasures, the responsibilities, the capriciousness.
“What’s good for me is good for my people,” thinks King Louis in this clever fable about the randomness and absurdity of power, but also its abuses, and the hidden dangers in a society built on conformity. There’s loads of wit and humor that will appeal to readers of all ages, but will also serve as a basis for discussing experiences of relevance to children, such as bullying and the power games of the playground.
Much like the lauded graphic novel Baaa by David Macaulay, Louis I, King of Sheep uses sheep within a cautionary tale about the excesses of humanity. A stray gust of wind places a crown on Louis the Sheep’s head (divine right?), and he quickly assumes the mantle of king of all sheep. At first, his efforts are humorous and the other sheep pay little attention to him as he finds a sceptre and a throne (a stick and the crux of a tree respectively).
Soon, however, power begins to grow and Louis’ influence is more marked as he imports animals for hunting and hosts salons of talented artists – Versailles at its height, but in the fields rather than the palace. The temptations of power are too great, and lessons about the abuse of power (segregation, military might, Holocaust-imagery) are clearly evident without being glaringly over the top.
Beautifully rendered illustrations show the evolution of Louis I from happy sheep to newly crowned monarch, from benevolent dictator to megalomaniac – and then disappointed commoner once again. I loved the image of the ‘winds of change’ taking away his power – and of the newly crowned wolf walking towards the herd.
This is a wonderful picture book to use to talk about different kinds of leaders, and even to talk about proper behaviours within childhood cliques (bullying). I can see this being regular night-time reading for families, and can’t wait to give it to friends.
Louis I, King of the Sheep is published by Enchanted Lion Books. It is out now, and available for purchase from your favourite bookseller. ISBN: 9781592701858
Eddie is five and a half, and thinks she is the only one in her family who isn’t really good at something. So when she hears her little sister say “birthday—Mommy—fluffy—little—squishy,” it’s extra important for her to find this amazing present before anyone else does.
So, gregarious, charming, clever little Eddie goes all around the neighborhood to all her fabulous friends—the florist, the chic boutique owner, the antiques dealer, and even the intimidating butcher—to find one. It’s a magical adventure that draws on Eddie’s special gifts, ones that she herself learns to appreciate.
Little Eddie is five and a half years old, with the particular dishevelled charm of a child that age – hair going every which way, brightly coloured splashes of colour in her clothes (in this case, a vivid pink coat) and the irrepressible belief that they can Get Things Done. She sets out on her mission to find the most amazing present for her mother’s birthday with a determination that any parent/aunt/uncle of a five/six year old will recognize, leading the reader on a charming tour of her French neighbourhood. Eddie brings to mind the classic Pippi Longstocking, a resemblance that is intentional, according to her creator.
What I loved about this book is that Eddie wasn’t looking for the most flashy or expensive item to give to her mother. Instead, she wanted something from her neighbourhood, and she used her wits and the good graces of the neighbouring shopkeepers to make that happen. I loved that all the shopkeepers in her neighbourhood knew her, and that they were willing to humour and help her in her quest. In the end, everyone is happy with the results, and the Fluffy Little Squishy -exactly the same colour as Eddie’s coat – is carefully perched on her mother’s head, fascinater-style.
There’s some lovely messages here about not settling, about giving to others and about determination, but they are subtle enough not to overshadow the fun of the story. Much like Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, this book reminds us that we are part of a greater community, and that we all play a part in making someone happy. Add in the whimsical illustrations that will give younger readers something new to find with every read, and you have delicious new book to curl up and read by the fire.
The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy is published by Enchanted Lion Books and is available now for purchase from your favourite bookseller. ISBN: 9781592701803
In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. “Written” by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith,Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and celebrate the wonderful Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith, winner of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. This wordless picture book has won over many fans internationally, and rightly so – it’s a beautiful story about a little girl who is able to notice the world around her during a a walk with her father. Along the journey she collects flowers and the beauty in the world around her literally comes alive with colour. If you haven’t picked it up yet, please do. It will become a favourite in no time.