Triangle

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Picture book makers Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen go back to basics – the elemental shape of a story – in Triangle.

Triangle sets out one day to play a trick on his friend, Square. But does Square have a plan of his own?

Triangle is the first book in a trilogy so it does feel quite open-ended but like the best picture books you can look for your own answers (I personally don’t believe Square).

In a board casing with thick paper pages that feel saturated with Klassen’s colours the book has an iconic look and is a joy to handle.

Triangle, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, published by Walker, is out now.

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Mopoke

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A small owl native to Australia, Philip Bunting’s imagined mopoke is a sardonic little character who’d like to be left alone, but unfortunately, no matter how high your branch, you can’t always get what you want.

Mopoke is an absolute hoot. In its earthy palette and visual humour it is Klassen-esque (a description I do not use lightly). It is perfectly paced for sharing with children of any age and as you turn the pages the inventive wordplay builds to a satisfying, crashing crescendo.

Mopoke, by Philip Bunting, published by Scholastic, is available in September.

Gift Books for Christmas

From children’s treasuries to ornate gift editions of much-loved tales, Christmas is the time of the gorgeously illustrated hardback. Here are some original titles to mix with the old favourites.

the-fox-and-the-starThe Fox and the Star – Waterstones’ Book of the Year no less – is a shining example of this genre. The debut work of books designer Coralie Bickford-Smith, this is a modern day fable about a fox that befriends a star in the sky, and how he copes when his friend disappears. The intricacy of the illustrations and the interplay of the spreads is exquisite. A treat for all ages.

 

The ImaginaryContinuing the theme of unconventional friendships, The Imaginary is a fantastical story by A.F. Harrold about a young girl and her imaginary friend, Rudger. The real and imagined worlds they inhabit are fully realised and the storytelling is confident, madcap and affecting, but it’s the extraordinary illustrations by Emily Gravett that really pulled me in.

 

Martin-Haake-City-AtlasFollowing on from the success of stand-out non-fiction books such as Big Picture Press’ Maps, we have Martin Haake’s vibrant City Atlas. Children are invited to jump in and explore 30 cities through lavishly illustrated maps that pick out key landmarks, prominent citizens and lots of other fun details to search and find.

 

 The Fox and the Star, by Coralie Bickford-Smith, published by Penguin, is available now.

The Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold, published by Bloomsbury, is available now.

City Atlas, by Martin Haake, published by Wide-Eyed Editions, is available now.

Grandad’s Island

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Benji Davies, award-winning author and illustrator of The Storm Whale, has created a vibrant and thoughtful tale about losing someone you love.

Syd goes to visit his grandad one day and finds him in the attic. They go through a magical door and from there they set sail for a tropical island. After an adventure exploring the island together, Syd is ready to go home, but Grandad decides to stay behind…

The depiction of the flora and fauna of the paradisiacal island is gloriously colourful and the fun, loving relationship between Syd and his grandad makes their parting genuinely emotional.

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The story doesn’t deal with the subject of bereavement as overtly as some other books on this theme – two of my favourites are Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle and the stark, unsentimental Duck, Death and Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch – but it’s a heartfelt, gentle introduction to saying goodbye.

Grandad’s Island, by Benji Davies, published by Simon and Schuster, is available now.

Five Great Books for Autumn


Autumn is my favourite season. The evenings are getting darker and colder and all the better to snuggle up to a book with (ideally clutching a mug of hot chocolate). Here are five top picks to fire the imagination and celebrate this wonderful time of year.

The days may be shorter but this fantastic themed sticker activity book will help you get the most out of them. Go on a walk through the leaves with The Gruffalo Autumn Nature Trail and explore the changing colours of the season.

The Gruffalo Autumn Nature Trail, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, published by Macmillan, is available now.

 A veritable classic about a skeleton family – Big Skeleton, Little Skeleton and Dog Skeleton – who live in a dark, dark house on a dark, dark hill and set out to scare on a dark, dark night…The first in the much-loved series by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, Funnybones is a fantastic book for a fun Halloween.

Funnybones by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, published by Puffin, is available now.

Another perfect character for revelling in Halloween’s rituals and superstitions is Winnie the Witch. In this instalment of the hilarious, long-running series, Winnie casts a spell to change the colour of her black cat Wilbur, so she can stop falling over him in her black house…But, of course, things don’t quite go to plan.

Winnie the Witch, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, published by Oxford University Press, is available now.

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, is a very special picture book to discover at any time of year but even more so now, as our imaginations are sparked by tales of ghosts and ghouls. An inspired story about a little boy confronting his fear of the dark, this is perfect for reading under a blanket with a trusty torch.

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, published by Orchard Books, is available now.

Last but not least we come to a gorgeous retelling of Hansel and Gretel, the ultimate frightening fairytale with evil witches and children lost in the forest. The story is a familiar one, but the atmospheric use of paper cut-outs and transparent paper will dazzle you.

Hansel and Gretel, by Sybille Schenker, published by Minedition, is available now.

When I Was Born

IMG_1153 Quite simply, the picture books of author Isabel MInhos Martins and illustrator Madalena Matoso are astonishingly good. Their collaborations are distinctive and bold, light and playful. They take as their starting point an open-ended question or idea – the sort of thing that a child might be curious about – and then joyfully attack it from many imaginative angles.

A good place to start is When I Was Born, where they explore first discoveries and the joys of the senses. The illustrations are bright and busy and the blocks of colour work to great effect against a black and white background.

There is plenty to keep a young reader entertained and adults will enjoy remembering what it was like when ‘everything was new’.

Michael Rosen recently suggested that an easy way of engaging a child was to wonder out loud with them. When I Was Born is a book that will allow you to start wondering together.

When I Was Born, by Isabel MInhos Martins and Madalena Matoso, published by Tate Publishing, is available now.

Rules of Summer

Shaun Tan is one of my favourite artists. His picture books such as The Red Tree and The Arrival describe the human experience in spare language and stunning, atmospheric imagery.

Rules of Summer follows two young brothers over the course of a summer, capturing the headiness of long, hot school holidays and the rituals and customs of children’s imaginative play.

imageI recently went back to the book after it was shortlisted for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. It was every bit as evocative as I remembered.

The unique and detailed illustrations are rendered in a thick acrylic paint that creates an incredible texture. There is a wonderful depth of colour as the story moves from bleached landscapes to dark, surreal moodscapes.

This is a story that lives and breathes, so strongly does it conjure that time in our lives – set loose from school and home – when the only rules that mattered where the ones we made up.

Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan, published by Hodder Children’s Books, is available now.