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Behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad – with giveaway

15 Apr

BlogtourI am thrilled to have a guest post from award winning illustrator Yasmeen Ismail as part of the blog tour for her Draw & Discover series of activity books. Yasmeen is the bestselling author/illustrator of Time for Bed Fred and I’m a Girl. The books in the Draw & Discover series are her first activity books and they are stunners!

Lively and full of humour, Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is beautifully designed and produced and just makes me smile. I love that it has splashes of colour throughout and is so playful and inviting, encouraging kids to explore their own feelings as they create. Each spread has a prompt, open enough to allow little artists to put their own personality to paper. This is my favourite page:

Yasmeen has kindly put together a sneak peek behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad:

Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is the third in the ‘Draw & Discover’ series. With this series I wanted to take intangible ideas and help kids put them into context. For Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad I followed the same format as I have in the first two books (Push, Pull, Empty, Full and Inside, Outside, Upside-down) I created three characters – Donkey, Cat and Dog – and activities in which to explore intangible ideas such as feelings and emotions.

When I create characters, I decide on how they look alongside planning the whole book. I often make little page sketches, and then cut them all out make a pile of the ones I want to keep and the ones I don’t want to use. The sketches I keep are artworked up with an ink-brush pen, and then put together and tied up in Photoshop. Below are some images of early artwork I made for Happy, Sad, Feeling, Glad.

Those of you that have seen the book will notice a new character below, called Pig – we very nearly had Pig in the book as well as Cat, Dog and Donkey, but in the end I decided to stick with just three characters. There was no real reason for this except that the previous two books had three characters and there was no need for an additional character. So Pig was left out. Perhaps he’ll turn up again, who knows?

This next image is one of my very early sketches of Cat. She is frustrated because she can’t get the sauce out of the bottle onto her sandwich! I eventually decided to keep this spread in the book but changed the theme to Cat being ‘excited’ about her sandwich.

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Below are some more sketches that are more finished, and give an idea of they kind of colour I wanted to use. What makes these images different from the earlier sketches, is that they are a little tidier, and they show a clearer idea of what each of the activity spreads should be about.

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Here is the first sketch I did for the cover. It came out pretty much the same in the final artwork, except for the title change!

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WIN a full set of the Draw & Discover books – and a tote bag!

A huge thank you to Yasmeen for taking the time to share her work. I can’t recommend these books enough. You can get your copies here.

Or, to be in with a chance of winning a full set of the Draw & Discover books plus a tote bag, follow this blog and add a comment below, or head over to twitter to enter. Open to UK only, closing date eod Tuesday 18th April. Good luck!

Thanks to Yasmeen and to Laurence King Publishing.

Illustrator photo by Olivia Hemingway.

The Trail Game by Herve Tullet

5 Mar

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Herve Tullet is the master of interactive art books. This one is a particular favourite here. Place your finger on ‘start’ then follow the trail. Turn the pages to match the shapes and find your way through the split pages of this beautifully designed book.
 

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Part maze part art book, the split pages and crazy lines left us in a heap of tangled fingers and giggles. A lot of fun!

The Trail Game is part of the brilliantly fun and imaginative ‘game’ series. Perfect for little ones who like to explore their books, use their imaginations and create their own stories. If you like the look of this, check out The Game of Lines with its bright pink and yellow patterns that you can transform with the turn of a page:

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and The Game of Tops and Tails where you can create your own precarious balancing acts.

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Source: kindly sent for review by Phaidon Press.

Christmas Countdown Week 1

9 Dec

The Advent Book Tree of Joy is working its magic again this year. With one book to open each night in the build up to Christmas, the first week has brought back some old favourites…

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Are You Ready For Christmas

Santa is Coming to Sussex

The Lion, the Unicorn and Me

Winter’s Child
(For a chance to win a copy of Winter’s Child, visit my previous post!)

And introduced some new…

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The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson (Macmillan) is a joy to read. A heart warming story that captures the essence of the school play beautifully. Told from the point of view of a little boy who is not entirely sure what his role is, children will relate to and laugh along with the ups and downs of rehearsals. It is also brilliantly funny for any parents and teachers who have been through one too many school Christmas shows in their time -the illustrations show the truth behind the tinsel. Nose-picking, wardrobe malfunctions, grumpy angels and the small child in his own world in the middle of the stage. With loads going on in Rebecca Patterson’s full of character illustrations, I think this is one we’ll come back to year after year in the build up to our own Christmas Show. It also makes a really awesome present for stressed out teachers at this time of year!

Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Children
Look at that… for children! Not for boys or for girls but actually for all children. Woo hoo!!! I love that this book has been marketed for kids and is beautifully non gender-stereotyped. This collection of six stories is a lovely addition to our advent tree. Mollie loves the humour in the stories and I love their traditional Christmas feel. Fun stories that celebrate trying your best, believing in yourself and being kind to others. What’s not to love?

Santa’s Christmas Handbook by Santa’s Elves (Templar).
This book is AMAZING!
Written by Santa’s elves (with a little help from Christopher Edge) Santa’s Christmas Handbook contains everything he needs to know to make the Christmas deliveries run smoothly. With help on reindeer care, navigation, present refilling and delivering, rooftop and chimney safety and a full explanation of all the new gadgets on Santa’s sleigh, I’m pretty confident that Santa is going to have the easiest Christmas Eve yet. The book contains loads of fun information, flaps to lift, games to play and even an insta-chimney. There really is tons to look at and play with in this book. I am hooked!

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A perfect Christmas Eve present to keep over-excited children entertained and really build up the magic.

Source- Santa’s Christmas Handbook, The Christmas Show, Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Childrenall bought for The Advent Book Tree of Joy.

National Non-Fiction November – PatrickGeorge

29 Nov

PatrickGeorge publish very funky and clever non-fiction books.

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They have a wonderful way of playing with words and images that delights and enthrals children – and adults. Their books have become firm favourites at The Rainbow Libraries. The children are completely mesmerised by them.

We all know that children learn best when they play and these books beg to be played with. Bright and bold with that brilliant mix of interaction and humour, and just a touch of magic, PatrickGeorge books use transparent pages to transform images. Before their very eyes, trees transform (Colours)…

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Birds are freed (Opposites)…

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And sharks appear from nowhere (Oh No!)…

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My Big Book Of The Five Senses uses a similar magical approach but without the aid of transparent pages. The illustrations work for themselves and encourage children to think about what they see, play around with words and images and what things mean.

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It’s delicious to watch children making a bee-line for these books and interacting with them with wide-eyed exploration, poky-tongued concentration, and pointy-fingered laughter. These are books that encourage children to make things happen and to discuss what they see and learn. And that is what books, particularly non-fiction books, should be all about. Bravo, PatrickGeorge!

Source- kindly donated to The Rainbow Library by PatrickGeorge.

National Non Fiction November

5 Nov

Welcome to National Non Fiction November!

Non fiction often gets lost and overlooked in the vast world of children’s books. A crying shame because kids love it! Children are sponges. They suck up information and relish the feeling of finding out a new cool fact. Many children prefer non-fiction to fiction. And yet non fiction is so left behind that even its name reinforces its place as other. Non fiction. This stuff is not fiction. It is other, something else, something less.

Wrong!

The label non fiction is often used to lump together everything that doesn’t fit under the fiction banner. Fact books, activity books, spotting books, abc and counting books… Everything that isn’t fiction. And yet non fiction books often cross over into the fiction domain. They can have strong narratives, characters, a story ark. And often the illustration and design are off the scale. So why are they so overlooked? It’s a messy business of labels and hierarchy. But these brilliant books are fighting back. Authors, illustrators and publishers are producing fantastic books that show off and celebrate the breadth and wonder that is the non fiction market. And this November, the Federation of Children’s Bookgroups are launching the very first National Non Fiction November, celebrating adventures in the real world.

For me, non fiction means ‘finding out books’. That is what we call them in our house, in an attempt to give them a name that means something to Mollie and describes the books for what they are. Finding out books – Brilliant books that help you find out about the world around you.
Hold the line please caller, because I’m going to shine a light on some of our favourites.

Line Up, Please!

23 Oct

I love a picture book that beautifully and seamlessly brings together different genres. Line Up, Please! by Tomoko Ohmura (Gecko Press) is part counting book, part finding out book and part humourous story. It even includes a catchy game for families to play together. And all with fantastic design and illustration and a lovely surprise ending.

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Gecko Press specialises in publishing English versions of curiously good books from around the world by well-established authors and illustrators. Their books have already been successful in their own countries so you know you are in safe hands. This is certainly true of Line Up, Please!

The story, and the line, begins on the title page where the reader is encouraged to join in and see what everyone is waiting for. A frog is joining the line with the reader, labelled number 50. Turn the page and the fun begins with a line of animals gradually increasing in size and counting down in number, all labelled with their animal name and number. They are all chatting away and building anticipation. What is at the end of the line? As with any queue, the waiting causes problems and the animals start bickering and squashing up – with very good reason!

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The line counts down from 50 and finally the reason for the queue is revealed in a glorious gatefold spread that will delight children – it made me beam!

50 different animals to count and identify, lots to look at and learn and a ton of wit and smiles. This book will appeal to children young and old. The word game in the middle will catch the imagination of older children and is still keeping us entertained on car journeys weeks later.
This book is a real gem! Get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Gecko Press.

Shhh! A lift-the-flap book with a difference

21 Oct

We LOVE Keep Out! Bears About! by Sally Grindley and Peter Utton. It’s a brilliant concept which involves the children directly in the story – the narrator speaking are they sure they want to carry on? Are they brave enough to go through that dark wood, even if there might be bears? And all the children I have read it with relish the interaction.

Shhh! came first, first published in 1991, but we are very late to the party and have only recently discovered it.

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SHHH! You are about to enter a giant’s castle. Will you get through without waking the giant? Do you dare try?

Based on the familiar story of Jack and the Beanstalk, the narrator leads the reader through the castle, creeping past the characters from the story and peeping back to the previous page to check that they haven’t been disturbed.

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I love the illustrations, with tons of detail and magical things for children to spot. But the true joy of this book is the way it reinvents the way children respond to and interact with a book. It invites them in, right in to the story and the setting. It asks them to get involved and encourages them to play.

Repeated phrases, beautiful interaction and building of tension that leads to a squeal-worthy ending. What’s not to love?

Source- kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s Books.

Lil’ Merl and the Dastardly Dragon

8 May

Flying Eye books have put together a cracking book by Liam Barrett. They refer to it as a story-activity book. I think of it as an adventure in book format.

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Lil’ Merl is a young wizard called upon to help rescue the king’s treasure from the claws of a Dastardly Dragon. The reader is whipped along for the ride and tasked with guiding Merl through the story by completing activities along the way.

There’s much to love here. The range of activities is impressive. Word games, mazes, number puzzles, dot to dots, spot the differences, colouring pages and mental challenges, as well as pages that encourage children to let their imagination loose.

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I love the mix of story and activity and the imaginative way the puzzles are incorporated into the story. The art work is bright and bold with a contemporary feel and lots to draw children in. The book even feels good! It is big with thick tactile matt pages and raised cover design. Yes, it smells great too – important factors!

Although Liam Barrett has chosen to go down the stereotypical gender role route with his characters, this book oozes kid appeal and will steal the hearts of girls and boys from a wide age range. The puzzles range in difficulty so there’s something here for everyone.

Bright, colourful, packed full of fun, strokeable, and good to sniff. What’s not to love? Beautiful and well-produced, this book would make a stonkingly good present for primary school aged children. But make sure you buy two copies – you’ll want to keep one for yourself!

Source- kindly sent for review by Flying Eye Books/Bounce Marketing.