Tag Archives: friendship

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

6 Apr

There’s a lot to love in this book about friendship and finding yourself amongst the chaos of life. 

‘Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions.’

Jenny McLachlan aces teenage awkwardness and the overriding want to fit in. The characters are real; flawed, learning and developing. It’s a joy to read about a science loving girl who is handy with a wrench but has no possible clue when it comes to relationships – with her baby sister, with the other kids at school, with her mum. Meg is intelligent and practical but is still afraid of saying the wrong thing and making a fool of herself. 

Her developing friendship with Annie is delicious. Annie has Cerebral Palsy and sometimes uses a wheelchair or crutches but, thanks to some awesomely inclusive writing, she isn’t defined by her CP and is a wonderfully funny and fierce character. Annie is where McLachlan’s teenage voice really comes to life and she captures the dry wit and banter perfectly.

Stargazing for Beginners is not about the science geek getting a makeover and getting the boy. It laughs in the face of that kind of message. Instead, it’s about a girl turning into a young woman, learning to love herself and finding a network of friends who love her for who she really is. It’s about finding yourself and above all being true to yourself. And that is a beautiful thing.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Bloomsbury.

The New Kid

25 Apr

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I love this book!
I love the artwork and how the brush strokes make me want to touch it, to see the original paintings and run my finger over that red red curly hair. I love its vibrancy and its light. And I love the story.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick has told the story of a new kid moving into a street, and the resulting storming and forming of the neighbourhood children, with simplicity and a lightness of touch that beautifully portrays the emotional journey of childhood.

The simplicity is deceptive. On the surface this feels like a light and gentle easily-read story but each page tells us so much about childhood and relationships and life. Each sentence and illustration has layer upon layer upon layer. This is what books for children should be all about- writing pared down to it’s childlike bones, with huge hidden depth waiting beneath the surface. Delicious!

Told from the viewpoint of a neighbourhood boy, we see a group of friends meet the new kid and assess her for potential friendship.

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From the first page the story sets the new girl up as ‘other’. The group of friends have been sent by their mums to play with the new girl. They don’t want to be there and their reluctance and apprehension tinged with curiosity is clear through their body language and expression. Only the dog appears keen and excited. (Keep an eye on the dog. It beautifully echoes the mood and character development throughout the book).

The new girl is placed in the shadows, on the opposite page. ‘Her mum says she has to wear her coat. We’re not wearing coats.’ Beautiful! Such a simple and effective way of showing how children perceive and articulate difference.

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Look at the layout of this spread. The children stand their ground opposite each other, with the new girl alone on her page. Look at how the body language of the children is changing as they become more confident and grab a hold of and use her difference against her. And look at the dog. The dog as pointer for what the reader should be seeing and thinking.
‘”What’s your name?” someone asks.’ And it doesn’t matter who that someone is because they are united as a group. They have one voice against the new girl.

But then the new girl does something special and uses her difference to entice and entertain the other children, celebrating her imagination and individuality. And oh how the book comes alive now! I’m not going to show you what happens in the middle. I don’t want to spoil the joy. But I will show you how it ends.

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With all the children together in a happy heap. No longer on separate pages they have come together united in play. And the new girl still has her coat on. She still holds on to her uniqueness and individuality within the group. And look at the dog!

A wonderful celebration of difference, individuality and the power of the imagination. Go and buy The New Kid or ask for it in your local library. And then relish it! It shows children’s fear and sensitivity, their resilience and resourcefulness. This book celebrates childhood and innocence and children’s incredible ability to find the similarities behind the differences and then run with them, coats flying behind them.

If only we could hold on to that skill as adults. If we all put our super coats on and raced round together a bit more, our world would be a much happier place.

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

Lion and Mouse by Catalina Echeverri

13 Apr

Rhino’s and lions aren’t always the best of friends but I shall make an exception for this dapper one.

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A mighty lion and a tiny mouse live next to each other and are best friends. The only trouble is Lion thinks he is better than Mouse in every way. And he shows it. Until one day, Mouse is no longer there to listen to Lion’s boasting. When Lion comes face to face with his biggest fear he realises how much he needs and misses Mouse. But will Mouse listen to his calls and come to his rescue? Of course! And in a beautiful and inventive way.

Lion and Mouse is Catalina Echeverri’s first picture book and I think she is one to watch. It’s a funky re-telling and modernisation of a classic tale of friendship. Lion and Mouse really come to life with cleverly drawn expressions and body language. I love their swirly cheeks and the use of pattern on their clothes.

I am really impressed by Echeverri’s use of colour. Blue and yellow backgrounds are used to show character. Blue for Lion and yellow for Mouse, the blue always centre stage and creeping in and overpowering the yellow.

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And then the big, black dark. The rescue page is a triumph. I won’t post a photo of it here because it is too gorgeous to spoil- go and get yourself a copy and see for yourself!

Mouse and Lion are reunited thanks to Mouse’s daring rescue and they have a great big hug – on a bright green background. Their colours have come together, just as they have. Just gorgeous. For the last few pages the colours are reversed and mixed to show Lion and Mouse happily playing together and sharing their strengths. Brilliant! Also check out the end papers to see how even their houses have changed to represent their new-found equality.

I love that children will get so much more out of this book than the surface story. They are innately visual and will subconsciously take in all the background colour work. They will understand the use of size difference and how it relates to character and they will soak up so much more than the heartwarming message of friendship.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Catalina Echeverri comes up with next. If you are too, you can follow her on twitter here.

Lion and Mouse was published 4th April by Jonathan Cape.

Source: Kindly sent for review by the publisher.

The Cloud by Hannah Cumming

26 Mar

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The Cloud was Hannah Cumming’s debut picture book in 2010. It’s a stunner and she has since released The Lost Stars and The Red Boat. Seek them out, for I am sure they will please you greatly!

The Cloud sees a happy group of children all enjoying their art class. All, that is, except one little girl who sits by herself, draws nothing and seems to have a cloud above her head.
A classmate wants to be friends and heads over for a chat.

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When that doesn’t work she tries to build a friendship through drawing together. Creativity and persistence win and soon the girls are both smiling and the whole class is drawing together.

This is a smart book about the power of creativity and friendship, great for children learning about feelings and supporting others.

There are loads of nice touches to this book. At the start the room is dull and grey with clouds and rain at the window. As we progress through and the children become happy inside, the rain clears and the weather and light in the room reflects the children’s emotions. The use of the cloud is wonderful and children will love to point out and talk about all the split drawings in the book. I am particularly fond of the EleBee.

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I love the children’s creative freedom. In their art class they are allowed to splodge paint about, stomp in it, roll it, explore it. They are seemingly left to their own devices to explore and create. How very refreshing. It’s lovely to find a book showing children enjoying art and celebrating the healing power of creativity.

A special hurrah for the inclusiveness of the book. The illustrations show boys and girls of various nationalities, as well as showing a child using a mobility aid. The joy is that these are all incidental images, they are just there in the story blending in rather than being pointed out as if ticking a box for diversity. Well done, Hannah! A joy to read and explore together and a wonderful resource for helping children learn the importance of creativity and friendship.

Published by Child’sPlay in 2010.
Source: Our bookshelves.