What’s your special talent?

Fiona Woodcock tells the story of Hiding Heidi who has a very extraordinary talent. Heidi likes to use her talent when playing with her friends, (and shes exceptionally good at one particular game), but begins to realise that everyone has their own talents to share.

I really like the way in which this piece is written. Woodcock begins by addressing the reader directly through the use of a question which I think works brilliantly. This technique draws in the reader and/or listener and enables them to be involved in the story and participate rather than being a by stander. I found myself pointing out Heidi in each of the illustrations which I believe is something younger readers would really engage in and enjoy.

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Additionally, Woodcocks initial question is followed up by encouragement, which again I think works wonderfully to really draw in the reader.

Heidi has a special talent.

Can you guess what it is?

I bet you can.

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Her illustrations are original and utterly stunning, supported and supporting the text perfectly to create this picture book. As mentioned earlier, you find yourself being drawn into each of the pages trying to find Heidi among each of the hiding places. Woodcock looks to use a variety of mediums to create her unique landscapes and characters. Stamping is a popular technique appearing in more illustrative work which Woodcock appears to have mastered and works beautifully with her use of watercolour and pencil. Her variety in palette feels slightly muted and greyish, (if that makes any sense?) which brings each individual illustrations together with the next and collectively gives the book an original edge. Shadows and shading bring detail to each piece and I like the colour themes on each turn of the page.

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There is a great use of white space throughout the book which really emphasises the hues in the illustrations and avoids loss of detail by a busy background.

The typography is clear and perfectly legible with text situated in a variety of areas throughout the book to keep interest, and to avoid large chunks of text which may appear of putting to young readers. Additionally, Woodcocks vocabulary is standardised and simple standing clear of over complicated lexis or grammar.

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This is a beautiful picture book emphasising the importance of friendship and the variation in individual talents … definitely one for the bookshelf!

Get your copy here from Simon & Schuster here: http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Hiding-Heidi/Fiona-Woodcock/9781499803501

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Home

What is a home? The dictionary defines a ‘home’ as ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.’ This entity can exist anywhere and can be anything.

To me a home is a safe space you can share with your closest friends and family, somewhere that protects you from the outside world, keeps you warm and a place you can make your own.Over the last few years I have moved home numerous times and although the place and shell has changed, my home has always been the same. This time it has taken on the shape of a long flat with a lovely teeny garden which is currently framed by yellow and red leafed trees, but the inside stores all of my ‘homely’ things that remind me I am safe and sheltered.

Home is beautiful, it is diverse, inclusive and utterly delightful. Carson Ellis has created an original piece which reflects what ‘home’ is for people around the world.

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I think this is perfect for children as they are presented with the diversity of not only homes, but people and culture. There may be a question as to how ‘representative’ some of the images are, however, there is nothing to say that Ellis is suggesting stereotypes of any kind, she is simply putting parts of the world together with their inhabitants. Plus, the boundary between fantasy and reality within the piece is blurred as the addition of whimsical and imaginary houses like shoes and teacups may be classed as fictional. I really like the overlap between reality and imagination, it enables readers to be open-minded and inquisitive. Also, as an adult, I appreciate the originality of something like this as it is difficult to string together as something engaging, whilst informative but fictional.

 

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The story is brilliantly bound together by Ellis’ presence in the opening and the closing house within the double spreads of the book. It includes her art studio in which she is painting the very illustrations she is in, and with an eagle-eye, you can see the objects and pictures which inspired the very illustrations included in the piece.

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The typography is pretty and calligraphy-like but simple and large to make reading enjoyable. There are some complex words within the text, however, these relate directly to the topic of the book and may be lexis that a reader would not otherwise come across, such as ‘Atlantians.’ ‘Or’ and ‘and’ are constantly repeated throughout the text enforcing the countless types of home and the use of a rhetorical question at the end entices the reader to look at their own home and explore!

The illustrations have a great deal of depth. From first glance, they appeared to be watercolour, however, researching Ellis I found on her FAQ:

‘I sketch with mechanical pencils and these days most of my finished artwork is in gouache and ink on watercolor paper. I use india ink and a nib pen with a #56 nib. I got a light board last year and now it’s one of the most indispensable things in my studio.’

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The muted palette works incredibly well. The patches of bold reds and oranges creates a brilliant contrast with the grey and brown hues of the rest of the illustrations. additionally, as I always say, I am a huge fan of foliage and the beautiful dark shades of green and almost blue hues are stunning and compliment the muted tones. Ellis’ use of white space enhances each illustration and the feeling of open space can really be felt, in contrast with the overwhelming urban surroundings are dense foliage.

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The feel of the book itself is lovely, the pages are thick, the ink feels like it has been melted onto the page and the covers are intriguing and aesthetically pleasing.

This is another addition to the bookshelf not to be missed! Check out some more reviews on: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22747806-home  header_logo-8d96d7078a3d63f9f31d92282fd67cf4

Get it here! http://www.walker.co.uk/Home-9781406365795.aspx

Shapes in the Sky

Recently I seem to be coming across the phrase of ‘everything is better with a friend’ rather frequently and, as much as I enjoy time by myself sometimes, the best experiences are those you can share, as The Cloudspotter was about to find out.

Franklin is known for spending his time looking and playing with the clouds, in fact they are pretty much the only friends he has … that is until The Scruffy Dog pesters him. Tom MacLaughlin has created an inspirational and warming read with beautiful illustrations.

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There are so many things I like about this book! I love the way in which the shapes in the clouds are personified into characters within the story, I like the relationship this builds between the protagonist and his environment and the conflict of ‘sharing’ which applies to so many aspects of a child’s, and indeed an adults for that matter. It is an interesting element to build a story around and McLaughlin does it incredibly well combining the emptiness of loneliness with the fulfillment of friendship.

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McLaughlin uses words sparingly. The sentences flow like the clouds in the sky, broken up with punctuation without being over complicated for a young reader to read themselves or to listen to.

The illustrations are distinctive. There are variations between sharp and soft images which I really like and McLaughlin’s use of colour makes the sky come to life! The way in which the pages are laid out works perfectly, there is a range of illustration placement which keeps a familiar backdrop interesting and I love the portrait spread.

My brother and I used to spend hours cloudspotting, which then turned into stargazing as the sun set, it truly is better with a friend.

See what others think http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23848592-the-cloudspotter

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And get your copy here! http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-cloudspotter-9781408854969/

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YEY for Picture Books!!!

This is not my usual review-type post but I felt my discovery was worth sharing with you!

Somehow, after nearly a year of living in Newcastle, I had missed the gem, that is The Travelling Man. If you also haven’t come across this place before, is an awesome shop that sells comics, graphic novels, board games and related products. I’m a fan of comics and I’ve been in other shops similar to this, however, THIS specific shop had something that REALLY caught my attention.

This is what I saw:

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PICTURE BOOKS!!!! They have a whole bay of comics and PICTURE BOOKS for young readers!!! Not only are they making a specific genre accessible for children, they are expanding the range, encouraging a broad spectrum of reading (both fiction and non-fiction) and promoting picture books!!! I literally danced on the spot … I am so incredibly happy that this is a thing and I can’t wait to go back in and spend another few hours in there looking at their range!

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So, the top shelf displays some Flying Eye key titles:

  • The Wolves of Currumpaw by Willaim Grill
  • Shark Smart, Mad about Monkies and Laika by Owen Davey
  • Beautiful Birds by Emmanuelle Walker

Next:

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More Flying Eye:

  • What Happened to my Sister and The Lines on Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo
  • Marcel by Eda Akaltun
  • No Such Thing by Ella Bailey

AND …

  • Imelda and the Goblin King by Briony May Smith
  • The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
  • Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption by Jose Domingo
  • The Mighty Women in Science by Clare Forrest

After staring at that selection for about an hour, I turned around and saw these:

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A whole load of Moomin titles  and the Hilda series by Luke Pearson PLUS The Journey by Francesca Sanna which I love!!!

So, a long story short, The Travelling Man is perfect for young readers of all kinds! And adults obviously!!!

Check out their website: http://www.travellingman.com/  and go in! They also have a store in York, Manchester and Leeds!

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Soooo Many Animals!!!

The assortment of non-fictional picture books hitting the shelves is fantastic! Illustration is limitless and regardless of the media used, they can be just as representative as photography.

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Engaging and fun, this title is busting with life, facts and creativity! A Pandemonium of Parrots and Other Animals, written and edited by Kate Baker, is original and a joy to read. It is not only a unique introduction to a variety of animals but a brilliantly worded picture book.

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Baker has been incredibly inventive with her use of language. Each double page spread hosts a different animal with a single quatrain to give a little description. The rhyme within the quatrain flows perfectly and, although, some jargon is used e.g. ‘amphibian,’ ‘prey’ the text itself is neither too dense, nor, too simple. It is the perfect build to work in cohesion with the illustrations and give fact that isn’t overwhelming.

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I like the addition of questions surrounding the particular animal, e.g. ‘Who’s the smallest?’ ‘Who’s grumpy?’ this is a perfect way of engaging readers with the animals and the illustrations themselves. As a parent reading to their child, it also gives a starting point of adding something extra to the book and enabling children to see further into what is in front of them.

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The illustrations are incredibly vivid and and entertaining, whilst at the same time in keeping with their specific characteristics of the animals they are. Hui Skipp has created images that are both representative and fun, without losing the focus of the book.
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The variation in background colours compliments the palette of the animals within that environment. There is no ‘white space’ as such, the whole book is busting with colour and a variation of a particular animal. I like how, although each spread is the same specials of animal, Skipp has illustrated their differences, and reflected just how diverse one specific creature can be. Skipp also manages to capture textures remarkably well with shading both on the animals and the background.

 

 

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Add this to your non-fiction picture book shelf!!! … Or if you don’t have one, make one! Equally good for story time!

Check out more of Hui Skipp’s illustrations: https://www.behance.net/HuiSkipp

Waves …

A piece of art tells a story. It may not be laid out like one but its content, the direction of brush strokes, the context in which is was created all contribute to the story it tells.

Wave by Suzy Lee is a series of beautiful pieces of art put together in the form of a book to tell a story. Each spread has the ability to stand alone and convey an account of its own, and, when put together, we get a collection of continuous events which produces one large tale.

Lee tells a tale of the relationship between a young girl and the sea. Her expressions reflect everything the reader needs to know to understand her, and the the addition of the birds which almost mimic her actions is wonderful, reflecting her growing curiosity and bravery. The sea has a life of its own and this works brilliantly as the root of the story and a representation of the natural world.

 

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Lee uses black charcoal and white space to represent land and sky and blue and white acrylic for the sea. The contrast in colours works incredibly well and as we reach the end of the book, the sea conquers the split between the page spread and the power of the sea can be seen by the overtake of colour in her images!

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The pencil lines, the shading, the tiny splatters of blue, every tiny detail brings these illustrations to life and builds up a narrative unique to the picturebook world.

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This is a beautiful piece reflecting the carelessness of childhood, unpredictability and the pleasure in natures wonders.

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For more reviews: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3171606-waveheader_logo-8d96d7078a3d63f9f31d92282fd67cf4

Don’t forget you can get your own copy of this colourful wonder Abrams and Chronicle

Don’t Forget Your Hat!

This is just another example of why I love picture books! You Must Bring a Hat is comically creative and irresistibly inventive! … Nice bit of alliteration there to reflect one of the wonders of language used in this genre!

Simon Philip and Kate Hindley have crafted a wonderful story full of animation, it made me curious and it made me giggle, there was no stopping half way and the ending was unpredictable and amusing!

Philip has used a brilliant selection of lexis, which is also incorporated into the illustrations. The narrative is written from the first person and there is a clear link between the use of ‘I’ and Hindley’s creation of the main character … who is adorable and dressed ready for a party! The use of words such as ‘shindig’ and ‘monocle’ may be unfamiliar to a young audience but I like this book as an introduction to new terms. This is a great educational tool without it being obvious.

I love the reasoning behind the choices made – if you need a hat, take a monkey with a hat! – which continues throughout the story. This is at the core of the narrative and adds to the curiosity throughout.

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The typewriter font works in cohesion with the images surrounding it. There is a variation of bold text, italics and capitalisation which keeps paragraphs interesting and from looking overwhelming.

The text and the illustrations are well balanced complimenting one another without intrusion. Kate Hindley has done a wonderful job on the illustrations. She uses a great range of colour, I really like the style, her attention to detail and her creation of characters is unique and the sketchiness adds to the characters and the background.

The start of the book uses white space in preparation for what is to come! As the situation becomes more complicated the backdrop becomes additionally occupied with a range of characters and more text, this is a perfect reflection of the narrative within the whole ‘feel’ and plot of the story, this is genius and, again, another unrecognisable element of this lovely book!

Add this to your collection and remember for your next party YOU MUST BRING A HAT!

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Also check out Kate Hindley’s work in Oliver and Patch!

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The Power of Ideas

Luckily I work with picturebook enthusiasts like myself, and they are awesome, and bring me worldly treasures!

Kobi Yamada’s award-winning What Do You Do With an Idea? is absolutely beautiful! It was adopted from the New York Public Library shop and without argument is one of the most astounding picturebooks I have come across. It is intriguing, heart-warming and utterly ingenious. Much like The Whopper by Rebecca Ashdown, Yamada has made a concept into a living creature, something we can nurture and watch grow.

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Yamada selection of lexis is perfect, it is simple in the words that are used (to some extent) but complex in what those words actually covey. He uses the first person making the narrative personal and bringing the protagonist to life. The reader is able to empathise with the protagonist throughout the piece and grow as he does along with his idea. The structure of discourse works well in that it builds up to a euphoric ending which opens up another dimension – to promote thought and dreaming.

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The illustrations, what can I say? Mae Besom is incredibly talented, each double page spread is a well detailed, array of pencil lines constructed to create a charming backdrop and two wonderful characters. Built into this is a gradual addition of watercolour which expands as ‘the idea’ becomes more accepted by the protagonist. There is beautifully crafted foliage and texture in her shading. The change from grey to greens and yellows warms the pages as the story progresses and brings the characters to life. A variation in the palette highlights a world of endless opportunities and creates an uplifting atmosphere.

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The concept of this story stands in the face of adversity. It encourages thought and invention even when others disapprove and the belief in ones self which can make anything possible. It promotes individuality and strength in ones thoughts. Different is courageous, different is bold, different is anything but something you should be ashamed or afraid of. Be confident, dream big.

Utterly brilliant.

Not convinced? Check out GoodReads for more reviews! header_logo-8d96d7078a3d63f9f31d92282fd67cf4

 

 

What would your lie look like???

This piece is a perfect metaphor for what happens when you begin to lie. It is unique in its creativity using  morals and visual concepts to demonstrate something which can evolve through bad decisions. Not only is this a great idea, but it is a way in which children can understand (to some extent) consequences of their choices in an interactive and engaging way … It is also just fun and inventive!

Rebecca Ashdown has created a family of relatable characters which project how easy it is for one tiny fib to turn into a ‘Whopper’. She uses simple language combined with speech and basic grammar to tell the story of Boris, Percy and the Whopper.

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I LOVE the Whopper! I don’t know how I would imagine a lie as a living thing but this is a fabulous interpretation which she is able to develop as the lie grows. He is beautiful and blue, has a persona all of his own, and is very hungry!

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Ashdown’s illustrations are vivid with the combined use of paint and crayon. I really like the splashes of colour and the way in which she highlights aspects of her images. I always refer to ‘white space’ – the empty space around the text and images, which still very much exists in this piece, however, Ashdown has adapted this to reflect her passion for colour.

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The typography varies in size and colour which is always good for keeping text interesting and engaging. It also highlights the growth of the lie – so, even the look of the text reflects the words of the story integrating brilliantly with the illustrations.

A fun, distinctive creation of a lie-creature!

You can even draw your own Whopper: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2015/dec/27/how-to-draw-a-whopper

And don’t forget to check out Rebecca Ashdown!!!twitter3

Published by Templar Publishing

The Whopper has given me a great idea for a competition so watch this space and follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneHaas91 twitter3