Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Queen's Hat

The Queen's Hat

By Steve Antony
Published by Hachette Childrens Books

The Queen’s Hat, from the debut author-illustrator, Steve Antony,  is an exhilarating London adventure that all starts when a big gust of wind swipes the Queen’s hat from the top of her Royal head. With the Queen, her corgi, guardsmen and butler in tow, its a fun adventure across London to catch that hat!

This picture book features simplistic line drawings and light shading, all in red, black and blue, which makes each page spread rather striking, and gives off a touristy London charm.

It features popular London landmarks, that if any child who has visited London, or if lives there, will clearly recognise… and if you haven’t visited London, this is a great little introduction to the city and Royal family. From just opening this book I was overcome by the same charm that Miroslav Sasek's, This is London succeeded at - and of course made his 'This is...' series of books classics, which I have no doubt Steve Antony will also achieve.

The illustrations of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace are beautifully rendered and so detailed that the Queen herself would approve! 

Overall the story is fun and simple, but its the illustrations that will make the young and old enjoy this book …there’s even a slight reference to Mary Poppins which made me smile. 

Though this is a picture book, the stylish illustrations, eye catching front cover and gorgeous end papers would make this a great addition to any book shelf, coffee table, book box, classroom…need I go on?

The Queen’s Hat is available to buy now in bookshops and from the Hachette Childrens Books website.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Who's in the Jungle?

Who's in the Jungle?

By Rebecca Gerlings and illustrated by Kimberley Scott
Published by Milly & Flynn

This large touch and feel board book, is illustrated by the lovely Kimberley Scott, another artist whose work I’m familiar with. A bright colourful 6 page spread filled with cute jungle animals, with each page spread starting with 'Here in the jungle…' followed by a rhyming sentence describing the animal that can be found.

The colours palette is nicely picked, with each spread having a different tone, so children can associate the colours with the animals surroundings.

I love the large tabs around the edge of this board book, great for little chubby fingers, and with the animals peeking out it gives a clue to little ones of who’s in the jungle.

There’s quite a good amount of textured surfaces on each spread throughout the book, with each texture being different, great for little hands to explore. This book is recommended for 1 years and over but is definitely a great first touch and feel book!

Who’s in the Jungle will be available to buy in bookshops from September and on the Milly & Flynn website.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Alison Brown interview for Little Tiger's Reading Rocks! Blog tour

As part of the Reading Rocks blog tour, I got to ask the wonderful Alison Brown some pressing questions about her new picture book Mighty Mo and her life as an author/illustrator.

Alison grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland. She learned to draw by copying cartoon strips from her comics and her father's newspapers. She studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University and Goldsmiths College, London, and worked as a designer in an advertising agency before beginning a full-time career in children's books. Mighty Mo is her second picture book for Little Tiger Press.

Q1. In your latest book, Mighty Mo, you have chosen a Raccoon as the main character. Was there a reason for this, or was it all down to the fact that Racoons look like they wear superhero masks?

I really wanted to write a story about a raccoon and a burglar, because I loved their matching "masks". From the beginning, I knew I wanted my main character to be a raccoon, but I didn't see him at first as a superhero. There was a point in the story development where Mo might have inadvertently turned to burglary - luckily he took the right path!

Q2. In Mighty Mo, not finding what you're good at is a big part of the story. Is this something you have personally experienced?

Yes, I very much wanted to be good at acting. At school, I managed to get a part as one of the horde of villagers in "The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew". On opening night, I made my grand entrance by tripping on the steps and falling over! For the next production I joined the stage crew and discovered that they had much more fun.

Q3. If you could be any Superhero, who would you be?

Being a shy, retiring type, I'd love to say Dangermouse, but I'm probably more of a Penfold!

Q4. How long did Mighty Mo take to illustrate?

About nine months altogether. The final illustrations in acrylic and pencil took about about three months, the previous six months were taken up by many, many rewrites and redraws!

Q5. Any plans for a series of Mighty Mo books? (maybe that nasty burglar Big Ron could return for revenge?)

Ooh, Big Ron isn't really nasty - he's just misguided! I'd love to write a sequel to Mighty Mo, but I think Mo should persuade Big Ron to change his ways.

Q6. What inspires you to write your stories?

I like to wander about - aimlessly, some might say, but for me there are strange and funny things going on all around. I make mental notes, and later put real notes and drawings in my sketchbook. They sit there for months and even years, until one day I look back at them and they spark off an idea. I also get lots of inspiration from books, films, music and most definitely my family!

Q7. All your books have animals feature in them, do you have a favourite animal that you like to illustrate?

I seem to find myself drawn to animals with pointy noses...dogs, wolves, raccoons and all kinds of rodents. I think this is because I can give their faces character without making them too cute. I like to express emotion in my illustrations through body language and gestures, so I like characters with fingers and toes. Winged and hoofed things are more challenging, although in "Mighty Mo" I cheated and give Warty the hairdresser hands, so that he could hold his scissors!

Q8. You have created books with other people as well as your own, which do you prefer doing and what's next in the pipeline?

Writing and illustrating is harder work in the earlier stages. I work on the words and pictures at the same time, and this makes the process a bit like one of those sliding square puzzles; changing one element can mean rethinking everything else! However it is fantastic to create a character and develop their story from start to finish.

On the other hand, When I illustrate a text for another author, the first stage is easy. I get a big rush of excitement the first time I see the text, and can't wait to get started. The hard work comes later in getting the final artwork just right.

My next book to be published is called "Snow Bear", a lovely, heartwarming tale by the poet and writer Tony Mitton. I've just handed over the final artwork for it, and now it's time to start developing all the ideas that have been brewing while I've been painting!

Thank you Alison for your time and for your wonderful answers! Mighty Mo is available to buy online from Little Tiger and from your local bookshop.

Mighty Mo - Little Tiger Reading Rocks! Tour

Mighty Mo

By Alison Brown
Published by Little Tiger Press

I was given the pleasure of being part of Little Tiger's Reading Rocks! Tour. I was lucky enough to receive Mighty Mo, a lovely and very funny picture book about a very, very bored little raccoon at the Dodo Golden Zoo. It comes from the author/illustrator, Alison Brown who also wrote the charming Eddie and the Dog.

Mo the raccoon tries to find out what he’s good at, but Mo is either too fast or too strong and gives up after one too many disasters. That is until the bumbling burglar, Big Ron, steals the Zoo's Golden Dodo - so it’s Mighty Mo to the rescue! 

This bright and colourful picture book has a good variety of layouts and cute characters, with even one spread making you turn the book to the side to read. 

I love the fact Alison chose a Raccoon to portray Mo - with their trademark masks he makes the perfect superhero! Even the different typefaces and text sizes enhances the story and gives the book more charm. I especially love Mo's small penguin friend who never gives up on him (as with the rest of his friends), we all should have someone like that in our lives. And if that’s not enough to grab a little ones attention, this very cute little raccoon will have any child or adult charmed by his antics.

Mighty Mo is available to buy in bookshops and from the Little Tiger Press website. There's also an activity sheet that you can print out below.

And continuing the Reading Rocks! Tour, up next, an interview from the talented Alison Brown…

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My Favourite Fairytales

My Favourite Fairytales

by Nina Filipek and illustrated by Bruno Merz
 Published by Milly & Flynn

Aoife and I were extremely lucky to receive the series of book, My Favourite Fairytales, from new childrens publishers Milly & Flynn.

The fairytale series includes; The Gingerbread Man, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, The Ugly Duckling, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Rapunzel, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Hansel and Gretel.

All are retold by Nina Filipek and illustrated by Bruno Merz. The books are recommended for children over three years due to the suggested activities and stickers that can be found at the back of each book. Please note that the books will be available from early July and will each be sold with 2 sticker sheets for a limited period of time.

These classic stories have traditional illustrated illustrations in watercolour and pencil, which makes a lovely continuity throughout the series.


For each book the story flows well and at the end includes activities to encourage the child to think about what has happened and to flick back into the book to help answer the questions. From a layout point of view, the use of type and for some books, the different fonts, all enhance the telling of the stories bringing these classics up to date.

With the lovely surprise of stickers at the end of each book, if you don’t want your little one sticking them to walls or furniture, they would be great to use for creative activities - such as encouraging your child to create artwork about the story using the stickers or making up their own stories about the characters.

…And even though Aoife is too young for these books, after reading this article on the Guardian; about US paediatricians now urging parents to read to children from their earliest days, it never really is too early to start reading to your little ones!

No bookshelf should be out these classic tales as they are stories that shape all of our childhoods and are true treasures to for future generations to enjoy.

For more information on the books visit the Milly & Flynn site.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Guinea Pig Party

Guinea Pig Party

By Holly Surplice
Published by Nosy Crow

"Count from ten and back again!"

I’m quite familiar with Holly Surplice’s illustrations and I especially adore her drawings of guinea pigs!

The Guinea Pig Party is no exception; a counting down hard back filled with such adorable cute little guinea pigs taking part in birthday party fun, though not everything goes to plan (as is often the case)! And as with all birthday parties the guinea pigs are a naughty bunch and even play pin the tail on the guinea pig!

This lovely pre-schooler book is a great way to introduce numbers and counting down from 10 to 1. It includes simple rhyming with each page spread ending with..and then there were… allowing children to know there is to be a new number or to guess themselves. I can also imagine children will have fun recognising the party antics within this cute little book.

Holly's illustrations are beautifully rendered in ink and watercolour, making the guinea pigs antics stand out on the plain white backgrounds. The typography flows on every page, with the number standing out in it's own stripey colour so a child can easily spot it.

This would even make a great gift for little ones who have their own guinea pigs… though hopefully Aoife won’t want a guinea pig of her own any time soon, we already have mischief from our two naughty little rabbits!

Guinea Pig Party is available to buy in bookshops and on the Nosy Crow website.