This is the beautiful follow up to Ruby Red Shoes, and I’m so thrilled that I was able to find both the books at the same time so I could read straighThis is the beautiful follow up to Ruby Red Shoes, and I’m so thrilled that I was able to find both the books at the same time so I could read straight from one to another. (I’ve also noticed these books popping up in a few more of my local book shops, which is excellent to see.)
In this story, Ruby and her Grandmother are on their way to Paris where they connect with family and explore the city. There’s not much more of a story than that, much like the first book. Instead, we the readers are given a tour through a world both different and familiar to ours, a little like a good travel narrative. We see more of what Ruby’s thinking here, through her letters home to her french speaking chickens and through the notebook entries she makes – almost always about noticing beautiful things.
The beauty of Paris is something which is strongly shown through the book, both through the whimsical illustrations and through the gorgeous, descriptive text.
“The sun is barely awake when Ruby sleepily opens one eye and hears the song of Paris wafting through the window. “It’s a chorus of tooting scooters, bicycle bells, delivery trucks inching down narrow laneways, ladies shoes clipping on cobblestone pavements and a harmony of delicate chinks as coffee cups kiss their saucers.”
You could definitely get a wonderful writing project inspired by the way Ruby writes about what she sees. I really love the way the book shows how Ruby records more than just plain descriptions, showing how she makes connections to the rest of her world. Of course there could also be a great project of writing Ruby Red Shoes fanfiction, sending her off to different parts of the world.
The Ruby Red Shoes books are a little different compared to a lot of other childrens books. They don’t feel like picture books, yet they’re not really beginner reader or middle grades books. I get the feeling we’re going to see more and more books of this kind moving into the future, particularly as graphic novels are now more present and available. Hopefully more stories about Ruby Red Shoes are also in the future.
I first heard about Ruby Red Shoes when I was wrapping up the 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize (where its sequel was shortlisted). It certainly looI first heard about Ruby Red Shoes when I was wrapping up the 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize (where its sequel was shortlisted). It certainly looked beautiful, but at the time neither the original or its sequel were easily found in my local bookshops or department stores, so I filed it away in the ‘nice to read it if I ever find it’ part of my mind.
Thankfully, a month or so ago, I did find both the books at my local Target (of all places) and my son then pulled them out of one of my many ‘to read’ piles and insisted on them. So we cuddled together on the couch and were introduced to the lovely world of Ruby (and her Red Shoes)
There’s really no plot to this book. Instead it’s an extended introduction to Ruby and her world and the philosophy her grandmother is using to bring her up. Ruby is a white hare who lives in a beautiful caravan with her grandmother, who wants her to be an aware hare – to treat the feelings of others with great care. We learn about her garden and her Francophile chickens who prefer croissants and baguettes to breadcrumbs and cheat at passionfruit soccer.
This is an incredibly calming book. The illustrations are soft and pretty with lots of gentle curves and the text is full of comforting words and phrases like ‘warm and cosy’ and ‘places to drift off and snooze’. My particular favourite paragraph talks about the caravan Ruby and her grandmother share and how it’s full of things they love:
“There are generous teacups for hot drinks feathery quilts to snuggle up in jars of colourful buttons and posies of flowers in pots and jugs”
This reminded me of so many friends and the way they fill their homes with warmth and beauty. To share this with a child is like sharing an ideal of a warm and cosy home, while reminding them that things we cherish aren’t necessarily the big and expensive.
As soon as we finished reading it (well, around the time my son was insisting we read it again), I knew I wanted to share this little gem of a book with other people. With the friends who create little nests for their families, for my mother in law who would just fall absolutely in love with the chickens, with my mother who would fall in love with the art throughout and with other children who’d just like to step into such a beautiful world.
This would also be a wonderful book to use in the classroom when talking about settings and feelings of a story. I think there could also be a particularly interesting conversation about books and stories without plots and of course it would be brilliant for a quiet readaloud during a hectic day....more
Everyone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the reEveryone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the rest of the class, when she has something so very different?
I really enjoyed this picture book about imagination and fitting in to a group. We’re thrown right into the conflict in the book, without a lot of background information, so the reader is quickly thrust onto the side of our main character. We know she has a terrible suitcase and it’s the opposite of what she wanted. And we know that her mother, her friend and her brother aren’t very sympathetic to her plight. We’re completely and utterly on her side as she heads off to school.
Once we get to school, we see her placing herself on the outside of things, until an understanding teacher, a large box and a healthy dose of imagination come to her rescue. Inside the pretend rocket, she’s able to bring people in and her terrible suitcase becomes whatever she wants it to be.
While this is a story of imagination, it also reminds us that the things we think are odd or different about ourselves don’t always matter to other people. Our main character gets mad because her suitcase is different from the backpacks of the other students, but they never tease her about it and they’re quick to bring the suitcase into their pretend game. A lot of her anger comes from her own anxieties and the reality is no where near as bad as she thinks it will be.
I love the look at the early childhood setting and the willingness of the teacher to let the students go with their imaginations. I read a criticism that the teacher was too lenient in letting the students get noisy – which surprised me, because every prep classroom I’ve walked into has been noisy around imaginative play time. Plus, I think our narrator is a little unreliable – while they’re off on their big adventure, it’s very possible they were much quieter on the outside than in their imaginations.
There’s less story-telling in Freya Blackwood’s illustrations than some of her other books, partly because there’s a lot more text here.I adore the transformation from box to rocket, though, especially the way shape and colour change the scene and alter the world of the book from ‘terrible’ to ‘exciting’. I also love the way she uses stripes and spots so much in her work to create a real depth.
This would be the perfect book in kindergarten and prep classrooms, a great way to discuss imagination and fitting in and how we feel about starting in new places. I can see some really in-depth conversations coming from a book like this as well as a huge amount of learning. It would also be great for younger children who like to see what ‘big kids’ are doing and as story prompts for older children remembering what it was like when they were younger.
Jessie has been moved into the same bedroom as her big sister and she’s not particularly happy about it. In fact, she’s crying – a lot – and keeping hJessie has been moved into the same bedroom as her big sister and she’s not particularly happy about it. In fact, she’s crying – a lot – and keeping her big sister awake.
This is a really sweet story which might be familiar to those of us who are older siblings who had to share rooms. Although my younger sister was only as bad as Jessie on one occasion (and we were sharing a hospital room, so it’s kind of understandable), I totally sympathised with the older sister and her attempts to convince her sister to go to sleep.
On the first read-through, however, I was kind of annoyed by the parents in the book – why don’t they go and comfort Jessie instead of her sister having to come out to tell them she’s crying? With repeated readings, though (the two year old has become a big fan), I start to wonder whether the older sister is the most reliable narrator – how long is she waiting before she alerts her parents? Are her parents really as relaxed about Jessie’s crying as our narrator suggests? (I think they are a little more stressed out, judging by the dad’s willingness to drive around the block to settle Jessie.) While that line of questioning keeps me entertained as an adult, I think my son really just enjoys the main struggle of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t really comprehend and can’t say an awful lot back – he’s fascinated with younger children at the moment, so it really connects with him.
You simply can’t talk about this book without talking about Freya Blackwood’s illustrations. As always, they tell the story as much as the words on the page do. The colour scheme of blue and orange is absolutely stunning and creates such a lovely contrast between the world which should be sleeping (upstairs) and the artificial light at night world which is still awake (downstairs). Like The Runaway Hug (written by Nick Bland), stairs are featured in the illustrations – a wonderful way of adding depth to a house when we only really see two small segments of it. In a completely sentimental moment, I get a real kick out of the inclusion of the Tupperware shape sorter (with scattered shapes) – I had one as a child and it was one of the ‘must-have’ toys I bought before my son was born.
The more I look and think about this book, the more I see why my son is so enthralled by it. It improves with additional reads and is perfect for bedtime story time.
A little boy is going on a train to visit his grandmother. Along the way he finds some stations with some very unusual patrons . . .
When my 2 year oldA little boy is going on a train to visit his grandmother. Along the way he finds some stations with some very unusual patrons . . .
When my 2 year old saw the picture of this book on my computer, he immediately ran to find the book to ‘read’ it to himself. It’s safe to say that he loves this one.
And it’s not hard to see what he loves – there’s a train and plenty of animals, which immediately gets his attention. Then there’s the repeating text – and it is really repetitious – which allows him to read along with me, or even ‘read’ it himself (we’re in the midst of the ‘I can do it’ stage, so being able to ‘read’ is a huge thing for him). There’s a fabulous use of sounds, which is fun for a toddler to make (plus fits right in with the train whistle his great-grandmother gave him for Christmas) and a little boy who exclaims ‘No!’ at several times through the book – a little bit of rebellion which tickles my little boy’s funny bone.
These things which make it a great book for him, also make it a great read aloud. There’s always a bit of excitement in the air when you turn to a page and find a repeating sequence. The animals represented are a lovely collection of familiar and slightly strange. And the ending gives a lovely sense of completion.
The illustrations are fairly simple, but fun to look at. There’s little things that change even when the text is repeating, and that’s really fun to look for and talk about.
I could see this one being wonderful in the home, for library story times, at daycares and kindys and prep classrooms. It might be a nice one to have for independent reading in Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms too, as the repeating text lends itself to having a real feeling of mastery when reading it.
Charlie met the wild one when he was young. As he grew he moved away from spending time with the wild one, but the memories were always there.
This isCharlie met the wild one when he was young. As he grew he moved away from spending time with the wild one, but the memories were always there.
This is an absolutely stunning book, which I’ve wanted to read since it was tweeted about last year. I was lucky enough to find it in my local library before Christmas and my son and I have enjoyed reading it together a few times since then.
The Wild One looks at the role of nature in childhood, how it facilitates play and learning and a sense of wonder. It doesn’t portray nature as the only important thing in life – Charlie goes to school and learns and later becomes a doctor which is shown as being important and worthy – but it shows how nature can be there for us, that it can play a big role in our lives.
One of my favourite bits was when grown up Charlie came back to the river and the trees with his son and couldn’t find the wild one – just the things the wild one had loved. It felt like a comforting nod to things changing as we get older, but we can still enjoy them in different ways.
The illustrations are beautiful. One of the things I learned about and taught when I was teaching was visual literacy – seeing things in illustration (or charts or diagrams – it’s an important skill which is really helpful to learn). This is one of the picture books which would be great to use for that purpose. There’s small scientific sketches of flowers and birds and butterflies throughout the book, often to the side, not immediately drawing your focus. There’s the presence of non-natural children’s toys in the nature scenes and the use of nature in the non-nature scenes. There’s so many things to discuss and questions to ask – as well as stunning illustrations.
I think this is also the kind of picture book which has appeal to a large age group – my two year old enjoyed it, especially the pictures of animals. I think it would appeal to children moving from the kindergarten age into school age, too – especially the lovely school illustrations. Older children could definitely use it as a text to study.
I have a bad habit of falling in love with books we borrow from the library, then buying our own copy. This book is going to definitely be one of those books!
Somehow, I missed Alison Lester books before my son was born. I was aware of them in a ‘I’ve seen their covers in the book shop’ way, but I don’t haveSomehow, I missed Alison Lester books before my son was born. I was aware of them in a ‘I’ve seen their covers in the book shop’ way, but I don’t have any memory of reading them. After Squirm was born, I bought a pack of 4 Alison Lester books from the post office, but they went away for a little while until he was older. Then we unearthed Magic Beach, fell in love with it, and the rest was history.
Kissed by the Moon is a shorter book than Magic Beach, so if you’re reading with little ones with a short attention span, it’s perfect. However, although the text refers to ‘my baby’, the child in the illustrations is depicted at different ages of baby/toddlerhood, so it still works well with toddlers who insist they’re ‘not a baby’ anymore.
The text of the book has Lester’s lovely use of rhythm throughout it. It’s not a rhyming text, instead using repetition – both of words and of phrase structure. It’s absolutely lovely to read out loud – it moves easily from the tongue and lends itself to a soft, gentle read, perfect for bedtime.
Although the text is beautiful, I feel like the illustrations are the real star of the book. Lester uses muted colours which still manage to look vivid (again, excellent for bedtime) and you can also find repetition in her illustration – the twisted/crossing branches of the tree are repeated in the twisted seaweed, the puffy clouds find a similar shape to trees and bushes. There’s also repetition contained within individual illustrations – birds in one, flowers in another, cats in yet another one. It’s really relaxing to my eye, and really adds to the relaxing feeling of the book.
Lester does a beautiful job of depicting the outside world – you see the beach and the bay and the horses and garden I remember from other books. I’m sure if my son ever let me move on from Magic Beach, I’d find other connections as well. One thing I really love in her illustrations is the sense of movement – from the movement of the curtain, to the sprinkling of sand and the falling rain. It works beautifully with the rhythmic text and creates such a lovely, cohesive book.
This is a book which would make a lovely present for new parents or a new baby – a wish for them to enjoy little pleasures of the outside world, supported by the caring arms of family. But it would also make an excellent addition to your family library if you have small children – the kind of book to send them off to sleep with pleasant thoughts and good dreams. I’ll definitely be buying a copy for our family.
As the rain begins to fall and a storm moves in on a city, people begin moving underground to get out of the wet.
This was a really unique picture bookAs the rain begins to fall and a storm moves in on a city, people begin moving underground to get out of the wet.
This was a really unique picture book and I must admit that it took me a couple of reads to ‘get’ it. The words don’t immediately flow across the page – instead they are arranged (and best read) as a poem.
That’s right – slam bang! Hold tight to umbrella. Wind whirls helter-skelter BOOM BOOM
The story is a pretty simple one, looking at our main characters and the diverse people who live in a city environment. They all find themselves in the same situation when the rain falls, dashing to a subway where they can shelter. While they’re there, they strike up conversation and share friendly behaviour until the storm ends and they can move out into the bright afternoon. The storm is mostly depicted through the tap of the rain and the repeated use of BOOM, though there’s very little said about actual thunder or lightning.
At first look, the illustrations seem quite simple, with a relatively limited colour palette. However, as you look closer, you see traces of a photographic style in the illustrations, sometimes in an almost Knuffle Bunny kind of way. The text works extremely well in the illustrations – both in the fonts used and when they’ve over particular illustrations.
Although this book works best as a read-aloud, it’s not the easiest book to read aloud. It definitely needs repeat reading or a practice run. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the rhythm – I found I did best when I resisted the urge to rush through it and instead slowed down. My toddler adored it though, especially the repeated use of tap and boom.
It did make me wonder what other picture books had a similar poetical (but without a strict rhyming pattern) approach? It’s a very interesting style to read with children and not one which I can immediately remember in other books. Something to look out for next time I’m at the library.