This was my all-time favourite book when I was growing up, and it hasn't lost any of its charm, its humour or its flair in the years since it was publ...moreThis was my all-time favourite book when I was growing up, and it hasn't lost any of its charm, its humour or its flair in the years since it was published. Mister Magnolia is a bit of a twit, and needs a lot of help to find his boot. Quentin Blake's illustrations are fun, colourful and irrepressible, and the lines and such flow and flair, you can't help but read it with the emphasis on the last word, i.e. very energetically! I still have my much-mended old copy from years ago, but I couldn't pass up a chance to recommend this to every child, and every adult too.(less)
This is one I forgot I had, until I was going through my picture books, and it was a real treat to find it there. It's an engaging story about a wizar...moreThis is one I forgot I had, until I was going through my picture books, and it was a real treat to find it there. It's an engaging story about a wizard called Leitmeritz who lives in a castle at the top of seventeen thousand, two hundred and nine steps. His assistant is Chancery, but he's so ugly the people in the village call him the Ugly instead. The wizard has a book of spells and uses it to help people with their problems, but the one person he won't help is Chancery, who wants to be handsome. "Your shame has nothing to do with magic," the wizard tells him. "It is only the triumph of the mirror!"
But Chancery feels desperate enough to open the book of spells when Leitmeritz is away; upon making his wish, the spells leave the book and rain down in confetti-like letters. In a panic, Chancery puts them all back in the book, but the wizard's spells are all in a mess. When the wizard discovers what has happened (or rather, Chancery confesses when all Leitmeritz's spells go wrong), there is only one way to fix the problem: "Chancery must attain his innermost wish - without using any magic."
The solution is simple and wonderful and if poor Chancery's tale of woe doesn't touch you I'd be very surprised. The story itself is longer than most picture books, with whole paragraphs and dialogue, but the story is so engaging and the pictures so gorgeous it's great motivation for kids to up their reading level. I've been trying to figure out how the illustrations are done - they look like collages but not; possibly done on computer or maybe painted? There are delightful steampunk twists, and I love how some parts are found objects - like the wizard's nose, which is a carrot:
This is an absolutely beautiful book, art and words and poetry and emotion all used to express what can't be expressed. It's a book for all ages, for...moreThis is an absolutely beautiful book, art and words and poetry and emotion all used to express what can't be expressed. It's a book for all ages, for everyone. It captures so powerfully our worst moments, moments of self-doubt and loneliness and unhappiness, when things seem too big and too overwhelming, when we feel helpless, misunderstood and unheard. The artwork is beautiful, unique and inspiring.
This is a book of few words, and one you find yourself "reading" again and again. The illustrations alone are magical, fantastical, and speak a thousand words. The painting for "sometimes you just don't know what you are supposed to do" sums up so many moments in my life, and in many other's as well I'm sure, though we rarely realise how universal some feelings can be. But it certainly captures how I've been feeling lately. It came at the perfect moment for me, really. It may seem too heavy and depressing for a child, but it's not, and children certainly do feel like this too at times. A book to treasure for ever, one that speaks for you and to you in a way I've never come across before.
I picked this one up in 2008 and have been meaning to read it again for a while now. It's an amazing picture book, very mature in subject matter, a bo...moreI picked this one up in 2008 and have been meaning to read it again for a while now. It's an amazing picture book, very mature in subject matter, a book that you'll need to revisit again and again and ponder endlessly. It's also the type of book I would have absolutely loved as a small child (I love it now, too, of course) - at five, six years of age, The Dark Crystal was my favourite movie and it was a dark, menacing tale with sinister creatures, death, violence and adventure. So don't rush to think this is too dark for children. I've always had the kind of imagination that thrived off the "darker" stuff.
Varmints tells an analogy, or parable, that mirrors our history in a condensed form. There are those who love the hum of bees, the whisper of the wind, the wilderness - and then others arrive, with their tall buildings that "scratched the sky where birds once sang. Those gentle sounds faded and were gone." Every day, more newcomers arrived, the noise grew and grew until they couldn't think ... "So they stopped thinking."
But someone is nurturing a little piece of wilderness, and at the right time takes it to the right place... and that little bit of wilderness grows.
I can't recommend this book enough. It's an analogy for our own industrialisation, and the sacrifices we've made - and the wilderness has made. The prose is light and atmospheric, perfectly complimented by the illustrations that add to the voice of the story - you need both, together, for the full impact. Not every child is going to like this but for those whose imaginations crave deeper, more fantastic stories, this would be perfect for them. (less)
Bertie the Badger's Grandpa is a retired conjurer living in a retirement home for magicians and the like. One day Bertie comes to visit and see the ma...moreBertie the Badger's Grandpa is a retired conjurer living in a retirement home for magicians and the like. One day Bertie comes to visit and see the magic show only to find that the residents have had their magic things stolen. Bertie's on the case, and goes to speak to each of them. Who stole the special magic props?
I'm a huge fan of Graeme Base and this is another delightful read. There are clues on every page amidst the gorgeous illustrations, a code to be cracked and the hidden props to find. Not only are the illustrations wonderful but Base's rhyming story is a delight. A sample:
The first stop was the Bear of Wrath (his real name was Vlad). Apprenticed to a carpenter when he was just a lad, His special trick was sawing whole babushka dolls in two And magically repairing them without the aid of glue.
There's also a moral, a subtle one, of belonging and inclusion and crossing class lines, and of using your imagination and improvising rather than getting hung-up on things. A very sweet book with a fun puzzle embedded in it.(less)
One of my favourite books from years ago, I finally picked up a copy for myself the other day. This beautifully - and cleverly - illustrated children'...moreOne of my favourite books from years ago, I finally picked up a copy for myself the other day. This beautifully - and cleverly - illustrated children's book is just as much fun when you're an adult. Each page or double-page spread conjures a letter of the alphabet with rhyming alliteration and illustrations full of things starting with that letter. We used to have races to find and list as many words as we could from the pictures, and we had a jigsaw puzzle of the Crimson Cats page. Endless fun for kids and a great way to learn new vocab.(less)