Picture Book Perfection – August (Part Two)

There is nothing more valuable in the journey to a fluent reader that reads for pleasure then that of the early stages, including that of sharing picture books with younger children. Whether it be during the day, in school as a class, or as a bedtime story, the following selection of books are perfect for captivating the attention and imagination of little ones, and have been chosen because each of them offers quality textual and illustrative content that I for one have shared with the little people in my life, and advocate sharing with little ones in what ever scenario they are a part of your lives, albeit as your child, children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or students. The following titles come from a variety of publishers, and more can be found in part one of my August round up.

Big – Sav Akyuz

  • RRP – £6.99 (pb)
  • published 3rd June 2021 in paperback
  • published by Oxford

What I love about this picture book is it is wordless for the most part, allowing individual interpretation of the stunning illustrations on the pages, which in turn allows for a different experience each time you read this book and view the book. It tells the story of a little boy that is fed up with his older, bigger brother being able to do more then him, and subsequently having more fun. One night when the little boy is put to bed by his parent he wishes he was bigger, and finds his wish has been granted, and he is big enough to enjoy all of the things he has watched his brother enjoy. But as the boy grows bigger and bigger he finds he doesn’t like being the size he is, and longs to be small again, only to wake up and realise it was all a dream. This book fondly reminded me of the iconic Tom Hanks film by the same name, but with child relevant ambitions and adventures inside this book, and the fact that the little boy keeps growing bigger then the size of earth itself! This is a beautifully illustrated book, with a fun filled adventure story at its core, and will definitely resonate with little ones.

Peter Rabbit Head Over Tail – Rachel Bright and Nicola Kinnear

  • RRP – £6.99 (pb)
  • published 27th May 2021 in paperback
  • published by Penguin

With a nephew that is a huge fan of Peter Rabbit, it is an absolute delight to have my hands on this new picture book featuring the famous Beatrix Potter character. Bringing the antics of this generational favourite to life for the latest young readers to enjoy, this book features rhyming lyrical sentences as it tells of Peter’s efforts to make good the bed sheets that have become dirty with muddy paw prints, in an effort to help his mum (and try out one of his inventions along the way!). When things don’t go according to plan Peter worries he will be in trouble, but soon finds that even his disaster with the bedsheets goes in his favour, and that his mum is happy, leaving Peter with newly patterned bedsheets to fall asleep amongst, as he dreams about what invention he will try out tomorrow! I love that the illustrations stay true to the original designs of these childhood favourites, bringing them to life in a modern way for a new generation to fall in love with this mischievous bunny, and that other characters from the world of Beatrix Potter feature inside this storybook too. Author Rachel Bright has written the most beautiful sentences that capture the energy, bravery, and good intentions that are all that Peter Rabbit is, and I hope that she returns to this character again in the future too.

The Viking Who Liked Icing – Lu Fraser and Mark McKinley

  • RRP – £6.99 (pb)
  • published on 5th August 2021 in paperback
  • published by Bloomsbury

This lyrical book is utterly brilliant as it tells the story of young Viking boy that isn’t very good at the things that are stereotypically associated with Vikings, such as wielding a sword or firing a bow, instead being superb at cake decorating. When it comes to the annual Viking sports day the young boy, Leafling, is apprehensive about how well he will do, only to find he achieves brilliantly, by combining one of the events with an iced cake he has on him. Through introducing a yummy iced bun to the events, Leafling is rewarded with the responsibility of baking during the next Viking banquet! A fantastic book that encourages children to embrace what they enjoy, and be true to themselves in the process. It is a breath of fresh air to read a picture book featuring a boy that enjoys baking, especially as I know of so many little boys that enjoy baking with their parents, and being able to recognise themselves in the character. There is also Leaflings sister, Nut, who is a fan of swords and bows, and stereotypically male interests, and she is absolutely great at those interests she applies herself to. Again this will resonate well with little girls who like to do those things, and recognise themselves in Nut’s character, and I can see lots of role play at home and school following hearing this book, as well as it generating lots of discussion amongst children and families too.

Bird’s Eye View – Frann Preston-Gannon

  • RRP – £6.99 (pb)
  • published on 5th August 2021
  • published by Templar

This is a beautiful book to read and share, telling of an adventure from a bird’s perspective, turning the narrative on it’s head and giving the main voice of the story to a bird, who talks of wanting to venture further afield before quite literally flying the nest, and venturing across land and ocean whilst looking to learn more about people. What the young bird observes only leads to more confusion for her because peoples behaviour is so conflicting. The bird witnesses all walks of life, but when she becomes hurt it is the kindness of the children that help her that she recalls most of all. I love how the bird makes comparisons along the way, between human behaviour and that of birds, such as making homes, and singing. In doing so it allows children to be able to make distinctions between the two, and see the similarities too. It is easy to see how Frann is an award winning illustrator, as this book is testament to the incredible talents through the vivid, lush landscapes, as well as the brilliant detailing to the characters inside the book, both bird and human.

Sunflower Sisters – Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes

  • RRP – £7.99 (pb)
  • published on 7th July 2021 in paperback
  • published by Owlet Press

This is a beautifully written, powerful picture book, that tells of two girls pact to always be true to themselves, and be as tall and bright as sunflowers, every day. They keep that promise, with the book concluding with the pair of friends even designing vibrant clothes that are true to their cultures, and opening a shop together, named Sunflower Sisters. The story begins with both girls preparing for a wedding in each of their respective families, and focuses on Amrita’s household as they excitedly complete finishing touches for Amrita’s sisters big day. With relatives visiting for the occasion it is Aunty who makes comments and gestures that confuse Amrita, and lead to her asking her mum for explanations. Mum explains that within their culture there are people who promote attempting to lighten skin colour by using skin creams, avoiding the sun, or even avoiding certain foods and drinks. Mum explains to Amrita that she is beautiful in the skin she is in, and has no need to change, and Amrita delights in being able to choose vibrant colours that remind her of the sunflowers growing outside. The day of the wedding arrives and Amrita has an amazing time, and then sees that across the road her friend Kiki’s brothers wedding is in full swing, and heads over along with her mum to take in the atmosphere amidst the celebrations. This is when both girls make their pact, amongst the sunflowers, to be true to themselves, and not change just to try to fit in, because being ‘different’ is beautiful too. This first title in a new ‘own voice’ picture book series is invaluable to children looking to identify themselves in the books they choose and read, and has a powerful message of friendship, believing in yourself, cultures, and family at its core, making it a brilliant book to share with younger readers everywhere.

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