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A picture book Sunday

It's been a mixed Sunday - sun, showers and a little bit of wind, so what better activity could I find than to curl up on the settee with a lovely stack of picture books - just me and the books. NO interruptions, no disturbances - it was heavenly!

Rather than keep all of this to myself I thought I would share some of the joys, the highlights of my reading, well in fact all the picture books I read today. I know it sounds as though it could be a lot but I am a grown up and picture books, whilst probably my absolute favourite, really don't take me too long to read. Their stories however stay with me and I hope, that after you have read this and found one or two to read for yourself, share with little ones, you too will find the stories stay with you.

Picture books may be for little readers but sometimes their themes are really quite grown-up, they can address serious issues, they can indulge in some more adult humour. why? I believe that is is often because the authors and illustrators are thinking of the grown-ups who will invariably be reading and sharing them with little readers. They need an added layer of complexity, it could be a guide for the adults to themes that need to be shared, it could be a lure to pull them in and encourage them to enjoy, whatever the reason, these more grown-up themes are there and I love picture books all the more for making their imprint in my mind and not shying away from adult themes.

Of course this now leads me nicely to deciding which book to tell you about first ...

Stefano the Squid: Hero of the Deep (Little Tiger) has been written by Wendy Meddour, an author with a very definite sense of humour and a love of the seaside - I have since learnt that she grew up by the sea, in Aberystwyth. As the title tells us Stefano is a squid. Stefano is just an ordinary squid, he has no special talents, at least not as far as he knows which is why when the Deep Sea TV team are filming he (and the sea cucumber) are ignored. They don't flash or sparkle, make funny shapes or in fact do anything TV worthy. All this is however about to change. Stefano is about to become a hero. One small action averts disaster and Stefano learns a very important lesson. Wendy's hilarious story is vibrantly illustrated by Duncan Beedie whose ability to capture expression is a pure delight to behold - particularly as he is illustrating sea creatures! A vibrant, funny and rich story that may help us look more closely at heroic lessons and the importance of our marine life.

Meet the Penguins (Oxford Children's Books) written and illustrated by Mike Brownlow demonstrates the importance of being welcoming, of sharing with others, of understanding others. Two little penguins just want to play, they want their friends to play with them but it would seem everyone is just too busy ... cat is concentrating on fishing, gorilla on a puzzle, giraffe can't see them and hippo fears they will make a mess. Then along comes a little one who wants to play - great fun and ensues and guess what? Yes, all the others suddenly want to join in, they have seen what they are missing! Will the two penguins feel like welcoming their friends? A delightfully illustrated story from a very talented storyteller.

From learning about the importance of friendship and caring for others let us move to the importance of eating your vegetables, in moderation of course! Little Green Donkey by Anuska Allepuz (Walker Books) is a very funny, very green (and a little bit orange) story about moderation in all things. Little Donkey loves grass so much that his mum just cannot convince him to eat anything else, she does try - they are plenty of things he is give, all of them very good for him but none of them very tasty. Is he destined to stay very green from his grassy diet or will a new love of carrots help to balance him out? A laugh out loud picture book that may (just may) encourage your little ones to try to add some variety to their own diets!

Another title from Walker books is a cat-lovers dream. The Pawed Piper by MIchelle Robinson, illustrated by Chinlun Lee, is an ode to cat lovers. One little girl wants nothing more than her own cat but how will she get one and what will it be like to have a cuddly ball of fluff all to herself? She gets a little more than she has bargained for and learns a very important lesson as a result, but will she get her heart's desire? A delight, a clever twist on a classic tale (or should that be tail?).

Now this is a blog all about stories, the love of stories, sharing them, telling them, being in them. So what better book to tell you about next than Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal's The One-Stop Story Shop (Little Tiger). With its rhyming text and apparently typical story line (a knight, a dragon and a quest) the reader may think that they know exactly what is coming with this story but prepare to be surprised, be very surprised, be almost as surprised as the shopkeeper, the knight and the dragon when the adventure and story that unfold are far from expected and far from typical. Storytelling is a magical world of wonder and delight and you, dear reader, are about to discover some of it, assuming of course that you are brave enough to open the pages of this book and explore all the shop has to offer. A delightful story packed with illustration that will delight and delight and delight all its readers. A story that will lead to more stories, and more still!

From learning about stories to learning a letter of the alhoabet - the one on the page here is B. A very definite B. B for Baby, for Banana, basket, bungalow. A fun tale exploring the letter B and the culture that is Africa (this is not made explicit in Atinuke's text but it is implied and is bought out in Angela Brooksbanks bold and beautiful, realistic illustration). A fun way for children to explore another culture, to learn how to put words of the same starting letter together and have an adventure. B is for Baby is published by Walker Books.

Matisse's Magical Trail by Tim Hopgood with illustration by Sam Boughton (Oxford Children's Books) shows us just how important it is to be aware of the big and small elements of the world around us. Matisse is a snail. A small snail with a very big talent. He wants to share the talent but he is sad as it seems no-one is paying any attention, no-one sees his light and delicate drawings, or do they? Children it seems have the eye for them and they are the ones who can help Matisse to see that he can, with their help, make the world a brighter place, just as they. with help can learn to draw, paint and colour. The illustration is a delight and there are plenty of little pictures to spot amidst the splashes of colour. A great way to introduce children to a very famous artist and to the power of art and the skill of noticing as well as sharing, this book certainly inspired me to look around in more detail at the world!

Last but not least and maybe a book you will need after the excitement of all the above, wakey Birds by Maddie Frost (Templar Books). Little ones will be wide awake and wanting more books, more adventure, more fun after having read all of the above. In just the same way that the wakey birds are wide awake, wanting more adventure, more activity, more games, more fun. What can be done when stories, soothing shushers, go-to-sleep leapers can't help the spooks, the lack of comfort, the itches, the big thoughts that keep the jungles wakey birds awake? when the jungle beast awakes there are a few gulps, a few scared looking faces, but will he be able to get the wakey birds to finally go to sleep? A very funny, very silly story that is perfect for bedtimes and who knows, may just lull those little ones off into dreamland - but be warned it is fun, there are lots of sounds to be made, actions to be tired, pages to be turned (the usual way and upside down too) so it may be that the jungle monster is needed in your house too ...

Night night ...

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