Monday 16 December 2019

Reflections • Team post

This is often a time of year when people reflect on the last twelve months and hopefully look forward to the next twelve. With this in mind the Picture Book Den team decided we would share picture books that have made us reflect or remember something or someone with fondness.

We hope you enjoy and wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2020.

Lynne Garner chooses I Will Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm

Anyone who knows me, knows I just love dogs. I admit I prefer larger dogs. You know those huge, soppy hounds who just want cuddles and when they drape themselves across you make your legs go dead. But I won't say no to a cuddle to those little ones who weigh almost nothing and give you the smallest doggy breath lick on the end of your nose.

Tasha with one of her
many found balls.

So, being a dog lover it's little wonder I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm manages to bring a tear to my eyes when I read it. I always remember and reflect on the dogs I've love and lost, these being our  Mitzi, Sally, Bonny, Jodi and Tasha. I remember with fondness their little quirks for example Jodi and her insistence on burying my underwear in the back garden (I hate to imagine what the neighbours thought) and Tasha with her ability to find a ball on our long walks in the local parks. And just like the family in the book I know I will always love each and every one of them, will always miss them but will also be lifted when I remember the adventures we enjoyed together.

Hoping your 2020 will provide you with many happy moments. 

Jane Clarke chooses Jill Murphy's Five Minutes Peace

This book takes me back to a time in my life when I totally identified with Mrs Large's struggle to get five minutes peace. When I read it to my then small sons, they didn't get it at all. Now they are dads, they do - and my four granddaughters who fail to understand the concept. As the years go on, life changes. Now, I just LOVE it when my peace is shattered!

Warmest winter wishes. May 2020 be kind to you all. Jane x

Pippa Goodhart chooses Mr Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham

When my three daughters were little we shared this book over and over again. From the opening, 'This is Mr Gumpy' onwards, we loved it as more and more animals ask if they can join Mr Gumpy in his boat. The answer is always, 'Yes, if ...' you don't squabble or muck about or tease or chase or, actually all sorts of small naughtinesses that children themselves might do in a boat. And of course the animals DO all do those things, the boat tips over, 'and into the water they fell.' Drama! But not catastrophe. They walk home over the field to Mr Gumpy's house where 'it's time for tea.' Perfect!

I've chosen this beautiful book both for the sentimental reason that it, with its battered spine and Sellotaped pages, brings back happy memories of when my children were 'children'. But also, of course, because wonderful John Burningham died this year ... but lives on for more and more children in his joyful books. 

Very best wishes to all as the year, and the decade, give way to fresh ones. Pippa

Chitra Soundar chose Ocean Meets Sky by Eric Fan and Terry Fan  

This summer I picked up this book from the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. It's a beautiful story of a boy coming to terms with his grandfather's passing. It was such a calming book to read, but it was also a time to reflect on what's happened and what's yet to happen. 

The book has a magical quality to it because of both the words and the pictures. The images in the story inspired me to lay quiet and stare at the sky, watch cloud formations and understand how we are a small speck in this mighty universe. And there is a special place for all of us wherever our ocean will meet our sky. 

I wish you all a wonderful celebration reflecting on the past year and welcoming the new one. May you all always find the time to imagine and discover magic in the clouds and on the waves. Chitra

Mini Grey chooses The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane. 

Another one from the Kate Greenaway shortlist that totally deservedly won. A book that's made an enormous impact and helped everyone to recognise that we love and need nature. Let's  have this as a top priority in 2020.
The book I want to get my sticky hands on this Christmas is Planetarium, words by Raman Prinja  and incredible images by the wonderful Chris Wormell, printer and picture maker extraordinaire.

Image result for planetarium chris wormell

How brilliant to be able to take an entire universe out of your bookshelf whenever you need it. 

Clare Helen Welsh chooses the ‘Mr. Men’ and ‘Little Miss’ books by Roger Hargreaves.
At this time of year, families often get together and reminisce. In my case, the same old, embarrassing stories come out of the woodwork! Yes, I’m talking about the time I emptied talcum powder all over the bathroom and told my Nan, as white clouds billowed down the stairs, that I was making pastry!
A cheeky younger me! 
I now see much of this mischievousness reflected in my favourite childhood books, including Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and ‘Peepo’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I also have very fond memories of the ‘Mr. Men’ and ‘Little Miss’ Books by Roger Hargreaves

My Nan had a whole set of these books, and I would come back to them again and again and again. My favourite character? No, not Little Miss Trouble… Mr. Tickle, of course!
I wonder if, like me, you'll find a correlation between the tales of younger you and your favourite books? I suppose what isn’t clear, is whether I was influenced by the books I read, or whether mischievous me was drawn to mischievous books. I suspect it’s the latter!

Thankfully, as a grown up, I am much more sensible! 
Wishing you health, happiness and much mischief in 2020. Clare

Lucy Rowland chooses The Jolly Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

My sister and I used to LOVE The Jolly Postman.  Fairytale characters, a rhyming adventure, beautiful illustrations and, to top it all off, envelopes that you could open with real post inside!! We read it again and again.  Later, of course, I also discovered the magic of The Jolly Christmas Postman, and it was just as exciting, if not more! 

I love this time of year and I love Christmas, I always have. It's such a special time for me and I really enjoy thinking back to the Christmases we spent when I was young and the various Christmas traditions we had- the Christmas Eve party next door, the stockings hanging on the end of our beds, leaving out a mince pie for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph....but this year I think is going to be my most special yet. 

In September, we welcomed our baby boy into the world and it is our first Christmas as a family of three. I can't wait to share these books (and many many more) with Benji as he grows and to create new memories and holiday traditions of our own. 

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and lots of love and happiness in 2020. Lucy x

Garry Parsons chooses Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna and 'Julian Is A Mermaid' by Jessica Love.

Fear is a universal problem that affects everyone at some point in their lives, children and adults alike. Fear overwhelming our lives can often lead to enormous suffering and terrible consequences. Francesca Sanna's book gives us an image of fear that cleverly and simply describes the polarities of its grip, on the one hand appearing as friend and protector and on the other as oppressor and tyrant. Sanna then shows us subtly how to deal with it. 

When I first read this book I was astounded. It's not only a poignant message for every human but it's beautifully illustrated. This book is a treasure and everyone should have a copy.

I am also choosing Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. If you've had a tough day and you need to reconnect with what really matters in life then fall into this book for a dose of gentle acceptance and appreciation of human uniqueness. This book is about being free to be who you are, no matter who you are.

Merry Christmas!

Natascha Biebow chooses A Very Corgi Christmas by Sam Hay and Loretta Schauer.

This has been a momentous year for me: My picture book THE CRAYON MAN was published, I went on my first ever mini book tour, I was awarded the Stephen Mooser SCBWI Member of the Year Award 2019 and invited to the Palace to receive an MBE for services to children's authors and illustrators. When reflecting on this year, my ten year-old suggested this book. It's a heartwarming tale of the importance of family and friendship and how wishes can come true.

Belle, the littlest royal Corgi, wants to experience all the excitement of Christmas. But the hubbub of the big city is a little daunting for such a little dog – until she meets streetwise Pip, who takes her on a magical tour of all the sights.

It's such fun to see all the familiar London landmarks illustrated from a doggy point of view! I am not from London, of course, though I have probably lived here the longest. Despite being an immigrant. I like to think of it as my home. So, here's wishing you a festive holiday season at home or in a new adventurous place, and fun times with family and friends, near or far.

 And here's hoping all YOUR wishes will come true, too!

Juliet Clare Bell chooses books by Mary Murphy.

I think lots of us are in a very contemplative mood at the moment. And I’ve been thinking about the books that feel absolutely full of love at their core –without necessarily mentioning it, because as picture book creatives, we can do a lot to spread love, and we absolutely should. And with my eldest daughter turning sixteen just last week, I’ve been looking at some of the books and authors/illustrators that she loved as a young child.

(c) Mary Murphy Here Comes Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter 

And I keep coming back to Mary Murphy. Her pictures are joyful and her sparse text is perfect. I’ve only got the one book of hers at home now (which I bought second hand recently as I couldn’t find a new version) and it’s Here Comes Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter. It’s so simple, but it’s just a family (mostly a parent and child, who happen to be dogs) going through the year together. It’s always kind.

(c) Mary Murphy from Here Comes Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter *

“In autumn we jump in hills of crunchy leaves,” doesn’t sound profound on its own, but it almost brings tears to my eyes when I think how much my then-two-year-old loved it when we borrowed it again and again from the library. And how we’d say it –and do it- when we saw hills of crunchy leaves. It’s still the first thing that springs to mind when I see piles of autumn leaves -said by my daughter and me, together, in happy, excited voices.

And that library book introduced us to the wonderful world of Mary Murphy including I Like It When

(c) Mary Murphy

and How Kind (click on the links to see Youtube recordings of the books).

(c) Mary Murphy

I’d highly recommend them (but definitely get the picture book rather than the board book of I Like It When, or you’ll miss the last page (which is missed off the youtube reading link above but it says –'You’re wonderful'… (sob)…)

*See what I did with the photo? I got in a sneaky peek of the other book I nearly wrote about which my eldest also absolutely loved and I'd also urge you all to read: Scarlette Beane (by Karen Wallace and Jon Berkeley).

Peace and love to everyone this Christmas, and here’s hoping for an outpouring of love and kindness in 2020…

The Picture Book Den team will resume posts in the new year.

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