Archive for the ‘Tuesday Choosings’ Category

I think there’s a lot of great picture books in publication that we don’t initially realise are foreign. I find it fascinating to look through foreign books and learn traditions and customs which we might not otherwise know of. It’s also great for kids to get a larger scope of the literature out there and to experience something a little out of their comfort zone; that I believe is quite important in a child’s reading experience.

My five favourite foreign picture books:

1. Miffy by Dick Bruna

Few children probably realise how old Miffy really is. First published in 1963, this Dutch little Rabbit has stood the test of time.

Miffy is a simple little rabbit who has not changed one bit since she hopped into children’s lives in the 60’s. I appreciate that she hasn’t changed into a 21st century rabbit (whatever that may look like) The premise of Miffy works so there is no need to change it. She’s a small rabbit with a minimalist representation- hardly believable yet her stories are good representations of a child’s life such as a birthday party or going to school and with over thirty different titles, it’s understandable why Bruna  has sold over 80 millions books worldwide.

2. Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

If you want a really old, traditional picture book then this is it. First published in 1901, it tells the tale of Peter, blueberries and possibility.

I’ve chosen this book because the author Elsa Beskow, was considered the first to introduce Swedith literature to a wider audience. The illustrations may seem dated to some children but if you have an appreciation of classic in the same manner as you will have an appreciation of Harry Potter in 50 years to come, this is a charming book to add to a collection.

3. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

How could I not include Babar in here? I loved the books, I loved the television series when I was younger.

First published in 1931, Babar’s stories were considered a new type of picture book and paved the way for more developments in this form of literature. The beginning of this story is quite sad, Bambi-esque if you will, with Babar the little elephant’s mother killed in the forest. But the sadness doesn’t last too long and makes way for charming story of triumph over loss.

4. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline - 70th Anniversary Edition

Ahh Madeline, the smallest of her class and yet the bravest. A literary hero to Judy Blume, and many others I am sure.

Bemelmans opened each of his stories with the same line “In an old house in Paris, that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines” It’s a line that has stayed with many children through their lives. I don’t know what it is about this story; the Parisian undertones or the simple cartoon picture board illustrations; this book charmed me and will continue to charm children for many, many years to come.

5. The Moomins by Tove Jansson

An obvious choice? Perhaps, but it doesn’t mean I love The Moomins any less. I’ve got Moominmania!

There’s something about a little white Moomin that makes me want to cry, in a good way. They’re innocent, strange little creatures who live in Moominland and yet they have all the good traights of what it means to have morals, passion and fun. And yes, I absolutely do believe you can get all that emotion from one book. In fact, I have one illustration by Jansson as my wallpaper on my laptop. It is of a Moomin in stripy black and white shorts, running off with a face of determination and the caption read “I bet I’ll make an impression” It just reminds me to have that sort of determination every day in my own life.

I would provide ISBN’s for all these titles, but there are so many editions available it’s up to you to pick your favourites.

Read Full Post »

I have always been quite evangelical of my love of book illustrations and for children’s book, I believe they are integral to the story and can complement a book so well and take it to the next level in a child’s reading experience.

Last week over at http://www.blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/ they featured an interview with the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and I have been inspired to look at his and other work more. And for that reason, Oliver Jeffers is the first to feature in my #Tuesday Choosings.

1. Oliver Jeffers is author and illustrator to ‘Lost and Found’, ‘The Great Paper Caper’, ‘How to Catch a Star’, ‘The Way Back Home’ and ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’.

The first book I read of his was ‘Lost and Found’ and I subsequently watched the 30 minutes animation which was shown during Christmas 2008 and it really captured the essence of the story. The picture book has a haunting silence to it in which the characters speak through the illustrations. The friendship felt between the young boy and the lost penguin who arrives on his doorstep is immediate even if the boy does not realise this himself.

Each of Jeffers’ books have a sense of humour and it feels like he is letting us into his own personal scrapbook of ideas rather than a composed book. There’s an important element of whimsy which underlies the beautiful tales and often important messages. A talented writer and illustrator who evokes such emotion, I can’t wait for what comes next.

Visit his website at http://www.oliverjeffers.com

2. Quentin Blake- An obvious choice perhaps but worthy of being on this list. He brought such joy to my reading when I was younger and I have wallowed in rediscovering his work at an older age.

Quentin Blake is best known for his affiliation with author Roald Dahl, illustrating for books such as ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ The BFG’, ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ – (my favourite) and ‘Matilda’. Today, Dahl’s writing goes hand in hand with Blake’s illustrations and we just couldn’t have it any way. No other illustrator has had such an influence on children’s books and I love just how passionate Blake is about his work and subsequently, how much joy he brings to a child’s reading experience. Visit his site http://www.quentinblake.com

3. Judith Kerr brings so much happiness to so many people. Author of the ‘Mog the cat’ books and ‘The Tiger who came to tea’ her writing and illustrations are simple; traditional and most importantly, familiar.

I’ve fallen back in love with the Mog books recently. I think it has something to do with me getting nostalgic about my cats Rolo and Scrumpy. The premise of the Mog books is simple; a cat and her family. Mog is a forgetful cat, she can be scared, she can be lazy and she can be silly, but she’s loyal, often saves the day and brings the family together. No more “Bother that cat!” Judith Kerr is also wrote her biography ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and this tale of her childhood is now considered a classic educational book alongside Anne Frank. Judith Kerr is a wonderful, wonderful woman who through her simple, childlike illustrations (and I mean that in the highest compliment possible) brings a sense of family to every childs life. After reading each Mog book, I want to be part of that family and that’s just a great thing. Or, at the very least I go and find my cats and give them a big cuddle.

4. You can probably all see right through me- another author/illustrator whose stories are based on families. Well yes, I relish the family dynamic but also recognise the importance of representation to a child.

Jill Murphy had to feature on here, she was my inspiration for this blog which is aptly named after one of her ‘Large’ family books ‘Five Minutes Peace’. As I grew up my picture books were stored away in the roof to make room for new ones, so for a large part  I forgot all about them. Then I started working as a bookseller; bad for my bank balance, great for my memories. I saw this book sitting on the bookshelf and there was the undenying feeling of nostalgia and happiness. I love that a book can just take us back. That is a sign of a good book, when it evokes feelings, when you get a response from it. Jil Murphy is quite diverse in her illustration style as she is also the author of the ‘Worst Witch’ series, another favourite of mine and one of the few ‘series’ which I stuck with. The sketchy black and white style of these illustrations work well with the hap-hazard character of Mildred.

5. Who knew the tales of a little girl and a blue kangaroo could be so successful? Emma Chichester-Clark has charmed the nation with her beautiful illustrative work.

Emma Chichester-Clark has also recently illustrated a new picture book edition of Alice in Wonderland. Her illustrations in all her books are rich and diverse with colour. Emma attended the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art where she was taught by Quentin Blake. Emma’s career has spanned many years and yet her style has unwavered because of its timeless ability to capture a child’s imagination. The simple character of Lilly is innocent and takes you back to a time where you sat in your room and had  favourite toy. Mine was a little hedgehog called harry. Lily’s is a kangaroo called Blue.


Read Full Post »

Every Tuesday, I will pick five of the best….(insert category here) within the children’s literature category. This week I have chosen five of the best fairy tale collections and anthologies.

If you want to join this weekly meme you can comment about your favourite collections or choose five of your favourite….(insert category here) and post it on your own blog.

I’m working on getting a proper graphic on this so keep a look out.

I’ve chosen the Grimm’s fairy tales (amongst others) as I used their work as my point of study on my dissertation and believe their work ia a true representation on the meaning and importance of fairy tales. As much as we would like to believe their happily ever after scenario, there is a lot to be said about the suitability of these tales for children. Their origins come from a long way back, sourcing chinese traditions for Cinderella’s shoe and womanhood for Little Red’s cape.

Nevertheless, these editions I have chosen for #tuesdaychoosings have been adapted for younger readers whilst still maintaining the fantastical stories and morals.

1. For young adults: 

Definitely Not for Little Ones: Some Very Grimm Fairy-Tale Comics (Hardcover)

by Rotraut Susanna Berner (Illus) and Shelley Tanaka (Trans)

This book is written in comic format and is a great wayto reintroduce teenagers to fairy tales.
2. For 9-12:

The Fairy Tales (Hardcover)

by Jan Pienkowski (Author & Illus)

I love Jan Pienkowski’s work. I first came across him in December 2008 when I laid my eyes on her pop up gift edition of The Nutcracker and have been seeking out his work ever since. There are only four fairy tales in here but the illustrations are magnificent and provide a story in their own right. The contrasting colours with large shadows and depth really provide a magical setting in a world where anything can and does happen.
Jan Pienkowski is also known for ‘Meg and Mog’, ‘The Thousand Nights and One Night’ ‘The First Christmas’
3. For 5-8:

Mixed Up Fairy Tales (Spiral-bound)

by Hilary Robinson (Author) and Nicki Sharratt (Illus)

I’ve always been fond of Sharratt’s illustrations from my own childhood. The colour and diversity he brings to each page is always astounding and he’s what I call a great all rounder in that he appeals to girls and boys and a range of ages. His true to life illustrations bring empathy and association for the reader in regards to the story.
The mixed up tales is a great concept  and will give kids a chance to learn the classic fairy tales in a fun and interactive way. The pages are split so that you can have the three bears wearing little red riding hood’s cape. Endless fun.
4. For 3-5:

Usborne Illustrated Fairy Tales (Anthologies & Treasuries) (Hardcover)

by Rosie Dickins


This is a beautiful padded hardback collection of fairy tales that you can read with your child. The illustrations are magical and will draw the reader in to the whimsy of the tale. Soft bright colours are used throughout so the stories are not too frightening for the reader yet the use of dark colours and shadows makes it clear who the bad person is in each of the tales. As this is for young readers, the tales have been adapted to include a happily ever after scenario. Beautiful.

5. For a gift to treasure throughout the years:

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales (Hardcover)

by Maria Tatar

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales
A stunning hardback collectors edition by the queen of fairy tale critical studies Maria Tatar. The cover I just adore and there are some great illustrations throughout. Contains all the classic fairy tales you might expect.

Read Full Post »