We are lucky to have a fabulous fishmongers around the corner but on Saturday the counter was almost bare.
“Herring?” I asked hopefully.
Patrick threw up his arms in despair. “No herring, no sardines, no mackerel! Very little of anything!”
Storm Dylan was the culprit, keeping all the fishing boats harbour-bound. The dearth of fish reminded me of one of Little Owl’s Christmas presents. A beautiful book called The Mousehole Cat. Do you know it? It’s quite old now, but timeless.
The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley is a re-telling of an old Cornish tale about a terrible storm which prevented any boat from leaving the harbour at Mousehole (pronounced mowzel). It is Christmas and the town’s people are starving but old fisherman Tom and his Cat Mouzer brave the waves to bring back fish. It is really Mouzer who saves the day by singing to the great Storm-Cat who is causing all the trouble. It’s a beautifully illustrated book with a lovely early 90s vibe that makes me feel quite nostalgic. They don’t seem to publish picture books with extensive text like this anymore. Publishers seem to jump straight from young children’s picture books to chapter books with small black and white illustrations. I would put the Brambly Hedge books in the same category as The Mousehole Cat and they are beautiful too. It’s a shame because they are exactly the sort of books Little Owl loves so I end up trawling the archives for new purchases for her.
Can you see where I’m going with all this? Yes, it’s time for my annual round-up of the picture books we bought or received in 2017 and loved. The Mousehole Cat is pictured below alongside Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp by Margaret Mayo and Alex Aycliffe, and Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp is from a series of books by Scholastic about various different things from dinosaurs through to diggers. Finch is an enormous fan and I can highly recommend them. They have a nice rhythm so don’t get wearisome on endless re-readings. Alex Aycliffe’s illustrations have a lovely collage feel to them and a great colour palette. I have also learned quite a bit about dinosaurs by reading it (admittedly I didn’t know much before!)
Two of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books hit our list this year, Room on the Broom and Tiddler. Now I know some people get sniffy about the Donaldson/Scheffler dynamo. “Their books are everywhere!” I hear you cry. I too, have perused an airport WHSmith where the only picture books for sale were by this pair. However, the fact is their books are brilliant. Donaldson’s texts are so easy to read when you can barely keep your eyes open after wrestling the kids though dinner and bath time. I find myself romping through them and the kids love them. Tiddler was in the waiting room at our local GP surgery and Finch thought it was so hilarious he pestered and pestered me for his own copy. So there we are. Two more Donaldson/Scheffler books to add to our burgeoning collection.
Pictured above with Tiddler is The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore (of Who are you, Stripy Horse? fame) and Richard Jones. I honestly cannot tell you how beautiful this book is. The illustrations are so thoughtful and wistful. It is ostensibly a story about a little girl adjusting to moving to a new area but as with all great picture books it’s much more than that. The way Richard Jones portrays the relationship between the little girl and the lion is very special. It’s already a classic in our house and we can’t seem to go anywhere now without a snow lion or two in tow.
Pictured above are Leon and Bob by Simon James and I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail. Leon and Bob is another story about a child moving house and finding a friend. It’s another book that’s quite old now too. I think it’s a fantastic story. It’s sparsely written so the twist at the end (it’s a good twist!), really packs a punch. One of the things I love about it is the atmosphere of the illustrations. It has a real sense of place and I love all the little details in Leon’s house.
I’m a Girl is a celebration of not being pigeon-holed because of your gender. In this book a little girl likes to race around, to win, to be noisy and to be clever just as much as the boys. The illustrations are really simple and very effective. They convey so much jubilant enthusiasm in each brush stroke. As with many picture books written by illustrators the writing isn’t top notch, but I do love it.
Finally here is one of my favourites. A Meia Perdida is by Anine Bosenberg who is a rather wonderful friend of mine BUT that’s not the reason this book is one of my favourites! A Meia Perdida means The Lost Sock but those are the only words you’ll need because this is a wordless book. Two children find their sock has gone missing and trace the red yarn across a snowy landscape full of all sorts of marvellous creatures (complete with intricate page cut-outs) to work out what has happened to it. It’s so well designed and beautifully executed. I love the play on the idea of what happens to all those missing socks!
So there we are. Did you buy or receive some great books in 2017? I hope so. There will be no post from me next week as I am away to Scotland on illustration-related matters. I will return the week after to tell you all about it!