Review: The White Fox – Jackie Morris

The White Fox by Jackie MorrisThis week I’ve been reading Jackie Morris’s Greenaway 2018 nominated The White Fox – given the weather we’ve had this week, I couldn’t have hoped for a better book!

The day the fox comes, things begin to change for Sol. He’s adrift too, lost in the big city with his father, longing for the wild and frozen north. The fox offers a way back, a chance to reconnect, to find his way home.

Blue grey wintry tones set against the thick cream paper stock that is Barrington Stoke’s trademark make this the perfect book to curl up with on a wintry evening. Jackie Morris once again weaves words and pictures into a pocket sized work of beauty.The White Fox - Jackie Morris

At only 84 pages long the story is deceptively deep. Sol, bullied at school and adrift in a big city, feels a natural affinity with the white fox which mysteriously turns up on Seattle’s docks. It offers him a way back home and a reconnection with both the wild landscape of Alaska and his family.

The whole book breathes: clutches of snowy birch trees offer punctuation to the text and a tiny fox rushes along the bottom corner whilst gloriously saturated double page spreads allow the reader a moment of quiet reflection to connect to the wider themes of the book.
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Both Sol and the fox begin the story profoundly out of place – beautifully conveyed in the opening illustrations which show the fox lost among the dark and overwhelming man made structures. However, as Sol’s connection to the fox, and indeed his own family, develops the colour palette lightens and we progress through the shining snow of the forest and the emerald green backdrop of his grandmother’s house to culminate in the shimmering, gold spangled, blue of the night sky. There is a satisfying sense of a journey having taken place – both literal and emotional. A truly satisfying read.

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Read Along With Us: Greenaway regional nominations

As promised, here is the lowdown on our suggested titles to be considered for nomination for the Kate Greenaway medal this year.

If you’re attending next Tuesday’s event with Cressida Cowell in Preston, we need your help to decide which of these titles we officially put forward as our North West regional nominations for the award.

All nominations for the 2018 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards will be officially announced on 6th November 2017. The longlist will be announced in February 2018, the shortlist will be unveiled in March, and the winners will be revealed on 18th June 2018.

We’ll have copies of the books available for you to peruse on the night. In the meantime, here are our thoughts on the titles we’re asking you to consider for the Greenaway nomination, and why we think they are worthy contenders for the awards.

The Pond – Cathy Fisher (illustrator); Nicola Davies (author) (Graffeg Publishing)

The PondPublisher comment: “This colourful, emotional book is filled with natural imagery, and will teach children not only about death and loss, but the importance of the natural world.”

Our thoughts: “The illustrations in this book have real impact, portraying perfectly the grieving of a family mourning the loss of their father. The colours used reflect the mood – from the dark tones of the muddy hole in the ground to the vibrant water lily and the misty, glowing light of the last page. Beautiful images of pond life fill every part of the book, including the cover, end papers and title page, contributing to a rich and satisfying visual experience” (Karen)

 

Night Shift – Debi Gliori (Hot Key Books)

Night shiftPublisher comment: “With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one’s whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape – it may not be easy to find, but it is there.”

Our thoughts: “The limited colour palette, with occasional use of colour, creates visual drama and immediacy. The theme of mental health and depression is depicted through images and imagination with vast vistas of creeping fog and surreal seascapes making it immediately accessible and easy to understand by readers of all ages. The book is never mawkish and despite presenting an immersive experience of brooding depression, nonetheless ends on a note that there might be some hope. It achieves this without sentimentality.” (Jake)

 

A First Book of Animals – Petr Horacek (illustrator); Nicola Davies (author) (Walker Books)

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Publisher comment: “This book is a glorious celebration of life in the wild in all its variety and splendour, and belongs on every child’s bookshelf.”

Our thoughts: “It’s impossible to tell which came first here – the text or the illustrations – as both work so perfectly together to create an outstanding work of vivacity and exuberance. Nature bursts from the page in abundance. Petr Horacek’s double page spreads allow Nicola Davies’ poetic text to dance across the page whilst his jewel-like colours and textured collages express the remarkable diversity of the natural world on a grand scale. Clever layout and design, with the occasional nod to works of natural history from yesteryear, make this a book which works on several levels with appeal across a wide age and ability range, A true treasury!” (Lizzie)

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury)

Fantastically great women who changed the worlsPublisher comment: “Bursting full of beautiful illustrations and astounding facts, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is the perfect introduction to just a few of the most incredible women who helped shape the world we live in.”

Our thoughts: “Kate’s book, with it’s sweet, charming illustrations, celebrates the lives of women who have made a contribution or positive change to the world that may not typically be recognised within the school curriculum. This book takes the reader on  a whistle-stop tour of women’s history, with images that capture the visual essence of the women being represented.” (Pamela)

 

The Secret of Black Rock – Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

TheSecretOfBlackRock_RGB Publisher comment: “This surreal modern folk-tale tells the story of an adventurous young girl who must protect a peaceful living creature. Erin is fascinated by the stories of Black Rock: a huge, dark and spiky mass that is said to destroy any boats that come near it! But are the tales really true? One day Erin sneaks on board her mother’s fishing boat to find out…”

 

A Story Like the Wind – Jo Weaver (illustrator); Gill Lewis (author) (Oxford University Press)

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Publisher comment: “In a small boat spinning out on the sea sits a group of refugees, fleeing their war-stricken homes. they have nothing – except their memories, their stories and their music. In this very special, lyrical fable, beautifully illustrated by Jo Weaver, Gill Lewis weaves an unforgettable tale of displacement, hope and the search for freedom.”

Our thoughts: “A deeply moving story of hope and freedom. A small boat full of refugees drifts on the sea. The swirling turquoise illustrations mirror the swirling winds and sea. This is a beautiful interweaving of a folk tale and the refugees own stories , demonstrating the power of stories to bring people together and give them a common identity.” (Ann)

So those are our thoughts on our Greenaway suggestions, please do let us know your thoughts on these books. You can find out more about the CKG awards process and the judging criteria here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/awards-process.php

Don’t forget, YLG members can also make up to two individual nominations for each award

 

CKG Review – What you need to know about the Greenaway Shortlist (Part I)

Just in time for today’s medal ceremony – brush up with our handy visual guides to the eight outstanding titles nominated for this year’s Greenaway Medal. Can you decide who’s going to win the coveted prize?

Harry Potter - Greenaway 17A Great Big Cuddle - Greenaway 17Tidy - Greenaway 17Wild Animals Of The North - Greenaway 17

Illustrated Books: The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017 shortlists have been announced today. It’s no surprise, given recent global events, to see Francesca Sanna’s spectacular The Journey in the illustrated books category but I really liked the idea that a ‘guiding light of optimism’ could be found in the rest of the shortlisted books. This certainly chimes with the fact that two of my favourite feel good picture books of last year were also nominated, so for this ‘What We’re Reading Wednesday’ we’re looking at Meg McLaren’s downright lovely Life is Magic and Lizzy Stewart’s bountiful and imaginative There’s A Tiger In The Garden (Both Greenaway nominated I should add!)

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Life is Magic – Meg McLaren

Monsieur Lapin is on the hunt for a new assistant. Houdini the rabbit is the perfect choice: he loves magic and is a good sport. However, life in a magic show can bring with it its own surprises!

Naturally mayhem and backstage high jinks ensue. Though lively, the narrative is told with a simple economy which the bustle and pzazz of the illustrations expand upon deliciously. Shifting from full page spreads to frames and panels the illustrations are packed with detail and mischievous fun. The use of different typography and signage is a great hook to entice the younger reader and is truly showcased in the treasure trove of posters hidden beneath the dust jacket (A feature that’s thankfully been incorporated into the newly published paperback edition). The effect of McLaren’s muted palette is that of a big soft hug – you can’t help but share in the goodwill and bonhomie of Monsieur Lapin and his band of bunnies. It’s an utter pleasure to read with some strong messages of friendship and teamwork to boot.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Meg’s new book Pigeon PI (due 2nd March)

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There’s A Tiger In The Garden – Lizzy Stewart

Nora is bored, ‘There’s nothing to do here’ she matter-of-factly complains but even as she utters the words the reader’s eye is drawn to the distinctly jungle-y looking garden glinting with promise behind her. All it takes are some well-chosen words from Grandma and the reluctant Nora finds herself amidst toy eating plants, running with dragonflies as big as birds, chatting with a VERY grumpy polar bear and finally face to face with the eponymous Tiger (beautifully revealed one ear, a tail and a head at a time).

This is a bountiful tale of the joys of the imagination. It takes the sceptical Nora, face screwed up in a scowl, resolute in the belief that she is too old for silly games, and shows her transformation to a child rosy cheeked with wonder and ready to teach Grandma a thing or two herself about imagination! As with all good books it works on several levels – for the very young the colour and vibrancy of the illustrations will captivate whilst the theme of imagination (and perhaps that opening premise of boredom) will resonate for slightly older readers. Add to that the whole existential encounter with the Tiger to mull over and there’s something for everyone. A joy of a book!