When things outside of our control are making life… not fun, we look for things that can inject a bit of loveliness into our day. As I may have mentioned before, I love picture books and I think they’re amazing texts to read, and study, no matter how old you are; I’m happy to tell you that I have a collection of picture books on my book shelves, along with the novels, biographies and short-story collections.
This month I’m thrilled to be able to bring you three quite different picture books that will appeal to a huge range of interests, abilities and ages. I hope that they can add a little bit of lovely to your day.
First up, I have an incredibly exciting new book by Graeme Base to share with you! The Curse of the Vampire Robot is a departure from many of his other famous books, with Base combining his own attention to detail and whimsy with the distinctive pen and ink style of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. In the spirit of old meets new, Base uses verse to tell the story of how Gertie Gif, a lowly cleaning droid, takes on the challenge of defeating Voltoid, the vampiric battery-drainer, deep in the Scottish Highlands. The illustrations are rich and complex with hidden details for the keen observer to find. With simple rhythm and rhyme schemes, this story just begs to be read aloud; both reader and audience will find the puns, jokes and repurposed IT jargon laugh-out-loud funny. An absolute delight, this picture book is sure to find a place in every classroom and library.
At first glance, We’re Going Places would seem to be targeted at young children, particularly those who’ve become entranced with planes, trains and automobiles, but there is so much depth to this book, in both the illustrations and the text, that there is something here for students of all ages. An examination of modes of transport, ways of moving and the importance of journeys, both long and short, this intriguing text encourages us all to think beyond the prosaic; why do we move, how do we move, and who moves? From snails crawling up a tree, to a hot-air balloon ride, to tumbling over Niagara Falls in a barrel, all of these modes of moving are different and lead to different experiences. If your students are learning about history, the seasons, or thinking about which is more important –the journey or the destination – this wonderful book has a lot to offer.
Non-fiction picture books have so much to contribute to classrooms and libraries in how they can present information engagingly for students with diverse learning styles. If the World Were 100 People is a fascinating text that conveys information on all the people on Earth in a way that is understandable to young people, by imagining ‘the whole planet is a village where 100 people live’. Using illustrations, graphics, maps and charts, topics as diverse as access to clean water, literacy rates and hair colour are explored. Some of these topics are quite confronting, the statistics around wealth and access to food are particularly eye-opening, but these are important subjects to discuss with young people, and this book is an excellent starting point.
Read of the Month – The Scent of You
In last month’s adult book review, I talked about the need for ‘comfort’ in all its forms. While for me reading is usually an activity that is in itself comforting, I have to admit that I’m finding concentrating on anything much more challenging than usual. Which means that what I usually read just isn’t working for me at the moment; I’m NOT one of those people who can read complex literature right now.
The Scent of You is welcome escapism. The main character Polly leads a life that sounds heavenly; she’s a part-time yoga instructor who writes a blog about perfumes, about which she is astonishingly knowledgeable, that has become incredibly popular, thus giving her access to people and places she has long admired. Polly also lives in a lovely part of London in a house that had me swooning!
While a large portion of this book exists very much in the realm of fantasy, it does deal with some serious topics, particularly relationship breakdown and mental illness. Polly’s husband has left, with no warning and little explanation, and has asked her to keep it a secret from everyone, including their two university-aged children. At first angry at the position he has put her in, Polly comes to realise that she has the right to tell her own story and forge her own life, one that brings her joy and doesn’t leave her answerable to others. Of course that isn’t easy, particularly when she comes to understand what has happened to her husband, but in creating a new identity and purpose, Polly has some incredible adventures, and it is wonderful to experience them with her.
As you can imagine, in a book with perfume as a central device, this is a story that evokes the senses, and if you need a novel to take you away from where you are, even just for an afternoon, this may be just what you’re after.