Sunday, 15 March 2015

A Non Fiction Celebration

Perhaps it is because there are a number of imprints now under the Quarto Publishing Group that there are such a wealth of titles, I am not sure but what I am very sure about is the quality of these titles, it really, honestly is outstanding.

I have had so many wonderful books arriving in my post recently, many of them non-fiction which is wonderful from my perspective of a Librarian as well as an editor of a children’s book review magazine for me there is always a need for fresh, exciting, informative non-fiction for children of all ages.  Younger children who just devour facts and information, yearning for knowledge need a wide range of materials to satisfy their needs and older children too still have a thirst to learn only they also need the books to support their school learning and subject knowledge development.  The difference is perhaps subtle but it is there and it needs to be addressed.

Frances Lincoln and Wide Eyed Editions both have an amazing output of highly quality books that not only do I strongly recommend but that I use in my own library or send to local primary schools.  It would be wrong of me to recommend something I have not read or used myself so I make sure to make use of and read all these books too – I really do – not having a television provides so much more time to read and I love it!

Now to the books, let us start with Frances Lincoln titles:

The My First Experiences series by Ifemoa Onyefulu, continues with Deron Goes to Nursery School and Grandma Comes to Stay sharing the experiences of these activities in an African setting allowing children to capture the universality of such first experiences. 

Continuing with the theme of setting books around the world, as we all know football is a global phenomenon and with Goal! Football From Around the World by Caio Vilela we can see the excitement of football in action around the world.

Then a book with charity endorsements, from Street Child Africa and Streets Ahead, Street Children by Anthony Robinson addresses the plight of six real children, and their families who must live and work on the street.  Here are stories from Zimbabwae, Mozambique and Guatemala of people who are resilient and live in hope.  An important message not only about hope but about remembering how lucky we are to live the lives we do and how much others around the world need our support now as much as ever.

Another title with an African setting is Thank You Jackson by Nicky Daly and Jude Daly with illustrations that glow and a story that will make smiles shine from the faces of readers this is a touching picture book tale of manners and thank you’s.

Family and friendship are strong and repetitive themes in children’s publishing but they are so for a reason, because these two are incredibly important for children to understand and learn about in the course of growing up.  Therefore the paperback edition of The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith is a welcome publication and will hopefully mean more libraries and schools will now be able to afford to stock copies.  Another title in this series is now available too.  The Great Big Green Book attempts to explain why we need to look after the earth and be conscientious about conservation.

Understanding the people around us, family and friends, is important, as is knowing about those of a similar age around the world but we must not forget issues closer to home. Victoria’s Day by Maria de Fatima Campos is again new in paperback but this is a title which explains, in a child friendly style, the way in which a child with Down’s Syndrome is just like any other and can be integrated into main school activities.  Particularly touching is the personal touch with this title having been photographed by her mother.

In partnership with Amnesty International comes the feast of visual imagination and story Dreams of Freedom in Words and Pictures. This title combines the words of some of our heroes of human rights with stunning illustration from around the world.  This book has a powerful message to be explored with young children and it is done in a uniquely sensitive way.

Now let us turn to adventure with Wild Adventures by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, an adventure in the playground of nature for the whole family to enjoy that will inspire an awareness and love of the natural world too.  100 Family Adventures by Tim, Kerry, Amy and Ella Meek is a family book by a family team encouraging family adventure outdoors, an inspiring get out and do title!

For a book close to home what better title could there be than ABC London by James Dunn and Kate Slater.  An alphabetic tour of our capital city not only does this book help children learn their alphabet and a selection of words it also introduces them to the unique cultural identity of one of the world’s best known cities.

Before this Blog post closes I must tell you about the most wonderful fiction from Frances Lincoln for they do this beautifully too.

In a new series Classics Unfolded classic literature from throughout the ages is transformed into works of art and a bite-sized version of the story.  Each book is condensed into 16 scenes featuring quotes from the original, close-up pictures of main characters and summaries of the key themes in the story.  I can see these being used in displays as well as to quickly give pupils in school an overview of the main thrust of some classic texts before they are studied.  This is an ingenious new idea that will have a wide appeal.

Now to the Wide Eyed Editions.  I think I mentioned these in my last blog post as some of the forthcoming titles were displayed at the recent Quentin Blake event.  Now I have some of my own to share with you!

The Learning Garden series, to date two titles Colours, Counting is a new series of board books with sturdy flaps to lift, teaching children how to spot and know their colours and how to count.  Gloriously chunky and colourful these books are a true delight.

One Thousand Things by Anna Kovecses is a visual encyclopedia of things to spot and say with a difference, the pictures are strong, bold and dominate the page, the labels are clear and defined but it is not just about the learning, it comes with a game too, a little mouse to spot on every page!  Compulsive and instructional fun, minimal and modern.

There it is!  A quick romp through and round-up of a selection of fiction and non fiction titles from one of our outstanding children’s book publishers.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

How Quentin Blake Told Us A Picture

Wednesday 4th March, a calm and balmy evening and a surprisingly revamped walk through Kings Cross to the House of Illustration, a place that I think I would love to work - how inspiring.

What was I doing?  I was going to an event to celebrate the work of Quentin Blake, the re-issue of his glorious Tell Me a Picture and also the first year of the Frances Lincoln imprint Wide Eyed Editions.

In a beautifully white and sparkly gallery, with a sparkly glass in hand, the invited audience filled the space in anticipation of Quentin's speech, a chance to see the illustrations from the book and a chance to view the most recent exhibition.  The buzz was wonderful, we were all there because we love Quentin, because we love children's books and because of the stunning work that Frances Lincoln do to bring us the very best and most beautiful books we can imagine.

15 years ago Quentin Blake was made out first Children's Laureate, as the first he was able to shape the role, a privilege and one that he took seriously, making now a notable title.  Back then no-one knew what the laureate should do and so Quentin made it up as he went along - his words and managed to get children's book illustration into the National Gallery!

In developing his story he created some stunning pictures, pictures that have stories in them that come together to make their reader think about stories in pictures and the name of the book.  Today, 15 years on, this book is still with us and it has been reissued as part of Frances Lincoln's Wide Eyed Editions list - a list of simply stunning books of the very highest quality which make us realise just how important art is in books for children and in books for all ages.

Quentin explained to us how proud he is of the book, how proud he is that it still exists, that it is not just an exhibition but a tangible book to be read and loved, treasured too.  Here is a book with educational value to love and treasure, a book that encourages questions to be asked and every reader to create their own story from its pages.

Thank you Quentin for inpsiring us all, thank you Frances Lincoln for a wonderful evening and I highly recommend not just this book but the new list, we will be featuring its titles over the coming months and years, hoping, that just as Tell Me A Picture it will endure and continue to bring great pleasure to us all.