Contemporary Books

3 years +, Little Tiger Kids, Contemporary Books

Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Illustration by Britta Teckentrup

Words by Patricia Hegarty

Pubilshed by Little Tiger Kids

A simple peek-through picture book using rhyming couplets to describe the changing of the seasons. The same tree is depicted in the same location on every page. With every turn of the page, the seasons change and the tree comes to life with new cutouts revealing different animals, birds, insects, fruit and colours. 

Central to the tree is an owl that is the central figure of the story as he experiences all seasons. "Owl sits watching in his tree... No one see as much as he." Each page is filled with colourful details and has something new for children to discover such as a spiders web, birds nest, animals hiding, new plant growth, fruit falling. The clothbound cover is solid and high quality, pages are thick and this book will survive the poke of many little fingers as they reach out to touch the numerous cutouts and revealed animals. 

Britta Teckentrup's illustrations are bold, colourful and have been created with a wood block print style, though most likely digitally created. In my opinion this book is created for a younger audience than some of her other books and the illustrations are not as detailed as her spotting books. 

I am a big fan of Britta Teckentrup's work and I have previously reviewed The Odd One Out: A Spotting Book. Be sure to check it out if you are new to her work. 

Seasons books are fairly common but very few are worthy of a special mention. Another favourite of mine is Jenny Bower's book Little Tree which I have reviewed previously. Similar in concept, the little tree is shown in the same location on every page of the book, however it starts as a seed and grows and changes with each new season. Flaps are incorporated in to the illustration on each page to reveal hidden details within the tree such as insects, rain, nest, seeds. 


3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

A Lion in Paris

Words and illustration by Beatrice Alemagna

Published by Tate

An oversized book with a surreal story of a lion curbing his boredom by touring the streets of Paris. Upon arriving in Paris to find "a job, love, and a future", the Lion is disappointed that despite his size (and the volume of his roar!) that no one seems to take notice of him. The simple story sees the Lion visit the many sights of Paris including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and River Seine. As the lion explores, he becomes more at ease and eventually finds his place within the city.

The story was inspired by the statue of a lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris and a curiousity to know why the Parisians are so fond of him. What a charming idea!

The absolute highlight of this book is the surreal and panoramic illustrations combining mixed media with collage and a great variety of drawing techniques. Alemagna's use of colour is very restrained but used beautifully to highlight the lion and a small number of features such as baguettes, rosie cheeks, River Seine and sparkling facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Distorted perspective, rough pen and pencil strokes, shading and photographic collages. The intensely detailed illustrations are charming and at times retro, reminding me of the work of Pop Art collage artists such as Richard Hamilton. 

The sheer size of this book and landscape orientation makes it really special and possibly a little awkward to hold. The book opens upwards and young readers will find themselves very up and close to the panoramic illustrations as they stretch to turn each page. This is a fantastic experience. Text is kept on the upper page of the book and the intensely detailed illustration is on the lower page.  The minimal text and clear focus on the illustration allows for the story to be enhanced in the minds of readers.

This oversized gem of a book conveys the feeling of being a stranger in a new city and is perfect for your imaginative little reader. This book is really quirky. I love it!  

Board Books, Chronicle Books, Contemporary Books, 0 - 2 years

Hide and Seek

Words & Illustration by Taro Gomi

Published by Chronicle Books

Another fantastic board book from Japanese Author-Illustrator Taro Gomi. Playful and absurd, this seek and find book is full of ultimate cuteness that only the Japanese can pull off. I love this book! Gomi's illustrations are colourful and all of the animals are elegantly captured with a soft paint effect.  

Children will delight in the challenge of finding objects hidden in plain sight and will laugh at the absurdity of some of the illustrations. Each page has one additional animal so as well as finding hidden objects, readers can practice their counting. 

A toothbrush in a crocodile's grin, a cap on a bird's head, and hearts on a butterfly's wings. A small illustration of the hidden object is shown on the left hand side of the page. This clue or preview will assist younger readers to be able to read this book on their own during playtime. This book will challenge most 18 month olds so is best suited to children over 18 months.

If you like the look of this book, I have previously reviewed Gomi's Peekaboo - a fun and interactive board book that remains a strong favourite in our house. 

Gecko Press, Contemporary Books, Bilingual Books, 3 years +

Ko Wai E Huna Ana? (Who is Hiding?)

Words and illustration by Satoru Onishi

Te Reo Maori translation by Paora Tibble

Published by Gecko Press

My husband brought this bright coloured book home for my little one after a recent work trip to New Zealand. Bright and simple, each page has 18 cute animals posing with a question. Who is hiding? Who is crying? Who is backwards? Who is who? This book is fun and interactive and little ones will learn to name animals, colours, count and recognise expressions. 

Released to celebrate Maori Language Week in New Zealand, this book introduces beginner level Te Reo Maori. It is a great book for children and adults to learn Maori with the naming of animals. 

I love to include foreign language books in our little library. I don't for one minute kid myself that my little one will become a fluent speaker of another language because of the bilingual books we include in our library. However, I do believe that it is really important to introduce little ones to other languages at a young age so that they can start to think about their own cultural identity and their place within the world. And our indigenous cultures should be a part of this education. 

Originally published in Japanese, this book is also available in English and many other languages. With simple sentences and the focus on finding the odd one out on each page it did not matter that we can't read Maori. The question posed on each page was fairly obvious for the adult reader. However, I did check the english translation of each sentence just to be sure. Thank you google translate! 

This book is fantastic fun for young children but is just as suited to anyone who wants to learn Te Reo Maori. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Hatchette Children's

Please Mr Panda

Words and Illustration by Steve Antony

Published by Hachette Children's Group

If your little one forgets to use please or thank you then this might just be the perfect book for your little library. Simple and amusing, Mr Panda carries a tray of doughnuts and offers them to a number of animals including a penguin, skunk, ostrich and orca. As you would expect, all of the animals say yes but the panda changes his mind and does not give them away. It is not until an upside down ring tailed lemur uses the word 'please' that the panda decides to give them away.

Little readers will be reminded of the importance of manners and they will love it when they realise why Mr Panda is not sharing his doughnuts.  Adults will love the deadpan expression on the panda's face. 

I love the restrained use of colour in this book. All of the animals in this book are monochrome. Generally, the page background is grey and the only vibrant colour on each page is the tray of doughnuts that tempts each animal. The endpapers of this book are filled with hundreds of doughnuts and are delicious! Make sure to look out for the lemur hidden amongst the doughnuts in the front endpaper.

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Bloomsbury Publishing

The Dawn Chorus

Words and Illustration by Suzanne Barton

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

A beautiful story about self discovery and the anguish felt by a little nightingale as he tries to find his place in the world. 

'Peep' wakes to a beautiful song and decides to follow the tune. The story introduces a number of animals including an owl, mouse, frog before he finally finds the Dawn Chorus - a tree full of birds that sing together every morning. 'Peep' is very excited to audition to join the group but is so disappointed to find that he can't stay awake to perform at his early morning audition. Feeling sad and alone, 'Peep' finds another bird who likes singing in the night and discovers that he is a Nightingale and has his own beautiful song to share.  

Using a combination of collage, drawing and painting, Barton has created the sweetest illustrations. Bird wings, feathers, tree leaves, flowers, music notes and the insides of the various animal's ears have been illustrated using collage and an exquisite range of textured and patterned papers. The muted colour palette and vintage charm of the papers used in the collage perfectly complements this gentle story. And the book itself must be mentioned, I loved the textured cover of the book and the metallic copper lettering of the title. 

My little one loves to listen to birdsong in our garden. This book is a great introduction for the many types of birds that we will see and hear together. The story also introduces the concept of nocturnal birds. This gentle tale is a perfect bedtime story for little ones. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

Grandma's House

Words & Illustration by Alice Melvin

I was so excited to buy this book as my little one loves to visit her grandparents and I am a massive fan of the British Illustrator Alice Melvin's work. 

Exquisite. This book is so rich with colour and detail that it is an absolute joy to get lost within its pages. We really enjoyed exploring the various rooms within Grandma's House and I am sure that your little readers will too. The book follows a little girl who often visits her grandmother after school. She moves through the house looking for her grandmother and every spread is a treasure trove of detail and it was hard for me not to feel nostalgic with every page turn. I could relate to so many of the details contained within an old period style home and the collection of objects contained within a home that has so clearly shared so much family history. 

At least one cut out window is included on every spread with a glimpse in to the room where you have come and a peek in to the next room. Children will love to peek through these doorways and guess what room is next. The attic is particularly special with a page unfolding twice to reveal an attic and a gloomy space filled with family heirlooms.

The level of detail captured by Melvin is extreme. It is wonderful to see beautiful stained glass windows, mosaic tiles, lush plants, and patterned rugs illustrated alongside the mundane details such as light switches, power points, rubbish bin and broom, wallpaper patterns, a metronome on top of the piano, downpipes and a garden hose. 

Melvin's illustrations reminded me of the work of my favourite Australian artist Cressida Campbell. Like Campbell's painted woodblock prints, Melvin's illustrations are so detailed that I get the sense that I am privy to the inside of their own homes or their childhood memories. This beautiful book is a special treat. 

Contemporary Books, 3 years +, Thames & Hudson

Stripe Island

Words & Illustration by Tupera Tupera

Published by Thames & Hudson

As the name suggests, everything on Stripe Island is stripy. The book starts with a stripy sun rise and describes a stripetastic day. The story is a detailed description of a day in the life of a striped boy called Stanley and his experience visiting his town's spectacular Festival of Stripes.  While the story itself is fairly unremarkable, the details described are quirky and fun and the colourful illustrations are an absolute treat. 

As you would expect from a local fete or circus, the book details many and varied stripy acts and sideshows. Everything from a striped strongman and a snoozing striped elephant to the teeniest tiniest stripy bug. My favourite being the "stupendously long, spiralling stripy beard" and the stripy children measuring its length with a stripy tape measure. It is all very absurd and quite funny.

I think that kids as young as babies will enjoy the stimulating and chaotic details contained within the pages of this colourful book. It is quite the treasure trove of funny illustrations including singing bears, babies, acrobats, cake and many different animals.  Adults will enjoy the kooky details such as Stanley's father who "adds up stripy sums and solves stripy problems". 

It is a little bit hard to tell exactly what the artist has used to illustrate these colourful pictures (I wish I could read Japanese!) but I think they have used mixed medium with a combination of crayons, pencils and/or pastels? The hand drawn pictures appear like cutouts and are absolutely charming. The bold black and white endpapers are fabulous and beautifully set off the chaos of the detailed coloured illustrations inside the book. 

Tupera Tupera are a husband-and-wife design team based in Japan. They have created many great titles in Japanese but unfortunately only a handful have been published in English. Chronicle Books released an hilarious title called Polar Bear's Underwear earlier this year. Other Tupera Tupera works include a great variety of playful and interactive faces and animated fruit and vegetables. I hope to see more of their colourful books released in English soon!

This is a fun bedtime story - "sweet stripy dreams, everyone!"

Reviewed by Georgia White

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Edizioni Corraini

Winter

Words and Illustration by Aoi Huber-Kono

Published by Edizioni Corraini

'Winter' is simple, gentle and elegant. Gone are any of the harsh, cold and inhospitable elements of winter, and what is left is a simple tribute to the beauty of falling snow, the calm and quiet that snow creates and the fun of leaving footprints in the settled snow.

The illustrations are minimalist in style and Aoi Huber-Kono uses little or no colour throughout the book to capture both the silence of snow falling and the paralysis of life in the cold. The last double spread of the book provides a lovely surprise for the reader as the hidden life within a snowfield is uncovered and the coloured graphics provide a great contrast to the rest of the book. 

I was very happy to find this gem at London's Present&Correct. Inspired by the mundane routine of homework, the post office and school, Present&Correct is a gorgeous store celebrating stationery. Owned by graphic designers, their mission is "to spark a distant memory, make you smile or look at the most mundane in a new, and fonder, light."  Their collection is stunning and has been curated so beautifully. Click here to look at their fantastic collection of vintage and contemporary books.

Reviewed by Georgia White

Albin Michel, 3 years +, Contemporary Books

Saisons (Seasons)

Words & Illustration by Blexbolex

Published by Albin Michel Jeunesse (French edition) & Enchanted Lion Books (English edition)

Saisons (or 'Seasons' in the English publication) is a beautiful book exploring the changing of the seasons. I bought this book on a solo trip to Paris in 2010 before kids were even on the radar. I was enchanted by the stunning illustrations and by what appeared to be the most beautiful French word association book. It is not until reading this book in both English and French that I realised that this was not the case. Do not overlook this book as no more than a simple word association book. 

The book is made up of a vast imagery of each season and the objects, weather, experiences, people, emotions and curious connections particular to each one. Every page or spread has an image with an accompanying word printed above it. 

The illustrations are overlaid blocks of colour and adopt a vintage colour palette reminiscent of 1960s screen printing. Using the same screen printing process, the images are at times extremely minimalist and capture an image with a scant silhouette or record exquitsite detail with layers of colour and texture. Some of the illustrations are fairly abstract or complex in their subject matter and will be difficult for children to truly understand. I do not think that this is a problem as the variety of imagery provides an opportunity for parents and readers to begin a dialogue and discuss the associations with each season. More complex images or themes can be passed over quickly if not suitable for the age of the reader. 

The abstract imagery is also a lovely way to introduce the concept of abstract art to little developing minds. Even if children do not understand all of the concepts, the illustrations are bold, colourful and interesting. The book itself is an exquisite object for the hands with thick matt paper and a high quality binding. The endpapers are stunning! A true pleasure to read.

There are countless books that introduce first words, counting, relate humorous stories of animal friends, discuss themes of kindness, manners etc. These stories are wonderful and serve their place in any little library. What this book offers is a unique reading experience for children and their parents. Which image belongs to which season and why? Thoughtful and at times curious pairings make you wonder why these words go together. A t-shirt and a watermelon (Summer bliss on a hot day); shout and snow (the excitement of seeing the first snowfall); wind and delight (autumn leaves falling and the opposing feels associated with the wind). I think that the placement of the retro illustrations has been a deliberate effort by the French illustrator Blexbolex to trigger associations, encourage reflection on the impermanence of the seasons, highlight the cyclical nature of life and evoke memories. 

A beautiful book. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

3 years +, Big Picture Press, Non-Fiction Books, Contemporary Books

The Odd One Out: A Spotting Book

Words & Illustration by Britta Teckentrup

Published by Big Picture Press

'The Odd One Out' is a stylish, contemporary spotting book. I highly recommend this book for children that enjoy playing 'I Spy' and for parents who grew up as fans of 'Where's Wally'.  

The book spreads are colourful and the repeated collage of each animal creates a complex pattern akin to wallpaper. A short rhyme introduces the animals on the opposite page of the spread. Within each rhyme is a clue for the reader to find a hidden detail within each page. Within the pattered puzzles, the reader needs to locate the hidden detail such as the tired baby rhino, baby penguin hidden by its mother, flamingo standing on one leg and a scared turtle to name but a few. The challenges are fun, and get more and more difficult as you move through the book. I was very surprised by just how difficult it was to find the odd one out in the spreads towards the end of the book. I know this book was designed for young readers but it took me a really long time to find the cross-eyed lemur!

While reading the book, I was reminded of Taro Gomi's book 'Hide & Seek'. 'The Odd One Out' is more complex than Taro Gomi's board book and this increased complexity makes it more appealing to a larger age range (2-6 years). 

This is a book to be pored over. The hardcover is clothbound with a debossed title panel. The book feels like special object and the matte pages are thick and dense with colour and interest. Kids will enjoy completing the challenges within the book by themselves, with their siblings, parents and friends. It is really good fun. 

Big Picture Press have published a fantastic collection of highly illustrated books since they launched in 2013. Click here to see their full list of titles. Britta Teckentrup's follow-up book 'Where's the Pair?' has just been released. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

Non-Fiction Books, Contemporary Books, 6 years +, Wide Eyed Editions

Nature's Day

Words by Kay Maguire

Illustration by Danielle Kroll

Published by Wide Eyed Editions

'Discover the world of wonder on your own doorstep' is a fantastic tagline for this book. The book starts in Spring and investigates the distinct features of each new season by revisiting 8 locations - the garden, the veggie patch, the woods, the farm, the fields, the pond, the orchard and the street. 

Author and gardener Kay Maguire, who trained at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has shared her vast knowledge of gardens and wildlife. Maguire has filled this book with so much detail and information that families could read one page or the whole book depending on the time you have available or the attention span of your little ones. Interesting and fun information is shared within this book by way of short, detailed and factual comments. It would be great to pull out this book at the start of each new season to be reminded of the amazing changes occurring on your own doorstep. The contents page at the beginning of the book can be used by families at the start of each new season to read the pages that are relevant at that particular time of the year. 

Danielle Kroll's illustrations are simple and have been executed with a very confident hand stroke (albeit a digital one in this instance). Only a handful of colours have been used to represent each item and it is very clever that she has been able to simplify animals, plants and the landscape down to a just a few strokes. It is beautiful how Kroll's colour palette changes subtly throughout the book to represent the change of the season. The illustrations have been created digitally and have been positioned en masse to create extremely colourful and detailed page spreads. Each page is a feast for the eyes!  

Another Wide Eyed Editions publication. I should get shares in their company! I love their work and the curiosity in our world that they inspire. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

Contemporary Books, 3 years +, Puffin Books

Follow the Line through the house

Words & Illustration by Laura Ljungkvist

Published by Puffin Books

I first came across this book when I discovered the instagram account of Laura Ljungkvist. I was immediately drawn to her collage style of illustration and use of bold lines. The refrigerator spread is just fabulous. A treasure trove of detail with so many different items to locate and identify.

This book reminded me of William Wondriska's book "A Long Piece of String", originally published in 1963. Click here to see the earlier review. 

I was very disappointed when Ljungqvist told me that this book was currently out of print (unless you want the Japanese version). Lucky for me, my local library has a fabulous selection of children's books and a great selection of Ljungkvist's books.  

As the title of the book suggests, the reader is encouraged to follow the line through the house. The bold black line takes the reader through the many rooms of the house including the kitchen, basement, bedroom, closet, bathroom cabinet and toy box to name but a few. Some of the pages include questions or challenges for the reader to locate missing items or count objects. One such example is "Can you find the ring that fell out of the jewellery box?"

Keep an eye out for Ljungqvist's daughter's artwork pinned to the wall of the playroom. This is such a sweet detail and made me re-read the book to see what other hidden gems (some literally) I had overlooked. It is likely that the objects contained within the treasure chest page belong to her family too - including the handwritten postcard and old family photos. These charming details are wonderful.  

Ljungqvist's latest book "A Line Can Be" was released 2 weeks ago by pow! The playful board book is aimed at younger readers from 2 years of age and explores the concept of opposites. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy for my little one. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

Contemporary Books, 3 years +, Candlewick Press

Home.

Words and Illustration by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

An instant classic. This book explores the diversity of houses and the people that call them home. Illustrated with a gentle humour, the homes depicted span the globe as well as the make-believe. 

Home might be a house in the country, a flat in the city, or even a shoe. It is this exploration of the variety of homes that starts a natural dialogue within the reader to assess their own home and what home means. 

The illustrations are gentle, whimsical and detailed. There is minimal text and it has all been hand lettered. All artwork is gouache and ink on watercolour paper. Carson Ellis is an amazing talent. 

The illustrator herself even makes an appearance in the book and is depicted illustrating this book in her personal studio. A mourning dove has been drawn on to every spread of the book. A little hidden gem for kids and adults to find. Many other details can be found repeated in the homes of many different people - chimney smoke, pot plants, japanese fan fabric, weather vane, artwork, washing on the line, flag and teacup. A lovely reminder that we all cherish this notion of home and belonging. The reader will get lost in the detail and be able to revisit the pages time and again. 

In researching for this blog post, I came across The Picturebook Makers blog. Wow! What a great discovery. It is my new favourite website. They describe their blog as a place where some of the world’s finest picturebook authors and illustrators take you behind the scenes. Their goal is to provide an interesting and inspiring resource for children’s publishing professionals, illustration students and graduates, and anyone else with a passion for picturebooks and a curiosity about the different approaches taken to make them.

Click here to read Carson Ellis talking about the making of this book. The early sketches and private photographs shared by Ellis are particularly great. My favourite image is the series of thumbnail sketches that Ellis created before she began illustrating the book. What a lovely insight in to her design process! 

Reviewed by Georgia White

Board Books, Contemporary Books, 0 - 2 years, Chronicle Books

Peekaboo!

Words & Illustration by Taro Gomi

Published by Chronicle Books

My little one loves to play peekaboo and this beautifully illustrated board book by the Japanese author & illustrator has become a new favourite in our home. With minimal text, each page is a different peekaboo mask with fun characters including a robot, cat, bear and frog. This book is really good fun!

Reviewed by Georgia White