Picture books for children – reviews | Picture books

Spring is here, a fresh coat of paint splashed over the world, the sight of unfurling leaves and bright flowers giving many people an extra bounce in their step. Those longer days can bring a new challenge for anyone with little children, though: how to get them to sleep when the pesky sun is still beaming through the windows?

Just in time come two new picture books exploring bedtime. First up, Clare Helen Walsh’s mini science lesson wrapped up in a beautifully cosy tale which finds Miki and her mother flying off into space to find out why it’s still light, even though Miki has brushed her teeth and put on her PJs. While they zip past stars and planets, Sunshine at Bedtime (Storyhouse) scoots through the basics of how the Earth orbits the sun and how that causes seasons. Illustrator Sally Soweol Han characterises the sun with fluttery eyelashes and a huge smile, blushing each page with a soft glow.

Monkey Bedtime
‘The wildness that overcomes children at the end of the day’: Monkey Bedtime by Alex English, illustrated by Pauline Gregory.

It’s not light skies keeping the boy awake in Alex English’s Monkey Bedtime (Faber, 5 May), but a host of hairy primates who have escaped from the zoo. At first it’s just one pygmy marmoset tapping at the window, but before long the tiny chap has let in dozens of his pals and chaos erupts in the bathroom: “The tamarin burped out his name in bubbles in the air. The marmoset jumped in the sink, squeezed toothpaste in his hair.”

With mum off dealing with the baby (while occasionally shouting to her son to get undressed, wash his face, GET READY!), the situation spirals out of control, depicted by Pauline Gregory’s lively drawings of monkeys wrecking the house (the shocked pet dog watching on is a nice touch). Soon the boy finds himself in tears which, fortunately, sparks a mass tidy-up by the guests who realise they’ve gone too far. An amusingly literal portrayal of the wildness that so often overcomes children at the end of the day, Monkey Bedtime demands to be read aloud.

One Tiny Dot
‘Rolls along with energy and warmth’: One Tiny Dot by Lucy Rowland, illustrated by Gwen Millward.

One Tiny Dot (Templar) by Lucy Rowland features a blue ball representing kindness in a story which rolls along with great energy and warmth, the ball growing as it witnesses thoughtfulness. Bursting with people, flowers and a predominantly pink, orange and yellow colour scheme, Gwen Millward’s vibrant illustrations have a slight 70s feel, and her blue dot recalls a famous child of that era, Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Happy (1971). But this is very much a book for our times in both style and message: when the blue dot is stopped in its tracks by a furious girl who is feeling left out, Anger and Kindness respond by hugging it out. “Well… the thing is with Anger (as Kindness well knew), if you look really hard, you’ll see Sadness there too.” One Tiny Dot invites little readers to think deeply about their emotions as a way to better understand themselves and others.

Flooded
‘A timely read’: Flooded by author-illustrator Mariajo Ilustrajo.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising in Flooded (Quarto, 3 May). When their city starts to fill up with water, the animals initially try to get on with their lives – commuting to work, going for dinner – they just slip on their wellies, or the smaller animals pull out surfboards and canoes. But as the situation worsens, opinions start to diverge, until eventually the animals agree they must come together to solve the city’s problem. This impressive debut from new author-illustrator Mariajo Ilustrajo uses a minimal palette of smokey greys and inky blacks, the detailed drawings steadily becoming saturated in aquamarine as the flood waters grow. It’s a timely read and a brilliant reminder that although children’s books – and lives – are enriched by colour, sometimes less can be more.

To order any of these books for a special price click on the titles or go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Leave a Comment