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World Kid Lit Book Review: In the forest

In The Forest is by Anouk Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud. Story by Sophie Strady (Tate Publishing). Originally published in French.

I recently saw this book displayed on the shelves of the travelling children’s bookshop How Brave is the Wren which was set up in the mud of this year’s Just So Festival. Opening the pages, the intricate pop-up forest jumps out at the reader. Without even starting on the words, I knew I needed to buy this book.

The first page of the book displays the peaceful forest, teeming with life, with a sloth hiding in a tree, gently swaying in the leaves. The reader is encouraged to hunt for the sloth among the trees.

On the next page, “a metallic noise echoes through the forest” and a logging truck with a circular saw is spotted in the trees. But the sloth, “can you see it?”, sleeps through the whole thing.

Page after page, more and more of the pop-up forest cleverly disappears from the pages, destroyed by deforestation while the sloth in the middle of the forest continues to sleep. Eventually all the trees are gone, including the sloth.

But one day, a man comes and replants the forest. The mechanics of the pop up here are really clever with the reader pulling a handle and the sapling trees appearing to grow out of the page. By the last page, the forest has grown back again and the sloth, “can you see it?” is back in its tree.

My 5-year-old daughter absolutely loved this. She was so intrigued by the pop-ups, kept hunting for the little tiny sloth and walked around hugging the book to her chest. And of course, it isn’t just a wonderful story, it also highlights concerns about deforestation and opens discussions about looking after the environment.

This post also appears on the World Kid Lit Blog. Join us there for more reviews, interviews and interesting articles.

‘Today you can’t play’ by Pilar Serrano and Canizales

I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of “Today you can’t play” by Pilar Serrano and Canizales, translated from the Spanish by Ben Dawlatly and me! Very excited to see this in print!

The story tells of Emma, the new girl in the class who starts bullying the other children, including Ana. Emma starts dictating who can play when. She demands the other children give her food from their packed lunches, threatening to leave them out if they don’t. Ana understandably doesn’t want to go to school anymore. It’s just not fun anymore.

But one day, Zoe sticks up for Ana, first by telling Emma to leave Ana alone, then ripping up a note about Ana that was going around the class. In response, Zoe isn’t allowed to play either. But Zoe’s decided she doesn’t care anymore and when Emma demands some of Zoe’s lunch, Zoe doesn’t give in. The other children are impressed with Zoe’s response and little by little, the tide starts to turn against Emma.

As we talk about diversity and cultural representation in books, I love Canizales illustrations. They depict a real ethnic mix on the playground and our heroine Zoe is black.

It’s a great book to show kids what bullying looks like and to demonstrate that they can stand up to bullies and turn things around.

For more reviews, interviews and articles throughout September, take a look at the World Kid Lit Blog.

World Kid Lit Book Review: The Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, translated from German by J. Alison James (North-South Books).

My daughter found this book in our local library and pulled it off the shelf shouting, “we have this as school!” She absolutely loves it and when it was time to take it back, we had to renew it rather than return it.

It’s the story of Rainbow Fish, the most beautiful shimmering fish in the ocean… and doesn’t he know it?! He won’t share even a single sparkly scale with the other fish. But while he may be beautiful, he starts to feel lonely and doesn’t understand why the other fish don’t like him, especially when he’s just so beautiful.

A chat with the wise octopus leads Rainbow Fish to start sharing his shimmering scales with the other fish. He may no longer be the most beautiful, but his changed attitude towards the other fish mean they now want to be his friend and he is finally happy.

A lovely little story to teach about selfishness, sharing and how sometimes we have to change our own behaviour to bring us happiness. Beautiful illustrations and lots of sparkling silver keep little ones entertained.

For more reviews, interviews and articles, join us over on the World Kid Lit Blog.

Women in Translation warming up for World Kid Lit Month

As we’re coming to the end of August’s celebration of Women in Translation, my thoughts start to turn to World Kid Lit Month starting in a few short days. Thinking back to last year’s 30 books in 30 days challenge, I want to highlight a few of the children’s books in translation written by women that are still firm favourites in our house one year on from the challenge.

Valdemar’s Peas by Maria Jönsson, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall (Gecko Press). A charming picture book about Valdemar’s plan to get ice cream without having to eat his peas.

Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan, translated from Arabic by the author (Lantana Publishing). The story of Yazan who lives in Syria and can no longer go to the park because it’s too dangerous. A great one to introduce the plight of other people to younger children.

Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano (Gecko Press). It’s the illustration in this book that make this so special. It tells of a little girl, Hannah, who wakes in the night to find everyone in her family asleep. She decides to go for a wander around the house accompanied by the family cat, Shiro. It is simply delightful.

Banana Skin Chaos by Lilli l’Arronge, translated from German by Daniela Bernardelle (Bloomsbury). This book takes the notion of a boy dropping a banana skin on the floor and the possible (hilarious)implications this could have. This still makes my daughter giggle her socks off.

Inside the Villains by Clothilde Perrin, translated from French by Daniel Hahn (Gecko Press). A sophisticated picture book presenting three infamous characters from the world of the fairy tale: the Giant, the Witch and the Wolf. The unique design has flaps to look under and strings to pull, revealing intricate details. Fold out the left-hand page to reveal a section entitled “More about me” and a story, displayed as if in  a newspaper. This is one I take with me when I want to show people examples of translated children’s books and it hits the mark every time.

The treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Campos, translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. A side-splitting pirate adventure that elicited belly laughs from my 8-year-old son. Plenty of silliness and adventure as the gang of pirates realise the importance of learning to read.

With World Kid Lit Month nearly upon us, follow me on Twitter and sign up to the World Kid Lit Blog for more reviews, interviews and interesting articles throughout September.

Guest Blogger for Lantana Publishing

I’m feeling very privileged to have been asked to contribute to the Lantana Publishing Blog, newly relaunched to celebrate their fifth birthday. You can read my thoughts on why translated and world books are so important for our children.

You can also find out more about their fantastic initiative A BOOK FOR A BOOK in collaboration with ReadforGoodUK !

Just So Festival Highlights

Thingumabob & The Thingumajigs waking up the Just So Festival

This weekend we went to the Just So Festival at Rode Hall in Cheshire. This festival has become something of a regular in our family diary and we’ve been looking forward to it for ages. This year was set to be something special with the festival celebrating its 10th Anniversary.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Just So Festival, it is a celebration of the arts, creativity and imagination, mixing outdoor theatre, music workshops and performances with clay modelling, campfire songs and dressing up. Where else do you see whole families in sparkly sequin fish costumes or dressed as a pride of lions, trying to win golden pebbles for their tribe? This year, we chose to be bees with our tribe coming a respectable 4th place in the Tribal Tournament.

An absolute highlight of the weekend was seeing Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. If you haven’t come across their music and you have young children, you really should. They have some ridiculously funny songs including David Attenborough, the Skeleton’s Foxtrot and the kids are still running around this morning singing their favourite: I’ve got my finger up my nose!

Clearly the weather decided this year needed to memorable too and checking the forecast on the run up to the festival, it soon dawned that this year was going to be soggy, soggy, soggy and muddy, muddy, muddy! So muddy in fact, we had to be towed off the car park by a tractor at the end – what could be more fun when you’re 8!

Here’s a selection of our some of our highlights.