When Yayoi Kusama was a young girl, she had a close encounter with a pumpkin. In later years, she would describe how it (literally) spoke to her in an animated manner, its radiant energy filling her with love. If you think that’s startling, just wait until you hear how she feels about polka dots! This unusually sensitive girl would grow up to be one of the most famous artists in the world, and in Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry by Fausto Gilberti, we learn about her amazing life.
The lives of millions of children have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus which has left many parents wondering what is the best way to explain it all. To help, children’s publisher Nosy Crow has just published online and free of charge, Coronavirus – A book for children. The book was written by staff at the publisher with advice from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, two head teachers and a child psychologist and is illustrated by the Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Please spread the word about this brilliant idea.
Uncle Andy’s by James Warhola is just the kind of quirky gem we delight in unearthing. It’s written and illustrated by Andy Warhol’s nephew James, who recounts a family pilgrimage to New York City to visit his eccentric relative. The year was 1962, Warhol’s Soup Can paintings were causing a commotion and he was well on the way to becoming one of the most controversial artists of all time. In this warm, anecdotal recollection, Warhol’s home is just as ‘faabbbulous’ as he is. Come inside and meet his 25 cats (yes really).
I Go Quiet by David Ouimet succeeds at that most difficult of literary tasks, how to employ very few words and yet convey issues of great complexity. In this arresting new picture book he tells the story of an unnamed girl and her lonely life as a quiet person in a cacophonous world. Set in an oppressive dystopian cityscape, we join her on her journey to enlightenment. With plaudits from the likes of Philip Pullman and Dave Eggers, this unusual book will linger in your thoughts long after you put it down.
We’re big fans of the fabulous Little People, Big Dreams series. Created to showcase inspirational females of the world, it’s heartening to find history lessons no longer fixated on dead white men. Here, at number 29 in this delightfully burgeoning collection, is Vivienne Westwood by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, a chance to learn about the life and cultural impact of the legendary left field designer, and how she went from suburban teacher to the ‘…most unique and outspoken fashion designer ever.’
Christmas is cancelled at Griselda Bone’s orphanage. No tinsel, no mince pies, and certainly no presents. Instead, algebra is the order of the day, plus extra fractions and a spelling test. This bleak scenario is 7-year-old Phoebe’s reality in The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone & Fiona Woodcock. Seasoned readers of traditional Christmas tales will want to reassure Phoebe that there’s just bound to be a liberal sprinkling of festive magic on the way.
‘He whose face gives no light,
Shall never become a star.’
This lovely quote from William Blake adorns the final page of A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard. Imagine if you will, an 18th century London inn, whose proprietor is none other than the great man himself. Overnight guests are in for an unconventional stay, in this B&B where dragons bake the daily bread and celestial angels plump the pillows. And all in Blake-inspired verse. Intrigued? Come on in.
September ushers the kids back to school, or for some of our littlest ones, signals the very beginning of their school careers. Here then is the timely tale of newcomer, Aada, and The Truth Pixie, her best friend and personal navigator through the bewildering complexities of school life. The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig is a story in rhyme, aimed at soothing school nerves and instilling confidence at an often anxious time. Energetically illustrated by the always-excellent Chris Mould, we join Aada as she anticipates starting a brand new school. A daunting prospect but thankfully the Truth Pixie is right by her side, effervescent, forthright, and most importantly, a wonderful listener.
Now here’s a wondrous book to behold. A combination of philosophical conundrums and thoughtful artwork, My Little Book of Big Questions by Britta Teckentrup is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s aimed at wide-eyed and curious little readers, those fizzing with wonder at life and the universe. ‘Why can’t I fly?,’ ‘Do twins want to stay together forever?’, a plethora of thorny questions designed to prompt contemplation, debate, and engrossing parent-child reading time.
As discerning readers and bookshop browsers, no doubt you’re familiar with all the great book emporiums within a 50-mile radius of your home. I am, however, willing to bet that you’ve never once visited a meta bookstore. So, with much fanfare, I’d like to introduce you to one, as presented to us in The I Wonder Bookstore by Shinsuke Yoshitake. This quirky Japanese bestseller reveals a typical day in the life of a bookstore that only sells books about books. Prepare to be charmed.