Paper World: Planet Earth

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Today is the publication day of Paper World: Planet Earth. This is a beautifully presented book, full of information about our fabulous planet.

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Each spread investigates a geological feature from the layers of the planet to why a volcano erupts to the features of deserts. Clever use of paper cutting allows links between subjects to be made from page to page and lift-the-flaps reveal additional information and details.

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For example, on the ‘Volcanoes’ pages, a cross section of a volcano is revealed, clearly labelling the different parts. Another flap conceals a submarine volcano and explains what ‘pillow lava’ is. Correct geographical terms are used throughout the book, with many explained as they are used and an additional glossary at the end.

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Each section starts with a succinct explanation of the feature and lots of additional facts, making it more than a novelty book. Areas of study from the KS2 Geography National Curriculum are beautifully introduced here in a way that informs as well as capturing interest. The use of die-cuts and flaps might be a way of inspiring children to adopt a similar approach to presenting their own research, explaining how things happen in a very visual manner.

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A delightful book, full of facts and ingenious use of illustration, ‘Paper World: Planet Earth’ is a wonderful way to explore our incredible planet.

Paper World: Planet Earth

BOMBOLAND

Templar ISBN: 978-1787410411

The Bluest of Blues

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I found this beautiful book whilst on stage one of my Half Term Book Crawl at Foyles on the Southbank. To my shame, it is about another pioneering woman I had not previously heard of- Anna Atkins, often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images and claimed by some to be the first woman to create a photograph.

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Focusing on the close relationship she had with her father after the death of her mother, the book tells of how he greatly encouraged Anna’s education, particularly in the sciences, which was most unusual for women at that time.

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Anna became a skilled botanist, collecting and cataloguing British specimens and eventually creating highly detailed drawings which were turned into engravings for her father’s book about shells. After her marriage, she created an herbarium, preparing, mounting and storing hundreds of specimens.

In 1841, her father gave her a camera , but it was her introduction to Herschel’s discovery of the cyanotype print which allowed her to create the pictures for a book of her specimens.

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An author’s note at the end explains more about Anna and how her story has been told in this book. Information on how to make a cyanotype- a sun print- and additional information explaining how the author created some of the illustrations are fascinating. Some of the illustrations are examples of Anna’s own work, each credited. The amount of research and attention to detail offered by Fiona Robinson in this work is echoed by her using the same dedication for this book that Anna Atkins used for hers:

To my dearest Father this attempt is affectionately inscribed

This wonderful book has sent my teacher gene into overdrive as I can see it forming a key part of science work on the Y6 ‘Living Things and their Habitats’ Science unit. In this it says, pupils should be taught to:

  • describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants and animals

  • give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics

Anna’s dedication to her subject is a great example of working scientifically in action and the use of sun prints to record collections, creating class herbariums might inspire children’s creativity and enjoyment of this area. Unlike Anna, whether a girl or a boy, they will be able to present their findings to audiences, taking pride in sharing their knowledge.

Inspiring and beautiful, ‘The Bluest of Blues’ shows the role women played in the development of science and art, encouraging everyone who reads it to discover and explore .

The Bluest of Blues Fiona Robinson

Abrams ISBN: 978-1419725517

Doing the Disco Flamingo with Alex Milway!

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Dancing flamingos and singing cockroaches might not be the first things to spring to mind when attending an author event, but from the moment Alex Milway appeared at Imagine on Sunday, it was obvious that the audience was in for a treat! It was a sell out event- I got the last ticket!

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Much loved by children at school for his ‘Pigsiticks and Harold’ adventures, Alex’s new book, ‘Hotel Flamingo’ is a complete joy! Full of endearing characters, it offers the perfect mix of illustration, humour and a good story. So, I was delighted to find that Alex was appearing at the Imagine Festival- and even more delighted when he agreed to have a chat after his event!

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Alex introduced characters from the story by reading sections of the book (he does excellent voices!) and teaching us how to draw them. Breaking each character down into easy steps meant the children (and adults!) in the audience were really proud of their pictures. But drawing wasn’t enough! Alex sang a song about the hotel and everyone enthusiastically responded with animal noises in almost all the right places!

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Alex showed us pictures of the models he had made to help him develop the story, including Mr Roachford, one of cockroach guests welcome at the hotel- and star of his own video on YouTube!

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Named after flamingos, Anna, the new owner, employs a troupe of dancing flamingos to advertise her establishment. This led to a Flamingo Disco with children dressed in pink wings doing ‘the flamingo’ dance whilst everyone clapped along and sang!

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After all this excitement, I expected Alex to be exhausted, but after signing many books, he joined me for a cuppa and a chat! We started with the wonderful map at the front of his book. Full of detail, it really gives a context to the hotel and the town it’s set in. Would some of these places be used in future books?

The map a way of showing the world around the hotel - of building the world. I work out the layout and it makes it feel like a real location, The animals can visit places shown on the map. Book two starts here (pointing) and book three includes a carnival so it helps to know where that will go.

So why flamingos?

It was quite a dark time personally when I was writing it so I wanted the place to be bright and happy- and what’s brighter than a flamingo?! Loving the Art Deco style, I added lots of design details from that period. Feathers fitted well into this and flamingos are so bright- perfect!

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Did the illustrations come first or the idea for the story?

The idea came from one of my daughters playing with her toys. The story came as a mixture of words and pictures. The artwork informs the writing. Making a model of the hotel really helped me work things out- it took months of doing bits in the evenings, but I’m good at having patience for this kind of project.

New characters come very much as pictures first. It gives you so many ideas about what they are like and helps develop their personality. If you draw places, you are able to describe them so much better as well.

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Is Hilary (the cleaning hippo) based on someone you know?!

She’s not just a cleaner- she’s had other careers too! She is an extreme version of our cleaner who we couldn’t do without! Very loosely based on her!

Music was central to your session. Do you have a musical background?

Yes. I play cello as well as guitar and other stringed instruments. It’s very important to me. When I started writing, I had no idea I would have to do events like this. Now you have to offer something different. Writing songs, making costumes, drawing- it all makes the sessions fun and that’s so important!

What do you think of the lack of publicity given to the winners of the LOLLIEs and to funny books in general?

It’s an issue. Books should be funny- we have stickers which some bookshops have agreed to put on books saying that they are just that. I’m involved in working with others on this at the moment. Watch this space…

At this point, I was very aware that Alex’s family were waiting for him so said goodbye! Many thanks to Alex (and his family for waiting so patiently!) and to Tina for arranging the meeting. I’m looking forward to visiting Hotel Flamingo again soon!

You can read our review of Hotel Flamingo here.