Bookshelf Picture Books

The Only Way is Badger

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Badger is determined to have everything his own way- after all, badgers are best. Or this is what the poster that are appearing all over the forest say. Gradually, Badger banishes all the creatures who don’t conform to his badgery standards, sending them over the wall. However, when he is left all alone, in a world he has painted black and white, it is time to think again. Perhaps the only way isn’t badger after all?

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I’m not a very political being, but there are some people I would love to send a copy of this book to! ‘The Only Way is Badger’ is a wonderful book for opening discussions about diversity, being an individual, dictatorships, the dangers of persuasive orators, building walls… aaaaargh! Fortunately, the other animals do not back Badger’s dictatorial regime, but imagine what might have happened if they did…

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The book is perfect for discussions about acceptance, diversity - and learning to say sorry and admit that you were wrong. Badger’s story could also be used to explore playground conflicts where someone might want everything their own way. It shows the power of friendship and how that is more important than always being right. It lends itself beautifully to role play or puppet work and offers many writing opportunities. What qualities do others have which you admire? How might you ‘be more bear’ for example?

The illustrations are fabulous, full of little details and lots of wonderful expressions. The colourful spreads contrast sharply with Badger’s solitary black and white world.

With lots to discuss, ‘The Only Way is Badger’ is a very satisfying story.

The Only Way is Badger Stella J Jones, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Little Tiger ISBN: 978-1848699403

Mum's Jumper

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A little girl struggles to understand how life can carry on after the death of her mother. She and her father find mum’ s jumper as they come to sort through her things. It smells of mum and offers comfort. As time passes, its smell changes and it is washed. But it’s still there- just as mum is everywhere.

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This is such a beautiful, powerful book. It tackles the painful subjects of loss and grief with great skill and compassion, offering comfort. The little girl’s voice is full of her raw emotion and takes the reader with her from visiting her mother in hospital, to learning of her death and through her grieving process.

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Seeing and hearing the little girl’s reactions to this devastating event really helps encapsulate the confusion and range of emotions that engulf you when you have lost someone. Dad is constantly supportive, but his grief is evident as well. His words are so powerful and honest as he uses the jumper as a metaphor for grief- it will stay the same size, but eventually the child will grow into it. The pain of losing someone doesn’t diminish over time, but it becomes bearable.

The illustrations fit the text perfectly and add much to the narrative. Sharp eyes will note that although the little girl leaves hospital smiling, her father appears weighed down, not noticing mum’s favourite flowers - bright yellow daffodils- which line the streets. These are the same flowers which appear to be overwhelming the little girl as well wishers send condolences that she neither wants nor understands. She clutches a small bunch- the only splash of colour- as the adults console each other at the funeral. As she wears the jumper, she draws, paints and carries daffodils with her, but at the end of the book, it is sunflowers she and dad have grown- tall and strong and beautiful.

‘Mum’s Jumper’ is quite simply a wonderful story.

Mum’s Jumper Jayde Perkin

Book Island ISBN: 978-1911496137

You're Strong With Me

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A baby giraffe explores her grassland home with her mother. At each new experience, the mother is there to gently reassure and guide her little one. Whilst offering protection, the mother explains about fire- its dangers and how it helps- and teaches about the other animals and birds whilst soothing and and comforting with the words, ‘You’re strong with me.’

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A follow-up to ‘You’re Safe With Me’ and ‘You’re Snug With Me’, ‘You’re Strong With Me’ is my favourite of the three. As the little giraffe learns about its environment so too does the reader.Although the oxpecker hurts when it pecks at the baby’s skin, the mother explains how it helps giraffes by eating insects and that as it gets older, its skin will become tougher, meaning the pecking will become just a tickle. The fire- dangerous as it is- is removing the dry grass, ready for the new to grow. Mama giraffe teaches her little one how to drink whilst she keeps watch for the possible dangers surrounding them. It is a beautiful, reassuring tale.

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The text is lyrical and full of details and vocabulary relevant to the setting and the rich golds and browns which dominate most spreads are evocative of the African plains. The book is visually stunning, like its predecessors, making it a joy to turn each page.

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Full of stunning illustrations, ‘You’re Strong With Me’ is a wonderfully reassuring story, perfect for sharing.

You’re Strong With Me Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry

Lantana ISBN: 978-1911373759

Published September 2019

You can read our review of ‘You’re Snug With Me’ here.