Book review: A picture perfect summer with Walker Books

An eye-opening tale of life in wartime Britain leads the charge as Walker Books unveil a summer of sunshine reading.

By Pam Norfolk
Monday, 20th July 2015, 10:00 am
A picture perfect summer with Walker Books
A picture perfect summer with Walker Books

Walker is the world’s leading, employee-owned independent publisher of children’s books and its latest colourful selection includes an exciting adventure set during the Liverpool Blitz from much-loved author Shirley Hughes, and a rainbow array of beautiful picture books.

Age 10 plus:

Whistling in the Dark by Shirley Hughes

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Award-winning author and illustrator Shirley Hughes draws on her own experiences of growing up in Liverpool during the Second World War in a beautifully observed tale of friendship under fire.

Whistling in the Dark is a revealing account of the hardships of wartime for a new generation increasingly removed from the harsh realities of life – and death – for children as well as adults during six years of hostilities.

In Liverpool in 1940, 13-year-old Joan Armitage’s suburban home is under threat from the Nazis’ terrifying nightly Luftwaffe air-raids. Joan’s father, a Merchant Navy sailor, has been killed at sea, and along with her mother, two sisters and a brother, the family is trying to continue as normal. But it is not an easy time to be a teenager, especially with sweet rationing, strict curfews and blackouts.

Joan and best friend Doreen love going to the cinema but when the bombings intensify even that becomes too dangerous, especially when an Army deserter is found lurking near their homes. Who is he and why does he think Joan can help him? As the Blitz worsens, Joan and her friends uncover a black market scandal that threatens to tear the whole community apart…

In a story packed with mystery, danger, family and friendship, Hughes also pays tribute to the resilience of those left to keep Britain afloat on the home front and the men of the Merchant Navy who risked their lives to bring food and vital supplies across the icy U-boat infested Atlantic and saved the nation from starvation and defeat.

(Walker, hardback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Mousehole Cat Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley

Twenty-five years ago Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley stole the heart of a nation with a beautiful picture book about a Cornish fisherman and his cat.

And to celebrate the anniversary of award-winning The Mousehole Cat, a dramatic and moving story of bravery set amidst stormy seas and adapted into both a puppet show and an animated film, Walker has produced this beautiful celebratory edition.

Star of this award-winning modern classic is the seaside village of Mousehole in Cornwall where Mowzer the cat lives happily with old fisherman Tom, the man who rocks the rocking chair just right and catches fresh fish for dinner every night. Their life is a happy one until one terrible winter, the Great Storm-Cat comes clawing and snarling and leaping at the harbour walls so that no boat can go out to sea to fish.

Soon, with Christmas coming, there is no food left in Mousehole. It is then that Mowzer and Tom set out to brave the fury of the waves together, and discover that it might just need a cat’s perspective to understand – and tame – the ferocious ways of the Great Storm-Cat sea...

Gently yet powerfully told, this lyrical, incredibly moving story of bravery, sacrifice and companionship, brought life by beautiful, dream-like illustrations and inspired by Cornish legend, has a magical quality that age cannot wither.

(Walker, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Bogtrotter Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Judith Rossell

Changes can arrive in the most unexpected ways… and Bogtrotter, the monster with a one-track mind, is in for a big surprise!

A simple flower, and a forward-thinking frog, will help his limited life blossom into a brave new world.

With her trademark subtlety and elegance, and some gorgeous eye-catching pictures from acclaimed illustrator Judith Rossell, Margaret Wild’s picture book hero Bogtrotter explores what happens when we challenge ourselves, try new things and look beyond our own little territory.

Every morning Bogtrotter runs across the bog, up the bog, down the bog and around the bog until it’s time to go home. Sometimes he wishes things would change, but he doesn’t know how or what or why. Until one afternoon, he picks a flower for the first time in his life...

This is a brilliant story about the things that can happen when we try new things and challenge ourselves, and Bogtrotter is a real picture book star, a joyously exuberant character who reminds us all that life is full of adventure, discovery… and boundless possibilities.

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

I (Don’t) Like Snakes Written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Maybe it’s the way they slither, or perhaps it’s their slimy, scaly skin... whatever the reason, many of us shiver at the thought of a snake.

But snakes don’t have to be scary! Award-winning writer and zoologist Nicola Davies turns the age-old fear of snakes on its head in a bold, bright and fascinating nature storybook.

The little girl in this amazing, fact-filled book hates snakes but the rest of her family loves them and as they tell her more about snakes (did you know they have no eyelids, smell with their tongues and can swim?) she has a change of heart, and by the end of the book she loves them too.

Packed with fascinating facts about snakes, a witty story and Luciano Lozano’s stylish, colourful illustrations, this brilliant book might just convince your little ones that these scaly, slithery creatures are actually the natural world’s shiniest, most shimmering stars!

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)

Age 4 plus:

Where the Bugaboo Lives Written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Neal Layton

There are creepy creatures and terrifying monsters at every turn in this exciting interactive, which-way book for adventurous youngsters.

Follow Floyd and his sister into the dark, shadowy valley behind their house, a valley full of all kinds of creepy, freaky, weasel-like creatures and the scariest of them all… the Bugaboo! But the best part of this hilarious, ghoulish story is that children get to choose Floyd and Ruby’s path (and which monster they meet next!) at the end of each page.

Ingeniously interactive and perfect for reading over and over again, children will love being in control of how the plot unfolds and discovering new settings and characters every time they open the book.

Uphill, downhill, the spring path or the autumn path, follow the smell of honey or the smell of dustbins, children must choose which way the intrepid siblings go. With a different adventure on every page, this is the fun way to learn to make decisions and create your own adventures. And when you reach the last page, you can turn back to the beginning and start all over again!

An inventive and imaginative book packed with surprises…

(Walker, hardback, £12.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World Written by Vivian French and illustrated by Angela Barrett

Professional story-teller Vivian French works her magic on a forgotten fairy tale about the value of true love and devotion.

Exquisitely illustrated by Angela Barrett, The Most Wonderful Thing in the World is an illustrated classic, a gently satirical and heart-warming tale for our times which will delight both children and adults.

When a king and a queen promise to marry their daughter Lucia to the man who can show them the most wonderful thing in the world, suitors descend on the palace bearing gifts. There are roses, jewels and exotic birds, dancing girls, wind machines and mythical beasts… but nothing feels quite right. As the last suitor leaves, his weapons of mass destruction rejected, the king and queen are exhausted. But when a shy, young man, who isn’t a suitor at all, steps forward, they finally understand what the most wonderful thing in the world really is.

Angela Barrett’s breathtaking and nostalgic illustrations give life to an enchanting fairytale city full of subtle surprises while French’s masterful retelling of the magical story makes this a perfect wedding gift for true romantics.

(Walker, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Soon Written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Patrick Benson

Take an unforgettable journey into the unknown with baby elephant Raju and his mother in a powerful new picture book from talented author, lyricist and playwright Timothy Knapman.

With the help of Patrick Benson’s stunning artwork, Knapman delivers a captivating read-aloud book that captures the combination of fear and excitement which comes with any new experience.

Raju the baby elephant and his mother are setting out on a great jungle adventure. Raju holds on tightly to her tail as they bravely journey across a wide river, battle the tall grass and delve into the deep, dark forest, meeting snapping crocodiles, slithering snakes and ferocious tigers along the way. But where are Raju and his mother going? What will they see at journey’s end? Tired little Raju keeps asking ‘When can we go home again?’ and each time his mummy replies ‘Soon.’

Knapman’s lyrical repetition makes the book ideal for sharing and reading aloud, and encourages children to take part in Raju’s journey of discovery in the lush, wild Indian jungle, forest and mountains of his enthralling homeland.

A modern classic in the making…

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Innovative picture book maker Silvia Borando of minibombo, an Italian children’s publishing house, is the creative force behind two stylish, bold and playful picture books which take illustration to a new and exciting level.

Simple and elegant in design with few words or no words at all, Borando’s books have a refreshingly modern and minimalist graphic art style that will appeal to all young children.

Hot off the presses is Black Cat, White Cat, the enchanting story of two cats as different as …well, as night and day.

Black Cat, black from the tip of his ears to the tip of his tail, only ever goes out in the day. But White Cat, white from her whiskers to her four furry paws, only ever goes out at night. He picks daisies, whilst she gazes at the stars. But when they both feel the urge to explore a world beyond their own, Black Cat and White Cat go on a journey of discovery and meet for the very first time. Together, Black Cat and White Cat create a new cat colour, and it’s up to young readers to guess what that colour might be. And here’s a clue… it’s not grey!

Visually striking and packed with the adventurous spirit of youth, Black Cat, White Cat explores opposites, new experiences, and the very different but special someone you can share those experiences with.

A warm, appealing story with pictures that speak as loud as words…

(Walker, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

The White Book by Silvia Borando, Elisabetta Pica and Lorenzo Clerici

Silvia Borando works her magic again in a picture book collaboration with Elisabetta Pica and Lorenzo Clerici of minibombo.

No words are needed – and unexpected things can happen – in this seductively clever story which features a boy, some bold paint, an active imagination, a white wall and a parade of cheeky animals!

A little boy stands in front of the whitest of white walls. He readies his brush and begins to paint. First off, a coat of pink – but wait, what’s that? The painted wall reveals six birds perched on a branch. Then he tries the blue paint and … yes, it’s happened again! Fourteen little fish emerge, swimming in the blue. Yellow, grey, green and purple – there are lots of surprises in store for our little painter.

With its bold splashes of rainbow colours and a wordless tale told through illustrations only, every picture tells a story in this delightful, fun and imaginative picture book.

(Walker, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Double Trouble by Anituke and Lauren Tobia

From the outstanding team of Nigerian storyteller Atinuke and illustrator Lauren Tobia comes the third Anna Hibiscus picture book featuring the charismatic Hibiscus family… and Anna’s two brand new baby brothers!

‘Anna Hibiscus,’ whispers her father. ‘Come and see...’ ‘Babies,’ says Anna, ‘two babies!’ Everything is changing for Anna Hibiscus now she is a sister to twins. But, oh dear, everyone is now so busy. Uncle Bizi Sunday is shopping for the babies, Auntie Grace is rocking the babies and Mama and Grandma are fast asleep ... so just who has time for Anna Hibiscus? Her cousins warn her that boys are Big Trouble, in this case Double Trouble. But Anna Hibiscus is amazing so it won’t be long before everyone finds time for her again.

This is a joyful and affectionate portrait of a close-knit family in contemporary Africa perfectly captures the anxiety and thrill of having a new sibling, making it the ideal story for any family with a new baby, or a baby on the way.

Love – and gorgeous Anna – win all hearts by the time the last page has turned…

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Albert and Little Henry by Jez Alborough

Big surprises come in little packages for Albert, a puppy dog with a pint-sized problem.

Join Albert as he learns to love his baby brother in Jez Alborough’s endearing picture book which has some heartwarming messages about welcoming new siblings.

As always, this popular, award-winning author and illustrator is at his best when putting himself in a young child’s shoes and Albert’s experiences are ideal for any family preparing for a new addition.

Albert is not a little puppy any more, Albert is a big dog. But when his baby brother Henry comes along, something very strange happens... Albert starts to feel small. Little ones will enjoy reading how Albert learns to feel big again as his family manoeuvre him through a recognisable minefield of emotions.

Enchanting illustrations, full of warmth and vibrancy, bring to life a story that will win the hearts of children and parents everywhere. A big and powerful message in the tale of one small dog…

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

It’s a Groovy World, Alfredo! Written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Chris Garbutt

Get your feet tapping, your knees bending and do the soft shoe shuffle as Sean Taylor and Chris Garbutt take our two left feet to the disco dance!

This goofy, warm-hearted, illustrated story about being yourself and finding your own individual rhythm and groove in the world will have your youngsters dancing for joy.

Alfredo is a frog with a problem – he can’t dance! How can he go to Rick’s party (with disco lights and groovy dancing) if he doesn’t have any fancy moves? So, his best friend Marty (a smooth-talking fly) tries to teach him all the groovy ways to dance… the Cool Boogie Style, the Speedy Heebie-Jeebies and the Silky-Smooth Moving and Grooving. But no matter how hard Marty tries, all he ever does is … jump, jump, jump! It’s just not cool. Or... is it?

For every young mover and shaker who thought they would never be able to dance with all the cool cats out there, this funny, frantic, fabulous book will have them tapping to the beat!

(Walker, hardback, £11.99)