Max’s Box by Brian Wray

Max’s Box
Written by Brian Wray
Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield
Publishing September 2019 by Schiffer Publishing

Max’s Box is a powerful, evocative book about children, especially boys and how they are inclined to deal with their emotions, or “supposed” to deal with them.  Box them up, and carry them around.  Carrying strong emotions around, like a box tied to your wrist, can cause damage.  This is what is happening to Max.

In the beginning he was adding toys to his Box but then emotions were added and the box got bigger, harder to manage and Max lived in the shadows of it.

One simple question, asked by another child, gives Max the chance to answer honestly and the Box starts to change.  Max can now see the Box differently and can change his attitude and behaviour.

This book should be read to every child in every home.  Emotions come and go, they change us, they make us stronger, they need to be felt and then let go.  Holding on is not healthy or helpful.
Max is taught this valuable lesson by drawing balloons all over the Box, which like emotions, can be let go into the sky to float and disappear.

What an amazing book- simple colours in the first pages make the last pages pop off the page.  It really emphasises the message of letting emotions go once they are felt.

There is a valuable guide to emotions and encouraging children to feel, understand and accept them in the back of the book.  It could be used in schools during assemblies, classrooms or just at home with the special children in your life.

The Butterfly Circus by Francesca Armour-Chelu

The Butterfly Circus
Written by Francesca Armour- Chelu
Cover Illustration by Studio Helen
Published by Walker Books

Meet Tansy and Belle, the stars of The Butterfly Circus.  They fly high on the trapeze above the audience, following each other and listening to each other, as only sisters can.
Orphans, taken in and taught by the Fratellini’s, they grow up and become the main attraction.

A series of events changes the path of both girls and life becomes harder.  Belle disappears and Tansy is lost without her.  Tansy, and her shadow Rosa, discover and help each other in new ways.  Rosa teaches Tansy to be strong and to trust herself.  Tansy teaches Rosa to be brave.

The search for Belle is not an easy one, and Tansy must lose Rosa, meet new circus marvels and learn to fly again before the girls can be happily reunited. Elephants, arrogant and cruel men, and a mechanical cat make this story completely enjoyable and highly readable.  It has fast paced adventure, loving sister moments and sad goodbyes.  It also has friendship, courage and soaring moments of joy!

This is a glorious new book from an already well established author of the Fenn Halflin series.
The Golden Age of Children’s Fiction is happening in Suffolk!

Picture Book Perfect- NetGalley titles

I loved this book from my very first glimpse of the cover.  It is another beautifully illustrated book by Lizzy Stewart.  There is a certain joy to be found in just looking at her books.

Matilda and Dad are opposites in most ways, including the fact that Matilda is almost parent like to her Dad’s fun loving behaviour.  She is serious and focused, he is easily distracted.
A map to a treasure leads them off on an adventure which they soon realise is more fun together.  Their different paths are missing one thing- each other.  Matilda is missing out on the world around her and her Dad is missing Matilda who keeps him from getting lost.
A gorgeous book for Dad’s and Daughters and a celebration of their wonderful relationships!
Stunning illustrations accompany the pair on their journey and there is much to discover on each page.

This is a wonderful book and I can forsee it being hugely successful!

A heart warming musical tale of families, love and the joys of working together.
Aston’s musical Grandad’s are teaching Aston all about their music, their instruments and the joy they get from playing in a band.  Aston wants to learn from each Grandad and is finally old enough to learn to play!  He spends time with both and learns so much from each of them.
When faced with a dilemma, Aston comes up with a brilliant plan and he creates something incredible.
Only one band can play at the school fair but both Grandads want their bands to play.  Aston feels torn and can’t decide, nor can the Grandads.
A combination of both bands, a new style and loads of love bring a school fair together.

The power of love and music come together and give us this amazing story worth sharing again and again.

Gorgeous illustrations bring this story to life and I delighted in Aston and his lovely family.

Picture Book Perfect- Bedtime Stories

I have saved these two as they are perfect bedtime reads. My two enjoyed them and they both make fabulous read alouds!

One is about a special pet star and the other about a nightmare eating bear. 
My Pet Star
Written by Corrinne Averiss
Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Published by Hachette Childrens
A little girl finds a fallen star.  He needs some love and care and she has plenty to give him.  The star is given a clean, a fix and a snack.  The little girl shares stories and toys but the star doesn’t know how to play or read and sleeps until night, missing the fun day time activities the little girl enjoys. She is just happy when they are together.  
One night, the star feels strong and ready to go back to the night sky and smiles down on the little girl from his lofty height. 
This is a simple but wonderful book about friendship.  The love, care and attention needed to grow a friendship but also the understanding that it is ok to be apart.   My Pet Star is a perfect story for all children and the illustrations are gorgeous – full of heart, stars and wonder! The little girl is beautiful and her love for the star is played out on each page. A new favourite to be read again and again. 
The Night Bear
Written by Ana de Moraes 
Illustrated by Thiago de Moraes
Published by Andersen Press
Before you even begin reading this book, the end papers give you a set of instructions to create your own take away box for the night bear. Children could make it and put it out for the Night Bear.  The end papers at the back tell us what some nightmares taste like, such as a howling ghost tastes like cheese on toast! 
This is a new way to help children to deal with scary dreams.  Night Bear is hungry at night and is hunting for some scary dreams, luckily for him they taste like sausage and mash, burgers and fries and chocolate cake! 
One dream has been left out but eww, it is rainbows and unicorns….disgusting! 
Night Bear doesn’t want to waste a dream so sets off to find someone who will enjoy it! 
Most children are asleep but one boy is awake and they happily swap a dream for a nightmare.  
For children who suffer from scary dreams, this will bring a new approach to dealing with them. 
The illustrations are excellent, full of Night Bear’s character and scary monsters turned into yummy dinners! 
I love this and will certainly be reading it to children in schools! 

Picture Book Perfect- Imaginative Girls

Two sparkly covers appealed to me tonight! Two girls with brilliant imaginations, June and Sophie!

Once Upon a Unicorn Horn
Written and Illustrated by Beatrice Blue
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
June has a wonderful home, loving parents and a huge imagination.  She is a treasure seeker and on one quest she finds the best treasure of all- flying horses.  Horses taking their first flights with soft fur and sparkly tails.  All but one, sad little horse in need of encouragement and magic from June.  
They try lots of ideas but nothing works.  June goes home and explains the problem to her family who then come up with more ideas.    
A solution is found and June rushes back to help her horse, but just as disaster strikes, so to does magic! 
From that day forward, Unicorns were born! 
Horns worn in remembrance of friendship.
What greater message is there in the world? Friends make life better, more magical and more fun! 
The message is lovely and the illustrations are a joy.  I have a few favourite pages that would look great in a frame! 
This one is top of my list though.  It is hopes, dreams and wishes in one big swoosh! 
Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius
Written by Morag Hood
Illustrated by Ella Okstad
Published by Simon and Schuster
Sophie has a big imagination and is extremely good at being a detective genius! Bella, her assistant, is not very good according to Sophie! 
Sophie looks the part, with her hat, cape and magnifying glass but Bella has a more simplistic approach to finding and catching baddies!
Sophie is busy interviewing, fingerprinting her toys and having well deserved snack breaks while Bella barks at nothing.  I must admit, I love books where the audience is given the clues and evidence of what is truly happening in the story, over the main character. Bella’s good deeds capture the attention of the police and the reader but Sophie is too busy to notice! Perhaps it’s best they work together next time.
Funny storyline, great imaginative characters and colourful illustrations.  What’s not to love? 

Picture Book Perfect- with Conservation Message

These two beautiful books are very different in look, appeal and illustrations but the end message is the same…conservation!
We are in serious need of protecting our Earth from ourselves and this message is most importantly, needing to be shared with our younger generations.  It will come to them and we want them to know what they can do to help.
Books allow us to share the message without it being too dry or too boring for children.

We start with

Somebody Swallowed Stanley
Written by Sarah Roberts
Illustrated by Hannah Peck
Published by Scholastic
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book but I loved the cover and the fact that Stanley was given a personality.  When you open the book, the illustrations immediately grab your attention and I spent a long time looking at the beautiful jellyfish.  The book has lovely rhyming text and it flows so perfectly as a read aloud.  
Stanley, the plastic bag, is floating along in the ocean, not quite a jellyfish but terrible things happen to him and he ends up feeling rather despondent.  Animals are trying to eat him as they mistake him for food.  Poor Stanley and poor animals. 
Luckily for everyone, a young boy comes along and saves the day.  He also re-uses Stanley for a better purpose, showing us how we can take small steps to save our planet.  
A wonderful message for young children brought to life in a wonderful story. 
The next book I felt was more for an older audience and the message comes from an almost mythical story.  

The Wizards and The Whale
Written by Anthinula Tori
Illustrations by Jean Tori
Published by Jean Tori Books
This stunningly illustrated book is a story about 12 wizards called upon to gather from their kingdoms to come and meet Willow the Whale.  Willow needs help from all corners of the world in order to plan how the Earth can be protected and saved. 
The wizards travel far knowing they are on an important quest and they use their practical skills, not magical, to ask for help from their friends.
With a focus on the letter ‘W’ throughout the book, there is an almost poetic nature to the text and it is lovely to share aloud.  
The illustrations are bright, colourful and each page is a masterpiece.  Reading this with a focus on illustration and the powerful message we receive from them is too good to pass up.  I have since ordered this to be used in children’s book groups in each of my trust’s 13 schools.  There is so much to gain from reading this book. 
One small part of an overall brilliant book
Let’s read these often and share the message of conservation, each doing some small part for the overall good of our planet Earth.  Treat it with care! 

Picture Book Perfect

I have a small collection of picture books next to me and I am planning my blog week based on all of them.  There are some amazing books being published in 2019.

Tonight is…
I’m not Grumpy by Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
And
Nell & the Circus of Dreams by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith

Nell & the Circus of Dreams
Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith
Published by OUP Children’s 

A delightfully illustrated story about Nell and her chicken called Rosebud.  As Nell deals with an ill mother, Rosebud walks in at just the right moment.  They become inseparable and Nell tells Rosebud all her hopes and dreams.  Rosebud goes missing one morning and Nell is distraught, running to find her beloved friend.  
In the quest, Nell happens upon a circus and gets drawn into the magic, fun and wonder waiting behind the curtain. 
“Nell wished that this beautiful circus of dreams could last forever.”
Was it all a dream or her imagination running wild, or was it real? It doesn’t matter as she tells her mother all about it when she reaches home with Rosebud! 
The illustrations are wonderful- full of details, bold and joyful.  Briony May Smith has brought the circus to life.  I felt uplifted with Nell in finding the circus and her beloved Rosebud.  I had some tears in my eyes as Nell’s mother welcomed her home and hugged her, what a brilliant moment. 
A beautiful story about having hopes and dreams and sharing them with friends and family. 
I’m Not Grumpy
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Published by Little Tiger
A hilarious start to a heart warming story as baby Badger’s bottom is blocking the entrance to Mouse’s house.  Mouse grumbles throughout the story, although he is adamant he is not grumpy.  It seems he has a reputation for being grumpy throughout the woods and animals avoid him.  Could this be part of the problem? 
 Mouse, reluctantly, but kindly takes Badger through the woods home to his mother.  They meet animals who help along the way and guide Mouse and Badger in the right direction.  Mother Badger appears at just the right moment and thanks all the animals for finding her baby.
Mouse is no longer grumpy and he finally has some friends! What a wonderful happy ending.
I do love a happy ending, especially when it involves new friends and a new outlook on life!
The illustrations are so lovely and they bring the innocence of the story to life! The cover illustration of Mouse is fabulous and I could stare at him all day. Such expression and the perfect scarf for a little, grumpy mouse!