I’ve just come across two new picture books, a pair that would be lovely to give as a present when visiting a young family.
The first book “It’s Time For Bed” is a comforting, settle-down-to-sleep sort of story, written by Adele Geras and illustrated in by Sophy Williams.
The story is written as a gentle dialogue between Mother Hare and Little Hare as they go home through the woodland setting. Little Hare tries to delay by asking about his friends Mouse, Bird, Frog and Duck.
With each answering spread, Mother Hare’s words flow into a gentle, reassuring answer:
“But Bird’s not in bed so I can’t go to sleep.
Is there a lullaby for a bird?”
“There is and I’ll sing it to you.
Bird on the branch,
you’ve sung your song.
Tuck your feathered head
under one soft wing
and sleep and sleep
the whole night long.
Tomorrow there’ll be
you want to sing.”
Gradually the story becomes a child’s night-time ritual: the bath and the soft towel, the favourite toy put to bed, the parent reading the book, the recounting of the day and, finally, a comforting lullaby for Little Hare to wish him goodnight. The soft-edged illustrations are delightful with the wonderful colours re-creating the deepening blue of the evening light. I almost wish I had someone small to read this book to right now - or around seven o'clock.
The second picture book “My Ballet Dream” has an entirely different mood and look. It feels perfect for sharing with a young girl beginning her first ballet lessons.
Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas and written by Adele Geras, follows the central character, Tutu Tilly, through every excitement of her first real ballet recital.
The young reader meets Tilly concentrating really hard during her rehearsal, jumping about when met by mum as well as coping with the surprise of a blue tutu and shoes and the disasters and worries of the dress rehearsal.
Thankfully, this all leads towards the happy moment when Tilly and her class dance beautifully as baby swans, with Tilly making the last curtsey.
I enjoyed the way that the illustrations, in a slightly Shirley Hughes-ish style, show the young dancers as real little girls, drawn from o bservation, not some idealised dancing troupe. I felt this gave “My Ballet Dream” its own clear charm but also matched the young child’s first “recital” experience. Any grown-up sharing the book will find plenty of moments to chat about with the young ballerina at their side.
Even the words reach out, inviting the child in to the book. Adele Geras - author of many books about dance and the theatre - writes in a gently re-assuring tone but lets young Tilly share the excitement of her own story:
“That’s our music! It’s too late to be nervous. We start dancing. I can’t see Mum or Miss Anne because the lights are so bright. I count my steps in my head and think all the time, “I’m a baby swan! I’m a baby swan!”
Two happy, lovely books that would make a delightful end to a day forboth child and grown-up.
“It’s Time For Bed” is published by Piccadilly Press. (£11.99, hardback)
“My Ballet Dream” is published by Orchard. (£5.99)
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