What are my kids and I reading this March, 2023?

FEATHERS TOGETHER written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is another fantastic book from this fabulous picture book duo. Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated!

It is perfect for picture book aged children between 3-7 and the take away themes are right up my alley – loyalty, kindness, love and nature.

The story, based on true events, is centred around two storks, Malena and Klepetan who always adventure together! But one winter when Malena is injured and cannot migrate, the two best friends must separate. As Klepetan flies south to South Africa, Malena must remain in Croatia. The separation is hard and they miss each other desperately. But luckily a kind feather-headed man comes to the rescue. He builds Malena a warm, indoor nest, feeding her and caring for her until the air warms once more and the migration home can begin. Then, at last the two brave birds are reunited in their outdoor nest side-by-side.

This sweet story is a wonderful way to explore the idea of ‘missing’ someone with young people. It is simply but beautifully written with heart and respect for nature. I love how it is told through the eyes of the birds rather than the human who helps them. We see a new perspective this way and children can easily relate to the birds feelings and empathise.

The illustrations are gorgeous – Santoso has used gentle strokes and a soft palette of colour that suits the birds themselves and the double page spreads are breathtaking. The skies play a great role throughout the book and the different moods and textures beautifully reflect the page turns. It has the same gorgeous vibe as his other two books with Levis, This Way Charlie and Ida, Always. My daughter Caitlin loves this story and often requests it at night. Definitely recommend!

What are my kids and I reading this February, 2023?

NIGHT SKY written by Rosa Shaw and illustrated by Lara Hawthorne, is a beautiful non-fiction book about the stars – how they have guided and inspired people throughout history to travel, build and worship.

This gorgeous picture book is a wonderful introduction to children who love history or science. I love this combination as it speaks to me and my interests and my son and daughters as well. Each page focuses on two or three facts which are explored in just enough detail – not too much to overwhelm or raise the reading age but also enough to engage and give pause for thought. I learnt many new things as well as my children. For example, the teapot constellation, part of Sagittarius, helps us locate the centre of the Milky Way. How cool is that!

The writing glimmers with lyricism and passion but without overkill. The facts are taught clearly and with little room for confusion.

The illustrations are striking, bold and beautiful. The colours pop against the inky blues, dusky greys and dense blacks. They are drawn simply but with detail and there is something on each page to allow for wonder and fascination.

I love how this book teaches us that peoples passion for the night sky is deep rooted and important. It has linked us on Earth to the Ancient Gods of Greek and Egyptians times. It has sparked important scientific discoveries by Newton, Galileo and helped explorers navigate our world long before the invention of the compass.

But the book doesn’t just talk about the past. It is about the future too. How the night sky continues to inspire us and guide our lives. How explorers are now venturing into space itself and how nature is still very much connected to the planetary movement.

I honestly think this book is wonderful. It would make a fabulous addition to anyones library be that at home or school. Highly recommend!

What are my kids and I reading this January, 2023?

Happy New Year readers! I hope you are all enjoying the perfect season for snuggling down with a good book.

Today I am going to share with you a lovely picture book called ILL GO AND COME BACK written by Rajani LaRocca and illustrated by Sara Palacios. This book really resonated with my kids and I as we live in two very different worlds every year – Singapore in South East Asia and the UK, when we visit home. This transient life is a huge blessing and one that affords my family and I a world of experiences each year we are truly grateful for. But with this constant movement it can lead to unsettling emotions at times.

These feelings are shared with the main character in the story when Jyoti travels halfway around the world to visit her grandmother in India. At first she feels lost, confused by the cultural differences between home and India and a little overwhelmed. From our few years living in India, I can share that these feelings are very real and very powerful when they first impact, but like Jyoti they soon disappear and normalise and the vibrancy of a new culture becomes very quickly enlivening and magical.

Quickly Jyoti forms a special bond with Sita Pati, her grandmother, shopping, playing games and eating chapatis. When it is finally time to leave Jyoti is reminded that the Tamil people don’t say goodbye, but something extra special, “I’ll go and come back.”

The second half of the book takes place with Sita Pati visiting her granddaughter Jyoti in America. Soon we see the transition through a different pair of eyes and different set of emotions. Now it is time for Jyoti to show her grandmother around and teach her all she loves about her home.

This book not only celebrates diversity, but also the magical bonds shared between our elders and our children. There is so much to love about this story and the heart in it is strong and very real. I would recommend this for any library, school or child aged between 3-7 years. The writing is simple and the story arc clear and uncomplicated but there are great discussions to be had throughout and the illustrations are divine!

Earthy colours of saffron, okra and chilli red infuse the story with colours of India and shine a different light when they are in America, just as beautiful. Highly recommend!

What are my kids and I reading this December, 2022?

Katherine Rundell is one of my favourite middle grade children’s writers. Her prose is soaring, her stories read like classics and the relationships she builds between her characters are deeply emotional. Most of Rundell’s books have a historic setting, but this one is never specifically dated. Despite that it did feel like it was set in a time gone by, perhaps the 50s or at most 70s. I think this was because it had a lot of Rundell’s Zimbabwean childhood wrapped up in the text itself. You felt close to the authors own childhood experiences and emotion, and parts of it felt deeply personal.

The story begins with the main character Wilhelmina, better known as Will or Wildcat. A feisty twelve year old girl living on a farm in Zimbabwe with her beloved father William. Life is carefree, with no locks and few rules and Will spends most of her time climbing mango trees with her pet monkey and African best friend Simon. The wild life suits Will’s untamed and honest personality. Will has never had the guidance of her mother, who died of malaria when she was only five, or the experience of social restrictions and norms . Her father has given her love but with the independence she has also been allowed a freedom unrestricted and at times indulgently so.

As the story unfolds and tragedy occurs, Will is forced from the life she knows and loves. She is forced to travel to England where she must attend an all-girl’s boarding school with strict codes of conduct in a place where the sun never shines. Here the book takes on an entirely new character and pace. Suddenly life feels more familiar to us and far less exciting and we easily feel Will’s pain in her new confinement.

When Will runs away from her problems and takes to the streets of London we are not shocked. Her survival skills kick in and though she learns to live rough, she is eventually made to face her problems and find the courage to over come them. I was relieved to find that at the end there was still a lot to wonder about Will’s new life and her future choices. Ending back at the boarding school was both satisfactory, realistic, hopeful but also troublesome. The book would make for a great discussion with kids, particularly girls, about which life feels more appealing and how they feel about the restrictions placed on their lives.

I was glad to see that some of the female characters at the school had more positive, redeeming features at the end of the book than they are first portrayed and that we are left on a note of uplifting hope. I definitely recommend this for its sweeping prose and depth of character and wild adventure. Enjoy reading!