A world of Art

The various ‘lock-downs’ that we have had over the last year or so, has meant that many exhibitions have not taken place and there has been no opportunity to go to galleries in order to lift the spirits.  Thankfully so many museums and art galleries have taken up the challenge and have provided a wealth of material online.  There have also been a range of books that look at the world of art and hopefully these will encourage young readers to explore the creative world and to produce their own work in the future.  These are just some of the books that I have seen in the last year and they have greatly enhanced my appreciation of the talent that is there for us to admire, as well as to try and emulate.

Mention the War, 9781911255673

“Flying High in the Sunlit Silence: the aviation art of Jack Berry.  I came across the book when it featured on a programme on the TV and just had to get a copy for myself.  The author is a young autistic boy called jack and he was 13 years old when the book was published.  I was attracted to the book because it features aircraft, but it also has articles by a variety of aviation veterans, as well as the beautiful poem “Say Something Nice” by A.F.Harrold

Kingfisher, 9780753444542

“Who’s in the Picture?” by Susie Brooks  is a delightful look at 20 famous paintings and the images within them.  It is aimed at possibly KS1 children and encourages them to ask lots of questions.  It is a great introduction to the huge range of what we call ‘Art’.

Scallywag Press, 9781912650170

“A gallery of Cats” by Ruth Brown is a delightful and quirky look at art, as a young boy called Tom wanders through an Art Gallery.  Instead of the artists we see the works through they eyes of cats which have been placed in the paintings.  It gives a really fresh and original take on the images that we see.

Book Island, 9781911496151

“The bird within me” by Sara Lundberg is a remarkable look at the early life of the Swedish artist Berta Hansson.  It has been shortlisted for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal, which of course looks at the illustration in the nominated titles.  The publisher is the wonderful small company Book Island Books which is based in Bristol and specialized in picture books in translation; they are a favourite of mine.

Phaidon, 9781838660802

“Yayoi Kusama covered everything in dots and wasn’t sorry” by Fausto Gilberti is something of a surprise for me.  I could not believe that I had not come across the artist’s name before, even though she has been creating her work for most of my life.  It is amazing what someone can create using just one basic shape, but this artist brings colour, shape and design together to amaze us with her work.

“Bob goes POP!” by Marion Deuchars is the third in the series about the small black bird called Bob.  This time he is trying his hand at POP art and finds himself in competition with another artist called Roy.  How they overcome their differences and produce some very positive results makes for a delightful take on the modern art scene.

Laurence King, 9781786277718

“Lets make great ART: Colours” by Marion Deuchars is part of a series by this author in which she looks at different aspects of art.  Other works in the series include ‘Pattern’ and ‘Animals’. They are all aimed at the youngest of readers, as they gain confidence with drawing tools and the art of ‘Mark Making’.  The get the imagination flowing.

Usborne, 9781409598893

“How Art works” by Sarah Hull is aimed at the teenage and adult  reader, who want to understand more about the world of art.  It has to be said that for many this is a very difficult area to get to grips with, but this book asks the sort of questions that we all want to ask.

 

“Why do we need Art ?” by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young asks us some of the major questions about Art.  It does not look at individual works of art in depth but does examine

Wayland, 9781526312587

where the concept of art comes from, what it means to us now and why do we need art in our lives.  It is very up to date, in that it looks at the impact of ‘Black Lives matter’ as well as the experiences of those who have been been outside of mainstream art; this includes poets, artists, sculptors and writers.

Thames and Hudson, 9780500652206

“Modern Art Explorer” by Alice Harman and Serge Bloch allows the reader to dip into some of the great artists of the 20th and 21st century.  The book include artists, sculptors, textile artists, and those who create large scale installations.  Some of the artists are household names, such as Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo but others are know to more specialized audiences.  This makes this book a good choice to dip into as a way of discovering new works.  The text is quite chatty in style and would be suitable for maybe young people over the age of 10 years.

 

 

Ten Little Dogs by Ruth Brown

I have to say, with no exaggeration,  that I have been a great fan of this author for well over 20 years.  I was lucky enough to meet her in the late 1990s, when she came to do an event for Bristol Libraries, talking to a large group of school children.  It is one of my earliest experiences of  an author event in a public library, but I think I have made up for it since then.

This link to an interview with the wonderful Jake Hope is a fascinating look at the author and her beautiful collection of work. https://www.cilip.org.uk/blogpost/1637344/354662/An-Interview-with-illustrator-Ruth-Brown

This latest book is a totally delightful re-working of the old counting rhyme that has been popular with young children for so many generations.  We start out with ten small puppies of assorted varieties and through the book we count down, as one by one they are caught out by their adventurous behaviour.  As you would expect, the text is in rhyme and I am delighted by the way that Ruth Brown has maintained the rhyming structure and yet has brought the language up to date.   I love the way that the author has moved the action between different pages; the backgrounds range from the seaside to the park and also the various back gardens.  We see the puppies playing with sticks, garden hoses, food bowls and even chasing butterflies, as well as being nipped by a crab at the seaside.  This gives a superb opportunity for discussion with the children about their experiences with puppies, or they might not have had any contact but will be fascinated by the antics of those they see on the page.

Anyone who has ever come into contact with small dogs will recognize the body language that the author portrays in her illustrations.  The images are full of energy and the excitement in life that young dogs have in abundance.  The situations that they find themselves in is very believable and I am sure that most dog owners will have seen some of these hilarious events.  The humour and the movement are elements that really stand out and make this a book that will become a favourite in years to come; both for reading to groups and  as a book to enjoy with a child or grandchild.

 

Ruth Brown

Ruth BrownRuth Brown is the creator of some of Britain’s best loved children’s books. She was born in Devon and now lives in London and Kent. Ruth’s books are translated in many languages around the world, and she has won the Earthworm Award, the English Association Award, the Prix Sorcière and been shortlisted 3 times for the Kate Greenaway Medal.  Scallywag Press

“Brown, whose exceptional draughtsmanship makes all her books a feast, visits a gallery with a difference in this picture book about cats and artists. A book to lead readers to 13 painters from Mondrian to Munch and Kahlo to Klimt.” Sunday Times Culture Magazine

How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg by Emma Shevah and Kirsti Beautyman

I am delighted to say that this is one of a growing number of books that focuses on the world we live in and how we interact with the nature that surrounds us.  There has been an ever growing number of information books and television programmes that focus on the environment and it is so good to see so many young people becoming involved in raising the awareness of the situation.  This book provides a wonderful mix of adventure, nature and also the difficulties that people can have if they are perceived as being ‘different’ in any way.

Chicken House, 9781910655474

Nathaniel has grown up being looked after by his grandmother (although he attends a boarding school during term time).  When his grandmother dies, he was going to spend the holidays with his aunt and uncle, but then his mother, who has just returned from living in India decides that she wants to have him stay with her at the old family home at Southwold in Suffolk He finds living in such a chaotic surrounding a challenge and is on the verge of wanting to leave and go to the familiar surroundings of his other family.  A chance meeting a young girl called Ivy, who thinks she can communicate with animals of all kinds, gives him something to focus on; their common interest in the environment also helps both of them cope with a variety of issues. However, there is a secret from the past that is about to re-surface and the two Eco-warriors will have their work cut out to find a solution.
This is a beautiful story of two children who have had many issues in their lives. Nathaniel has Asperger’s syndrome and struggles to connect with others, while Ivy is living with very supportive foster parents but has undergone abusive treatment from her real father, who even sent her Thai mother back to Thailand. This moving tale shows how these two eventually begin to work together despite the major difference in the way that they interact with others. It also shows how they can connect with the adults in their lives, when the adults take the time to help them. It is a superb read for all children, whether they are aware of environmental issues or not.  I gradually became more engrossed by these seemingly eccentric characters and I would love to follow some more of their adventures; in fact I get the hint that there might be another real adventure in the offing.  Thank you Emma Shevah for such a fantastic read.

 

Emma Shevah is Thai and Irish and was born and raised in London. She is the author

Emma Shevah

of four Middle Grade novels published by Chicken House:Dream on AmberDara Palmer’s Major Drama (optioned by the BBC), and What Lexie Did and How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg, and an early reader for BloomsburyHello Baby Mo! She has lived and travelled in many countries but now lives in Brighton with half of her four children. She is Head of Year at Roedean, where she teaches English and gazes at the sea, wishing she was in it.  (Chicken House Books)

Flamingo Fashion by Samantha Hunter and Maggy Roberts; read by Michael Maloney

This is something of a departure for me, as I have not reviewed an audio book on this Blog before.  However, I don’t think this will be the last time that I look at this version of a book.  There are large numbers of readers for whom this is the best option and of course it also allows for the possibility of multi-tasking; after all doing the ironing can be a very boring option!

This particular story is a short picture book that last just over 5 minutes, making it a good choice for young children as part of their pre-bedtime reading.  The actual story line is about two flamingos, Freddie and Fifi,  who love their fashion and decide to set up a boutique, so that they can ‘style’ some of the other animals.  They are particularly fond of anything pink, frothy and fluffy and whilst that might work for them, it does not suit some of the others.  They are soon in trouble with the Lion, Crocodile, Hippo and Giraffe (among others) as the animals can no longer fulfill their natural ways of living and hunting.  Luckily the two fashionistas realize their mistakes and rectify them, bringing the other animals back to their natural state.  What they realize is that we are all special, but in different ways and that we should be kind and love ourselves as we are.  Which is a lesson that all of us can take on board, even from a very young age.

As a spoken word story it is greatly impacted by the audio part of the book.  We have a light and pleasant introductory music, which is then repeated at the end.  The introduction tells us about the author and narrator, so that we have a feel for what is coming.  The narrator is Michael Maloney and he uses an excellent range of voices, although his voice for ‘Fifi’ is somewhat irritating (perhaps this is on purpose?); however, his voice for the lion is an almost perfect reflection of the inimitable Kenneth Williams and is exactly right for the character.

I am delighted to say that  the publisher has created a place online, so that children can create their own activities and also follow some ideas that the author has come up with.   If children want to see the animals in all of their glory then you will need to look at the kindle version, as this does not appear to have been printed as a hard-copy at the moment.  However, I think the audio book is an excellent way of telling the story and enables the children to create their own interpretation of the animals and their fashions.

https://flamingofashionbook.squarespace.com/

About the author

Sam Hunter is a full-time mum, podcast host and entrepreneur. She started writing after the birth of her son in 2017 and self-published her first book – Flamingo Fashion – at the end of 2020.

Sam wrote creatively as a young girl on her weekends and during visits to her mum’s office in the summer holidays. All of her writing was about animals and it is no wonder that her first book is a children’s story set in an animal’s world!

Her first book, a middle grade novel called Freddie’s Fantastic Adventures, was inspired by a children’s t-shirt with a flamingo on the front and while out walking a few years later, the idea for Flamingo Fashion popped into her head!

Sam is passionate about developing both children’s and adult’s creativity and her writing is designed to inspire imaginations in a fun and playful way. Proceeds from the book are going to the LitWorld charity, who work to develop children’s creative confidence and literacy skills, through the power of storytelling.

Sam lives with her son, daughter and husband in Hertfordshire, England.