Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Island publishes two new gorgeous picture books

The Big Question by Leen Van Den Berg and Kaatje Vermeire (Book Island)

Elephant has a difficult question - he needs help to answer it. The animals gather at the annual meeting to find an answer for: "How do you know when you love someone?" Ant has the very important job of presiding over the meeting - first time ever, and believes it is up to him to keep the meeting moving along and write down all the suggestions. A wide collection of beings, for example: mouse, Snow White, tramp, explorer, Polar Bear, Grandma, a little girl and non-beings such as: Stone, Sea, Stars etc, say what love means to them. Mouse says it is as big and strong as an elephant. Snow White says it helps you forget about all your troubles. Cloud says you know when you're always floating in the same direction. Lovely poignant comments are said by all those gathered. When the meeting ends, everyone goes home feeling better than when they came; except for Ant who knows he is missing something. 

This book and its predecessor: 'Maia and what matters' by Tine Mortier but the same illustrator Kaatje Vermeire - would have to be the two most beautiful books you'll ever come across.  They are visually stunning and their stories can be read on two levels: for the young it is about what is happening; for older kids or kids with enquiring minds it'll keep them thinking and asking questions for hours, perhaps even days, later.

I'd use this book in the classroom and home to start children talking about relationships and the different forms of love: love of a parent, love you have for an animal, love for a friend etc. Children will surprise you (and make you laugh) with their comments. Also encourage children to think about why the author included some of the characters such as Snow White, the inanimate objects and also the girl and Grandma from 'Maia and what matters'.

A sophisticated picture book that ponders a big question. A must-buy for every school and home library. Also would make a great present at end-of-year prize-giving events.

Leen van den Berg is the daughter of a Belgian publisher. She writes mainly for children, while teaching creative writing in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Flemish illustrator Kaatje Vermeire uses an experimental approach to printmaking. She combines etching techniques with found materials such as lace, string and wire. With each new work she finds subtle and delicate ways to portray difficult subject matter.

Published in New Zealand by Book Island, translated by David Colmer, edited by Frith Williams, and typeset by Jo Houvenaghel (the Europeans are very creative with their type-set). The Flemish Literature Fund helped make publication of this book possible.

ISBN: 978 0 994 1098 42
RRP $29.99 hardback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at www.bookisland.co.nz

For something completely different but by the same publisher:

Follow the Firefly by Bernardo Carvalho (Book Island)

There have been picture books with no words before but I haven't come across one that has two stories - one that you read from the front, the other you read starting from the back. It is cleverly done; I had to look twice before I realised what was happening in the back-story.  If you start at the front you'll read (view) a story about a firefly flying through a forest to a city to help solve a problem. Animals point the way along the journey. When you've finished that story go the back and read 'Run, Rabbit, Run'. A white rabbit escapes from a cage during an accident. A dog chases it through the forest ... Read it to find out what happens when it catches up with the rabbit.

A picture book that children will pick up and flick pages back and forth to read/view the story many times. Every time you look at it you'll discover something in the pictures you hadn't noticed before. Bernardo has used water colour paints in a child-like style.

Bernardo Carvalho is one of the founding illustrators of Portuguese publishing house Planeta Tangerina which was the recipient of the Best European Children’s Publisher Award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2012.

ISBN: 978 0 9941098 2 8
RRP $19.99 paperback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at www.bookisland.co.nz

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