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PICTURE BOOK CAROUSEL: Hannah Cumming

Posted on Oct 9, 2012

I have only recently discovered Hannah Cumming’s picture books. At first it is the artwork that attracted me to them. Her style is child-friendly and soft, but with a lovely dreamy quality to it. Once I started reading her books however, I discovered thoughtful, warm and evocative tales,  which often a moral without ever being preachy, and which focus on the power of the imagination and friendship.
If you have not discovered Hannah Cumming’s work yet, here are the three picture books she has written and illustrated for Child’s Play.

The Red Boat
(Child’s Play)

Posy has just moved into a new home and a new town and she is feeling lonely. Everything is looking a little bit scary: the big house, the people next door, the children walking past her house on the way to school. Thankfully her faithful dog George is around to cheer her up and when they find a mysterious red boat hiding in the garden, they use it to go on many fantastical and magical adventures. Will these new experiences bring Posy the confidence she needs to embrace her new surroundings?
The Red Boat is a beautiful story about new beginnings and the tough challenges that these bring for children. Posy is feeling very insecure about all the changes happening in her life, but through imaginative play and imaginary adventures she manages to conquer her nerves and make the first steps towards new friendships. The theme of loneliness is dealt with in the most lyrical way and Hannah Cumming brings the story to life beautifully with her child-friendly, soft style which manages to convey the magic of the adventures and yet bring realism  to Posy’s worries. The use of of space within the pages is clever and helps enhance the story as well.
Though The Red Boat will be enjoyed by all, it will particularly useful for children who are facing a change of environment. whether it is moving house, schools or both.

The Cloud
(Child’s Play)

In Art class, everyone is having fun. Except one little girl, who never draws anything. She does not speak, and seems to always have a little black cloud above her head, and therefore no one every speaks to her. But one of her classmates is determined to make friends, and uses drawing as a tool to try to engage with her.
In The Cloud, Hannah Cumming uses a very symbolic little black cloud to express sadness and loneliness, to great effect. This will undoubtedly the youngest of readers to understand the little girl’s feelings but it works for all readers, enhancing her sorrow acutely. The darkness of the cloud and scribbles are in contrast to the brightness of the artwork, pencils and paint, and this clever use of colour continues throughout the story: the background is grey to begin with but as the determined little girl manages to slowly chip at the wall that the lonely girl has built around herself, it gradually turns yellow.  You can feel the happiness radiating from the last few pages, as the whole class looks happier now their classmate has found her place.
The message of the value of persistence, and of art in bringing people together are subtle yet effective. Friendship is seen as something that sometimes needs working a little bit at, but also as something immensely rewarding.
The Cloud is a wonderful book to share with children who face the often debilitating trait of being shy as well as conveying a positive message to others about being inclusive in the classroom and the playground.

The Lost Stars
(Child’s Play)

In the city, every one is busy. Busy working, busy going places, busy playing and talking on their gadgets. and unfortunately far too busy to slow down, look up and admire the stars. The stars, feeling ignored and unappreciated, decide to abandon their post and go on holiday. At first nobody notices but soon a handful of people start missing the beautifully dotted night sky and go on a quest to bring the stars back. They across many lands and finally track them down, but can they be convinced to return?
The Lost Stars illustrates the effects of light pollution in cities and offers a fairly harsh criticism of our hectic lives which leaves little or no space for appreciating the simplest of things: the world around us. But it is also an ode to the magic of the night sky and its astonishing beauty. On a clear night, the spectacle offered by the stars can take one’s breath away and this is the message being put across by Hannah Cumming: slow down and enjoy the beauty around you.
Young readers will be delighted by the fantastically detailed urban landscapes with so much to spot and look at. It even offers a great opportunity to have a sneaky peek through people’s windows without even being told off! It will be interesting to see whether young readers can compare the buzz of city life to the sparse landscape of the stars’ chosen holiday destination – again natural beauty is very much showcased here.
The Lost Stars is beautiful, lyrical story about appreciating the world around us, with a subtle environmental message at its heart.

Hannah Cumming will be talk about her fabulous five picture books here tomorrow, make sure to come back to see what she has chosen!

Source: review copies from publisher

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