Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
text by Maya Angelou with paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat
(Abrams Books)

This is the 25th Anniversary edition of an incredible pairing of Angelou’s poem with a selection of Basquiat’s paintings. These were not created as a collaboration,  and yet they fit perfectly; Basquiat’s almost child-like work echoing the determination, power and confidence of Angelou’s words with impressive effect. These powerful words and images can seem a bit ‘grown-up’ (especially when one is aware of Angelou’s life story) yet together they create a perfectly-pitched narrative, full of hope and courage.  As well as a perfect way to introduce young readers to contemporary poetry and art, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” reads almost as a motivational text, giving children and adults alike strength to embrace life and whatever it throws at us, and to welcome 2018 and its challenges.


Blue Monster Wants it All
written by Jeanne Willis & illustrated by Jenni Desmond
(Little Tiger Press)

Blue Monster does not like old things at all. His heart is set on brand new things, but things don’t stay new forever and the novelty wears off, even when it comes to baby sisters. So he leaves  home for a new life of purchases and change, but soon realises some things just cannot be bought. Amidst our society’s  obsession with consumerism, this perfectly-pitched picturebook explains the perils of materialism and focusing on the wrong things with humour and kindness, with Willis’ witty text paired perfectly with  Desmond’s soft lines and colours. While the story of Blue Monster is a cautionary tale for children, it offers a gentle reminder for adults as well that showing love to your kids is not all about buying them stuff. It is lovely reminder to cherish  those things that really matter.


The Quiet Crocodile
written by Natacha Andriamirado & illustrated by Delphine Renon
(Princeton Architectural Press)

Fossil is a crocodile who loves peace and quiet , and though he has a great bunch of friends, sometimes he wishes they were a little less noisy, especially at nap time. They tease him so he joins in with their games, but will he crack? After all, even the nicest of crocodiles can be dangerous. The possibility of peril will keep young readers amused in this kooky  and stylish picturebook. Andriamirado’s  short and wry text is accompanied brilliantly by Renon’s artwork, whose style is reminiscent of Kitty Crowther and Emmanuelle Houdart.  It is full of quirky detail to pore over, particularly in the animals’ dashing attire and each character is also identifiable by a coloured dot, which allows for plenty of games. An unusual and elegant offering for illustration enthusiasts.


Little Whale
by Jo Weaver
(Hodder Children’s Books)

“Little Whale”  tells the story of the bond between a grey whale and its calf as readers follow them on the journey they undertake for the annual migration. Weaver’s charcoal artwork is superb; it effortlessly conveys on the page just how majestic, gentle, huge and magical whales are. Her portrayal of the whales’ surroundings in and out of the water is breath-taking, and while the text is wonderful, the art is so powerful the book would work just as well as a silent narrative. Similarly to her début “Little One”, Weaver  uses this narrative to highlight the whales’ habitats and while there is no mention of pollution, this story very much feels like a (gentle) warning that the beauty we are witness to within those pages is very much under-threat. An outstanding picturebook!


Erik the Lone Wolf
by Sarah Finan
(First Editions (Lincoln Children’s Books))

Everyone knows wolves live in packs but Erik the cub is desperate for an adventure of his own, away from the cacophonic group. But is there really such a thing as a lone wolf? This gorgeous wintery tale will resonate with pre-schoolers as they try to ascertain their independence, developing their understanding that sometimes you simply cannot do things on your own, however much you want to. It portrays family life as sometimes frustrating but supportive nonetheless. The artwork is atmospheric, the hues of blue coveying the cold, the thick brush strokes which giving texture to the wolves’ coats as well as movement to their surroundings. The embossed cover also highlights those wonderful beautiful brush strokes wonderfully. This is a strong début from Finan, who is an illustrator to watch!