SEA: A World Beneath the Waves
Patricia Hegarty & Britta Teckentrup
(Little Tiger Press)

Following the huge success of  Tree, Bee and Moon, this wonderful creative duo are back with a new peek-through
picturebook focusing on the natural world, this time on the world underneath our seas. This is a fabulous theme to showcase Teckentrup’s talent. Her use of colour, texture and her ability to bring the natural world alive on the page in a way that is both meticulously detailed yet simple enough to be appealing to a very young audiences is second to none. The die-cuts and two  recurring little clown fish create a playful effect, and this is accompanied wonderfully by Hegarty’s rhyming text, making it a lovely read aloud. The message about conservation on the last page is beautifully done: subtle, engaging, and encouraging further conversations and action about pollution, it is the perfect way of ending a book celebrating one of Earth’s most fascinating yet most fragile natural habitats.


I Can’t Can Fly
Fifi Kuo
(Boxer Books)

Little Penguin wants to fly. He has wings after all, so why shouldn’t he? Despite everyone’s advice, Little Penguin is adamant he will keep trying; will his perseverance pay? Using a limited palette of blue and black with lots of white space, Kuo depicts the arctic environment and its inhabitants beautifully. It feels cold, and vast. The sketchy style, almost crayon-like, really helps brings Little Penguin’s surroundings to life, as does the use of lines, conveying movement wonderfully throughout. The use of space within the page, and going from lots of white background when on the bank to fully-coloured when underwater is so effective. The underwater spreads are truly amazing. The wordless spread of Little Penguin falling deep in the ocean is absolutely stunning, dark and dramatic, and astutely demonstrating  that emotions are often best expressed when there is little embellishment and plenty of space with the reader to think and feel.  Superb!


The Tide
Clare Helen Welsh & Ashling Lindsay
(Little Tiger Press)

This wonderful picturebook introduces us to a little girl and her grandfather, whose special relationship is sometimes put under strain because of the grandfather’s dementia. The story is told in first person by the little girl, and seen through the eyes of a child, readers are presented with a more raw and honest view of dementia, sometimes with a lack of understanding that young readers will recognise, but filled with emotion and innocence which makes it a particularly poignant read for adults.  The metaphor of the tide to explain the effect dementia has on people’s memories is beautiful, and this theme runs throughout, mirrored in the alternating moments of lucidity and absence from Grandad. The colours are warm and comforting; the spread of them dancing through the waves as the tide comes simply glows with warmth and love. Celebrating family love and support in what can be very dark times, this is a really special book.


The Suitcase
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
(Nosy Crow)

The most powerful way to put a message across in a picturebook is not by what is being said but by what is left unsaid. You will struggle to find a recent picturebook that illustrates this better and more poignantly than “The Suitcase”. Simplicity both in the text and artwork convey the plea of displaced people and the importance of empathy in a way that is accessible to children. It is impossible not to be deeply moved as an adult when reading this text, with that one wordless spread like a punch in the gut.
The use of colour is wonderful, with each character given its own, including in the typography. Little readers will notice those colours match the newly-built home at the end. Lots of white space throughout gives the reader space to make connections and inferences and the only two spreads without any negative space show his old and new home, filling the page with warmth and contentment. Simply stunning!