Little Wise Wolf
Gijs van der Hammen & Hanneke Siemensma, translated by Laura Watkinson
(Book Island)

Little Wise Wolf is very wise. So clever in fact, that he doesn’t really have time for anyone else, even when they need his help. When the king calls however, he finds himself having no choice but to leave his little house and embark on a treacherous journey, which becomes a true journey of discovery for the little wolf. The unusual, longer narrative in this picturebook highlights of everyone, no matter how able and clever they are, need others and how important it is to make time for others. This  is supported stunningly by Siemensma’s artwork  which is simply splendid. Her intricate technique includes charcoal, layering, even using feathers to soften edges and shapes, thus creating a rich, multi-layered artwork. She uses dark, subtle, muted colours with tiny details in brighter colours, and her use of the landscape format is marvelous. An introspective, sophisticated picturebook, as we have come to expect them  from Book Island.


We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup
(Caterpillar Books)

As individuals, we are all special, with wonderful things to offer and we can achieve amazing things. But together, as  a community,  as a team, we become super-humans and anything is possible! This powerful message of love , acceptance and social justice is aided but the wonderful die-cuts which have become a staple feature of Teckentrup’s books with this publisher. With each page turn, more children appear on the page, culminating in a spread with children standing in a circling around a tree. Showing children  from all backgrounds as an everlasting circle, emulating the shape of the Earth, highlights this message of togetherness.  The stunning landscapes showcase the beauty of the natural world and work as a covert reminder that our social responsibility includes protecting that also.


The Rabbit, the Dark and the Biscuit Tin
Nicola O’Byrne
(Nosy Crow)

Rabbit isn’t tired and doesn’t want to got to bed so he decides to trap the dark in a biscuit tin; if night doesn’t fall, surely  he can’t be forced to go to bed? But what happens if the dark doesn’t come?
This is really close to perfect as bedtime stories go; it ticks so many boxes. Rabbit displays many recognisable traits of  toddlers and pre-schoolers: strong-willed,  fickle and intent on not going to sleep and the narrative tackles this with empathy. It also explains how important the dark is to the world around us, and that it is not scary but rather something to cherish, including because with the dark comes bedtime stories. It is gentle, perfectly pitched, with a delightful and effective pop-up effect as Rabbit eventually frees the dark from the biscuit tin.


The Bandit Queen
Natalia & Lauren O’Hara
(Puffin Books)

When a gang of bandits rob an orphanage, they inadvertently steal one of its residents as part of their loot. The little girl finds her way into their hearts and becomes their queen; but is she really cut for a life of crime? It would be difficult not to be reminded of Ungerer’s  “The Three Robbers” when reading this latest offering by the O’Hara sisters. But while Ungerer’s art is all bold lines and block colours , “The Bandit Queen” is all meticulously drawn spreads, sumptuous backgrounds, wonderful soft palettes, and a huge cast of characters . The classic-looking spreads and rhyming text come together with a lovely message that loved ones, rather than collecting material things, are the key to happiness and that family comes and many shapes. The book ends on a lovely, surprising note.


You’re Snug with Me
Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry
(Lantana Publishing)

Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry make a welcome return with another beautiful collaboration. This time readers are introduced to a family of polar bears, from the birth of the cubs to their first steps outside of the den. Mama Bear is a caring mother figure and there is much reassurance from the fear of the unknown emanating from the text. The Indian textile inspired patterns work exceptionally well with the arctic landscapes and their flora and fauna. The artwork brings an illusion of being 3D which is particularly fitting, and Mistry uses this style expertly to create the most wonderful snowflakes. It is a  gorgeous wintry tale in which little readers will learn  plenty about polar bears and their habitats, with a beautiful and powerful ecological message  at its heart.