Picture books for children – reviews | picture books

WWith all its strange noises and amazing abilities, the human body is endlessly fascinating for children. Jane Wilsher’s new book nurtures that interest in a format almost as colorful and curious as human anatomy itself. wonderful body (What on Earth) comes with a magic lens, a sort of red magnifying glass that you pull out of the heart of the cover to see the inner workings of eyeballs and organs, scabbed knees and baby bump.

Illustrated by Andrés Lozano, each comic spread is dedicated to a different aspect of the body and its care (e.g. teeth or what happens during an operation). Packed with succinct facts and body positivity, it’s a title kids can return to as they grow: little hands will love grabbing the lens and seeing bones appear; those in the upper elementary school years may be reading cover to cover and learning new vocabulary along the way.

Marvelous Body: “Little hands will love grabbing the lens and seeing bones appear.” Illustration: Andreės Lozano

The feelings that pulse beneath the surface of the physical self are the focus of picture books these days. A recent publication my bindi (Scholastic), takes a cheerful approach to addressing the fear of difference. It’s about time Divya wears a bindi, but initially she’s afraid to stand out as her classmates see her as ‘strange’. Illustrator Archana Sreenivasan deftly weaves bindi designs and Hindu-style flourishes that visually represent a fusion of cultures into the pages of Gita Varadarajan’s first picture book.

Speaking of debuts, this year I judged the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, an award that has boosted the careers of new picture book talent like Emily Gravett for 37 years. It’s an exciting time for the genre – in January figures from Nielsen BookScan showed that the market for picture books sold for the first time in fiction for older readers since records began. And if the fresh, bubbly art school talent attending the 2022 Macmillan Prize is anything (especially Heike Scharrer, who was crowned this month’s winner). The queueher imaginative view of an everyday situation from a child’s perspective), it will continue to boom for years to come.

Who tickles Tilly?  by Rob Jones.
“A small technical masterpiece”: Who tickles Tilly? by Rob Jones.

Board books rarely make an appearance in this column, but they’ve really evolved over the past few years, and Rob Jones is one of the authors who clearly enjoys the form. After his accordion-style sausage dog title, Where is Brian’s Bottom?his latest “veeeerrrrry long folding book” for babies and toddlers, Who tickles Tilly? (Farshore, Aug. 4) stars as an impossibly long dinosaur trying to find the clitoris of its faraway tail. Throughout the pages she questions everyone from Valerie the T rex to Terry (Roasting Marshmallows on a Volcano) until finally – with the book fully extended to seven feet – the cute little villain is revealed. Not just a story, it’s a small feat of engineering. It really tickled me.

Another master of the absurd returns with the third appearance in the Billy and the Beast Series. Nadia Shireens Billy and the Pirates (Jonathan Cape) finds our big-haired heroine and her sidekick Fatcat trying to return a mysterious key in a bottle to Kevin the Kraken. Expect scratches, seafaring baddies, and plenty of snacks.

Fresh from the job of Children’s Prize winner, Joseph Coelho (the first black man in the role since it began in 1999) is stepping down Our tower (Frances Lincoln, August 2), the story of three friends living in a “boring, gray” high-rise, illustrated by Richard Johnson. One day the children are drawn into the forest by an enchanted tree that gives them a stone and allows them to see their home in a new light. Coelho, who can draw on his experiences growing up in London, has said, “I wanted to bring the magic of Narnia to the high-rise” — which seems like the perfect mission statement to begin a tenure that comes with rising bills and struggling families , when books don’t fill the stomach but can offer hope and escape.

To order any of these books at a special price, click on the titles or go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping costs may apply

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