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Saturday August the 11th is National Bookshop Day in Australia. This is an annual event to celebrate bookshops and their role in our communities.
National Bookshop Day has a Facebook page and just looking at all the wonderful events planned around the country makes me smile.
I have worked for numerous bookshops in my career, all of which I have absolutely loved and been passionate about. Katie and I met working in a bookshop – Borders in 1998, when we set up and worked in their first store in Australia at South Yarra.
When we go on family holidays one of the things I need to do is find the local bookshop – just to have a look. My partner always says to me – “But, you work in a bookshop! Why do you want to visit others?” But why would I not? I love the product passionately, I might see something I didn’t know existed and I can have a chat with the store owners about lovely books new and old.
I have used the Book Depository, I have used Amazon and I have used Australian book websites too – they all have their place of course. But none of those sites can replace the beauty of browsing a bookshop or picking up a gorgeously designed hardcover or asking incredibly knowledgeable and well read staff for recommendations.
That is the thing about our Australian bookstores; we have amazing staff who are so totally passionate about what they do. Bookselling is a retail like no other. You don’t just hand someone a dress and say try this on for size, bookselling is about getting the right book into the right hands. Children’s bookselling in particular is an art and of such great importance for the future of reading in our country.
We are freshly back from our magical three weeks in France with Rowan (6) and Mira (4 months). One of the highlights of our stay in Paris was a visit to the Jardins des Plantes which is home to the National Museum of Natural History and also the Museum of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy. Walking up the stairs into the Grande Galerie d’Evolution feels like something straight out of Noah’s Ark – it is breath-taking.
The displays in this museum are beautifully conceived – somehow the exhibits manage to evoke the taxidermy museums of old, while combining this with a cutting edge style and a strong conservationist message.
Down an avenue of trees at the other end of the park sits the Museum of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy.
As you can see every available space is taken up with ancient bones. Rowan and I followed the lead of some French kids and sat down in the Museum of Paleontology to do some sketches…
With the memories of these museums strong in our minds, it was so serendipitous that Rowan received this book for his sixth birthday soon after our return home.
Published for the first time in English this year, by Gecko Press, Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals was originally a French production by Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt (whose collaboration is celebrated on their gorgeous blog, Les Tigres Gauchers). The scientific advisers on the project were from the Paris National History Museum, and wrote a beautiful and touching foreword to the book:
“Long before setting foot on the Moon, humans evolved on planet Earth – one continent, one ocean, one island at a time. Humans were enthralled by the world around them. To feed their fascination, they collected pictures and momentos of bones, feathers, herbariums, casts and fossils… But natural history museums – that once so proudly displayed the first examples of newly discovered species – now face the unenviable task of exhibiting their remains: the last skeleton, the last skin, the last paw print, the last photograph.”
The book is a collection of 27 of the world’s extinct species, and is a beautiful production. A double-page spread is devoted to each species – the left hand page consists of a cartoon strip, often a retelling of a legend or anecdote associated with the extinction or discovery story. The right-hand page includes a large illustration of the animal or bird, a description of the extinction and some facts, and most fascinatingly to Rowan, a diagram showing its size in relation to a man. The illustration style is naive and the colours and fonts retro and the overall impression is very approachable and appealing.
This is the perfect book for Rowan, whose obsession with David Attenborough documentaries show no sign of abating. But it would no doubt interest many kids from age 6 up – it’s a great example of a picture book pitched perfectly at older kids. Museums and galleries are doing some wonderful publishing collaborations – do you have any favourites at your house?
When I was little I adored a book called A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz.
Unfortunately I don’t know what happened to the book but it is a book that still lives inside me to this day and I will need to track down a copy. The lovely Burgin who writes the incredible blog ‘Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves’ posted a review of A Very Young Dancer if you are interested.
The amazing thing, that is quite rare in children’s picture books, is that Jill Krementz who is the author of the book is actually a photographer and the book is illustrated in photo’s. The story, a true one, is of a young girl’s journey in the New York City Ballet company and starring in their Christmas production of the Nutcracker. Using the photo’s to tell the story was so inclusive for me as a child. I wanted to be the ‘Young Dancer’ and I gained so much from observing the reality in the photography – the amazement and wonder of a city that I had never seen and the grittyness of the backstage and training process of a professional ballet company.
So when I saw Kiki & Coco in Paris, a picture book that is also illustrated with photography, I was again instantly transported and I knew I had to have it. It is a little different to A Very Young Dancer as Kiki and Coco in Paris is for much younger children and the photography staged for the story line but it still has those amazing inclusive qualities that photography brings to a book.
Published as a really beautiful extra large format hardcover book how could you even resist the jacket image….
Kiki and Coco in Paris is a collaboration between three amazing women – photographer Stephanie Rausser, Doll and textile artist Jess Brown and the story is written by Nina Gruener.
Coco is a doll made by Jess Brown and her owner is a divine little girl called Kiki.
‘When Kiki holds Coco’s hand, Coco’s feet skim the floor like a ballerina. It’s as if they were made for each other.’
Board books – what do you think of them? A board book is perfect for little hands – and teeth, but choosing one that a baby likes to look at, I find, is a bit of a challenge. Books in board format can be hit or miss. Often publishers try to squeeze a successful picture book, like the Gruffalo for example, into a board book and it just doesn’t work. There is to much text for the age group and the illustrations lose their lustre in a smaller version than they were originally intended.
In my years as a bookseller I have had many wrestles with the board book section and finding the right books to appeal to that age group is still a challenge. However my little road tester Tessie has found some she loves that I thought I’d share !! Those of you who follow us on Facebook would have seen this picture of her kissing these books…
The books she is kissing in this photo are the incredibly delightful and happy series of Noodle books by Marion Billet.
Tess is one but she has loved these books for some months now. Noodle is published by new independent publishing house Nosy Crow and we have Noodle Loves to Cuddle, Noodle Loves the Farm, Noodle Loves Bedtime – there are another couple of titles available too.
Each book has touchy feel-y pieces throughout and they all end with a mirror on the final page – a good mirror, not one of those ones that used to be in books that made you look like you were at Luna Park.
The textured components are really great quality also. Each time I have bought a new Noodle book for Tess I have watched her as she recognised the need to look for the bits to touch on each page, running her pointer finger over the page to find the different texture.
The text in the Noodle series is both rhythmic and fun but also brief – great for keeping her attention. It is also repetitive, saying Noodle’s name on each page so that now I only have to mention Noodle and she instantly turns for the books.
As a parent I have really fallen for the Noodle se
One of the reasons we’ve been offline for so long is this little poppet…
This is our little girl, Mira, 7 weeks old. I can’t wait to share another wonderful reading journey with her, as I have with her two big brothers.
Among her many beautiful gifts have been a couple of lovely books. One of them is this book, Pom Pom Where Are You? written by Natalie Jane Prior and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini.
The perfect book for anyone who loves Paris, this is a romp through the iconic sites of my favourite city through a dogs-eye view. Pom Pom lives in Paris and longs for adventure, which is exactly what he gets one day when he loses his owner while out on their daily walk. The premise reminds me a little of Harry the Dirty Dog Board Book “>Harry the Dirty Dog
, except that where Harry collects dirt, Pom Pom collects new friends and experiences – a restaurant lunch, a trip on a bateau mouche, a visit to Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens – and at every place he finds a new friend.
Like all good picture books, the illustrations in this story are much more than a straightforward expression of the text – and Cheryl Orsini’s artwork offers a rich and comical sub-text. Characters from one illustration and carried through to the next, and if you look very carefully you find that Pom Pom’s loving owner is really not that far behind him…
And there are so many authentic details included, making this wonderful Penguin Australia production feel very, very French. You can read more about what author Natalie Jane Prior thinks of the book here, and of naming Pom Pom’s owner, Henriette, after her own grandmother… Cheryl Orsini also has a beautiful website and blog.
This book was even more perfectly appropriate for Mira than my dear friend who chose it even knew. For not only does her mama love all things French, but lucky little Mira will herself get the chance to visit Par
Our stunning new blog header was drawn for us by artist Rebekka Seale.
Rebekka is an artist and illustrator from Nashville, Tennessee. She writes a beautiful blog and does the most amazing commission work, including stunning house portraits.
Rebekka is just so talented and we feel so very privileged to have been able to work with her.
As a little treat for this our first post back here is a little interview we have done with Rebekka …
What were your favourite books when you where little?
My two favorite books when I was very tiny were “Oh Captain Kitty” by Godfrey Lynn and “The Fire Cat” Esther Averill. Haha…do you sense a theme developing here? I also loved (and still love) all of the Elsa Beskow books…The Sun Egg, Around the Year, Children of the Forest…my grandmother was Swedish, and I felt such a connection to her through Elsa’s stories.
Do you have some favourite contemporary illustrators for children?
It has been a long time between posts for us but we are really HAPPY to say that we are back. We have had a little hiatus from blogging while having more bubbas and all the other happenings that life throws at you. We are so passionate about our blog and we really want to start sharing with you all again the books that we love and our multiplying children love!
As you can see, we have a brand new header design – by the awesome Rebekka Seale. More on that later.
We can’t wait to get blogging again and to hear from you all again. Did you know we are also on Facebook? We post lots of fun stuff there, so please Like us, do!
Golden Books have had such a well deserved resurgence in the market over the last couple of years. As a series they have been around for 65 years – can you believe it and we all have our favourites don’t we? What are yours?
Created as books for children that were to be low cost and high quality so as to make literature accessible to children of poorer parts of the US. Random House US have a great website devoted to Little Golden Books where you can find some great printables and activities as well as more history of the series.
SO you all know how much Katie and I LOVE Golden Books! We have written about our love on the blog numerous times – you can find the collection of our Golden Book posts here.
Now the wonderful Jackie from My Little Bookcase has issued a challenge to the blog world. She wants ideas on how to up cycle Golden Books that have seen better days and she invited us to take part.
We having been collecting very old and bedraggled Golden Books for a while now so we have a fair collection…
This is just a little pile!
Most of them have pages like this….
Or look like this….
So we have been having fun using them as bunting. The first lot of bunting I made was for Ned’s 3rd birthday in his favourite colour – yellow.
Then I started to make some that we sold and also used as display at Magnolia Square...
I think I have a soft spot for the Christmas bunting because it just looks so Christmasy!! There’s nothing better than displaying your love of books around the house – they are my favourite accessory.
Lou and I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 last night – has anyone else seen it?
It felt like the end of an era in so many senses. Lou and I have seen almost all the films together along with another dear friend. As the years have gone by and lives have got busier, I think the release of each new film has got more and more exciting for us! Coming out of the cinema last night felt like the conclusion to a long tradition.
I loved the film – powerful, touching, it hit just the right note of the drama and tragedy of the action, without labouring it. And it felt like you could sense the off-screen comeraderie of the three stars, and a definite sadness on their part that it has all come to an end. (Anyone else think those last scenes were not necessary??)
Otto fell off the couch and hit his head (above his left eye) on the coffee table a few months ago. Bit hard to see but I reckon his (temporary) scar is a bit Potter-esque, don’t you?
And yes, he is a poser. He thinks by squinting his eyes he is smiling. 95% of our photos of him are with his eyes closed.
Recently the very talented Cinti from My Poppet had a spectacular trip to Japan. While she was away Katie did a guest post for her on the My Poppet blog about one of our very special new books in our store, The Secret Circusby Johanna Wright.
Pop over to the My Poppet blog to see Katie’s review of this gorgeous book and to find out more about the author and illustrator Johnna Wright.
It has been freezing in Melbourne so Ned and I have gone in search of some things to do indoors. Last week we downloaded some free Very Hungry Caterpillar activity sheets off the Penguin US website which are fantastic. Ned and his Granny really enjoyed colouring the caterpillar and butterfly together…
And today we made our own caterpillar from half an egg carton following this wonderful tutorial.
He was really easy but fun and as you can see both the caterpillar and Ned found the fruit very tempting….
Although not the best photo’s, I just had to capture this moment. When Ned saw that his little sister was on my bed he made a dash for his bookshelf to choose some stories to read to her. He realised that he had a captive audience in Tess but boy did she love it.
Around the same time I took these photo’s I had also read an incredible article on The Guardian website by Sarah Franklin about reading aloud to her blind grandfather. The article is emotional and really made me think again about the joy that reading aloud can bring to both children and adults. Often reading aloud to children can become just part of a routine, just a way to get them to bed at night. But when you are really in the moment there is nothing nicer than sharing a story with the ones you love and that was what Ned was doing when he went to find some of his favourite books to read to his new little sister.
It was delightful to see Tess at just three months watching her brother adoringly as just listening to his voice reading the Max and Ruby story was bliss to her. I was so proud to hear him reading to her as his dad or I would, using tone and expression, playing up the entertaining storyline. He has found the joy in reading aloud and also appreciates that listening to a story read aloud is enjoyable and comforting.
There are two amazing books written about reading aloud – Reading Magicby Mem Fox andThe Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Both these books are excellent resources for encouraging children to read themselves as well as how to get the most joy out of reading aloud to them.
On reading to adults, there is a gorgeous collection that was released last year called A Little, Aloud, compiled by AngelaMacmillan. The book has a blog here , it truly is very special.
Katie and I would like to wish you all a very happy and safe Easter and ANZAC day.
We apologise for that our blog posts have been a little quiet over the last couple of weeks but we promise we will be back bigger than ever after the Easter break. There are exciting things going on in We Heart Books land, including some new projects and for me a new addition to the family – little Tess pictured here with her, very excited, big brother Ned….
Our boutique little book store is still going strong and you can have a look at the gorgeous stock here or why not follow us on Facebook, where we share some cool links to other blogs and also have some special offers for the We Heart Books store.
We LOVE that there is a film festival especially for children and that some more of our favourite picture books have made their way to the big screen! This year the program includes the beloved classic The Gruffalo (we mentioned the trailer when it first screened on TV on our blog here) as well as Rob Scotton’s Splat the Cat and Mo Willem’s Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.
Soooo…. we have 10 double passes to give away to Package 3 of this year’s festival (which includes The Gruffalo and Naked Mole Gets Dressed) to one of two sessions on Thursday 9 Jun 2011 at 9:50 am or Friday 10 Jun 2011 at 11:30 am.
If you would like to win, please leave a comment on this post (or on the competition post on our Facebook page) before Wednesday 1 June.
We have been spending a lot of time in the garden lately. We have set up a vegie patch, planted some flowers in pots and have been enjoying the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having things grow.
I was delighted to come across the Yates May Gibbs Sweet Pea Fairy seeds and think I will have to spread some of these around. Although they won’t come up until Spring I can’t think of anything more gorgeous than a whole tribe of little Sweet Pea Fairies in the backyard.
I just received some lovely new-to-me Golden Books of eBay. ABC Rhymes I’ve seen before, but I’d never come across Play Street or The Little Golden Book of Mother Goose.
When I saw the cover of Play Street, I was immediately reminded of the illustrations of Eloise Wilkin – author and illustrator of many Little Golden Books, including A Child’s Garden of Verses, We Like Kindergarten and Prayers for Children. Jane Werner Watson, who edited and wrote hundreds of Golden Books, called Eloise Wilkin “the soul of Little Golden Books”.
But Play Street was written by Esther Wilkin and illustrated by Joan Esley. A little research into these two revealed some interesting collaboration. Esther Wilkin was the sister of Eloise, who were born Eloise and Esther Burns, and they married two brothers Wilkins. Eloise was friends with Joan Esley and they opened a studio together and later moved to New York city together. I love the thought of the shared careers of these three, working together, helping each other in an era when few women were working, let along making names for themselves as leaders in their careers.
This is a gorgeous story, if you don’t already know it – how’s this for a classic 50s opener?
It was all very quiet on on Butternut Lane. The mothers were busy with their housework and the babies were taking their mid-morning naps. Bobby was riding his tricycle.
Against a backdrop of a classic US streetscape, is a tale of make believe – each of the littlies of Butternut Lane rides his or her trike imaging they are driving a vehicle. Until the roving policeman stops them as they are starting to make so much noise!
The Little Golden Mother Goose collects 75 Mother Goose rhymes – I’m amazed that I’ve heard of most of them but lovely to read a few new ones too.
I let out a very audible squeal this morning when I saw that the Guardian newspaper have a tutorial online by the incredible Oliver Jeffers on ‘How to Draw a Penguin’.
A penguin, according to Oliver, is easy to draw because they are just made up of three parts – ‘Head, Body and USELESS WINGS‘.
The Guardian continues to delight me with their devotion to reviews on children’s books and other children’s culture. They present their book section online so it is extremely appealing and engaging which is so important. The children’s reviews are insightful and they always pick great books, not high brow and not mass market just nice books.
They publish reviews by readers and have a great interactive program for children to subscribe too – a great innovation in a country where reading amongst children is on the decrease. `
This tutorial by Oliver Jeffers is part of a series they are presenting on illustration which has so far included; Nick Sharratt, Rob Steen (illustrator of the Flanimals by Ricky Gervais) and Alex Milway (author of an intermediate series called The Mythical 9th Division).
Children have been invited to send in their creations from the series and the Guardian are also featuring them online. What a fantastic concept.
Did you know that Alfie, that endearing little character created by Shirley Hughes in the 80’s, turns 30 this year?
I adore Alfie, actually all of Shirley Hughes’ work really. Dogger, which I have written about before on the blog, is one of those books that I can remember vividly from my childhood.
I was thrilled a year or so ago when I picked up a copy of The Alfie Treasury in an op shop in amazing condition for a couple of dollars. Ned has treasured it.
The reason that Alfie is endearing is because he is so like every pre school child. Children can relate to him as his stories are normal everyday occurrences in their lives. He gets new shoes, gets locked in the house, he gets babysat, goes to a birthday party and plays with his little sister, Annie Rose.
Shirley’s illustrations are comforting and homely. Her detail is delightful, there is always so much going on in each picture that you can pour over for hours and still see something new.
Each story has connections from another story. For example when Alfie is being babysat by Mrs MacNally’s Maureen his new yellow boots from the previous story Alfie’s Feet are sitting in the hall next to the stroller.
Our favourite Alfie story has to be Alfie Gets In First. Alfie and mum and Annie Rose are coming home from the shops. Annie Rose is tired, mum is flustered and Alfie runs through the front door banging it behind him leaving mum and Annie Rose on the front steps.
Alfie can’t reach the handle to open the door and soon the whole neighborhood is involved in trying the get the door open.
I love this story because I know how mum feels and how easily this could happen to us and Ned loves it for the same reason. He totally relates to Alfie’s predicament and we often talk about what it would be like if it did happen to us.
Watch this clip of Shirley Hughes explaining some of the illustrations displayed in the exhibition – one of which is one of the illustrations from Alfie Get’s In First.
Happy birthday Alfie! We love you.
If you’d like some more Alfie then pop over to the website that publisher Random House UK have set up for the 30th anniversary. The website has some great colour and activity printables that are perfect for the school holidays.