To mark the release of The Bookshop Girl, I am publishing my review of Sylvia Bishop’s charming first book, Erica’s Elephant.
This book reminded me of the wonderful writing of AA Milne, not just in the fabulous chapter titling like, “The Second Chapter: In which the Elephant earns a reputation”, but also in the manner in which the Elephant’s abilities and personality are written.
When Erica finds an elephant on her doorstep, little does she know the friendship they will form or the lengths she will go to protecting him from being sent to a zoo. Accustomed to living alone, this ten-year-old is incredibly resourceful, finding ways to fund feeding Elephant and learning about his care. When the authorities catch up with Erica, she finds an unlikely ally and a hidden talent – will these be enough to save her situation?
Ashley King’s pen and ink illustrations perfectly draw out the humour in Sylvia Bishop’s story-telling; I particularly love his interpretation of Erica’s busybody neighbour, Mrs Pritchett, which truly highlights his cartoonesque ability. In other parts of the book, such as scenes at the zoo, his eye for detail is delightful.
An enchanting debut book, perfect to read to children from about six and for confident readers them to enjoy from eight.
Written by Sylvia Bishop; Illustrated by Ashley King; Published by Scholastic, 2 June 2016
The Bookshop Girl, the second collaboration between Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King was released by Scholastic on 6th April 2017.
Written by Julia Donaldson; Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; Puffin, 6th April 2017
Today sees the release of The Giant Jumperee, a beautiful picture book with a simple story supported by wonderful images of its cast of 6 animals.
The story shows animals of increasing sizes, each with characteristics its pre-school target audience will recognise, in fear of the unseen creature which is claiming to be a giant Jumperee. Like Aesop’s lion and mouse or hare and tortoise, there is a realisation that every creature, no matter what its size, has its own strengths. Also, much as in Julia Donaldson’s own Gruffalo, there is a sense that fear of the unknown can be out of proportion with what the unknown actually is!
Julia Donaldson’s works have fortunately been supported by a range of talented illustrators. Axel Scheffler, of course, worked on the Gruffalo stories and many more including Room on the Broom and my personal favourite, The Smartest Giant in Town. Lydia Monks illustrated the Princess Mirrorbelle stories, The Singing Mermaid and What the Ladybird Saw amongst others.
This is Julia Donaldson’s first collaboration with the lovely Helen Oxenbury. I grew up with the award-winning Helen Oxenbury’s earliest works and have always loved them. She is probably best known for her illustrations to Michael Rosen’s text We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and in The Giant Jumperee we again see the great outdoors with her watercolour brush.
This book doesn’t draw on Julia’s often-seen rhyming talents, but that in no way stops it from being a great read-aloud book which children will be joining in with after a few readings. I have been fortunate to take a group of children to see Julia perform her works live, husband on guitar to sing the rhyming texts. If you ever get the chance, do take your youngsters to see her – the many animal hats for this book will no doubt be added to her repertoire!
Published by Puffin – Penguin Random House – 6th April 2017 – 32 pages