Picture books for children – reviews | Picture books

OWith all its strange noises and amazing abilities, the human body never ceases to fascinate children. Jane Wilsher’s new book feeds that interest with a format almost as colorful and intriguing as human anatomy itself. wonderful body (What on Earth) comes with a magic lens, a sort of red magnifying glass that you pluck from the heart of the cover, to see the inner workings of eyeballs and organs, scabby knees and baby bumps.

Illustrated by Andrés Lozano, each comic is dedicated to a different aspect of the body and its care (for example, teeth or what happens during surgery). Full of quick facts and body positivity, it’s a title kids can come back to as they grow: little hands will love grabbing the lens and watching the bones appear; those in the upper elementary school years might read cover to cover, picking up new vocabulary as they go.

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

The feelings that pulsate beneath the surface of the physical self are currently the focus of picture books. A recent version, My Bindi (Scholastic), takes a joyful approach to tackling difference anxiety. The time has come for Divya to start wearing a bindi but initially she is afraid of being noticed, being considered “weird” by her classmates. Illustrator Archana Sreenivasan cleverly interweaves bindi designs and Hindu-style flourishes, visually representing a fusion of cultures, in the pages of Gita Varadarajan’s first picture book.

Speaking of debut, this year I judged the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, an award that launched the careers of emerging picture book talent, like Emily Gravett, for 37 years. It’s an exciting time for the genre – in January Nielsen BookScan figures showed the picture book market outpaced sales of fiction aimed at older readers for the first time since accurate records began . And if fresh, bubbly art school talent entering the 2022 Macmillan Prize is anything to go by (especially Heike Scharrer, who was crowned this month for Tailhis beautifully imaginative child’s eye on an everyday situation), he will be thriving for years to come.

Who tickles Tilly?  by Rob Jones.
“A mini feat of engineering”: who is Tickling Tilly? by Rob Jones.

Hardbacks rarely appear in this column, but they’ve really popped up in recent years, and Rob Jones is one author who clearly has fun with the form. After his accordion-style sausage-dog title, Where is Brian’s Bottom?his latest “veeeerrrrry long foldout book” for babies and toddlers, Who tickles Tilly? (Farshore, August 4), features an impossibly long dinosaur trying to find its distant tail tickler. As the pages go by, she asks everyone from Valerie the T rex to Terry (roasting marshmallows on a volcano) until finally – with the book fully extended to two meters long – the cute little culprit be revealed. Not just a story, it’s a mini feat of engineering. It really tickled me.

Another master of the absurd returns with the third release in the billy and the beast series. Nadia Shireen 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 scrapes, bad sailors and plenty of snacks.

Fresh out of the children’s laureate, Joseph Coelho (the first black man in the role since his debut in 1999) is stepping out Our tour (Frances Lincoln, August 2), the story of three friends who live in a “boring, gray” skyscraper, illustrated by Richard Johnson. One day, the children are lured into the woods by an enchanted tree that offers them a stone, allowing them to see their home in a new light. Coelho, who drew on his experience growing up in London, said: “I wanted to bring the magic of Narnia to the tower” – which seems like the perfect mission statement at the start of a tenure that coincides with rising bills and hardship. families, when books cannot fill the stomach but can bring hope and escape.

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