Quiz: Who Is Your Dad in Children's Literature? June 15 2021
Father's Day is coming up this weekend and it's a perfect time to celebrate some of the greatest father figures in children's books. There's the strong silent types like Miffy the rabbit's Dad, and authoritative Old Mr. Bouncer Bunny in The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.
Then there's the Dads who love to regale us with tales of their youth, like Tove Jansson's Moominpappa, and the energetic, playful fathers like Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Take our fun quiz to find out who your Dad most resembles in children's literature, and find him the perfect gift to match his personality.
Which of these sounds most like your family?
A. Untraditional or chosen family. Your Dad raised you on his own, or the person who felt most like a Dad to you is a guardian, mentor, Granddad or Step-Dad.
B. A big brood. Your family is huge, and you were raised with your cousins and neighbours, too.
C. Nuclear family. You grew up in a family home with two parents and a couple of siblings.
D. Moved around a bit. You have a family unit, but you moved around as a kid and the family went through a few changes.
You're on a day out with your Dad at a theme park and you come to a big rollercoaster. What does he do?
A. He gets a bit anxious about whether it's safe, but he trusts you know best and lets you go on the ride.
B. He watches from the sidelines on a comfortable lounger with a nice drink. But not before making you listen to a story about all the huge rollercoasters he went on in his youth.
C. He comes on the rollercoaster with you and pays for a photo, which he promptly frames when you get home.
D. He strikes up a conversation with the ride operator, gets the whole family onboard for free, and enjoys it more than the kids.
The cupboards are bare and the shops are closed, what does your Dad do about dinner?
A. He digs out a not-very-appetising looking vegetable from the bottom of the fridge and makes a whole dish out of it.
B. He gets a bit flustered and waits until your mother gets home.
C. He rounds up the whole family and brings you to a local restaurant, which ends up being a really fun evening.
D. He tells you to sit tight while he heads out to look for provisions, and mysteriously arrives home soon afterwards with a bountiful supply of delicious food.
You're graduating and your Dad comes to watch the ceremony, how does he behave?
A. He sniffles loudly and waves proudly, not realising that his head is blocking the view for everyone else.
B. He gives you a rousing speech about how life is full of possibilities and the world is your oyster.
C. He sits in the audience with your siblings and your Mam, taking photos for the family album.
D. He spends the reception chatting, laughing and striking up business deals with all the other Dads.
What are your best childhood memories with your Dad?
A. Times when he really believed in you and helped you achieve great things.
B. Camping holidays, BBQs and outdoor adventures
C. Simple days out at the park or the beach, and sitting on his knee reading books at home.
D. Times when he moved heaven and earth to get you something you really wanted.
Mostly A: The B.F.G.
Your Dad is the B.F.G! Your family might be a little bit different; maybe the father figure in your life is an uncle, a mentor or a lifelong friend. He is fiercely protective of you, just like the B.F.G. is of Sophie. He's endlessly supportive and constantly in awe of everything you do.
Sometimes your Dad is a little awkward in social situations, but he makes up for it with his good heart and general loveliness. For Father's Day, show your appreciation with a gloriumptious B.F.G print or tote bag.
Mostly B: Moominpappa
Your Dad is Moominpappa, the patriarch of the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. Your father is a well known variety of Dad: he was a rebel in his youth and now loves nothing more than kicking back with a fine tipple and regaling you with adventurous anecdotes.
Everyone in the family has heard all his old stories, so he may also be working on his memoirs to bring them to a wider audience. This Father's Day, gift your Dad The Memoirs of Moominpappa or a nice Moominpappa mug to swill during fireside orations.
Mostly C: A Shirley Hughes Dad
Your Dad is a classic Shirley Hughes Dad. Shirley Hughes is most famous for the Alfie series, and she's also the author and illustrator of many stand-alone books, including Father's Day, a beautiful picture book about the bond between a child and their Dad.
Your Dad is a down-to-earth, laid back kind of fellow. Your best memories with him are simple things like going to the park or messing about at home, which he made special just by being there. Pick up Father's Day or a print by Shirley Hughes to remind your Dad of the times you've spent together.
Mostly D: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Your Dad is the provider in your family, and like Fantastic Mr. Fox, he'd do anything to make sure you have everything you need. He's wiley, clever, and won't let anyone stand in the way of him looking after his family.
He has the gift of the gab and loves fixing things, so you can always call on him when you're in a bind. Gift him a Fantastic Mr. Fox print or a soft cushion to rest on when he gets home from all his running around.
Browse our full selection of Father's Day gifts here or in store.
Why We Love the Bustletown Books May 29 2021We carefully select every book that goes into our shop, and we really do love each one. Today we're giving you a closer look at a series that has quickly become one of our favourites; All Around Bustletown by Rotraut Susanne Berner.
Interview: Chris Haughton's new book, Maybe May 12 2021
We also chatted about Haughton's rug designs for Node, a non-profit social business in Kathmandu, Nepal. We're proud to be the only Irish stockists of these beautiful textile pieces. Node works in collaboration with Kumbeshwar Technical school in Kathmandu, which is an adult education and support centre. In addition to earning fair wages for their work, Node employees are taught literacy and skills. The money generated by the business also supports a school of 260 children and an orphanage of nineteen.
Q. I remember you reading an early iteration of Maybe at an event for primary school children a couple of years ago. Do you find it helpful to test out your stories on live audiences of kids?
Q. The characters in your books are always highly stylised and easily recognisable, which I think is one of the reasons kids really connect to them. When working on a new book like Maybe, do you usually have a visual idea for a character first, or do they appear in your head after you start writing the story?
I kind of sculpt them as the story is being shaped. I try to think of a character that makes the story funnier, or more poignant. That begins with choosing whether the character should be human or animal, and what kind of animal. Usually, they have more details to begin with, but to make the images read more easily they become more and more simplified.
Illustration from Shh! We Have a Plan
For instance the characters in Shh! We Have a Plan began with lots of little details of feathers and things they had maybe collected on past hunts. The little one had none. That part got a little lost in the story, but it's better to tell the story clearly than to retain these details that don't impact the story. To me, the most important thing is the eyes, and then the body language, so the design of the character should be able to show these to their best in all the scenes.
The quotes began with my very first picture book, A Bit Lost. I thought it would be funny to have a very wordy quote from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, as he was perhaps the most familiar lost character in literature. I just thought it was a funny thought to contrast that with my little story of a lost owl. We can all identify with being lost, whether you are a famous literary character or a lost baby owl in a forest, we have that same feeling.
Q. The quote at the end of Maybe is from Aristotle: "For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing". What made you choose this one, and at what stage of the writing process did you come to it?
When I have a story, I'm always trying to figure out what the core of it is. I usually don't really know what that is when I begin, but it clarifies as I work on it. Usually finding the right quote comes towards the end of the process of making the book. For Maybe, it was quite tricky, I didn’t want to really encourage or discourage risk-taking. Most of the quotes went one way or the other. I liked the Aristotle quote because it acknowledges this Catch 22 dilemma about risk. It's a part of life.
Q. We're proud to be the only Irish stockists of the amazing handmade rugs you designed for Node, a non-profit social business employing local craftspeople in Kathmandu, Nepal. Can you tell us a bit about how you first got involved in designing the rugs?
I am very proud you are stocking them too. Thanks so much!
Before I worked on picture books, one of the things I was doing was working as a volunteer designing and illustrating for the fair trade company People Tree. I worked for many years for them in various capacities, and then in 2010 I took a break and spent a year working and travelling in India and Nepal.
Buy a uniquely handcrafted rug here.
While there, I got in touch with many of the producers I had been working with through People Tree. I produced clothes and toys for People Tree and then I discovered that one of People Tree’s producers actually began their business by making rugs. They were so beautiful that I begged People Tree to stock the rugs, but they're mainly a fashion label and it didn’t make sense for them to stock them. So that's when I began looking into bringing them over myself. We've been very lucky with the rugs and we even had an exhibition in the Design Museum in London.
The rugs are handmade using traditional Nepali techniques
Q. Some of your rug designs, like George and Little Owl, are characters we know from books, and some are stand-alone designs. Where did these characters come from and will they appear in a book one day?
In 2014 I was commissioned by the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to design some of their children's wards. It was all newly built and is actually the largest hospital in Europe. However, as it is so huge, the wards are like a maze and look quite similar to each other. So one of my ideas was to make each room unique by theming it. That way the children can say I'm in the lion room or I'm in the parrot room, rather than saying I am in 35C, or whatever it is.
I chose a different animal for each room. I got to design 10 rooms and each room was a different animal. I designed a rug for each room, (which was hung on the wall behind a frame for hygiene), and we had pictures and vinyl dotted around each of the rooms. The other rugs all came from this project. It was nice to be able to just draw some fun characters without having a story. I hope to make a story for some of those characters some day.
Q. A lot of your work, both in picture books and design, has an environmental and social justice emphasis. For you, what impact can stories have in changing the world for the better?
I think stories are based on a yearning to do the right thing. We are drawn to stories because we instinctively want to know what to do when difficult circumstances present themselves. We imagine ourselves as the protagonist and we are readying ourselves for if one day something like that happens to us.
As my editor Deirdre often says, stories "help us to know how to be". We can bear to imagine situations that scare us when we feel safe curled up in bed, or in the lap of a trusted guardian. Some stories resonate with children very personally, perhaps because of personal fears or issues, and so they like to re-read them and replay in them in their minds. It is play. Children want to imagine themselves in those situations so that they can work out what to do. In those safe moments we are free to imagine what we should do. So that, in the heat of the moment when difficult circumstances do present themselves, we are able to make a good choice.
Browse all of Chris Haughton's picture books, including signed copies of his latest book Maybe, here.
You can find Node and Chris Haughton's beautiful handmade rugs here.
Richard Scarry's Busy Busy Life May 07 2021Our illustrator of the month for May is much loved children's book icon Richard Scarry. Scarry was an American children's author and illustrator known for his witty, highly detailed and charismatic books. He's one of the most prolific and best-selling children's authors of all time, with over 150 books to his name. Learn how his school life and years in the army influenced his art style.
Our Favourite Poems for Children April 29 2021
Poetry is all about interpretation and discovery, and when children are given a chance to engage with it, it can spark their imaginations in a way no other literature can.
The Wonders of Outer Space in Picture Books April 12 2021
Did you know that the 12th of April, 1961 was the day the first human flew into space? That human was Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, who crewed the Vostok 1 as it orbited the earth.
This first journey into space was a huge achievement for humankind and launched what we call the space age. The 12th of April is now known as the International Day of Human Space Flight and to celebrate we’ve picked out some of our favourite books about planets, stars and outer space.
As Yuri Gagarin would say, off we go!
A tour of the universe
Planetarium by Raman Prinja,
illustrated by Chris Wormell.
Planetarium by Raman Prinja is a fascinating book which takes readers on a tour of the universe. Prinja, a professor of astrophysics at UCL, uses clear, simple language to explain the wonders of space. He covers everything from constellations, to planets, solar systems and galaxies. With engaging bits of information and mesmerising illustrations by Chris Wormell, Planetarium will inspire children to look up at the stars and want to learn more.
Both Prinja and Wormell wanted this book to have a slightly old-fashioned look. Reading Planetarium feels like walking through an old-timey museum, but one filled with 21st century discoveries. Wormells' lino and woodcut techniques really add an old, almost vintage look to the book and the illustrations are out of this world. The detail and rich colours in every image show the beauty of the cosmos, while the sheer size of these illustrations conveys the immensity of the universe.
Chris Wormell uses a woodcut technique to create
old-fashioned looking illustrations.
While writing this book, Prinja hoped to replicate the experience of going to an actual planetarium. This makes this a great book to read during lockdown while museums are still closed. As well as being full of fascinating facts and beautiful pictures, Planetarium will get children excited about one day getting to go to a real planetarium and learning more about space.
An alternative history
We all know the story of Neil Armstrong and that historic first step he took on the moon, but what if he wasn't the first one to get there? In Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon, Torben Kuhlmann reimagines the history of space travel.
Most of the mice in this book are happy to believe that the moon is made of cheese, but one little mouse is intent on discovering the truth. In this epic adventure he learns about the science of flying, he experiments with breathing apparatus in a fish bowl, and he very narrowly escapes a terrible fire.
Kuhlmann's illustrations bring an amazing level of realism to what would otherwise be a fairly farfetched story. Through the precision of the mouse's tiny blueprints and the details of the small, everyday objects he uses in his experiments, Kuhlmann convinces his readers that a mouse truly could make it the moon, and beat us to it at that!
In a humorous twist at the end of the story, Kuhlmann suggests that human scientists were influenced by this mouse's discoveries and inventions. In this story it seems that without one tiny mouse and his big dreams, Neil Armstrong would have never set foot on the moon.
Starry starry nights
The Stars Just Up the Street by Sue Soltis,
illustrated by Christine Davenier.
Space travel is an incredible feat, but it's not for everyone. Some of us don't fancy the three day commute to the moon and are perfectly happy looking up at the stars from our own back gardens.
In The Stars Just Up the Street by Sue Soltis, little Mabel loves to look at the stars from her bedroom window. As she counts how many she can see each night, her grandfather tells her about when he was a child and he used to see thousands of stars in the sky.
Inspired by her grandfather's memories, Mabel decides to try and organise a night of stargazing. She visits the Mayor and rallies her local community until they all join together to turn out the town lights for one magical night of looking up at the stars.
Christine Davenier's luminous illustrations capture the quiet beauty of the night sky and show readers the peace that comes from taking the time to look up once in a while. In addition to this, The Stars Just Up the Street is an inspiring story about community, team work and perseverance. Mabel shows children that if they put their mind to something, they can achieve it.
A little bit of stardust
The Man Made of Stars by M. H. Clark,
illustrated by Lisa Evans.
Of course it's important to learn about the science of space - planets, solar systems, black holes - but there will always be something a bit magical about the cosmos, and there is nothing wrong with that. In The Man Made of Stars, M. H. Clark presents stars, not as balls of hot gas, but as acts of kindness that turn into beautiful lights.
Lisa Evans' ethereal illustrations are filled with starlight and every page seems to glow from within. These luminous illustrations pair perfectly with Clark's simple yet enchanting story about a mysterious man who hangs the stars in the sky.
The message behind The Man Made of Stars is just as beautiful as the illustrations. The man made of stars explains to the little boy that humans are made of "kindness and possibility and brilliance" and these qualities are what make the stars in the night sky. When we show each other love and kindness, that is what makes the stars shine. This charming book will not only show children the wonders of the night sky, but also the power of small acts of kindness.
Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin.
In this captivating bedtime story Emily Winfield Martin takes readers on a journey through the night sky and into dreamland. Within the first few pages, Martin reinvents astronomy for her own magical purposes. She reimagines the constellations as "animals from long ago" that carry little dreamers away to dreamland through the "maps made of starlight".
Martin's graceful rhymes and creamy illustrations create a soft sleepy atmosphere in Dream Animals that makes it perfect for reading to little children before bed. As they drift off they can think of the stars in the sky and imagine what their dream animal might be.
Most of the adventures in Dream Animals are not quite space travel, but with her soft, lyrical text and fantastical illustrations, Martin shows children that in their imagination they can go anywhere. Whether they dream of going to mermaid tea parties under the sea or of flying up to the moon and the stars, there's nothing children can't do when they close their eyes and dream.
Although only a few people have had the incredible experiencing of traveling into space, the magic of good book can take you on an adventure wherever you please.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these books. You can browse more of our beautiful picture books here.
Gardening With Your Children This Spring April 06 2021Spring has sprung in Ireland, finally. With another long summer facing parents who've been working from home all year, we've got some ideas to get the kids interested in gardening this spring, and keep them busy and engaged all summer. Here's a list of activities you can do at home in March and April.
Our 7 Favourite Picture Books With a Female Lead March 08 2021
To commemorate International Women’s Day we’ve selected some of our favourite books featuring strong female protagonists. These books are full of wonderful stories and beautiful illustrations, but most importantly they feature some amazing inspirational heroines.
Jill and the Lion tells the story of Jill, a daring little girl who loves to read. One day, Jill is dismayed to find that the pages of her favourite book are dripping with tears. Out from the book comes the tearful voice of a lion who has been kidnapped by a circus master who forces him to drive a toy car in endless circles. Eager to help and with little trepidation, Jill and her dog jump right into the book. Together they set out to help the lion regain his rightful place as king of the jungle.
Lesley Barnes’ illustrations are amazing to look at and are packed with colour and texture. Many of the patterns and varying fonts are reminiscent of retro funfairs and old fashioned circuses which add to the overall feeling of Jill being immersed in her book. The images of the lion are particularly expressive, showing his misery at being captive and his glee once Jill sets him free.
Throughout the story Jill is compassionate and brave. She lands in a dangerous part of the book but is undeterred from her mission and uses her courage and cleverness to help her new friend. The metafictional elements of the story - the book within the book - will ignite children's imaginations and may spark many conversations as they consider what they might do if they could jump into one of their favourite books.
Award-winning Irish author-illustrator duo Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson bring us this tale of hope and bravery. Told in a style similar to traditional fables, this story reverses the conventional role of the male hero. Molly awakens one morning to find that her father has not returned from fishing on the stormy seas. In an act of hope and selflessness, Molly takes her most treasured possessions down to the shore and offers them up to the sea in the hopes that it will safely return her father and all the other fishermen.
Whitson’s illustrations bring this story to life in rich, vibrant colours. He captures a real sense of movement which adds to the suspense and excitement. The stunning images convey the power and immensity of the stormy sea while also reflecting Molly’s state of mind. As she makes her way to the shore the swirling skies and churning waves represent her fear and sadness. As she throws her prized possessions into the sea the rays of light that burst through the clouds evoke a sense of hope.
Little Pearl is a captivating and refreshing story of how a young girl rescues her brother. Martin Widmark combines elements of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen to create this surreal and fantastical tale. When Grace's brother goes missing she sets out to find him and tumbles into a strange new land where she is the as small as a bug. In this new world she makes friends with the other insects, who speak in a comically confused rhyming language. However, when she is captured by an evil crab she needs all her courage, leadership and intelligence to save herself, the other children, and her brother.
In addition to its intriguing story this book is a work of art. Emilia Dziubak’s coloured pencil illustrations are utterly spectacular, creating an eerie, dreamy atmosphere. Her use of natural imagery excellently depicts the mysterious world Widmark has created. Other more surreal images, such as the one of a tiny Grace sitting crying on the end of her brother’s flute, represent the strong bond between these siblings.
In The Dangerous Journey Tove Jansson takes her readers on a remarkable adventure through Moominvalley. The protagonist, Susanna, is tired of her quiet life and longs for something exciting to happen. When she puts on a strange pair of glasses she finds the world around her has completely changed. Everything is dark and unfamiliar, but Susanna’s thirst for adventure takes over and she sets out into the unknown.
Translated into English by renowned poet Sophie Hannah, the playful rhyme scheme adds a sense of momentum to this exciting adventure. Jansson’s artwork is beloved all over the world and this book, like all her others, is irresistibly beautiful. Contrasting her signature black and white woodcuttings, the vibrant water-colours that splash through this book make it a joy to look at and perfectly depict the howling snowstorm, sputtering volcano and roiling waves Susanna encounters on her journey.
Hortense is a kind, brave, intelligent girl but she finds herself at war with her very own shadow. It follows wherever she goes and she desperately tries to get rid of it. Eventually she succeeds by slamming a window and shutting it out, but not forever. On a cold night in the woods a group of bandits jump out at Hortense and she realises just how much she needs her shadow.
Drawing on classic folktales and incorporating the darkness of the Grimm’s fairy-tales, the O’Hara sisters succeed in creating a story that is simultaneously classic and contemporary. The lyrical cadence of the text combined with Lauren O'Hara's ghostly illustrations, done in sparkling winter tones, creates an eerie and mystical atmosphere that makes this book a delight to read.
Like many traditional fairy-tales, this story has an important message. Hortense must learn to love and accept her shadow, showing readers that we all have dark sides but we must not shun them. Like Hortense, readers are encouraged to accept their whole selves because they will be stronger for it.
In her exciting debut as a children’s book author Sophie Dahl celebrates the friendship between two tremendous characters. Mable is a daring, inquisitive young girl and Madame Badobedah is a formidable, glamorous older lady. With her growly voice, heavy suitcases and toffee-apple-red hair, there is something very suspicious about Madame Badobedah and Mable is determined to find out more about her. Over the course of her investigation Mable learns about the amazing life Madame Badobedah has led and an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two.
Illustrated by Lauren O’Hara in washes of soft greens and blues you can practically feel the sea breeze wafting through the pages of this beautiful book. The images of Mable are wonderfully expressive, clearly presenting her as a strong-minded, independent little girl who knows herself. Madame Badobedah is equally strong-willed and her strength of character is presented through her commanding manner and glamourous appearance, captured in vibrant reds and deep dark blues.
Each of the stories in this collection feature kind, strong-minded, courageous heroines who strike out on their own and will inspire young readers to dream big. In addition to being a great representation of inspirational female characters, this book is a celebration of diversity, featuring stories from numerous different countries and cultures including China, Denmark, Maori New Zealand, Colombia and Russia.
It is not only brimming with exciting, inspiring stories, it is also absolutely gorgeous! Khoa Le's use of strong lines and shapes with rich, vibrant colours sets the tone for the stories and reflects the strength and independence these heroines embody.
In this book, children can read retellings of classic stories such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland while also discovering other less familiar stories like Chimidyue and the Butterfly or Princess Kaguya’s Great Adventure. Whether it’s Gerda rescuing Kay from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen, Hua Mulan taking her father’s place in the war, or Hinemoa bravely swimming across Lake Rotorua to be with the man she loves, children can take inspiration from the courage, independence, wit and wisdom shown by these wonderful protagonists.
Happy International Women's Day!
Mother's Day Gift Ideas March 05 2021
Mother’s Day is coming up on the 14th March which means it’s time to show our love and appreciation for all the mums, mummies and mammies out there! We’ve pulled together a few gift ideas that will help you to make this Mother’s day extra special. Here are some of them:
When it comes to Shirley Hughes, you'd be hard pressed to find an author or illustrator who is more adept at capturing the loving relationship between a mother and child. In all her books you can practically feel the inherent stickiness of children's fingers, and the soft, comfort of a mother's embrace. This book is no different. In a bustling supermarket, a peaceful park and an ever so slightly messy kitchen, Shirley Hughes presents the wonderful everyday moments children spend with their mothers.
The delightful ending of this book, when the children bring their mother breakfast in bed on her special day, makes this the perfect book for children to give to their mums this Mother's Day.
The least you can do on Mother’s Day is make your mum a nice cup of tea, but why not bring it to her in this adorable Moominmamma mug! Made of dishwasher and microwave safe porcelain, this mug features a lovely illustration of Moominmamma and her trusty black handbag.
Moominmamma is one of the calmest and most steadfast of Tove Jansson's beloved characters. She's a warm, loving mother who values the individuality of others. Whenever someone in Moominland is struggling she's always there to lend a helping hand.
These mugs are practical, but they're also really special collector's items. They feature Tove Jansson's original artwork from the Moomin books and comic strips. The illustration on this mug is from Comet in Moominland, which was first published in 1946. We are the only shop in Ireland which stocks these amazing collectible mugs from Finnish company Arabia, so get one before they’re gone!
Chris Haughton is an Irish picture book-maker whose signature vibrant colour palettes and deceptively simple illustrations are always a huge hit with little children. A Bit Lost tells the story of Little Owl, who gets lost and tries to find his way back to his mummy.
Like Haughton's other books the text in this book is very pared down making it great for children who are still developing language. As a result, a lot of the humour in the story is presented through the body language and facial expressions of the characters. Little Owl's eyes are incredibly expressive, showing his surprise at falling out of the nest, his growing uncertainty with every new animal the squirrel presents as his mummy, and his utter joy at finding his real mummy again.
This is one of our most popular board books and with its theme centred on the strong bond between mother and child we think it would make a wonderful gift this Mother's Day.
Although the Nutbrown Hares in this timeless classic are father and son, the sentiment remains the same. This book is an unquestionable representation of the immeasurable love shared between a parent and their child.
As many of you probably already know, this story starts when Little Nutbrown Hare is going to bed and asks Big Nutbrown Hare to "Guess how much I love you". The discussion that follows is a delight to read aloud to small children as they can join in with the gestures and movements the hares use to show each other just how much they love one another.
The message behind this book is that love is not something you can measure, although as these hares show, it can be good fun to try. The loving relationship shown between parent and child in this beautifully illustrated story makes it great for giving as a gift on Mother's Day.
Giving your mum flowers on her special day is a lovely idea, but why not take it to the next level with this mesmerising book! Did you know that you can make tea from the petals of a passion flower? Or that some flowers get their names from Greek mythology? You'll discover all this and more in Flower Power, which explores the cultural histories, healing properties and secret powers of seventeen gorgeous flowers.
All the fascinating information in this book is accompanied by captivating illustrations by renowned artist Olaf Hajek. Using warm and vibrant colours, Hajek captures the lush beauty of all of these lovely blooms. These stunning images are full of life, populated with insects, animals and even characters who personify the properties and mythologies of each flower.
The enchanting images and rich, informative text in this book make it a unique and beautiful gift for anyone with a love of flowers and things that grow.
In this incredible book, screenwriter Irena Brignull explores the bond between a mother and her adopted child. The little girl and her mother are living happily together when one evening the little girl asks her mother where she came from and why she doesn't have a father. The mother explains that she made the little girl in her dreams by hoping and wishing all her life for a daughter. However, the question of where she comes from grows dark and heavy in the little girl's mind. She sets out on a journey to discover where she came from. Over the course of this journey she learns the true meaning of family.
The sumptuous layers of warm colours in Richard Jones' illustrations masterfully express both the warmth and strength of the mother's love but, also the confusion and complexity of the little girl's question. As she moves further and further away from her mother, the colour palette grows darker and more subdued. At the end of the narrative when she arrives home and is safe in her mother's embrace the warmth and softness returns to the illustrations.
The text is full of emotive natural imagery. The mother's love for her daughter is described as "stronger than the rocks in the mountain" and "fuller than the harvest moon". These natural images show that although the little girl does not have a mother and father in the same way as the wild animals she meets in the woods, her mother's love for her is just as powerful and just as sure. Representation of adopted children in children's books is unfortunately quite rare, making this book even more special and important in its thoughtful and caring depiction of a mother and her adopted child. Although it can of course be read by anyone, The Child of Dreams would make a marvellous gift for mothers and adopted children to read together.
And of course you can never go wrong with a heartfelt message in a pretty card. Check out our greeting cards as well as all our other gift suggestions in our Mother’s Day section.
Our Top Ten Books for Spring February 19 2021
We're well into February now, although it doesn't look like winter is going to budge anytime soon unfortunately. But that doesn't mean we can't find a little brightness in the books we read while we wait for the sun to come out. Here are some books we think you and your little ones might enjoy reading together.
Pop-Up Park may look small but it’s got some big surprises on the inside. Featuring Ingela P. Arrhenius’ signature bold shapes and bright colours, readers between ages 1 to 3 will love all the pictures that jump right out of this little book, and it will definitely get them excited about going out to play. It is a beautiful first pop-up book.
The end of winter means that one day, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to head outdoors and have adventures again - that is, without having to put on a hundred layers first. Until then, children between 1 and 4 will love stepping into Michael Rosen's We’re Going On a Bear Hunt and joining a brave family as they squelch, splash and swish their way towards the bear’s den.
This beautiful edition of Winnie the Pooh is full of fun and adventures and it's a particularly good book for those days when you're sick of the wind and the rain. In this first ever Winnie the Pooh book you'll enjoy many amusing adventures, like the time Pooh gets stuck in a rabbit hole, or when Piglet meets the terrifying Heffalump. While it's great for reading to little children, children around 8 and up will be able to read this book to themselves.
This stunning lift-the-flap book celebrates the beauty of all the seasons and the amazing changes we can see in nature as the year goes by. In this book, suitable for children ages 5 and up, Clover Robin’s gorgeous illustrations show how six spectacular landscapes are transformed by the changing seasons. With interesting facts about wildlife and nature, Seasons is a truly engaging book.
Elsa Beskow’s beautiful illustrations of wild flowers and fields are a must have for spring. In this delightful story, children ages 4 and up can discover how a little boy named Pelle uses the wool from his pet lamb to make a new suit that will fit him just right!
In this glorious sequel to the hugely popular Julian is a Mermaid, you’re invited to revel in Jessica Love’s bright and joyful illustrations. Readers between the ages of 4 and 8 will join Julian and his friends as they celebrate love at a beautiful spring wedding. Confetti and flowers fly through the air in this gorgeous book, and if you order Julian at the Wedding now you’ll get a stunning free print!
Yuval Zommer’s big, bright and beautiful illustrations make The Big Book of Blooms the perfect book to read in the run up to spring. With gorgeous pictures and fun facts about flowers from all over the world, this book would be wonderful for any children between the ages of 5 and 10 who have curious minds and a love for things that grow.
In this beautiful hardback edition, children aged 9 to 12 will enter the wonderful world of the Moomins. Comet in Moominland was actually the second ever Moomin book but is generally regarded as the first in the series. (This is because the first written, The Moomins and the Great Flood, is more of a novella and is seen as a prelude to the series as a whole.) Comet in Moominland is a great introduction to so many beloved characters as well as being a fantastic story that will get readers excited to have their own adventures.
If you want to escape the dreary greys of late winter and add a dash of colour to your world, what could be better than a trip to Oz? Travel over the rainbow into L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and enjoy Robert Ingpen's vibrant illustrations of the Yellow Brick Road, the fields of poppies and the beautiful Emerald City.
We can all feel a little sour and grumpy after the long dark days of winter (and Lockdown of course), but this beautifully illustrated edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic will perk you right up. In a story that celebrates the beauty of nature, you’ll grow to love Mary, Colin and Dickon. It might even inspire you to plant a secret garden of your own… as soon as the weather is nice enough.
Valentine's Day Gift Ideas February 03 2021
Valentine’s Day is coming up fast and we are offering 14% off EVERYTHING between now and midnight on the 10th February - use code VALENTINE at the checkout. We have loads of fabulous gift ideas for the special day. Here are just a few:
If you’re looking for something cute and cuddly this Valentine’s we’ve got just the thing. Give someone you love their very own Nutbrown Hare from Sam McBratney’s beloved Guess How Much I Love You. With long, velvety ears and ‘I Love You’ stitched into his paw, this big bunny would make a lovely gift, for children or adults.
For a gift your loved one can use every day, why not get this handy tote bag. With durable long, black straps this tote bag features a very sweet image of Tove Jansson’s lovable characters, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, happily rowing downstream together.
If your special someone is into interior design then this Moomin cushion would make the perfect gift. Made of incredibly soft material in a pretty light pink, this cushion features a heart-warming image of Tove Jannsson’s Moomintroll giving his girlfriend, Snorkmaiden, a nice big hug.
For a really unique and special gift, we’d recommend this Moomin Arabia mug. These mugs are beautiful collectibles for fans of the Moomins and we are the only shop in Ireland that sells them! This particular mug could be a great gift for either a loved friend or a lover as it features the special scene when lonely Toffle meets new friend Miffle for the first time in Who Will Comfort Toffle?
Speaking of illustrations, we have loads of wonderful prints that would make great gifts this Valentine’s Day. Our Pooh prints are are always popular and this print of Pooh and Piglet playing in the snow has a beautiful message that will tell whoever you give this to just how you feel about them.
There’s nothing quite like a fairy tale romance, which is why this stunning Jenni Kilgallon print would make such a fantastic gift for someone you love. Inspired by fairy tales from all over the world this print features a happy couple under a full moon, love-birds sitting in the trees, and an enchanting castle in the distance. Each of these prints comes in an A4 mount with original hand drawn detailing, making each piece totally unique.
With moonlight, stars in the sky and even a bouquet of flowers, this beautiful Moomin print has everything you could hope for on a romantic evening out. The image of Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden snuggled close together on the bench is so sweet and makes this print an ideal gift to give to someone you care about.
Flowers are often a go to gift for Valentine’s Day, but they can be a little predictable. This breath-taking print by Monika Mitkute adds an elements of magic and otherworldliness to the standard bunch of flowers. Every bloom in this image seems, quite literally, to come to life as two magical humming bird float towards each other.
In this joyful follow up to Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid, Julián and his grandmother go to a beautiful wedding. Suitable for children between ages 4 and 8, this is a story full of happiness and fun as Julián and his family celebrate the love of two beautiful brides on their special day. Continuing the themes of acceptance and self-expression from the first book, Julián at the Wedding is a true celebration of love.
Order this book now and you’ll get a signed edition with a gorgeous free print!
Valentine’s Day is celebration of love and if you really want to get swept away in the romance of it all, Jackie Morris’s The Unwinding and other dreamings is the book for you. With dreamy, fantastical illustrations and a magical story told in simple, lyrical text, The Unwinding is a love story you’ll want to come back to again and again. For young adults and adults.
Check out our selection of beautiful and unique Valentine's Day cards.
Use code VALENTINE for 14% off all orders between now and midnight on the 10th February. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Introducing... The New Baby Wonderbox! January 29 2021
Welcoming a baby into the world is such a special experience which has been made extremely difficult by the pandemic. We know lots of parents out there haven’t been able to introduce their new babies to their friends and family and with so much uncertainty going on it’s hard to say when we will all be able to visit each other again. But, with our New Baby Wonderbox subscription, you or someone you love can have their spirits lifted by receiving a lovely surprise direct to their door, four lovely surprises in fact!
Created exclusively for Tales for Tadpoles, these prints are beautiful works of art for a baby to grow up with. Whichever you choose, each beautiful print will then be followed in the coming months by three more packages. Each of these will contain a variety of books and gifts chosen specifically to suit a baby as he or she grows throughout the year.
If you or anyone you know is expecting or has just had a baby these Wonderboxes are literally the gifts that keep on giving. Here are some examples of beautiful gifts the recipient may receive:
Emily Winfield Martin’s The Wonderful Thing You Will Be is hugely popular as a gift for newborn babies, and with this growth chart you can enjoy all the beauty of her illustrations in your home while also documenting the growth of your child. With an elastic closure that can be used to hang the eight page chart on the wall, this growth chart not only makes a beautiful addition to any child’s bedroom, it can also be kept for years after as a reminder of how much your child has grown (and how small they used to be!).
If there’s one other favourite character all new babies ought to meet, it’s got to be Peter Rabbit. These booties are super soft and have a little rattle in each toe, perfect for tiny wriggling feet!
When it comes to christening gifts, these Beatrix Potter porcelain mugs are really something special. With a choice between the delightful Jemima Puddle Duck or the beloved Peter Rabbit, these mugs are beautiful and functional as they are both dishwasher and microwave safe. Although they are fully functional and can be used, these mugs can also be kept as collectible items that the child can cherish for a very long time.
Music boxes are such a classic gift for children and babies, and we have a selection of really gorgeous musical jewellery boxes available. This Little Prince musical jewellery box would be a lovely gift for a child or even a baby as a way of introducing them to the charming character of The Little Prince. Inside the box is a mirror and a figure of the Little Prince which twirls around to Mozart's Eine Klein Nachtmusik when you wind him up.
Coming Soon... Guess How Much I Love You Building Blocks
If you have any questions or specifications for any of our Wonderboxes please let us know...we're only too happy to oblige!
Escapism: Our Top 10 Books to Get Lost In January 16 2021
January is never a popular month but this year it feels particularly dreary. Not only does it mean the end of what was a rather strange, but hopefully enjoyable, Christmas season, it also means that we’re back in lockdown. Some of us may be isolating with friends or family while others may be alone, but one thing we can probably all relate to is wanting to be somewhere else from time to time.
This is where the magic of reading comes in. Books have the power to take us on adventures, to transport us to other worlds. We’ve pulled together some of our favourite books that we think you’ll enjoy escaping into this month.
During lockdown, it can be frustrating being stuck inside and not being able to see our friends. Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott's Everybody's Welcome serves as a nice reminder that one day we’ll be able to open our doors again.
When poor Frog’s pond dries up and he has nowhere to live he decides to team up with Mouse to build a new house. As they set to work on their dream home they meet more and more animals who need somewhere to live. As all these different animals join together to build a big, beautiful home it shows how important it is to open your arms and extend a hand to those in need, so that they too can feel safe, warm and welcome.
With its clever peek-through holes and wide panoramic pages, this lovely little book literally welcomes you in. Its board-book form makes this perfect for very young readers, around 3 years old, and the timely, comforting story will encourage conversations about sharing and kindness to others.
Although lockdown does not make the best start to a year it’s still exciting to think of all that is still to come: the changing seasons, the longer days and warmer weather. Sam Usher’s Seasons is a wonderful box-set of books that explore the wonders of all different kinds of weather.
Come rain or shine, this little boy and his grandfather always find a way to enjoy themselves. In Rain they set sail across perilous puddles, while in Sun they brave the blistering heat on their quest to find the perfect picnic spot.
This is a charming set of books which prove that any day can be an adventure, whatever the weather. With bright illustrations and engaging text this set of books is great for children ages three and up.
If you’re longing for a bit of normality, for bustling streets and your usual daily routine, What Do People Do All Day? is a wonderful book to flick through with your little ones. In a panoramic tour of Busytown, Richard Scarry shows us all the things the animals get up to and highlights the joy of the everyday.
Unsurprisingly, everyone in Busytown is busy. From the mothers and their babies to the train drivers at the station, there is always something going on. This makes this a great book to look through with little ones. On every page there is something that will grab their attention or spark their interest. Whether they want to know more about construction workers on a building sight, or farmers tending their crops, What Do People Do All Day? is bound to keep readers age four and up busy… for a while at least.
Next up is this beautiful book by M.H. Clark. The Man Made of Stars tells the enchanting story of a curious little boy who sets out to uncover the mystery of the ethereal lights coming from the woods and to meet the man made of stars.
Lisa Evans’ stunning illustrations bring this book to life and her use of light makes each image seem to glow from within. The message of this book is similarly illuminating. When the little boy finally meets the man made of stars, he discovers that the glowing lights in the woods and in the stars come from acts of kindness.
This dreamy book makes an ideal bedtime story for children ages four and up, while children from around seven and up could read it themselves. This is a lovely book to escape into and its overall message, that kindness can be a bright light in the dark, feels particularly poignant this month.
After Christmas is over the greys of winter can seem particularly bleak, but this next book will allow you to escape into the lush greens of a fairy tale forest.
Suitable for ages five and up, The Sun Egg tells the tale of a curious elf who finds a strange orange thing in the middle of the wood and decides it must be an egg from the sun. Join the elf and her friends on their quest to find out what it really is and enjoy Elsa Beskow’s beautifully charming illustrations along the way.
Hortense and the Shadow is an original fairy tale which draws on old fables and stories in a way that makes it feel both classic and contemporary.
Although Hortense is kind and brave she is not happy, and this is because she hates her shadow. No matter how hard she tries to get rid of it, it still follows her everywhere. Until one day, it vanishes. It is not until Hortense is alone one night in the cold dark woods that she realises her shadow is the thing she needs most.
In this wonderful modern fairy tale, the O’Hara sisters combine beautifully intricate illustrations and a haunting atmosphere with a very important message. In these strange and difficult times we can all get into a bit of a dark mood. This book, suitable for ages 5 and up, teaches you not to hate that part of yourself but to be kind to it and to embrace who you are.
If you plan on escaping anywhere this January, make it Wonderland. In this beautiful new edition, Anna Bond adds a modern twist to this classic with her whimsical style and bright pops of colour.
Lewis Carroll’s beloved story has been entertaining readers for well over a century and can be enjoyed by children aged eight and up or read allowed to younger children around five years old. In Wonderland you’ll find the perfect combination of magic, humour and madness.
Being in lockdown can leave anyone feeling a little loopy, so it seems only natural that we all take a journey down the rabbit hole. After all… they’re all mad there.
For those of you looking for the slightly more conventional fairy tales, Snow and Rose is the book for you.
In this enchanting retelling of the classic fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red, Emily Winfield Martin creates a magical world that is grounded in human emotions and relatable characters. Snow and Rose are two sisters, who live happily in a splendid house with their parents, but when their father disappears into the woods it’s up to them to uncover the truth. As the sisters set out to break a set of terrible spells Martin weaves an unusual and compelling story that you’ll come back to again and again.
Featuring Emily Winfield Martin’s beautifully detailed illustrations, this book is suitable for readers aged 9 and up. It's the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dreary day.
Christmas is often very stressful and Christmas 2020 was even more so than usual, so we think we all deserve a little time to unwind. What better way to relax than reading Jack Morris’ dreamy The Unwinding and other dreamings.
This is not a text heavy book, it is not even the kind of book you’re meant to read from cover to cover. It's a collection of short, lyrical poems and stories that you can dip into when the pressures of the world get a bit much for you. Suitable for young adults and adults, every page features Morris’ rich and beautiful artwork, spanning wintery landscapes and dreamy ocean voyages, to take you away from the stress of it all.
If you get the chance, we highly recommend taking a quiet moment to flip through this stunning book.
If you’d like to completely abandon normality and go straight to the weird and wonderful, we’ve got just the thing.
The Land of Stone Flowers is a strange and whimsical book suitable for young adults and adults. In this book fairy tales are flipped on their heads as elves, pixies and gnomes do their best to understand the strange, unfathomable world of humans. The fairies cover a huge range of topics including anatomy, architecture, common turns of phrase, and get most of it phenomenally, and hilariously, wrong.
On top of all the satire and silliness, this book is truly beautiful. The illustrations take inspiration from famous artists such as Harry Clarke, Kay Nielsen and Arthur Rackham, but each of them has their own unique and strange style. The combination of these unusual images with the amusing accounts of the human world make it a real joy to flip through the book, at a leisurely pace.
Our gorgeous shop may be closed for the month but we are still taking online orders as normal.
Interview with Lauren O'Hara October 27 2020
We’re bringing back our illustrator of the month blogs! This time we will be interviewing some of our favourite illustrators so you can learn more about where they get their inspiration, which other artists have influenced them, and what some of their favourite picture books were when they were younger.
This month, we spoke to Lauren O’Hara, an extremely talented illustrator based here in Dublin. Lauren has three books published; Hortense and the Shadow and The Bandit Queen, which she created with her sister Natalia, and Madame Badobedah which was written by Sophie Dahl.
What’s the book or picture book you remember reading most as a child, do you still have a copy of it?
I was lucky growing up because our mum was really into children’s books so we had a lot in the house. We had a particularly beautiful edition of The Snow Queen illustrated by Errol le Cain - and by total coincidence I found the same edition in a charity shop a few years ago - it’s a very treasured possession!
What is your current favourite picture book or one you are looking forward to reading?
I’m really looking forward to The Problem With Pierre By Zanna Hubbard, I’ve been a big fan of her work on Instagram (@zanna_hubbard) for a long time and I’m really looking forward to her debut book. Her style is so fresh and she has beautiful movement, but there’s also a really classic, Ardizzone-ish quality to it.
Who are some of your favourite illustrators working at the moment? Are there any that you think have particularly influenced you style?
There are so many incredibly talented illustrators at the moment - I think we’re in a really rich period for children’s books which is incredibly exciting. Beatrice Alemagna, Isabelle Arsenault, Carson Ellis, Shaun Tan, Christian Robinson are a few favourites at the moment.
But having said that, I try not to be too influenced by other contemporary illustrators' work - it can be very easy to compare yourself but that’s not where the best or most authentic work lies.
Where did you and your sister get the idea for Hortense and the Shadow and the Bandit Queen? Was there anything particular that inspired those stories?
Hortense and the Shadow was our first book and it felt very personal to both Natalia and I. It’s the story of a little girl who hates her own shadow and tried to get rid of it, only to realise it’s an integral part of her. Natalia wanted to express that our darkness, anger, naughtiness is an integral part of being, and challenge how common it is for children, girls especially to be told that those parts of themselves are wrong. In terms of style, we drew heavily on Eastern European fairy-tales - our mother is from the Czech Republic and we had a lot of wonderful illustrated Russian, Polish and Czech Fairy-tales as children.
The Bandit Queen was pure fun and joy. A story of naughty bandits who find a little baby, only to realise she’s the naughtiest of them all and make her their queen.
When you’re working on a book what usually comes first, the words or the images?
It depends on the book; with Hortense and the Shadow and The Bandit Queen Natalia came up with the original concept and story but the illustrations and writing were done in tandem. We’ve been told we work more like a single author/illustrator than a duo as the work develops at the same time!
With other authors, such as my book with Sophie Dahl - Madame Badobedah - the story was fully written when I received the manuscript so it was quite a different way of working for me.
For mine and Natalia’s upcoming book with Walker, Frindleswylde, I had done a rough little sketch of a character which Natalia loved so much she developed a story with the character as a starting point.
What are you working on next?
Natalia and I have two books out next year, Frindleswylde with Walker books and a chose-your-own-fairytale book with Pan Macmillan. Then I’m working on a collection of stories with author Vivian French, again with Walker books, and a non-fiction with Thames and Hudson. Phew, it’s a busy year and I’m so excited about taking them all out into the world!
You can follow Lauren on Instragram @oharasisters. You can find Hortense and the Shadow, The Bandit Queen and Madame Badobedah right here on our website. We also have some of Lauren's beautiful Christmas cards for sale here.
Books for the Autumn Season October 18 2020
There is a definite chill in the air these days and as most of us are confined to our houses with our families like never before, it's a great opportunity to curl up together with a good book.
Here are some family favourite books to read in the autumn.
Of course one of the best things about autumn is watching the leaves change colour. Nothing feels more autumnal than strolling along, kicking your feet through the fallen leaves before they are swept away. Whether it’s oak, birch or elm, with Piotr Socha’s award-winning The Book of Trees you’ll be able to identify all the leaves you might find on the ground in the coming weeks. The detail is astonishing and will captivate every member of the family, young and old.
Autumn by Rotraut Susanne Berner is one of a four-part wordless picture book series which illustrates all the wonders of the changing seasons. In autumn you can see the leaves changing colour, chestnuts being sold on the street, squirrels storing nuts for the winter and a huge pumpkin being wheeled through town. The detail in this series is incredible, so we would recommend getting one of each of the Bustletown books so you can spot all the changes that take place over the year. You can also follow the different people (and their pets!) living in the town; each have a separate story that carries from page to page, book to book.
Another great read for cuddling up with on a rainy day is The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc. This is a heart-warming tale about friendship, loss and hope. One autumn day Lion discovers an injured bird in the garden and a beautiful friendship unfolds. With minimal text and gorgeous illustration, this is a hope-filled, feel-good kind of book.
As well as the changing leaves, autumn usually brings a change in the weather. In this next book one little gnome faces all kinds of weather after he is washed down a drainpipe in a storm. Daniela Drescher’s The Garden Adventures of Griswald the Gnome features all the joys of the changing seasons. Through rain, snow and even the odd sunny day, Griswald shares adventures with his new friends, all beautifully brought to life by Drescher’s delightful illustrations. This is an enchanting, entertaining book, perfect for confident young readers, as each easy-to-read chapter tells a different story of Griswald’s life in the garden.
The Children of the Forest spans many seasons, we think it’s the perfect book to read this autumn. Join Tom, Harriet, Sam and Daisy as they collect mushrooms and seeds to prepare for the colder months. With her signature style and gorgeous illustrations, Beskow shows these tiny children playing hide and seek with squirrels, dancing with forest fairies and weaving warm winter blankets to snuggle down in. This magical little book shows the joys of the changing seasons and the beauty of the natural world.
And finally, we just have to mention this adorable book for our littlest readers: I am a Bunny illustrated by Richard Scarry. This delightful story follows Nicholas the bunny throughout the year, as he describes all his favourite things to do with each passing season. Full of simple but fun outdoor activities that any child will enjoy, this board book is easy for little hands to flick through - a perfect introduction to the different seasons for any little nature lover!
Our Christmas Gift Guide 2018 December 04 2018
Beatrice Alemagna's Unique and Charming Picture Books October 31 2018Alemagna manages to retain a recognisable aesthetic through all of her work, but for each new book she utilises different materials. Her illustrations have used collage, cutouts, paint, textured paper, transparent elements and coloured pencils.
Our Top Five Picks for Older Readers September 12 2018
Our lovely customers come to us from all over Ireland and beyond for the best in illustrated picture books. Most people are either buying for young children or buying for themselves, because of an interest in art and design. But did you know we’ve also got a carefully selected range of chapter books for slightly older children? And of course for adults who love a bit of nostalgia and magic! Here are some of our favourite chapter books for slightly older audiences. Next time you pop into Tales for Tadpoles, make sure you ask to be shown the chapter book shelf!
Kate DiCamillo’s instant classic The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane had to be first on our list. This is one of the only books in the shop which is equally loved by every member of the team. It even made a couple of us cry…in a good way! It tells the story of Edward, a toy china bunny who thinks ever so highly of himself. Edward has very little regard for anyone else, including the girl who dotes on him, dresses him in fine clothes, and sets him a place at the dinner table. But when Edward finds himself getting lost, he sets out on a journey that introduces him to all kinds of people and teaches him the true meaning of love.
We love hearing feedback from customers who take on our recommendations, and we've never once heard anything less than a rave review from anyone who bought The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. We even heard back from one customer about a little girl who loved it so much that she was getting her very own china bunny for Christmas! This book is perfect for confident young readers, or small children who can concentrate on longer stories when they're read aloud. It will also delight adults.
Set in Krakow, Poland, in 1939, The Dollmaker of Krakow is an example of magic realism, blending historical fiction with fantasy. An enchantment brings a little doll named Karolina to life in a toyshop. She becomes friends with the gentle, broken-hearted Dollmaker who owns the shop. When the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks.
R.M. Romero weaves together magic and folklore in a way that both adults and confident younger readers will enjoy. Intricate silhouette illustrations by Tomislav Tomić adorn every page of this beautiful book.
This is another instant classic from Kate DiCamillo. A little boy called Peter is sent to market to buy bread, but he instead spends the money on a fortune teller in the hopes that they can help him find his long lost sister. The fortune teller tells Peter he must look for an elephant who will lead the boy to his sibling. The boy goes home brokenhearted at this impossible prospect. Until suddenly, an elephant appears in his town!
This is a magical story for any age, suitable for any child who has moved onto longer chapter books. Any child who's reading books like the Harry Potter series will be well able for this!
Heralded as an "outrageous and controversial classic" by its publisher Phaidon, this illustrated novella by Tomi Ungerer is hilarious, but also quite touching! It's branded as controversial because of the way it subverts traditional, mushy children's bedtime stories. No Kiss for Mother tells the story of Piper Paw, a little kitten who hates being mollycoddled by his mother, and refuses to kiss her. This is the perfect story for kids who like a bit of mischief in their stories. Fans of Roald Dahl will take to Ungerer's edgy humour with relish.
We've stocked Jane, the Fox and Me since our Drury Street shop opened, and it's one of our most underrated books! This graphic novel tells the story of Helene, a young girl who escapes her bullies and loneliness by burying her nose in the novel Jane Eyre.
Illustrator Isabelle Arsenault uses different styles and colouring to differentiate between the story of Helene and her heroine Jane. As Jane grows in confidence and begins to make friends, hints of bright colour from Jane Eyre's life sneak into Helene's monochrome world. This is a great book for adults or for young people transitioning to adulthood.
We're always happy to recommend a book for readers of all ages and abilities! Pop into our shop at 47 Drury Street, Dublin 2, call us for a chat on 01 679 2155, or drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personalised recommendation.
What "Square" Taught Us About Art August 02 2018
Anyone who has ever been to Tales for Tadpoles knows how much we love Jon Klassen! This Canadian illustrator was the focus of one of our very first Illustrator of the Month blogs, and he makes up one half of the dynamic duo of modern children’s books, along with the writer Mac Barnett. Their latest collaboration, Square, is the sequel to Triangle and the second instalment in what will be a shape-based trilogy.
Square is a very special book, not only because it displays Klassen and Barnett’s now iconic sharp sense of humour and unique aesthetic, but because it manages to fit an important art history discussion into a 36 page picture book! Like all of Klassen and Barnett’s books, it can be read on many levels and enjoyed by both adults and children. Here are some of the reasons we think Square is not only a hilarious picture book, but also a profound meditation on the nature of art!
Square asks the question, does art need to be created specifically, or can anything be art?
Square is a character who spends his days pushing inanimate squares up a hill. This is his work. But when Circle comes along, she sees Square’s everyday shapes as works of sculpture. Sometimes naming something as art is all it takes for us to suddenly see it in a whole new light. If Square is an everyday working shape, Circle is the gallery owner who sees his work, puts it in a museum and declares him a star!
The artist Square and his "ready-made" art pieces.
Circle could well be a fan of Marcel Duchamp, a twentieth century French-American artist who turned the art world on its head when he displayed “ready-made” items like urinals and spades in galleries, and called them art. Maybe Square’s blocks will hang in New York City's Museum of Modern Art one day too.
Some artworks only become finished by “accident”.
Displaying ready-made objects as scupture is not the only similarity between Square and the modern artist Marcel Duchamp. Both Square and Duchamp considered their pieces unfinished until an accident made them complete.
The Large Glass, an art piece by Marcel Duchamp
Duchamp started this glass sculpture in 1915. It’s officially called “The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even”, but, standing at 9 feet tall, it is most often simply referred to as “The Large Glass". Having worked on it for eight years, Duchamp stopped adding to the piece in 1923. However, instead of declaring it finished, he felt it was still missing something and announced that the work would be displayed as unfinished.
Two great artists contemplate one another: left, Square, right, Marcel Duchamp.
In 1926, while the piece was in transit from an exhibition to a collector’s house, it was accidentally damaged, sending a huge crack through the glass. Marcel Duchamp, delighted with this spontaneous addition to his work, finally declared it finished! When Square falls asleep in the rain, he doesn’t consider that the rain could be an important addition to his artwork. But his panic at his sculpture of Circle being unfinished is assuaged when Circle notices her reflection in the rain which has pooled in Square’s haphazard circle of rocks. Like Duchamp’s piece which was accidentally finished by a crack in the glass, Square’s sculpture is finished accidentally by the rain.
Genius is in the eye of the beholder
Circle asks Square to make a sculpture of her, which she will come back for tomorrow. And Square panics! He falls asleep in a circle of rocks that he has whittled away to nothing, and wakes up soaked with rain, with Circle on her way! But when Circle sees her reflection in the puddle of water Square has unwittingly collected in the rocks, she is amazed at his talent. Sometimes the artist themselves can have no faith in their own work, and it takes someone else to acknowledge its greatness in order for them to see that their work is important.
As well as being a lesson in art history, Square is a very accurate reflection of the process of creativity! Through our empathy for Square we gain an insight into the life of every modern artist.
The creation of great art is usually filled with panic and self doubt
Jon Klassen is known for the expressive simplicity of his character design. While his characters’ bodies remain still, he uses their eyes to express what they’re feeling. This moment of pure panic in Square’s eyes is instantly recognisable to a freelance artist, or anyone who has ever worked to a deadline. As is this next moment…
There is a delicate balance between knowing when something is finished and overworking it.
After Circle asks Square to create a portrait of her, Square gets to work on his block, trying to shape it into a sphere. But he ends up chipping away at it so long there’s soon nothing left! Many artists speak about the struggle of knowing when something is finished versus adding too much to it and ruining it.
No one really knows what they're doing
This exchange between Square and Circle seems like it could be happening at a gallery opening, or the lecture hall of an art history class. Mac Barnett’s witty, minimal wording lets us into the secret that Square really has no idea what Circle is talking about when she starts talking about art. And we immediately love Square for it! The secret of the art world, and the world of adults in general, is that no one really knows what they're doing.
Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett’s books are fun for both adults and children because they always leave some things open for the reader, they allow both children and adults to make up their own minds about what has happened. In Klassen's debut I Want My Hat Back, we’re allowed to speculate on the fate of the rabbit who mysteriously disappears at the end of the book.
And in Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, even the youngest readers can notice details in Klassen's illustrations that aren’t alluded to in Barnett's text.
Square is no different; the book ends with a question addressed to the reader. After Circle declares Square a genius for his accidental artwork, the book asks, “But was he really?” What do you think, is Square a genius, or is he just a square? Leave a comment below and let us know!
You can buy Square here, and be sure to have a look at all of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s other brilliant books.
Robert Ingpen's Magical Classics June 28 2018
Every month we blog about an illustrator that we love, giving you the opportunity to learn more about your favourite artists' backgrounds and influences, or to discover great picture books you may not have heard of. We've covered everyone from contemporary picture book makers like Chris Haughton, to best loved classic illustrators like Quentin Blake. This month, we’ve chosen Robert Ingpen, a much respected artist who has illustrated his own versions of many of children’s literature's most famous titles. Robert Ingpen’s work is beloved among other illustrators and authors, Michael Morpurgo called his drawings “utterly compelling”, and his versions of the children's classics feel like the definitive editions.
A life of learning
Ingpen was born in 1936, and grew up in the coastal city of Geelong in Australia. Like another of our favourite Australian illustrators, Shaun Tan, the landscape and Aboriginal history of this vast country have informed his work. Ingpen's childhood was full of stories and drawing. His neighbour, a portrait photographer, used to “read” to him from a large red book, but instead of reading what the text said, she would make the stories up as she went along! The young Ingpen found this magical, and he credits this neighbour with introducing him to the limitless possibilities of imagination. Ingpen studied design and illustration at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and while studying, made it his business to learn about everything that went into making a book, from paper making to the technical skills of illustration. He came to see the book as an art form that, instead of being kept for display in a gallery, is for everyone to interact with or own.
After college, Ingpen was recruited by a national scientific organisation in Australia, and tasked with communicating new scientific discoveries to farmers and fishermen so that they could implement the knowledge in their work. He began using local folklore and old tales to get the information across in an accessible and engaging way. Since his early career, a passion for conservation and heritage has been a running theme in his work. Ingpen’s art can be seen across the Australian state of Victoria in publicly commissioned murals, tapestries and sculpture. His work has even entered into daily life on postage stamps.
Ingpen creates his illustrations traditionally using paint and paper, often in watercolour or tempera (paint mixed with other liquid, usually egg). He imports the paper he paints on specially from Germany, and he’s used the same type exclusively for almost forty years. Before setting a brush to paper though, his designs are always carefully worked out in sketchbooks. Wonderlands: The Illustration of Robert Ingpen contains lots of information and references for Ingpen's work, with notes and sketches from the artist himself. You can buy it here.
Robert Ingpen has illustrated versions of some of the most loved children’s books ever written, his series of Children’s Classics are beautiful books that we’re now delighted to stock! In the introduction to Wonderlands, Elizabeth Hammill writes that when he illustrates the classics, Ingpen “journeys into the landscapes of their creators’ minds”. He carefully considers the nature of every story he illustrates in order to capture its essence, and this makes his editions of the classics feel like the most authoritative versions.
Robert Ingpen’s first attempt at illustrating Peter Pan came about at the tender age of seven! (His amazingly accomplished childhood illustration is featured in Wonderlands: The Illustration Art of Robert Ingpen). In 2004 he was asked to illustrate its centenary edition, and it was this book that launched his series of illustrated children’s classics.
J.M. Barrie's novel is still as magical today as when it was written, and Ingpen's illustrations make this edition the perfect one to read aloud with children of any age.
The Jungle Book
Robert Ingpen’s background in nature drawing served him well when it came to illustrating Rudyard Kipling’s classic, The Jungle Book.
His illustrations of Mowgli and his family of wolves, as well as the other animals the story collection, bring us to the heart of the Indian jungle.
Ingpen’s work for The Secret Garden is slightly darker than some other illustrators’ versions, (like this edition illustrated by Inga Moore). His illustrations emphasises the transformative effect that the garden has on the lonely children.
Each chapter of the book opens with a beautiful botanical illustration, with the Latin name of the plant written underneath. This draws readers into the true nature of the story, and lets children learn about plants and flowers just like the children in the book. This edition of Ingpen's version of the book, embossed with a plant motif on its green hard cover, is a beautiful way for children to discover this story.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the great classics of children’s literature; since its original publication in 1865 it has never once been out of print! The book has countless editions, and many of the world’s most accomplished illustrators have taken on the project of illustrating it. Everyone from Tove Jansson to Helen Oxenbury have created their own take on Lewis Carroll’s surreal Wonderland.
Robert Ingpen’s version of Wonderland is a hazy dreamland; his characters are vivid, but his backgrounds swim out of focus. His Alice is red haired, and wears the same frock and apron as Sir John Tenniel’s original drawing in the book’s first edition. Her bemused expression in Ingpen’s illustrations is loyal to the sense of bewilderment and detachment that Alice experiences throughout the book; staying quite calm while all around her degenerates into nonsense!
In contrast to his illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where the story’s landscapes are insignificant, Ingpen clearly puts a lot of thought into the backgrounds in The Wind in the Willows.
The English countryside which the characters call home is rendered in luscious greens and oranges, and the interiors of the houses the story’s creatures live in are highly detailed. The interiors give a marvellous sense of each character.
Ingpen writes in Wonderlands:The Illustration Art of Robert Ingpen, “There are some stories that transcend the original inspiration of their authors and take on a life of their own. Treasure Island is, without a doubt, one of these stories."
It’s the artist’s passion for the texts he illustrates that makes Ingpen's work so perfectly suited to each individual story.
Whether you're looking to introduce a child to the stories you loved when you were young, or to revisit your favourite children's books through great art, you can't go wrong with one of Ingpen's classics.
If you got Wonderland
Pick up this tote bag so you can point sheepishly at it when you turn up late for all your appointments!
Or transport yourself to Wonderland when you read one of our beautiful illustrated editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
If you got Moominvalley
Indulge your most Moominous self by picking up a print of the eccentric Moomin family.
Or delve into the world of Moominvalley by reading one of Tove Jansson's magical Moomin novels, reissued in glorious vintage editions.
If you got Wonka's Factory
Snuggle up and dream of confectionary delights with your own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cushion.
If you got Pettson's Farm
If you got the Hundred Acre Wood
Revisit the Winnie-the-Pooh books as they were originally published. You'll feel like you're really in that mellow world with Pooh and pals!
Find all of the original Pooh books here. We've also got a range of E.H. Shepard's illustrations available as prints, to help you surround yourself with Winnie-the-Pooh goodness. And remember you can pop into our shop to have your print framed.
The Incomparable Quentin Blake! May 15 2018
Every month we blog about an illustrator that we love, giving you the opportunity to learn more about your favourite artists' backgrounds and influences, or to discover great picture books you may not have heard of. We've covered everyone from contemporary picture book makers like Chris Haughton, to the much loved creator of the Alfie series, Shirley Hughes. For May, we’ve chosen one of the world’s most successful and loved illustrators, Quentin Blake.
Quentin Blake is best known for his work with Roald Dahl. He illustrated all of Roald Dahl’s most popular novels, including Matilda and The B.F.G; these two masters of children's literature are inextricably linked in our imaginations. But Blake has also collaborated with a range of other writers, including Michael Rosen and Russell Hoban, and written his own books. To date he has illustrated over 300 books! Quentin Blake is one of the most popular children’s illustrators alive, but his mainstream popularity doesn’t make him any less daring and artistic. His artwork in books like Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is challenging and experimental.
Photo of Quentin Blake via BBC news
As a child growing up in the suburbs of London, Quentin Blake was always interested in drawing. His first published illustration appeared in Punch when he was only 16 and still at school. He studied English at Cambridge, and later attended a life drawing course at Chelsea Art School. This study of life drawing was a key influence on Blake’s style. His work is loose, and his figures don’t always follow strict anatomy and proportions. But his command of human gesture and his expressive sense of movement is unparalleled.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cushion. Buy it here.
Blake has always made a living as an illustrator, he worked on commission for years for magazines like Punch and The Spectator. For a number of years he was also a lecturer and staff member at the Royal College of Art. But what he always wanted most was to illustrate a whole book. Having no idea how to go about making this a reality, he asked his friend John Yeoman to write something that he could illustrate. The result was A Drink of Water, first published in 1960.
Buy this book here.
This charming collection of animal stories was recently reissued for the first time in around fifty years by Thames & Hudson. Their facsimile edition reproduces the book exactly as it was on its first publication. Quentin Blake’s illustrations are rendered in just three shades, black, sandy brown and pink. Working in a limited colour range was common at the time, because of production methods. The reissued edition of A Drink of Water offers us a chance to own a piece of illustration history! (You can buy it here or in store).
Roald meets Quentin
Quentin Blake is brilliant at capturing the full range of human emotions in his drawings, and this made him a perfect partner for Roald Dahl’s exuberant children’s novels. Their collaboration began in 1978 with The Enormous Crocodile. The two masters found a compatible spark in eachother’s work from the very beginning. Quentin Blake has said that the element of exaggeration and comedy in Dahl’s writing suited his style of drawing gestures and movement.
Blake has said that his favourite book of Dahl’s he ever worked on was The B.F.G. By this stage in their collaboration, the two men were in close communication about their ideas. Blake’s drawings helped to develop Dahl’s text, and vice versa.
Roald Dahl originally envisioned the B.F.G. wearing large boots and a leather smock, but when the author received drafts of Blake’s illustrations, he decided the outfit didn’t suit. Instead, Dahl suggested that the B.F.G should wear a type of Norwegian sandal which the author himself wore. When Quentin Blake had difficulty visualising the sandal from a description on the phone, Roald Dahl sent him one in the post! The sandal itself is now displayed as an artefact in The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, in Buckinghamshire.
Quentin Blake’s skill and uniqueness as an illustrator means he can retain his recognisable style while bringing something new to each project he works on. With every book he works on, he adjusts his materials and style slightly to suit the mood of the work. He has said that the most challenging illustration he ever had to create was this one from Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, of the author being sad but pretending to be happy.
"This is me being sad", from Michael Rosen's Sad Book
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is an immensely moving and honest portrayal of grief and sadness. In it, Michael Rosen talks about the death of his son Eddie, but he also speaks about sadness more generally, and the way it affects everyone. Quentin Blake’s illustrations for the book express the inexpressible; the blinding pain of grief.
"Then I look like this. And there's nothing I can do about it."- Michael Rosen's Sad Book
But his illustrations also show the glimmer of hope and human kindness that gets us through the hardest times. His deft touches of yellow brighten the book’s pages, just as Rosen’s happy memories of his son can bring him joy even alongside his sadness.
Every writer's favourite illustrator
Michael Rosen has said that he wrote the text for the Sad Book in one go, and that it wasn’t really a book until Quentin Blake’s work made it one. It’s testament to Blake’s listening skills and sensitivity that authors seem to love him, and he’s had long standing collaborations with not only Roald Dahl, but Rosen, John Yeoman and Russell Hoban. Russell Hoban was an American writer who lived most of his life in England. His collaborations with Quentin Blake include one of the newest additions to our shelves, The Marzipan Pig!
The Marzipan Pig is the story of an unfortunate cake decoration who gets wedged behind the sofa and forgotten. As the sugary pig grows greasier and greasier, his loneliness grows. Until, one day, he is gobbled up by a mouse. Soon the marzipan’s pig’s longing to be loved passes on to the mouse, and a chain of mysterious events unfolds. Blake’s illustrations for The Marzipan Pig are painted exclusively in grey, piglet pink and buttery yellow, emphasising the sweetness and simplicity of this funny story.
Whether you grew up with Quentin Blake’s illustrations, have children of your own, or have an interest fine art, his work can be appreciated on many different levels. Quentin Blake’s illustrations are now a part of the public imagination. We’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love him!
Own your own piece of Quentin Blake artwork with our range of prints from his collaborations with Roald Dahl. We’ve also got some lovely Quentin Blake cushions and tote bags.
Or enjoy the illustrations in their original context when you pick up one of his many books.
Our Top Books for Spring April 26 2018
Spring has sprung on Drury Street! Well…sort of. While the weather can’t decide whether to soak us with rain or burn us with sunshine, we’ve decided to take the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach to spring. We’re simply going to pretend that it’s a good time of year to get out into the garden and plant some seeds! Here are our top books for the season, full of lovely plants, nature activities, lambs, and all the best things about this time of year.
Pelle’s New Suit
Pelle's New Suit is one of our favourites from our beloved Elsa Beskow. Pelle has a little lamb who he's responsible for looking after. When spring arrives and the time comes to shear the lamb, Pelle decides to make a suit out of the wool. His grandmother agrees to card the wool in exchange for Pelle weeding the carrot patch, and his mother weaves the yarn for him as long as he looks after his little sister. This is a lovely book to teach children about give and take, and its illustrations are full of gentle spring colours.
Botanicum is a beautiful collection of botanical illustrations, perfect for gardening enthusiasts. Katie Scott’s intricate illustrations will make you feel like you’re in a Victorian conservatory every time you turn the page! This book also has lots of information on plants, so it’s perfect for readers of any age who are interested in botany and horticulture.
Little Tree is a great book for younger children who are just learning to read their first words. It shows us what happens to a tree through the four seasons, including changes in weather and animal activity. It’s got lots of fun flaps to lift up and peek under, with nature words to learn as you read.
Findus, Food and Fun
Sven Nordqvist’s Findus and Pettson series, about a grumpy farmer and his mischievous cat friend, is one of our all-time favourites. In this activity book, Findus, Food and Fun, Findus and Pettson show us lots of interesting things to make and do at all times of the year. This is a great one to get kids outdoors and active, but it’s also got lots of good indoor craft projects for those inevitable rainy spring days.
The Secret Garden
Who doesn’t love The Secret Garden? This edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic is beautifully illustrated by Inga Moore. Her illustrations really capture the sense of fresh air and colour in the children’s adventurous hideaway.
The Root Children
The Root Children is a nostalgic, classic book by Sibylle von Olfers; a turn of the century author and illustrator whose style is similar to Elsa Beskow. Under the ground, deep in the earth, the little root children sleep tight all winter. When spring comes Mother Earth comes along to wake them up, and they set to work bringing all the plants and flowers up to the surface for springtime!
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