Reviews of children’s picture books
From Michael Rosen’s cheerful celebration of chocolate cake to the luxurious, sleep-inducing picnics in the Brambly Hedge series, tasty feasts are plentiful in books for young readers. In her enticing first book, Dim Sum Palace (Pushkin, 1 Feb), Taiwanese-American writer X Fang draws inspiration from her intense craving for restaurant dumplings during lockdown, while also paying tribute to the doughy, magical realm of Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, a beloved childhood classic.
Liddy is unable to sleep due to her anticipation for a family outing the following day to enjoy dim sum. As she follows the tempting aroma out of her room, she enters a dream-like palace where two chefs are making large buns, baos, and other treats. She becomes caught up in the excitement and finds herself mistakenly wrapped in a dumpling, about to be served to an empress. Fang’s vivid illustrations capture Liddy’s enthusiasm for food. The endpapers feature beautifully drawn dim sum dishes, each labeled, while Liddy’s expressions reflect her childlike joy as she frowns while being squished by dumpling filling or happily indulges in her meal.
Bedtime marks the beginning of Guilherme Karsten’s Are You a Sleepy Monster? (Quarto), which features an adorable creature wearing glasses, similar to Danger Mouse’s sidekick Penfold, but with green scales and a love for slime. The book addresses its young readers directly, inviting them to a “monster sleepover, just like you and me!” and offering them a spot under the bed, complete with spiderwebs and trash. When one reader suggests sleeping on the bed instead, the creature protests before finally giving it a chance. This book offers a clever and original perspective on a commonly explored aspect of childhood.
Runaway Cone by Morag Hood (Two Hoots) is the follow-up to last year’s Dig Dig Digger, about an aspirational digger who fancied a change. Now, as more roadworks are about to get under way, Digger and the gang realise Gary the traffic cone is missing. Could he have run away to become a vase, they wonder. So begins a search for Gary that will amuse tiny fans of big diggers and machinery, and with its daft, smiley characters may help us all to see roadworks in a new light.
A new and exciting series from Magic Cat Publishing, called Picture a Poem, is focused on introducing young children to the world of poetry. The first book in this series features a rendition of Emily Dickinson’s well-known 19th-century poem, “Hope Is the Thing With Feathers” (released on 29 Feb). The illustrations are done by Tim Hopgood, who is known for his playful depictions of nature in his bestselling board book, “Wow! Said the Owl.” In his illustrations for “Hope Is the Thing With Feathers,” Hopgood brings the poem to life with a charming, speckled bird singing against a backdrop of sunrise-blushed pages. The bird then soars over towns and valleys, braving great storms.
Thames & Hudson’s latest addition to their team is a detective who sports skinny jeans and a hoodie complete with cat ears. This character is the star of a trendy graphic novel series, targeted towards children aged six to ten, and has received high praise from Posy Simmonds. The first book in the series, titled “Miss Cat: The Case of the Curious Canary” (released on February 29th), is written by Joëlle Jolivet and Jean-Luc Fromental, and follows the detective as she searches for a missing bird at the request of an enigmatic elderly man named Mr Maximus.
The market for children’s graphic novels and comic books is thriving, according to data from Nielsen which shows a 425% increase in volume since 2019. Popular authors like Jamie Smart and Dav Pilkey, known for their works Bunny vs Monkey, Looshkin, Dog Man, and Cat Kid, frequently appear on bestseller lists. With the current demand for female detectives in middle grade novels, such as Enola Holmes, Ruby Redfort, and the Murder Most Unladylike series, young readers are sure to enjoy Miss Cat’s well-crafted story and entertaining characters.