In a lot of respects, other than it being pertinent to my job, I blog about children’s books because they are nostalgic to me. Books were a huge part of my childhood, they made a reader of me. Some of my fondest memories are of my favourite books. One day I’ll do a blog post to share some of those with you.
It seems however, that we’re witnessing a revival of some of the popular older books and characters. Publishers recognise the power of nostalgia. Parents, teachers and library staff love to share their own favourite books with children and this explains the recent resurgence of old favourites. We are lucky that publishers, authors and illustrators recognise the value of these.
So, for my first A-Blog-A-Day-Holiday I’m going to review not one, but four such books!!
First up we have Happy Birthday Old Bear written and illustrated by Jane Hissey and published by Scribblers.
This book was created and released in celebration of 30 years of Old Bear. I am not ashamed to admit, that I’m now 35 years old, so looking at the maths, you can see that Old Bear was around at exactly the right time for me, and crikey did I love these books! I still get a rush of feeling and joy whenever I see the characters. Little Bear in his red shorts always being my favourite.
Happy Birthday Old Bear, brings to us, all the wonderful characters we know and love from these stories (Elsie the elephant, Bramwell Brown, Little Bear, Duck and of course Jolly the giraffe) as they haphazardly attempt to arrange a birthday party for their dear friend Old Bear. Things don’t go exactly to plan of course, but these close friends together can work their way through anything.
The thing I loved most about this gorgeous book is that it has lost none of the Old Bear charm. Jane Hissey has been illustrating and writing these books for many years, and the consistency and beauty of them has remained. The illustrations, all based on real life toys, are stunning. So full of depth, colour and texture she recreates the feeling of those old toys most of us have owned at some point. Her books just ooze nostalgia.
The writing style is gentle and sweet, which makes them the ideal, calming bedtime read for younger children.
Happy Birthday Old Bear would make a brilliant present for a younger child, or maybe even an adult fond of these books. For a birthday perhaps? Or just because.
It’s very beautifully presented, with gold foiled dust jacket, and quality paper and is packed full of all that old bear charm that I, for one, certainly have a lifelong love of.
Happy Birthday Old Bear is available now from all good book shops and libraries.
You can find out more about Jane Hissey on her website:
Next I have The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams, illustrated by Sarah Massini and published by Nosy Crow.
The Velveteen Rabbit was not a book or story that I read as a child. I’m not sure why this is. So when I was sent a copy of Nosy Crow’s brand new edition of this timeless tale I was really keen to read it. It tells the story of a rabbit toy, given to a young boy at Christmas. The rabbit is looked down upon by the other, more fancy, clockwork toys and also the real rabbits in the fields outside. All Velveteen Rabbit wants is to be loved and to be real.
One day, when his favourite toy goes missing, the young boy takes the Velveteen Rabbit into his life and heart and soon his is enjoying adventures, excitement with the boy. Until one day, scarlet fever hits and the rabbit’s future is in question.
Well, I have to say firstly, that the production of this classic book is stunning. It is a beautiful hardback book, with a thick and textured dust cover with silver embossing detail. Underneath that dust cover is even more stunning. The large book has thick, quality paper and within the pages is a green attached bookmark, which is a lovely addition. All in all this is a quality version of a much loved tale.
The original story of The Velveteen Rabbit, with Margery Williams’ words remains the same, but this edition has been brought to life in a new and fresh way, through the illustrations of Sarah Massini. My goodness what a superb job Sarah has done here. it must have been a daunting task taking on such a well known and popular story as this, but she has, and it’s every bit as wonderful! The illustrations are bursting with colour and depth. There is nothing wishy washy about them. On every page the lighting and colour reflect the tone of the story at that moment. I can’t begin to imagine how much time and work it must have taken to create these glorious illustrations. Every journey you make through this story with a child will show you something new. Nosy Crow could not have chosen a more perfect illustrator for this book.
As a newcomer to The Velveteen Rabbit I was interested to read this story. I loved it because the writing style is gentle and calming, like many of these classic picture books. It is text heavy, so will make for a really great, more lengthy story time. As children we all liked to think our toys are real. That maybe they come to life when we sleep. Every day I see children toddle into the library grasping their favourite, rather battered looking toys. This is a story every single child can identify with, understand and enjoy.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful merging of the everyday and the magical and this particular copy would make an ideal Christmas gift for children and adults alike.
This is the first book in a series of classics being brought back to life by Nosy Crow, and if this is anything to go by, I’m really quite excited by what’s to come.
The Velveteen Rabbit is now available from all good book shops and libraries.
You can find out more about illustrator Sarah Massini right here:
Now I move on to some nostalgic non-fiction. I said I would wave the flag for non-fiction books on Book Monsters, and here I am doing just that with a really quite brilliant book.
This is The Ultimate Peter Rabbit – A Visual Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter by Camilla Hallinan and Dorling Kindersley.
Where do I start on this one? DK are masters at producing wonderful non-fiction books. They’re always popular at the library and this book is a great example of what they do so well.
This is an updated edition created to celebrate 150 years of Beatrix Potter and it’s been very beautifully done in hardback with gold embossing on the cover.
Camilla Hallinan has covered everything you could ever want to know about the much loved and fascinating Beatrix Potter and all of her creations. Each lavish page is packed full of photos and images from Beatrix Potter’s life, original sketches, illustrations alongside small paragraphs of information about her, making it very accessible for various ages and abilities. This book is brilliant to dip in and out of and with clear indexing children can easily zoom in on what interests them. This is what I’ve always loved about non-fiction books. There’s no pressure to read everything, page by page. Children won’t miss an important plot point if they skip sections which don’t interest them. But to be honest, in this book, I think everything is interesting and worth reading about.
This book works its way from the very beginning of Beatrix Potter’s life, to the fast paced initial success of Peter Rabbit, right to the current day and huge amount of merchandising and variations in the form of cartoons and re-writes of the books. It’s incredibly comprehensive. As homework support, or for fans of the Peter Rabbit books or Beatrix Potter you really won’t find a better or more informative guide.
The Ultimate Peter Rabbit is now available from all good book shops and libraries.
You can find out more about publisher DK here:
Phew! Are you still with me on this nostalgic trip? I do hope so because I’ve saved a corker for last. This is one of the only books in this review that I recently purchased myself. Why? Because I adore and idolise its creator and her work.
This is The Shirley Hughes Collection published by Random House.
Dogger was one of my favourite books! I loved it with all my heart, in honesty I still do. A tale of treasures, lost things, love, kindness and family. I have never been able to fully put my finger on why I specifically love this book so much, I think it is probably all of the above themes alongside Shirley Hughes’ dynamic yet heartfelt illustrations.
The Shirley Hughes Collection is quite self explanatory really. It is a compilation of one of her best work including fairy tales, stories and poems. Everything is in here. Kudos goes out to the various publishers of Shirley Hughes’ work, for coming together and working with Random House to create this wonderful treasury.
This book contains all you would expect, know and love of Shirley Hughes’ work, including Dogger of course, and the Alfie stories. But what I think I love most about it, is the inclusion of some of her lesser known (well certainly to me anyway) work. For instance, Sea Singing the story of a selkie, half woman, half seal who has to choose between her life and family on land or the same in the sea. A terribly sad and poetic tale with stunning quite dark illustrations!
We also have Up and Up, a wordless story about a girl who wants to fly, and one day gets this gift. It’s a really quirky unusual and unexpectedly monochrome story from Shirley Hughes, yet retaining her charming illustrative style.
There is so much in this treasury, that even I haven’t managed to read through it all yet. The Shirley Hughes Collection would make a fantastic birthday or special occasion gift. A book to treasure and keep.
The Shirley Hughes Collection is available from all good book shops and libraries.
To find out more about this National treasure visit the following website:
So there you have it, four fantastic and nostalgic books for you. It shows to me how incredibly fortunate we are to have, not only amazing new illustrators and authors, but also many cherished and much loved classic authors and illustrators who have stood the test of time and who our publishers value today as much as we do. I wonder which of today’s popular titles we’ll still be enjoying in another 30 years …
Thank you for coming on this Book Monster trip down memory lane.