Just as I am getting back into the swing of reviewing children’s books, two beautiful titles came my way and I am delighted to give them space on Childtastic Books.
The Bodleian Library in Oxford has just launched a new imprint – Bodleian Children’s Books – with the aim of finding and republishing classic children’s books as well as publishing newly commissioned books. The two titles it has chosen to launch the imprint in September 2015 are Penguin’s Way and Whale’s Way, both written US author Johanna Johnston and illustrated by Caldecott Prize winner Leonard Weisgard.
The two books share a similar illustrative style and narrative. Johanna Johnston’s text is informative yet poetic. Take, for example, this short paragraph from Penguin’s Way:
‘They begin to choose partners. Two by two, they stand near each other and sing. They sing strange, echoing songs of love.’
and this, from Whale’s Way:
‘But the cows and their calves are rocked gently in the cradle of the water.’
These are both non-fiction books but the information is conveyed in a way that reads like a story, with an arc that is particularly evident in Penguin’s Way which covers a year in the life of an emperor penguin. I can imagine reading these to lovers of both fiction and non-fiction and can’t wait to introduce them to the children in my school library.
Weisgard’s drawings are beautiful and captivating, combining sponge-like backgrounds with sharp lines and colours. These books would look equally good on a coffee table as in a child’s book case but, unlike many coffee-table books, they aren’t just pleasing to the eye; the words are soothing and beautiful. As an avid avoider of nature programmes (I can’t bear seeing animals tear each other apart), this is a lovely alternative and these books are, I am sure, set to become classics once again.
Bodleian Children’s Books is not aiming to become a major player in children’s publishing, with a modest proposal to publish at least two titles per season. But the quality of the books on their list means that they deserve to make a good impression on the market.
Please note that while I was sent copies of the books to review, my opinion is entirely unbiased.