Posted in general and welcome, picture books

M’encanta aquest llibre (sempre!)

Today’s review is of a book by a writer and illustrator from Barcelona – Anna Llenas – so I couldn’t resist attempting a little Catalan in honour of her work, and in memory of the months I spent in the city over 20 years ago. I just hope I got it right!

The expression “opposites attract” is much used to describe relationships, and I can’t think of a better summary for the subject matter of Llenas’s new book I Love You (Nearly Always), published by Templar.

In this delightful picture book, Roly – a woodlouse – and Rita – a firefly – are best buddies … who sometimes get on each other’s nerves. Rita thinks that Roly’s suit is too hard, while Roly thinks that Rita shines too brightly. The two get into a massive row one day and the future’s not looking too bright for their relationship (even with Rita’s natural glow). Roly has even gone to the trouble of creating a Book of Complaints about his best friend, which he digs out of his bookshelf when the two have an argument.

Of course, the two can’t stay angry at each other for long and, through a mature process of compromise, try to lessen those aspects that are most annoying for the other because, “Roly and Rita know they are very different, and this is why they love each other.” The illustrations don’t sanitise anger for the children – even at the end, the two are scowling at each other in one scene, but they return to happiness and affection in the last spread.

This is a funny and engaging read that encourages younger children to think about emotions (I can think of many adults who might benefit from this too). Anna Llenas uses a wide range of illustrative techniques to make reading the book a much more active experience – there are pop-up pictures, pull/lift-the-flaps and other little surprises, such as an actual tiny book of complaints to read, that little fingers will love. The architecture of the book is clever and, boy, is it BIG – even including a mini-scene with real bunting and string. I was amazed at the amount of work that went into this, and the young children I shared it with couldn’t stop playing with the pages.

As with most stories aimed at children, I Love You (Nearly Always) has a message, a moral. However, no one likes being lectured to, and in this story, we’re not. We’re seeing that, while being different can cause arguments, it can also bring enrichment into our lives. And also – it’s OK to argue sometimes! To suggest that life should always be peaceful is untrue – it’s the making-up that matters.

Llenas’s almost frenetic artwork suit this subject matter perfectly, especially when Roly and Rita are at war with one another; the dark, almost violent crayon lines express anger and movement exceptionally well. The entire book feels full of life and fun and will be appreciated by any child who picks this up. I look forward to seeing more from Anna Llenas in the future (perhaps in her native language – Catalan!)

Anna Llenas




Childtastic Books started out as a collaborative blog, written by me and my young daughter Holly. Now she's nearly a teen, she's off doing exciting and new things but I am still here, reading, writing and reviewing books for children and young adults of all ages. I miss her input but I hope she will pop in from time to time to do some guest posts! A little about me - I have just finished an MA in Children's Literature from the University of Roehampton (result pending, eeek) and am a part-time primary school librarian. The other part of my time is spent writing and editing, my own work and others, and I am waiting for my first non-fiction book to be published - a teacher resources pack for Handa's Surprise. I welcome comments and love to hear from visitors to this blog. Please note though that, because of time constraints, it is rare that I can read and review books from self-published authors. I receive so many requests and feel badly about not being able to keep up with them all. Thanks for visiting! Sam

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