Tag Archives: Mark Sperring

Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton

Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton

Mabel and Me Best of Friends: Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)

Unlikely friends are a common theme in children’s books. Unlikely friends. But let’s think about that for a bit. Terry Pratchett writes in his Discworld novels that million-to-one chances work out nine times out of ten and it seems to me that unlikely friends are just as likely. I’ve written before how author / illustrator partnerships where the collaborators are friends seem to produce books that stand out more, whether they were friends before or became friends from working together, and the partnership of Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton shines through in Mabel and Me Best of Friends.

I’ve loved Sarah Warburton’s work for several years now and have previously raved about The Princess and the Peas, a collaboration with Caryl Hart. I’m not sure Caryl and Sarah knew each other well before working on The Princess and the Peas but they certainly completely “got” each other and what was needed there, and Sarah showcases her talent for matching pictures to text again with Mabel and Me.

Mabel and Me‘s unlikely friendship is between a little girl and her “strange little creature thing with scrawny hairy rodent legs” friend. “Me” takes centre stage with Mabel only saying a few words throughout the book, although these words are significant as well as being “hugely harrowing and diabolically difficult” on occasion.

The words chosen throughout the story are spot-on. Many phrases from this book have entered the everyday subconscious of the Chaos household. “Hey, you, you in the tutu!” being a particular favourite. But it’s not just the words that are spot-on; each character’s expression conveys so much meaning. The shocked faces of Monsieur Famous French Photographer and Senora Prima Ballerina (and what wonderful names they are too!); Me’s perplexity, indignation and forlornness (amongst others); and most of all the looks of friendship between Mabel and Me.

There is too much to love about this book. From the copyright page styled as a wall with posters pasted on; the end papers showing the characters in daytime and night; the detailing of the city they walk through; the cat in one window eying up a goldfish in another; the fez and stetson thrown in the air (Fezzes are cool!); the photobooth with a mustache; more wall posters…

The detail in the illustrations make this book a joy to read over and over again, plus give so many jumping points for follow on projects: houses and architecture; Europe; ballet; photography; design; dance; emotions… Not to mention what can be taken from the text: alliteration; mixed-up sayings…

Overall and beyond all that, this is a lovely story about friendship that we all enjoy on different levels. Although suitable for toddlers and up, there is so much in Mabel and Me that makes it perfect for older children so I’d recommend for any household with children aged 2-10.

Mabel and Me Best of Friends is currently out in hardback with RRP of £12.99 and is worth every penny; it’s out in paperback on 4th July.

You can read a lovely story behind the creation of the book and a newsflash mini-story starring Mabel and Me on Sarah Warburton’s blog plus an interview with Sarah here. I’m not leaving Mark out on purpose, I just couldn’t find much of an online presence to share!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Sarah Warburton and HarperCollins Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Sarah also wrapped the book beautifully and added some lovely extras, which made me squeak loudly when we opened the package. Huge and extra-special thank-yous from us all to Sarah xx

Mabel and Me book and cards

Friends creating books

I have a ridiculous pile of review books to get through, so much so that I will have to schedule time to write in as just writing when I feel like it doesn’t seem to be working for me at the moment, because I don’t really feel like it.

But I really need to share some of the wonderful books I’ve been sent and we’ve been in enjoying, so in lieu of proper reviews (which will follow), I want to talk about three books that MG and DG are particularly loving at the moment. Actually, it’s six books but four are by the same author/illustrator team so I’m choosing one from them.

It’s author/illustrator teams that I want to talk about. I’m merely a (very) interested party when it comes to picture books so I know a few things about how picture books are magicked into existence, but not the full details. So I may get some things wrong here!

In general it appears that for books created by two people, i.e. an author (or “illustrator’s assistant” as Korky Paul described them in a recent event we went to) and an illustrator, the creators may never even meet each other. For the books that MG and DG are loving so much at the moment, this is not the case.

All three books are about friendship in some way, and have been created by friends. This really seems to shine through and make these stories extra special.

friends

Mabel and Me is a hilarious, insightful, quotable and gorgeous book. You can read about Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton on Sarah’s Blog.

Bubble and Squeak is a delicious, moreish, adventurous and happy book. You can read about James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy on Clara’s Blog; and on James’ Blog.

Faster, Faster, Nice and Slow is a colourful, contradictory, bouncy and bright book. I couldn’t find any Nick Sharratt or Sue Heap information probably because this is an older book, but it’s extra-special because Nick and Sue both write and both illustrate and both appear in the books. They’ve collaborated on four books together, and this is my personal favourite (DG loves them all extra specially, they are her special books).

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of Mabel and Me by HarperCollins Children’s Books and Bubble and Squeak by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part two

Puppy's First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)Puppy’s First Christmas: Steve Smallman & Alison Edgson (Little Tiger Press, 2012)
This is a lovely Christmas book, and another one that I’ll be putting for opening near the beginning of the month so we can read it extra times. I have to say the cover didn’t appeal to me personally as it looks overly cutesy (which I’m not) but the illustrations and the rhyme are both lovely, cute but not overly so. Steve Smallman writes an excellent rhyme with lots of humour making it great for grown ups to read. The whole book has children written all over it, toddlers especially will love Puppy’s confusion with all the changes in the house and the added nice touch (literally!) of the red hats being fuzzy – also not on every page so you have to search out the fuzzy bits. Both MG and DG enjoyed this, both searching out the fuzzy pages! The humour is great too – Puppy is confused that the children didn’t fight all day, and thought the tree was a new place for him to pee! Adorable illustrations, especially in observing how small children puppies fight sleep before giving in when too tired… A book for both dog and cat lovers (I do get annoyed with dog vs cat books where one or the other are seen as evil…), parents and small children. Bigger children may enjoy reading it to their smaller siblings because of the humour. A surefire Christmas hit.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children's Books, 2009)Father Christmas Needs a Wee: Nicholas Allan (Random House Children’s Books, 2009)
This is another one that Mr Chaos bought for the girls last Christmas, he’s far more into the Christmas spirit than I am (he and the girls put up and decorate the tree together while I stay out of the way!) I think we can all empathise with poor Father Christmas; he’s had far too many drinks and desperately needs a wee! But before he can, he has to deliver all those presents he forgot about. We all breathe a sigh of relief with him when eventually he gets to go! A very silly book, but with an educational twist as we count the house numbers and the drinks (at number one, he has one drink; and so on to number ten!) And as he forgets the presents, after counting up from one to ten we then get to count down again. Surreptitious learning at it’s best!

Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)Father Christmas on the Naughty Step: Mark Sperring & Tom McLauglin (Puffin Books, 2012)
Most children know the idea of the ‘naughty step’ even if it’s something you don’t use in your own house (I tend not to but do occasionally when one child has deliberately hurt the other…) This book is part of a series where we’ve not read the others but that doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas Eve and Sam is on the naughty step (we’re not told why). He’s soon joined by a pirate who lied on his letter to Santa, and by Father Christmas himself who is at the top of the naughty list for taking something that isn’t his. Sam helps him to learn to say sorry, says sorry himself and all is well for Christmas Day (with a little twist). This is a story that children will enjoy because they can relate to being ‘naughty’ and saying sorry and the power is on the child’s side because he helps the grown-up. There’s also the humour in the pirate and  Father Christmas being on the naughty step. It certainly appeals to my two.

Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)Santasaurus: Niamh Sharkey (Walker Books, 2004)
Niamh Sharkey. Dinosaur Santa. Do I even need to write any more? Good, just go and get a copy already… Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are wonderful, packed with humour and interest. She’s created a wonderful world like-ours-but-not with dinosaur children and dinosaur parents planning for Christmas. This follows the current traditional British (Irish?!) Christmas of decorating trees, buying presents and leaving mince pies and carrots out on Christmas Eve. Youngest dinosaur Milo wishes more than anything to ride with Santasaurus on his sleigh and help deliver the presents. Does he get what he wants and is this the best Christmas ever? Yes, of course!

How Santa Really Works: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)How Santa Really Works Pop-Up: Alan Snow & Maggie Bateson (Simon and Schuster, 2010)
Alan Snow is a humourous and talented illustrator. We have his ‘How Dogs Really Work’ and ‘How Cats Really Work’ books but don’t read them much (see my issues with reading aloud in the previous post!) as I think they are ones that will be more enjoyed when read by MG & DG themselves. This is a whole different concept though because it pops up! Five fantastically detailed pop-ups with so much to look at that we can tell our own stories (I have to admit I haven’t read the text yet) and MG and DG just enjoy looking at all the details and talking about what they see. As I may have mentioned, DG and MG are both hugely into pop-up and novelty books at the moment and they’re at an age where it can take entire minutes before they break them! Seriously though, MG is old enough to be left alone with novelty books and use all the pull tabs etc with no help; DG is a little rough (she is Destructo-Girl after all) but with mild supervision she can be left to experience pop-up books too. How Santa Works is a book that can be opened on the floor, experienced from all angles, looked at closely to see the details (even lift up Santa’s toilet seat!) It is beautiful and tons of fun, MG and DG really enjoy it. It’s new to us this year  so we’ll see how it holds up to serious reading, but on half a dozen reads from both children, it’s still in one piece. Highly recommended, but not for threes and under.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Puppy’s First Christmas by Little Tiger Press for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.