Tag Archives: Sarah Warburton

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.

The Princess and the Peas at Tales on Moon Lane

Invitation

I was so excited when the invitation arrived in my mailbox and said “Yes! Yes! YES!” immediately. I live near Oxford and have no clue about London but it generally seems fairly easy to visit. The night before when I actually checked the route and realised it was going to take me three hours to get there I panicked but still thought it was worth it. On the actual day, DG had her pre-school booster inoculations and was really upset so I turned into overprotective mummy mode and didn’t want to leave her!

I missed this fab event, but Caryl and Sarah very kindly e-mailed me lots of pictures to share instead. Thanks to Dom from Nosy Crow who sent me a copy of the book to review and I also want to give special thanks to Elli, who offered to ‘hold my hand’ finding the event and in my absence got a copy of the book signed for my girls 🙂

As I wasn’t there, I’ll have to let the pictures talk for themselves, it looked like an amazing time was had by all and the children look so captivated. Well done Nosy Crow, Sarah, Caryl and Tales on Moon Lane!

Caryl & Sarah with Lily-Rose May, Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl & Sarah with Lily-Rose May, Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing - Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing – Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing - Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl reading, Sarah drawing, crowd laughing – Tales on Moon Lane

Caryl & Sarah signing for their fans

Caryl & Sarah signing for their fans

Sarah & Caryl join the Tales on Moon Lane wall of fame

Sarah & Caryl join the Tales on Moon Lane wall of fame

The end of the evening, and it looks like even the made up characters had too much bubbly... ;-)

The end of the evening, and it looks like even the made up characters had too much bubbly… 😉

Friday Pick{ture Book}: The Princess and The Peas

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow, 2012)

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton
(Nosy Crow, 2012)

I am a teeny (huge) bit of a fan of both Caryl’s and Sarah’s work separately, so this combination was hugely exciting to me. It looks like I should dislike it intensely: see the princess, see the pink cover! But this is Caryl Hart, Sarah Warburton and Nosy Crow so you know you’re going to get something wonderful and this book doesn’t disappoint.

“With all things considered, I have to assess
This disease has no cure! The girl’s a princess.”
“You have to be joking!” her father exclaimed.
“Shes a princess all right,” the doctor explained.

Forgive me for going off on an adult-focussed commentary but I absolutely love this book and need to write about it in detail! Lily-Rose May lives with her dad in a lovely home in the woods. All the pages set at home are in beautiful natural colours with a lovely garden, rabbits, nature everywhere. Lily-Rose has a dress which is white with cherries on and a red ribbon in her hair. She is wonderfully, happily, girly without the default pink-ness. Her room is shown as being bright and feminine with the natural green and yellow that permeate the ‘home’ images and there are pink things in it because why not, girls do like pink too and that is just fine.

She lives with her dad. In the background of the pictures there are photo frames where you see a happy couple on their wedding day, plus baby pictures. The whole aura is of a well-loved little girl with a very caring dad who tries his best to give her a great and healthy life. There is no mention of the mother so there seems to be a tinge of sadness behind the story but Lily-Rose and her dad are having a lovely life together. The sadness behind the scenes may be why her dad tries so hard to get her to eat peas, but this is a children’s story so it’s also a slightly surreal point that drives the story on too.

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

The doctor is quite utterly mad, and has very much the look of a mad scientist about him. The diagnosis of Princess-itis and taking Lily-Rose away from her idyllic, but normal, life is probably one that many children brought up on a diet of unrealistic expectations and reality TV dream of. The cautionary tale of “The Princess and The Pea” retold beautifully in monotone with the main characters peering around the side of a gigantic book is the second distinct colour-scheme in the book making each location very distinct from each other.

Lily-Rose is torn between her love for her dad and the promise of great things and her loving father soothes her and does what he thinks is best for her future. Onto the palace location and pink becomes the primary colour in the illustrations. There is everything a princess could wish for: dressing up room, shoe room, a huge library, a room of her own with a television, jewels and pink dresses!

She’s initially taken in by all the material things, she puts on the frilly pink dress and tiara, she bounces on the luscious pink bed, she’s smitten by the enormous library (I’ll give her that one!) but of course reality soon hits in the life of a real princess isn’t wearing clothes and looking pretty, it’s hard work meeting people, representing your family, giving speeches and encouragement, shaking hands and deportment… The food also isn’t up to much 😉 Peas may be off the menu but the replacement certainly isn’t an improvement!

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

Lily-Rose soon realises that home and her dad are where she belongs so she gives back all the jewels and clothes and goes back. The odd pea is a minor inconvenience in the wonderful life with a loving family, and all’s well that ends well.

There is too much to love in this story: the lyrical rhyming, the fun and funny story, the encouragement to eat what you’re given, the pro-books imagery everywhere, the moral that for most children, home is the best place to be and celebrity isn’t all it may seem… Maybe I read too much into it but I love, love, love what this book says to me!

As for MG and DG, they love the book for its funny story, for its beautiful illustrations, for all the details they can pick out. And of course they also love the pink palace and all the princess things but I hope the message is going in too. There’s no reason not to like pink, or to play dress up and pretend to be a princess, and to like a variety of things (including tons of pink if you want!) but reality is a different matter too and happy ever after comes in all sorts of forms…

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of The Princess and the Peas by Nosy Crow for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Addendum: I also bought a copy which was kindly signed by Sarah and Caryl for MG and DG, so I’ll be donating the review copy.




Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton (Orchard Books, 2010)

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton
(Orchard Books, 2010)

Sometimes, when I really love a book, I find it hard to write about it. Partially because I don’t know where to start and partially because I’ve been spending too long looking at all the lovely details in the book instead of actually writing about them! This is one of those books…

He has his shield. He had his sword.
But Laughalot is feeling… bored.
What can he do? Where can he go?
Let’s find Sir Laughalot a foe.

Try as we might (because as the reader, you are leading the child through the story), we cannot find a suitable foe. There’s a dragon, a giant and a sorceress but Laughalot isn’t really the fighting kind and finds humour in every situation which all the potentially fearsome foes end up laughing along with.

Then somehow, joyously, instead he finds the perfect match for him (and he for her) and instead chooses to “chuckle all their cares away.” A great story to lift your spirits. The rhyme is fun and flows well but the illustrations, oh the illustrations are sublime! The dragon with his very spiky teeth and wiggly nasal hair; the beautiful borders around the pictures; and the scary sorceress with her tall tower and owl…

The book has also been laid out beautifully with a great mixture of full page and small detail illustrations, differing text sizes and medieval woodcut style pictures scattered throughout. A hoot and a hit!

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of Sir Laughalot from Hachette 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.

 

Rumblewick and the Dinner Dragons by Hiawyn Oram & Sarah Warburton

[Written: March 2010]

Rumblewick and the Dinner Dragons is a book designed for young children to devour from beginning to end. There is not a ‘boring’ page in the book – even the copyrights appear as steam coming out of a cauldron. This is a definite plus, my three year old always thinks I’m cheating her out of something when I flick through the first pages of most books to get to the story!

This story is narrated by Rumblewick, a witch’s cat to a very “unwilling” witch. In this book Haggy Aggy (Rumblewick’s witch) wants to love and protect “terri-frying” dragons, which involves inviting a few of them over for dinner. Poor Rumblewick relates the proceedings via letters to his best friend and fellow witch’s cat, Grimey. The dragons are beautifully realised, colourful creatures with wide faces, skinny arms, big tums and very sharp teeth. Haggy Aggy is atypically dressed in flowery pink, oblivious to any danger, and it’s up to quick-thinking Rumblewick to save the day with a very ingenious “feast”.

This is a book designed to be experienced – with cut outs, chomped corners and lift-the-flap style spells and mini books within the book. There are double-page fantastically detailed pictures, along with doodles dotted round scrapbook-style layouts. This is a book to be read again and again, and to discover something different every time: the frog trying on lipstick, receipt from “Crafty Co-Op”, bat-shaped door handle… The frogs are definitely ones to look out for, and they appear on most of the pages.

Rumblewick and the Dinner Dragons is probably better for children slightly older than three (I think it’s aimed at 5+) but even so my three year old (who loves stories with witches and dragons best) still enjoyed the story, looking out for the frogs and lifting the flaps. I’m loathe to compare series but I’d say fans of Winnie the Witch should really enjoy Rumblewick, as would those who enjoy Emily Gravett’s interactive books. Personally, I think 30-something mothers should also be allowed to like picture books, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing this one with my daughters.