Old Barn Books Book Reviews by Emma Davis

19th September 2017

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When you’re passionate about picture books, nothing can beat receiving advance copies prior to publication. Thanks to Old Barn Books, I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing three marvellous books, all incredible but very different from each other.

Looking for Yesterday by Alison Jay

The wonderful cover of this book drew me in immediately, making me wonder what was so great about yesterday and if the characters succeed in finding it. The story is told by a young boy who we do not learn the name of but somehow this makes it more special. He has such a wonderful day that he wants to go back and relive it. But how? He knows that he needs to travel faster than the speed of light which we learn is one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second (great fact!) The boy concludes that a bus cannot travel that fast so considers building a time machine or hypersonic rocket. Eventually, he decides to ask his Grandad for help who questions why he would want to go back to yesterday. The boy explains that it was ‘the best day’ but Grandad replies with some wise words – ‘yesterday was a wonderful day, but there are many more happy days to come’ and goes on to tell the boy all about some of his best days. The fabulous illustrations tell the story here through the medium of a photo album which is truly heartwarming. Grandad confirms that ‘our best days make happy memories.’ After looking through the photo album together, Grandad reassures the boy that every day offers the chance of an adventure and off they zoom on his motorbike, heading towards the beach.

This story really warmed my heart and is sure to be a favourite with old and young alike. The beautiful illustrations evoke many emotions with lots for children to spot and talk about. Even after several times of reading, I was still seeing things I hadn’t before! I loved the wisdom of the Grandad which contrasted with the naivety of the boy and the relationship was truly uplifting. One to treasure!

Published on 10th August.

Storm Whale by Sarah Brennan and illustrated by Jane Tanner

This book is truly captivating thanks to the poetic text and beautiful life like illustrations. The entire story is easy to visualise so right from the start I could imagine the sights and sounds experienced by the three sisters on the windy beach. It is on this beach that the children discover a stranded whale ‘far from the cradling ocean swell.’ Through the gorgeously flowing text, we learn how the girls use their buckets to scoop water over the whale, trying desperately to save it. However, dusk rolls in, the rain batters down and the three of them head forlornly back to their ‘rented seaside shack’.

After a restless night due to the storm, the sisters wake to a calmer morning and quickly dash down to the beach in search of the whale. It’s difficult not to feel a sense of anticipation at this point, turning the pages with hope. What will have happened to the whale? The children make their way through the debris left by the storm, searching and soon realising that ‘there on the beach, on the golden shale, was not one sign of the stranded whale.’ We’ve been drawn in on a journey so there is a huge sense of relief that the whale was swept back out to sea in the storm.

This delightful book will capture children’s imagination with ease and make them feel a part of the story. I love the way the author celebrates children – their perseverance, sense of wonder and vulnerability.

Published on 10th August.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

This is the story of Madeline who we immediately learn does not like to read. However, this book takes us on her journey from her hatred of reading anything to gaining confidence through an unlikely means.

What Madeline really dislikes is reading aloud at school. Although her teacher is encouraging, Madeline finds that ‘sometimes the sentences get stuck in my mouth like peanut butter.’ Her confidence diminishes further as children unkindly laugh at her attempts making us feel incredibly sorry that she is missing out on the joy of reading. Madeline is desperate to be awarded a star, given only to the best readers in the class. Will she ever get one?
Everything changes for Madeline with a trip to the library where she meets a group of reading dogs. Although she is still nervous, she agrees to the librarian’s suggestion that she should read to Bonnie, the big fluffy white dog. Madeline notices that Bonnie does not judge her as the children at school do. Although the words still get mixed up sometimes, Madeline perseveres, noticing that ‘it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes.’
When she next has to read in class, Madeline pretends she is reading to Bonnie. Much to her surprise, this approach works so well that her teacher awards her with a much yearned for star. Her appreciation for Bonnie and her help is rewarded with Madeline wanting to gift the star to her. We discover at their next meeting in the library that beautiful Bonnie has had a litter of puppies. What a delightful ending to a perfect story of perseverance and patience. Very much a feel-good story with a wonderful moral of trying hard and achieving in the end.

Old Barn Books will be donating 50p from every sale to support the work of the Read2Dogs programme which is run by Pets as Therapy.

This book is due to be published on 7th September.

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