Walker Books Picture Book Round-Up
With our baby shower but a mere five weeks away, we have started thinking of everything we need to buy for Bub so that we can put together some kind of a gift registry. Funnily enough (not really, though), most people have already said, “Well, we won’t be buying you guys any books!” This is, of course, in part due to the fact that I work in the industry but also because most people know that I have been collecting (hoarding) books – both picture and adult varieties – for the entirety of my life. Each and every house that I have moved in and out of has seen me or some other poor human in my life having to lug a gross amount of boxes and tubs full of books to and from each place.
I have picture books from my own childhood, some that I have tracked down online that are out of print and others that I have bought because they are essential to my collection. I have always wanted to have a large library for my child, I have always envisioned the time in my life where I can finally pass my love of reading, imagination and books on. And now that the time has come where that is my reality, I am beyond excited. The other day, Pete surprised me by saying, “I am definitely going to be a dad that reads to his child,” which was a huge thing for him to say as I don’t think he has ever finished a book in his life. He is so excited to get bub’s bookshelf in place in the nursery and populate it with my stories – and you can imagine how freaking happy and in love and everything that makes me feel.
I never thought that I would have the opportunity to work in the book world and yet I find myself working for one of the most beloved children’s book publishers in the world. Though my time here is going to be cut shorter than I imagined when I accepted the role thanks to the little human inside of me, my passion for reading and its importance to a child’s life and development has increased substantially – and I seriously did not think that that was possible. I am surrounded by picture books and children’s titles each and every day and I am so inspired by the talent, imagination and creativity of each of our authors and illustrators that a lot of the time it leaves me speechless and dumbfounded.
My position here has just been advertised online as my company starts looking for someone to replace me while I am on maternity leave; it is setting in now just how very close we are to being a family of three (or five if you include the one-eyed cat and our beautiful dope of a dog). It is also setting in just how much I am going to miss my job, connecting people with books and authors, not to mention the incredible people I work with. So, to celebrate and express sincere gratitude to the incredible Walker Books Australia I wanted to do a round-up acknowledging the timeless, beautiful and truly MAGICAL picture books that we publish (and that I love and adore and cannot wait to share with our beautiful son).
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
One of the most poignant, important books of the year, Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid is a beautiful and impossibly sweet story about a young boy who, after seeing three fabulously dressed women on the train home with his Nana one day desires to dress up as a mermaid. Julián worries about what his Nana will think when he makes a mess trying to recreate the colourful womens’ dresses and, what will she think about Julián himself? At it’s heart, this book is about self-confidence and is a radiant celebration of love and individuality and I am completely mad about it. Completely.
Square, Triangle and Circle Books by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
These books are absolutely brilliant. Laced with wit and humour that adults and parents will love, this series teaches children about acceptance, sharing and friendship in the most gentle and subtle way. The text and the illustrations each enhance one another, and the work from the award-winning, best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is nothing short of brilliant. What I particularly love is the simplicity of the characters and just how much emotion and story is conveyed from the characters’ eyes alone. These books really are as much for the adults as they are for the children. Explore the pages with young readers, teach them about shapes and lose yourself in the world of Square, Triangle and Cricle (Circle out March 2019).
Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge
Before I started working here, I hadn’t heard of Meg McKinlay. She is an absolute powerhouse, a rockstar in the world of children’s publishing. Meg Mckinlay and Leila Rudge are both award-winning in their own rights, but as a team, they are also an award-winning duo – and for good reason. Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros is a gorgeous book about a small rhinoceros who wants to see the big world, so she built a boat and she sailed away. We follow the little rhino as she explores far away lands. This is a picture book about following your dreams – even those wild ones that you never think would come to fruition – and is perfect for adventurous little souls. The illustrations are to die for (and Leila Rudge is possibly my favourite illustrator) – I mean, just look at these spreads!!!
The Penguins are Coming! by Meg McKinlay and Mark Jackson
Another banger from Meg Mckinlay, The Penguins Are Coming! has been a monster hit this year. There are penguins coming to the zoo and there is much excitement, but the other animals have no idea what a penguin even is! Each animal has their own idea about what a penguin is, each more crazy and wild than the last! The illustrations in this book are phenomenal. PHENOMENAL. There is SO much to look at on each page and it is possibly the book I can see myself having the most fun reading to bub. Parents can stray from the text and point out different things they can see, all the while teaching children about all the different animals you can find in the zoo. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Meg McKinlay’s knack for a fun and lively story is only enhanced by Mark Jackson’s AMAZING, bright and colourful illustrations. One to read over and over (and over) again.
Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott and Bob Graham
Much like Julián is a Mermaid, Want to Play Trucks? is a book that challenges traditional gender stereotypes in an accessible and gentle way. The story, crafted by Ann Stott encourages non-gender-specific play and teaches children and parents about the acceptance and self-discovery that came come from true friendship. The simple text allows young children to follow along with the story while being subtly told a completely different one altogether. And seriously, don’t even get me started on the illustrations of Bob Graham. I was lucky enough to meet Bob Graham earlier this year when he came into our office to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary and I wept. He is just the loveliest man, so humble and totally handled me crying like an absolute champ. The illustrations are colourful but gentle, just like the text, and they perfectly capture the spirit and nature of the story and its message.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
One of the most popular picture books of our time, Guess How Much I Love You is a must-have staple for all young households. This beautiful story by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram is the sweet story of a father and baby hare who are each trying to out-love the other one. The baby hare starts with telling his dad as wide as his arms can stretch, but when daddy hare can stretch his arms even wider, baby hare has to try and find a way to tell his dad that he loves him more. Beneath this gorgeous story is a child also looking up to its dad and wanting to be just like him. There is a reason that Guess How Much I Love You is now a brand in and of itself; a publishing phenomenon, over 18 million copies of this book have been sold around the world.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
Another classic, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by the amazingly talented Helen Oxenbury, is one of Walker Books proudest endeavours. Selling in the millions, this title is the perfect read-aloud for parents to enjoy with their children. Follow the family as then SPLISH and SPLASH through the river, SQUELCH through the mud and wade through the SWISHY grass in search of a bear. Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations are stunning as always while the repetition and extremely catchy, “I’m not scared!” has cemented this book as a favourite, a must-have an a classic for families all over the world. And p.s. next year, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is celebrating its 30th anniversary!
Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough
A personal favourite of mine, and an undoubted classic, Where’s My Teddy? owns a chunk of my heart. Written and illustrated by Jez Alborough, the use of the bright, brilliant green and full page illustrations of the forest just completely get to me. I used to hold this book as open and as flat as I could make the spine so as to get the entire scene in one, long, ogling stare. The story itself is simple and oh-so-sweet, but it really is the illustrations in this that have solidified it as a total favourite. I read and reread this book so many times that, one Christmas when Santa bought me a bear who wore a knitted yellow jumper with the word ‘TEDDY’ in black, I named him after the teddy in the book. Freddy. He was my Freddy Teddy.
Hello, Beaky! by Jez Alborough
Another book by Jez Alborough, Hello, Beaky! isn’t as well-known as Where’s My Teddy? but once again, this one holds a special place deep in my heart. Beaky the bird doesn’t know who he is, so when he meets Toad, they search the rainforest to try and figure out just what he is. It is a very cute story about discovering who you are and where you fit in, and it is also a gorgeous story about friendship – even if you are different from one another. The colours of this book have stayed with me over the years and I can still hear my mum’s voice reading this one aloud to my brother and I when we were little. It is that kind of memory that lets you recognise just how special a book really is.
Dragon Post by Emma Yarlett
I hadn’t heard of Emma Yarlett before this book came out very recently, but now that I have seen her work I am sold. Dragon Post is a fabulous novelty picture book; it is The Jolly Postman for a new generation. A story about friendship and the art of asking for help, this story centres around Alex, a little boy who finds a dragon living under his stairs. He isn’t sure what to do, but luckily he knows just who to ask for help. With five envelopes to open and letter to read, the joyful, touching and vibrantly-illustrated Dragon Post is BEAUTIFULLY put together and one book that I am a little bit too excited to read to our baby boy.
This is but the first of many picture book round-ups, and I know for a fact that there are some seriously wonderful picture books coming our way in 2019. So, stay tuned, watch this space and happy reading!