Grandad’s Library

The Storm Whale in Winter

We discovered two lovely books in the Maryport Maritime Museum, one was Flotsam and the other was this story, which grabbed my attention because I thought Harry would relate to it; he does so like having adventures with his Dad! I’m happy to say that he did love it.

The Storm Whale in Winter

Benji Davis

Simon & Schuster, 2016


I didn’t realise it at the time I bought the book, but this is a sequel to the very well regarded The Storm Whale. This book works stand-alone, and I’d read it to Harry quite a few times before realising that there was a previous book, but it does refer back to the original and the early part of the story might be a little easier to understand if we had the original too.

The story is about Noi and his fisherman father and Noi bravely setting across the snow and ice to find his father, and how the Storm Whale Noi rescued (in the previous book) comes to his own rescue. The story is quite captivating, and the pictures very nicely done; Harry related very strongly to the scene of Noi all alone in the dark in his father’s boat. There are lots little details in the pictures, it’s fun to find to find all the cats at the start of the story.

The Bear and the Piano

Two subjects dear to me: Music and Home; I’m somewhat predisposed to like this book, but it has more of an emotional impact than I had expected.

The Bear and the Piano


David Lichfield

Frances Lincoln, 2015

Little Bear finds a piano in the forest, discovers he has talent, leaves the forest and becomes a concert-hall star. But, what happens when he comes back to the forest? Will his friends remember him? Will they understand what he has been doing? Will they welcome him home?

The story is told in simple rhythmic words, the illustrations glow and entice, the denouement is beautiful.

This is David Lichfield’s first book and well-merits its Waterson’s Childrens Book Prize. I’ve not yet seen his second book Grandad’s Secret Giant, but I will be getting it soon.

Diary of a Wombat

This book was discovered by my daughter Suzie, she’s Harry’s mum, when she was in Australia. To be honest this one is for me; kids do love it, teachers say their classes love it, but I treasure it because my daughter came back safe and sound from Australia – and it is sidesplittingly funny!

Diary of a Wombat


Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Clarion 2010

Told from the perspective of a simple Wombat, with very few needs; sleep a bit, sleep a bit more, eat some carrots, make a nice burrow, eat more carrots, explain to human that more carrots are needed. The pictures capture this most pleasant existence and in passing shows the chaotic impact it has on the humans who are blessed with a wombat. Hilarious, and as you can see from the cover the illustrations are perfect.

There are several follow-on books in the series and we love them all. However the most interesting is a non-fiction book, The Secret World of Wombats, which gives a great deal of factual information about Wombats and some charming anecdotes about the real wombats Jackie French encountered and lived with. Her first manuscript was sent to the publisher having been typed on a type-writer whose letter ‘e’ did not work because of wombat damage! It adds to the enjoyment of Diary of a Wombat to realise that it’s a pretty realistic account of having a wombat come to live in your garden.



Those Pesky Rabbits

There are some occasions when Grandad may be a little, shall we say, grumpy. Comparisons with a bear with a sore head may reasonably be made. This may be why I so warm to this delightful story about Bear, who lives on his own, and likes it that way and certainly doesn’t need to socialise with his new, friendly, bouncy, irrepressible rabbit neighbours.

Those Pesky Rabbits


Ciara Flood

Templar 2015

There are many tales of hard hearts being softened, of discovery of friendship and the realisation of the joys of giving; The Selfish Giant, The Grinch and Scrooge come to mind. This book is quite a quite outstanding rendition of the theme. Right from the front cover you know this is going to fun! The expressions on the rabbits’ faces, Mr Bear’s body language, all bounce off the page. And so it continues throughout this lovely book, every page brings a smile. The final scenes as  Bear engages with the rabbits (and reads them stories!) are beautiful. Look for all the little details: what is the mouse doing? He sneaks into nearly every page. Compare the Home Sweet Home Tapestries at the beginning and end of the book.

Every grandad library needs this book!


Journey: a wonderful world

There seems to be a trend here: beautiful, imaginative books with strong storylines and no words! Another example of this is Flotsam. These books are great to look at, the pictures worth spending time to explore but the stories are far from trivial; don’t mistake the absence of words for a pre-school target age.



Aaron Becker

Walker 2013

This book is beautiful, every page a delight. While we could tell the story as we turn the pages I think the maximum enjoyment will come if we can get the listener to tell us about what’s on the page.

Who is this? (The main character might be a boy or a girl, I’ll assume the latter.)

What does she want to do?

Who is in the house?  What is Dad doing? What is Mum doing? 

How does the girl feel now? [The illustrations capture the disappointment and boredom so well!]

What’s that on the floor?

Is it usually a good idea to draw on the wall with a red pen?

What’s happened to the wall? Where does that door go?

How can she travel on the stream? 

The boat journey and the rest of the story unfold, there’s drama and resolution. A perfect tale that I don’t think could be as magical in any other medium.




Good Night, Gorilla

We found this to be the perfect book for a very young Harry. It might have been the way Grandma read it, the theatrical intake of breath when the interloping animals are discovered, but Harry requested the book again and again, and again …

Good Night, Gorilla


Peggy Rathmann

Putnam 2002

When the Gorilla gets his hands on Zookeeper’s keys he can help all the other animals to go on a little expedition to the  Zookeeper’s cottage; it’s so comfy there! Mrs Zookeeper is not impressed. The climax of the book has a black page with a pair of astonished white eyes; hilarious!

Charming story, lots of animals to identify, much detail to look at, very funny, plenty of opportunity for some play-acting too. It’s easy to see why this book has won many awards since it was first printed in 1994.



Flotsam: Eloquence without Words

I came upon this book in the Maryport Maritime Museum, a charming little establishment in the North of England, on the coast of the Lake District. They had an excellent selection of books for sale, I bought two of them. More about “The Storm Whale” another time, here I’ll be concentrating on a remarkable book, with no words and yet a wondrous eloquence.



David Weisener

Andersen Press, 2012 in the UK and originally in the USA Clarion Books, 2006

Flotsam is the third of David Weisener’s books to win the Caldecott Medal, and justly so; this is a book I would keep whether or not I had grand-children.  I find it fascinating on several levels. First, the way the whole story is told, without words, in ravishing detail purely in the beautiful water colour illustrations; an inquisitive child could spend a while looking at the details. Second, the lovely idea of an old camera washing up on the shore and the pictures that camera somehow gathered in its undersea journey. There is so much wit and invention in these scenarios, I laughed out loud at one of the ideas. What’s more there’s an fascinating exploration of the history of the camera, and glimpse into it’s future.

There are so many clever ideas here that I’m not sure what age of child would actually understand the whole story but the undersea pictures may well enthral some pre-school kids.

King of the Sky: Greetings and Pigeons

Welcome to the library blog, I hope to share my enthusiasm for a few books that strike me as particularly special. I’ll start with King Of The Sky, a book so beautiful I’m sharing it with adults too.

King Of The Sky


By Nicola Davies, Illustrated By Laura Carlin,

Published by Walker Books, 2017

This book is an uplifting story of displaced boy (maybe he’s refugee?) becoming captivated with the world of racing pigeons.

Mr Evans face was crumpled and he could hardly walk, but when his birds flew he smiled like Springtime.

He helps Mr Evans train a particular pigeon so that it will take part in a special race: all the way back from Rome. As I’ll explain in a moment I already knew a version of this story, but even so as I read I was drawn into the world, the writing is beautiful, the art-work just perfect for the story, with lots of detail to study, and of course the ending is triumphant. I haven’t yet shared the book with Harry, he lives in America, but he’s coming to see us soon, I can’t wait to read it with him.

The story is based on a real-life pigeon race. The bird now known as the King Of Rome  broke long-distance records by flying from Rome to Derby. Dave Sudbury’s song about this has been recorded by many people, not least June Tabor. I’d strongly recommend seeking out a recording of June’s version of the song.


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