Bookwagon holds fast to a mantra to recommend and sell books we have read and loved only. We describe each title on our site. Customers need to know they can trust our knowledge and experience of children’s books

I have worked my way through a host of outstanding books, recently. These include picture books I cherish and want to share. Somehow an emphasis made in pictures builds a more resonant connection. The pictures tell the story, confirming or suggesting feelings and intention.

The Dam

Award winning book makers David Almond and Levi Penfold collaborated to create The Dam. Kielder Water, Britain’s largest artificial lake, in North Northumberland took two years to fill! The area is long settled and enjoyed by walkers, fishermen, artists and astronomers, David Almond was inspired by its history. Before its transformation, the Kielder Valley was farmland with schools, homes and a section of the Border Counties’ Railway. This is an area rich in memory, folktales and music. Together David Almond and Levi Pinfold have created something so special that it brings tears to my eyes. The sepia tones, the movement that suggests music and memory and loss, the snapshot, ‘long ago’ images…. In ‘The Dam’ the pictures tell the story, too.

The trouble with picture books

Picture books, as I have sought to stress in other writing, are not the preserve of young children. Consider how many homes include pictorial magazines or high quality coffee table books! Mr Bookwagon and I have recently purchased car maps after near disasters where we put our faith in our Sat Nav! We need to see and plot and realise our route! Sat Nav blunders

Picture books confirm and offer opportunity. Pictures tell the story. The trouble with picture books remains that the unread do not read them, or fully appreciate their wonder. Frequently, I meet enquiries for a chapter book for a young reader, ‘because she/he is too old for picture books now…’

In school

Most schools realise picture books’ relevance to students throughout their school career. Many schools include David Wiesner’s ‘Flotsam’ in their upper KS2 curricula. Another favourite is ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan’. Both titles are wordless. We have recommended lesser known titles when schools have sought recommendations, like The Flight of Mr Finch or Professional Crocodile. Sophisticated picture books like these demand diligent investigation, contemplation, enquiry and doubt. These are superb learning and life behaviours. Frequently, when I revisit  Bookwagon titles, I learn more than my previous experiences.

Last week, I shared John Bond’s highly acclaimed début picture book, Mini Rabbit NOT LOST. My school audience asked, ‘Why is Mini Rabbit moving between seasons?’ I had not realised this fully. Several times subsequently, I have looked over the book but I’m no clearer.

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Bookwagon met award- winning picture book makers Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen at the UK launch of Square, sequel to Triangle. I discussed the two shapes’ characters with Mac Barnett. We agreed that Square seems a  victim in his depiction. There is little to go on, seemingly, in the pictures. However shape, movement, the way they react to their surroundings and the set of the characters’ eyes are suggestive. We infer their character from these.

Triangle thinks of a sneaky trick to play on Square. The background is spacious and there is foliage suggesting a lack of threat, ‘I will play my sneaky trick.’ It is a sneaky trick, that frightens Square.

In wounded reply to Triangle’s trick, Square follows him to the doorway of his house, where he becomes stuck. The journey appears dramatic for Square. He calls ‘I know you are afraid of the dark’ . Triangle taunts that he does not believe him. The reader wonders when Square declares, ‘This was my plan all along.‘ Is this the truth?

The Big Pictures with Stories

Bloomsbury Publishing release a superb reimagining  of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ this week. The Restless Girls develops the sisters’ characters and story into something both imaginative and feasible. Jessie Burton, writer of ‘The Miniaturist’ and glorious picture book maker Angela Barrett’ have triumphed. This is a ‘forever’ book to cherish.

The story of Cook’s Cook is harsh and rigorous. Gavin Bishop’s account of John Thompson’s journey aboard Captain James Cook’s ‘The Endeavour‘ is a crew’s eye view of emptiness and fear. The pictures tell the story throughout this chronological journal. We live as insiders throughout, almost ‘tasting’ the constant, horrid variations of pease porridge!

Klaus Flugge Prize

The annual Klaus Flugge Prize was awarded this month to Kate Milner for My name is not Refugee. Kate Milner created the book during her MA study in children’s book illustration at Anglia Ruskin university. Judging panel chair, Julia Eccleshare said, ‘The Klaus Flugge Prize champions picture books for children that challenge them to think about the world and how it works.‘ The pictures tell the story.

From Italy a tale based on experience

Mafalda wonders how she will see once Stargardt Mist disease claims her sight entirely. For now she measures the decline through calculating The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree. How Mafalda ‘sees’ through textures, scents, memories, an inner dialogue and her journal is a privilege. We have access to Mafalda’s experieince where the pictures tell the story of her life, hopes and fears. Paola Peretti has crafted these inner pictures for tenderly and knowingly.

Innermost pictures

Multi-award winning picture book maker Francesca Sanna offers Me and My Fear. A new arrival’s fear builds to become a central character dominating her waking and sleeping. She is paralysed by terror to the point that she is unable to make friends, take up opportunities or see mistakes as part of life. Through creating Fear as a character Francesca Sanna has the pictures tell the story. Fear is concrete and in need of breaking down. This is clever picture book making that deserves a wide, mature readership.

From inner life to the life around us

National Poetry Day is celebrated on October 4th. Bookwagon has been reading a number of poetry books in preparation, including new titles. Two magnificent additions have been recent additions to the site.

Publishing house Nosy Crow presents I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree. Fiona Waters has selected poems that celebrate the individual, natural wonder of every day of the year succinctly. Frann Preston-Gannon’s beautiful pictures extend the celebration. They are whimsical, empathic and assured.

Former children’s laureate and picture book maker Chris Riddell offers Poems to Live Your Life By. His considered illustrations endorse each selection in his book. He has chosen classic, contemporary, international and lesser known titles that fit his topics of life, death, musings, war and youth, amongst others. This is such a beautiful book. It is one that stands on Bookwagon’s shelves proudly, another ‘forever’ title where the words and the pictures tell the story.