Mother’s Day and The Bear in our Backyard

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, and a recently released picture book that celebrates mothers, I put pen to paper on why I feel picture books make extra special gifts.

There are many reasons why picture books can make the perfect Mother’s Day gift, but two are particularly close to my heart.

Firstly, stories can express sentiments of love and appreciation in a way that is not possible for a young child to articulate. When a story about parents and their children is shared, an opportunity to reflect upon the special qualities of parental love is created.

As Shaye Wardrop says in her review of The Bear in our Backyard, ‘Part of a special game between child and parent, the bear is, of course, not really a bear.

This time it’s Mum who’s playing pretend, and she knows all the best games to play.

Bear can swing our skipping rope and hula hoop so fast.
We leap and twirl and whizzy whirl, then tumble down at last.

Middleton has once again delivered a gorgeous story that celebrates the special connection between children and their parents, and it’s all about mums in this loving tale.’ Stories can evoke emotions in unique and poignant ways.

While the parent reads the story, the child is absorbed in the illustrations and the visual narrative. Briony Stewart has created superb illustrations for The Bear in our Backyard, with meticulous detail, heavenly colour schemes and characters that radiate love and life.

Secondly, the very act of reading a picture book at the end of a long day creates a loving and focused time to spend together. Within these minutes of the day, parent and child are often snuggled together, absorbed in their shared experience. This may be the only real time of the day when there are no interruptions, a peaceful atmosphere and time for undivided attention. A perfect time to feel the bond of parental love and create memories that last a lifetime.

Wardrop says about The Bear in our Backyard, ‘With rhythmic rhyme flowing throughout, this is a perfect book for bedtime snuggles.’

The Bear in our Backyard is published by Affirm Press (April 2018)

Symbolism, Picture Books and The Dream Bird

Symbolism has always played a huge role in literature and art and continues to contribute to the depth and significance of children’s picture books. I would like to share some of my thoughts behind the symbols and colours that I chose in illustrating Aleesah Darlison’s beautiful bedtime story, The Dream Bird.

 

 

Firstly, I wanted to choose two distinctive colour palettes that represented the contrast between the hours when George is awake, and the period of time when George is trying to sleep. I chose a sunlit sky blue for the scenes where George is up and about, and a crimson tone to represent Gran’s warmth and comforting cuddles, as she helps George go to sleep.

 

 

The light crimson of Gran’s room and dressing gown, is meaningful for a second reason. It is the same colour as the Dream Bird’s crimson and gold tipped tail feathers. This is the first clue that shows us that Gran is the magical Dream Bird. As we look closer at Gran, we see elegant bird patterns adorn her gown and her room is decorated with long feathers in a vase. As the vision of the dream bird appears, at first very faint and then more clearly, she mirrors the posture of Gran gently leaning over George’s bed.

 

 

As George drifts off to sleep, the distinctions between reality and dreamland become blurred. Transparent wisps of light, floating feathers, and soft snowflakes drift around George. His bedsheets seemingly melt into fantasy, as the flowing cloth liquefies into the blue of the ocean.

 

 

Gran tells George how the Dream Bird whispers, ‘Sweet Dreams, beautiful child,’ before soaring away through the sky.

On the final page, surrounded in gentle light, Gran kisses George on the forehead. A single feather is suspended on the bedsheet as Gran whispers the exact words spoken by the Dream Bird, ‘Sweet dreams, beautiful child.’

 

 

I hope every child can drift off into sweet dreams with the gentle imagery, and beautiful story, of The Dream Bird.