Over the past few months I have been gobbling up books published by Gecko Press (along with others). I had planned on posting reviews of children’s books while we were in lockdown but I found it hard to write and my blog got so busy doing other things for children.
But these Gecko books were a wonderful escape hatch when I couldn’t leave my bubble. At the weekend I read them all again and realised what a comfort they were when my mind was so fuzzy. I was also intrigued to recall how I connected with them when the world was wobbly and full of unknowns and now, when our backyards feel a whole lot safer, I connect a little differently.
My Gecko Press Reading Diary
A Bear Named Bjorn by Delphine Perret, Gecko Press
NOT MUCH HAPPENS IN A BEAR’S LIFE.
OFTEN BJORN DOES NOTHING AT ALL
BUT HE’S NEVER BORED,
First of all this is a medium-sized hardback, with black & white drawings, that fits in your hand perfectly (well when you are as old as me). Even before you start reading you know this book is a treasure. All the sentences are in capital letters (it’s is a growing trend!) which might seem odd but just adds to the perfectness of every choice the publisher and the designer made.
Secondly the drawings are like exquisite little poems so I ‘read’ those before I read the story. They have an EH Shephard feel (he drew for AA Milne’s books) but they have their own personality that could only ever belong to Delphine Perret.
Thirdly the story is magic. It felt just right to be reading this in lockdown because Bjorn is a big fan of catalogues and ordering things online (I began to order a few things online). Bjorn loves his cave (everything seems just right!) but one day a big delivery truck turns up with a ‘plump three-seater sofa’ that he has won. Unexpectedly. He is told the big red sofa will ‘change his life and make him very happy’. Hmmm!
When my delivery van turned up with fresh fish during lockdown I was very happy. When it turned up with scrumptious avocados I was also very happy. Change my life? Ah those advertising catalogues.
BUT by the time Bjorn got the sofa inside the cave, and his friends dropped by, his life wasn’t exactly changed in a good way. You will have to read the story to find out what the arrival of the BIG RED SOFA actually meant to Bjorn.
I loved this story because I read it at a time when I was thinking about what I needed in my life and what I wanted in my life. I have found myself being a whole lot less wasteful.
A Bear Named Bjorn got me thinking, but it also got me laughing! In one episode a catalogue inspires Bjorn and his friends to dress up like humans.
There are lots of ways I am reminded of Winnie the Pooh because this is a book of living, of ordinary everyday life that is full of friendship and wisdom and unexpected things. I love it so much.
REALLY? IT’S THAT TIME? THIS MORNING
THERE’S A CHANGE IN THE AIR.
YOU CAN SMELL IT IN THE LEAVES
PILING UP AT THE FOOT OF THE TREES,
IN THE FAINT WHIFF OF MUSHROOMS.
THAT’S IT, THE SAME AS EVERY YEAR.
EXCEPT, NOT EXACTLY.
Hattie by Frida Nilsson, illustrated by Stina Wirsén, Gecko Press
This is what it says on the back of the book:
Hattie lives just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all.
I love this – it intrigued me and made me pick up the book and start reading AT ONCE! Hattie was waiting for school to start and she just couldn’t wait. Again I ponder on the chords between real life and the book I am reading. In lockdown I felt like I lived on the edge of nowhere and the somewheres were so topsy turvey. All the children were walking up and down our country road keeping an eye out for teddies and fascinating things because schools were closed.
AT LAST SCHOOL! Hattie loves school but she does like to bend rules. Playing horses ends up with someone locked in the school shed which ends up with her mother sad which ends up with the new banana fabric for the old chair abandoned on the floor which ends up with Hattie running away to the forest which ends up with:
Up in the sky small cold stars shine, but on the ground it’s as dark as the underworld.
What happens next …. you will have to read and found out yourself – except I will say the banana-fabric chair gets finished.
The episodes in Like A Bear Named Bjorn will make you laugh – especially the dumpling cake one which was not exactly the sweet cake Hattie was expecting – but you know Hattie she likes to bend the rules. She manages to avoid eating it. Another day Hattie plays a mean trick and Richard throws up but is she to blame? And can you imagine what happens when Hattie goes to the hairdresser and asks for ‘tufts’?
An extra favourite scene: Papa suggests making a gingerbread house at Christmas but then decides the duck house outside would be easier. They argue and then compromise: a simple duck house with gingerbread ducks on the roof. Meanwhile Hattie’s mum likes to make tottering Norwegian cakes that are almost as tall as Hattie. Ah my tummy filled with glee! Yet the best bit of this gingerbread episode is an act of kindness.
I also love this book to the moon and back. The edge of nowhere is a very good place to spend time when our world is still a bit wobbly. Hattie reminded me of audacious Pippi Longstocking – but Hattie is her own extraordinary self, and she’s excellent company.
The Wolf and the Fly by Antje Damm, Gecko Press
A nifty board book that is both a story and a memory game. Wolf is so hungry his tummy is rumbling. On the page opposite are eight things he might eat. Turn over and try remembering which one is missing. Wolf keeps eating one thing at a time and you have to keep remembering what he ate by being a very excellent memory detective.
How will it all end? Yes hungry wolf is now full wolf, but I didn’t exactly guess what happened next!
A very cool book.
My Mama by Annemarie van Haeringen, Gecko Press
I’ve known my mama for a long time.
For my whole life, actually.
My Mama is a big gorgeous hardback picture book with big gorgeous illustrations of elephant Mama, and sweet little illustrations of her rather mischievous child. The child is pretty much telling us everything mamas are good for (to climb up like a mountain or hide behind) and everything they are good at (parking the cars neatly in the toy box, hiding behind mama). This is a heartwarming read – the illustrations are divine – perfect when you need a feel-good book.
I really want to fly.
Mama says that you can do anything if you really want to.
It’s true. You can see I’m already good at it.
But my mama finds it hard to let it go.
All the Dear Little Animals Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, Gecko Press
Esther finds a dead bumble bee and decides the dead bumble needs a funeral. Her younger friend is scared of dead things but agrees to help. He is good at writing poems so writes a poem for the funeral. They bury the bee, make a cross, lay flowers, cry a little and say the poem. With the help of Esther’s wee brother, Puttie, they start a funeral home. It is hard finding dead things but they make funerals for a mouse, a hamster, a rooster, a hedgehog, a bird. The young poet writes something especially for each sad occasion.
The story shows how important the things we do together at funeral time are, as are the things we choose to do ourselves.
I hope you pick at least one book from here to fill you with joy
t h a n k y o u G e c k o P r e s s