BK’s Book Pouch: Refuge


Despite the fact that most of the kids in my life are getting bears for Christmas this year (because that’s what happens when I work in a shop where I stuff a lot of bears), that hasn’t stopped me from perusing and purchasing books from my favourite shop in the world.

I was on the lookout for some new Christmas books, and for many years have been frustrated about the lack of books that tell the Christmas story in a real way. Every nativity book is white-washed with blue nun Mary, pristine mansion stables, white blonde baby Jesus, white Magii wearing crowns that look like the metal versions of the ones you get in Christmas crackers…

…it drives me nuts. If I’m going to share with children the story of Jesus’ birth, I want them to get an impression of the real thing.

Then on a table next to the original Christmas book from the Mog the cat series was a book called Refuge that was published this year by one of my favourite publishers – Nosy Crow (I had the pleasure of meeting someone who works for Nosy Crow last year at University of Glasgow’s Picturebook conference).

The story tells the story of Jesus birth and the family’s escape to Egypt all from the point of view of the donkey. It is a moving and poignant telling, and I have bought a copy (pictured above) and was most upset today when I went to buy another that I couldn’t find one in either of the city centre Waterstone’s booksellers in Edinburgh.

Given everything going on in the Middle East right now, the place where most of the bible’s stories happened…I couldn’t think of a more apt book to be taking down from your bookshelf to read this December.

I do know that Hive, John Lewis and Waterstone’s (and hopefully your local independent bookshops) are selling copies. And it has my stamp of approval!




BK’s BookPouch: The Arrival by Shaun Tan



It’s not unusual for friends to ask me for children’s book recommendations as apparently it’s not a secret that I’m passionate about ‘children’s’ literature and indeed books in general. Last week a friend was asking for recommendations for a 9 year old, and one of the (many) books I suggested was The Arrival.

I credit my friend Dani and her peers that I met at the Picturebook Conference at University of Glasgow last year for introducing me to Shaun Tan’s work. I’ve always loved Picturebooks, and they too often get classified as being for Preschool children only. Picturebooks can tell incredible stories – sometimes with words, or in the case of this one…no words at all.

The Arrival tells the story of immigrants from around the world – why they leave their countries, the struggle of leaving loved ones behind, the challenges of the journey, being somewhere new and trying to acclimatise to a new place that you will have to make your home. The illustrations are creative, powerful, poignant and it was clear to me without the note at the end that Shaun had done plenty of research into the real life stories of immigrants that informed his art.

I managed to get this paperback copy at Waterstones but you can also get it by ordering a copy from your nearest independent bookseller or online through Hive. The hardback copy makes a beautiful gift to someone (or a treat for yourself).

BK’s Bookpouch: The Day The Crayons Quit


Picturebooks really don’t get enough credit, and I think that they should be read more widely rather than be seen as just for children. So often, they can tell a story and start discussion in a way that no other format does as well.

I was in Waterstone’s West End (possibly one of my favourite places in the world) looking to spend a book token when I came across this book that I hadn’t seen before. Of course I picked it up and started flicking through. And then I snapped this picture and sent it to my friend in Italy who has a MEd in Children’s Literature and told her she had to try and find a copy. (When I get a paying job, I may have to get a copy to post out to her!)

The Day The Crayons Quit is a series of letters written to a boy called Duncan (owner of said crayon set) who are resigning from their job and stating their complaints about their treatment and use. From the red crayon who is fed up being used to colour in fire engines to the black crayon who is wants to be used like the other colours to be a filler not just an outline to the pink crayon who is annoyed at never being used due to gender stereotypes… it’s a very funny tale that both children and adults can enjoy, with a beautiful ending.

The book is written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers who has created other wonderful picturebooks you may be familiar with, such as ‘How to Catch a Star’ and ‘Lost and Found‘.

It is currently (or at least it was on Friday) part of the Buy one get one half price deal in Waterstone’s. If you can’t find a copy in your local bookshop, you can order it to be sent to your nearest independent bookshop or home through Hive.

BK’s BookPouch: Books Always Everywhere


In February, I became friends with a woman I roomed together with while we were both representing our university on an ERASMUS winter school programme in Würzbürg. In a few weeks time, she will graduate with her Masters degree in Children’s Literature. I had no idea that her postgraduate programme existed until we met, and I was immediately envious and no doubt irritated her no end for details of her studies which sounded so much more fun that the stuff I was doing (as much as I love Community Development – her assignments sounded much more fun than mine!)

In June, there was a conference open to all students looking at Picturebooks, and I had the pleasure of attending the second day – I was gutted that work stopped me from attending both days! One of the first workshops I went to was being run by Jane Blatt. As she talked about her research on how babies interact with books, I was fascinated. At the time, two of my friends had babies around the same age as the babies that Jane’s videos showed. I recognised so much of the signs of child development and learning that I had observed in them in the videos.

Jane wrote a picturebook illustrated by Sarah Massini called Books Always Everywhere which shows her findings – babies using books as hats, blankets and all sorts of other things.

I bought two copies for my friends’ babies – one for Princess Monkey, the other for Jambino (not their real names – I give all my friends kids nicknames!), which Jane kindly signed for me. I have been told that Jambino LOVES this book. His parents have him choose 5 books from ‘his’ bookshelf every night before bed and then they read them together. He often picks Jane’s book, and it’s apparently a favourite of his.

So, I can’t give a better recommendation of a book for the 0-3 age group than one given by an actual member of the 0-3 demographic! If you have an ickle person in your life, I recommend getting a copy of Jane’s book.