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Autumn/Winter 2020 Picture Book Reviews

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser

Illustrated by Kate Hindley

My favourite picture book of 2020! I just adored little Gertie and her sheer amount of bravery and determination.

For a conventional children's story trope that's seen the outstanding likes of Rachel Bright, Laura Ellen Anderson and Julia Donaldson master, Lu Fraser's The Littlest Yak shines bright in a sea of talent.

With bouncy and beautiful rhyme, a pacy and dramatic plot, in a spectacular wintry wonderland setting that's as captivating as it is charming, Lu's fresh and reassuring take on celebrating the uniqueness of YOU (no matter how small) is an instant heart warmer.

Gloriously brought to life by Kate Hindley, The Littlest Yak is a showstopper stunner! Readers of all ages will delight at the snowy mountain top scenes, the striking starry skies and the charming family of yaks all wrapped up in their woolly hats.

A winning picture book. The Littlest Yak will become a family favourite for many I'm sure.

SUPPORT INDIE. Buy The Littlest Yak from Bear Hunt Books here.

IF YOU LOVED THIS, TRY... The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and I Don't Want to be Small by Laura Ellen Anderson.

Once Upon a Dragon's Fire by Beatrice Blue

The second picture book in Beatrice Blue's enchanting new series about how magical creatures came to have their extraordinary gifts.

In Once Upon a Dragon's Fire Blue wonderfully imagines how dragons first got their fire. And it's a heartwarming story of kindness, acceptance, and discovery, sprinkled and sparkling with wander and imagination. Blue also beautifully captures the magic and joy of stories and storytelling, whilst highlighting the power and influence they can have over their readers.

I just adore Blue's illustrations, so colourfully encompassing and gorgeously warming, with each page offering new found treasures with each read. I'm so looking forward to what Blue gifts us with next.


Ways to Say I Love You by Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Alette Straathof

Beautifully inclusive and delightfully wholesome, who doesn't love a picture book that celebrates everything LOVE! From great big bear hugs and whale love melodies, to wedding vows and holding hands, Ways to Say I Love You explores the many wonderful ways that creatures and humans express their love and affection.

Told through a simple but affective rhyming verse, Marilyn Singer cleverly compares creature courtings to similar human ones, but it's Alette Straathof's illustrations that really steal the show! Each page is lovingly adorned in colour and charm.

A spread or two on self-love would've been super special though; not 'every creature wants a mate'. Self-identity and independence are just as important as love and relationships.

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brother

I adored this quirky, imaginative picture book by the ever talented Fan Brothers! It's like a lovable Monster Inc makeover, perfect for fans of Shaun Tan.

In a world where pets are made to be perfect, Barnabus - half mouse, half elephant - spends his days encased in a tiny bell jar, deep underground in a secret lab called 'Failed Project'. Shelved with a menagerie of other wonderfully unique creatures, Barnabus dreams of a world above the lab, a world of city skyscrapers, sparkling lakes and starry skies. When faced with a destiny of being recycled, Barnabus decides to take action, and with his friends, make a daring escape for freedom.

A heartwarming celebration of friendship, resilience, and embracing our imperfections, The Barnabus Project is an absolute triumph! Little readers will be won over by a narrative that's packed with positivity, and will delight over the beautifully vivid, detailed illustrations. 5 shining stars from me!

Fox: A Circle of Life Story by Isabel Thomas

Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

In a sparkling frost-covered forest of early spring, a mother fox, with a bushy tail and fur like golden flames, is on the hunt to find food for her three little cubs. As the seasons change and the cubs grow, the mother fox teaches them the skills and lessons to survive in the wild world. Until one day, fox dies. As the autumn leaves fall, the fox begins to fade and gives back to the earth, to plants, to the air, and with it brings new life to the forest. For every particular that once was the fox, finds a new place in the world, from the trees, to the bees, to the soft, gentle breeze.

In this striking and sincere picture book, Isabel Thomas immerses you into the beautiful natural world and, with great clarity and sensitivity, explains the circle of life, and explores the new beings and beginnings that come from death. Uniting science with story, Thomas’s direct, logical language blends with a gentle, poetic resonance to craft a unique approach on the usually hard-hitting, difficult subject, which I found to be as refreshing as it was enlightening. This, paired powerfully with Daniel Egnéus vivid and atmospheric illustrations, makes for a worthy 5 star read.

'Thought-provoking and reassuringly hopeful'

Thought-provoking and reassuringly hopeful, Fox: A Circle of Life Story paves the way for important questions and valuable discussions to be had, not just on death, but also on topics surrounding food chains, ecosystems, habitats, and the natural environment. The closing spread on the science behind death, the building blocks of life, and the meaning of decomposition is a great starting point for exactly that.

This is the second book the creative duo have collaborated on and they’ve quickly marked themselves as a firm favourite amongst children and parents, teachers and book bloggers. I hope this series of scientific stories continues well into the future!


Wolf Girl by Jo Loring-Fisher

A gorgeous, dreamy picture book that speaks of the importance of courage, friendship and finding your voice.

I'm a big fan of author and artist Jo Loring-Fisher and loved her picture book, Talking Time (Lantana Publishing 2020). In Wolf Girl Jo's illustrations are soft yet confident, masterfully layered with light, texture and a dazzling touch of wonder. The snowy landscape is infused magic and Sophy's innocence and growing confidence glistens with each page.

Unlike the illustrations, the narrative lacked a competing spark and originality, nevertheless Wolf Girl is a beautiful book that will enchant its young, imaginative readers.

Discover more of Jo's beautiful books and artwork here.


Slug in Love by Rachel Bright

Illustrated by Nadia Shireen

When two superstar kid's lit authors collaborate you know you're in for something special (think Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers) and Rachel Bright's and Nadia Shireen's picture book, Slug in Love, has 100% confirmed this.

Irresistibly charming, Slug in Love is loaded with all the hugs, heart and humour you need to make a winning bedtime story. As always, Bright's rhyme is perfectly perfect and Shireen's illustrations are overflowing with personality.

Though Doug's not the first underrated children's book character ever to want a hug, he certainly is a charmer, albeit a slimy one. But it's this irresistible charm that will have young and old readers alike beaming till their cheeks ache and cooing till their hearts melt. And whilst I'm over the moon that Doug found love, I think we're all desperate to know if Gail the snail is destined for the veil! Here's hoping this isn't the last we see of dream duo Bright and Shireen.


Love by Corrinne Averiss, illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman

This heartfelt tale of love and connection is just gorgeously glorious.

Illustrator Kirsti Beautyman really stole the show for me. Her illustrations are wonderfully inclusive, and there's a real sense of hope and warmth reflected in her colour choice.

I adore Corrinne Averiss and the feel-good picture books she's publish with Quarto Kids (Joy, 2018. Hope, 2019), yet Love felt a little flat out of the three for me. The idea of the love strings is a really beautiful concept yet the story of Love just felt a little weak in comparison, I think because the anxieties and separation of going to school is a common plot amongst picture books so I was kind of hoping for a love that stretched a little further beyond this. Still, it was just magic to be wrapped up snug in all the warmth, wonder and joy of love.

Beautifully presented in a hardback format, Love would make the perfect gift for school starters and families everywhere.

The Grotlyn written and illustrated by Benji Davies



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