Best Books of 2018 – Liz Anelli

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Anna and Otis by Maisie Paradise Shearring

Some people are scared of snakes. But Anna knows it’s brilliant having one as a friend. A tour around the delights of the author’s website unlock the world of one of my favourite author/illustrators around today. Charming and simple with naïve child-like watercolour and coloured-pencil style, Ms Shearring leads readers through a tale about friendship, imagination and acceptance. I love that readers are asked to suspend reality and believe that little girls can have snakes as playmates. Why not – it’s a picture book! Understandably the rest of the townsfolk are not so keen on Otis but Anna finds ways to win trust for her best friend. The text leads readers into funny and creative visual solutions throughout such as how can a friend without limbs skateboard. With gorgeous retro end papers to extend this story beyond the final page, this is my pick for 2018.

If you follow Oliver Jeffers on Instagram you’ll know that he regularly posts visual commentary on international politics. This book is as much an endearing welcome to his own baby son as a message to the adult world. In pictures and in words he asks: who and where are we and what are we doing about it? gently advocating peace and an enquiring mind. The language of a parent explaining life to a child the text is suitably and humorously simplified nevertheless this picture book covers complex issues. It even hints at death “And when I’m not around…you can always ask someone else”. If you want to know how Jeffers spends his storytelling days then check out  this video clip

Personally, I am hoping to find his biography The Working Mind and Drawing Hand of Oliver Jeffersunder the tree this Christmas.

Search-and Find Alphabet of Alphabets by A J Wood, Mike Jolly and Allan Sanders

I discovered this fun-packed picture book at The World illustration Awards Exhibition, Somerse tHouse, London in July this year. Surely an ABC book to top the lot because it contains 26 separate alphabets from A for Alphabet to Z for Zoo. Never overcrowded, the impressive balance of design and colour and Sanders’ appealingly simple graphic style, allow the 676 different ‘things to spot’ to comfortably fit. Changes of scale, tone and orientation for some unexpected categories make this visually funny journey of discovery a diving off point for countless classroom activities and the reader’s own storytelling. A calming colour palette avoids any possible confusion. The book is reminiscent of the best of Richard Scary. It made me laugh, it made me think, I vow never to lend it out and I wish I had created it. This book can keep children up to 12 years occupied for days. Plot spoiler – look out for the underpants!

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