THE LITTLE GARDENER BY EMILY HUGHES

'There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked hard, very hard, but he was just too little (or at least he felt he was).'

If, like me, you spend a good deal of time wondering what it might be like to be shorter than a blade of grass, Emily Hughes' ‘The Little Gardener’ is a very gratifying read. The story follows a gardener who is, as the name suggests, very little. Alone but for the company of an adorable pet worm, the Little Gardener has a pretty tough time getting his garden to grow. Gardening is difficult enough for a semi-adult human, so imagine how hard it must be when your hands are so small that you can pet an earth worm as if it were a dog. One day, a single flower is enough to inspire an act of kindness that ultimately changes the Little Gardener's circumstances. Without giving too much away, in the end he gets a badass garden and you get left with a warm feeling in your heart space.

Emily Hugh’s illustrations are decorative and full of detail. Even the illustrations that depict a dying garden have an eerie beauty to them. She employs what looks to be a combination of graphite, pastel, watercolour and digital illustration. Lush drawings feather out to a clean white edge with the text placed below; a layout reminiscent of more traditional picture book designs like 'Orlando the Marmalade Cat'.

Emily Hughes has some other super cool stories out including ‘Wild’ and ‘A Brave Bear', both well worth a read.

Buy it? I already did...

Flying Eye Books, 2015. New paperback edition now available from Ekor Book Shop Cafe.

SHACKLETON’S JOURNEY BY WILLIAM GRILL

'The epic true story of how Shackleton and his crew managed to survive crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a testament to their great courage and endurance'.

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill has a big golden award medal stamped on the front of it - so I knew from the outset that it was probably going to be a solid pick. Make sure you have clean hands because the cover of this thing is super white.

Shackleton’s Journey is a potent addition to the increasing number of contemporary picture books that straddle the genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Combining fact-based storytelling with beautifully stylized illustrations, Shackleton’s Journey reads like a classic (yet suspiciously informative) adventure story.

The pages jump between lush double page spreads, comic book-like paneling, and something that more closely resembles infographic design than classical illustration. The drawing style is imaginative and endearingly simplistic. At times it verges on pure abstraction - perfect for depicting the surreal landscapes of the South Pole.

For any adult who doesn’t want to read a dense novel chronicling Shackleton's every move – you’ve got a wonderfully easy-to-digest and visually compelling read in Shackleton’s Journey. It will also look slick af on your coffee table.

Meanwhile, Shackleton’s Journey will fool younger readers into thinking that they are reading something resembling an epic adventure comic. In reality, they have been tricked into learning a bunch of facts about a real explorer. Pretty ideal really. I’d say kiddos around the age of 8+ will enjoy it.

Go buy it? Yep.    

Flying Eye Books, 2014. Available now from Ekor Book Shop Cafe.