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I (me! Sandie!) have finally managed to disentangle my thoughts about ‘Black Dog’ by Levi Pinfold (Templar Publishing, 2011), which won the Kate Greenaway award in 2013. In Levi Pinfold’s story, the Hope family, who live in an isolated forest, are visited one winter day by a mysterious black dog. As each member of the family (Mr Hope, Mrs Hope, Adeline Hope and Maurice Hope) spots the dog through the windows of their house, they get more and more terrified. As their fear grows, the dog does too, until it reaches a gigantic size. But, of course, it is the youngest member of the Hope family, ‘Small’, who is totally fearless and who steps heroically out of the house to confront the enormous dog and show her family that ‘there’s nothing to be scared of’. It is hailed as the perfect book for ‘confronting your fears’.

It’s an exquisite picturebook, with detailed life-like illustrations taking us into a completely fictional world. Most of the openings are framed full-colour recto pages facing a white verso page, scattered with small, sepia cameos interspersed between the verbal text. But there are some full colour spreads too – my favorite is the mega close up shot of the dog’s nose on Opening 6. There is so much detail in the illustrations, and there are so many visual connections and interpretations to make that its perfect for talking about with small groups of children. Why are lime green octopuses everywhere? Why does Maurice Hope have so many owl dolls?

The verbal text has some useful repetitive refrains which children will pick up on re-readings:

“Did you know there’s a black dog the size of a [different nouns] outside?”

“What should we do?”

[suggestions like turn out the lights / hide under the covers]

Also some fun rhymes as Small leads the black dog through the woods: “You can’t follow where I go, unless you shrink, or don’t you know?”

I’ve always found ‘Black Dog’ fascinating, and although I’ve never taken it into a language classroom, I regularly take it off my bookshelf and scrutinize the illustrations as I read and re-read the verbal text. A set of notes which accompany the picturebook on the Award website indicate that it was one of the most visually complex in the 2013 shortlisted picturebooks. They recommend lots of searching and discovering and, upon a second look -‘Look again’, they suggest the following:

• Tell each other your first responses to the artistic quality.

• Try to explain why you like or dislike something.

• Look closely at every visual aspect [the peritext] as well as the pictures. Talk about how these extra graphics contribute to the overall impact of the book.

And don’t forget to ask children what the black dog represents and why they think he gets bigger and smaller in the story – no right or wrong answers … it’s the talk that matters!

These are such interesting questions, and if you are lucky enough to have class sets, then children will be completely engrossed in looking, discovering and talking for real. If you don’t have a class set, why not leave ‘Black Dog’ in the class library, with some of these prompts and encourage children to browse through the picturebook in pairs or trios.

Lots to peek at if you want to discover more:

A close up of some of the book’s illustrations in the GuardianRead More
The Greenaway 2013 notes (highly recommended)Read More
Looking at the black dog as an allegory / symbolRead More
if you want to catch a whiff of his Forest of Dean accentRead More

Hours of fun here for your weekend … enjoy!

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I (Gail) continue with our February theme of award-winning picturebooks with ‘Sometimes I feel … A menagerie of feelings big and small’. It is written and illustrated by Sarah Maycock and published by Big Picture Press in 2020 and won the 2021 ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) Educational Writers’ Award. This award was established in 2008 by ALCS and the Society of Authors (SoA), ‘to celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity, encourages students to read widely and builds up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications’ and is the UK’s only award for creative educational writing focussing on books for 5–11-year-olds.

‘Sometimes I feel …’ explores common but complex emotions such as bravery, timidness, fear, curiosity and happiness, through a collection of animal similes and poetic prose. The words are accompanied by stunning paintings of animals in ink and watercolour and swooping brush marks which embody each emotion. The judges highlighted the picturebook’s relevance to our times, ‘linking feelings to relatable characteristics of animals is a fantastic way to teach children about the power of emotions; their temporary nature, and how we can respond to them in a healthy and helpful way.’ At the back of the book there is a note from the artist where she explains that the book began its life in 2011 as her final year project at university as she ‘wanted to explore the universal nature of animals and how we can relate them to our own experiences and characteristics’.

‘Sometimes I feel …’ can be used to develop emotional literacy by helping children identify and manage their own emotions and those of others and understand that feelings come and go. It is a book that can be read aloud in its entirety or dipped into. There are 19 openings presenting 10 similes each followed by a simple message which gives lots to ponder on, for example, ‘Sometimes I feel as happy as a Lark. But not all days can be filled with song … and sometimes I will need time before I can join in with the chorus.’ The front and back endpapers, illustrated in black and white, are the same and can be used to introduce some of the creatures. Children can also compare the similes with similes in their own language(s) and even create their own similes and an animal simile poster.

‘Sometimes I feel …’ really is a powerful picturebook where the similes put feelings into words and the pictures capture each emotion in just a few brushstrokes. My personal favourite is ‘Sometimes I feel as busy as a Bee. But slowing down to see the beauty all around me is time just as well spent.’

You can watch Sarah Maycock talking about ‘Sometimes I feel …’ here

Watch Video

and download a free four-page printable worksheet from Sarah’s website here:


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I (Tatia) continue with our February theme of award-winning picturebooks. After Sandie discussed the Kate Greenaway Award and Gail the ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) Educational Writers’ Award, I will conclude this month by looking at the Klaus Flugge Award.

The Klaus Flugge Prize is an annual award given to the ‘most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration’. To be honest, it is one of my favourite awards as it focuses on new-comers. The prize was established in 2016 to honour Klaus Flugge, the founder of the well-known publishing house Andersen Press. Two facts which might be of interest are that Klaus Flugge, born in 1934, is still alive and that he named his company Andersen Press in tribute to Hans Christian Andersen.

Over the years, PEPELT has covered various Klaus Flugge Prize winners such as Jessica Love (2019) for ‘Julian is a Mermaid’ and undoubtedly you will quickly recognise other past winners such as:

2017: Francesca Sanna for ‘The Journey’

2018: Kate Milner for ‘My Name is Not Refugee’

2020: Eva Eland for ‘When Sadness Comes to Call’

2021: Flavia Z. Drago for ‘Gustavo the Shy Ghost’

Instead of looking at a past winner, I have chosen to write about one of the picturebooks which has made it onto this year’s 2023 Klaus Flugge Prize long-list. The book that I have chosen is called ‘That’s Nice Love’, written and illustrated by Owen Gent and published by Book Island (2022). Whereas Owen Gent might be new to the world of picturebooks, his art / illustrations has been commissioned for years, especially by publishing houses (Penguin Random House, Harper Collins) for book covers. I chose this book as it is unique in style and message. Moreover, the shortness in text makes it ideal for PELT, especially with younger children .

Jon Biddle has written teaching notes for this picturebook and his synopsis explains that ” ‘That’s Nice, Love’ tells the story of a child and their parent or carer going on a walk to the local park. The child climbs an enormous tree and wants to share all the amazing things they can see, but the adult is preoccupied with their phone and repeatedly responds with ‘That’s nice, love’. The child encounters snakes, monkeys, leopards and other beautiful creatures as they explore the tree. When they eventually get home, the child proudly displays the treasures they collected on the walk, such as leaves, feathers, and conker shells. The adult only notices them after the child has gone upstairs to bed, and then puts down their phone to listen to the adventures they missed.”

In a nutshell, ‘That’s Nice Love’ is a story for children and adults alike about the importance of looking up, paying attention, witnessing creativity, and sharing life. It is a reminder that life does not take place on our mobile phones and that, especially children but also our friends and family, need us to exit our digital worlds and to not merely share a physical space.

The illustrations by Owen Gent are striking from a palette point of view which could be compared to the richness found in autumn leaves with shades of deep purple and blue. His colours fill the illustrated pages, sometimes full bleed, sometimes as framed vignettes. They add a feeling of magic, trigger emotions and accompany in their own right, the child with his carer / parent on their journey. The text remains sparse (often only 5-8 words) on every page and does not ever distract.

The covers and endpapers offer opportunities for learners of all ages to make predictions about the story or the underlying message. A key feature of this picturebook is the ease with which the reader can identify with either the adult or the child in the story. It thus lends itself to discuss emotions but also ways to encourage the joy of seeking an adventure together.

I hope you liked my choice and I really hope this picturebook makes it onto the short-list. You can follow the Klaus Flugge Prize on Twitter or Instagram.

The Teaching Notes by Jon Biddle and some pages of the book can be found on the publisher’s website:

Publisher Notes