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From boys forging strong friendships to confused mammoths waking up in New York, these illustrated tales gently unlock young emotions
Picture books that can bring tears to the eyes even after repeated reads are few and far between. John Burningham mastered the skill with Granpa, as did Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb with The Paper Dolls. But it’s particularly impressive that debut author Lauren Ace and illustrator Jenny Løvlie achieved the feat while fresh to the game with The Girls, about four schoolgirls whose friendship and lives blossom under an old apple tree. The tale won the illustrated book category of the 2019 Waterstones children’s book prize, and the pair have since received messages from readers worldwide thanking them for reflecting their own friendships and inspiring the next generation.
Ace agonised over whether a male-focused follow-up was appropriate, feeling that the lives of boys are so well documented in children’s literature. Thankfully she persisted. The Boys (Little Tiger) centres again on four children of different races and family backgrounds – Rey, Nattie, Bobby and Tam – but here the seaside replaces the tree, becoming both the setting and a symbol of uncontrollable emotions.
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