Valerie Coghlan

Book Cover - Because of an Acorn

Because of an Acorn

The cycle of nature is beautifully and imaginatively traced from an acorn to a tree, to a forest, and a lot more in between in this attractive information picturebook. The process is shown in clear images with a minimum of words, and readers will find reason to pause at each page and look closely at what has happened.

Book Cover - Wolfy


Wolves have featured as story-characters since Antiquity. They have been cast as violent and savage, or sometimes as devious or predatory, but almost always as synonymous with danger, or perhaps evil. Some cultures equated wolves with the devil, others drew parallels with man’s–and especially men’s–animalistic nature.

Book Cover - Aquarium


At first glance Aquarium looked a bit like it was all fur coat and no – ahem– underwear. Created by a young Argentinian graphic designer for readers of 3 to 5 years, it looked too design-led with not much else going on. But first glance was wrong; the underpinnings in this stylish wordless picturebook are considerable. And at first glance there doesn’t seem to be much happening in the story: a little girl runs to a lake or sea where she plunges into the water.

Book Cover - A History of Pictures for Children

A History of Pictures for Children

Based on their bestselling A History of Pictures, artist David Hockney and art critic Martin Gayford discuss the development of pictures from cave paintings to the computer screen. Hockney’s voice is that of an artist reflecting on how artists created their work, while Gayford supplies plenty of solid information about the development of visual media over millennia. Throughout the book, the reader is reminded that art is a continuum: an artist is influenced by what earlier artists have done and how they did it.

Book Cover - Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

Parents, carers and children themselves will be familiar with the rotund babies and gloriously galumphing toddlers who grace the pages of Helen Oxenbury’s books for the youngest readers, and her illustrated Alice in Wonderland will have been the introduction for many readers to Carrol’s classic. Yet Oxenbury’s is a name that somehow hovers under the radar when conversations turn to picturebooks, even though she has created some of the best known – and most loved – picturebooks of the past fifty years.

Book Cover - How to Put a Whale in a Suitcase

How to Put a Whale in a Suitcase

The cover of Spanish artist Guridi’s simple-seeming but profoundly philosophical work encapsulates how a small problem can be metaphor for a very big theme. An image of a small child (boy?) with a little suitcase by his side, holding a very large red whale over his head illustrates the quandary addressed in the title.

Book Cover - What Can Cats Do?

What Can Cats Do?

For cat lovers, of course, and for anyone who enjoys the quirky observations of a small child on the world around them, What Can Cats Do? is a delight. Each double-page spread offers in one sentence a short reflection on the abilities of a cat seen through the eyes of a child who wonders what a cat can do that he can’t: ‘I can’t make my toenails go in and out … I tried.’ This is one of a number of picturebooks reissued by the Bodleian Library’s publishing arm; first published in 1963, it looks completely contemporary, or should that be timeless?

Book Cover - They Say Blue

They Say Blue

A young girl ponders the nature of colour in the natural world: ‘They say blue is the colour of the sky’, and that’s true today. Then she wonders why the water from the blue sea looks so clear in her hands. And what about a blue whale? She’s never seen one, so how can she be sure if it really is blue? And she finds colours change as the seasons roll by.

Book Cover - The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

The opening spread of Greder’s tough, uncompromising book contains only the words “after he had finished drowning, his body sank slowly to the bottom, where the fish were waiting.” Hanging on to the right-hand edge of the page, like a doomed man on a capsizing boat, the words impel the turning of the page to confront a body drifting to the bottom of the sea, where, on the next page turn, the fish are indeed waiting.

Book Cover - The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand

Ferdinand is 81 years old this year, quite an age for a bull destined for a Madrid bullring. His story has remained in print and this year a special heritage edition has been published in the UK.

Readers first meet Ferdinand as a little bull sitting under a shady cork tree, smelling the flowers. Ferdinand grows to be a fine big young bull who still enjoys smelling the flowers, but the day the men come to pick the fiercest bull for the bull fight, Ferdinand goes jumping mad after he is stung by an angry bee.