I saw Peter and Pete saw me by Maggie Hutchings and Evie Barrow

I saw Pete and Pete saw Me

Maggie Hutchings (author) and Evie Barrow (illustrator)
Affirm Press: 2020
ISBN: 9781925972825
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A young child notices a homeless man named Pete and they connect through chalk drawings.

I saw Pete and Pete saw Me explores the wonderful gift children have for seeing people without prejudice. It portrays moments of connection between Pete and the young child narrator, before Pete’s situation results in sickness as the weather turns cold. The ending is ultimately optimistic, but the difficulty and injustice of Pete’s circumstances are made clear, often through the stark if simple speech of the child character.

The artwork for I saw Pete and Pete saw Me uses pencil markings to great effect, capturing for example the scruffiness of Pete and his dog as well as the young child’s scribbled drawing of a house. Several pages contain vignettes that allow readers to perceive the different (and kind) interactions that Pete has with others in the community and the use of dark tones helps convey the child’s deep sense of concern for Pete. The overall palette is, however, light and bright, moreover,  the symbolic use of yellow underscores the hopeful message which stays with the reader long after you’ve turned the last page.

This is a poignant read and one worth exploring with any child ready to ask questions about the homelessness they see around them.

My Daddy is Different by Suzi Faed

MY DADDY IS DIFFERENT

by Suzi Faed

Illustrations by Lisa Coutts

Publisher: Empowering Resources 2019

ISBN: 9781925592184

Ages 5+

This book follows the story of an unnamed young boy whose Father’s emotional state and availability changes due to an unspecified mental illness. Although it is not a light-hearted story, or topic, the book ends on a positive note. The boy’s emotional journey is the focus of the story. The boy moves from a positive and connected relationship with his Father, (who initially makes “wonderful things” for him and smiles warmly), into a disconnected and confusing one as his Father’s withdrawal into illness begins to affect their lives. The boy eventually moves back to a state connectedness with his Father, after his Father is helped by a stay in hospital.  Finally the boy accepts that although his Father is “different”, he is still a loving and caring parent. A brief meeting in the hospital with another child allows the boy to see that he is not the only child who has a parent with a mental illness.  

The simplicity of the prose allows the focus to be on the inner experiences of the child. This is further highlighted by the change in font on key words and phrases such as “Remember, I still love you. That will never change.” The background colours of each page reflect the boy’s journey, changing from yellow to blue/grey to pink as the story develops.

The illustrations are simple colourful sketches with a soft pastel effect.  The character’s emotions are represented by simple smiles and frowns and provide a good talking point for parents and children as they reflect upon what the boy is feeling.  This book does not shy away from the fact that a child’s life is greatly affected by having a parent with a mental illness, however it outlines this in very general terms. This gives the adult reader plenty of scope to use this book as a platform for discussing the personal experience of any child to whom they may be reading.

Little Unicorn is Angry by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine

LITTLE UNICORN IS ANGRY

by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine

Edited by Sylvie Michel and Hannah Daffern

Buster Books 2019

Great Britain

ISBN 9780316531788

Ages 4- 8 years

Little Unicorn is Angry by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine describes how the character of Little Unicorn uses a simple breathing technique to soothe himself and blow his anger away.  It is not so much a narrative as a child friendly instruction manual showing how to recognise and deal with anger. It is one in a series of four books dealing with the emotional states of Little Unicorn. It may be useful to parents or carers who wish to introduce their children to the concept of emotional self regulation.

Although it is quite a wordy book for a young age group, it could easily be broken up into sections by the adult reader and opened at relevant sections when needed. The first few pages focus on naming common emotional states. This includes a page which pairs an illustration to an emotional state in order to help a child indicate what they are feeling in the present moment.  This is followed by several pages which provide suggestions for what could be making Little Unicorn Angry. Many of these might be recognisable to parents and their children, such as not wanting to get in the bath, and then, not wanting to get out of the bath. The depiction of Little Unicorn when he is angry also includes the distinction between grumpy and angry.   The next section introduces a breathing technique that Little Unicorn performs in order to “chase away a cloud of anger”.  The final page shows that Little Unicorn is feeling much calmer after the breathing exercise and suggests that the reader might like to use the same breathing technique. 

The format of the book is a small square with glossy pages. The illustrations focus on a cute, rotund, cartoon unicorn whose mane changes colour depending on his emotional state. The illustrations are non gender specific, though the text indicates that the unicorn is male.  The emphasis of the illustrations are on Little Unicorn’s emotional expression, which includes facial expressions as well as physical posture, such as hands on hips or stomping on the floor. There is a combination of full page illustrations and smaller symbolic drawings which add meaning to the text.

I’m the Best by Lucy Cousins

I’M THE BEST by Lucy Cousins

Illustrated by Lucy Cousins

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd London

First Published 2011

ISBN 0763663484

Age range 2-5 years

I’M THE BEST by Lucy Cousins tackles the uncomfortable topic of competition between friends with cheeky humour. It follows the emotional development of “Dog” as he declares his supremacy over his friends, notices their reactions and is confronted by their respective efforts to highlight their own talents which surpass his.   Dog learns that everyone is “the best” in their own way and that friendship matters more that being better than others.  The final page is a cheeky return to his original declaration, suggesting that Dog has a little way to go until he truly understands that friendship is not a competition. This book allows the reader to experience the tension between the friends from different points of view and may be a useful resource for adults to discuss their child’s own behaviour and attitudes about hierarchy and winning.  The language is simple and repeats the central phrase “I won, I’m the best”, which functions as chant that children can predict in each scene, allowing them access to the humour and irony of the fact that Dog is not actually the best, no matter how many times he declares it.   The book is in a large square format with font that emulates a young child’s handwriting with a crayon like texture. The illustrations similarly reference a young child’s drawing with “messy” black outlines and bright pops of colour that don’t quite fill the shapes in the illustrations. Splashes of watercolour add to the vibrancy of the illustrations and help make them even more playful.  The text and illustrations combine to create a tone of warmth and playfulness that might counter resistance to discussing a potentially embarrassing topic for a child.

This is a link to a young child reading “I’m the best” from the Fun2Learn youtube video channel and adding his own commentary, which includes facts about the animals. This is interesting to see a child’s comments and understanding of the book.

Armond goes to a party – a book about Asperger’s and friendship

By Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak

Armond goes to a party – a book about Asperger’s and friendship

By Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak

Illustrations by Nancy Carlson

Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis.  2014

Reading age 5-9 years

The title of the story book “Armond goes to a party – a book about Asperger’s and friendship”  by Nancy Carlson and her friend Armond Isaak is self-explanatory.  The storyline is simple and linear.  The main character of Armond appears to be based on the “friend” in this authoring duo.  The reader is allowed into Armond’s private thoughts and experiences as he prepares for, and attends, a friend’s party.   The story allows the reader to experience the party from Armond’s point of view and describes Armond’s sensory experiences with wit and humour, such as when the baby brother’s smelly nappy makes him feel sick, or when the crowd of children becomes overwhelming and Armond tugs his friend’s Mothers’ skirt saying “I need a break”.  At this point it is easy to empathize with Armond’s experience and enjoy joining him in a quiet room where he can relax and play lego.   The book ends with Armond’s honest and positive assessment of the party and his part in it, which in turn allows connection between himself and his friend. 


The full-page colour illustrations are bright and busy, allowing the reader to see the chaos of the party from Armond’s point of view. They feature boys and girls from a racially diverse group, rendered in a cartoon style.  Attention is paid to the expressions on Armond’s face.

The book contains an end note to “grown ups” about Asperger’s Syndrome and friendship. This contains quotes from the real-life Armond about his experience of Aspergers, interspersed with explanations and tips for adults to assist children with Aspergers in social situations.

NB: it is the reviewer’s understanding that in 2021 Aspergers is currently considered be part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not a separate diagnosis. Therefore  it might be necessary or desirable  for the reader to adjust some of the terminology whilst reading or discussing this story.

This is a link to a youtube video of “Armond goes to a party- a book about Asperger’s and friendship” being read aloud.

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi and Lorena Alvarez

The Magical Yet

Angela DiTerlizzi (author) and Lorena Alvarez (illustrator)
Hyperion: 2020
ISBN: 9781368025621
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

The Magical Yet is an imaginative introduction to ‘growth mindset’ (see here for a balanced explanation) for young kids.The rhyming text addresses the reader directly, introducing him or her to the personified Yet, a ‘most amazing thought re-arranger’. The Yet, portrayed as a pink fairy-like creature, helps kids (and grown-ups) achieve goals even when they find it hard to believe in themselves.

The creators of The Magical Yet manage the balance between didactic message and creativity masterfully. The story in which the magical Yet plays a part concerns learning to ride a bike. This story does double duty as the text imagines you (the reader) as the learner (‘Like that shiny, new bike you couldn’t ride, and it didn’t matter how hard you tried’) while the artwork invites the reader to identify with a young girl learning to ride too. The artworks also introduce additional characters—both boys and girls—who are portrayed receiving help from their own Yet in other challenging situations.  This focus on when you might need a Yet—when you experience challenges—means that this picture book is a great choice for parents wanting to discuss emotions such as anger, frustration and disappointment. These kinds of feelings are shown in the illustrations and explored from the child’s perspective in those parts of the text that deal with times when success doesn’t come easily (‘…now you won’t ride. No way. Not never. No riding for you, you’ll walk…forever’). There are several useful prompts in the text to help parents scaffold the ‘yet’ concept such as the comment that the Yet doesn’t mind setbacks (‘Yet doesn’t mind warm-ups, fixes, and flops…’) and that the Yet has helped you before when you didn’t realise it was there (‘like when you babbled before you could talk or how you crawled before you could walk’).

The concept of Yet presented in the text is inspiring and the tone uplifting. The artwork not only meets the challenge of the text in these respects but elevates it further. The illustrations resemble our world but the magic is on every page, conveyed in the combination of bright strong colours, the striking use of dark and light tones, occasional but distinctive use of pattern and hyperbolic perspective (e.g. the young girl painting a huge picture of a bird from a trapeze-like swing). This book thinks big and that breadth of thinking is realised in the beautiful artworks.   

Review of The Classroom Mystery- a book about ADHD by Dr Tracy Packiam Alloway

The Classroom Mystery – a book about ADHD

DrTracy Packiam Alloway
Illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo
ISBN-13: 9781786035806
QED publishing 2019
Reviewed by Cath Young

THE CLASSROOM MYSTERY – a book about ADHD, is a light-hearted and strength-based introduction to ADHD, which may help children understand themselves or other children they encounter.  Featuring full page illustrations and a story set within a school context, it is clearly aimed at early primary school children.   The story centres around Izzy, a girl who is so intent on solving the classroom mystery that she cannot attend to the teacher’s lesson.  Eventually the teacher allows all the class to take a break while Izzy connects pieces of information together to solve the mystery of the pet rabbit’s missing food.   The story itself makes no mention of ADHD, but rather tells of Izzy’s experience and behaviour in the classroom as she tries to focus. For example, we read about Izzy tapping her foot, wiggling in her seat, snapping her hair clip and climbing on her desk, while she thinks about the mystery rather than the lesson.  The teacher in the story becomes a little frustrated saying “What on earth are you doing?” but adjusts to Izzy by allowing the whole class to investigate outside and congratulates Izzy when the mystery is solved at the conclusion to the story.  Izzy’s classmates show enthusiasm for her powers of deduction at the end of the story.  The final two pages of the book offer notes for parents and children about ADHD, which is described as a learning difficulty, and discussion points that the adult reader may wish to raise with their class or individual child.   

The bright and slightly retro look illustrations are inclusive, featuring cartoon like characters with different colours of hair and skin. Attention has been paid to the expressions on the children’s faces in the various scenes and these would make good discussion points. The pages are mat and the font is dyslexia friendly on a soft pastel background.

You can hear Dr Packiam talk about her books and neurodiversity on her website:

Tracy Packiam Alloway PHD