Picture Book Reviews: New Releases from Red Comet

This week Georgia Wall and Johanna McCalmont review four beautiful picture books from new indie publisher Red Comet.

Mister Fairy written by Morgane de Cadier and illustrated by Florian Pigé, translated from the French by Angus Yuen-Killick (September 2021), reviewed by Georgia Wall.

Image of Mister Fairy cover © Red Comet Press

Everyone knows the forest is full of all kinds of fairies…

There are morning fairies, brave fairies, sleepy-time fairies and even fairies that clean.”

Observing his friends in the forest and their unique magical talents, Mister Fairy becomes sad and frustrated. He puts his heart into everything, only to feel increasingly useless – isn’t there anything that he’s good at?

Mister Fairy is really brought to life by Florian Pigé’s evocative illustrations, which capture the charisma of the main character and convey beautifully the shifts in mood throughout the book. I especially appreciated the contrast between Mister Fairy’s forest home, depicted in warm yellow and brown tones, and the scenes in “another, very different forest”: a foreboding grey city, peopled by gloomy inhabitants, where Mister Fairy finds he can make a real difference…

Aimed at readers age four to eight, Morgane de Cadier’s tale of finding a place in the world carries the important message of encouragement that everyone has a special skill, even if it’s not immediately visible.

Read an extract and download a free Activity Kit from Red Comet Press here.

Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites by Tullio Corda, translated from the French by Taylor Barrett Gaines (September 2021), reviewed by Georgia Wall.

Image of Cat & Dog cover © Red Comet Press

“Cat & Dog are not the same, in fact they are very different and the perfect subjects for a tale of opposites…”

At just 32 words in total, author and illustrator Tullio Corda keeps his text to carefully chosen essentials: Cat & Dog relies on the visual literacy of its readers to interpret the narrative. Employing a simple palette of vivid oranges and bright blues which expands to include yellow and green, the illustrations implicitly extend beyond the page, drawing us into the action and leaving visual clues as to what to expect next. The smudges of colour used to indicate movement also give the book a nice tactile appeal. 

Building on the popular concept of opposites, Cat & Dog is a real tale, rather than simply a series of illustrations: as our protagonists form unlikely playmates and chase each other through various scenarios, the reader wonders if things can end well…

Cat & Dog is a good choice if you are looking for a story to share with younger children of different ages simultaneously; while five and six-year-olds can take pride in recognizing words and reading the story, children as young as two or three can engage with the vivid images and join in with the “Oops!” and “Phew!” twists.

Read an extract and download a free Activity Kit from Red Comet Press here.

The Secret of the Magic Pearl by Elisa Sabatinelli & Iacopo Bruno, translated from the Italian by Christopher Turner (October 2021), reviewed by Johanna McCalmont.

Image of The Secret of the Magic Pearl Cover © Red Comet Press

“If you treat the sea well … it will take care of you.”

Eight-year-old Hector lives by the sea and dreams of becoming a deep-sea diver, just like his father and grandfather before him. The family’s Marina, however, went bankrupt when bad guy Amedeo Limonta built a new resort next door. After searching high and low, Hector manages to find a diving suit in time for his dad to take on his first ever dive on his eighth birthday. It turns out to be a very special dive indeed, taking Hector right to the Magic Pearl his Grandpa had been searching for. But Hector isn’t the only one keen to see the Magic Pearl and it’s not long before a strange storm whips up the sea, putting Hector’s friends Carlotta and Richard in grave danger. Will bad guy Amedeo Limonta remember the local saying: beautiful things should be shared … and there’s nothing more beautiful than our sea?

The Secret of the Magic Pearl  is a delightful combination of a middle-grade chapter book and medium-sized picture book. The glorious illustrations range from two-page spreads with detailed diagrams of diving gear and vibrant underwater scenes, to portraits of characters alongside the text and patterned pages of nautical flags marking each new chapter. Hector’s candid voice narrates the story, focusing on realistic details whilst drawing readers into the fantastical world of the magic pearl everyone wants to see. Hector is not a boy who gives up easily. He knows what matters most and takes courage from his Grandpa’s words to make sure that beautiful things like the sea are shared. 

Read and extract and download a free Activity Kit from Red Comet Press here.

Before We Sleep by Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti, translated from the Italian by Angus Yuen-Killick (September 2021), reviewed by Johanna McCalmont.

Image of Before We Sleep Cover © Red Comet Press

Little Red the fox and Hazel the dormouse are the best of friends. They love to play hide-and-seek for hours on end, jumping and rolling in the crisp autumn leaves. But winter is on its way and that means one thing for Little Red: loneliness because Hazel always hibernates until spring. Little Red tries to think of ways to keep Hazel awake. Perhaps the sun could stay high, so the winter won’t be as cold? Perhaps the forest could keep its fruit, so it will last all winter long? Or perhaps Little Red can trick Hazel into staying awake, so they can play all winter long? Will Little Red’s story keep Hazel awake? Or will the two best friends just curl up and fall fast asleep together?

Proietti’s soft palette of autumn pastels really bring Volpe’s forest to life in this 28-page picture book. The two-page spreads alternate between different perspectives, from the vast forest landscape to the dormouse’s tiny little world. With a story that transitions from autumn to winter and a sweet friendship between Little Red and Hazel, Before We Sleep is the perfect heart-warming bedtime read for this time of year.

Read an extract and download a free Activity Kit from Red Comet Press here.

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Did you miss World Kid Lit co-editor Claire Storey’s Publisher in the Spotlight interview with Red Comet Press founder Angus Yuen-Killick? Then catch up here.

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Georgia Wall is a translator from Italian to English with a special interest in children’s and YA literature. Twitter: @cascettara.

Johanna McCalmont is a Northern Irish translator and interpreter based in Brussels where she works from French, German, Dutch, and Italian. Read more about her work here and follow her on Twitter @jo_mccalmont.