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Master gives children the inside picture; Children's Book.

Katie And The Starry Night James Mayhew (Orchard, PS11.99) There is a huge misconception that writing a picture book must be a doddle: only a few words to a page and just lots of bright illustrations. Easy, right? Wrong. It takes huge skill to create a great picture book. It needs good pace, imaginative use of words or wordplay, and has to be as satisfying as it is simple.

Oh, and in just a few words, it has to tell a story, a story that children will want to read over and again. That's before you even think about the illustrations that lead the reader to turn the page.

Katie and the Starry Night has that magic mix. Mayhew has produced some other gorgeous Katie books, the first being more than 20 years ago (Katie's Picture Show) and he has used his considerable artistic and literary talents to introduce young readers to a variety of cultural activities, including art, ballet, and opera. Remember Ella Bella? That's Mayhew's work.

In this latest book, Katie visits an art gallery with her grandma and is captivated by the dream-like qualities of the Van Gogh painting The Starry Night. She loves the painting so much that she climbs through the canvas to get a closer look of the swirly skies and the bright yellow stars.

But when she returns to the gallery, the stars follow her and she has to find a way of catching them. In just a few pages, Katie uses the chair from the painting Vincent's Chair to try to catch them, follows them as they float into a picture called Noon, and tries to use the ladder features in The Olive Grove to put the stars back where they belong.

The women in the paintings also try to help her and eventually they climb inside the painting called The Fishing Boats on the Beach to retrieve the stars and return them to the right masterpiece. But can Katie do all this before the guard in the art gallery notices there is something wrong with the paintings? It's cleverly done and beautifully illustrated and enables readers to find out about Van Gogh's vibrant works.

Jayne Howarth
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 11, 2012
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