The Birthday Invitation by Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes, published by Bloomsbury
On a recent family holiday, we celebrated three birthdays for people ranging from age 1 to 63. Our girls marked each occasion with great excitement, helping to unwrap (other people's) presents, eating cake and singing raucous renditions of "happy birthday".
There are many lovely picturebooks about birthdays and birthday parties. Our favourite is a new story from the brilliant author/illustrator partnership of Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
This is a tale of a party invitation - dropped by a young girl who sets off to deliver them to her friends, caught on the breeze and found by an array of larger than life fairytale characters - including a wizard, a pirate crew, a princess and a knight.
The book starts with a teddy bear wearing a party hat and a puzzled face, sat by a hand written invitation. The opening spread of the title page is an incredible bird's eye view of the girl's quiet village, surrounded by a geography created in her imagination - a mountain with a white castle on top, a gingerbread house, a red aeroplane doing loop the loops and a pirate ship out at sea.
Laura Hughes' ink and paint illustrations are (as ever) bright, breezy and full of life. Her scenes follow the invitation's journey switching from ground level to high up in the sky - whether within the beak of a parrot, in the pilot's cockpit or atop a castle turret.
The pictures are perfectly matched to the rhythm of Lucy Rowland's engaging words, which tell the story with a light and lyrical rhyme that is fun to read and cleverly constructed.
Later, as the girl is preparing for her party she hears a KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK at the door. Unaware of the path of her invitation, she opens her door to quite a surprise! Pleasingly the book ends with the same teddy bear from the start, now sat in front of a delicious slice of cake.