The History of a Word 02/07/20
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
A small monkey delights in helping his Umpa in his bountiful garden – and Umpa has a great technique for helping plants to grow: he reads to them! Not only that, but as Umpa reads stories of paper birds and moonlit seas to his little monkey, they fly on dreams together to find glittering castles, sky dragons and fruit-laden trees.
Yet when Umpa goes away, the little monkey is beside herself with grief. Eventually, she realises that Umpa has left her his books, so she can always meet him in her imagination as she reads the tales he once told her.
Victoria Turnbull’s visionary art in this book of few words is really the star of the show, depicting magical lands of soft imagination and a dreamlike sense of togetherness, as well as the grief that the little monkey feels when Umpa is gone.
It’s a book that could help children deal with the loss of a grandparent, but the loss doesn’t overshadow the book: what matters here is the power of stories to transport us to magical other worlds, and the power of shared imagining and closeness that comes with reading aloud.