The Kiss, by British author Linda Sunderland and illustrator Jessica Courtney Tickle, is a fantastical tale, beautifully illustrated with rich, glowing colour and fabulous detail. It is one of those books where the illustrations are so mesmerising, it’s easy to get lost exploring every page.
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In the story, a young BAME boy called Edwyn gives his grandma a kiss as heads home. She pockets the kiss (a smiley heart-shaped stick figure) and goes on her way. On the journey home, she and the kiss bring a little joy to the people that they meet.
But a rich and important man wants her kiss, and he will do anything to get it…
The storyline reminded us strongly of one of our favourite picture books ‘Extra Yarn’ by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. However it’s different enough that we were happy to add this to our library along side it, and my youngest was absolutely entranced when we first read it.
Now, to be honest, I must admit Edwyn’s character is secondary to the grandma, but I think he is significant enough to the story to qualify for this list. And this is one of those picture books with diverse characters throughout, as background characters on almost every page. Okay, yes – maybe I’m looking for excuses to include it, because it is so very, very beautiful!
A retro-modern picture book
The illustrations look almost like they could have stepped out of a 1970’s Topsy and Tim book, but at the same time feel very modern and fresh. Set in a fairy tale world that is both vibrant and subtle, the book is full of whimsical little details. I love the way every character and creature in the shouty mum spread, for example, are staring at the lady and her daughter with shock. All except a dog and rabbit, who are staring nose to nose at each other. There’s a whole other story in that little vignette!
There’s a simple moral message behind the story in this picture book, but it fits nicely with that fairy-tale atmosphere rather than feeling preachy. At it’s heart, this is a book about spreading joy through showing kindness to others. There may be a little side dig at the rich and self-important, who think they can buy or steal happiness from other people, but even the villain gets the message in the end.
By the same author:
This is the first book we’ve read by Linda Sunderland or Jessica Courtney Tickle, and it is the first project they’ve worked on together. I love the look of some of their other work though, so we will definitely be checking these out!
by Linda Sunderland and Daniel Egneus
Jessica Courtney Tickle
by Jessica Courtney Tickle
by John Agard and Jessica Courtney Tickle
Picture Books with Diverse Characters
Have you seen my full list of the best 23 picture books with diverse characters? Just like The Kiss, all of these picture books feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boys as main characters. Something that’s as rare as proverbial hen’s teeth in children’s books, and a problem I’ve written about here.
Check out the list to find out more about our favourites, and take a peek inside. If you like the look of The Kiss, I’m sure you’ll find some others to love there too!