Picture Book Snob
A hug from your favourite aunt
Aunt Amelia's House by Rebecca Cobb, Macmillan
Did you have a favourite relative when you were growing up? Were they slightly unconventional? Perhaps you didn’t see them as often as you liked, but being in their company always guaranteed plenty of fun.
My mother had two sisters who were exactly like Aunt Amelia. They unfortunately both died within ten years of each other, by the time I was 26. I still miss them and think of them often, which is one of the reasons I love the Aunt Amelia books by Rebecca Cobb so much.
Amelia is a mysterious, Mary Poppins-esque, babysitting aunt who looks quite reptilian (but it’s not really polite to mention that). In the first adventure, Aunt Amelia comes to take care of her niece and nephew while their parents are away. She flagrantly breaks all the rules in the helpful instructions left for her, much to the delight and entertainment of her charges. In this sequel, the children are visiting Aunt Amelia instead. They are disappointed to be met with a list of chores with which their aunt needs help upon arrival. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Aunt Amelia has an unusual way of working and that nothing could ever be boring with her around.
Rebecca Cobb expertly captures the wonder of childhood, when the unexpected is so exciting, the mundane becomes magical, and the trivial can transform into adventure. I absolutely love her illustrations; they're lively yet gentle with a charming, child-like quality that enhances the appeal for the very young. The mixture of paint and loosely drawn lines gives the images a hand-made appearance which will inspire readers to create their own art and stories.
Cobb's genius lies in her remarkable ability to tap into the inner world of her audience. She once told Stylist magazine that, "It helps to have a powerful imagination as an illustrator. When I’m working, I sometimes try to think like I did as a child. I was a daydreamer back then – I never really knew what was going on. I’m still a bit like that." This story is imbued with a playful, dream-like energy. Amelia resembles a character a child might invent themselves - but I mean that in the best possible way!
There’s lots to see and discuss on every page which also makes this story attractive to little readers, and whoever is sharing the book with them. Amelia’s pets are adorable (and I love seeing her kittens are playing with her tail!). Amelia's other house guests are diverse and bohemian, and make her even more intriguing. The children’s reactions are brilliant – especially how amazed or content they look in every scene. The illustrations create a strong sense of what it’s like to be Amelia’s niece and nephew, and how wonderful it must feel to receive a hug from this favourite aunt. Like its predecessor, Aunt Amelia, Aunt Amelia's House is an exceptionally beautiful, warm and original story. It's an ideal gift from an aunt or uncle, and might even encourage young people to help out with housework!
About the author-illustrator: Rebecca Cobb is an award-winning artist and author who has created several acclaimed and bestselling picture books. Since graduating from Falmouth College of Arts in 2004, Rebecca has worked with a range of clients including Guardian Guide, Guardian Weekend magazine, The Independent and Waitrose Food Illustrated. As well as writing and illustrating her own books, Rebecca has collaborated with a variety of notable authors including Julia Donaldson, Richard Curtis and Helen Dunmore. You can find more of Rebecca's books on her website. Aunt Amelia's House was published by Macmillan in May 2021 - see this book on the publisher's website
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