The fabric of friendship
Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, Nosy Crow, February 2022
What's it about? Best friends Frank and Bert share a love for hide-and-seek as well as handcrafted knitwear. But Bert is terrible at hiding and Frank always finds him. One day, Frank counts all the way to a hundred to give Bert a chance to find a more obscure hiding place. Will Bert finally win?
What can we learn? Winning isn't everything and we don't always have to be the best. Sometimes being a good friend means making sacrifices and putting the feelings of others before your own.
What makes this stand out?
It's incredibly funny and cute but also quite moving. Frank and Bert have a fantastic relationship which makes them and their story so special and memorable. They complement each other as perfectly as their woolly accessories, and their rapport is as natural as the fabric they wear. And while their hats and scarves might unravel, their friendship never will. It's brilliant how the characters let readers in on the joke which is something that kids always enjoy, and the illustrations are fabulous.
About those illustrations... They're absolutely gorgeous and a little different to Chris Naylor-Ballesteros' earlier books. They seem looser and more textured with lots of gentle but energetic pencil lines (apologies - I'm not great at describing art). The palette is more colourful than the other books we own by this author, Out of Nowhere and The Suitcase. My eldest even remarked, 'They're different to his other illustrations!'
Once again, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros creates a simple and sparse landscape against which his characters shine. Frank and Bert's cheerful knitwear and their bright, furry bodies contrast wonderfully with the smoother and more muted rocks, earth, water and trees that surround them.
As with all the best picture books, this story is enriched by its accompanying images. There is so much subtle humour in Bert's facial expressions and the determined way he dashes away, not to mention his hiding places! Frank's fondness for Bert is communicated through his own body language; there is so much affection in Frank's eyes and his smiles. I love the knowing way Frank looks at the reader too, and Bert's conspiratorial wink right at the end.
Why we love it... It's such a simple idea yet executed beautifully. My kids (four-and-a-half and almost seven) absolutely love Bert's bad hiding places. They love watching him run off and enjoy tracing his steps using the thread of his scarf. They love counting along with Frank too and especially enjoy seeing Bert's rear end poking obviously out of the cave he stows away in. This uplifting tale has had us all in stitches and we love Bert just as much as Frank does.
Why you need it...
It's an entertaining story with magnificent characters and a powerful message about the nature of friendship. This would be an excellent classroom resource as I can imagine the interactive elements working really well in a group setting. It's ideal for encouraging children to consider the feelings of others and helping them understand that being the best at an activity isn't as important as they might think. And the illustrations are amazing!
About the author-illustrator:
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is originally from Bradford and studied illustration and graphic design at Bradford College of Art. In 2000 Chris moved to France where, amongst other things, he was an English teacher before working in newspaper layout and design. When his children were small, Chris realised he loved the picture books he read to them, sometimes even more than they did – the picture book bug had truly bitten.
Chris has since written and illustrated several books and is currently thinking about the next one, probably with a cuppa in hand at home near Limoges. He likes listening to and making music, wandering around the countryside, a bit of running and riding a bike. His favourite season is autumn, and his favourite colour is green. Chris is the author of several acclaimed picture books including Out of Nowhere and The Suitcase which we love too, and you can see more of his work on his website. Frank and Bert was published by Nosy Crow on 3rd February - see this book on the publisher's website As with all Nosy Crow picture books, this comes with a free 'Stories Aloud' digital audiobook download. Thanks so much to the lovely people in Nosy Crow for kindly sharing this adorable book with us - all opinions expressed are our own. See more picture books by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros - click on each cover to read our review:
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