The wonderful magic within us all
The Secret of Me by Amy Sparkes and Sandra de la Prada
In this gorgeous book, a little girl draws pictures and contemplates the adventures she might have and the things she could accomplish as she grows older. This story shows children that their lives are full of promise and encourages them to be proud of who they are. It's also a wonderful celebration of the imagination and creativity.
The Secret of Me is beautifully written and quite poetic. The accompanying images are absolutely gorgeous and filled with magic and wonder. My children's favourite scene features fairies and elves reading, painting and drawing, with a unicorn nearby, but there is magic on every page.
Art and literature are elegantly championed. It's suggested that many of the story's scenes are the girl's own drawings. Edges of pages are sometimes visible, as are some of her colouring pencils. A space robot reappears as a sketch on the girl's wall. The glade where the fairies live is filled with books and so is the girl's bedroom. We see a library being built in the wild wonderland of the endpapers, and there are characters reading and drawing almost everywhere you look.
The importance of play is subtly demonstrated and we get the impression that much of the action is generated by the characters' imaginative games. The dragon, the rocket and the pirate ship from earlier parts of the book are later present as toys in the girl's bedroom. In the same room, we see children play with blocks that resemble the building materials used to make towers for giants. A girl crawls through a play tunnel with a torch, echoing the scene with the explorer in the cave.
Author Amy Sparkes has written lots of children's books. The Secret of Me is our first picture book by this author, but won't be our last. I just finished her debut middle grade novel, The House at the Edge of Magic, and absolutely loved it too.
Sandra de la Prada is based in Barcelona and is also a new discovery for us. I love her bright and colourful artwork. She has worked on lots of picture books, in a variety of languages. They all look fabulous and I hope to get more books by this illustrator too.
A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the lack of diversity in children's books. It's fantastic to see so many black, Asian and minority ethnic characters here, including the main protagonist. Children in wheelchairs are represented and it's brilliant how this story challenges gender stereotypes too.
There are no limits to the potential of any child in his beautiful, diverse and inclusive book. It's a big hit with my three-year-old and the five-year-old too. The rhyming text is gentle and soothing, making it ideal for bedtime. The Secret of Me is also perfect for children to explore themselves, and for helping them to dream up new adventures of their own.
Title: The Secret of Me
Author: Amy Sparkes
Illustrator: Sandra de le Prada
Publisher: Studio Press
Publication Date: January 2020