Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Translator – Geoffrey Trousselot

It takes courage to say what has to be said.

I recently ventured into a bookstore for the first time since COVID and proceeded to go into what can only be described as a book frenzy. I was only looking for one particular book but wound up adopting six. Half were this series. When I picked up this book I didn’t think it would be coming home with me. Then I learned it contained two of my very favourite things: coffee and time travel.

‘Please send me back to the past!’

Cafe Funiculi Funicula opened in 1874. It’s small, there’s no air conditioning and, at Nagare’s insistence, only serves mocha. If you sit in one specific seat, though, and follow a very specific set of rules, you can travel to the past.

The Rules

🪑 You can only meet people who have visited the cafe.
🪑 Nothing you do when you’re in the past will change the present.
🪑 You have to sit in a specific seat to time travel and you must remain seated when you’re in the past.
🪑 You have to drink the entire cup of coffee before it gets cold.

After my initial excitement at finding a time travel book I’d never heard of before, I settled in to read the first of the four stories contained in this book.

The Lovers had me questioning all of my life choices, primarily my rashness in buying three books in a series I knew nothing about other than their blurbs. Had I only read this story, I probably never would have wanted to read the other books. It made me so mad!

A week ago, Fumiko’s long term boyfriend, Goro, told her over coffee he was moving to America for work. When he was on his way to the airport! If he was my boyfriend I’d be incensed! No way would I want him back. Fumiko clearly sees this situation differently than I do because she’s our first time traveller. I questioned more than one of Fumiko’s life choices; she has a limited time in the past but decided to add milk to her coffee, making it cool even quicker and shortening her time there. Ugh!

In the first page it’s said that Fumiko is Goro’s “girlfriend of three years” but later it’s said (twice) that Fumiko met Goro two years ago. I wondered if three years was a typo. Then, because time was so important in this book, I questioned if the discrepancy was simply two people with different perceptions of time in their relationship. Maybe the relationship felt to Goro like it dragged on a year longer than it actually did?

Despite my early frustration, I persevered. I enjoyed the second and third stories more than the first and by the time I finished the fourth story, I wanted to continue with the series and reread this book to see what details I may have missed the first time around.

In Husband and Wife, Fusagi has a letter in the present that Kohtake hopes to receive in the past. I wondered if Kohtake received the letter in the past and brought it back with her to the present, would that result in there being two letters in the present? Kohtake tiptoes around her conversation with Fusagi in the past, which disappointed me.

In The Sisters, one sister goes back in time to speak to her sister one last time. I loved how the mystery visitor to the cafe in this story helps complete another story.

Mother and Child made me cry and is the main reason I’m remembering this book with fondness rather than my initial disappointment.

My favourite character was Hirai, who fascinated me. She seemed to openly delight in Fumiko’s misery and has a backstory I learned more about throughout the book. I most want to learn the full story of the woman reading the book.

I had some time travel question marks.

Some travellers returned to a time when their past self was at the cafe. Encountering yourself in the past is generally a time travel no no. None of our travellers meet their past selves so I wondered whether the future self replaced the past self in this world.

Why doesn’t everyone get the stick that sounds the alarm just before the coffee gets cold? That would be so helpful.

One of my big takeaways from this book isn’t the details of any one story but the concept of emotional gravity, which was explained in a beautiful way and holds such truth.

Water flows from high places to low places. That is the nature of gravity. Emotions also seem to act according to gravity. When in the presence of someone with whom you have a bond, and to whom you have entrusted your feelings, it is hard to lie and get away with it. The truth just wants to come flowing out. This is especially the case when you are trying to hide your sadness or vulnerability. It is much easier to conceal sadness from a stranger, or from someone you don’t trust.

I haven’t read many books that have been translated from Japanese but the ones I’ve encountered have a gentle quality to them. They don’t seem to be in a hurry to get where they’re going and I don’t feel any urgency when I’m reading them. It’s like I’ve been invited to witness a snippet of someone’s life and I leave with a sense of calm, regardless of how emotionally charged the content is. I’m not sure how that works but I’ve started seeking it out.

About the cover image: The seat that transports you through time is upholstered in moss-green fabric on the seat and back. I wish that had matched one of the seats on the cover.

Handy hint: Pay attention to the background characters and the details of what’s happening outside of the main storyline. They may be relevant later in the book.

But Kazu still goes on believing that, no matter what difficulties people face, they will always have the strength to overcome them. It just takes heart.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What would you change if you could go back in time? 

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold …

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Beneath the Trees #4: First Spring – Dav

Translator – Mike Kennedy

It’s spring and all Mr Warthog wants to do is pick a bunch of flowers for his son’s mother. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because baby warthog has allergies but Mr Warthog is determined.

In between all of the sneezing, the wonders of spring are also evident. There are surprise butterflies. The kids in the neighbourhood are playing in the sunshine. The flowers are beautiful.

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But then I learned why it was so important for Mr Warthog to pick the flowers and, I’ll be honest, a part of me broke at that point. After having seen other characters in the series frustrated and cranky, I’d expected some emotional component to this story but I didn’t expect to feel so sad reading a book about spring.

Despite the sadness, and maybe even partially because of it, I was able to appreciate the efforts of a father doing his best to comfort and take care of his son.

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Like the rest of the series, the text is minimal in this book. The majority of the story, especially the emotion, is told through the images.

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Being spring, there are plenty of yellows and greens. When the weather and mood change, there’s a darker palette.

Having now made my way through all of the seasons, I’m having trouble picking a favourite. However, I expect this is the story that’s going to stay with me the longest.

Bonus fun fact: Baby warthogs are called piglets.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Magnetic Press and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Winter has thawed and Spring has sprung! The forest is turning green again and no one is more excited to experience it than Mr Warthog and his brand new baby boy who gets to experience the great big outdoors for the very first time!

Beneath the Trees #3: A Fine Summer – Dav

Translator – Mike Kennedy

You know you’re in desperate need for some childlike fun when you identify with a couple of grumpy old men more than you do some rambunctious younguns.

Mr. Owl and Mr. Toad just want some peace and quiet. Mr. Toad appears to be a bit of a crankypants (crankyoveralls?), upset the neighbourhood kids are making a ruckus this summer. Mr. Owl isn’t having a hoot either.

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At least he has a very relatable reason for needing some quiet time, though. He’s in the middle of a particularly engaging book.

Maybe it’s time for these oldtimers to reclaim some of the joy and innocence of childhood.

This is such a cute series, combining life lessons with humour. There’s minimal text but the illustrations clearly tell the stories. All of the animals are expressive and I love the colour palette.

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Given the first two books in this series were autumn and winter, it would have made more sense to me for the final two books to be released in season order. While the stories are all set in the same world, they can be read in any order. 

I’m looking forward to spring.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Magnetic Press and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s summer, and the laughter of children echoes under the trees. But for some of the older animals, the frivolous abandon of childhood is far behind them. Old Mr. Owl and Mr. Toad get the crazy idea to relive some of their youth if that’s even possible anymore…

The third book in a new series designed to paint a tender and colourful portrait of everyday life, showing that behind every flaw or weakness can lie charm and strength. Readers will recognise their own neighbours, friends, and family members in the endearing animal characters within this forest community. In this third volume, a pair of older animals set out to relive their energetic youth. A heartwarming tale suitable for all ages.

The stories in this four book series take place in the same forest over the course of four seasons. Each can be read independently, exploring the complexity and richness of relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. As both writer and illustrator, the author doesn’t rely on text to convey emotions, oscillating between a clever dose of dialogue and wordless passages to makes these stories accessible to young readers starting as young as 5 years old.

Presenting a graphic universe somewhere between Michel Plessix’s adaptations of The Wind in the Willows and the cartoons of Walt Disney (in particular those created by Don Bluth, such as The Rescuers and Robin Hood), Dav gently conveys each season through a changing palette of colours and rounded designs.

Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels – Serena Blasco

Translator – Tanya Gold

This graphic novel was my introduction to Enola Holmes, Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister. Enola’s birth was a scandal and she’s not planning on conforming to society’s expectations of women anytime soon. She conducts herself in a fashion most unladylike by refusing to wear the appropriate dress length for her age and, horror of horrors, climbing trees. 

Her mother’s disappearance on the occasion of her fourteenth birthday brings Enola’s brothers out of the woodwork. Visiting Ferndell Hall for the first time in ten years, they quickly determine that the most appropriate course of action is to send Enola to boarding school.

This goes against Enola’s sensibilities and those of her currently absent mother, so before she embarks on the very ladylike occupation of learning how to be a “houseplant”, Enola absconds to London. Smart girl, our Enola.

Sherlock and Mycroft are clearly products of their time and probably think they have Enola’s best interests at heart. However, their brotherly love leaves a lot to be desired. 

Leave her be, Mycroft. She is too young and her head is too small for her body. We can’t expect too much of her. 

Enola is able to use society’s propensity to underestimate women to her advantage, relying on her wits and penchant for disguises to hide in plain sight. 

Brother Sherlock may be a famous detective but Enola gives him a run for his money in these adaptations of the first three books of Nancy Springer’s The Enola Holmes Mysteries. Enola takes it upon herself to solve The Case of the Missing MarquessThe Case of the Left-Handed Lady and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets.

I enjoyed the watercolour illustrations, which felt even more appropriate when I learned that’s the medium Enola’s mother uses.

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I haven’t met Enola’s mother yet but I love her already. She’s a suffragist who’s schooled her daughter in activities that will be useful, as opposed to those that will facilitate her transformation into a houseplant.

Enola’s adaptability and attention to detail are aided by the tools her mother left her, primarily a book on the language of flowers and a handbound notebook full of coded messages. 

Enola is “alone” spelled backwards.
Mum and her love of coded messages.
Could it be a coincidence? 

I loved the clever use of flowers to convey messages and the inclusion of excerpts from Enola’s secret notebook at the end of each case.

Enola’s inquiring mind and indomitable spirit made me want to spend more time with her. I look forward to hanging out with Enola as she continues to subvert her allotted position in nineteenth century London in future graphic novel adaptations. 

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I’ve already ordered the first book in Nancy Springer’s series from the library.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A graphic novel adaptation of the hit books that inspired the Netflix film! Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, strong-willed younger sister takes centre stage in this delightfully drawn graphic novel based on Nancy Springer’s bestselling mystery series.

14-year-old Enola Holmes wakes on her birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared from the family’s country manor, leaving only a collection of flowers and a coded message book. With Sherlock and Mycroft determined to ship her off to a boarding school, Enola escapes, displaying a cleverness that even impresses the elder Holmes. But nothing prepares her for what lies ahead…

Book One in the series includes three thrilling mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. At the back of the book, readers can explore a portfolio of pages from Enola’s secret notebook!

The Cat Who Saved Books – Sosuke Natsukawa

Translator – Louise Heal Kawai

‘You know, I’ve been thinking about books.’ 

I absolutely love books about books! This one was all the more interesting to me because, not only does it feature a used bookstore and bookish missions, the missions are led by a talking cat!

Tiger, a ginger tabby, casually shows up at Natsuki Books in the week after Rintaro’s grandfather dies. It turns out this feline, who’s not backward in coming forward, needs the bookish assistance of hikikomori Rintaro. 

‘We’ve come to free your books.’ 

Together, this unlikely team enter a series of labyrinths to save books from those that don’t treat them with the reverence they deserve. 

‘Helping people may not be my forte, but when I hear that books need my help then I’m ready.’ 

I was so ready to tag along for these magical quests in aid of the written word. I was anticipating the fun of confronting readers who perpetrate bookish crimes like failing to return them to their owners and the owners whose books are sad because they’ve been patiently waiting in the TBR line for years already, yet their owner refuses to stop buying more.

The actual confrontations were less exciting than I’d anticipated and the talking cat wasn’t as much of a novelty as I’d hoped. 

I found some bookish quotes I loved. 

‘A cherished book will always have a soul. It will come to its reader’s aid in times of crisis.’ 

I really enjoyed thinking about what it is about books that makes them so extraordinary and how they impact on the lives of readers. 

Unfortunately, though, there was a disconnect that I was unable to resolve. I’d hoped this would be a book I’d be raving about to anyone who’d listen, but it fell flat for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.

After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone…

The Cat Who Saved Books is a heartwarming story about finding courage, caring for others – and the tremendous power of books. Sosuke Natsukawa’s international best seller, translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai, is a story for those for whom books are so much more than words on paper.

Sorceline – Sylvia Douyé

Illustrations – Paola Antista

Sorceline’s apprenticeship with Professor Balzar is just a teensy bit more interesting than anything you’ve got planned for summer. She’s on the Isle of Vorn to study cryptozoology. 

“It’s the study of cryptids: amazing creatures that most humans don’t think exist.” 

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She and her fellow students will be learning how to heal magical creatures and one of them, the best one (nothing like some healthy competition), will become the Professor’s assistant. And, boy, does he need one.

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In a world where unicorns, vampires, gorgons and zombie pixies all exist, there’s plenty of healing to be done. There’s also time for some mysterious goings on. Students are disappearing and Sorceline, who somehow has the ability to identify creatures simply by looking at them, thinks it’s all her fault. 

“Don’t ever doubt your incredible gifts, Sorceline!” 

Translated from French, this graphic novel combines the first three volumes of Sorceline’s story. I really enjoyed the world building. The story itself felt disjointed at times but, because I was so busy drooling over the pictures, I didn’t really mind. Paola Antista’s illustrations are absolutely incredible, particularly those that showcase the scenery.

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Beware the cliffhanger. I have so many questions that are demanding answers so will be travelling back to the Isle of Vorn as soon as possible. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Isle of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts – including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected …

Beneath the Trees #2: Winter Chills – Dav

Translator – Mike Kennedy

It’s winter and Mr. Fox is having a world of trouble with his scarf of misfortune. He constantly trips over it and gets it caught on things. It has the tendency to want to strangle him any chance it gets. Already frustrated and embarrassed, Mr. Fox becomes increasingly mortified when his struggles catch the attention of a pretty lady fox.

Mr. Fox gave me some Wile E. Coyote vibes. Anything that could go wrong with this scarf did and the part of me that wasn’t smiling at Mr. Fox’s expressions as his misfortune multiplied wanted to tell him that if he wrapped the scarf just a few more times around his neck, he’d be warmer and there’d be the added bonus of it no longer being a trip hazard. That would have taken all the fun out of it, though, so I stayed quiet.

There’s a cameo from Grumpf, from The Autumn of Mister Grumpf, who still seems pretty grumpy. At least he doesn’t have to worry about autumn leaves piling up outside his door anymore.

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The illustrations are just as endearing as the ones in the first book of the series. The animals are so expressive and the colours, even in winter, are vibrant. 

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I’m looking forward to finding out what happens Beneath the Trees in spring.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Magnetic Press and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Winter is here, and snow covers the woods like a cold blanket. Mr. Fox has his enormous scarf to keep him warm, but it is almost TOO big – he can’t help but trip over it and get caught on tree branches all the time. But as embarrassing as that is, it is even more humiliating when trying to catch the eye of a beautiful lady!

This new series paints a tender and colourful portrait of everyday life, showing that behind every flaw or weakness can lie charm and strength. Readers will recognise their own neighbours, friends, and family members in the endearing animal characters within this forest community. In this second volume, a self-assured fox tries to stay warm with his ridiculously long scarf, but winds up having to deal with the embarrassment of getting caught up in everything … especially embarrassing in front of the pretty lady fox he’s trying to impress! A warm-hearted and simple romance tale suitable for all ages.

The stories in this four-book series take place in the same forest over the course of four seasons. Each can be read independently, exploring the complexity and richness of relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. As both writer and illustrator, the author doesn’t rely on text to convey emotions, oscillating between a clever dose of dialogue and wordless passages to makes these stories accessible to young readers starting as young as 5 years old.

Presenting a graphic universe somewhere between Michel Plessix’s adaptations of The Wind in the Willows and the cartoons of Walt Disney (in particular those created by Don Bluth, such as The Rescuers and Robin Hood), Dav gently conveys each season through a changing palette of colours and rounded designs.

Soul Lanterns – Shaw Kuzki

Translator – Emily Balistrieri

“There are still so many people looking for someone in Hiroshima.” 

I’ve heard so many stories told by people who survived the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The physical and mental impacts of surviving something so unimaginable. Stories of loved ones who vanished that day. Many accounts I’ve come across have been from adults who were children in 1945. 

Written by a second generation survivor, this middle grade book takes place 25 years later. Nozomi, a twelve year old second generation survivor, attends the annual lantern floating ceremony, honouring loved ones who died as a result of the atomic bomb. Nozomi realises that one of the lanterns her mother releases each year doesn’t have a name written on it.

Between beginning to investigate who the person behind the nameless lantern is and a special art project, Nozomi and her friends discover that “even when you think you know someone, there are tons of things you have no idea about”.

This is a story of loss, grief and regret. It reminded me how important it is to truly appreciate our loved ones and to live in a way that minimises regret about the things we did and didn’t do or say. 

I didn’t really connect with Nozomi and the story felt disjointed at times. Young readers may ask some tricky questions after finishing this book about war, death and the images, not over the top graphic but obviously still disturbing, of what happens to people’s bodies when they’re exposed to such catastrophic levels of radiation. 

“So many people’s fates were changed by the flash. Many of those who survived physically were dead inside.” 

I would hesitate recommending this book too widely. I’d be reading this one first so I could decide whether it was appropriate for my specific kid. It probably would have been too confronting for me and I wouldn’t have known how to manage the images that would have implanted themselves into my brain if I’d read this book when I was too young.

Although this book held such sadness, it also managed to hold beauty and hope, and I’m so glad I found it.

Content warnings include death by suicide, descriptions of what happened to people and buildings when the bomb was dropped, and the long term physical and psychological impacts of war.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The haunting and poignant story of a how a young Japanese girl’s understanding of the historic and tragic bombing of Hiroshima is transformed by a memorial lantern-floating ceremony.

Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honour those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realises that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.

Soul Lanterns is an honest exploration of what happened on 6 August, 1945, and offers readers a glimpse not only into the rich cultural history of Japan but also into the intimate lives of those who recognise – better than most – the urgent need for peace. 

MonsterMind – Alfonso Casas

Translator – Andrea Rosenberg

“This isn’t the triumphant tale of a hero who defeated his monsters … it’s just the story of somebody who’s learning to live with them.”

Most readers will already be well acquainted with at least some of the monsters in this book. Featured monsters include doubt, fear, social anxiety, past trauma and sadness.

The author uses personal examples to introduce readers to his monsters and explore how they interact with him day and night, from doubts that keep him awake to anxiety about the future.

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I could readily identify some of the monsters, like the cute little sowers of doubt, but others weren’t as easy to name. It would have helped me if the monster mugshots had introduced the story instead of being hidden at the end.

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While I had originally hoped the illustrations would be in colour, it felt more and more appropriate for them to be in grayscale. While there is some hope towards the end of the story, I felt like I was walking through molasses sometimes.

I haven’t found the humour yet. Despite that, I really liked the illustrations and found many of the stories very relatable.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Ablaze and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Alfonso Casas’s MonsterMind is a very personal account of the inner monsters that live inside his head. But, who doesn’t have a monster inside them? Who has never heard that voice inside their head undermining everything they do? You’re not good enough… You just got really lucky… There are people far better and more qualified than you… In a very honest exercise, Alfonso Casas identifies and introduces his own monsters to his readers: Mr. Past Traumas, Mr. Fear, Mr. Social Anxiety, Mr. Impostor Syndrome, Mr. Sadness, Mr. Doubt… The pessimistic, the insecure, the self-demanding, the monster that keeps you from sleeping while you think of what you could have said back in that conversation two years ago, or that keeps you looking over the punctuation of every text message to figure out the tone lurking beneath the surface. All those monsters make up the bestiary of contemporary society. But the anxiety generation is expert in more things: in looking inside themselves and their lives, and – why not? – in laughing at their own neuroses as best they can. In the end, if the monsters won’t leave us, we might as well get to know them and laugh at them! Anxiety is another pandemic, but the monsters dwelling inside us are funny, too (especially as drawn by Alfonso Casas).

Beneath the Trees #1: The Autumn of Mister Grumpf – Dav

Translator – Mike Kennedy

All Mister Grumpf wants to do is clear his doorstep of leaves. His neighbours keep interrupting him, though. They all want help, either with preparations for winter or when things go wrong.

Mister Grumpf, despite his grumpiness, is there for his neighbours, helping them with their problems while his own continue to pile up.

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There’s minimal text in this picture book but the illustrations clearly tell the story. The animals are all expressive, especially Mister Grumpf. I especially liked the glimpses inside the characters’ homes and the autumn colours.

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This book reminded me of Steve Smallman’s Kind Mr Bear, where an elderly bear is always there to help his neighbours until he becomes ill and needs help himself.

I’m planning on continuing this series through the seasons.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley, Magnetic Press and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Winter is fast approaching and all the animals in the forest are in full preparation: storing food and provisions, dining on the last worms with the neighbors, etc… All the animals but one: grumpy badger Mr Grumpf just can’t finish sweeping the dead leaves off his doorstep with everyone coming by to disturb him! Grumpf!

This new series paints a tender and colourful portrait of everyday Life, showing that behind every flaw or weakness can lie charm and strength. Readers will recognise their own neighbours, friends, and family members in the endearing animal characters within this forest community. In this first volume, we meet a very busy badger, who may admittedly be a little slow, but who never refuses to lend a paw to help his neighbours. In time, his generosity will be rewarded!

The stories in this four-book series take place in the same forest over the course of four seasons. Each can be read independently, exploring the complexity and richness of relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. As both writer and illustrator, the author doesn’t rely on text to convey emotions, oscillating between a clever dose of dialogue and wordless passages to makes these stories accessible to young readers starting as young as 5 years old.

Presenting a graphic universe somewhere between Michel Plessix’s adaptations of The Wind in the Willows and the cartoons of Walt Disney (in particular those created by Don Bluth, such as The Rescuers and Robin Hood), Dav gently conveys each season through a changing palette of colours and rounded designs.