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We are thrilled to see this blog (below) from amazing children’s librarians in Porirua, New Zealand and all the great work they have done to show books from around the world to their members. We love all the bottles of happiness drawn by children in these photos.Well done all of you!


The past school holidays saw Porirua Libraries Read Around the World, with the help of our previously featured guest Gillian Candler (see last month’s entry) representing New Zealand, and a very special new children’s publisher representing farther afield. In the first week at the Main Library, we shone a light on stories from Tiny Owl Publishing. Based in the UK, Tiny Owl arrived on the scene just two years ago, but have already made a significant positive impact with their catalogue. They have published an array of thought provoking picture books by a mix of established and new Iranian authors and illustrators, many of which will be entirely new to Western audiences. Some titles are newly commissioned, but Persian classics like The Parrot and the Merchant, by Rumi, and Bijan and Manije, adapted from the epic Book of Kings/Shahnameh, (both illustrated by Marjan Vafaian), also feature. They have begun developing a programme of cross-cultural work, uniting authors and illustrators from around the world. The first work in this project is A Bottle of Happiness, which pairs UK author Pippa Goodhart with Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi.

I contacted Tiny Owl founder Delaram Ghanimifard to ask if we could have permission to feature Ehsan’s Bottle of Happiness artwork in our programme, and she was most gracious in allowing this. I was delighted, as that book joins When I Coloured in the World (written by Ahmadreza Ahmadi, and also illustrated by Ehsan) on my current list of must-reads. I’ve plugged the latter on the latest You Really Ought to Read slot on the Children’s Library page, citing a strange cultural affinity in the way its pictures remind me of the iconic New Zealand-made Ready to Read series from the mid-1960s that included The Sweet Porridge and The Hungry Lambs titles, with their kaleidoscopic backgrounds, and vintage-styled décor, dress and furnishings.

Days after exchanging emails with Delaram, I heard from our friend Greet Pauwelijn at Book Island, another small but mighty publishing house that has done a great deal to introduce non-English texts to English-reading audiences. Book Island relocated from their local home in Raumati to Bristol in the UK early last year, but still keep up with us. When Greet saw we were featuring Tiny Owl books for our holiday programme, she emailed to ask me if I’d made Delaram’s acquaintance. She said the two of them were about to be guests on a panel at the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Around the World conference in Reading in April. Seeing Iranian Delaram and Belgian Greet pictured together in the UK days after they had both communicated with me in New Zealand gave me faith it really is a small world after all.

While doing a great deal to represent the diverse nature of the globe, Tiny Owl books (like Book Island books) bring us closer together as human beings. As Hans Christian Andersen Medal-winner (and another of my favourite authors) David Almond said in a laudatory piece about them for The Guardian: ‘This is how to improve the world, to help dispel clouds of confusion and misunderstanding, and to bring us closer together, story by story, image by image, child by child.’

  • Read it again! A blog post by Pippa Goodhart
  • An environment of creativity and diverse thinking by A Bottle of Happiness at North Kensington Library
  • A Bottle of Happiness among the best books of the year by the Sunday Times


Buy A Bottle of Happiness

Buy The Parrot and the Merchant

Buy Bijan and Manije

Buy When I Coloured in the World

Limited prints as gifts for any occasion

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Posted in News & Reviews