What makes a good children's book? Thankfully we've never been called upon to produce one, but we do know one when we see one: and "Maggie's Mittens" by Coo Clayton and Alison Soye certainly qualifies. It's got a nice, entertaining story that can be read to, or by, a child; and it's got a really nice idea at its heart that is brought to life by large illustrations that are simply outstanding.
We'll start with the publisher's background to the book: "When author Coo Clayton walked her daughter Maggie home from nursery on a dreich day last autumn, she wasn't thinking about writing. Maggie and Mum were both out of sorts, with Maggie especially keen to get rid of her mittens, despite the awful weather. After picking Maggie's mittens out of a puddle for the twentieth time the idea for this charming story was born." Subsequently a colleague of Coo's came across an artist, Alison Soye, painting a mural in an Edinburgh cafe. Coo met with Alison, and the collaboration that has brought this book to life was born.
What really lifts this book (and gives it its very distinctive Scottishness) is that the twenty puddles on the way home from nursery have been replaced by locations around Scotland. As a starting point, Maggie tries to donate her mittens to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, part of a beautifully drawn backdrop of Edinburgh. Then we are off to the Kelpies near Falkirk; to Glasgow, complete wearing a statue with a traffic cone on its head; to the Old Course at St Andrews; to Dundee (where the statue of Desperate Dan is Maggie's intended recipient for her mittens); to Stonehaven; to Urquhart Castle; to Bass Rock; and to her Granny's house on what seems to be a Hebridean island. Here Maggie discovers that mittens might, after all, be an aid to comfort and worth hanging on to. Each location is beautifully illustrated, with sufficient accuracy to make it easily recognisable, but a degree of artistic licence as well. A nice story with beautiful illustrations that might just awaken a child's interest in aspects of Scotland. What's not to like?