Reviews /

The Wish Gatherers

Authored by Karin Celestine
Illustrated by Karin Celestine and Tamsin Rosewell
Published by Graffeg

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In the dreamy world of Celestine and the Hare, the year is turning. We are introduced to the beliefs and practices of the small creatures of the woods and fields as they mark the changing seasons and ask whether wishes come true.

Drawing on autumn customs from rural England such as corn dollies and the Abbots Bromley dance, Karin Celestine uses the fabric animals – mice, rabbits, moths, and even a bear – to explore folklore but also to let us further into the world of these marvellous creatures that have been part of the world this writer and artist has made so vivid in books such as Bert’s Garden and Small Finds a Home – and of course the sister volume to this one, The Lightbringers, in which midwinter solstice is given a similar treatment.

These are books that will support and extend the small world play of many children – but The Lightbringers and The Wish Gatherers are deeper than they seem. The endpapers, for example, tell us

Some think you are silent because you have nothing to say…

Perhaps you are silent because you have too much to say.

A suggestion that could support PSHE discussion with children in Year 2 and Year 3. Similarly, two mice are hugging each other in one picture, and the text says

…some dreams are just never meant to be, no matter how hard we wish and hope.

Lots to discuss here, lots of prompts for writing.

And what do we make of the priest-like Lammas Bear (I would have loved a Lammas Bear when I was a child) summoning the silent Star Gatherers? It is intriguing to imagine all these beliefs, hopes and wishes in the hedgerows and the ponds, and I can see these being a stimulus for a lot of outdoor play.

‘Charming’ could damn this book with faint praise, but charming it is, and dreamy and thoughtful: a real inventive delight.