Our Tower by Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson

The Blurb On The Back:

And then we’ll all see

The beauty of Our Tower

And together we’ll all remember

Our own deep hidden power.

Three friends feel the call of the wild whipping past their high windows.  They creep out of their block, in search of adventure, only to find that the magic of the ancient forest is not so different from the magic right at home, in their Tower.  

OUR TOWER was released in the United Kingdom on 2nd August 2022.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order OUR TOWER by Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Three children live in a concrete tower block that is boring, hard and grey.  But from their Tower they can see a tree that calls to them and so, one night, they creep out of their Tower to go and find it.  The tree shows them a world of beauty and magic within nature but more, shows them that their Tower is not just boring and grey – there is warmth and community and beauty within it too, just so long as they know what to look for …

Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson’s picture book for readers aged 6+ is a beautiful read that shows both the wonders of the natural world and the community within city tower blocks.  Coelho brings an evocative lyricism to the text (although having stayed in a tower block, I did find myself having to suspend disbelief at times) while Johnson’s illustrations are extraordinarily beautiful, using a muted palate to bring nature and city to life. 

I had heard of Coelho by reputation and knew that he is the Children’s Laureate for 2022 to 2024 but this is the first time I have read any of his work.  I was really drawn in by the lyricism of his writing – he uses quite sophisticated language for the target readership and his imagery is quite open but he trusts his readers to understand from the context and it works really well.  There is real beauty in his words and he chooses them well, making sure that they convey sight and sound and emotion.  He gets across the idea of the beauty within nature but the real skill comes in how he then turns it around and shows that there is beauty within the community living in Our Tower and how they care for and support each other.  The only reason I wasn’t able to completely give in to it was because I spent a lot of time in a tower block when I was a child and it cast such a shadow over me that I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe it.  However that is completely on me and my experience – I think that target readers will really be charmed by this and rethink their view of tower, city living.

Richard Johnson’s illustrations are easily the most beautiful I’ve seen in 2022.  His use of a muted palate of greens and greys is genuinely exquisite.  He gets across the curiosity of each of the three children, giving them each their own personality as they venture out to try and find the tree.  It’s just so well done – especially the colour shift to yellows and blues as the children see their home through new eyes and the way he shows the Tower’s inhabitants looking at what’s happening and coming together.

All in all, this is a really gorgeous book that’s impeccably executed and one that I can see being a classic for years to come.

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