Tag Archives: Abrams Appleseed

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where? / Autumn

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where?
Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick
Walker Books
Peanut, Floss, her little brother, Sprat and Finnegan, the four little adventurers who hold weekly club meetings in their very own shed HQ are back. Now they’re on the trail of animals in the garden where they head with collecting jars, magnifying glass and binoculars at the ready.
Inevitably, there are misidentifications: Peanut’s snake turns out to be a hosepipe …

and Peanut’s giant egg is in fact Sprat’s long-lost ball; and Peanut forgets that things look much bigger when viewed through a magnifying glass.
The creepy crawlies search however is more fruitful with several minibeasts being found;

but the most important find of all is that of a furry animal – a very special one indeed. In fact that’s the only one that doesn’t get released back into the wild at the end of the day.
As well as the entertaining story, there is a whole lot to see and enjoy by way of visual detail: posters, signs, speech bubbles and occasional font changes, all of which are embedded within Elissa Elwick’s zany illustrations.
Another Little Adventurers story that will, one hopes, spark the imaginations of curious adventurers around the ages of Peanut et al.
More of the natural world in:

Autumn
David A.Carter
Abrams Appleseed
This is the third of the author’s seasonal pop-up books and as always Carter’s paper-engineering is amazing.
We start at ground level with a variety of squashes bursting forth from the centre-fold surrounded by a scattering of other flora and fauna and there’s ‘a chill in the air’.
Turn over and clever cutting allows you to make some of the leaves appear to be falling from the oak tree …

behind which wild turkeys roam and a river winds, providing a home for some otters. On winds the river through fields, ‘full of life’ widening out to a place where beavers have built a dam and lodge.
Next stop is a wheat field, ripe and ready for cutting for, as the final spread informs, ‘Winter is coming: it’s time to harvest.’
Full of mellow fruitfulness this lovely book certainly is, albeit USA style, but that can be an interesting talking point as well as an opportunity for widening horizons.

Stardust / In My Room

Stardust
Jeanne Willis and Briony May-Smith
Nosy Crow

For the little girl narrator of the story, it’s deeply upsetting being the sister of someone who always seems to be the star of the show where family members are concerned, other than Grandad, that is.
Then one night after losing the Fancy Dress Competition to her big sister,

Grandad finds our narrator outside gazing up at the starlit sky. Her wish to be a star prompts him to tell her a story: the story of how the universe came into being.

A story that explains the connectedness of everything and everyone: “Everything and everyone is made of stardust,” he tells her. “… Your sister isn’t the only star in the universe… you all shine in different ways.
And, inspired by his words, shine she does – in the most amazing way.

Such wise words; words that the little girl never forgets but equally, words that every child needs telling, sometimes over and over.
Briony May-Smith’s stunningly beautiful illustrations really do celebrate connectedness, diversity and individuality; they’re every bit as empowering as Jeanne Willis’ text.
Strongly recommended for families and early years settings to share and discuss.

In My Room
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

The fifth of the ‘Growing Hearts’ series of novelty books starring a little girl protagonist is essentially a celebration of creativity and imaginative play.
The thick pages are cut so that when the book is turned through 90 degrees, they form together a variegated pencil crayon with which the girl conjures up a series of playful scenarios.
All I need is paper, crayons, chalk … and my imagination!” she tells readers.
First she’s an explorer, then a dancing princess; she becomes a speed racer, a teacher, a writer,

a sailor, a swimmer, a bride, a vet and finally, a funky rock star; all without leaving her room other than in her head

and courtesy of her art materials. Not a sign of any technology anywhere – hurrah!
Yes, there are already plenty of picture books that celebrate the power of the imagination; what makes this one different is the format.
Long live creativity!

I’ve signed the charter  

Clumpety Bump / Barnyard Boogie!

Clumpety Bump
Phil Alcock and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Wally Wobblebottom is a kind-hearted soul; he has a horse named Clumpety Bump, a very lazy animal indeed. So lazy that when Wally sets out to deliver goodies to his various friends and neighbours, the horse’s response to his master’s words of encouragement on each occasion is “I can’t be bothered!” which leaves Wally more than a little frustrated, especially as the items he intends to deliver all go to waste.

By Thursday Wally has had enough; he decides to use his tractor when he goes, bearing flowers, to visit his lady-friend. However it seems machines can be just as unreliable as horses …

and in the end it’s Clumpety that takes Wally, at full speed this time, all the way to Ann Kacheef’s house. There disaster strikes … but all ends happily for everyone.
With its playful phrases and refrains to join in with, this story, with its themes of thankfulness and friendship, is one to encourage audience participation and promote the message that language can be fun.

More playful language in:

Barnyard Boogie!
Tim McCanna and Allison Black
Abrams Appleseed
Be prepared for a noisy storytime if you share this one: it’s a riotous read aloud thanks to the musicians of the Barnyard Animal Band.
All the animals have their instruments poised: Horse has a tuba, Goat plays a sax, Cat fiddles, Pig is a pianist, Sheep blows a trumpet and Dog bangs the drums. But what can Cow do? …

The crowd’s assembled ready to hear the performance; but how will the show start and who will lead the band?

Crazy rhyming onomatopoeic instrumental sounds, and a repeat refrain that young children will love to join in with, are part and parcel of the brief text that scans beautifully. Put together with bright, zany illustrations, the whole thing makes for a fun session with young children actively involved both vocally and physically.

It’s Time for Bed

A Bear Hug at Bedtime
Jana Novotny Hunter and Kay Widdowson
Child’s Play
Imaginative play rules in this enchanting pre-bedtime romp: snuggle up and prepare for a bedtime hug or two.
A small child meets a variety of animals, large and small as bedtime approaches or does she? Look again and we see that in fact something entirely different is happening as she imagines various members of her family as animals: Gran morphs into a stripy tiger, Mum becomes a monkey,

her little brothers a lizard and a lobster. And Dad? He’s a huge hairy bear just waiting to leap out and engulf his daughter with a wonderfully warm, goodnight hug. Gorgeous!
Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated and SO full of heart, it’s perfect for bedtime sharing.

Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
Lisa Wheeler and Carolina Búzio
Abrams Appleseed
There’s a distinct retro look and pleasing pattern to this languorous rhyming look at sleeping places. ‘Bats take a nap in a cave upside down. / Hay is a bed for a mare. // Wolves cuddle up in a den ‘neath the ground./ But babies can sleep anywhere.’
This three animals followed by one human infant pattern is used throughout the book until the final spread. This shows an array of sleeping human babes all looking totally blissful.

It’s good to see a mix of well-known and less familiar animals included, as well as the variety of human families on the final pages. Carolina Búzio’s bold colour palette is gorgeous.

I See the Moon
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
For this delightful bedtime sharing book, Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated sixteen popular rhymes, lullabies and poems (mostly anonymous but with poems by J.M.Westrup, Thomas Hood and Robert Louis Stevenson).
Populating her moonlit world with adorable children, foxes, squirrels, mice and other small creatures set in scenes generously embellished with silver and gold,

Beardshaw makes each spread sparkles with colour, light and nocturnal enchantment.

Ice Boy / Stack the Cats

Ice Boy
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
Meet Ice Boy, the hero of Stein’s latest book. Rather than being restrained by his freezer existence and frequent “Never go outside” parental warnings, the young ice-cube leaves the safe enclosed environment and ventures down to the ocean’s edge and thence discovers a whole new world of exciting adventures is to be had.
His first incarnation is ‘Water Boy …

and thereafter Vapour Boy; after which, having tap-danced upon a thunderstorm and freezing …

a tiny pellet of summer hail.
In solid form once again, he hurtles off a roof-top and ‘BLOOP’ –is reunited with his parents who just happen to be chilling someone’s drink.

Suddenly it looks as though extermination is to be the outcome for all three cubes but fortunately, the thirsty human’s first taste is of the little lad who, after all his adventures has become a taste-bud disaster; and Ice Boy and parents are summarily tossed from the tumbler onto the grass.
Then, with an infusion of worldly knowledge, Ice Boy leads the trio off on a new water-cycle adventure …
This clever tale of risk-taking, transformation and re-incarnation is such a fun way to introduce a sclence lesson on the water-cycle. Stein’s mixed media, largely blue and grey illustrations are littered throughout with witty speech bubbles (‘Oh, Ice Boy! You’re a sight for sore ice.‘ Or, ‘Am I dense or did I just become a liquid again?‘and peppered with POPs, PUFFs, BLOOPs and other appropriate noises off.

Stack the Cats
Susie Ghahremani
Abrams Appleseed
Much more than a mere counting activity, this playful picture book offers opportunities for youngsters to expand their mathematical thinking to embrace simple division and multiplication; and a spot of height comparison. We start with ‘One cat sleeps.’ // Two cats play. // Three cats?/ STACK!’ Followed by …

After which the pattern alters thus:

Clearly the six have found this process a little wearying so ‘Seven cats nap.’
Then, the revived felines plus another try their paws at a spot to towering , which rapidly turns to a tumble. It’s as well cat nine is there to even things out and for the first and only time, numerals make their appearance …

What happens thereafter is that Ghahremi decides that ten cats are ‘just too many’, dispersing the gathering to hide, sleep, climb and generally have a playful time (a subtraction discussion opportunity) and finishing with an open-ended, ‘How will you stack the cats?’
The eye-catching cats are given the opportunity to show their playful personalities while youngsters are offered a plethora of mathematical possibilities. A purrfect prelude to some mathematical activities: fun and educative and also, great for beginning readers.

I’ve signed the charter  

Quality From The Start

Park
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
It’s never too soon to introduce babies to books: this ‘Tiny Little Story’ is a delight. We accompany Mum and Baby Boo on a walk in the park where they see a dog, a squirrel – squeeze the page and the leaves rustle – and a snail.

It rains, they feed the ducks and then the infant bids farewell to a bird and the park. That’s it; but with its squidgy fabric pages, simple, bright, attractive illustrations and brief text, it’s perfect for a first book. The whole thing comes in a presentation box and there’s a velcro strap to attach the book to a buggy.
With its soft pages, this would make a super present for a mum and new baby.

So Many Feet
Nichole Mara and Alexander Vidal
Abrams Appleseed
HIGH FEET, SLOW FEET; FAST FEET: SNOW FEET; DANCING FEET, HANGING FEET – these are just some of the many different kinds to be found in this largish board book that introduces toddlers to the diverse forms and functions of animal feet be they toed, clawed, webbed, sticky, hoofed, padded or other. Each animal’s feet are adapted for its life style whether it’s  mountain climbing, slow plodding, jumping, swimming, digging,

or perhaps, wall scaling.
Interesting, informative and alluringly illustrated, and with its final spread, which concludes with a parting question, ‘What can YOUR FEET do?’ an open invitation for youngsters to try some experimental movements with their own feet. In fact, nursery practitioners might make it the starting point for some playful group movement activities.

123
ABC

Nosy Crow
Nosy Crow has embarked on a new collaboration with The British Museum and these two board books are some of the first of a new joint non-fiction list.
Each one contains photographic images of objects found in the museum and thus give very young learners an opportunity to see and celebrate some of the wonderfully rich cultural collections while at the same time re-enforcing alphabetic and numerical concepts.
I randomly opened 123 at the first spread and was surprised to see a pair of what look like almost identical Indian shoes to a pair I have that I bought in Rajasthan, India a few years back, and where there are a fair number of makers/sellers of these jooties or mojaris as they are called. Those illustrated here are given in the index as ‘shoes: date unknown’ so I have no idea how old they might be, but it just shows how certain things remain almost unchanged over time.
In fact the whole book starting with 1 llama (a gold figure from Peru); and ending with 20 coins, is full of fascinating objects to look at and talk about.

There is a mix of photos of illustrations (paintings, etching, drawing) and 3D objects including drums, bowls, kites, beads, bags and spoons from the collection.
A similar mix of illustration and 3D items graces the pages of ABC. This spread shows a Japanese woodblock print of a snail, a porcelain teapot from the UK and an ivory figure from Sri Lanka.

Think of the rich vocabulary you might help your child develop by focussing on any of the objects shown: there’s certainly no talking down to toddlers here.
In addition to the index each book has, there is a QR code that if scanned on a smart phone supplies further information about the objects depicted. So, share these exciting little books and then if possible pay a visit to the British Museum and try to find the objects on display there.

I’ve signed the charter  

I Lost My Sock! / Fruits in Suits

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I Lost My Sock!
P.J.Roberts and Elio
Abrams Appleseed
Subtitled ‘A Matching Mystery’ this begins with Fox’s declaration, “I lost my sock!” Ox, despite the fact his pal is sporting its pair, asks what it’s like. The dopey-seeming Ox then goes on to produce several unmatching sockish articles of a variety of patterns and sizes for the increasingly frustrated Fox.

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A parcel and a rock are then proffered and rejected before a totally undaunted Ox comes up with a lorry load of socks, tips the entire contents out and proceeds to hunt for the match, without success.
Eventually Ox gives up and is about to depart when BINGO! Fox spots the sock …

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There then ensues a dispute over the ownership of the blue-dotted article. Ox maintains it’s his brand new, perfectly fitting hat with a special handy place to keep his supply of oranges; oranges he cannot keep in his pocket because he doesn’t have one on account of not wearing any pants (trousers). PARDON!

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Ox’s crazy response educes a crazily considerate response from Fox who generously hands over his one remaining sock/hat: but that is not quite the end of this wonderfully foolish tale.
Crazy as it may be, this tale of misunderstanding and mismatching offers much to learn about friendship, and also about pattern, shape, size and colour, comparison and contrast. Elio’s exuberant, cartoon-like illustrations, with their geometric shapes, are terrific fun and Roberts’ equally amusing text, all in dialogue, is hugely enjoyable to read aloud. (The exchanges reminded me somewhat of Mo Willems’ heroes, Elephant and Piggie). It’s also ideal for those in the early stages of reading to try for themselves; share it first though.

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Fruits in Suits
Jared Chapman
Abrams Appleseed
It’s time for a swim, fruit style. First changed into appropriate gear is Strawberry, the narrator, in snazzy polka dot trunks, who then endeavours to persuade the business suited Grapefruit that what he’s wearing – suit though it may be – is totally inappropriate for taking a dip in the pool. Other fruits duly dress suitably – pardon the pun – in one- or two-piece bathing attire (although the word swimsuit’ is never mentioned). After a ridiculous exchange culminating in “BUT I’M WEARING A SUIT!” the near-exasperated Strawberry eventually produces a pair of large trunks and finally …

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whereupon the infant Pomegranate throws caution to the wind and takes a leap in the buff …
This final action caused a giggle on behalf of my young reader who also enjoyed the whole nonsensical scenario.

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Superbat / A Good Day for a Hat

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Superbat
Matt Carr
Scholastic Children’s Books
There’s a new superhero on the block – or should that be a would-be one? Meet Pat the bat. Sleepless and bored with inverted hanging, one day, he longs to be special like those superheroes in his comics. Suddenly ‘POW!’ Light bulb moment; straightway it’s out with Mum’s sewing machine and he sets to work …

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Hours later, Pat is ready to hit the high spots, but persuading his fellow bats of his super powers is going to take some doing. After all, super-hearing, flying and echolocation don’t count: all bats have those capacities; and he certainly can’t lift cars or shoot laserbeams from his eyes.

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Pat is disheartened. “I’m just a normal bat in a silly outfit,” he says holding back his tears. Is he though? Suddenly, his super ears pick up a distant cry …

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Could this be his big chance?
Matt Carr’s debut picture book is slightly crazy –or rather, batty – and none the worse for that. I suspect Pat the Bat, with his stitched-on-star suit, will win the hearts of young human would-be superheroes. The yesteryear colour palette is perfect for portraying his antics be they by day or by night.

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A Good Day for a Hat
T. Nat Fuller and Rob Hodgson
Abrams Appleseed
Donning a smart titfa, Mr Brown is ready to sally forth and he has a destination in mind. Try as he might though, he just can’t get beyond his own front path. First it’s the weather, then all kinds of unexpected, unlikely events unfold: a band marches by, magical bunnies are leaping all over his lawn,

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a rodeo gallops along; there’s even a huge fire-breathing dragon …

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and that is followed by a pirate ship. But, with no time for further dallying Mr Brown steps out again and this time, he’s well prepared.

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Will he ever make it to Miss Plum’s house though? And what is the purpose of his visit?
Oodles of fun, with clever use of repetition, making its patterned text easy to read, and a super surprise ending, this jolly picture book is a treat for sharing and individual reading.
Early years teachers, think of all the hatty fun you could have with this playful book.

Animal Allsorts

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Hello, Mr Dodo
Nicholas John Firth
Alison Green Books
I absolutely loved Nicholas John Firth’s debut Hector and the Hummingbird, so was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this, his second offering. It also has an avian theme and once again, is a delight through and through.
Martha is an avid bird lover and twitcher spending much of her time in the woods with her binoculars; there isn’t a bird she can’t identify until that is, the day she comes upon an extremely large specimen she doesn’t recognise

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and it bears a very close resemblance to a supposedly extinct creature.
Before long a secret friendship has developed between Martha and her discovery, who shares with her, a particular penchant for doughnuts …

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Then one afternoon Martha accidentally lets slip her secret and the following day she’s besieged by a crowd at her front door. Time for some quick thinking: the dodo has to disappear.

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Is that to be the end of a beautiful friendship?
The wonderfully retro look of the book (there’s a slight touch of Roger Duvoisin about it) comes from the artist’s choice of colour palette, yet this is a thoroughly modern and enchanting tale.

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One Very Big Bear
Alice Brière-Haquet, Olivier Philipponneau & Raphaële Enjary
Abrams Appleseed
Mightily impressed by his own stature, a bear make an announcement: “I’m very big! … I’m almost a giant!” This claim is quickly countered by a whole host of other polar creatures that turn up in turn: two walrus, three foxes, four sea lions, five penguins and six sardines, the latter have the cheek to call him ‘foolish

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But who gets the last word …
Minimalist artwork, an easy to read text, mathematical opportunities aplenty and a giggle-inducing finale make for a fun book to share and discuss.

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I Need a Hug
Aaron Blabey
Scholastic Childrens’s Books
We all need a hug from time to time but when you’re covered in spikes it makes things just a little tricky and so it is with the prickly creature in this tale.
When a porcupine declares he needs a hug, unsurprisingly he doesn’t get any offers.

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Then something happens to change his luck but it’s not quite what he was expecting …

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With themes of looking for friendship and embracing difference, this brief rhyming tale offers food for thought and discussion with early years groups or individuals.

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Superchimp
Giles Paley-Phillips and Karl Newson
QED
Sporting his red underwear and feasting on fleas, a young chimp spends his days whizzing around in the jungle coming to the aid of troubled animals,

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zooming through the trees in his super-cool chimpmobile or occasionally, relaxing in his secret cave. Known as Superchimp, he’s loved by all the rainforest inhabitants; in fact he’s nothing short of their hero …

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Come nightfall though, from afar there comes another booming voice; but it’s not a voice asking for assistance this time. Now Superchimp doesn’t look quite such a hero and it’s not just his underpants that are a dazzling shade of red.
Rhyming text from Paley-Phillips and vibrant rainforest scenes from Newson combine to make a fun read for young would-be superheroes.

Four Silly Skeletons / Boo! Haiku

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Four Silly Skeletons
Mark Sperring and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Meet the silly skeleton quartet: there’s Fred, Sid, Belle an Bill, residents of a hill-top house, while down below at the foot of the same hill lives their sweet-natured Auntie June with Skellybones, her cat. The four young’uns get up to all manner of shenanigans and it’s down to their aunt to set their wrongs to right.
One dark night when the sky is full of stars and the young skellies full of energy, off they shimmy down the hill,

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only to be halted in their tracks by Auntie June clutching a large bag full of lamps and other lights and warning of the darkness on the hill. But do those four sillies pay heed to her concerns? Oh dearie me, no: what’s the need for extra light when the moon’s big and bright, they say. But that’s before they come upon this …

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which results in a hurtling, spinning, screaming drop that ends in bone-scattering disaster. So it’s just as well that Auntie June has heard their wails and come to their aid, and just happens to have a large pot of sticky stuff with her; sticky stuff that is just the thing for some hasty repairs.

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Now let that be a lesson to those full-moon frolickers.
Told in rowdy, bone rattling rhyme and illuminated by Sue Hendra’s super skeleton scenes of mischief and mayhem, this is just the thing for a Hallowe’en romp.

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Boo! Haiku
Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
Abrams Appleseed
In this follow up to the Guess Who, Haiku are a host of mock-scary frights to delight! Starting with ‘broom across the moon/ pointed hat at the window/ hair-raising cackle’ children are asked to guess who. There’s a small visual clue below the text in addition to the haiku and the answer is revealed when the page is turned.

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The subject then presents another haiku to listeners and so on through traditional Hallowe’en-associated items – a bat, a skeleton, a pumpkin (jack-o’lantern), a ghost and so on and finally –

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The last page provides information about the haiku form and syllabification; and I particularly like the reference to ‘an element of play’.
This cries out for audience participation and is great to share with preschool children who will be honing their listening skills while having fun.

The Road Home / Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!

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The Road Home
Katie Cotton and Sarah Jacoby
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
What a beauty this is: Katie Cotton’s gentle cadences combine with picture book artist Sarah Jacoby’s atmospherically beautiful illustrations to create a memorable evocation of the approach of winter.
Fly with me to far away, / where sun still warms the ground. / For winter’s in the dying light/ and in that windswept sound.’ the mother bird says to her young one as they prepare to leave the safety of their nest and undertake a long, arduous flight together.

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It’s a flight that will take them and readers on a meditative journey as a mouse builds a nest for her little one and rabbits flee from wolves hunting their prey.

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Yes, nature is hard, brutal at times, and this is no cosy picture woven here from words and pictures; rather it’s a powerfully gripping contemplation of the contrasting harshness and stark beauty of life in the wild ‘This road is hard, this road is long.’ we’re told over and over, but at the same time it’s a reassuring one: ‘ … we are not alone. / For you are here, and I’m with you … / and so this road is home.
The impact of this book is slow-burning: it’s an impact that grows with each re-reading, with the words and landscapes lingering in the mind long after the covers have been closed.

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Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gal
Abrams Appleseed
The same partnership that brought us the lovely Abracadabra It’s Spring! has moved the focus to the autumn, as it’s called in the UK. It’s the time when the long summer days are already getting shorter, the temperature starts to drop, the leaves are just beginning to get those tinges of orange and gold and school opens once more. Everywhere are signs of change: seed pods burst scattering an abundance of feathery ‘clouds’…

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birds get ready to fly to warmer climes and the trees are glowing in a multitude of glorious colours.
In a short time, ‘Chilly gusts/ toss leaves around. / Shazam!‘ And a carpet of leaves covers the ground just waiting for children to frolic and kick them skywards. What joy!

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This is the season for squirrels to start laying away food for their winter store, there’s an abundance of delicious fruit to be picked and cooked …

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or hollowed and made into pumpkin faces. Some animals curl up in their burrows for a long sleep and we humans dig out our warmer clothes and delight in all the season brings…
All of this is celebrated in pictures verbal and visual. Eleven gate-folds open up to reveal Gal’s glorious extended scenes to delight the eye and complement O’Brien’s exciting rhyming text.

Monster Night-Nights & A Noisy Baby

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Monsters Go Night-Night
Aaron Zenz
Abrams Appleseed
Bedtime for infant humans usually involves bathing, tooth brushing, donning pjs or onesie and a bedtime story, followed by hugs and kisses. Monsters’ bedtimes are somewhat different. Monsters snack (on umbrellas can you believe?) And yes, they do bath although with chocolate puddings – no need for soap then; they can just lick themselves clean. Their night attire is of the disposable kind …

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and there are snuggles, albeit with something pretty ‘unsnuggleable’ – which of these do you think it is? (One of my listeners thought it was a super place to hide)

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They have assistance with tooth brushing – hint, from something pink and many-legged.

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You may be surprised after all that monstrous behaviour that young monsters are not generally nappy-poopers; they do know how to use a potty …

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and they absolutely delight in ‘night-night‘ kisses – lots of them.
There’s one final part of their routine that I’d better keep under wraps though just in case it shocks you. (You might want to avoid that last page when you share this fun book with your youngster(s), just in case it gives them ideas …
This extended guessing game is bound to delight very young ‘monsters’ with its predictable patterned text, printed in a large typeface and populated by a host of endearing, brightly coloured little monsters.
All of the above makes it ideal for beginning readers too (preferably once someone has shared it with them); and infinitely more enjoyable than a dull phonic reading scheme book.

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Lulu and the Noisy Baby
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
When preschooler Lulu notices that her mum’s tummy is increasing in size, it’s time to tell her that she’s to become a big sis. and she’s thrilled to see the ultrasound scan of the baby.

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Inevitably Mummy gets tired and her rest time provides an opportunity for Lulu and Daddy to make something for the new arrival.

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A few weeks later granny comes to stay and Daddy drives Mummy to the hospital. Granny and Lulu have great fun together and the next day, there’s a howling babe and smiling parents at the door; and Lulu meets brother Freddy for the very first time.

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She’s thrilled with her new sibling and is soon excitedly helping to change him. Now Mummy is often busy with Freddy and so Lulu and her dad get on with jobs like cooking, though that doesn’t mean there’s no quality time together for Lulu and her mum. But now Lulu has an important new role – that of BIG sister.
Lulu, as described by Camilla Reid and depicted by Ailie Busby, is a cute, already popular character with the very young and as such is a good one to demonstrate the role of a new big sister to the very young, although perhaps, in addition to the odd bit of quarrelling, it would have been good to see some of those feelings of jealousy that are bound to be part and parcel of the new arrival scenario. With a plethora of flaps to open, this is assuredly a book to engage tinies and keep them involved throughout the story. Its sturdy binding will mean that it should stand up to the numerous re-reads it’s likely to get at home or in early years settings.

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Toddler Delights

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City Block
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
In this exploration of city life, through clever use of alternating shaped and whole pages we are shown city life from subway to high rise level and everything between. The book is divided into three parts: ways of getting around, places of interest …

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and finally, things to eat. The die cut shape on the first spread suggests its fuller context when the page is turned (or opened) and this pattern is used throughout and in all, two dozen aspects of city life are featured in a whacking 96 pages. Perfectly sized for small hands, we are treated to a series of linked illustrations of what makes a city: its transport systems …

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the multitude of places to visit, food to sample …

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and all – if you really go for it – in a day …

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Goodnight, City!

I really like the way we are gradually shown smaller aspects of this sprawling metropolis – the very different places that all contribute to its fascination and excitement. What are you waiting for, go exploring …

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Hey Diddle Diddle
Happy Birthday
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
Littles will delight in moving the sliders and bringing to life the favourite songs in these two chunky ‘Sing Along With Me’ board books. In the first, the illustrator uses a fairground setting adding a whole cast of characters to those from the rhyme and there is plenty to talk about in the jolly scenes.

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The cow jumped over the moon.

In the second book, it’s a little rabbit that shares his birthday celebration with readers and of course, his party guests.
Because of the repetition and simple rhyming pattern, reading familiar songs (in addition to singing them) is a very good way to teach beginning reading; and the young child gradually starts to match the words on the page with those in his or her head. By scanning the QR code on the inside cover of each book, users can download an audio version to keep and sing/read along with. (Instructions are provided,)

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Eek! A Mouse Seek-and-Peek
Anne-Sophie Baumann and Anne-Kathrin Behl
Twirl Books
Talk about flap extravaganza – this surely is it – as we join a mischief of mice as they rummage, room after room, through a house, seeking paraphernalia for a party. Starting in the basement they search containers large and small. Next stop is the bedroom – ooh! some secrets here –

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then the kitchen, the bathroom, the attic and …

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What a well-organised household these mice have found. And what fun to explore it with them, opening all those boxes, cans, cabinets, tins and cases listening to their comments as they collect all manner of exciting items and have a few surprises and the odd tasty morsel too.
Comic scenes abound and this is certain to get a lot of enthusiastic handling, not to mention squeals of delight: I only hope it can stand up to the multiple readings I envisage.

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I Can Read It: That’s (Not) Mine & What’s An Apple?

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That’s (Not) Mine
Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant
Hodder Children’s Books
The Anna Kang/Christopher Weyant partnership take the two characters – one large and one small – from their wonderful You Are (Not) Small and feature them in this equally hilarious incident from childhood.
The ownership of a big comfy chair is in dispute as the two furry creatures both claim it as theirs. Big, with needles a-clicking – is occupying said chair at the start of the book when in bursts Small. The squabble starts to escalate (parents and early years teachers will immediately recognise the scenario) with the knitter refusing resolutely to budge …

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But then in comes Small wheeling a deliciously squeaky, revolving office chair: guess who wants a go …

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and is more than happy to leave his previous perch, hurl himself onto the inviting-looking alternative and ZOOM wildly … oops! – till there comes the inevitable – tee hee! Argument over: err, no: it looks as though it’s starting all over again …

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Will those two ever sort things out?

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Well yes –but … there’s a lovely final twist to this delicious cracker of a tale. A brilliant lesson in sharing and taking turns but equally it’s a perfect book for beginner readers. The dialogue is punchy, the humour spot on and the illustrations wonderfully expressive. It’s a universal experience – emotionally intense – that deserves a universal readership.

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What’s An Apple?
Marilyn Singer and Greg Pizzoli
Abrams Appleseed
If you’ve never thought beyond the title question, your immediate response will probably be, ‘It’s the fruit of an apple tree.’ So it is; but this little book takes a look beyond the obvious, although it does start there. ‘You can pick it.’ we are told on the first page but thereafter the imagination starts to take over, as a girl and boy explore all manner of possible uses for apples alongside the conventional ones. You can, so we’re told, kick it, toss it and use it to play skittles with …

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or even baseball perhaps. Or why not try a spot of juggling, although you’ll need rather more than one for this

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as you would if you follow some of the other suggestions. Apple sauce requires a fair few of the fruit, as does making juice or even apple bobbing. You can give an apple a wash – always advisable especially if you intend using it for a smile …

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you might even give it a bit of a cuddle. My favourite suggestion though is this one …

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although I’m totally in favour of this ‘You can eat it anyplace.’ sentiment too.
The quirky rhyming text is easy to read, making the book a good one for early reading and Greg Pizzoli’s illustrations are sure to bring on a smile, or many.
As a beginner reader wouldn’t you much rather read something fun like this that a dull scheme book?

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Once Upon a Wish & Thank You!

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Once Upon a Wish
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox
Deep in the forest, in a giant oak tree, lives a magical wishgiving boy, as you’ll soon see …
By night, as the wishes drift his way, he spends his time concocting and conjuring up wish magic for girls and boys,

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then delivering it right to them …

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Despite their delight at receiving their heart’s desire, these children quickly forget the wish giver who also has a wish of his own, for it’s a lonely life he leads in that secret lair of his. The lad wishes for a pet or a friend to keep him company but try as he might, his own wish is unfulfilled …

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Then one night this wish wafts his way “I wish I could fly” and immediately our lad is up and doing, sprinkling, stirring and filling a bottle of potion, before sailing off to deliver same to the waiting wisher. This particular recipient however, is rather different. Yes, she’s absolutely over the moon at being able to take her maiden flight, but it’s what she does next …

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that makes all the difference, though not right away. Her kind words take a little while for their own particular brand of magic to do its work …

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Amy Sparkes’ brilliant to read aloud rhyming verses mixed with Sara Ogilvie’s sparklingly gorgeous, richly and humorously detailed, glowing illustrations make for a magic mix all of their own: sheer delight from cover to cover.
If you’ve ever forgotten to thank, or overlooked saying, thank you to anybody, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this one and send it to them forthwith; actually buy a copy no matter what; you’ll surely find someone or many, to share its enchantments.

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Thank You!
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed
A variety of animals, small and large, a toddler and an adult demonstrate ways of showing thankfulness in this delightfully playful board book. There’s an additional way of showing gratitude too herein: paying it forward. Cat proffers Dog a ball, then dog in turn gives a flower to hummingbird;

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hummingbird then offers panda a bamboo shoot ; panda extends his paw with peanut to elephant and so on. Each act of kindness receives a characteristic thankful response – “Growl growl!”,Toot toot!” and so on until we come full circle to the cat, now the recipient of a ball of wool.
Next, we see each of the recipients enjoying their gift and a small child watching and wondering. And then comes a final human sharing time with adult and child rounding things off neatly.

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Long constructs this whole concatenation cleverly with each animal stretching out of its border and across the gutter with its offering.
If you’re endeavouring to teach your young infant to respond appropriately when given something, this is the perfect book; just make sure you don’t end up with a confused child barking, humming, growling, tooting, eeking, oinking or meowing. Actually though, those speech bubbles are great for joining in with, and a slightly older sibling would likely enjoy reading the book to a very young brother or sister.

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Puzzling Pictures, Puzzling Words

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
Near, Far
Silvia Borando
Walker Books
Two more brilliantly playful titles in the minibombo series:
In the first we start with a line up of animals, large and small –

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after which two at a time they disappear into the coloured background leaving just their eyes and a tiny clue visible. Then comes the fun of trying to work out which ones are the ‘vanishers’ each time. The good news is, the animals don’t swap places so if you’ve a good visual memory, you’re pretty much ahead of the game until the final …

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no cheating now!
Near, Far is all about zooming in and zooming out. Seven animals are featured and each has three double spreads, the final one revealing the whole creature and I have to admit I only got two right the first time around. What would you say, this is?

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Or this?

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The amount of language these two unassuming little gems can generate is amazing; they’re ideal for sharing in early years settings or one to one with a child, especially those who need a bit of encouragement to talk.

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Guess Who, Haiku
Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
Abrams Appleseed
An outdoor setting with a concatenation of riddles for young readers/listeners to solve is offered in this lovely, cleverly constructed introduction to haiku beginning with :
   new day on the farm
muffled mooing announces
   a fresh pail of milk.
Can you guess who from this haiku?
This question then recurs throughout the book for the other nine animal portraits …

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each animal posing another haiku …

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thus continuing the chain: riddling haiku, guess who? and turn the page discovery.
Bob Shea offers visual clues too – one for each riddle, and these as much as the verbal posers are likely to have youngsters delightedly calling out their guesses ahead of the vibrant pictorial revelations on the following page.
A final page gives a brief introduction to the haiku form – its structure and intentions.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile addition to the poetry bookshelf.

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Welcome Spring

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Spring
David A. Carter
Abrams Appleseed
Spring quite simply explodes into life in this small, vibrantly coloured pop-up book.
As the rain falls pitter-pat rippling the surface of the pond, tadpoles emerge to take their chance as the koi carp swim around and a dragonfly hovers.

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Away from the pond a cherry tree bursts into bloom and tree frogs croak to acknowledge the rain as it waters the blossoms that give food for the bees.

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The flowers are alive with visitors and an adult bird feeds its young.
Half a dozen spreads, each one a visual treat, with a brief accompanying text and lots of labels, some of which are indicative of the book’s US origins, there’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with young children herein.

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Abracadabra, It’s Spring
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gai
Abrams Appleseed
‘Sun warms a patch of snow.
Hocus-pocus!
Where did it go?’

Thus begins a simply gorgeous evocation of the arrival of spring as we watch bulbs popping up …

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and opening …

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pussy willows bursting out, leaves unfurling, birds arriving and nesting, eggs …

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hatching,

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butterflies emerging and blossoms opening to adorn the trees. It’s time to shed those heavy winter boots and embrace all that’s bright and new now that winter’s gone.
Both words and pictures are uplifting. The text is a mix of the gentle poetic and contrasting lively effervescent magical invocation orchestrating the change: take for instance:
Grey cocoons/hide a surprise. Abba zaba!/ (open gatefold)/Butterflies!

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There is so much to see in the illustrations each of which has a gatefold opening. Every spread unfolds to reveal an aspect of spring’s new life in dazzling layered collages alive with colour and creatures.
In addition to being a delight to share, this will surely inspire children to get creating themselves.

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Winter/A Bird Like Himself

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Winter
David A. Carter
Abrams & Chronicle
This small pop-up is full of wintry delights. As the sun goes down and snow begins to fall one chilly day, we see a white-tailed deer and follow deer tracks across the white covering and there’s a cardinal perching in a pine tree. Turn the page and make the snowflakes dance in the air, the snow geese too, take to the air while from behind a fir tree peeps a bear…

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yes there’s something to see at every level on each spread thereafter.
Turn over once again: holly berries deck the tree, a stoat stands stark with its tail aloft, a snowshoe hare hops by and mice are snuggling together to keep warm.
Next we see long-eared owls perching on an oak, long-tailed weasels as they are herein named, face us looking startled and red foxes are huddling from the cold (look behind the sandstone).

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Look on the next moonlit spread and find Orion above, a bobcat, snowberries glowing and creatures peeking and finally …

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Everything is still, everything is waiting under the milky way …

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One year old Jenson investigating the delights of WINTER

Some of the creatures are American but this adds interest for non-US readers rather than detracting from the charm of the book.

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A Bird Like Himself
Anahita Teymorian
Tiny Owl Publishing
When a chick emerges from a seemingly parentless egg, the animals living around take on the role of carers.

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They do their very best and if nothing else they give their new infant plenty of love.

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With such a variety of carers though, it’s not surprising that Baby – so called because he became everyone’s baby – has something of an identity crisis.
But with the winter fast approaching, it’s time for birds like Baby to be flying south to warmer climes and try as they might, none of the animals is able to demonstrate the techniques of flying …

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So what will be the fate of Baby who as yet isn’t really like those other birds? Can he finally spread those wings of his and take flight? Perhaps, with the help of a special friend …

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With its inherent themes of acceptance, parenting and caring, friendship and finding a place to fit in, this lovely book will resonate with adults as well as the many children I hope it will be shared with especially  with refugees from Syria being made to feel welcome in the UK as I write.
Author/illustrator Anahita Teymorian’s densely daubed illustrations are sheer delight. I absolutely love the final double spread whereon is revealed the significance of the chequer board design that appears on every spread – brilliant!

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In My Heart

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In My Heart
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
I received this book on the day we heard the terrible news about the second terrorist attack on Paris. So today (and yesterday) are days on which, as the small girl narrator says, “my heart feels heavy as an elephant. There’s a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain. This is when my heart is sad.

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Indeed it could be said that one feels that way whenever there’s a news item about those seeking sanctuary from the crisis in Syria, and in other parts of the world.
However, right from its rainbow die-cut layered heart shown on the cover (its depth decreases as the pages are turned), this is  largely a book of hope and joy, wonder and positivity; as the child narrator tells readers, “My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside.”

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Every turn of the page reveals a new feeling or emotion be it bravery or fear, happiness or sadness, anger or calm; it might be a heart that feels hurt – broken and in need of healing with extra kisses, or one that is hopeful and “grows tall, like a plant reaching toward the sky.”

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How beautifully the author selects similes that help young audiences better appreciate each feeling: “Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.” – that’s happy; or when calm, “I bob along gently like a balloon on a string. My heart feels lazy and slow and quiet as snowfall.” This is mirrored by the choice of colour the artist employs for the symbol on the recto of each double spread.
As the heart-size diminishes with each turn of the page, we have a heart full of giggles (silly), a small treasure to hide away – a shy heart …

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and eventually, a garden full of hearts and a final question “How does your heart feel?” to ponder.
Elegantly and appealingly designed, gorgeously and sensitively illustrated and so full of heart, this is a must have book for all early years settings and families with young (and not so young) children.
As I said, I came to this with a heavy heart: I left it with one full once again, of hope … it’s the only way to be.

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Talking Points

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Animal Rescue
Patrick George
Creators of books for young children use a variety of ways to engage their audience. A particularly effective one – acetate overlays – is employed by Patrick George. A double-sided printed acetate page is sandwiched between two ordinary brightly printed wordless pages and when flipped, this allows the child to change the story completely.
This one however, has an added dimension in the form of an environmental message in that it draws attention to the difference between each animal in its natural habitat or being cared for/and in captivity or being mistreated for human purposes such as entertainment:
Thus we have an elephant roaming free …

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Flip the acetate sheet to the right and you have …

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Fashion purposes – exotic skins,

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factory farming – chickens, trophy hunting and abandoned pets are some of the topics included.
Virtually wordless apart from the final question, this delightful book is rich in potential for talk and storying as well as offering those opportunities for discussing issues of animal welfare.
50p from sales of each book goes to the Born Free Foundation.
Conversation creator – assuredly: Conservation/animal welfare promoter – one truly hopes so.

Equally playful and similar basic design, but without the serious underlying message, is

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Opposites
Patrick George
Herein basic concepts such as Big/Small, Left/Right, Empty/Full, Up/Down, First/Last, Hot/Cold, In/Out are presented …DSCN5769 (800x600)and …

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along with Sun/Rain, Hit/Miss, Land/Sea, Boy/Girl. The latter are rather more questionable in terms of mere ‘opposites’, but will certainly engender a lot of interactive talk and creative thought and learning. Eye-catching art in vibrant colours with single word labels complete the ingredients of this one.

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Colours
Susan Steggall
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Tractors, tippers, trucks, rollers, mixers, vans and cars are among those featured in the twenty different types of vehicle, (two for each of the ten colours) presented in the bright collage style,

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captioned illustrations of this book for very young lovers of all things mechanical. The final spread shows all the vehicles.

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There’s lots of potential for talk and I envisage ‘littles’ with their own collections of toy cars getting them out and lining them up along with those presented herein. And there’s a wheel attached to the back cover which when turned, makes the vehicles change colour –

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more talk potential!

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Whose Truck?
Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz
Abrams Appleseed
Featuring half a dozen different trucks and their operators, this cleverly designed board book is bound to appeal to all young machine lovers. Readers are invited in Toni Buzzeo’s rhyming text, to guess: Whose truck is this? in relation to a utilities truck, a fire-engine, a snow-plough, an ambulance, a crane, an outside broadcast vehicle.
Thus we have …

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Open the gate-fold to reveal …

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The end pages showcase all the vehicles and a surprise finale unfolds …

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Full of potential for interaction and playful learning – with the book and beyond.

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Being a Hero/Being Brave

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Monty the Hero
Steve Smallman
QED Publishing
Inspired by his favourite bedtime story, Monty Mole makes a big decision: he’s going to be a (super) hero. He cannot wait so off he goes tunneling up and up until he reaches the magical setting of his storybook where he immediately encounters Herbert Hedgehog. Donning a conker shell for protection against monsters, Monty invites Herbert to become a hero too.
All too soon though, the two have their first MONSTER encounter but thanks to Monty’s mushroom morphing and Herbert’s prickly bottom, the ‘monster’ is soon beating a hasty retreat.

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But, pride comes before a fall it’s said and certainly that’s the case here for as they banter over Monty’s heroic – or not – qualities, Herbert finds himself in a bit of a fix.

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A spot of hasty tunneling from Monty soon does the trick and then two heroes set off in search of a wish fulfilling magic wand. Having found same, they just need to give it a shake but …
That’s not quite the end though: all ends happily for both heroes and Monty’s mum hears the magical story (with just one omission) as they walk off home together.

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A gentle, amusing story with some atmospheric nocturnal scenes to enjoy around bedtime or to share at any time in an early years setting. I love the fact that Monty’s adventure was sparked by that bedtime tale his mum read to him.

More lessons about being a hero to be learned in:

 

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Be Careful Barney!
Lucy Barnard
QED Publishing
Herein Barney’s attempts at being a superhero land him in big trouble when he ignores his teacher’s ‘stay away from the river’ instructions when the class goes on a school trip.

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Brave As Can Be
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
A now not so little, self-assured girl shares her erstwhile fears and how she managed to overcome each one, be it her fear of the dark, a neighbour’s barking dog, a scary dream, a thunderstorm, creepy crawlies even, or her angry teacher (not so frightening when imagined with feathers) …

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On Hallowe’en however, with a cackly laugh and pointy hat, it’s her turn to be scary.

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Being scared can be fun though, especially when it’s listening to one of Dad’s spooky stories.

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Cleverly conceived and executed with all kinds of cutaway shapes strategically placed, this is a real charmer as is the narrator herself.
Deliciously humorous and unsentimental, this sturdily constructed book , subtitled a ”A Book of Courage’ is bound to delight and may well help children find their own fear-facing coping strategies.
It’s brilliant for sharing with children in an early years setting and a great starting point for talking about personal fears and how they might deal with them. With its board pages the book is built to stand up to the numerous readings I suspect it will have.

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The Ride-by-Nights / Tickle Monster

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The Ride-by-Nights
Walter de la Mare and Carolina Rabei
Faber & Faber Children’s Books
‘Up on their brooms the Witches stream,/ Crooked and black in the crescent’s gleam:/ One foot high, and one foot low, / Bearded, cloaked and cowled, they go.’

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Thus begins this poem I remember learning by heart as a child and later it became an oft’ requested favourite from my copy of the author’s collection, Peacock Pie with some of the first infant classes I taught many years ago.
Now Carolina Rabei has worked her own illustrative magic on it, re-interpreting the verses and it’s great to have this picture book version of the timeless poem to share with new audiences of listeners and readers especially around Hallowe’en.
‘With a whoop and a flutter/ they swing and sway, / And surge pell-mell/ down the Milky Way.’ 

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How splendidly Rabei weaves a modern tale of a family ‘s encounter with those ‘Ride-by-Nights’ as they head out on their trick or treat evening of playfulness and are drawn into some tricks, thrills and near spills …

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courtesy of those ancient enchantresses.
The limited colour palette is well chosen for creating maximum atmosphere and I particularly like the way some spreads cleverly draws the reader’s eyes towards the starry skies while at the same time allowing them to watch the action unfolding below.

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From the just slightly sparkling cover to the star map endpapers,

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thrills are to be found at every turn of the page and I hope this spellbinding book will serve to send listeners to seek out other poems by Walter de la Mare, starting perhaps with the illustrator’s pictorial rendering of Snow.

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Tickle Monster
Édouard Manceau
Abrams Appleseed
Take a simple idea – tickle the monster part by part …

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thus deconstructing him and use his parts to create a more friendly scene – and you’ve got a real winner.

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Certainly that is so, if you are the artist who used bold bright, simple shapes to design the character in this amusing story.
I shared it with a group of four to six year olds who absolutely loved the whole idea; three immediately re-read it themselves, two taking on reading the text and one doing the tickling. They then worked together to create their own version of the Tickle Monster from recycled card and colored paper They too played around, re-arranging the disparate parts to create a new picture (not saved as they decided the monster should come knocking again). Here he is in monster form.

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With its patterned, repetitive text this book is perfect for beginning readers as well as for sharing with a group or class.
I’ve often read Ed Emberley’s somewhat similar Go Away Big Green Monster with young children and I can see myself doing the same with this one.

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