Tag Archives: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Fox in the Night / Snow Penguin

Fox in the Night
Martin Jenkins and Richard Smythe
Walker Books

Billed as ‘A science storybook about light and dark’, this is a narrative non-fiction picture book with a sprinkling of additional facts.
We join Fox as she wakes, sees it’s still daylight outside and so goes back to sleep for a while. Later, at sundown, she leaves the safety of her den and, guided by the moon and street lights, sallies forth across the park towards the town in search of food.

A mouse eludes her so she keeps looking; perhaps something static will be easier prey.
A bumped nose and a near miss from a car later, she’s still searching. Then, turning down an alley, her nose leads her towards something more promising – a barbecue in progress – and it’s here that she’s finally rewarded with a tasty treat to take back to her den.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a good starting point for a topic on light and dark with early years children. I’d suggest reading the story first and then returning to discuss the additional, smaller print, possibly using it as pointers to get youngsters thinking for themselves about why for instance, Fox bumps her nose on the shop window.

Snow Penguin
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Far away in the icy Antarctic, a curious little penguin is restless: he wants to find out more about the chilly sea and the snow. Off he goes alone to explore, unaware that the ice on which he’s standing as he gazes seawards has become detached from the mainland.
On his trip afloat on his little ice floe he sees blue whales, orcas,

an elephant seal and a sea lion with her cub. Suddenly he feels alone and scared adrift on the darkening waters. How will he find his way back to where he most wants to be, back with his family and friends?

Mitton’s assured rhyming couplets in combination with Alison Brown’s engaging depictions of the frozen Arctic seascapes and landscapes make for a gentle cuddle-up adventure for the very young.

What Makes me a ME? / Words and Your Heart

What Makes me a ME?
Ben Faulks and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Here’s a diverting book about identity: “What makes me a ME?” Who am I and where do I fit into this world? – these are questions that everyone ponders.
For the boy narrator it’s a mind-stretching poser as he acknowledges that at different times he’s like a whole range of things: sometimes he’s slow like a snail but he’s not slimy and his eyes don’t stand out on stalks.

He doesn’t have a tail so he can’t be exactly like his puppy Monty, despite being full of energy.
Is he perhaps like a sports car; he’s certainly lightning fast, but that’s thanks to his legs rather than wheels.

No matter what he likens himself to, essentially he’s just himself – special and unique.
Faulks’ funny rhyming stanzas documenting the five year old narrator’s search for an answer to his philosophical question provide Tazzyman plenty of space to conjure up some wonderfully comical scenes, and the boy himself with snub nose, specs and bobble hat is cheekily enchanting.

Words and Your Heart
Kate Jane Neal
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Words are powerful things: they can make your heart soar; they can make your heart sink; they can make your heart sing; they can make your heart hurt.
Words can be a force for good; or they can be a force for causing pain.
All this and more is demonstrated through characters Pip and Cat in author/illustrator Kate Jane Neal’s debut picture book.
‘This book is about your heart.
The little bit inside of you that makes you, you!’

So begins this unassuming book that goes on to say ‘the words that enter your ears can affect your heart.’
Her simple, but compelling message is a wonderful demonstration of how we can all contribute to making the world a better place by being mindful of the words we use to, and about, other people.

Executed with minimal colour, the illustrations, together with the empathetic and compassionate text that is orchestrated by means of changes of font, put forward a message too important to ignore.

A book to share and talk about at home, in playgroups and nursery settings, and in schools.

I’ve signed the charter  

All the Way Home

All the Way Home
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Little One, if you promise you’ll go to sleep, I’ll tell you a story. It’s so secret even your mama hasn’t heard it …
The tale this daddy penguin tells this is one: a kind of autobiographical snippet in a way. The Daddy Penguin is supposed to be looking after the egg while Mama Penguin is far away looking for fish but he wanders away from the Dad Huddle and together with the egg, is whisked up and away to the Arctic.
The creatures there are pretty scary-looking …

and decidedly unhelpful when it comes to giving directions back to the penguins’ home. Thank goodness then for one ‘hairy, sheltering thing’ that’s kind enough to carry penguin and egg to the northernmost place in the world,
Now as young children know, a very special person (here called the Special Air Navigation Transport Authority)  lives there, one who is more than willing to share the delicious feast he’s been rustling up with his visitors, the number of which suddenly increases during their stopover.

This same person is also willing to add a Daddy Penguin and his newly hatched chick to the load of parcels he has to deliver; and drop them off just in time for Mama Penguin’s return.

Gently told, full of tenderness and with enchanting illustrations: the perfect recipe for wintry seasonal sharing.

Halloween Briefing: Monsters Galore and a Witch or two

There’s a Monster in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books
Here we have one of those interactive picture books that are in vogue at the moment and it comes from the co-writer of The Dinosaur That Pooped series.
The book is invaded by a rather cute-looking little monster that seems intent on wrecking the whole thing. ‘Let’s try to get him out,’ suggests the narrator which is clearly a good idea.
Readers are then asked to shake, tickle, blow, tilt left, then right, wiggle and spin the book, turning the page after each instruction. All the while the monster lurches this way and that around a plain background looking far from delighted at the treatment being meted out to him.
None of this succeeds in dislodging the creature but he’s definitely feeling dizzy so loud noises come next; then even louder ones.

This works but ‘Now he’s in your room!’ That’s even worse than being contained within the pages, at least from the reader’s viewpoint, so now the idea is to gently coax him back into the book. There he can stay while receiving some tender head stroking and a soft ‘goodnight’ until he falls fast asleep. Ahh!
With Greg Abbott’s cute, rather than scary monster, this is a fun book to share with pre-schoolers particularly just before their own shut-eye time; all that shaking and shouting will likely tire them out making them feel just like this.

SHHHH!

Ten Creepy Monsters
Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Here’s a gigglesome twist on the nursery countdown featuring a mummy, a witch, a ghost, a werewolf, a vampire and others who, having gathered ‘neath a gnarled pine’ begin to disappear until only one remains. But what sort of creepy monster is that? Be prepared for a surprise.
Trick or treaters, if mock scary ghastly ghouls are your Halloween thing then look no further than this gently humorous, little paperback offering.

Scary Hairy Party!
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Monster’s having a party; it’s at 3 o’clock and all her friends are invited. Fortunately they’ve just got time to nip into Raymond’s salon for a hairdo first.
Seemingly Raymond’s not on top form however, as one after another receives a style disaster.

What on earth is Monster going to say when she sets eyes on her pals with their new make-overs?
Light-hearted rhyming fun illustrated with crazy, brighter than bright scenes of barnet mayhem: just right for those youngsters who like their Halloween stories to be on the silly, rather than the spooky side.

The Pomegranate Witch
Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books
A deft rhyming text, imbued with spookiness and replete with rich language, tells a tale of how five children desperate for a pomegranate from the witch’s tree, and armed with all manner of unlikely implements, do battle with its owner to get their hands on a tasty treat from its branches. A veritable Pomegranate War is waged …

until finally, one of children succeeds in bagging the object of their desires and they each have a share of the spoils.
The following day, Halloween, a Kindly Lady (the witch’s sister) appears to offer cider and a celebratory surprise fruit to all the town’s children: ‘And not one child wondered who was who, or which was which. / The shy old Kindly Lady or the Pomegranate Witch.’
Surely they couldn’t be one and the same – or could they?
Not for the very youngest listeners but a fun read aloud for KS1 audiences. As your listeners savour Denise Doyen’s story, make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy Eiiza Wheeler’s delightfully quirky ink and watercolour illustrations.

For older solo readers:

Witch Snitch
Sibéal Pounder, illustrated by Laura Ellen Andersen
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The (Witch Wars) Sinkville witches are preparing for Witchoween and it’s the first Tiga will experience. This is especially exciting as Peggy has asked her and Fran to make a documentary about the town’s most famous witches. With Fluffanora acting as fashion adviser, what more could she ask?
This book with its numerous activities, facts and character information as part and parcel of the narrative, is sure to make you giggle. So too will Laura Ellen Andersen’s line drawings.

A Briefing of Board Books

Time to Go With Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Ted, the wonderfully imaginative toddler is back and he’s ready to go.
Whether it be to the park, the shops, the pool or the playground swings …

he’s always sure to have the appropriate gear with him.
And being such a friendly little boy, he’s bound to make friends wherever he goes; so come teatime he’s got plenty of guests to share with.
Lift-the-flap pages hide a host of animals as well as opportunities for some noisy roaring, shivering, sploshing and making monkey sounds.

Listen to the Dance Music
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
Just in time for ‘Strictly’ here’s an opportunity to brush up on your dance moves with the animal movers and shakers. You can waltz with the wolves, tango with the horses, practise some Charleston swivels with the bears, salsa with the flamingos, rock n’ roll along with the cats and hip-hop with the frogs. And, to get you and your little ones going, there’s a sound button at the back of the book, so as well as enjoying the dancers visually, you can listen to the various types of music. What are you waiting for: let’s dance.

I Thought I Saw a Lion!
Lydia Nichols
Templar Publishing
Using the sliders on every spread, toddlers can develop their manipulative skills while enjoying playing hide-and-seek with a mischievous lion that invades a variety of venues. Is he somewhere in the restaurant? Or perhaps he’s visiting the fancy dress shop or the bookshop maybe.

Surely he can’t be getting his mane trimmed at the hairdresser’s, so where is he?
Built-in repetition and bold, stylish illustrations enhance the game.

Colours/ Opposites
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Two popular topics feature in stylish look and find presentations by Britta Teckentrup.
In addition to the colour element of the first, there are opportunities for counting and developing talk on each spread.

Opposites here entails essentially, finding the odd one out, be that outside, above, fast, short, heavy, white, closed or small. Some concepts such as tall/short or heavy/ light are relative and thus not so clear-cut, but the rhyming text ensures that answering the questions asked is not an issue. Here: for instance,

‘Some animals plod / with a slow heavy pace, / but who is so fast she’s / winning the race?’

Opposites/ Colours
Nosy Crow and The British Museum
The two new Early Learning at the Museum titles contain around thirty fascinating objects from the museum collections per book.
Apart from the basic concepts presented in the two books, each fascinating image offers opportunities for developing open-ended conversations with young children.
You can look into recent history and go back over 2000 years with intriguing artefacts from a variety of cultures in Opposites. Or in Colours go back even further to 2600BC or be bang up to date with a Grayson Perry vase from 2011.
These chunky books will be of interest to children long after they’ve acquired the basic concepts related to opposites and colours.
Adults can scan the QR code in each book to find out more about the featured objects and there is a full key at the back.

The Marine Team / The Forest Folk / The Sky Guys
Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here are three new additions to the Mibo board books series featuring five animals, apiece, two spreads being given to each one.
Once again in each book, superb graphics are accompanied by fact-filled rhymes and there is a final fact page that tells you a little bit about each animal presented, their habitats and what we can do to help protect them.
The Marine Team comprises the green turtle, the great white shark, which is actually only white on its lower part, the seal, the blue whale and seahorses.
Did you know that it’s the male that carries the eggs from which the babies are born?
In The Forest Folk we meet temperate forest dwellers, brown bears, grey wolves, red squirrels, otters and deer, both male and female.
The Sky Guys features five bird species – the majestic albatross, the elegant flamingo, the wise owl, the guzzling pelican and the tiny hummingbird.
The rhyming texts will help young children absorb the information as an adult reads it aloud; and each book offers plenty of talking points.

Two Dragon Tales

Dragons: Father and Son
Alexandre Lacroix and Ronan Badel
Words & Pictures
Young dragon Drake, a chunky little charmer, lives with his pot-bellied father, a traditionalist, who decrees that the time has come for his son to start behaving like a real dragon; and that means burning down a few houses in the village over the mountain. Poor Drake. He seldom emits a plume of smoke and setting fire to houses is something he does not want to do at all.
Next morning though he does as he’s ordered and finds himself a likely target. Just as he’s stoking himself up to commence his flame throwing, out rushes a little boy who offers a larger alternative, the village school.
Here however, as he’s about to disgorge his destructive breath, the teacher and pupils disarm him completely with their appreciation …

and Drake finds himself heading for a third target. Yet again though, he is diverted.

What is his father going to say when Drake returns home and reports on his activities?
Needless to say, he’s more a than a little displeased; so it’s just as well that young Drake has, in the course of his travels, ‘learned a lot from the humans about being smart.’
Thereafter, we leave both father and son satisfied in the knowledge that there is, after all, more than one way to be a respected dragon.

Lacroix debut picture book text, although longish, is mostly in dialogue and has a droll humour that, with its themes of divergence and tolerance, will give it a wide age range appeal.
Badel’s watercolour and ink illustrations show Drake’s appearance in the village striking fear and consternation among the adult population but only excitement and adulation in the children he encounters. Perusal of the pictures also reveals an intriguing bit part player in the form of Drake’s pet bird which accompanies him on his adventure, appearing in both the large coloured scenes and the line drawn vignettes that punctuate the text.

Sir Scaly Pants: The Dragon Thief
John Kelly
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Sir Scaly Pants, the one and only Dragon Knight returns for his second adventure.
It all begins when a fire-breathing dragon kidnaps the King right from his saddle while he and the Queen are enjoying a paddle in the river. The Queen is distraught and of course, Sir Scaly Pants, furious at the behaviour of a fellow dragon, resolves to do his bounden duty and rescue his Highness from the kidnapper’s clutches.
He leaps on his trusty steed, Guinevere, and gallops off eventually discovering the King’s whereabouts in a dark tower.

A tower guarded by the fearsome king-napper demanding gold in return for releasing his captive.
It certainly seems as though Sir Scaly has bitten off more than he can chew when he charges right at the open jaws of his adversary.

However, thanks to Gwinny, not to mention his own fireproof shield, Sir Scaly finally releases the King, removes his helmet and gives the king-napper the surprise of his life. It turns out that he’s not so wicked as Sir Scaly first thought: let a new friendship commence …

Striking, melodramatic illustrations with eloquently humorous expressions on the characters’ faces and in their body language, should ensure that this rhyming tale is set fair to captivate young audiences and win Sir Scaly more fans than just Flame.

Friends Return: Oskar and Mo / Alfie in the Woods / Elmer and the Tune

Oskar and Mo
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel
In his first book Oskar the raven loved a whole lot of things; now he’s back with more love. This time it’s directed at his best friend Mo and we discover what the two of them love to do together. After all, unless you’re a solitary individual most things are better if you have a friend to share them with.
They share a favourite place where they go to share secrets. A shared love of stories means that Mo loves Oscar to read to her – good on you Oskar;

they love playing together, whether it’s block building or hide and seek but like all friends they do have the occasional tiff. But it never lasts long because they’re there for each other whatever the weather, night or day, happy or sad, be they close by or far away.
Full of heart, this is a winningly simple portrayal of friendship and a great starting point for discussion with pre-schoolers.

Alfie in the Woods
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Little rabbit, Alfie returns for his third story and he’s out walking in the woods with his dad. It’s autumn and the young rabbit is collecting seasonal treasures.
He spies his friends and together they play hide-and-seek among the trees.
The mischievous little creature then starts using the available autumnal litter to transform himself into various other forest creatures: he becomes an owl gliding from tree to tree; a busy, buzzy bee, a hedgehog,

a dozy bear and even a tree.
All this imaginary play is pretty tiring though, so it’s a sleeping Alfie who is carried safely home by his dad after his crazy adventure.
Alfie has become a firm favourite with pre-schoolers and his latest story, with Debi Gliori’s captivating illustrations, is bound to be another winner.

Elmer and the Tune
David McKee
Andersen Press
How annoying it is when you get a tune stuck in your mind and the words just keep on going around and around no matter what you do. That’s almost what happens to Elmer when he’s out walking with his friend, Rose one day. First the tune gets stuck in her head and then Elmer too catches it and can’t stop humming the wretched thing.
So infectious is it that pretty soon all the jungle animals are humming that self same tune of Rose’s over and over. What are they to do?
Time to call upon Elmer. Can he come up with a solution to their problem?

Seemingly he can and it works for all his friends; but what about Elmer?
This is David McKee’s 24th Elmer story and his escapades continue to win him new fans as well as pleasing established ones; the latter, like elephants, never forget.

It’s Time For School

               Here’s a handful of picture books, each with a school setting, albeit a somewhat unlikely one in the first three.

First Day at Skeleton School
Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Following on from First Day at Bug School, Sam Lloyd moves deep into the dark forest for her new school-based offering. (Some of my listeners recognised the illustrative style having spotted it on my table and eagerly pounced on the book demanding an immediate reading.)
Skeleton School doesn’t restrict its intake to skeletons though; all manner of creepy pupils are to be found here in this night-time educational establishment run by one, Mr Bones who stands ready and waiting to welcome newcomers (and readers).
I’m happy to see that there’s a school library, albeit a haunted one; but at least one of the pupils needs to learn some appropriate behaviour – maybe she just hasn’t learned to read yet.
The curriculum includes a jingle jangle dance class with the skeletons, how to float through walls, ghost style and spell making, which has some surprising outcomes, not least for Mr Bones.

Sam Lloyd gives full rein to her imagination and in addition to the zany storyline delivered in her rhyming text, provides a visual extravaganza for young listeners to explore and chuckle over.
The endpapers cutaway spread of the school interior will definitely illicit lots of giggles not least over the toilet humour.


More crazy happenings in:

School for Little Monsters
Michelle Robinson and Sarah Horne
Scholastic
Side by side stand two schools, one for monsters, the other for ‘nice boys and girls’. The question is which one is which? And if it’s your first day, how do you know you’re in the right school, especially when some little monsters have been up to a spot of mischief making?
No matter which door you enter, there are some rules to abide by – fourteen in all;

and the whole day is assuredly, a steep learning curve for both human and monster newcomers; and has more than a sprinkling of the kind of gently subversive humour (bums, poo, trumps and bottoms) that young children relish.
Riotous scenes from Sarah Horne showing the pupils’ interpretations of Michelle Robinson’s rhyming rules in this read aloud romp.

Old friends return in:

Cat Learns to Listen at Moonlight School
Simon Puttock and Ali Pye
Nosy Crow
Cat, Bat, Owl and Mouse are not newcomers to Miss Moon’s Moonlight School; they already know about the importance of sharing; but listening? Certainly Cat still has a lot to learn where this vital skill is concerned.
On this particular night Miss Moon is taking her class on a nature walk to look for ‘interesting things’. She issues instructions for the pupils to walk in twos and to stay together. “Nobody must wander off,” she warns.
Before long, it becomes apparent that Cat has done just that. She’s spied a firefly and follows it until it settles far from the others, on a flower.

Suddenly though her delight gives way to panic: where are her classmates and teacher?
All ends happily with Cat’s friends using their observation skills until they’ve tracked her down; and the importance of listening having been impressed upon Cat once again, they return to school with their findings.
Ali Pye’s digital illustrations are full of shadows brightened by the moon and stars and Miss Moon’s lantern, illuminating for listeners and readers, the delightful details of the natural world on every spread.
Puttock and Pye seem to have a winning formula here: my young listeners immediately recognised the characters and responded enthusiastically to the sweet story.

Now back to reality:

Going to School
Rose Blake
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The pupil here is a girl, Rose, who shares with readers a very busy day spent with friends in their primary school class. There’s certainly a lot to pack in for our narrator, her classmates and their teacher, Miss Balmer: geography, art, English, maths, PE, science, computing and drama.
Fortunately though, it appears to be an active curriculum …

and Miss Balmer reads a story to the children in the “Book Nook’. Hurray!
Seemingly all of the children have firm ideas about their future paths and what they want to become. This is reflected in their choice of activities at work and play: visual clues as to what these are occur throughout the book.
Rose Blakes’s digitally worked spreads are full of visual narratives offering much to interest and discuss, and though this certainly isn’t a first ever day at school book, she certainly makes school look an exciting place to be.

I’ve signed the charter  

Playful Pets: Buster and the Baby / Big Box Little Box

Buster and the Baby
Amy Hest and Polly Dunbar
Walker Books
A very boisterous toddler and a lively little dog star in this rumbustious romp of a picture book.
The dog’s called Buster and the infant – a female – is just called baby. Both are charmers and live with baby’s parents in a little red house.
There’s nothing Buster enjoys more than a game of hide-and-seek with the infant,

a pretty hazardous activity when it comes to finding suitable hiding places, from baby’s parents viewpoint, that is.
As for Buster, his heart goes THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! as he waits and watches for baby to come …

CHAAA! out of the shadows like a small thunderbolt right at him with joyful exuberance.
The two of them cavort through the house and garden, and the book, all day until finally, it’s baby’s bedtime. Now it’s her turn to hide and wait …

Engaging textual repetition and exuberant, warm-hearted illustrations make this a lovely one to share with toddlers at any time of day.
A delight through and through.

Big Box Little Box
Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Experience has shown me that young children love to play in and with boxes but cats? Seemingly they too enjoy boxes; though I suppose I should have known, thanks to Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd’s My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.
Certainly it’s the case in this book wherein the moggy character is a real box aficionado exploring the plethora of boxes to be found in his home, be they large, small, fat, thin, flat even. And they come in so many different colours …

and with attractive designs.
Taking things almost literally results in some interesting uses where this feline is concerned …

Now though he’s found a box that something has been having a nibble at; I wonder what that might be.
‘Cat peeks.’ Something squeaks …
Could this be the start of a beautiful new (although rather unlikely) friendship? …

Caryl Hart’s minimal text provides designer Edward Underwood a playful scenario with which to co-create his debut picture book. He does so with panache.

I’ve signed the charter  

Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman
Tom Percival
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Norman begins life as a normal boy but then something unimaginable happens: he suddenly finds himself with wings.
Wowee! What fun he has soaring and swooping with the birds all day until dinner is called.

Now a lad with extraordinary wings is going to look more than a tad strange sitting at the table with his very ordinary family, so Norman decides a cover-up is necessary. It works as a wing concealer but nonetheless his parents are a trifle bemused when their son wears his parka at dinnertime.

Further challenges come at bath time, and at bedtime he’s positively roasting.
The great cover-up continues; but nothing is fun when you’re wrapped up and hiding your greatest asset. Normal Norman feels normal no more, other than on rainy days, that is.
Things come to a head when another boy attempts to remove his security cover leaving Norman to ponder on what it is that’s making him feel so bad.
Light bulb moment!
Time for a revelation and …

freedom.
Tom Percival documents Norman’s mundane, wing-covered existence, in black and white and shades of grey with only minimal colour, whilst his extraordinary gift is spotlighted in full colour – a nifty device which heightens the impact of the whole thing.
An elevating tale of finding the courage to be true to yourself no matter what.

I’ve signed the charter  

There Is No Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story
Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

There’s nothing better than a good dragon story, but what about one whose narrator insists it doesn’t have one when it’s patently obvious it does. The would-be (anti) hero of this particular story is fed up with the dragon stereotype: cave dwelling, fire breathing, princess devouring monster waiting to be vanquished by a brave knight. He yearns to be a real hero and has plenty of ideas of how he could help out in fairy tales for instance: save the Gingerbread Man from the fox or the Three Little Pigs from the big bad wolf, Goldilocks might appreciate a helping paw, or Hansel and Gretel directions. His approaches though are met with the same response, “There is NO DRAGON in this story.
Red Riding Hood …

and Jack are similarly dismissive: not so the giant atop the beanstalk though …

and this leads to unexpected consequences …

and a total blackout in fairy tale land.
Can Dragon have accidentally stumbled into the opportunity he’s been waiting for? Could our hero in waiting rescue the situation despite his crisis of confidence?
Lou Carter’s tongue-in-cheek metafictive romp has much to tickle the fancy of listeners who will delight in the craziness of the storyline, empathise with the anti-hero, and enjoy encountering some of their favourite nursery characters, especially when they’re misbehaving in Deborah Allwright’s hilarious spreads of giant-induced darkness. In fact every spread is worth lingering over, not least for the antics of that dragon, a captivating creature.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Big Bad Mood / Everyone …

The Big Bad Mood
Tom Jamieson and Olga Demidova
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Beware the Big Bad Mood; he’s always lurking somewhere around on the off-chance that you’ll be having one of those days when everything in the world seems to be conspiring to ruffle your feathers and make you feel thoroughly bad tempered. It’s such a day for young George – total tantrums are the order of his day. “There’s a big bad mood hanging around you today” says his mum.
George isn’t convinced: he can’t see the thing anywhere, which only makes him feel …

Then, seemingly out of nowhere there appears right before him a large blobby being announcing itself as “the Big Bad Mood”. His sole purpose, he informs George is to make everyone just like him – big, bad and moody; and he wants the boy’s help.
Off they go on their mischief-making mission and before long rather a lot of people are in big bad moods, including a fair number of George’s friends.
All this behaviour is pretty exhausting though, and after a while, George at least is starting to think constant big bad moodiness is not his thing; it’s silly, noisy, and upsetting for his friends.

Consequently, he bids farewell to his erstwhile companion who stomps off to find another partner in crime. And George? Maybe you can imagine what he did thereafter; let’s just say that he does apologise to all concerned; and he’s changed – somewhat!
A cleverly constructed, fun story to share and open up discussions about bad moods and anger-related feelings. Olga Demidova’s scenes of domestic moodiness, and the mayhem George causes out and about, will bring on giggles aplenty.

Everyone
Christopher Silas Neal
Walker Books
Emotions are at the heart of Christopher Silas Neal’s debut as author/illustrator. I’m familiar with his wonderful artwork in Over and Under the Pond and this is somewhat sparer, or rather, for this feelings-centred book, the artist has chosen to use a restricted colour palette.
Herein, by means of a small boy character he explores the power of human emotions, demonstrating that they are perfectly normal. All of us experience them: all of us need to accept them for their universality. Neal’s focus is on the way in which as humans, our emotions are drawn into a relationship with the natural world – the birds, the sky, flowers.

His prose is simple, yet lyrical; his voice authentic sounding. “Sometimes, you just need to cry, and that’s OK,” he says as the boy’s tears become birds flying into the grey sky.

With Personal, Social and Emotional Development being one of the prime areas in the EYFS, books such as this one are just right for encouraging young children to talk about how they and others show their feelings.

I’ve signed the charter  

Cinnamon

Cinnamon
Neil Gaiman and Divya Srinivasan
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Prepare to be transported to another time and a faraway place in this beautiful picture book fable.
Cinnamon is a princess with pearls for eyes, which make her very beautiful, but also, blind. ‘Her world was the colour of pearls: pale white and pink, and softly glowing.’ For some reason, Cinnamon does not speak. Her parents, the Rajah and Rani offer magnificent rewards for anyone who is able to get their daughter to talk. Many come and many go but none succeeds until a talking tiger appears – ‘huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god through the world, which is how tigers move.
Despite their initial reluctance, Cinnamon’s parents give him leave to remain with their daughter, alone. One by one, the magnificent beast awakens in the princess, the emotions of pain (with his claw),

fear (with his roar), and love (with his tongue).
He also talks to the girl about the riches of the world he inhabits with its chattering monkeys, ‘the smell of the dawn and the taste of the moonlight and the noise a lakeful of flamingos makes when it takes to the air’.
All of this can be hers too, but only if she uses words to describe it; and describe it she does.

And thus she sets herself free.
With touches of surrealism, humour and occasional frissons of fear, Gaiman’s tale wields its power in a ‘just-so’ manner leaving Divya Srinivasan plenty of space to fill her matt spreads with rich details of the tropical flora and fauna, and the Mogul palace and its inhabitants.
First written over ten years ago but only available in audio form or from the author’s website, it’s wonderful to see this magical tale now available in book form. Yes, it is a tale of ‘a long time ago’ but some of Srinivasan’s scenes took me to the ancient palaces of a Rajasthan that still exists in parts to this day.

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The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Wishker
Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rockabye Pirate / The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit

Rockabye Pirate
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Don’t expect loud shouts of ‘Avast me ‘arties’ and similar in this pirate tale; far from it, for Knapman’s text is a lilting, under the covers-luring, lullaby for mummy pirates or daddies for that matter, to share with their pirate offspring at bedtime.
Yes, it’s full of freebooters, the likes of Black Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail and Freddy the Fright, but they’re not doing the wicked deeds upon the seas, rather they’re performing their ablutions

albeit with some maternal assistance in preparation for the most important part of their daily ritual …

After all, their day has been packed with mischief and mayhem, so now it’s time for some tucked-up-cosily-under-the-duvet dreams. I wonder what those might feature …

Ada Grey’s piratical characters, far from alarming, are portrayed as an endearing bunch of marauders as befits the inhabitants of a gentle bedtime story. Having said ‘bedtime’, this fun picture book could equally be shared with an early years group especially if they’re engaged in a pirate theme.

The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit
Peter Bently and Gerry Parsons
Hodder Children’s Books
The Tooth Fairy returns for another adventure, this time responding to a missive from Her Majesty the Queen informing of the loss of her great grandson’s first tooth. Come nightfall, the little fairy is palace bound but has a few obstacles in her path

before she finds a way in.
Once inside there are still further hazards – corgis, a cloth-wielding maid and some undies …

Finding the little prince’s bedroom is none too easy and the Tooth Fairy finds herself assisting in another ‘toothy’ search before receiving assistance for her troubles.

Will she ever make that all-important coin/tooth exchange and get home for some shut-eye?
Bently’s rhyming text is full of read-aloud fun with some unexpected encounters and, some expected ones: the corgis seem to find their way into every Royals’ picture book as do members of the Queen’s Guard. Garry Parsons’ exuberant illustrations provide gigglesome details at every turn of the page. All in all, a right royal chuckle.

I’ve signed the charter  

Just Like Me! & A Handful of Playful Board Books

Just Like Me!
Joshua Seigal and Amélie Falière
Flying Eye Books
A joyful spin off from the favourite nursery game ‘Everybody Do This’ populated by adorably playful animals, a hairy, sluggy-looking quadruped, and one small girl, that simply cries out to be joined in with. There are instructions to ‘suck your thumbs’; ‘rub your tums’; ‘lick your lips’;

‘shake your hips’, ‘spin around’; ‘touch the ground’

and ‘stretch up high’.
I’m pretty sure your ‘littles’ still have plenty of oomph left to enjoy flapping their arms and trying to fly, tapping their toes, nose picking – not much energy required for that but the instruction will be greeted with relish; and then comes a final leap before snuggling down for a little nap zzzz …
If this book doesn’t fill your nursery group with exhilaration, then nothing will.
Perfect for letting off steam; but equally so for beginning readers.

Peek-a-Boo What?
Elliot Kreloff
Sterling Children’s Books
This title from the ‘Begin Smart’ series is just right for a game of peek-a-boo with a baby. Its rhyming text, bold, bright collage style, patterned artwork and die-cut peep holes, introduce in a playful manner some animals, a chain of rhyming words – boo, two, blue, shoe, moo, zoo and who’. Irresistible delight; and there’s even a ‘Dear Parents’ introduction explaining the rationale behind the game/book’s design.

What Do You Wear?
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
Taro Gomi takes a playful look at the outermost layer of various animals including penguin’s classic suit, snake’s snug stocking – striped in this instance, and goldfish’s patterned ‘skirt’ …

Although perhaps the metaphors will go over the heads of toddlers, they will delight in the sheer silliness of animals supposedly wearing clothes; and sight of the small boy in his nuddies. Slightly older, beginning reader siblings can enjoy sharing the book with their younger brothers or sisters too and share in the whole joke.

Welcome to Pat-a-Cake Books, a new Hachette Children’s Group imprint focusing on the years from babyhood to preschool. Here are two of its first titles, both board books:

On the Move
illustrated by Mojca Dolinar
This is one of the ‘First Baby Days’ series and aims to stimulate a baby’s vision ‘with pull-tabs to help … focus’. With a carefully chosen, high contrast, colour palette, a sequence of animals – using different modes of transport – cars, a train, a space rocket, an air balloon, and a boat is illustrated. Every spread is beautifully patterned; the illustrations stand out clearly; there are transport sounds to encourage baby participation and of course, the sturdy pull-outs to enjoy.

Colours
illustrated by Villie Karabatzia
This title introduces the ‘Toddler’s World’ Talkative Toddler series with colour spreads for red, blue, orange, yellow, green, pink, brown, purple, grey, black and white; and then finally comes a multi-coloured fold-out spread with an invitation to name all the colours thereon. Each colour spread has at least nine labelled items and patterned side borders.
Each book is sturdily constructed to stand up to the enthusiastic handling it’s likely to get.

Bedtime with Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is one of a pair of enchanting, lift-the-flap board books from the amazing Sophy Henn. Herein the utterly adorable toddler fends off shouts of “Bedtime, Ted!” with a chain of wonderful deferral tactics: sploshing in the bath with flappy penguins; brushing “teeth with a snappy crocodile”; slurping milk with a big, stripy tiger; jumping “out the fidgets like a bouncy kangaroo”. Then it seems, young Ted is finally ready to bed down – along with a few snuggly pals of course.
Perfect bedtime sharing; make sure your toddler is already in bed first though …
Ted himself is a tiny tour-de-force.
The companion book is:
Playtime with Ted
Herein the little lad uses a cardboard box for all kinds of creative uses: racing car, digger, submarine, train; and space rocket bound for the moon – whoosh! And after all this imaginative play, he’ll make sure he’s back in time for his tea. Play is hard, appetite-stimulating work after all. Two must haves for your toddler’s collection.

I’ve signed the charter 

Gecko’s Echo / Monster Baby

Gecko’s Echo
Lucy Rowland and Natasha Rimmington
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The lengths a soon-to-be mother goes to in order to protect her eggs is hilariously demonstrated in this delicious rhyming tale by debut author, Lucy Rowland. Meet brave Mummy Gecko who stands up to the threats of Snakey,

and Eagle (later in the day) with warnings about “a hundred angry geckos”.
Come the evening, a very nasty-looking, ravenous rat appears, also with designs on the eggs; he though is less easily convinced. His response to Gecko’s, “If you’re staying I can show you … I hope you’re feeling brave.

is met with a spot of lip licking and “Why, yes I’m staying Gecko, / and I’m having eggs for tea./ A hundred geckos living here?!/ I don’t believe it’s true. … /I’m quite sure it’s only you.
Whereupon the wily Mrs G. lets forth an enormous “RAAAAH!” and back come those hundred voices …
Guess who beats a rather hasty retreat, leaving one echoing gecko to have the last laugh. The last laugh maybe, but not the peaceful evening she’d anticipated for, with a wibble and a wobble, what should appear but …

A real winner of a book with plenty of opportunities for audience participation, laughs galore and superbly expressive illustrations by Natasha Rimmington. Her wily animal characters are absolutely wonderful.

Monster Baby
Sarah Dyer
Otter-Barry Books
A topic that has been the theme of numerous picture books already is given a cute narrator herein.
Little Monster is none too thrilled at the prospect of an even littler monster; neither is Scamp, the family pet. Even before the newcomer arrives though, it’s presence is being felt: rest and healthy food are on the agenda and not only for Mum. The expectant monster needs a great deal of rest, which may account in part for her increase in girth, and certainly gets in the way of carrying the young narrator. He’s far from impressed with the scan either:

a wiggly worm is how it appears to Little Monster, but probably because Mum has several months to go yet: even so it’s capable of hearing apparently.
When the big day finally comes around, Granny comes to stay and Dad takes Mum Monster to hospital; the baby is duly delivered and Little Monster becomes a ‘BIG’ one according to his dad.
Having Mum and baby back home gives rise to mixed feelings on the narrator’s part: it’s great to have Mum around; but that noise-making babe is going to take a fair bit of getting used to. The inevitable feelings of being left out soon give way to accommodation and thereafter, the beginnings of a bond of brotherly love starts to form …

Sarah Dyer’s Little Monster is adorable: his account of the weeks leading up to, and just after, the arrival of his new sibling will be enjoyed not only by those in a similar situation, but also general early years audiences, whether this is shared at home or pre-school.

I’ve signed the charter  

I’m Going To Eat This Ant

I’m Going To Eat This Ant
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I did see many years ago, several kinds of insects – albeit cooked, chocolate covered and dried, being offered for sale in a Hong Kong market; but ants? Surely they wouldn’t be worth the effort: unless of course, you happen to be, like the narrator here, an extremely hungry anteater. This character is, in fact, fed up with the whole ‘licking, wriggling, tickling, stinging, biting’ little insects but his hunger appears to have got the better of him. That leaves him just one choice and that is to contemplate the most palatable way of consuming one particular little black wriggler: might it be thus,

or sucked up a straw perhaps; what about mint sauce smothered, splatted with a spatula or swallowed from a spoon full of simmering soup. (love all the sibilant alliteration) Not to your taste? There are less soggy sounding alternatives such as …

even seared, steak-like, speared on a stick or squished in a sausage -DISGUSTING!
I could go on but my stomach is already heaving, so let’s skip the sweet possibilities and move on to find what our anteater chooses …
Oopsie! Looks as though the pesky minibeast has done a runner.

What now? … Our poor narrator is quite simply salivating …
The conclusion is priceless but I’m no story spoiler so lets leave the creature there contemplating.
A total hoot of a book that’s definitely going to get the taste buds of listeners tingling from the outset and their stomachs sated by the final scene. Greatly gratifying, gigglesome graphics grace every page; and there’s a tiny pinch of Klasson in the whole droll dish. Try it and see, you’ll love the insouciance.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Farm Visit, An Egg Hunt Activity Book & Masha and her Sisters

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Look and Say What You See in the Farm
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
Published in partnership with the National Trust, this book with its thick pages presents us with thirteen farm scenes going right through the year from early spring when there’s an abundance of lambs in the fields, little chicks have been born and there are calves needing their share of milk …

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Back outside at the pond, ducklings and goslings are learning to swim and tadpoles wiggle and waggle their tails. In summer, there is an abundance of insects, wild animals and wild flowers; their presence enriches the farm and some weeks later, it is time for the collecting of yummy vegetables .

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Autumn brings the wheat harvest, pumpkins aplenty and in the orchard, the apples are ripe and ready for picking, so too the pears.. Mmm!
Winter sees the animals snuggling in the warm barn with the door firmly shut against the cold.
Every spread has a strip along the bottom asking readers, ‘What can you see … ? with nine items to search for in the large scene above. Perfect for developing visual literacy, for encouraging storying; and, it’s lots of fun.
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We’re going on an Egg Hunt Activity Book
illustrated by Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The bunnies from last year’s We’re Going on an Egg Hunt picture book return inviting youngsters to participate in a variety of activities including matching shadows to images, egg decorating, spot the difference, a word search and much more. The centre spread has beautiful stickers with which to adorn the pages as instructed – or otherwise if you’re divergent. I suspect some children won’t want to cut out the triangular shapes to make the bunting, especially as there’s a game of hide and seek with the bunnies and a follow the path game on the reverse sides; if so, I’d suggest copying the spread or drawing your own triangles to decorate. These are just some of the games in this attractive book, made all the more delightful by Laura Hughes’ cute bunnies. Just right for Easter.

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Masha and Her Sisters
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books
This is a retro delight: a maryoshka doll-shaped board book that, once the cover is lifted, opens downwards to reveal, one by one, five dolls, the first being the smallest. Flip that page down and a slightly larger sister is revealed and so on. First we meet Natasha, the storyteller, then nature lover, Galya; Olya is the chef, Larisa, the performer and finally, Masha who is the collector. The body of each is decorated – front and back – with objects related to their special interest. Thus for instance, Galya has fauna, trees and a tent;

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Olya the chef has herbs, mixing bowls and kitchen tools. Innovative, charming and near enough egg-shaped to make an Easter treat for a small child.

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For Your Fiction Shelf

The Cherry Pie Princess
Vivian French (illustrated by Marta Kissi)
Walker Books
Vivian French is a cracking storyteller. Oliver’s Fruit Salad and Oliver’s Vegetables have been perennial favourites with many, many infant classes I’ve taught; ditto Yucky Worms. Here though she is writing for a slightly older audience and immediately I was drawn into her story – partly because when it begins, the setting is a library. Grating Public Library to be more precise, and the staff (Miss Denzil at least) are eagerly anticipating a visit from seven princesses. Much more circumspect though is the chief librarian, a rather crusty old dwarf by the name of Lionel Longbeard.

When the party duly arrives, it turns out that only one princess has any interest in books and she is Princess Peony. The book she takes, or rather later, sends a pageboy for, is A Thousand Simple Recipes for Pies, Puddings and Pastries and, she holds on to it for a very long time. The king though, has the librarian arrested for breaking the rules, on account of his kindness in speaking to the princess, and locked up in his dungeons. The princess meanwhile, takes to baking until her overbearing father puts a stop to it.
Years pass, a new royal baby is born …

and a christening party duly announced and invitations sent out – with one notable omission.
Now that sounds like there could be trouble on the horizon. What happens thereafter involves a whole lot of rule breaking, a rescue and a host of exciting twists and turns, The story moves along at a fast pace and is made all the more enjoyable by Marta Kissi’s pen and ink illustrations, which are liberally scattered throughout the book adding to the slightly zany tone of the whole thing.

Spy Toys
Mark Powers (illustrated by Tim Wesson)
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Imagine a totally weird bunch of superheroes and you’d probably never quite come up with such an unlikely crew as those in Mark Powers’ book. So let’s meet Snugaliffic Cuddlestar teddy bear, Dan, made by accident 1000 times stronger than was intended;

rag doll, Arabella, a far-from friendly character; a soldier with an eyesight issue (which can sometimes be a hinderance) … and a foot where his head ought to be; and Flax the rabbit, a policebot on the run and more.
All have computerised brains and are recruited by the Department of Secret Affairs for a mission to protect the prime minister’s son from one Rusty Flumptrunk – a half-human, half-elephant breakfast cereal promotion gone wrong. What follows is a cracking, crazy, fast-moving, action-packed yarn full of slapstick and witticisms: lots of fun and made all the more so by Tim Wesson’s zany illustrations.

Louie in a Spin
Rachel Hamilton (illustrated by Oscar Armelles)
Oxford University Press
Louie is enjoying life in New York at the School for Performing Arts and is determined to remain upbeat despite the efforts of Arnie and grumpy dance teacher, Madame Swirler. Here though, it looks as if he might be losing the battle: in error, he’s been signed up to represent his dance school in the ballet category at a national dance competition. With the school’s reputation at stake, can Louie, with an enormous amount of self-belief to make up for what he lacks in skill, save the day?
It’s all beautifully funny and one cannot but admire Louie’s inexhaustible supply of inner strength and positivism. Long live Louie who is made all the more adorable through Oscar Armelles funky line drawings

Nelly and the Flight of the Sky Lantern
Roland Chambers (illustrated by Ella Okstad)
Oxford University Press
If you’ve enjoyed Pippi Longstocking – or even if you haven’t, you really should meet Nelly Peabody in her second splendid story. Here, on returning from her first adventure, Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody, the fearless explorer discovers that her mother has mysteriously vanished and nothing will stop the young redhead from tracking her down. This entails a flight in a laundry basket, high above the clouds, not to mention a deep-sea dive courtesy of a tin can contraption. As ever, of course she’s accompanied by her best friend, Columbus the turtle.
It’s quirky, full of deliciously off-beat characters and most important, superbly written, with wonderful illustrations by Ella Okstad in black and white with touches of red.

I’ve signed 

Poetry Parade

Silver
Walter de la Mare and Carolina Rabei
Faber & Faber
Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
‘ …
It’s lovely to see Carolina Rabei’s enchanting visual interpretation of a de la Mare poem that was a childhood favourite of mine. I still have all the words in my head and often used to visualise a moon wandering silently in those ‘silver shoon’.

The illustrator imbues the whole thing with dreamy magic as she portrays the moon as feline, tiptoeing among the silver fruited tree branches, and then across the ground pursued by two small children and a host of faery folk, past the log-like sleeping dog …

and watched by all manner of nocturnal creatures that all gather in a clearing …

before some of them take a small boat and glide across the water while ‘moveless fish in the water gleam’ and the two children fall fast asleep. AAAHHH! Gorgeous.

Little Lemur Laughing
Joshua Seigal
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I’m always excited to discover new poets and was delighted to receive a collection from rising star, Joshua Seigal. Playful is the name of the game where these poems are concerned: they cover all manner of topics from food (for instance Johnny and The MANGO wherein a boy retires to a warm tub to consume his favourite tea) to Fireworks; Seagulls to Stickers and Conkers to Colours and Chat. Alliteration abounds – indeed there is a page at the back of the book in which Seigal talks about his use of this in the title poem; there’s a generous sprinkling of concrete poems –

and some, such as Turvy & Topsy are completely bonkers, but went down well with my listeners.
In fact there isn’t a single one that isn’t lots of fun to read aloud to younger primary children. I’d certainly recommend adding this to a KS1 or early years teacher’s collection and buy it for any youngster whom you want to turn on to poetry.

The Fire Horse
Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam & Daniil Kharms
The New York Review Children’s Collection
This contains three longish poems, one from each of the authors, all being translated by Eugene Ostashevsky and each having a different illustrator. The title poem has wonderful art by Lydia Popova; Mandelastam’s Two Trams artist, Boris Ender, used a limited (almost exclusively, black, grey and red) colour palette for his superbly stylish portrayal of the two tramcars. The final work, Play portrays verbally and visually three boys absorbed in their imaginary play worlds, the illustrations being done by Vladimir Konashevich.
For me, the book’s illustrations make it worthwhile, showing as they do, Soviet book illustrations from almost a century ago.
For book collectors/art connoisseurs rather than general readers, I’d suggest.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Butterfly Dance

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The Butterfly Dance
Suzanne Barton
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The butterflies weren’t the only ones dancing: I joined them as I opened the parcel containing this alluring book. My dance though, fell far short of the dazzling show of the exquisitely patterned, winged creatures herein. It’s good to see Susanne Barton adding a book starring ‘flyers’ different from those in The Dawn Chorus and Robin’s Winter Song to her repertoire.
Two caterpillars, Dotty and Stripe share everything. Then Stripe pupates leaving Dotty feeling lonely, but soon she too makes a cosy bed and falls asleep. Dotty is first to emerge and cannot wait to show her wonderful wings to Stripe. He however, is already flying towards her, resplendent with his outstretched wings.
Then begins a dazzling gliding, looping, soaring, whirling, fluttering and chasing dance, which is interrupted by an untimely rain shower. Taking cover, the butterflies encounter a bee that tells them of a meadow full of flowers, and sends them on their way. Their route takes them through the woods where dragonflies dip and dart around a puddle

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and there they learn of other butterflies the colour of Stripe. Further on though, Dotty discovers that there are also butterflies of her own blue colour and the two wonder if they should be playing with those that look like they do.
The best friends have a dilemma: should they seek their fellow look-alikes or stay together? They decide to part: Stripe plays with red butterflies, Dotty with blue. They miss each other. Can they remain friends but stay true to themselves at the same time? And, equally important, can they find one another again?

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Inherent in this enchanting rendition are themes of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, friendship, reaching out to others, similarities and differences, and change. Every spread, be it a single scene stretching across the whole double page, one page, or a sequence of small vignettes,

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is made visually captivating by Suzanne Barton’s kaleidoscopically coloured, signature mixed media, collage style art.

Let’s Go to Nursery! / Will You Be My Friend?

Let’s Go to Nursery!
Caryl Hart and Lauren Tobia
Walker Books
We join Bee and Billy (and their mums) at the door of a nursery. The session is already in full swing with all kinds of exciting activities taking place. The children give their mums a farewell hug and Bee eagerly begins to join in. Billy however, is more reluctant and a tad clingy. He soon gets drawn in though, thanks to a ‘message’ full of kindness …

Happy noisy play ensues until there’s a dispute over ownership of a large toy; but Billy, surely a fast learner, comes to the rescue and all is well once more.
There’s so much fun to be had, so many things to share and so much playful learning – just how it should be.

All too soon though, it’s time to help tidy up; the mums are back and it’s farewell until tomorrow: a happy, exhausting day spent and the prospect of many more to come.
Caryl Hart and Lauren Tobia paint a lively portrait of nursery life without the intrusion of the nursery staff: they, one hopes, are observing and sometimes, gently encouraging and perhaps guiding, unobtrusively from the side-lines.
The first of the First Experiences series for ‘a new generation of little readers’ the publishers say. Perhaps ‘little listeners’ would be more accurate, but no matter which, its intended young audience will find plenty to enjoy; it’s as well that the book is sturdily made with wipe-clean pages as I foresee a lot of enthusiastic handling.

Will You Be My Friend?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is a title from Bloomsbury’s Featherstone imprint and has something of an educational slant: There’s plenty to think about and discuss; and the whole thing is invitingly illustrated with a sequence of vignettes. These are captioned and each spread opens with a question on an aspect of friendship: ‘What do you do when a friend upsets you?’ and ‘What do your friends think of you?’ for instance. Notes from a friendly puggish pup offer further food for thought at the bottom of each right hand page.

A final spread is aimed at parents, although I see this book being used in preschool and KS1 sessions on ‘What makes a good friend?’ too. It’s all very nicely and inclusively done though personally, I prefer emotional and social learning to be part and parcel of picture books’ stories rather than books specially created for the purpose.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Naughty Naughty Baddies

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The Naughty Naughty Baddies
Mark Sperring and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
One baddie’s bad enough but four ‘Naughty Naughty’ ones is something else, especially if it’s this particular quartet – a motley bunch if ever there was one.

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These NNBs especially enjoy creeping and they excel in same: sometimes, or rather, this time, their creeping leads to a big fat nothing: they simply can’t find a single naughty thing to do no matter how hard they try, or where they look.
So, ideas are discussed and Four’s plan is the favourite. It entails bouncing from their trampoline to their Badmobile and thence into a helicopter, then parachuting over a certain palace and there doing a spot of ‘spotnicking’ which will leave her royal highness’s pooch, er, spotless.
They have plans for putting to use their swag bag of spotty spoils too …

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Can those dastardly deed doers execute their mischief though; or might there be a chance that they’ll be spotted and apprehended in the act of thievery?

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If so, can they talk their way out of trouble and who will get the last chuckle? Um, that one’s easily answered: it’s anyone who is lucky enough to read or hear this wickedly funny book read aloud.
The combination of Sperring’s super-silly story that is brimming over with word-play, and Tazzyman’s terrific, rib-tickling visuals is a fabulous treat for all who encounter the outrageous shenanigans of the awesomely awful foursome. Bring it on baddies!

Henry and the Yeti

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Henry and the Yeti
Russell Ayto
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Imagine loving a yeti. A yeti? We don’t actually think they exist, do we? That’s not the case for the young Henry however: he’s an adoring fan of the creatures and is determined to undertake an expedition to find one. First though he needs permission from his headteacher, who, surprisingly, authorises his absence, asking only for some evidence on his return –should he find one, that is.
Thus, with bags duly packed with vital equipment, Henry sets off with his father’s “no staying up late” instruction ringing in his ears.
It’s a long way to his Himalayan destination, although finding the way over seas and rivers, through forests and up mountains is, let’s say exciting.
Finding yeti traces though, is challenging, and Henry begins to lose heart when what should appear but …

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It turns out that when it comes to size and friendliness, the yeti more than meets Henry’s expectations. Soon though, with evidence photos duly taken, and a quick game of hide and seek over,

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it’s time for Henry, trusty compass at the ready, to head home.
Now to produce that evidence; but where on earth is Henry’s camera?

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No camera, no evidence,” his father tells him: ditto his headteacher. Will the lad have to write the ten million lines for making things up that the latter orders; after all he really did see a yeti didn’t he? We know, his father knows but …
And, who gets the last laugh?
Henry’s self-belief is utterly awesome and entirely commendable; so too is this laugh out-loud creation from Russell Ayto. I’ve loved all his books, but this one surely tops the lot.

I Don’t Want Curly Hair / My Tail’s Not Tired

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I Don’t Want Curly Hair
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We all have bad hair days but the small curl girl narrator of this hair-raising story really has my sympathies. While I don’t have madly curly, well nigh uncontrollable hair like hers, mine does have a wave and try as I might, I can never get it to go straight in the right places. I certainly wouldn’t however, go to the lengths she does to get it super straight and smooth.No matter what though, that deliciously red mop does as it will.

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But then along comes somebody else; and things start to look altogether better: friendship and a spot of hair styling wins the day.

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The rhyme moves along apace rising to a glorious pinnacle in its final stages.
All that angst and anguish is wonderfully portrayed in appropriately fiery hues and all members of the supporting cast are a delight.

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My Tail’s Not Tired!
Jana Novotny Hunter and Paula Bowles
Child’s Play
Like most infants, Little Monster is reluctant to begin his bedtime routine. He’s far from tired: his knees still have plenty of bounce in them,

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his bottom has lots of wiggle-jiggles left, and even after a demonstration of same, his tail is still full of swing and his back ready for more roly polys. Any excuse is worth a try; but Big Monster knows all the tricks too: she counters each lively action with a gentle sleep-inducing one of her own.

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Will Little Monster ever run out of steam; and who is going to be the first to succumb to complete exhaustion?
Billed as a bedtime story, I suggest NOT reading it at bedtime, or at least, not until your own little monster is well and truly under the duvet, otherwise you could be in for a dose of action-packed delaying tactics – bouncing, dancing, acrobatics, roly-polying, roaring, jumping and jet plane-like zooming before that shut-eye stage finally sets in, just like the little charmer in this amusing, time-for-bed tale.
Perhaps it would be better to share it during the day when there’s plenty of time for being energetic, and, if you’re sharing it with an early years group, then it’s a splendid opportunity for some very active participation. Just ask the children to ‘SHOW ME!

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There’s Broccoli in my Ice Cream!

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There’s Broccoli in my Ice Cream!
Emily MacKenzie
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Now here’s a mouth-watering treat and a deliciously funny one, to tickle the taste buds of fussy eaters and foodies young and not so young, from author/illustrator, Emily MacKenzie.
Young dalmation, Granville’s loathing of all things green and crunchy, yellow and mushy and red and squashy hugely disappoints his family of greengrocers and gardeners. So much so that they’re determined to find a foolproof ploy to turn his predilection for puddings, pastry and ‘chocky wocky gooey things’ to a passion for parsnips and broccoli. A plan is hatched …

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Action stations … and it seems to be working.

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Granville however, has a plan of his own and it’s one that – ultimately – yields some surprising, and satisfying, results …
Emily Mackenzie’s characters are always of the delightfully wacky and decidedly distinctive kind. There was book burglar Ralfy Rabbit, Stanley, the amazing knitting cat and now in veggie-hating Granville, we have another who is equally appealing; his Grandpa Reggie is a delight too.

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Further servings are certain to be the order of the day after an initial sampling of this delectable offering. My audience certainly relished it.

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Festive Fun and Frolics

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Nuddy Ned’s Christmas
Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nuddy Ned likes nothing better than to dash around in the altogether and yes, he’s super excited it being Christmas Eve; but dashing outside into the snowy evening chill is nothing short of crackers. There’s no stopping the little fellow though; he’s on a mission to meet Santa and he’s perfectly prepared to charge down the street and around the town completely starkers, parents in hot pursuit, in order to do so. Only some strategically placed flaps and other judiciously positioned items including a bird, a glove …

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and a bauble preserve his modesty.
Does this madcap streak finally get Ned what he wants – that Santa encounter, you’ll probably be wondering. Yes he does and Santa’s none too impressed at Ned’s lack of clothing but in the end it seems like a question of beat’em or join’em: what will Santa do? That would be telling wouldn’t it!
Kes Gray’s cracking rhyming text combined with equally giggle-inducing illustrations from Garry Parsons makes for some delightfully silly festive fun.

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The Queen’s Present
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Imagine being able to call on Father Christmas himself for a spot of last minute emergency present buying, but that is exactly what the Queen does in her desire to find the perfect gift for her great grandchildren. Down he comes and off they go on a whistle stop flight with a whole host of hangers-on in the form of Santa’s little helpers who have much work to do in the way of festooning the various landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Himeji Castle, Sydney Opera House …

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and the Statue of Liberty over which they fly before finally landing in the North Pole. Even there though, Her Majesty is unable to find the perfect present. With Christmas Day almost upon them, there seems to be only one thing to do …

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This whole crazy romp is executed using an appropriately seasonal colour palette. It’s not my favourite Steve Antony but it’s full of things to make you smile; and those elves really do earn their keep as well as having a terrific time adorning all those iconic landmarks.

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Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
The excitement is palpable in Winnie and Wilbur’s house as they bake, write cards and festoon the place with decorations. Then it’s time for writing those all important letters to Santa …

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Christmas Eve comes at last and just as the pair drop off to sleep, they hear a cry for help: something has gone drastically wrong with Santa’s chimney descent. It’s fortunate that Winnie just happens to have her wand right there on the bedside table and with a quick wave and a magical utterance, she soon has their visitor back on his feet and they’re off on an amazing adventure.

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Full of seasonal magic and excitement, this is sure to delight, especially that final pop-out surprise …

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For the very youngest:

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
This song on which this chunky board book is based is probably one of the most frequently sung in primary schools and nurseries in the run up to Christmas.
Here we join a host of warmly clad, cute animal friends celebrating the seasonal joys together as they sleigh, skate, ski and deliver presents before gathering together in a warm cosy room to share some gifts.

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In addition to the moving parts, you can further add to toddlers’ enjoyment by scanning the QR code inside the front cover and getting an audio version to sing along with.

Are You Sure, Mother Bear / Goodnight World

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Are You Sure, Mother Bear?
Amy Hest and Lauren Tobia,
Walker Books
It’s the very first night of winter; snow has fallen all around and it’s time for Little Miss bear and her mother to start their long winter sleep. The young bear however, is not ready for sleep just yet; she’d far rather watch the snowflakes falling. The two snuggle up together, munch on toast and stare through the window and gaze at the snowy world beyond.

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Little Miss begins thinking of everything she’ll miss once she succumbs to sleep: the stars, the moon and the hills just right for rolling down. They’ll all be right there come spring, Mother Bear reassures her little one; but then she gives in. Out the two go for one last moonlit roll …

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before finally, no matter what, it’s time for bed and sleep at last because that’s what bears do in winter, seemingly even semi-domesticated ones.

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Full of feel-good warmth and reassurance, this is a lovely book to share with sleepy littles, who will enjoy both the snuggly indoor scenes and the beautiful outside woody, snowy landscapes.

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Goodnight World
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
With a gentle, lilting narrative and soft, soothing scenes of a world already to slip into sleep, this is a beautiful just-before-bed story for young children. As we bid ‘Goodnight’ to sun, moon and stars, ships upon oceans, rockets, cars and planes, the birds, bees and fishes,

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the flowers and grasses, the animals in the zoo and in the park – pretty much everything in fact, a little child curls into a parent’s arms and shares a favourite book before finally falling fast asleep.

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Gorgeous, dream-like images drift gently across every spread providing plenty of visual delight before gently lulling the listener to the land of slumbers too. Equally though, it’s great for joining in so I’d suggest a second reading and a third to allow for that, maybe on consecutive nights.

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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.

Little Owl’s Egg

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Little Owl’s Egg
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Baby Owl’s response to Mummy Owl’s announcement that the egg she’s just laid will become a new baby owl is anything but positive. “I’m your baby owl. You don’t need a new one,” he insists.
As they take a walk together wise Mummy Owl plays a ‘suppose that’ game with Little Owl, suggesting the egg might hatch into a worm,

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a penguin, a crocodile even; or could it perhaps be made of chocolate.

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Little Owl ponders all these possibilities rejecting each: he, although definitely not his  mother – is more in favour of a dragon egg.

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In fact though, it seems he’s becoming rather fond of the egg; something special must be inside he decides, something like a baby “Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl.” – something that will need a very strange diet.
On the other hand it might after all be better, if what emerged from that egg of theirs should turn out to be a brand new Little Owl, because that would make the present one something even more special – a new Big Owl and that could never change, no matter what.
Tenderly told, this gently humorous story goes to the heart of what many young children fear when a new sibling is on the horizon: that their mother’s love will be transferred away from them to the new arrival. Mummy Owl and Little Owl as portrayed by Alison Brown are totally endearing characters and she captures the inherent humour of Debi Gliori’s narrative beautifully in every scene.
This is just the thing to have on hand when a new sibling is imminent but it’s too much fun to restrict just to such an occasion. I’d share it with a nursery group or class no matter what.

Time for a Poem

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Jelly Boots Smelly Boots
Michael Rosen and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I’m not sure who has more fun when it comes to Michael Rosen and poetry – the author or the children who read or listen to, his offerings. For this collection of over seventy rhymes, wordplays and musings including a sprinkling of ‘dustbin poems’ he has a new illustrator in the wonderful David Tazzyman; and as always it’s a cause for celebration. Rosen has the unfailing knack of drawing children in to his language meanderings and showing them what pleasures poetry has to offer. Try ‘Question Mark’ for starters …

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or Mm? which begins thus: ‘Can you cancan on a can?/ Can you carwheel on a cart? / Will you whistle in the wind? ? Have you heard it in your heart?

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I suspect this is going to be another of those collections where an adult chooses a poem, reads it to a class or group and is immediately asked for another and another and … Enough said! Try it and see.

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Topsy Turvy Animals
Wes Magee and Tracey Tucker
QED
A plethora of animals pursuing unlikely pastimes are presented by poet Wes Magee in this crazy rhyming world where there are somersaulting tigers, stilt-walking meerkats, a cartwheeling moose and a pair of macaws that must be tired of life judging by where they’ve chosen to perform their ablutions …

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And this poor cat is the unexpected recipient of a very large splat …

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Tracey Tucker animates all this madness and more with riotous, appropriately garish scenes in a variety of settings – icy, sandy, rocky, mountainous, jungly and grassy.
The main messages children will pick up here are: that language is fun; and that if you give full rein to your imagination, anything can happen …

If like me, you believe that nursery rhymes should form the bedrock upon which a child can build a love of poetry, then this beautifully produced book may be of interest.

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Classic Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Dorothy M.Wheeler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Time was that the 29 rhymes contained herein were known by almost all young children starting school or a nursery class; sadly, that’s not so nowadays.
Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell has written the foreword for this centenary publication of rhymes with art work  by Dorothy M. Wheeler whose claims to fame include being the illustrator of some of Enid Blyton’s books such as The Magic Faraway Tree. Her highly detailed watercolour illustrations for this book evoke a bygone era …

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when the rhymes were learned on a mother’s or grandmother’s knee and perhaps sung around a family piano. (The second part of the book contains music for each rhyme.)

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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A Minibeast Bop & A Crunching Munching Pirate

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Twist and Hop Minibeast Bop
Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books
Come, come, come with me, to the stump of a fallen tree, there’s something there you really must see: minibeasts both large and small, are gathering to have a ball. Actually it’s a bop but hey, it’s loads of fun and you’re sure to see tiny creatures in all their glory gathering to dance till they drop. There are ants, shiny-shelled beetles, slithery slugs, head-turning ladybirds and dazzling butterflies to wow us all.

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But, as the band strikes up and the dancing starts, someone is notable by their absence: snail is missing all the wiggly rumba, cha-cha-cha and jittery jiving fun. Will he arrive before the final grand boogie? Suddenly from the rim there comes ‘a RUMBLING sound’ … and ‘a rolling rock that SHAKES the ground’; now what could that be?

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WHOPPEE!! It’s that slow-coach at last and he’s about to prove himself …

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Wonderfully exuberant rhythmic, rhyming fun: you really must join the dance-along, shout-along, clap-along romp BOP composed by Tony Mitton, master of rhyme, and depicted by Parker-Rees in wonderfully upbeat style.
Wherever you are home or school, your feet just won’t be able to keep from moving; for sheer exuberance, it’s hard to beat.

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Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch!
John Kelly
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Pirate leader, Heartless Bart is a pretty fearsome-looking character and when he discovers that one more of his crew has been consumed by the Beastly Pirates, he is determined to take on his dastardly enemies, and has an evil plan up his sleeve to boot. A few days later the ‘good ship’ Beastly Pirate looms into view and this cry is heard “A Jolly Roger! Dead ahead! It’s time for dinner. Beastlies. GET THE OVEN ON!” When the Beastlies have made their capture, it seems they might have bitten off more than they can chew for who should leap aboard their vessel but …

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and he’s making a challenge rightaway: “I’ve come to end the terror of your culinary reign. You’ve had your last pirate repast. You shan’t eat us again.
A fearful battle ensues with charging, biting, whacking and worse but nothing is a match for Bart, not even the unleashing of a cannon ball …

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As Snapper and Bart are about to embark on a frontal attack, there’s a thunder crack and a storm blows up. The two assailants fight tooth and nail and it begins to look as though Bart might just be the victor: then down comes a huge iron hook and up goes a certain metal-clad bully and down comes a thunderbolt – one hundred thousand volts of it.
To discover who is finally victorious, you’ll need to beg, borrow, or preferably buy a copy of this mock-scary story and read it for yourself but here’s a clue …

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Told in appropriately rollicking rhyme, with a bunch of deliciously hideous-looking characters engaging in alarming and awful antics, this is likely to send shivers of delight down the spines of young audiences and have them cheering at the finale.

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First Day at Bug School

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First Day at Bug School
Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Wow! This is a Bug-alicious book absolutely full to bursting with buggish delights all of which are hidden (except to readers of the story) amongst the grass and weeds down at the bottom of the garden, and it’s the very first day of term. Yes, it’s there that Miss Bumblebee has her BUG SCHOOL and she’s already welcoming all the new entrants with open arms – well appendages anyway. Seemingly they can’t wait to start school especially when she tells them, “You’ll have the best time ever!” (I bet Miss B. doesn’t have pointless assessments to perform on them almost as soon as they set foot inside, or mindless targets for them to reach.)
Seemingly Miss Bumblebee is something of a traditionalist: she takes the register formally with all the newcomers facing her and then off they go to their respective classes. Mr Wincey takes Spider Class where there’s a vital lesson to be learnt …

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Chloe Cricket spends her time in singing: there’s a new song to be learned in her class, Lucy Ladybird meanwhile, has a spot of counting to do – literally – courtesy of her very spotty pal …

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Lunch time is spent together with ants to assist; and that’s followed by outside play where ‘There are things to climb on, / things to slide on, / things to squash / and mend./ And little / Daisy Dragonfly / has made a / brand new friend.’ (The entire story is told in rhyme) It all looks great fun, but over in the Boy Bugs’ loos Billy Beetle is in a bit of a fix …

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There’ll be a puddle on the floor if Sylvester Snail doesn’t get a shifty on.
Then there’s P.E. at which Freddie Flea is bound to excel and last of all – the very best time of the day – is story time and Miss Bumblebee ready in her special story chair…

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After all the fun, the bell signals that it’s time to go home and then from all the bugs comes the inevitable “Can we come again tomorrow” cry, shouted at full volume.
I love the almost ariel view of the whole school on the final spread, but to see that, you’ll need your own copy of this super book and I’m certain if you have youngsters about to start school, or even nursery come September, then this is for you and your little one to enjoy together. There is just SO much to look at and talk about in Sam Lloyd’s stupendous minibeast-filled scenes.

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Nothing!

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Nothing!
Yasmeen Ismail
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
You’ve just got to meet Lila: she’s unstoppable with her boundless imagination and joie de vivre. And she’s just off with Mummy – or is supposed to be – to visit her Grandpa. The snag is – for her mum anyhow – that Lila has already let her vivid imagination take over and rather than getting on her outdoor clothes she’s off on one of her flights of fancy. Here she goes … doing, as she tells Mummy, “Nothing …

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Yes they do manage to catch a train eventually, Lila with biscuit in hand and doing “Nothing …” to said biscuit and it’s this tasty treat that sets her imagination off into over-drive again RARRR-RRR! 

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The next step of the journey is, for Lila at least by scooter – did I say scooter? Actually for Lila it’s something else altogether: now she’s “the queen of super speed” who will “CRASH down mountains and tear up trees …

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Eventually, they do arrive at their destination and in response to Grandpa’s “What have you been doing since I last saw you?” comes the inevitable – I’ll leave that to you to work out … … and move on with Lila as she takes to the air with the birds, followed by …

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Grandpa – Yippee!
Sheer delight from cover to cover: Yasmeen Ismail does it YET again with this one. I have to say though, that I was more than a little bit predisposed to adore it from the cover message ‘Run away with your imagination’ before even looking on the inside. Nevertheless this bobby dazzler more than lived up to expectations: Lila is out of this world, brilliant.

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The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

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The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth
Hollie Hughes and Leigh Hodgkinson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
What a wonderful word mahoosive is and how perfectly it sums up the star of this show and his gargantuan, nay insatiable, appetite. And his side-kick, best friend bug is his perfect ally in seeking to sort out the ‘famishing vanishing’ problem upon which this story rests.
Now I for one find it hard to believe what this creature says on the very first spread

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and he’s fortunate that said Bug is near at hand – or rather trunk – to step, nay fly in, to save the sorry situation. First comes a MAHOOSIVE breakfast, followed swiftly by a snack, neither of which appear to improve Mammoth’s mood, nor sate his appetite (ungrateful beast); he merely keeps up his complaints of feeling funny inside and statements about vanishing. Bug mentions brunch; that idea is scuppered though by Mammoth’s consumption of this …

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and so the two agree to ‘do lunch’.
Even that – and it’s a five star affair, leaves Mammoth unsatisfied and Bug right out of ideas. Well maybe not quite because they just happen to be at the seaside where there’s a plethora of treats to be had, both small and large …

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Will that long-suffering, resourceful Bug ever find a way to satisfy his dear friend’s all-consuming need?
The distractions appear to be a good thing …

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but are they enough to fend off the otherwise inevitable stomach explosion Mammoth is rapidly heading for? Or maybe, just maybe, there’s something else even better …
Delivered through a deliciously funny rhyming text that’s a pleasure to read aloud and wonderfully patterned, brightly coloured illustrations depicting two immediately endearing characters, this whole MAHOOSIVE enterprise is a delight. I shared it on a day of Brexit doom and gloom so far I was concerned and it certainly did bring on some cheer. My listeners loved it, demanded a re-read and several of them were later heard repeating a certain word over and over. If only this final gorgeous picture –

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could have been symbolic of what a whole lot of us were hoping for …

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Up, Up and Away

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Up, Up and Away
Tom McLaughlin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I have a particular soft spot for small boys with large imaginations so I instantly fell for Orson, a boy who loves to make things. On the particular day we meet him, young Orson has his head in a book, and his heart and mind on an extraordinary idea …

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Now unlike many of the inventive ilk, Orson is an organised little chap and so in a short time he’s busy gathering all the vital ingredients for his venture – a cup of rocks, a splosh of water, some chunks of metal and a large amount of nothingness (lots of empty space is required on a planet after all). Naturally, he’s decided to employ the big bang method and has managed to get his hands on just what he needs for the purpose …

 

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And before long BOOM! There in his bedroom, right before his, and our, eyes, is a small swirling spherical object. It’s a case of love at first sight so far as Orson is concerned, but concerned he is ,for the planet he’s brought into being has a decidedly unhappy look about it. What’s a lad to do with a sad planet?
Orson resolves to cheer it up … not very successfully …

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Off he goes to his favourite place to do a spot of research and having genned up on the subject through the night, he proceeds to carry out his plan of inducing planet happiness. He feeds it, dusts its craters, tidies its ocean and voila! By the following morning there’s a decided improvement and significant increase in size … with veritable moons even.
Unsurprisingly, care equals happiness where the planet is concerned but most of us know, though perhaps Orson had yet to learn, that happiness has a tendency to attract … Before long, it’s not ‘ just a few teaspoons and the odd unicycle’ but …

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And come bedtime both boy and big bang ball are equally down at heart.
Next morning, (no doubt Orson’s unconscious mind was in over-drive all night), the boy has come to a decision: braveness is called for – and a release …

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That however, is not entirely the end of the story …
Oh the wit, oh, the wisdom, oh the beauty of Tom McLaughlin’s whole phenomenal enterprise.

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The Great Dragon Bake Off

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The Great Dragon Bake Off
Nicola O’Byrne
Bloomsbury Children’s Book
Followers of TV cookery shows will chuckle at the names of the characters in this tasty treat of a book. There’s chief protagonist, Flamie Oliver – a dragon, enormous and terrifying; well, that at least is the impression he gives but in fact, Flamie isn’t ‘very, very good at being very, very bad.’ This is clearly going to be a bit bothersome when he joins the Ferocious Dragon Academy for the most ferocious dragons-in-training where all his classmates are excellent do-badders.
The other thing about Flamie is his particular penchant for pastry of all kinds.

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So whilst his classmates hone their dragon skills, off goes Flamie to have a bake-up; and having perfected his pastry he moves on to more fancy fare. The snag is there’s nobody to share the fruits of his labours with, but even worse Flamie has been neglecting those dastardly dragon skills he was supposed to have been working on.
Consequently, when finals day dawns the lad feels singularly unprepared, even more so as he watches classmates, Heston Blowitall, Scaly Berry and Paul Firewood do their stuff and delight teacher, Miss Puffitup.

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Flamie of course, fails to delight, fails all his exams to be precise, leaving him just one way to graduate. “You must kidnap a princess and eat her!” Miss Puffitup declares.
Sick at the thought, but sicker at the prospect of not graduating, off flies Flamie to capture himself a princess. Having secured one, he sits in his kitchen contemplating his next meal – not an appetising sight …

 

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and muttering to himself about sauces when Princess Rosewater speaks up. Before long the two of them are busy concerning themselves with a suitable accompaniment to the princess dish; but nothing seems quite right. Fortunately the princess has an idea: can it be successfully served up for a Dastardly Dragon Skills degree though? Suffice it to say, the proof of the baking is in the much appreciated tasting: a degree? – that would be telling.

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This truly mouth-watering tale is a treat to share with young listeners. My audience drooled over the delicacies, despaired at the prospect of the princess’s demise and clapped at one particularly mouth-watering spread; and one girl was thrilled to see a dragon wearing specs similar to hers.

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Facing the Truth

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The Truth According to Arthur
Tim Hopgood and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The relationship between Arthur and The Truth is in crisis thanks to a deed done – despite his mum’s warning not to – by the young lad, which has resulted in …

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(that’s Mum’s car and big bro’s bike.). Inevitably his friends ask him about the incident and first Arthur BENDS the truth getting him this response …

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Then he S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S it “I was just having a little go on my brother’s bike when an alien asked if he could borrow it … I think he thought it would fly.” to which Lula responds similarly. Clearly more drastic action is required thinks Arthur; but his attempts at covering up The Truth, disguising it and hiding it all fail dismally. Maybe ignoring it altogether will work.

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Seems Frankie is suitably impressed …

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but what about his Mum? “Do you have something to tell me?’ she asks Arthur who is then faced with a moral dilemma. What do you think he did? …
Suffice it to say, Arthur and The Truth are now the best of friends …
The Hopgood/Tazzyman combination works a treat in this, their first partnership book. Giggles aplenty are assured when you read this fanciful fibbing fiction aloud to a group of under 7s. In addition to being a fun story to share, it’s just the thing to kick off a discussion on the topic of telling the truth; and Tazzyman’s wonderfully quirky illustrations are likely to prompt satisfied listeners to imagine and create their own flights of fancy on the busted bike/scratched car theme.

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Prince George and the Royal Potty
Caryl Hart and Laura Ellen Anderson
Orchard Books
Never has a royal baby been the star of so many picture books as young Prince George and now here he is again to share his potty training regime with us. Thus far, the infant prince has, so we are told, presented no problems to his household; he’s minded his ps and qs and always kept himself nice and clean …

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but then comes a day when, despite his dad’s reluctance to rush the lad, his mum tells him it’s time to stop wearing nappies,. And further incentive comes later in the day when he discovers that dragon hunting armour and nappies just don’t go together …

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With the potty-using decision made, George then realises that he has no idea how the thing works.
Next day he still hasn’t gone nappyless and the royal guards are far from impressed when he decides to join them on a march past. Eventually the king is called and it’s from him that Prince George receives sterling advice: “Just choose a good book from the shelf. Then sit on the potty and read it. The rest will come all by itself.” Lo and behold in a few days, the little fellow is a potty ace sporting appropriately trimmed pants and with a portable pot on hand whenever he feels the urge …

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Caryl Hart’s right royal rhyme in combination with Laura Ellen Anderson’s exuberant scenes make for a romping good read.

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Wolfish Stew

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Wolfish Stew
Suzi Moore and Erica Salcedo
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We all agree, wolves in stories are generally the baddies that get their just desserts, don’t we? Now you might just find yourself showing a little bit of sympathy for the particular wolf character in this treat of a tale, which certainly has a spicy final twist to it. Let’s get back to the start though with this:
There once was a rabbit/whose name was Grey. And he went to the woods/to pick berries one day.’
Now of course, where there are woods – and certainly in stories – there are also frequently, something else beginning with w and so too, is it in this instance. In fact here is one in particular, going by the name of Blue, a cunning, mean, sneaky creature with an enormous tail and a overwhelming desire for a special ingredient for his wolfish stew. No prizes for guessing what that might be …

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Hence all these warnings uttered to Grey as he makes his way on his foraging expedition through those woods …

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woods wherein lurks a pair of hairy, slightly nobbly knees, a massive appendage attached to a hairy posterior, wellie –shod feet and a very protruding snout. Hmm. Did I just see a knife and fork being brandished there too?

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It’s as well then that our little Grey pal is a wily creature with more than his fair share of tricks tucked in his fur – not to mention useful devices stashed in his burrow.

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Oh! What was that I just heard? Surely not Blue singing Grey’s song, was it? Yes it was.
Could it possibly be that, there’s a character even more ruthless than he residing in this particular story, one that’s been planning for an extra special ingredient to make his suppertime repast even more of a delicious concoction than usual? Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it.
What can be said however, is that this is destined to be wolfed down with delighted squeals of “More please!” and “Again, again!’ and that the rather dark wolfalicious outcome may not meet with everyone’s approval: it’s all a matter of taste.
Erica Salcedo’s utterly scrummy illustrations are brimming over with tasty tidbits and moreish humour, providing the perfect accompaniment to Suzi Moore’s.truly toothsome text.

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Be Who You Are

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Introducing Teddy
Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
There’s been a fair bit about gender identity and transitioning in the media of late; finally it has become more acceptable: now here is a picture book on the theme. It’s subtitled ‘A story about being yourself’ and this is what it celebrates: something that is of vital importance to us all, whoever we are. Equally it’s a celebration of friendship and in particular the friendship between Thomas the teddy and his pal, Errol who play together every day.

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One day though, Teddy seems sad. Errol hopes a trip to the park will cheer him up …
but even the swing doesn’t work its usual magic. “What’s wrong, Thomas? Talk to me!” Errol urges.

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And reluctantly Thomas explains. “I need to be myself … In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.” Like the true friend that he is, Errol assures his pal that no matter what, Teddy and henceforward Tilly, is his friend. And when another friend, Ava arrives on the scene, Errol introduces the re-named Tilly to her. After minor adjustments to her adornments, Tilly joins the others in a session of swinging, see-sawing and generally enjoying being themselves …

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Tenderly told and empathetically portrayed with just the right degree of gentle humour, this is a book to share with young children at home or in school.

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Colin and Lee Carrot and Pea
Morag Hood
Two Hoots
Lee is a small green pea; Colin isn’t. Unlike all Lee’s other pals, Colin is a tall carrot stick. They’re close friends despite the fact that Colin isn’t any good at rolling, bouncing …

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or playing hide and seek with the other peas. He does however make a superb tower as well as …

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all of which combine to make him a smashing individual to have as a friend: those unique carroty characteristics are what count where friendship is concerned.
In this quirky celebration of individuality, Morag Hood – with her unlikely characters – brings a fresh spin on uniqueness and being yourself, whatever you are. I love the fact that she created her funny collage and paint pictures with the help of supermarket plastic bags. A great debut; I eagerly anticipate what comes next.
As well as being a great book to share in an early years setting, the simplicity of the text makes it ideal for beginning readers: they surely deserve unique books not dull, uninspiring fodder.

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Dragon Dos and Don’ts

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Dare to Care: Pet Dragon
M.P.Robertson and Sally Symes
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Ever thought of keeping a dragon? It’s probably not top of your list of things to do. Nevertheless Robertson and Symes have compiled a spoofingly delicious manual on how to do just that. There are several considerations including how to dispose of the dung it will produce in profusion –

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before taking that dragon decision tying you together for life. Anatomy (you might want to skip the warty bit, ditto the ‘teeth’ bit, if you are at all squeamish), choice of breed and choice of egg come next – we’re advised that it’s best to begin with an egg and select one that your particular lifestyle most easily accommodates. And hatching can be extremely time consuming …

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Of course, once the thing finally does emerge you’ll need to know about handling, feeding and grooming. Each of these is given its own spread and I suggest reading them with great care: brussels sprouts are a definite no-no and curry’s inadvisable too. And, oh my goodness you’ll need a veritable troupe of tradespeople when it comes to grooming …

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It’s best to know about dealing with ailments in the unlikely event that your dragon falls sick, so that’s taken care of next, followed by exercise.
Now you may well have selected a dragon as companion for the aeronautical opportunities such a creature offers, so a term or two at flight school is a MUST and then, with license under your belt …

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This tongue-in-cheek treat is guaranteed to give you a good giggle, or rather, a whole lot of giggles. And, it’s the perfect picture book for those who claim to enjoy information texts rather than stories.

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Marmaduke the Very Popular Dragon
Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this, his second story, Marmaduke has become something of a celebrity, so much so that best friend, Meg, sees little of him. Never mind, thinks Meg, there’s the Whizz Cone Tournament coming up, the perfect thing for the best friends to do together. But then Marmaduke becomes even more elusive; surely he couldn’t have found another partner for the tournament could he? That certainly doesn’t look like Meg riding him to victory here …

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Then, come trophy presentation time, Marmaduke isn’t feeling as overjoyed as he ought to and what’s more, he can hear sobbing sounds in the distance. Off he goes to find Meg, offer his heartfelt apologies and make a promise that henceforward, he’ll never exclude her again. That’s the kind of promise best friends always try to keep …

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Fans of Marmaduke and Meg will welcome their return; and applaud Marmaduke for seeing the error of his ways and acting accordingly. Adult mediators of the story have a good starting point for a ‘what makes a good friend?’ discussion.

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Board Books Briefing

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I Wish I Were a Pirate
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Ward
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In a jolly rhyming narrative, a small boy entertains the possibilities of a piratical life sailing the seas, capturing a baddie of two …

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and of course, searching for buried treasure.
Small fingers will have lots of fun working the various sliders …

 

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and there’s plenty to amuse in Sarah Ward’s jolly nautical scenes, not least the activities of the stowaway mice.

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Cars Go
Steve Light
Chronicle Books
Bright watercolour illustrations accompany the irresistible onomatopoeic outpourings of the eight vehicles featured in this wide format board book.
With an old jalopy that goes CHITTYCHITTY CHITTYCHITTY KKKKTTT SHHPPPTTT SHHPPPTTT, a Monster Truck that goes KR-KR-KR KR-KR-KR- KRRUUUNCH and this beauty …

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You’re guaranteed a wonderfully noisy story session when you share this with early years children; and think of all that inbuilt sound/symbol awareness potential herein.
And, don’t you just love the playful finale …

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Listen to the Jungle
Listen to the Things that Go
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
This pair of interactive board books with lots of noise making opportunities and amusing animal pictures should provide hours of fun for the very youngest. Lions, a hippo, monkeys, an elephant, pandas and parrots …

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plus a sprinkling of minibeasts and other birds inhabit the landscapes of the former, each being introduced with a single sentence such as ‘Listen to the hippo in the water.’
Each spread has a strategically placed button, which when pressed, makes the animal’s sound.
The Things that Go are cars, a lorry, a bike …

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a train, a boat and a tram and all the drivers, riders and passengers are animals.  
Both books, when shared with an adult, offer plenty of potential for talk about each spread. (And you can discretely turn the sound switch inside the back cover to the off position if you want to.)

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Mog and Me and other stories
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books
For a delightful introduction to the world of Mog for the very youngest, this is just the thing and, with its easy to read text, it’s ideal for beginning readers to share with their toddler siblings.

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Here in four brief stories, we meet not only the forgetful cat herself, but also members of her extended family.

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The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Hueys – usually a peaceable group of characters are having an argument when along comes Gillespie and dares to ask, “What are you fighting for?” but they’re too busy deciding who started it, so he tries again …

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Err …
The humour in this story of escalating conflict is subtle and quite sophisticated. It works well with 4s to 6s but one wonders whether it might go right over the heads of toddlers – the usual board book audience.

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All Aboard …

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All Aboard for the Bobo Road
Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr
Andersen Press
A riot of colour and pattern abounds in this travelling tale of a minibus as it leaves the Banfora bus station bound for Bobo station with Big Ali at the wheel and Fatima and Galo, his children aboard for the ride …

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First stop is Lake Tengréla where as hippos wallow in the water, passengers board and luggage is loaded and secured; then it’s BEEP, BEEP! and off they go again bound for Karfiguéla Falls. More passengers get on, oil and rice are loaded …

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and the journey continues towards the Domes of Fabedougou. Here, in the shadows of the old rocky domes additional travellers join them and produce is loaded. The final stop before the big city is in the forest and here livestock is added to the ever-increasing load and then at last their destination is in sight. Then comes operation unload …

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the passengers go off to do their business and, as the sun sets, it’s time for a well earned rest for Big Ali, Fatima and Galo, not to mention a tasty meal of fried fish, beans and rice.

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Before reading this picture book, I knew very little about Burkina Faso save that it is one of West Africa’s poorest countries. Thanks to its author Stephen Davies who has lived and worked there, I just had to find out more. And, thanks to Christopher Corr’s bold naïve style gouache scenes, one really gets a feeling of travelling through a vibrant cultural landscape as we board the minibus along with Big Ali’s passengers.
A lovely book to help expand the horizons of young listeners and readers of all ages.

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The Royal Baby’s Big Red Bus Tour of London
Martha Mumford and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The Royal Family are relaxing in the palace garden when there’s a ‘BEEEEEP’ trumpeting the arrival of the Big Red Bus and the driver announces “All aboard for the … Tour of London!” After a whole lot of scurrying around, everything is finally ready and ‘DING-A-LING-LING!’ off they go. First stop is The Natural History Museum where the young prince revels in being a T.Rex alarming little sis with his fearsome roars.

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From there they go on to London Zoo and thence for a picnic lunch in Regent’s Park. Then, having visited The British Museum the bus makes its way down to the Thames where the family boards a water taxi down to Greenwich …

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and then back to take a turn on the London Eye.
As the trip has to cater for all, including aunties, the next stop is the popular stores including – just for the Royal Babies – a visit to Hamleys.
On the subject of toys, however, come teatime back at the palace, a certain young Prince suddenly bursts into tears; his toy dinosaur hasn’t returned from the outing.
Off zooms the Duchess on her trusty vehicle to save the day, or rather, the night …

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Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this latest instalment in the Royal Baby series and if you’re heading for London with very young children this might well be a good pre-visit starting point. Ada Grey’s scenes provide plenty to smile over and as always, those Royal corgis are very much in evidence.

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SWAP! or Shop?

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SWAP!
Steve Light
Walker Books
An encounter between a tiny pirate and an impoverished sea captain with a dilapidated ship is the starting point for this wonderful tale. The small swashbuckler is quick thinking and doesn’t miss an opportunity, so when he rescues a button that pops off the captain’s coat, it leads to an amazing chain of bartering as one button becomes two teacups,

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which become three coils of rope, two of which become half a dozen oars. Then, through a whole lot more mathematical manoeuvring, swapping and trading, our young hero manages to obtain flags,

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anchors, sails …

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a ship’s wheel and a figurehead. All this and not a single coin has changed hands; but what’s even more important, the whole ship is now absolutely ship-shape and the diminutive pirate has made himself a new friend for life.
Genius storytelling. Steve Light’s signature style intricately detailed black and white pictures with just a splash of colour here and there, and a brief text of judiciously chosen words combine to make a fun-filled book for sharing and for early reading, with ‘SWAP! ‘providing the opportunity for audience participation at every transaction and helping to build tension towards the entirely satisfying finale …

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It’s buying not bartering in:

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I Went to the Supermarket
Paul Howard
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Most parents and teachers of young children will be familiar with the memory game on which this book is based. However, the two small players of the game herein have boundless imaginations and so their ‘purchases’ range from …

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and a cute baby elephant, through to …

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And then of course, there are more mundane items such as jelly – oh – make that a mountain of the stuff, not your average small packet. Remember that one though: it proves to be somebody’s undoing so to speak. Whoops! Nearly forgot those bubbles – they’re quite important too.
A totally ridiculous flight of fancy that’s sure to be lapped up by young audiences who will delight in the craziness of the whole thing so wonderfully visualised by Paul Howard, particularly I suspect, those super hero pants; they end up in the most unlikely of places. And, then there’s the fun of trying to recall all those purchases – no peeping allowed. For sheer ebullience, this one takes some beating.

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Bunnies & Eggs

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Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!
Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
We first met the main characters of this book in Tim Warnes’ wonderful Dangerous! Now Mole (with his obsession for labelling things) and best pal and fellow labeller, Lumpy-Bumpy Thing, are back in a new story and still busy with those labels it seems.

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One day in the course of their ‘work’ Mole notices an unusual phenomenon – a snow bunny. Rather than be labelled, said bunny bounds away with the L-BT in hot pursuit. He duly returns some time later looking like this …

 

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But when he ignores the warning label on the titfer he unleashes rather more magic than he’d bargained for. Certainly he might have been in ‘Bunny heaven’ but Mole’s attempts to number the buns. so they could enjoy a game of Bunny Bingo were thwarted at every turn and still those bunnies just kept on coming – “97, 98, 99, 100!” And what’s more there was no getting rid of them. The bunnies burrowed everywhere and what was worse, started leaving their calling cards all over the place. That was before they, or rather, one of their number, 54 to be precise, spied Mole’s vegetable patch, in particular this …

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A tussle ensues with Mole emerging victorious and that leads to a mass stampede of the bunny kind

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and the eventual re-capture of the bunnies, albeit with a whole lot of carrot coercion followed by some nifty replacing of the troublesome topper, a spot of hasty labelling and …

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Oh no! Here we go again …
Like the label on one of the bunnies in the story, this book is likely to prove ‘irresistible’ to young listeners who will, if my experience is anything to go by, demand immediate re-readings of this bouncing tale of friendship, misadventure, labels (of course) and the dangers of not paying heed to some of them; and then of course, there are the bunnies … Hilarity abounds.

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We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Unashamedly based on the traditional “We’re going on a bear/lion hunt’, Laura Hughes has created a picture book Easter egg hunt involving a family of rabbits. In their search for the ten eggs hidden in various locations in and around the farmyard they encounter some tricky things to deal with. There’s the field full of noisy lambs, an enclosure of cheeping chicks and then comes that field with the beehives.

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The search therein proves pretty fruitful and there’s a prickly pal to meet; but oh no! The bunnies have disturbed the bees and there’s nothing for it but ‘to go through them’ and keep on going down to the river and …

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Now they’ve found a whopper of an egg but …

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Time to make a dash for it, bunnies.
With all those lift-the-flap surprises to enjoy, ten eggs to discover and keep count of, a somewhat alarming encounter of the hairy kind and a whole host of small details for added interest, this will surely be a winner over the Easter season; and the enjoyment will last a lot longer than one of the objects of that search.

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Fantastical Journeys

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Are We There Yet?
Nina Laden and Adam McCauley
Chronicle Books
A small boy and his mother set off to drive to Grandma’s and they’ve barely started the journey when the boy pipes up with the words most parents are all too familiar with, “Are we there yet?” It’s a question that is repeated over and over together with mum’s “No.” response as the trip takes them onto the motorway, across a suspension bridge …

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through farming countryside and a desert landscape, each of which includes increasingly surreal happenings …

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They then leave the road and go first beneath the sea …

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And then deep into outer space …

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before finally emerging at their destination to be greeted by Gran whose garden is filled with topiaries of various things observant readers will have noticed along the way. And what does the boy have to say about the journey? He certainly doesn’t seem to number among the observant ones. His, to my mind, enigmatic final response seems at odds with what I had all along been taking (and celebrating as such) to be a series of glorious flights of fancy. Was it or was it not all in the child’s head?
McCauley’s mixed media illustrations are deliciously playful: look carefully at the opening living room scene and there, mainly scattered around the floor and sofa, are objects whose significance emerges during the drive.
A great book for developing visual literacy and developing talk most certainly; and those just starting to read too will get enormous pleasure in being able to read the minimal text themselves. There is so much to discover in every spread; this is one to revisit time and again when new insights and meanings will emerge.

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My Family is a Zoo
K.A.Gerrard and Emma Dodd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Courtesy of a boy narrator we learn what happens when he and his dad start out on a journey (destination unknown to the younger of the two at least) together with one or two additional passengers.

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On route they stop to pick up other family members together with their special friends

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Seems the car has an every increasing capacity to take on all those extra passengers …
but where are they all going?

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This is ‘not so much a family – More a family zoo!’
Finally they reach their destination where a wonderful surprise awaits …

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There’s so much to enjoy in this story told through Kelly Gerrard’s gently humorous rhyming text that reads aloud well and Emma Dodd’s cute and cuddlesome character-filled scenes.

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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

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Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Leigh Hodgkinson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Where do you like to read? Do you have a special place? Most of us do although for me, any place will do so long as I have a book I want to read.
The child narrator of Leigh Hodgkinson’s latest offering shares his thoughts through a jaunty, rhyming text about good places to sit and read and he’s pretty specific about what he wants or rather, what he doesn’t want. It must be comfy – agree, and not buzz-buzzy – definitely not;

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fuzzy’s out too, as is anywhere dark and noisy, so definitely none of these …

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Cleanliness is important too and it mustn’t feel ‘slippy, slimy, soggy’ …

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Distance is another consideration – somewhere quite close is on the must have list, as is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold and heights are problematic too …

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Will our book-loving little chap ever find that comfortable spot? Hold on – seems he’s having one of those light bulb moments here …
But what conclusion does he come to? That would be telling, wouldn’t it but I have to admit I agree wholeheartedly with his final words … what bibliophile wouldn’t.
Another cracker in which the author’s skill at capturing a young child’s vivid imagination simply spills right across every spread: those chairs all look so inviting;

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on second thoughts, perhaps I’d steer clear of the toothy one for long reads.
Added enjoyment comes from the print itself – it’s exuberant, playful and an encouragement to children to have fun and be creative in the presentation of their own writing.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting
Michelle Robinson and David Roberts
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
2016 looks set to be the Year of the Bear so far as picture books go anyway (I’m counting in the Gough/Field offering here). And now here we have an achingly rib-tickling treat from Robinson and Roberts who just want to make sure we’re all fully informed before going on a bear hunt, so to speak. I have to say here at the outset, that bear country itself looks pretty hostile and that’s even without a single bear sighting …

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Oh I tell a lie – our intrepid ursine explorer has something looking distinctly bear-shaped attached to his luggage.
Right then, on with the show: there’s the black bear (aka Ursus Americanus) and the brown bear (Ursus Horibilis), both of which can be highly dangerous and not at all averse to gobbling you up. Sometimes however, their coats might just show a touch of otherness. so it’s important to keep your wits about you at all times. Now, which kind could this little – oops! I mean large- beauty be?

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Did I hear you say, “back away” just then; well that advice doesn’t seem to have been altogether reliable in the circumstances …

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And nor does the pepper spray, so what about the bubble gum??

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Oh well, at least that bought a bit of time but now desperate measures are called for…

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Hmm seems this might just be going to work …

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Errr! Or should that be, Grrr!?
I’m totally bearsotted with this one and it certainly takes field notes to a whole different level.

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