Tag Archives: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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

%0a

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 …

%0a

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 .

%0a

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.
fullsizerender-63

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.

%0a

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;

dscn0284

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.

Charter logo FINAL.indd

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

%0a

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

dscn0182

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?

dscn0185

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,

%0a

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

dscn0199

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.

%0a

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 …

dscn0202

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?

%0a

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

%0a

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 …

%0a

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,

%0a

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?

dscn0189

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

dscn9991

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.

%0a

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

%0a

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.

%0a

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,

dscn9986

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.

%0a

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!

localbookshops_nameimage-2

There’s Broccoli in my Ice Cream!

dscn9721

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 …

%0a

Action stations … and it seems to be working.

dscn9724

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.

%0a

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

localbookshops_nameimage-2

Festive Fun and Frolics

dscn9378

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 …

%0a

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.

dscn9351

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 …

dscn9352

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 …

%0a

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.

%0a

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 …

%0a

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.

%0a

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

dscn9389

For the very youngest:

dscn9333

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.

dscn9334

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

dscn9229

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.

%0a

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 …

%0a

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.

%0a

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.

%0a

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,

%0a

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.

%0a

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.

dscn9251

Four Silly Skeletons / Boo! Haiku

%0a

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,

%0a

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 …

dscn9239

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.

%0a

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.

%0a

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.

%0a

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 –

%0a

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

%0a

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,

%0a

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

%0a

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

%0a

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

%0a
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 …

%0a

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?

%0a

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.

%0a

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 …

dscn9036

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

%0a

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.

dscn9066

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 …

%0a

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

%0A

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 …

DSCN8170

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)

%0A

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

%0A

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 …

%0A

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.

DSCN8189

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.

DSCN8180

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

%0A

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.

%0A

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.

localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Minibeast Bop & A Crunching Munching Pirate

DSCN8252

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.

DSCN8253

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?

%0A

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

%0A

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.

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

First Day at Bug School

DSCN8229

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 …

%0A

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 …

DSCN8309

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 …

%0A

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…

DSCN8308

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.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Nothing!

DSCN8192

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 …

DSCN8249

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! 

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

DSCN7766

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

DSCN7773 (1)

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 –

%0A

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

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

Up, Up and Away

DSCN7744

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 …

%0A

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 …

 

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

DSCN7751

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.

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

The Great Dragon Bake Off

%0A

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.

%0A

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.

%0A

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 …

 

%0A

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.

%0A

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.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Facing the Truth

DSCN7524 (1)

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 …

%0A

(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 …

%0A

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.

DSCN7527 (1)

Seems Frankie is suitably impressed …

%0A

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.

DSCF3013 (1)

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 …

%0A

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 …

%0A

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 …

DSCF3016 (1)

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

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Wolfish Stew

%0A

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 …

%0A

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

%0A

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?

%0A

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.

%0A

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.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Be Who You Are

%0A

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.

%0A

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.

DSCN7488

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 …

%0A

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.

DSCN7485

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 …

%0A

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

%0A

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.

WNDB_Button

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

Dragon Dos and Don’ts

DSCN7269 (800x600)

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 –

DSCN7270 (800x600)
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 …

DSCN7271 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7272 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7273 (800x600)

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.

DSCN7265 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7266 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7268 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Board Books Briefing

DSCN7185 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7183 (800x600)

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

 

DSCN7184 (800x600)

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

DSCN7004 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7005 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7007 (800x600)

 

DSCN7288 (800x600)
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 …

DSCN7181 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7177 (800x600)

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.)

DSCN7279 (800x600)

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.

DSCN7280 (800x600)

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

DSCN7281 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7282 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

All Aboard …

DSCN6968 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6969 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6970 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6972 (800x600)

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.

DSCN6973 (800x600)

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.

DSCN7039 (800x600)

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.

DSCN7040 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7041 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN7042 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

SWAP! or Shop?

DSCN6832 (800x600)

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,

DSCN6833 (800x600)

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,

DSCN6834 (800x600)

anchors, sails …

DSCN6835 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6836 (800x600)

It’s buying not bartering in:

DSCN6721 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6722 (800x600)

and a cute baby elephant, through to …

DSCN6723 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Bunnies & Eggs

DSCN6813 (705x800)

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.

DSCN6807 (800x456)

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 …

 

DSCN6846 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6808 (800x371)

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

DSCN6812 (800x236)

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 …

DSCN6845 (800x600)

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.

DSCN6749 (800x600)

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.

DSCN6751 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6752 (800x600)

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

DSCN6753 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

Fantastical Journeys

DSCN6608 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6609 (800x600)

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

DSCN6610 (800x600)

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

DSCN6611 (800x600)

And then deep into outer space …

DSCN6619 (800x387)

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.

DSCN6601 (800x600)

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.

DSCN6602 (800x600)

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

DSCN6603 (800x600)
Seems the car has an every increasing capacity to take on all those extra passengers …
but where are they all going?

DSCN6604 (800x600)

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

DSCN6606 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

DSCN6715 (800x600)

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;

DSCN6716 (800x600)

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

DSCN6717 (800x600)

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

DSCN6718 (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6719 (800x600)

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;

DSCN6720 (800x600)

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.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

black bear (800x600)

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 …

DSCN6407 (800x600)

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?

DSCN6408 (800x600)

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

DSCN6409 (800x600)

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

DSCN6410 (800x600)

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

DSCN6411 (800x600)

Hmm seems this might just be going to work …

DSCN6412 (800x600)

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

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Small Matters

DSCN6389 (800x600)

I’ll Never Let You Go
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
An inexhaustible supply of love no matter what, is something everyone needs, particularly in those early years when everything is new and exciting; when you’re finding out about the world around and testing those boundaries …

DSCN6390 (800x600)

when things don’t go just right and you get in a tizz…

DSCN6391 (800x600)

When you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or ready for sleep. Then again when it’s time for an adventure or you need to feel that little bit more brave …

DSCN6392 (800x600)

An understanding adult is on hand to share those moments with his or her unique brand of unconditional love as Smriti Prasadam-Hall’s gentle rhyming text tells. Alison Brown’s scenes beautifully capture the highs and lows these little ones experience in this celebration of love and life as shared between adult and toddler animal style.

DSCN6437 (800x600)

Hug Time
Patrick McDonnell
Orion Children’s Books
Meet Jules, an endearing kitten with an enormous globe-trotting mission. What’s behind this tiny feline’s massive adventure you might be wondering? The clue’s in the picture (and the title of course). ‘He wanted to give the whole world a hug.’
And to ensure that he fulfils his intentions, the little fellow’s first job is a ‘Hug To-Do List’.

DSCN6438 (800x600)

Thereafter it’s a case of starting with those closest to him then off he goes over land,

DSCN6439 (800x600)

and sea …

DSCN6440 (800x600)

First port of call is Africa with its elephants, chimps, giraffes, hippos, baobab trees even.
India is the next destination where stillness and determination finally bring rewards but there’s no time to waste with wombats and wallabies still to be hugged. Then comes the North Pole, a lonely place …

DSCN6442 (800x600)

but just in time there’s a polar bear offering – guess what. And then it’s time to head home to bestow a special hug to Doozy, the one he loves best of all.
Delivered in rhyming couplets and through a series of wonderful illustrations (the book’s real strength), this story of universal kindness and unconditional love really does demonstrate how one simple act can make a massive impact. How splendidly McDonnell portrays each animal’s reaction to Jules, be it benevolence, surprise, delight, or downright indifference, in those small watercolour pictures.
Right now in these troubled times, there’s no need to undertake a globe trotting journey such as Jules’; but we certainly need to embrace his sentiments to all those, who for one reason or another, are in desperate need of some warmth and kindness.

DSCN6373 (800x600)

Hush-a-Bye Bunny
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
It’s almost little Bunny’s bedtime. First though there’s milk and supper to be eaten, followed by ‘a ‘Rub-a-dub, scrub-a-dub, /Down to your toes.’; then a game of peekaboo and into those pyjamas for a snuggleup with Teddy. Best of all though are those magical moments with a storybook

DSCN6374 (800x600)

and off with the light.
So what can possibly be troubling that baby bun who doesn’t want to let go of Mummy?
No matter what comes, her reassuring words are ready to help,
Hush-a-bye bunny,
Now tell me your fears.
I can hug away worries
And kiss away tears.”
And of course, she does just that before finally putting her loved one back into bed and turning down the light.
Tender moments shared through suitably soft watercolour illustrations and a lilting lullaby. It’s perfect just before bedtime reading to share with your tiny or tinies, particularly when there might be moments of separation anxiety before lights out and a bit of extra comfort is required.

For even younger ones:

DSCN6416 (800x600)

Goodnight Baby!
illustrated by Sarah Ward
Little Tiger Press
One of the ‘To Baby, With Love series’, this one bids goodnight to all manner of soft toys as they prepare for sleep: there’s Bunny and Lion, Penguin and Mouse,

DSCN6417 (800x600)

Giraffe and Bear, not forgetting little Pup. They’re all ready in their pyjamas for a snuggly bedtime story with Elephant before everyone is tucked up ready for “zzzzzzzzzz”. Shh! Don’t wake them till morning when they’ll all be up and ready for a game of:

DSCN6418 (800x600)

Peekaboo Baby!
There are plenty of things to hide under, behind and maybe inside, or even have a little nibble on, which is fine so long as you don’t get caught in the act. OOPS!

DSCN6420 (800x600)

With a flap on every double spread and a surprise ending this companion board book is just the thing for a playful session with your baby.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

Cat Capers

DSCN6213 (800x800)

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat
Emily MacKenzie
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this follow-up to her splendid book-stealing Ralfy Rabbit, Emily MacKenzie provides another furry character with an unlikely preoccupation: marmalade cat Stanley is a fanatical knitter. He hones his craft not in chasing mice or dogs but in flexing his paws and clicking his needles to create all manner of wonderful objects: those pompoms are pretty cool (or should that be warm?), the bathtime bobble hats, ditto and then there are those tail cosies conjured up at the supermarket.

DSCN6214 (800x400)

Stanley’s pals were the lucky recipients of his craftsmanship: the balaclava-sporting bunnies looked wonderful, as did all the other woolly wearing animals.

 

DSCN6238 (800x600)

Until the day Stanley spots a poster …

DSCN6217 (797x800)

From then on, all Stanley’s energy, not to mention wool is focused on a single enterprise and nothing can stop him till – uh no! has Stanley come to the end of his chances of winning?

DSCN6218 (797x800)

But even that doesn’t stop the determined moggie as he embarks – to his friends’ chagrin, on operation unravel …

DSCN6219 (800x400)

When the day of the competition dawns, Stanley’s pals gather (sans woolies) at the venue but where is the great competitor himself? Seemingly he has thoughts other than victory on his mind after all;

DSCN6220 (800x779)

but in his efforts to make recompense to his friends, have Stanley’s prize-winning plans unravelled altogether, or does he still have a chance at the grand prize?
To discover the answer, you’ll have to get your mitts on a copy of this wacky, winning tale.

DSCN6221 (797x800)

Double Dave
Sue Hendra and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
Rotund moggie Dave returns in another crazy tale and this time he has something of an identity crisis: who, or what is this Dave-like creature that’s sleeping in his bed and consuming his meals?

DSCN6226 (784x800)

And moreover, trying to take his friends .

DSCN6225 (800x787)

There’s only one thing for the indomitable Dave to do: unmask the imposter and prove himself worthy of the name Dave. That however seems to be somewhat more difficult than he (and Bug) have anticipated; but in the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating or should that be its gaseous after effects …

DSCN6224 (800x398)

Doubtless Dave will please his already established fans, and gain a few new ones too, with this comical windy caper.

Use your local bookshop           localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Snowstorm Sorties

 

DSCN0654 (800x600)

Snow Bear
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From my first view of the cover, I fell for Snow Bear in a big way; he’s adorable but this is no sentimental story and Snow Bear is one determined character. He’s seeking a home, somewhere warm where he can snuggle up away from the raging icy blizzard. His forest wanderings take him to a fox’s den,

DSCN6121 (800x600)

and an owl’s nest up in a tree …

DSCN6122 (800x600)

but both are fully occupied, so lonely and shivering, Snow Bear trudges onwards till finally he comes upon somewhere that looks more promising – a small farmhouse.

DSCN6123 (800x600)

‘A chilly breeze ruffles the fur on his cheek,/ so Bear tiptoes in as the door gives a creak. / Inside it is warm, for the fire burns bright./ and Snow Bear can see by its flickering light.’
In sneaks Bear and there he comes upon a small girl, equally alone and in need of someone to hug. Having shared same, they snuggle up for a story, a fireside snooze …

DSCN6124 (800x600)

and eventually, head upstairs, for a ‘midwinter nap’ – friends together.
Tony Mitton’s rhyming tale has just the right degree of pathos and reads aloud well; and Alison Brown’s illustrations rendered in acrylics and I think, pencil, are sheer delight. Shaggy cushion-like Bear (thumb-sucking in the final spread), in particular, but also Fox with that pointy nose that to me, resembles the front of a jet plane, and startled-looking ‘tufty gruff Owl’ are splendid.
With the contrasting themes of loneliness and friendship at its heart, this tender, timeless story is just the thing to bring a warm glow to a chilly winter’s day or night.

DSCN0647 (800x600)

One Snowy Rescue
M Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Little Tiger Press
Little Hedgehog has a whole series of stories all his own, his friends are there too of course. Here he stars in another snow-filled adventure – more and deeper snow in fact than our prickly pal has ever seen before. So much that a snowdrift surrounds his house and he has to dig himself out. Exhausted having done so, the kind-hearted creature’s first thoughts are of his friend Mouse and off he goes to see how she’s faring. But despite his careful tread, he soon finds himself tumbling …

DSCN6127 (800x600)

into a huge snowdrift.
It’s fortunate for him then that Little Hedgehog happens to be wearing his floppy red hat –

DSCN6128 (800x600)

just the thing for a rescue-wanted signal. And equally fortunately, who should happen along at just the right moment but Rabbit who heaves him out …

DSCN6129 (800x600)

and the two continue together but get lost. Fox comes to the rescue this time, but even that is not the end of the story for soon, another rescue is needed. Badger joins the team having been alerted by that trusty red hat again and finally, led by Badger, the object of their search – Mouse and offspring – together with the friendly entourage, head home for supper in the silvery moonlight. How versatile that hat is …

DSCN6130 (800x600)

A warm-hearted tale about putting the needs of others first, with the spiky hero, bold and resourceful as ever heading the cast of characters in a finely paced, festive foray that is delightfully depicted in Tina Mcnaughton’s bold, bright snowscapes.
Also from Little Tiger Press, newly in paperback and reviewed last year is:
The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Here is Emmanuelle lost in the wonderful magic of a determined penguin, Wellington, and his snowy garden.

DSCN0639 (800x600)

Use your local bookshop         localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Presents, Presents and More Presents

DSCN6113 (800x600)

The Best Christmas Present Ever!
Ben Mantle
Macmillan Children’s Books
Bear is back with another present enterprise: Christmas present creating this time, and he has to be quick because, as Squirrel informs him excitedly, “FOUR SLEEPS TILL CHRISTMAS!” But Bear has forgotten to get a present for his best pal. – some friend! He ponders, he puzzles … he knits … he sleeps. His knitting prowess leaves something to be desired though …

DSCN6116 (800x600)

With three sleeps left it’s back to the drawing board; Owl fortunately has a suggestion and soon Bear is busy again but …

DSCN6118 (800x600)

Maybe Fox can help. His suggestion, indirectly, provides Bear with inspiration and the result is terrific – or almost.

DSCN6119 (800x600)

One sleep to go Bear and that pile of ruined gifts is growing.
DING! Light-bulb moment … off goes our ursine friend again. Now I won’t be a story spoiler so let me end by saying both Bear and Squirrel are delighted with their Christmas presents: ‘the BEST Christmas presents ever.’
Great story, great illustrations and great end-papers too. But if I show you those, you’ll guess how the tale ends so, instead, get hold of a copy of this super seasonal story and share it widely or give one to a youngster who may well decide it’s exactly what the title says.

DSCN5924 (800x600)

Tickly Christmas Wibbly Pig!
Mick Inkpen
Hodder Children’s Books
Tickly Pig is the owner of some special garments – an outsized scarf, odd mittens, a babygro and matching accessories even; all these courtesy of Big Aunt Larlie. She’s sent them to him as Christmas presents for the past four years and when it’s especially cold and snowy, Wibbly is expected to sport his tickly woolly items of clothing – not the babygro of course; thankfully, he’s far outgrown that. So when Christmas is just ten days off and he’s busily helping with the putting up of decorations, and his Big Aunt Larlie has already been very busy with her knitting needles and a great many balls of wool, you can imagine how eagerly he’s anticipating this year’s gift.
On Christmas Eve when the doorbell rings and there stands his Aunt, he is slightly puzzled as to why she’s wearing HIS present – or is she?

DSCN5925 (800x600)

Bursting with warmth – despite the chilly weather – and gentle humour this is quite simply an adorable, timely re-issue.

DSCN5965 (800x600)

Amelie and Nanette: Snowflakes and Fairy Wishes
Sophie Tilley
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This sugary sweet story wherein we share the run-up to Christmas with best friends Amelie and Nanette exudes Christmas nostalgia. The girls are bursting with excitement as they anticipate the day itself , but first is their school Christmas party to look forward to and prepare for.

DSCN5966 (800x600)

With its energetic characters, sometimes snowy setting …

DSCN5967 (800x600)

and a brief interlude of sadness …

DSCN5968 (800x600)

this story radiates seasonal warmth, brims over with friendship;and with those delectable, slightly whimsical watercolour scenes, is sure to enchant.

DSCN5969 (800x600)

I’m sure many will agree with the author’s final words: ‘ … sharing Christmas with your best friend is the best present EVER!’ especially if you sit down and make those paper chains provided inside the back cover of the book together.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Arthur

DSCN6037 (800x600)

Arthur
Rhoda Levine and Everett Aison
New York Review Books Children’s Collection
When dreamy, thoughtful, Arthur misses the call from his fellow birds to join them and fly South, it seems he’s in for a sorry time spending the winter alone in New York City. Arthur however, is of a determined nature. He finds a home, or two, an old man to supply him daily breakfast crumbs and things to amuse himself with. Observing the rush hour comings and goings morning and evening from his first ‘ perfect solution to his housing problem’ – grating in the pavement – being one of his occupations.

DSCN6038 (800x600)

New Yorkers are changing shape,” he comments when everyone dons their winter gear against the chilly winds … “People can be entertaining.” … “I am growing. I am learning. I am an acute observer.” And assuredly he is, especially when yogi-like, he stands on his head to help himself think and ultimately find a permanent home.
Find Arthur.” Is his solution to the potential boredom issue: a solo hide-and-seek game played according to strict rules he invents using the steam issuing from a manhole cover: a great pastime for a private bird like himself.
Highlights of his time include the icy rainfall (Arthur becomes a poet over this), followed by the coming and going of a huge evergreen tree in the square. Arthur takes a holiday among the green branches. Then come the Christmas lights adorning the same and delighting all around, but gone after four days, only to be followed rapidly by snowfall. What fun this provides our feathered pal,

DSCN6039 (800x600)

although the flying snowballs are no competition. “White balls are low on flying power,” Arthur decides about the snowballs that, unlike him, always fall to earth.

DSCN6040 (800x600)

With the melting of the snow, Arthur feels a lightening of his heart as the days gradually grow warmer until finally, there they are once again: his migratory friends returned from southern climes. But do they want to hear all about Arthur’s cold and wonderful time? Oh dear me no: “Think what joy you missed.” they comment to Arthur as …

DSCN6041 (800x600)

We leave Arthur as we found him riding the roads of Central Park , ‘gazing at himself in the taillight of a hansom cab. He was enjoying himself immensely.’
Altogether enchanting and brilliantly witty is Rhoda Levine’s bird’s eye view of a New York City winter from the perspective of one experiencing it for the first time. Arthur is something of a philosopher and his thirst for experiences and zest for life are truly admirable. His time is beautifully visualized too, through Everett Aison’s charcoal and watercolour pictures that have an appropriately stark quality about them.
This book should delight both those familiar with New York winters and those who, like Arthur as the story starts, have no experience of it. To appreciate Arthur’s spontaneous joy in the face of the challenges he meets, readers/listeners would probably need to be at least eight and going right through to ninety eight.

Two other recent reissues of neo classics  for slightly older readers from the same publisher, both of which I loved as a child are the wonderful:

DSCN5801 (800x600)

The 13 Clocks
James Thurber and Neil Gaiman
This fairy tale of a book is one  every child should have in his or her collection.
as is:
The Pushcart War
Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert

And finally a ghostly read:

last apirit

The Last of the Spirits
Chris Priestly
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Chris Priestly tells a chilling ghostly tale, one that essentially takes the Dickens original to another dimension. We are transported to the Christmas Eve streets of Victorian London where we meet, cold and starving, teenager Sam and his younger sister, Lizzie. Having begged an old businessman for money to buy food, Sam is filled with rage and hatred at the contemptuous sneer he receives from him (you can guess the character’s identity) and swears vengeance. He is then visited by warning spirits telling/showing him the possible outcome, should he choose to follow that path of vengeance. The question is: will Sam be able to resist his initial urge?
Yes, this book is fairly short and can easily be read at a single sitting – indeed the power of the story drove me to do so – but its haunting power grips me still.
Powerfully compelling: but read it yourself first before offering it to anyone under eleven.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

Santa, Santa, Santa …

DSCN5961 (800x600) 

Waiting for Santa
Steve Metzger and Alison Edgson
Little Tiger Press
This really is Christmas enchantment, small furry animal style.
It’s Christmas Eve and Bear is awake before his friends. ”We’ve got to get ready for Santa Claus!” he informs them excitedly. Badger however, doesn’t share his enthusiasm: “Santa’s not coming … He doesn’t even know we’re here!” he grumbles.
His other pals are unsure but fortunately Bear’s enthusiasm wins them round and so under his direction they rally, busying themselves making signs,

DSCN5962 (800x600)

preparing snacks for Santa’s reindeer and decorating a Christmas tree. This they sit down beside, once they’ve managed to tie the star atop, that is. It’s a long wait for Santa’s arrival and as night falls and they sup their cocoa, doubt starts to creep in; even Bear begins to feel anxious,

DSCN5963 (800x600)

but then up in the sky …

DSCN5964 (800x600)

That’s not quite where we leave the friends though: Santa needs a little help with his delivery round and one of their number (heartily endorsed by Badger) goes off with him on the sleigh.
A sweet story focusing on the build up to the big day; the animals are relatively undemanding rather than greedy about presents; and I particularly like the element of teamwork. Alison Edgson’s soft scenes are a delight and the tense atmosphere as the friends sit under the tree waiting is almost palpable.

There seems to be a plethora of cute seasonal stories for the under sixes this year; here’s another:

DSCN5959 (800x600)

Santa Baby
Smriti Prasadam Halls and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Disappointed that he cannot accompany Santa on his delivery round, Santa Baby complains to Roo and both agree it’s no fun being small. But when they step indoors what do they find but two large parcels left behind.

DSCN6004

Fearing a child will be left presentless on Christmas morn, it’s a case of dashing through the snow, “We’re off to save the day.” But can they do just that in the face of super snowball fighting elf friends, slippy, sliding penguins and a rather reckless midnight loop-the-loop?

DSCN6005

And who are the recipients of the two parcels they’ve risked life and limb to deliver? To discover the answers, you’ll have to get a copy of this charmingly illustrated, delightful, rhyming story (that echoes the patterning of The Night before Christmas), and share it with young listeners.

DSCN6010

How to Catch Santa
Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The recipe is as before if you’re familiar with the amusing ‘How to’ series from the Reagan/Wildish team – well kind of.
The spirited youngsters are on hand to furnish Santa-catching instructions but first there are all manner of considerations. Questions for Santa “How do you stay clean?” for instance and things you want to tell him – “I’m trying very hard to be good.” is pretty important. Then you might want to give HIM something – ‘A nose-warmer for cold sleigh rides’ should go down well.
Of course, none of this is any use unless you actually manage to catch the man and some ways are definitely NOT top of the list …

DSCN6011

What’s needed instead is craft and guile…

DSCN6013

and plenty of patience for sure. Even then a degree of quiet is vital for ensuring you don’t miss those special sounds – sleigh bells and the odd Ho Ho HO! for instance …

DSCN6014

Oops! Nearly forgot to say ‘Santa won’t come to your house until you’re asleep.’ So, catching him? Well there’s always next time …
Tongue in cheek humour verbal and visual in sack loads herein.

DSCN5954 (800x600)

The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore and Mark Marshall
Little Tiger Press
Mark Marshall’s visuals for the favourite Christmas Eve poem are full of seasonal charm with a modern edge to them. Santa though, truly is ‘a right jolly old elf’ …

DSCN5957 (800x600)

as he pays a special visit to Ruby and Sam’s home. They’ve left him the customary offering …

DSCN5955 (800x600)

and are snug in their beds, till young Sam is summarily awoken

DSCN5956 (800x600)

and watches St. Nicholas filling the stockings and he’s not the only one watching.

Use your local bookshop          localbookshops_NameImage-2