Tag Archives: Chronicle Books

Amazing Information Books

Bees
Toni Yuly
Walker Books
For the very youngest is this beautifully simple book of gratitude that demonstrates our connectedness to the natural world: it’s narrated by a small boy, who we see interacting with the things he mentions.
‘Sun gives us light. // Thank you, sun. // Bees give us honey. // Thank you, bees.’ Thus begins the concatenation of connections: from sheep we have wool. From clouds comes the rain, trees provide wood

and thanks to dirt, there are plants.
Appropriately, bold, bright collage illustrations combine fabric, paper, wood, ink and tissue, re-enforcing the biological bounties of the natural world.
Perfect for an end of the day sharing, be it with a single child, or nursery group; and equally with its minimal patterned text, it’s ideal for those just starting to read.

The Story of Snow
Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson
Chronicle Books
In this narrative non-fiction book we begin high up in the clouds with an explanation of how a tiny speck of earthly matter becomes a snow crystal (each crystal requires a single particle to start growing); and then we zoom right into a crystal.

Did you know that its shape depends on the wetness of the cloud and how cold it is? Or, that a single crystal is rarely perfect.
We learn that there are in fact, three main types of snow crystal – star-shaped, plate and column-shaped; and are told something about each kind including the different conditions under which the three kinds form.

With its succinct text, diagrams and amazing photographs of each kind of crystal, this is an excellent starting point for those who want to discover more about snow and can be used across a wide age range. There’s even an instruction spread on how to catch and observe snow crystals; and I love the final quote from Japanese scientist, Ukichiro Nakaya, ‘A snow crystal is a letter from the sky.’ – a perfect ending to a fascinating book.

Bugs
Simon Tyler
Pavilion Books
This large format book is packed with bright, bold illustrations and is designed to draw readers into the fascinating world of insects, the title word being used as an alternative generic term for this entire class of animal.
The first third is devoted to their general characteristics including anatomy, life cycle, eyes …

and other senses, and how and what they eat. Also included is an explanation of taxonomy.
The remaining 60 or so pages cover the nine main insect orders including beetles,

true bugs,

dragonflies, flies, cockroaches and termites. There’s also a double spread each, covering the most dangerous bugs, and some beneficial ones at the end.
The larger than life illustrations of representatives of each order are drawn from all parts of the world and each is captioned with its own common and scientific names, its size, its geographic range and a short factoid of additional information. The detailed scientific information together with the superb illustrations make it appropriate for a wide readership.

13 ½ Incredible Things You Need to Know about Everything
DK
Dorling Kindersley do non-fiction books really well and this one is amazing.
The title of this large volume makes you stop in your tracks and wonder what on earth could be inside.
Prepare to be impressed at the superb exploded illustrations you’ll encounter at every turn of the page, be they of Fantastic Fungi, Super Seeds or any other of the biological topics explored.

Biology isn’t the only subject herein though. The book also covers medicine, space, geology, history, technology, music and more, such is its diversity.
With over a thousand facts (not to mention those myth-busting halves, one per topic) you’re guaranteed a fascinating read. And if you don’t come away from the book knowing a whole lot more than before you started reading it, then your knowledge must have been truly encyclopaedic.

Transport, Words and Numbers

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes
William Bee
Pavilion Books

William Bee showcases an amazing array of vehicles from early steam engines to high-speed super-sleek electric trains,

biplanes, to vertical take-off jump jets,

submarines to speed boats. There’s even a space rocket.
Every brightly coloured spread offers plenty to explore. There’s the featured vehicle of course but also a plethora of signs, logos (Elephant brand reigns supreme), and traffic cones getting up to all sorts of things and seemingly having a great time. William’s dog, Sparky, is there for the ride and so too is a tiny white rabbit.
All of that is accompanied by an interesting, on-going narrative from Bee himself that includes some occasional tongue-twisting alliteration; and the final spread is given over to some playful ‘Elephant’ brand advertising.
Totally immersive and certain to delight all mechanically minded young children and a fair few adults too, I suspect.

Big Words for Little Geniuses
Susan & James Patterson and Hsinping Pan
Penguin Random House Young Arrow

For sure there are lots – 52 in all – delicious words in this zany compilation for youngsters to get their tongues around; 26 illustrated – one for each letter of the alphabet – and the others in a kind of addendum.

I have issues with the pronunciation guide in a couple of places though, one being Magnanimous (mag-NA-nih-mus) which I suspect is the American way of saying the word; ditto Onomatopoeia (AH-noh-ma-toe-PEE-ya).
Nevertheless, I’m all for children expanding their vocabularies and this fun picture book certainly should, in the right hands, help them do just that.
A number of primary schools I know of (and I’m sure it’s quite common), have a ‘word of the day’ or a ‘word of the week’ – here’s a rich source to mine.

And, very young children really do love exciting-sounding words, repeating them for the sheer enjoyment of hearing them spoken aloud. Add to that Hsinping Pan’s bold, bright visuals and you have an alphabet book unlike any other.

I Know Numbers
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

This is an exploration of numbers and the various roles they play in everyday life. ‘Numbers are everywhere’ we’re told at the outset and we’re then show various examples from clocks and calendars, thermometers and weighing scales. These still hold true although this is a re-issue of a book first published in Japan in 1985. The next spread though shows out-dated technology

although it’s the only one and it offers an interesting talking point when sharing the book.
The upbeat text and bold, bright images certainly do put the case for the importance of numbers,

and their multi-functional nature, in an appealing way for those just getting to grips with number learning / number recognition skills.

Beep, Beep, Maisy / Flora and the Ostrich / BuildaBlock

Beep, Beep, Maisy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
With petrol tank duly filled, Maisy sets off through the countryside and it seems all her pals are out and about too.
Dotty drives her tractor, Peacock pedals his bike, Ostrich is in charge of a train …

Eddie has taken to air in his helicopter, Tallulah has received a fire-engine call out and Cyril is driving a bus.
There’s one more vehicle none of them will be pleased to see though, and that’s the one digging up the road. Uh-oh! I hope they’ll let that fire engine through.
A large sized board book with Maisy and friends, lots of vehicles and associated sounds to join in with, and over 50 flaps to explore: that surely adds up to toddler delight.

Flora and the Ostrich
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora is back to perform with yet another bird and enchant us with her dancing once again. This time however it’s a dance of contrasts: Flora holds a yellow sunshade – her prop throughout the performance, – so, for example, her front is revealed while the ostrich shows its back.
The pair’s dance of opposites continues as they present hello/goodbye, hide/seek, under/over, give/take,

stop/go, near/far, sad/happy, apart and …

What a beautifully playful way to demonstrate some basic concepts and a great starting point for an early years movement session on the same theme, with children working in pairs in Flora/ostrich fashion.
A lovely addition to Molly Idle’s Flora board book sequence.

BuildaBlock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
Twenty four construction vehicles, are sandwiched between the sturdy covers of the latest ‘Block’ board book,
A team of building workers – it’s good to see both males and females – talk us through the whole process from demolition of the old …

right through to the almost finished redevelopment. We see every truck as it plays its vital part be that clearing, levelling, excavating, shifting loads, tunnelling, road making, bridge building, lifting loads skywards, pile driving, cutting trenches. There’s even a sky crane involved.

A straightforward sentence describes each part of the operation and the visuals, with fold-outs and die-cut pages, fill in the details of what I envisage becoming, like others in the series, a firm favourite with mechanically-minded pre-schoolers. Another winner for the Franceschelli/Peskimo team.

Lines

Lines
Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books

This truly is a wordless wonder.
A skater whizzes across the white page etching swirls and whirls onto the surface of the ice in a glorious solo dance – a veritable symphony of graceful motion, dizzying sometimes even.

But then she takes one pirouette too many, loses her balance and crashes to the ground losing her hat in the process.
Turn over and you see a crumpled sheet of paper, a pencil and an eraser indicative perhaps of frustration on behalf both of the skater and the artist.
Turn over again and there’s the skater, alone and gazing at her hat on a wrinkly background. But then, enter left another skater and then another and … before long there are several others tumbling clumsily, but joyfully, around her.

Suddenly the whole of the ice is alive with skaters; one of them helps the girl to her feet and …

There’s joy in abundance as readers see the wintry wonderland that is the iced-over pond and the surrounding countryside.
Essentially the book can be viewed as an exploration of the notion that making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process be you a skater, an artist or any other kind of learner. This is something all children need to learn early on, and that some teachers would do well to remind themselves of from time to time.
Equally it’s a superb, thought-provoking picture book that transports us into unexpected places pushing at the boundaries of creativity.

A Trio of Search-and-Find Books

Where’s Bernard?
Katja Spitzer
Prestel
Bernard the bat is preparing for his night-time birthday celebrations but he wants help to find everything he needs for the party he’s throwing for his friends. His search involves nine items …

and takes him hunting in all manner of fascinating places: a greenhouse, an underground cavern, an ice-rink, a garden,

the woods, beneath the ocean and even in outer space, each one being populated by weird and wonderful creatures.
With its ‘glow-in-the-dark’ cover and quirky, vibrantly coloured, magical scenes that are not too busy for the youngest seekers, this is a good place to start on the whole ‘search and find’ genre.

A Thousand Billion Things (and some sheep)
Loic Clement and Anne Montel
Words & Pictures
A small girl takes us through a variety of everyday happenings – having breakfast, taking a bath, getting dressed, exploring the garden, going to market, helping dad prepare the dinner and more, asking us to locate items hidden in spreads brimming over with food, clothes, vegetables, …

fish and more. Each of these events offers plenty of choices and entices readers to linger over the delicately drawn flora, toys, clothes, delicious pastries etc –which almost prove too much for the young protagonist while also locating such items as 4 hedgehogs, a frog mask, a spotty green sweater, or a pyramid of cream cakes.
Then comes bedtime, which, so the young narrator tells us on the first page, is the one time she dislikes: instead of a multitude of choices, bedtime offers nothing but sheep, endless sheep and ‘it’s a complete nightmare!’
Accompanying Clement’s quirky textual narrative, Montel’s slightly whimsical images provide a visual feast; and it’s as well, in case one gets too carried away over the details, that a visual key with the answers is provided at the back of the book.
Absorbing, fun and rewarding.

Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book
Anders Arhoj
Chronicle Books
Children can join with two friends as they engage in a game of hide-and-seek from opposite ends of this book.

Two large pairs of eyes peer through the die-cut holes in the front and back covers, forewarning that child participants are going to need to keep their eyes peeled to spot the protagonists in their play.
Arhoj teases with his own game of give and take: if you look at the endpapers you’ll also be forewarned that the playmates sport differently shaped hats – that should make the whole thing easier surely. But then to make the spotting considerably more difficult, he makes the two slightly foxy characters change colour; not only once but on every spread, as they move through the book and their world of hustle and bustle.
It’s a world populated by all kinds of strange and cute creatures going about their daily lives and its these, as much as the main protagonists, that provide a lot of the intrigue. I found myself distracted in every setting, just exploring all the quirky goings-on, before even starting to discover the whereabouts of the foxy friends. Every location be it shop, office, park, hospital

or elsewhere, has potential for stories aplenty.
With minimal text Arhoj has created an engrossing story-cum game picture book that will enthral and gently challenge young readers.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange / Sam’s Hamburger

Nothing Rhymes with Orange
Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
I do love a book that encourages language play and Adam Rex’s crazy fruit-filled extravaganza does just that. His rhyming litany, interspersed with an orange’s lament at the lack of fun-filled opportunities afforded to one without a rhyme for itself is a hoot; and that long-suffering orange, with his constant interjections, is an absolute charmer.
Rex, not forgetting our citrus pal, introduces us to a plethora of fruits that can be made into rhymes,
And all the while, the solitary orange remains just that, until one empathetic apple takes pity on him and with a wonderful invented word, creates an opportunity to draw orange into the heart of the group.

Emotions run high throughout, where orange is concerned: I love the way the quirky collaged photographs show his changing feelings.
With a bit of Nietzsche thrown in for good measure …

a fruitful offering indeed,.

Sam’s Hamburger
David Pelham
Walker Books
If you want to illicit an audience response of ‘yucks’ and ‘eughs’ then this rhyming novelty will fit the bill. It relates how with her help, Sam’s brother, carries out a burger-shaped plan to unmask the thief who has been stealing his sister’s lunches.
The whole thing is absolutely bursting with creepy bugs and wriggly wigglies embedded within layers of onion, egg,

cheese, sauce and more, all sandwiched between a ‘nice big bun’.
Surely the consumer of that particular delicacy will be deterred from ever coming back for more …
Unless like me you’re a life-long veggie, I’d suggest sinking your gnashers into this tasty offering now back on the menu served by Walker Books.

Say Zoop!

Say Zoop!
Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books

Before you’ve finished reading this latest offering from the inimitable Tullet you and your listeners will have said a whole lot more than ‘Zoop’ and had an absolutely brilliant time to boot. Herein the artist takes pointillism and imbues it with his puckish genius.
It begins with a simple blue dot and an invitation to say ‘OH!’ A bigger dot appears demanding an appropriately ‘HUGE OH!’ and so on … Whoppee! We’re starting to make music – soft soft loud soft soft loud and so on; but that’s not all – how about a crescendo or the reverse …
We can also do a spot of dot counting or try some beats in dots and … wait for it, dive in dot sounds, rising up and … down;

then swim dot style, shiver and even cry.
Enter red dot – say ‘AH!’ And off we go again – double the possibilities: a dot dialogue or better still a robot dot dialogue – amazing! Then a spot of tickle induced laughter, dot style of course; or maybe a song and even a walk.
Oh no! Now there’s a very noisy argument … Phew! They’ve made up.
Oh my goodness, now there’s a sunny looking yellow dot WAAHOO! And off we go again, trampolining, zooming car style or singing like birds …

A whole new language perhaps?

Superbly creative: this absolutely cries out for performance over and over – first vocal, then perhaps with paint and after that, what about both together: WAAHOOAHTCHONKOHPLUCKZIKZOOPWHISHHH!! What are you waiting for?
The possibilities are endless and no reading will be the same as any other.
Zooper-dooper fun!

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Professional Crocodile

Professional Crocodile
Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Chronicle Books

Now here’s a wordless picture book that is simply bursting with wit, and full of wonderful details to tickle your fancy.
Meet Mr Crocodile, an extremely dapper gent if ever there was one.
Every morning he rises with his alarm, performs his ablutions, breakfasts (on toast and jam), dons his business attire, including matching tie, and heads off to work.

But precisely how does this croc-about-town earn his livelihood? That is the question.
As you turn the pages you’ll find yourself pausing to pore over the wealth of interesting and absorbing happenings on each and every spread.

So many questions, so many possible stories wherever you rest your eyes.

The surprise final twist will leave you open-mouthed, I suspect. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.
(Perhaps if you take off the dust jacket before reading it, you’ll be less surprised; but hey, why spoil the fun?)
Captivating, clever and totally immersive.

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Barkus / Lulu Gets a Cat

Barkus
Patricia Maclachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Meet large brown dog, Barkus, “Smartest dog in the whole world.” So says globetrotting Uncle Everton when he arrives on the doorstep one day with what he calls “a present” for the young narrator, his niece Nicky. Nicky is reassured to learn that Barkus doesn’t bite and thus begins a beautiful friendship.
Over the next four short chapters we learn how Barkus follows Nicky to school and is adopted as the class dog; celebrates his birthday in a very noisy manner;

discovers a kitten and is allowed to keep it, naming it Baby; and finally, camps out for the night and enjoys an autobiographical story by torchlight.

The five amusing episodes are linked but the separate events provide suitable stopping points for readers just embarking on early chapter books.
Marc Boutavant provides appropriately cheery, retro style illustrations that range from full page to vignette.
All in all an upbeat, engaging read about family, friendship and the benefits of having a winningly positive attitude to life and its possibilities.

Lulu Gets a Cat
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
In her latest story Lulu wants a cat and sets about showing her mum that she’s ready to have one by doing some research on their care and putting in some practice on her cat toy. Eventually Mum is persuaded and off they go together to the cat shelter.

There, Lulu doesn’t so much choose a cat, but is chosen by one of those she’s shown.
Cat shelter worker, Jeremy provides some helpful advice; they go home and make preparations; and return next day to collect the new pet. Lulu gives her cat the beautiful name, of Makeda, which means African Queen and after a period of adjustment, it’s not long before Makeda is well and truly settled into her new home.

Lulu never fails to delight: this new story, endorsed by the National Cats Adoption Centre, ticks all the boxes for showing the very young that becoming a pet owner involves considerable responsibility, as well as introducing the basics of adopting a cat.

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I Wrote You A Note / Mr Darcy

I Wrote You A Note
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books
Herein we follow the journey of a note written by a little girl sitting beside a stream, as it travels from her hands until it finally finds its way to the intended recipient.
During its journey the note becomes briefly, a sail for Turtle’s raft; a resting place for some baby ducklings; a bridge for Spider.

Bird then uses it as nesting material; it’s discovered by a restless squirrel; Snail mistakes it for a house; Mouse fashions it into a sunhat;

Rabbit makes a basket from it; Dragonfly rests beneath it; Goat – well he can’t read so abandons it in favour of grass.
Finally the wind whisks the paper skywards dropping it in just the right place for a friend to find. But what does the note say? Aah! You’ll need to get hold of a copy of this enchanting book to discover that.
This is a lovely, rhythmic read aloud with some natural sounding repetition and gentle humour throughout. Lizi Boyd’s gouache illustrations are enchanting. They, along with the stream, seem to flow across the pages as the note makes it journey; and the sender is, all the while, exploring and interacting with the natural world around her. It’s absolute delight from cover to cover, with text and illustrations working so perfectly together.

Mr Darcy
Alex Field and Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing
Meet Mr Darcy, a genteel, refined and shy character living alone on the edge of Pemberley Park. One day he receives an invitation to tea from Lizzy and her sisters who live in an ordinary park. Seemingly considering himself a cut above such creatures, Mr D. tosses the invitation aside

and goes on his way, cutting short the sisters as he passes by.
The following day, Mr Darcy embarrasses himself by crashing right into a tree while endeavouring to ignore Lizzy, and then suffers another disaster of a very messy kind.

Once again its Lizzy together with several others, including Mr Bingley who, despite Mr Darcy’s rudeness, come to his aid.
Grateful for his assistance, Mr Darcy decides after all to accept the invitation to tea and once there, he feels ‘quite loved and not alone at all.’
If any of this sounds familiar, then it’s because the author, a Jane Austen lover, chose to create this rather softer character in her reimagined Pride and Prejudice for young children with its basic plot, main characters and settings remaining intact. Alex Field’s charming tale about shyness, encouragement and the joys of friendship, demonstrates beautifully how easy it is for shyness to come across as rudeness. It’s made all the more enjoyable by Peter Carnavas’s gently humorous, painterly portrayal of the characters.

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Under the Same Sky / This Is How We Do It!

Under the Same Sky
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books
I’m a big fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work especially her books with cut out pages so I eagerly anticipated this one. With its theme of connectedness, it’s absolutely beautiful.
We live under / the same sky … / … in lands / near and far.’ So begins the lyrical text, which accompanies superb, soft-focus animal images set against natural backgrounds.
Hugely impactful with its spare narrative and its strategically placed die-cuts on alternate recto pages, through which we see  elements of scenes of universally shared games, feelings,

hopes and dreams, this is uplifting and full of hope. Timely, and exactly what is needed when our world seems to be growing increasingly intolerant, fractured, and with too many people focusing on differences rather than what binds us all together – our common humanity.

Fuelled by this powerful and lovely book, let’s seize every opportunity, transcend those differences and come together for the ultimate good of everyone.
Share, ponder upon, delight in and discuss: it’s a must for every family, early years setting and KS1 classroom collection.

This is How We Do It
Matt Lamothe
Chronicle Books
Children are the focus of this fascinating book, children whose ages range between seven and eleven; children from seven different families, backgrounds and diverse situations tell their own stories. Let’s meet, Romeo (Meo) from Italy; Kei from Japan; Daphine from Uganda; Oleg from Russia; Ananya (Anu) from India, Kian from Iran and the eldest, Peruvian, Pirineo.
These narrators share information about their particular homes, their families, their clothes – in particular what they wear to school; breakfasts, lunches and evening meals (each meal has a separate spread); mode of travel to school.

We meet their various teachers and see how they learn (almost all classrooms looks very formal). Each child shows how his/her name is written …

We also see the children at play, helping at home and finally, sleeping.
Yes, there are differences, each country, each family is unique; but the most important message is that no matter where we are from, we all have similarities: we eat meals, we play and we go to school (at least those children we meet do) and all under the same sky.
At the end of the book we meet all seven families in photographs; and there is a final glossary, an author’s note on how he came to create the book and the endpapers have a world map showing where the children (and author) live.
This predominantly pictorial presentation celebrates our commonalities and our uniqueness. With world travel a commonplace nowadays, the book offers a great way to expand children’s horizons giving them insights into particular ways of life in addition to those in countries they might themselves visit.

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Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep / Pete With No Pants

Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep
Leslie Helakoski
Sterling
A storm tosses two eggs from their nests precipitating a parental mix-up.
Hoot hatches in one nest: sometime later, Honk hatches in another. Straightaway there are problems with diet and the sleep-cycles of the hatchlings.

Their surroundings seem rather alien too and that is despite the accepting manner in which the parent birds deal with their offspring.
All ends happily however with both fledglings eventually being reunited with their own families, and adults of each are shown similarly enfolding their respective young in a tender embrace, just like a warm cosy duvet.

Helakoski’s delightfully whimsical tale told through a fusion of gentle staccato, rhyming text that has a pleasing pattern to it, and superbly expressive pastel illustrations is perfect for sharing with the very young at bedtime (or anytime). Ahhh!
In addition, the book offers a lovely gentle introduction to the fact that some birds are diurnal, others nocturnal.

Pete With No Pants
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books
Seemingly pants and imaginative play don’t go together, or do they?
This book cracked me up from the opening line: ‘Shortly after breakfast, Pete decided he was a boulder.’ It’s the conclusion the young elephant, knock-knock joke lover, reaches having given it due consideration: after all he’s big, he’s grey; he’s not wearing pants. QED. But then as he basks in a kind of self-glory, his thoughts are interrupted by a knock-knock joke: result – a plummeting of his enthusiasm for boulderness.
So what about a squirrel? He definitely fits the essential critera for colour, an acorn predilection, non wearing of pants but …

And one far-from happy Mum.
Next day it’s a case of cloud contemplation, squirrel mockery and further knock-knock jokery failures with owls for Pete.

Then Mum, who appears to have undergone something of a change of heart, shows up to play. Whoppee!

Deliciously quirky, crazily anarchic and you need to read the muted pictures very carefully to keep abreast of the happenings. Share with one child, or for individuals to enjoy in ones or twos.

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Mine! / Thousand Star Hotel

Mine!
Jeff Mack
Chronicle Books
It’s amazing how by using the same word 27 times, Mack can concoct a hilarious tale on ownership with a terrific final twist to boot.
Two mice in turn stake a claim for a substantial-looking rock and then a battle of brain and brawn involving a chunk of cheese, a gift-wrapped parcel,

a pile of rocks and a couple of vehicles ensues over which of them it belongs to. Seemingly this isn’t a conflict easily settled: things escalate …

until with both mice on the point of self-combustion the rock makes a startling revelation and the pals realise what a massive mistake they’ve made.
Wrapped up in this hilarious encounter are important messages about acquisitiveness and possibilities of sharing. Seemingly though as the story concludes, these lessons are yet to be learned by the protagonists herein.
Mack uses lettering the colour of which matches that of the mouse making the utterance to help orchestrate his parable and in addition to being a perfect book for beginner readers (preferably after a demonstration) this is a gift for anyone wanting to demonstrate how to tell a story to a group: inflection and intonation rule!

Thousand Star Hotel
The Okee Dokee Brothers and Brandon Reese
Sterling Children’s Books
The award winning musical duo give a new slant to the Fisherman and His Wife folktale using two riverside dwellers, Mr and Mrs Muskrat. Their life is simple: their dwelling a far from perfect cabin; their diet largely fish in one form or another. One day while out in their boat, Mr Muskrat feels an enormous pull on his line and after a considerable amount of STRUGGLIN’, TUGGLIN’, YANKIN’, and CRANKIN’, they successfully haul out a massive golden catfish. This is no ordinary fish: it’s a magical wish-giving one, and offers the couple a wish in exchange for its life.
Therein lies the rub: Mrs Muskrat is all for simple creature comforts – a hammer and nails to fix the roof, a new soup kettle, or perhaps, a cosy warm quilt. Mr Muskrat in contrast sets his sights rather higher; he wants a life of luxury.

And, he certainly expresses himself in no uncertain terms, getting a whole double spread to call each of his wishes to a halt midstream …

In fact all the dialogue and the rest of the telling is wonderful; and the final fun twist offers an important message. Brandon Reese’s exuberant illustrations of the characters in their wild woods setting have a cinematic quality.
Starlit filled dreams are assured if you share this one at bedtime. There’s a delightful CD with an audio telling and eleven funky songs tucked inside the front cover too.

I’ve signed the charter  

Towering Tree Puzzle / Lift-the-Flap and Colour:Jungle & Ocean

The Towering Tree Puzzle
illustrated by Teagan White
Chronicle Books
Essentially this is a sturdy box containing 17 large, easily manipulated, double-sided pieces depicting Spring/Summer scenes on one side and Autumn/Winter ones on the reverse. Each piece shows various woodland animals playing and working together; a whole tree community indeed and the puzzle when complete is over 130 centimetres long. Nothing special about that, you might be thinking but, the language potential is enormous, especially as there is no one right way of fitting the pieces together: this open-endedness also means that if more than one child plays with the pieces, there is a co-operative element too.

The artwork is splendid: each detailed piece, a delight.
Every branch of the tree generates a different story, or rather, many possibilities; ditto the completed tree. Some children like to story about the pieces as they put them into place, others prefer to complete the puzzle and then tell one or several stories which may or may not be connected. You could try a completely open-ended ‘take it in turns tell me about’ game with children sitting in a circle for starters, or perhaps choose a focus, say animals, plants or perhaps, events: the possibilities are many.
I’ve used this marvellous resource in several different settings and each time it’s been received with enormous enthusiasm and the users have shown great reluctance to part with it afterwards.

Lift-the-Flap and Colour Jungle
Lift-the-Flap and Colour Ocean

Alice Bowsher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/ Natural History Museum
In this collaborative publishing enterprise, children can choose from one of two locations to start their colouring in experience. The first is the South American Amazon jungle wherein jaguars hunt, slow sloths dangle, alligators lie in wait for a tasty meal, stick insects and parrots share the lush foliage, and swinging monkeys abound.
In the Ocean they can encounter diving dolphins, and shoals of fish, visit a coral reef with its abundance of sea creatures, notice the seaweed fronds that provide a safe hiding place for fish; and dive right down to the deepest dark depths.
A brief, rhyming text accompanies each adventure gently informing and guiding the young user as s/he explores the location, lifts the flaps and adds colour to the black and white pages – five spreads per book. And the final page of each book has an information paragraph that focuses on the importance of protecting the specific environment.
These will I’m sure be seized on by young enthusiasts, particularly those with an interest in wild life and will one hopes, leave them wanting to discover more about the inhabitants of each location.

If I Were a Whale
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot
This contemplative, charmer of a board book successfully mixes rhyme and science facts. It imagines the possibilities of being a minke, a beluga playing with icebergs, a pilot whale and then these beauties …

If those don’t suit there’s a tusked narwhal, a blue whale, or a humpback perhaps? There are eleven possibilities in all, each one beautifully illustrated by Erik Brooks who manages to capture the essence of each one in those watery worlds of his.
Yes, it’s a small introduction to a huge topic but this is a pleasure to read aloud, is likely to be demanded over and over, and to inspire tinies to want to know more about these amazing mammals.

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Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day / Papasaurus

Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Meet Kiki and Bobo. They’re super excited on account of a trip to the seaside; the perfect place to spend a sunny day they think. Off they go in the bus where Kiki eagerly anticipates a swim in the sea: Bobo, in contrast does not.
He doesn’t want the ice-cream Kiki buys either, despite his friend’s best efforts.
Undaunted, she suggests that dip in the sea. This is greeted by a series of stalling activities: rubbing on sun cream,

collecting seashells and sandcastle constructing, until finally the indulgent Kiki is rewarded, not by an enthusiastic change of heart on Bobo’s part: rather he tearfully admits that he’s scared of sea swimming.
Three cheers for Kiki: she has just the thing for reluctant swimmers and she’s ready to let Bobo have that, and equally important, to take hold of his hand as they enter the water.

So, overcoming the fear of water – tick; being a super-duper friend and helping a pal in his hour of need – tick. Those are the important outcomes of a seaside sortie so delightfully orchestrated through Yasmeen Ishmail’s characteristically adorable illustrations – littered in this instance with flaps to open – and a straightforward text that in the main, comprises the dialogue between Bobo and Kiki.
Another winner for Yasmeen Ismail.

Papasaurus
Stephan Lomp
Chronicle Books
Using a similar question and answer style employed in Mamasaurus, Lomp has Babysaurus participating in a game of hide-and-seek with his Papasaurus. When it’s Babysaurus’s turn to be the seeker, he can’t find his Papa. His “Have you seen my papa?” is directed to first Stego, and subsequently Anky, Mosa, Velo and Edmont,

all of whom respond by referring to attributes of their own papas. None though can match up to Papasaurus in the eyes of his little one and eventually he pauses his search on top of a large hump in the landscape to consider where his father might be;

and lo and behold …
The dinosaur characters are rendered in bright colours making them stand out starkly against the sombre shades of the prehistoric landscapes they inhabit and it’s thus that Lomp creates the possibility of hidden danger as the infant dinosaur forays into the unknown perhaps for the first time.
Lots of fun to share with young dino. fans, in particular those youngsters who with a parent fairly near at hand are beginning to make those first forays into the wider world.

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 

A Nest is Noisy / Secrets of Our Earth / Secrets of Animal Camouflage

A Nest is Noisy
Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books
Full of fascinating information, poetically presented, (like its companion titles from this super-talented duo) is this rivetingly illustrated look at the irresistible world of nests. Who could resist Dianna Hutts Aston’s opening ‘ … it’s a nursery of chirp-chirping … (Ruby-throated Hummingbird) buzzing … (honeybees) squeaking … (American Alligator) peep-peeping … (Fox Squirrel) bubbling babies (Gourami)’ …

Did you know for instance that the world’s smallest nest – that of the bee hummingbird – is golf-ball sized and normally wrapped in spider’s silk, the stretchiness of which allows the nest to expand as the babies increase in size?
Or, that orang-utans braid beds of strong branches high up in the rainforest canopy and on rainy nights a woven umbrella of leaves keeps them dry? I certainly didn’t, nor was I aware that lampreys make underwater nests from pebbles varying in size from a pea to a base-ball; and that the temperature of an alligator’s nest determines the sex of the baby alligators.
A splendid introduction to a captivating topic, this is sure to inspire awe and wonder at nature’s creativity while at the same time prompting children to revisit its contents over and over.

Secrets of Our Earth
Carron Brown and Wesley Robins
Ivy Kids
A recent addition to the cleverly conceived Shine-a-Light series of non-fiction titles that makes reading all the more exciting as you need a torch or flashlight, in this instance, to reveal the secrets of our earth from the outside in.
Readers are shown topographical features such as mountains …

and volcanoes, rivers and oceans, deserts and grasslands, rainforests and even cities: Holding the light behind the page gives a behind-the-scenes look at each destination.
Just the thing for Early Years and KS1 topic boxes and ideal for those youngsters who prefer to read information books. Build your topical role play area, then place the book strategically inside with a large torch and see what happens.
Other titles in the series include:
Secrets of Animal Camouflage
Carron Brown and Wesley Robins
Ivy Kids
This is another one of the series. Here you need your torch or flashlight to reveal the hidden world of arachnids, stick insects, Bengal tigers, tree-trunk hiding owls, amazingly camouflaged butterflies and more. Each of these creatures and others are hiding in plain sight in its natural habitat and by holding a light behind the page the camouflaged animal is revealed.

A clever and fascinating, interactive introduction to the vital topic of adaptation made all the more so by Robins’ alluring art work.

On the Plane
Carron Brown and Bee Johnson
This one features everything airport-related from the airline staff at the check-in desk to the pilots who, with the help of a computer, fly the planes.
This is one to read just before that first flight, or next trip.
The Human Body
Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders
This takes readers below the skin to see the skeleton and muscles, and then resurfaces to look at skin patterns, before going internal again to find out about the respiratory system, the nervous system, digestion, excretion, teeth, reproduction and more.
It’s almost a case of whatever topic happens to be your focus, there’s one of these books to illuminate it. Perfect for inquiring minds and show me a young child that doesn’t have one of those.

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One Happy Tiger/ Colours: A Walk in the Countryside / My Little Cities: London

One Happy Tiger
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
What a delight to have Augustus back and between the sturdy covers of a wonderful board book. Everything about this is splendid from the look and feel of that cover through to Augustus’s sublime smile as he watches the movements of his ten friends on the final spread.
In between, he starts off sitting alone and then we see a sequence of encounters with 2 bugs (beetles I think); 3 birds with bright plumage; 4 ‘floating butterflies’;

5 dragonflies hover above his head. Augustus then bounds off leaving 6 large footprints and moves through a rain shower dancing with 7 ‘plump raindrops’ …

relaxes to watch 8 bees; splashes into the pool to tease 9 fish before clambering out to dry off in the sun and greet his friends all together.
This is a board book, (based Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and His Smile), that looks, apart from its sturdy card pages like a real picture book; and its shape is truly satisfying too. Adults will get as much pleasure as the toddlers they share this one with.

Colours: A walk in the countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this is another delightful countryside walk wherein readers accompany two toddlers on a joyful nature ramble; this time, it’s colour-related. We join the children as they exuberantly run down a slope surrounded by green – look closely and you’ll see a cricket and a butterfly on the plants. They stop to observe a ladybird on a grass stem in a poppyfield; then notice an orange-tip butterfly by a stone wall; a group of ants attracts the attention of the boy while the girl views a black bird through her binoculars. Their walk continues apace till picnic time, when they have a snack before moving on, all the while keeping their eyes open for interesting sightings such as …

A veritable paintbox of twelve colours and an entire rainbow are part and parcel of their rural ramblings. Awe and wonder for tinies: if this doesn’t inspire an adult to take their young infant out into the countryside on an observation walk, which may or may not mirror that of the children in this lovely little book, I’d be very surprised.

My Little Cities London
Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
Chronicle Books
Board the bus and take a tour of London. Ten of its famous landmarks are featured in this board book although none is named until the final spread whereon there is a ‘cast in order of appearance’ style briefing about each one depicted. The whole thing is beautifully presented, the text being in rhyming couplets; and the font changes on each spread.

Concepts such as new/old, many/few, soft/hard (rain) are introduced in relation to The Tower of London, the Shard, Trafalgar Square (many pigeons), the Natural History Museum (few dinosaur skeletons), and the two final spreads show wonderful illuminations – the London Eye

and Big Ben – against the night sky.
Altogether a class act, with so much to see and so much to talk about: that’s London. Author, Adams, and illustrator, Pizzoli, have, for toddlers, done it proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Over and Under the Pond

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Over and Under the Pond
Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
Chronicle Books
In this follow-up to Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt we join a mother and child as they take an evening row across the pond :‘Over the pond we slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.’ The boy narrates using a beautifully attentive, almost meditative voice that immediately connects us to the watery setting: ‘The water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky, /Sunshine and clouds – then a shadow below.
Unhurriedly, the pond reveals its riches, both hidden and more clearly visible, as the two people in their craft skim, ‘lift and dart and pull past a row of painted turtles on a waterlogged tree‘ …

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On they go, with occasional help from the wind, passing a great blue heron about to dive for minnows, a woodpecker clinging to a ‘teetering pine, digging for ants.’;

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dragonflies skim the water’s surface below which dragonfly larvae seize passing minnows in their jaws. How skilfully, occasionally using onomatopoeic phrases such as ‘splash – gurgle – splosh!’ ‘to heighten the dramatic effect, author, Kate Messner, reflects that way young children can be ‘in the moment’ excluding all else as they immerse themselves in the here and now.

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Gradually the shadows engulf the scene as dusky darkness falls over the pond and it’s time to return ‘swish – bump!’ to the shore and home, leaving nature still watching and waiting …
Neal’s richly hued, mixed media illustrations show us the pond from every possible perspective both above and below causing readers, like the rowers, to pause and linger over every scene, taking in its stark beauty.
In the final spreads, the author provides notes about some of the fauna inhabiting the pond, especially useful for readers in the UK who may not be familiar with all of them. A book to inspire, enthuse and send readers (accompanied by an adult) out into the wonderful natural world to find out for themselves what lies Over and Under the Pond.

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Museums and Machines

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The terrific twosome of The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School fame have combined forces in another zany Henry adventure; and as always he is accompanied by his dachshund pal. This time the protagonist is put on the spot by a question about the class trip to a museum. The lad seems to have been rather tardy in his arrival at said museum and consequently undertaken his own explorations therein. Whether he, or the exhibits were more entertained, one can only imagine. He supposedly got up to all manner of unlikely activities: balloon sculpting for the Neanderthals,

and there was certainly plenty to feast his eyes on. A T.Rex for instance, sculptures, a great whale and a woolly mammoth, lots of paintings –

some abstract art requiring the odd finishing touch here and there, and the museum’s storage facilities needing a bit of reorganisation.
See how many art references you can spot …that dachshund portrait does appear to bear more than a passing resemblance to the famous Mona Lisa. And yes, Henry does eventually catch up with the rest of his class, albeit by some rather risky means.
Pretty off-the-wall stuff; but those who have enjoyed the previous flights of fancy delivered by Cali and Chaud will certainly find plenty to amuse herein.

Winnie and Wilbur Gadgets Galore
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper book of three, re-named, previously published titles featuring the much-loved duo, Winnie and Wilbur in Space, Winnie’s New Computer and Winnie and the Big Bad Robot will surely appeal to those of a mechanical bent.
The first sees the pair hurtling skywards in a rocket and discovering the ‘Purrfect” picnic spot, then having their picnic invaded by a horde of hungry space rabbits. The odd swish of her magic wand produces the ideal fare for the bouncing bunnies; but the voracious consumption of their favourite metallic meal leads to the visitors being without any means of getting back home. Can Winnie’s wand save the day once again?
You’d think after all that excitement in previous adventures involving machines, now renamed for this compilation, Winnie would have learned to stay clear; but her first foray, that involving a misunderstanding on Wilbur’s part, the scanning of her spell books into her computer and a mal-functioning mouse – Wilbur’s doing; and the second, an extremely unfortunate experience with the robot constructed by Winnie in her weekly creativity class at the local library, didn’t deter her at all. Hence her ‘big adventure’ in space.
The magic still holds good, no matter how the stories are packaged.

I’ve signed the charter 

Counting with Tiny Cat / The Fox Wish

Counting with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Tiny Cat is an energetic bundle of mischief with a particular penchant for red wool. At the outset there isn’t any but then yippee! A ball of the red stuff rolls right along. That quickly becomes TWO! THREE! FOUR! Which is all the creature can really juggle; but still they keep coming.

Clearly Tiny Cat’s counting skills have yet to develop further, though oddly the feline’s vocabulary encompasses ‘ABOUT A DOZEN– emphasis on the about here I should add.

Still though, the creature’s appetite for the red stuff isn’t satisfied: ‘LOTS’ leads to a very greedy ‘AS MANY AS YOU CAN GET’ but even that isn’t sufficient. SOME EXTRA gives way to …

Will the frisky thing ever realise that enough is enough?
A wonderful visual comedy with a delightfully playful star: Tiny Cat most definitely commands the performance, and viewers will definitely demand instant encores.

The Fox Wish
Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books
A small girl – the narrator – and her younger brother return to the playground in search of the skipping rope left behind earlier. There’s no sign of their rope but they follow some sounds of laughter and in the clearing, come upon, not the friends they’d anticipated. but a group of foxes enjoying a skipping game.

Doxy, foxy, / touch the ground. / Doxy, foxy, / turn around. / Turn to the east, / and turn to the west, / and choose the one that / you like best.
The children decide the foxes are less adept skippers than they on account of their tails and Luke lets out a giggle. Fortunately the foxes aren’t offended: instead they approach the children and ask for some coaching. Soon animals and humans are playing together happily, taking turns to hold the rope ends. When the little girl’s turn comes to do so, she notices the name, painted on the handle.

It’s her name, but also happens to be that of one of the foxes; and, the little creature has assumed it now belongs to her because of a wish she’d made.
Does the little fox’s wish come true: what does the little girl decide to do?
A wonderful, slightly whimsical tale of empathy, altruism and kindness, and a delightful portrayal of the way young children so easily slip between fantasy and reality, told with sensitivity that is captured equally in Sakai’s glowing illustrations and Aman’s words, which in their direct simplicity, echo the voice of a child. Such exquisite observation.

I’ve signed the charter 

Board Book Shelf 2

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Mix & Match Animal Homes
Mix & Match Colours

Lo Cole
Walker Books
Innovative design – a tiny book within a small one – is key to these two board books for the very youngest. In Animal Homes, six habitats the (African) plains, the desert, the jungle,

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the sea, the forest and the Arctic are visited with four animals per spread and a fifth is waiting to be discovered in the inset smaller book.
Colours has a spread for each of the primary colours plus green, pink and orange each of which has eight or nine brightly coloured objects both large and small (although relative sizes aren’t explored) and the inset book has the pages of the six colours which children need to match to the colours of the objects on the surrounding larger pages.

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Vocabulary development and colour concepts are the main learning opportunities offered in these playful little books.

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Where’s Mr Lion?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
A handful of wild animals – Mrs Giraffe, Mr Crocodile, Mrs Elephant and Mr Lion are the subjects to search for in this board book. With its felt flap hiding places and a final hidden mirror, toddlers will have lots of fun manipulating the flaps to reveal and missing animals which have in fact only partially managed to conceal themselves behind the various brightly coloured objects. This of course adds to the enjoyment, as does the repetitive patterned nature of the text.

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Cheep! Cheep!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In the latest addition to the Can You Say It Too? series Sebastien Braun involves readers in a trip around the farm and surrounding area where five animals have hidden themselves behind a clump of flowers, a gate, a basket, a stable door and a clump of reeds.. Once located, toddlers can emulate the ‘Cheep! Cheep!’, ‘Baah! Baah!’ ‘Meew! Meew!’, ‘Hee-haw! Hee-haw!’ and ‘Quack! Quack!’

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of the baby animals. Involving, noisy fun made all the more so by Braun’s gently humorous visuals.

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Flora and the Chicks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, the balletic star from Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguins and Flora and the Peacocks now performs in an almost wordless counting book for a younger audience. The young miss, suitably clad in her red jump suit, more than has her hands full with the nest of hatching chicks emerging one after the other. As each new chick breaks out, the book counts, the numeral being revealed when the page-sized folds are opened out, or as one turns to the next spread to follow the action,

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until finally all 10 chicks have hatched, the mother hen has her full brood and Flora sits for a well-earned rest. Then come the only words ‘The End’ aptly heralding the show is over. The tottering first steps of the chicks provide a nice contrast to Flora’s graceful swoops, lunges and stretches as she attempts to round up the fluffy yellow hatchlings. Lots of fun and deliciously re-readable.

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Cats, Dogs, Baby Animals and Their Parents

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The Cat Book
Silvia Borando
The Dog Book
Lorenzo Clerici
Walker Books
These two small pet manual Minibombo books, along with The Guinea Pig Book, now have a category all of their own ‘Paper Pets’. I’m no lover of furry creatures, especially cats and dogs, but I am an enthusiast where the Minibombo series is concerned and these two are full of interactive fun.
The former is all about keeping your cat ‘purrfectly’ happy from the moment he wakes up until he beds down for the night. That entails some flea squishing, behaving like a mini brolly when it rains, fluffing up – no not ruffling – and then smoothing, his fur; a spot of cheek squeezing bird releasing…

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followed by a gentle behind-the-ears scratching; then Shhh! Sleep time.
Canine care is pretty much taped in The Dog Book. All that entails is a little back scratching (while he performs his down dog asana),

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a spot of rebel rousing when he dozes off again, a belly rub, and  some rather intensive getting active training. Learning to respond appropriately to commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘fetch’ might well cause the odd challenge – to the trainer that is, but it’s all part and parcel of a dog’s day. Lorenzo Clerici adds his own brand of mischievous illustrative humour – including a blank page – to the series.

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Fly!
Xavier Deneux
Chronicle Books
This wonderfully playful, chunky board book is the latest addition to the Touch, Think Learn series. Two cute-looking birds meet, nest, mate and raise a family together. The fledglings eat, grow, and fly –eventually, to find their own tree…
Immersive fun with thick card removable pieces that can be taken from their places and moved to the recessed space on the opposite page to act out the narrative as an adult reads. (Or, a learner reader could enjoy its straightforward text as a solo experience). Either way, they’ll have lots of fun.

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Baby Goz
Steve Weatherill
Steve Weatherill Books
If you’re looking for an ideal picture book for a beginning reader, then look no further, Goz, with its playful patterned language, is your ‘gosling’ so to speak. It’s great to see the little character has re-incubated; he’s certainly lost none of his charm. I’d actually forgotten his wonderful ‘Knock, knock! Who’s there?’ entry into the world; that made me smile all over again, as it has the countless beginner readers I’ve taught since Goz burst onto the scene over 25 years ago, and set off around the countryside …

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in search of his mummy.

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Safe & Sound
Jean Roussen and Loris Lora
Flying Eye Books
Many baby animals, (many, but not all) … / whether very, very big or very, very small … / would not be safe all on their own and need some help unil they’re grown.’ So begins this classy picture book account from a father and mother’s perspective, as they tuck their child safely into bed for the night. They talk of the ways numerous animals  mothers especially, protect their offspring, whether it be in an underground burrow like the little chipmunks, a nest like the bluebird, snuggled at the side of a mother lion, close to a rhino, grizzly cubs huddled in a warm den,

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hiding inside their mother’s mouth as the crocodile hatchlings do, or …

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riding between fluffy wings …

Reassuring, informative and told through Jean Roussen’s gentle rhyming text and stylishly snugglesome retro illustrations from Loris Lora, this is a winner as a bedtime book or in an early years setting.

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Mighty, Mighty Construction Site

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Mighty, Mighty Construction Site
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
It’s wake-up time at the construction site and the construction vehicles are back, to share their working day. Teamwork is needed for their new task – the erecting of an enormous building: but the trusty truck crew are ready. First comes Cement Mixer blasting his horn, calling to his fellow trucks.

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A ‘SUPERCREW’ is required to work on this job; so the fleet becomes ten. Small and quick Skid Steer partners big Bulldozer working side by side to clear the way with Skid performing some of her super spins.
Excavator and Backhoe make another duo, the former digging the trenches, the latter putting the drainage pipes  in place and then both covering them, the process being repeated  – over and over …
The work continues apace with Crane Truck, Flatbed Truck, Front-End Loader, Dump Truck and Pumper

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all playing vital roles until finally, it’s job done! (The building itself stands out starkly in its setting: its shape and transparent nature suggests it is made largely of glass: an interesting talking point.)

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Now, the sun has gone, the moon is out and the trucks wend their weary way back to sleep. ‘Shh … goodnight!
Like its predecessor, Rinker’s rhyming text reads aloud well as it details the various roles of the team members – it’s great to see how the trucks work in co-operation – and Lichtenheld’s robust, action-packed illustrations (alternating spreads and panels) help pace the rhyme. There’s so much to enjoy and discuss and after a reading or two (or more I suspect) this story could be turned into a movement session. Children can use their bodies to emulate the truck actions adding appropriate sound effects too.

Also just out is an unabridged board book edition of the predecessor:

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Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
There’s such a lovely rhythmic feel to this bedtime tale that features five large machines, which, on the first spread, are still hard at work making a road and constructing a building. A turn of the page shows the same vehicles with one task each to complete before their day’s work is done.
Shh … goodnight, Crane Truck, goodnight.’ One by one, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator each completes its work and is duly bid goodnight in similar fashion, the repetition helping to add to the sleepy ambiance of the telling. Earthy hues at sundown, and indigo night shades, are just right for Lichtenheld’s scenes, which are full of gentle visual humour.

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Our Dog Benji / Little Oink

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Our Dog Benji
Pete Carter and James Henderson
EK Books
The small boy narrator of this little book has a large dog; a dog that, unlike the boy, is pretty much omnivorous, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, avocado, grass, daffodils, ice-cream – understandably – are all tasty treats for the animal.

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Mornings see him searching the kitchen floor for crumbs, at mealtimes he sits hopefully under the table and even goes off alone on food forays. Building sites (for the odd bite of a sandwich) …

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and parties for a sample of ‘posh food’ are also fruitful places for a visit.
Summer comes with samplings of crunchy bugs and unripe apples (with dramatic effects on his tum and er… bum). What about our narrator though? He seems to be acquiescing somewhat: did I hear a mention of eating fruit and veg.?
Not however the green crunchy leaf stalks of a certain vegetable beginning with c.
Henderson’s duo-tone artwork works well for this tale of a food faddy child and his dog. Adults concerned about fussy eaters especially, will smile at Carter’s tale and hope that perhaps like the small boy protagonist, their charges will try some new foods, perhaps even ‘green stuff’

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Little Oink
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
The hero of this board book, Little Oink, is a tiny treasure; a fun loving, nursery school savouring, family loving little guy. However, unlike most youngsters, he has a great dislike for mess-making of any kind; in fact he wants everything to be just so: after all his pals are allowed to have tidy rooms. “Why can’t I?” Little Oink asks his parents one day.

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Papa Pig’s ‘respectable grown up pigs are proper mess makers’ explanation and Mama Pig’s proviso for going out to play, “Mess up your room, put on some dirty clothes,” have him obeying – eventually. Then off he goes to have fun – playing … house!

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This makes a trilogy of ‘Little’ books from Rosenthal and again, her humour shines through and is delightfully illuminated through Jen Corace’s deliciously droll illustrations.

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When an Elephant Falls in Love / I Love You

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When an Elephant Falls in Love
Davide Cali and Alice Lotti
Chronicle Books
Davide Cali of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School and The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer fame brings his sardonic wit to an exploration of falling in love, elephant style.
In his straightforward text, he offers, one by one, eight symptoms of this state of being. Alice Lotti portrays each of these ‘foolish things’ with equal wit in her stark, mixed media illustrations. Elephant is the perfect purveyor of the condition as his huge bulk serves to emphasise the daftness of each action …

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He hides whenever he sees her.

And, there’s a tiny yellow bird that pops up as an observer of each scene, further adding to the overall impact of the whole crazy scenario …

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Look by the bowl …

Both young readers and adults will find plenty to make them smile in this, whether or not they recognise the symptoms from personal experience or observations of others, for it’s plain to see that when an elephant falls in love …

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his actions are pretty much those of a besotted human.

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I Love You
Clemency Pearce and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
The all important title message is delivered through Clemency Pearce’s warm-hearted, rhyming text and super-cute, patterned illustrations. With its textual pattern that begins, ‘ When you feel so very small, / when no one seems to care at all, / what can make you ten feet tall? // Three little words …
(turn over) … ‘I love you!’ …

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this cries out to the very young to join in with those three words after each verse is read aloud.
But those recipients of love can also help make others feel better …

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Ideal to share with your toddler, this board book is a delight.
Another board book with the same title is

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I Love You
Dawn Sirett
DK
This is the latest addition to DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series.
Colour photographs of animals, toys and humans …

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each with a finger-sized tactile feature are the ingredients of this chunky little book. Just right for the very youngest to explore.

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A Rocketful of Space Poems / Things To Do

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A Rocketful of Space Poems
John Foster and Korky Paul
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Reputed anthologist , John Foster has compiled a book of twenty-six poems on the ever- popular space theme. Four are Foster’s own work and there are three from Eric Finney. Supposing went down well with my audience as did Judith Nicholls’ A Space Odyssey with its fun alliterative opening ‘Percival Pettigrew packed his pyjamas / and parted for Pluto, pausing at Mars.
Many of the poems are, I think, newly penned. If you use this collection in a primary school, children can have great fun inventing additions to the items for sale at Greasy Peter Pluto’s Fast Food Superstore – a good starting point for some imaginative writing of their own; ditto Robert Scotellaro’s Garage Sale in Outer Space and David Harmer’s Inter-galactic Squibble-ball, the Official Rules.
Old favourites are here as well: there’s Richard Edwards’ Asteroid Dog and Max Fatchen’s ‘Jump Over the Moon?the Cow Declared, to name but two.
Korky Paul’s weird and wacky visuals further add to the overall humorous feel and every spread is enclosed within a galactic-themed border …

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Cool endpapers too from pupils of Rockwell Nursery & Infant School.
Add this one to your primary classroom collection or topic box.

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Things To Do
Elaine Magliaro and Catia Chien
Chronicle Books
Erstwhile primary school teacher and now children’s poet, Elaine Magliaro, has written a short poetic sequence focusing on the small things and moments that occupy the thoughts of young children in their everyday lives from Dawn until the Moon brightens the night sky. If you’re Birds you can ‘Stretch out your wings/ on the brightening sky/ Morning’s upon us. / Get ready to fly!

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If you’re a Honeybee ‘Flit among flowers/ Sip nectar for hours / Be yellow and fuzzy. / Stay busy. / For hours.
Other natural world focuses are an Acorn, a Snail, the Sun and Sky, Rain, an Orb Spider, and Crickets and some made objects – Boots, an Eraser and Scissors …

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This lovely picture book, with Elaine Magliaro’s vivid verbal imagery and Catia Chien’s textured, acrylic illustrations, very much reflects that way of being in the present moment, very young children exhibit when we allow them to follow their own interests, as well as being reflective of the natural poets or ‘versifiers’ – ‘avid creator(s) of word rhythms and rhymes’ that Kornei Chukovsky called them, in his famous From Two to Five, ‘pouring forth verse to express their exhilaration.’
One to add to the home, or primary school, bookshelf.

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Don’t forget 14th Feb.

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The Winter Fox / Presents Through the Window

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The Winter Fox
Timothy Knapman and Rebecca Harry
Nosy Crow
As summer gives way to autumn, a little fox is too busy enjoying himself romping in the flowers and chasing butterflies to pay heed to his friends, Rabbit, Owl and Squirrel as they prepare for the long winter that’s to come. He plays through the autumn too …

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and come winter when the other animals are all snuggled cosily in their nests, Fox is alone out in the forest.
Cold and hungry, he makes a wish beneath a star. What happens then changes the course of events not only for Fox but for the other forest creatures too.

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Full of wintry warm-heartedness and friendship, and just enough seasonal sparkle, this is a story to share with young listeners in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They’ll need to look carefully at the sky to discover where that surprise parcel came from.

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Presents Through the Window
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is out on his present delivery round. He has an unconventional mode of transport and seems in rather a rush. So much so that his quick peep through the (die-cut) window of each house before dropping off a gift will result in some rather inappropriate offerings being received come Christmas morning.

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Part of the fun is that by turning the page, readers will discover the identities of the gifts recipients and relish each mis-match.

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Santa in contrast never does learn the outcome of his hasty choices: another part of the fun is imagining the reactions of the recipients. However the most fun of all is seeing how everything works out just fine come Christmas morning.
The entire text is composed of Santa’s utterances presented in speech bubbles as a running commentary – literally – directed to his audience as he moves from one home to the next. Simple, clever and highly effective.

A Dot in the Snow / Bunny Slopes

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A Dot in the Snow
Corrine Averiss and Fiona Woodcock
Oxford University Press
Polar bear cub Miki would much rather play with his mother in the soft snow than fish in the icy Arctic waters. Off he goes up the ridge presumably in search of a playmate. That’s when he sees it – a red dot in the snow. Then from out of the blizzard emerges a figure – one that looks, smells and sounds friendly.

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And, joy of joys, it wants to play  at first anyway…

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Suddenly though, the dot isn’t so smiley and playful; something has gone missing. One of the child’s mittens: can Miki rescue it and save the day? He can; the ice breaks, the two continue playing; more snow falls blotting out almost everything. Two infants bid each other farewell, return to their respective mothers and doubtless each will have much to talk about.
Gorgeous texturing in the illustrations and a suitably spare text combine to create a warm-hearted wintry read with themes of friendship, determination and parental love, albeit with a bit of stereotyping. Snuggle and share.

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Bunny Slopes
Claudia Rueda
Chronicle Books
Following in the footsteps of Hervé Tullet (Press Here, The Dot), Claudia Rueda has created a metabook with a wintry theme – a wintry theme that is, if readers play along. Bunny is ready for a ski day and invites us to join him; but snow is decidedly lacking. Readers have to create it by shaking the book – hard. Oops!

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Then tap the top of the book to extricate Bunny but that ground looks rather flat. The book needs a right tilt to set our would-be skier in motion, and again. Yeah! He’s off … but all of a sudden …

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(ingenious precipice-gutter moment). A  hasty 180 degree book turn and a page flip will, sort things. Now what?
More manipulating will see a battered Bunny up on his skis again and ready for another run at that cliff. Whoppee! He’s made it right to the opposite side but can he clear that hole? Phew! Just about, but surely not another one; the little fellow’s getting just a tad too big for his boots now but there he goes again …

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Fortunately this leap leads to his very own den where Mummy Bunny is ready and waiting with a warming treat …
Love those rabbitty expressions and the minimal colour palette: with its simple text this is a good bet for those in the early stages of reading as well as individual listeners and book manipulators.

Being in the Present: One Minute / Love You Hoo

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One Minute
Somin Ahn
Chronicle Books
Have you ever thought about what you can do in a minute? If you’re a teacher of young children, you may well have done some playful activities on that theme: How many times can you write your name? How many cubes can you join together? How many times can you bounce a ball? and so on.
Here, after providing a few basic snippets of information: ‘In one minute, the second hand moves sixty times while the long hand moves once.’ Or ‘In one minute, you can blink your eyes 20 times …’ artist Somin Ahn offers some ideas for filling that unforgiving minute: hugging your dog; saying hi to a neighbour or planting seeds …

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She then goes on to explore the way time can apparently expand or contract according to the particular situation: a roundabout ride makes a minute feel very short, as does playing in the park with your friends …

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whereas that same time spent in the dentist’s chair feels like a long time …

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We also discover that in one single minute a life can be saved, a train can be missed.
Observant listeners and readers will have noticed that the little girl’s mother is pregnant and this fact is used in the final two spreads: ‘In one minute, someone can leave’ shows the child tearfully hugging her mum farewell. Turning over, we have ‘And someone can arrive.’ – presumably a new sibling for the little girl.

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Sensitive and thought-provoking, this small book offers much to ponder and discuss with nursery and infant children.

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Love You Hoo
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books
Woo-hoo-hoo! It’s snuggle time for little ones; but first, one particular Big Owl wants to share some very important thoughts with Little Owl, thoughts about the wonderful times the two have shared together and the wonderful times that are yet to come. Parent and offspring are alternately teacher and learner in this relationship,

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a relationship that is always sunny no matter what the weather; a relationship full of promise …

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and the occasional mishaps …

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The most important part of the message though is the final one and something every infant needs to hear: “Whoever you are going to be … Whatever you may do … Wherever you may choose to fly … I’ll always love you – hooooooo!
With a tenderly composed rhyming text and amusing scenes of the totally delightful owls, this is one to share with the very young. I’d suggest reading the text aloud to yourself first though as the phrasing of the rhyme is a little tricky on occasion.

First Snow / Brrr! Brrr!

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First Snow
Bomi Park
Chronicle Books
With impactful minimal text and a limited colour palette, debut picture book artist Park creates the magic of a first snowfall as experienced by a toddler. Said toddler dons warm outdoor gear (good on her) and creeps out into the white world beyond her front door, there to discover the joys of building a snowman. First though it seems, she must roll her ball of snow down urban streets, across a moonlit field, beside an elevated railway track – ‘Fast, fast fast’ –

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into the woods where she joins a throng of other snowman-building children. A magically uplifting moment occurs

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after which reality reasserts itself and we, and the little girl, are returned once more to her back garden and another kind of enchantment.
Go back and look once more at the details in Park’s captivating snow-filled scenes. Notice: the snowflake patterns on the child’s mits, the activities of the pup accompanying her the whole time, and the animals emerging and watching in the dark woods.

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Gorgeous! And as an added bonus, the spare text, with its built-in repetition, is such that beginning readers can, once the story’s been read to them, read those fifty odd words for themselves.
For even younger children is

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Brrr! Brrr!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
This is one of the series of lift-the-flap books for those ‘just beginning to talk’ and it certainly has a chilly feel to it. Peeking out from behind five objects –an iceberg, a boat, a cave entrance, an igloo and a clump of fir trees, each of which forms the flap, are five animals. Youngsters can enjoy a game of hide and seek in response to the sequence of ‘Who’s that … ?’ questions

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and then join in with the animal sound once it’s revealed. Sebastien Braun’s snowy scenes are a delight: I particularly like the woodland one.

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With the repeat pattern of the simple text, beginning readers can enjoy sharing this with a toddler sibling too.

How To Be a Hero / Mary Had a Little Glam

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How to be a Hero
Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink
Chronicle Books
Anyone who has read The Shrinking of Treehorn will be familiar with the author’s wry humour: that same humour is inherent in this posthumously published picture book. Meet Gideon, a nice boy who lives with his parents in a nice house and has, seemingly, everything a boy could want. What young Gideon really wants though is to be a hero but he’s not quite sure how to go about it. He has some ideas though: You have to be strong, brave and clever like this surely?

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After further foraging into fairytales such as this one ‘the story where a witch gives a girl a poisoned apple and when she takes a bite she goes into a deep sleep which is sort of being dead but not really and nothing will get her awake except a kiss and someone does see her sleeping there and he kisses her and he’s a hero, just like that.’ however, he comes to the conclusion that really, all this heroism takes is just being in the right place at the right time. QED! Well that and err… keeping your eyes open. This does entail actually noticing what’s going on around you though – something of which Gideon appears unaware, as heroic act opportunities present themselves to left and right as he heads, eventually, to the supermarket to spend his pocket money.

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There, a heroic act is, assuredly performed but by whom? Yes, Gideon is the recipient of a whole lot of media attention but for what? Wish fulfilled, he’s certainly front-page news – a hero. Err? He certainly thinks so.
Groenink brings out the subtle humour of the telling beautifully; it’s there all the way through if you look closely – very closely in some places; and in others, such as the shop sign with its reference to Propp (Vladimir – Morphology of the Folk Tale) and (Bruno) Bettelheim above the butchers it’s likely to go over the heads of young children. I love the way he switches from the dreary reality of Gideon’s home and locality to the more colourful fantasy world of the fairy tale world he visits in his imagination.
Certainly with this book, it’s a case of what you bring to the story making a big difference to what you get out of it.

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Mary Had a Little Glam
Tammi Sauer and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Sterling
A funky take on the nursery rhyme wherein fashion fanatic “I must accessorize” Mary starts school determined to make her mark. Seemingly her classmates at Mother Goose school are happy to merge into their surroundings though …

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Mary however, is set on bringing a whole lot more glitz and glamour to her pals. She gets to work adding accessories and generally jazzing up not just the pupils, but everyone and everything in her school.

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Playtime comes and with it a realisation that Mary and her decked-out pals are way too over-dressed for energetic outdoor romping and rampaging. No matter – Mary can turn her hand to un-accessorising too …

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and she’s certainly queen of messy play – hurray for Mary.
With its bouncy rhyme and suitably flamboyant illustrations of Mary and her supporting cast, this is lots of fun to share with those around Mary’s age.

The Wish Tree

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The Wish Tree
Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham
Chronicle Books
When I taught reception age children we’d sometimes have a wish tree as part of the classroom environment, perhaps for the International Day of Peace or as part of an RE theme. Of course it wasn’t a whole tree, just a branch that had broken off and been collected for the occasion. Now here’s a storybook character wanting to find a wish tree in the great outdoors. His brother and sister dismiss the idea but with his trusty ‘Boggan’ for company, Charles sets out into the snowy world on his quest to find one.

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Up hill and down they search, venturing into the woods where they stop to help various animals and make some new friends;

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but try as they might, they cannot find a wish tree. Evening is nigh and the searchers are weary; they can go no further. But then something truly wonderful and magical happens as Charles and Boggan’s kindnesses are rewarded.

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His newfound friends help him on his way and when he wakes up, he sees before him a snow-laden pine tree. Charles writes a wish, ties it to the tree and then he, Boggan and the animals partake of a seasonal feast together.

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As the moon glows in a star-filled sky, Charles and Boggan finally make their way home to bed and perhaps to dream.
The snowy scenes have a subtle pinkish glow that radiates the wonderful warmth of the story despite the chilly outdoor setting. Openheartedness and friendship win through in this subtle tale of determination and tenacity.
With its in-built repetition that offers listeners opportunities to join in with those ‘La-di-da-di-da-daaaa’s of Charles and Boggan’s ‘Whishhhhh’ songs, this is a lovely book to share as temperatures drop and the nights draw in. I love the magical elements and the way gaps are left for readers and listeners to fill for themselves.

They All Saw a Cat / Picture This

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Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books
A cat is a cat, is a cat, no matter what. Right? Perhaps not. The world looks different depending on the lenses through which we view it, surely? I certainly think so. It’s a wonderfully philosophical consideration brilliantly demonstrated by author/illustrator Brendan Wenzel in this creative, thought-provoking mixed media exploration of observation, imagination and perspectives, which begins thus:
‘The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears and paws …’. The child sees the cat, the dog sees the cat – sleek and slinky, the fox sees the cat – chunky and stubby, the fish sees the cat thus …

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and the mouse – well the mouse sees an alarmingly jaggedy, predatory monster, and the bee sees a pointillist image. On walks the cat and is seen by the bird, the flea, the snake, the worm and the bat …

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A dozen sightings, every one through different lenses, lenses which create shifts between texture, colour and tone, underlined after all twelve sightings by ‘YES, THEY ALL SAW A CAT!’

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We’re then told ‘The cat knew them all, and they knew the cat.’ –a lengthy discussion might ensue from this statement alone. But wait, we’re not quite done yet; the cat walks on and comes to the water: imagine what it saw …
Wenzel uses a range of painterly styles borrowed from impressionism, pointillism and others to make readers think about how perception, art and emotion are intricately linked. But that’s not all: the use of italics and capitals and the patterned structure of the narrative all contribute to the impact of the whole.
This is a book that can be used right across the age range from early years to adult students of art and philosophy: what a wonderful way to help the young to begin to understand and give credence to other people’s viewpoints.

The manner in which emotions are engaged and affected by the visual composition of images is explored in the revised and extended edition of a fascinating and insightful book first published 25 years ago:

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Picture This
Molly Bang
Chronicle Books
In the first hundred or so pages, Molly Bang takes the story of Little Red Riding Hood and shows how different placement of cut paper shapes and colours on the page work together to help create and build up emotionally charged scenes, our perceptions of which are bound by the context of our own experience. Why does a triangle placed on a flat base give us a feeling of stability whereas diagonal shapes make us feel tense?

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How come we feel more scared looking at pointed shapes, and more secure or comforted looking at rounded shapes or curves? These questions are explored as are others of colour choice and combination.
In the second, much shorter (new to the revised edition) section of the book, the author takes her story When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry, and using four pictures from it, looks at how she created four distinct feelings – one per illustration – of Fury, Sadness, Expectancy and Contentment/contemplation and uses them to explore the principles she’s looked at in the first part. And the final pages invite readers to create and analyse a picture of their own. Perhaps but first I’m off to take another look at some picture books starting with Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red.

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Flip Flap Pop-Ups & Who What Where?

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This Or That?
Delphine Chedru
Can You Keep a Straight Face?
Elisa Géhin
What’s Up?
Olivia Cosneau
Thames & Hudson
All three of these playfully interactive little ‘Flip Flap Pop-Up’ books have amazing paper engineering by Bernard Duisit and each is likely to bring countless hours of delight to small children who will adore pulling and pushing the tabs and turning the wheels therein. (So too will the adults who might feel the need to demonstrate the various mechanisms!)
Differently themed and differently authored, a treat awaits at every turn of the page and flick of the hand:
Can You Keep a Straight Face? asks the book’s author. I doubt it, as all manner of odd things happen when you manipulate the tabs and wheels on each spread – magical fun of the face contortion kind. Prepare to be amazed.

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This or That? presents a varied (and sometimes difficult) array of choices to respond to, all introduced by, ‘Which is better?’ Chocolate or vanilla ice-cream? No competition here: I’d choose this one every time.

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What about the pet question though – in reality I tend to avoid both cats and dogs! I have issues with both.

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But I especially like the final togetherness spread. If I had to choose a favourite (I love all three books), I think it would have to be …
What’s Up? which introduces various birds from the tiny Robin Redbreast (he almost launches himself from the page) …

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to the flambouyant ‘proud peacock’ …

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What a tail! Cool stuff!

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Who What Where?
Olivier Tallec
Chronicle Books
This is a deliciously playful follow up to Tallec’s Who Done It? And again it’s one where close observation is required to answer the question posed at the top of each page along with a visual of the situation. Four, or sometimes five suspects then form an ID parade on the adjoining, lower page with clues to assist youngsters identify the culprit. Here’s an example …

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Who has left a jacket at home?
Every spread is populated by delightful characters – animal and human – each beautifully detailed and rendered in pencil and acrylics and some require a bit more puzzling than others. How do you find this one :

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They’re all sporting blue so colour isn’t very helpful although we can eliminate the character with a gift. Another clue is needed: a blue face, yes but look at the eye reflected. Is it surrounded by black skin? No. So we can rule out number two and five. Where’s the black dot on the eye in the mirror – central or not? Now you’ve got it …
There seems to be something not quite right in this scenario though:

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Who got stuck in the tree trunk? we’re asked. Now take a look at the protruding feet – which way are they pointing – in or out? Now look at the girth of the upside down character: rather stout, yes? So I can’t see the last two becoming stuck so that leaves the first two – both pretty chunky but foot size leads us to suspect number two in the line up and bingo! That’s correct but then why are his feet pointing outwards at the top and inwards in the line up? OOPS!
Youngsters applying their developing logic to this one might well feel somewhat puzzled – I was!
All in all though, terrific fun.

Good Night Like This and This and …

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Good Night Like This
Mary Murphy
Walker Books
Adorable adult animal characters – a horse, a rabbit, a firefly, a bear, a duck, a cat and a mouse bid their respective, equally adorable infants good night in this lovely book. It’s one that uses soporific language ‘ Yawny and dozy, twitchy and cosy. Good night rabbits, sleep tight… ‘ to lull listeners into a sleepy mood too as they share in the rituals of the respective animals’ bedtime biddings …

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and by turning the split pages can play their own part in the good nights …

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before they too, enter the land of nod.
Gorgeous! Such a beautiful, dreamy colour palette, so much love and tenderness at every turn of the page – aaaahhh! Sweet dreams little ones. Sleep tight.

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Sleep, Little Pup
Jo Parry
QED
Insomnia hits us all from time to time and in this story told in a gentle rhyming text, it’s a cuddly-looking Pup that has tried all the usual ways of inducing sleep – sheep counting, star counting and even more puppish pursuits such as tail chasing, bone chewing, mice teasing and even howling at the moon: all to no avail. Out come the nocturnal bugs and beetles, the fireflies and moths and all sing a lullaby for Pup but he remains wide awake …

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so much so that when fox comes along, guess who joins the moonlit patrol. Over at the pond is where Pup finds himself next and there he stops for a bit of fish tickling, lilypad floating and frog-style leaping …

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Will he ever get some shut-eye?
Finally back to his basket comes a sad-looking Pup but then along comes his Mummy with a goodnight kiss and cuddle, and a new soft blanket. It’s that soft, warm snuggly blanket that at last, does the trick: sweet dreams little Pup; you’ve plenty to dream about.
With a cute main character and an equally lovable supporting cast, Little Pup is likely to win many friends among early years listeners: the text could well help induce sleepiness but not, I suspect, before the story’s over. Jo Parry’s scenes have a soft charm, similar to that blanket. One to add to the bedtime story shelf.

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Everyone Says Goodnight
Hiroyuki Arai
Chronicle Books
It’s Little Bear’s bedtime but first he needs some help packing away all his toys. Toddlers can assist by turning the split pages to get the toys in the toy box.
It’s also time for Little Bunny and Little Kitty to go to bed but they too have toys to put away and again ‘littles’ can assist, as they can those three little piglets –

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they have a kitchen play set to put in the box …

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Now finally, we need to get those children tucked up too and then it’s …

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Gentle interactive fun for tinies at bedtime and just the thing to encourage them to tidy up first like the characters in this cute little book.

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My Dreams
Xavier Deneux
Twirl
A small child shares his dreams – flying high a-back a huge bird or soaring on a magic carpet, entertaining a princess in her tower, playing on an enormous slide …

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or participating in a game of hide and seek in a poppy field, or enjoying a ride on a dinosaur’s back or even that of a whale.

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All these fanciful scenarios take our dreamer far from home; but then it’s time to return to a place of quiet calm and perhaps finally, some snuggly stillness …
With its ‘glow in the dark’ silvery tactile component of every dream scene, this small chunky book is a delight at every turn of the page; and the limited colour palette is used to great effect, heightening the whole nocturnal drama.

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Animal Magic, Cuddly Cow, Portly Pig, Baby Elephant & Baby Reindeer

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Animal Magic
Phil Allcock and Gina Maldonado
Maverick Arts Publishing
Delightfully playful is Phil Allcock’s nonsense rhyme featuring what starts out as a hedgehog – a funny one – and morphs into eight other animals – small and smaller. There’s a hopping one, a wiggler…

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a strutting clucker, a quacking swimmer, a jogger, a hopper (furry this time) and slimy slitherer and finally …

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Toddlers will have enormous fun guessing what each new disguise will be before the page is turned to reveal it in one of Gina Maldonado’s enchanting dayglow spreads.

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Cuddly Cow/ Portly Pig
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Another two lovable animals star in the latest ‘Sound Button’ farmyard stories from the inimitable Axel Scheffler. The first features a very dozy Cuddly Cow intent on finding a quiet peaceful spot for some shut-eye. Her own meadow’s no good because the other cows make too much of a din: surely there’s somewhere else though, after all it is past sundown.
The chicken shed’s full of clucking hens, the horse is inhospitable, there’s a right old row in the pig pen – thank you ducks – but what about the sheep field? Maybe a spot of counting might help …

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Portly Pig’s troubled on account of his clean, pinkness. He’s against green grass, yucky flowers and trees as he describes them, and sets off in search of a mucky place. Soon he discovers just the thing: a cool, muddy pool; and a delightful day of splashing and sploshing follows. Until that is, the sky changes colour …

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Pig, like most young children is a real mud lover but unlike them, he can keep on getting muddy, letting the rain wash him off and immediately getting mucky all over again – in an instant. Youngsters will delight in Portly’s mucky, messy coat and might well be tempted to emulate his actions – adults beware!

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Baby Elephant / Baby Reindeer
illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books
In the first of two new offerings in the ‘Finger Puppet’ series we discover how Baby Elephant greets her Mama, finds food, keeps cool and communicates with fellow baby elephants.
Baby Reindeer lives in a contrastingly cold tundra climate and to find food, has to use his hooves to dig in the snow and uncover tasty lichen. Like Baby Elephant, he too swims in a river – albeit a very icy feeling one and snuggles against Mama Reindeer for warmth at the end of the day.
Both board books provide a lovely way for human adult and baby to interact with a book.

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A Pandemonium of Parrots & An Acorn

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A Pandemonium of Parrots and other animals
illustrated by Hui Skipp
Big Picture Press
Essentially what we have here in this super book is a series of spreads featuring collective nouns for a dozen or so animals large and small, each one playfully and alluringly illustrated by a talent new to me, Hui Skipp; and embedded within each illustration is a descriptive quatrain (presumably written by Kate Baker), such as this:
With nimble legs and pinching claws,
     they run across the forest floor.
Their gleaming armour shimmers bright,
    while fragile wings prepare for flight.
… as well as questions to answer by exploring what’s depicted on the spread.

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Representing the feathered ones are the parrots of the title, flamingos (a flamboyance), penguins in a huddle and these Hummingbird dazzlers …

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There are tigers – an ambush, a Lounge of Lizards basking in the sunshine …

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       Casually they lie around
slouched on rocks or on the ground.
       Suddenly one spots its prey
       and in a flash it darts away.

and on the river banks ‘An Army’ of frogs – croaking, singing wonders every one. The mammals are represented by a Sloth of Bears, An Ambush of Tigers, A Troop of Monkeys, A Conspiracy of Lemurs …

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and A Caravan of Camels – beauties all.
The final two spreads are a “Did You See?’ array of all the animals with questions, followed by a concluding Who’s Who that gives snippets of information about each animal included.
Altogether this book is a treat for the eyes, an opportunity to learn some collective nouns and a chance to discover a few facts about thirteen fascinating groups of creatures. One for the primary classroom or family bookshelf.

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Because of an Acorn
Lola M.Schaefer, Adam Schaefer and Frann Preston-Gannon
Chronicle Books
This is a simple, but wonderfully effective look at a forest habitat and the interconnectedness of the flora and fauna that are a part of the ecosystem.
Because of an acorn, a tree grows; this in turn provides a nesting place for a bird, an insect-eating one that happens to aid seed dispersal.

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The seed in turn grows, producing a flower that fruits, providing a chipmunk food. A snake with its beady eye upon the chipmunk …

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is in turn seized in a hawk’s talons and when the hawk lands on the branch of, yes, an oak, down comes an ripe acorn and more until ultimately, there’s …

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a forest

Circles and cycles of life are evident in this cleverly conceived, unassuming little book that packs a powerful punch.
In addition to being a super little book to share with a class or group of young children, the fact that the text is simple, patterned, and perfectly matched to the pictures on each page, beginning readers can try reading it for themselves and feel empowered having done so.
There’s so much to see and to discuss in Frann Preston-Gannon’s lush foresty illustrations. UK readers will find some of the animals less familiar and the oak species is different from the British ones but this could be a good talking point.

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Summer Evening/Unbelievable Summer Truth

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Summer Evening
Walter de la Mare illustrated by Carolina Rabei
Faber & Faber
What a glorious evocation of the countryside in summer is this book. Just eight lines penned by one of our best loved poets, have now been made into a glowing portrayal of a group of people delighting in their rural life as the sun slowly sinks over the hills.
We share the red, orange and golden sunset with the Farmer, a woman and two children, a cat and a dog,

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Old Rover in his moss-greened house/ Mumbles a bone, /and barks at a mouse.’
We then see the children following a cat-and-mouse chase as it unfolds inside and out …

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until finally, peace and harmony are restored, the animals all fed and the sun has given way to the moon.
You can almost hear that scintillating shimmering sun and feel that incandescent haze of high summer

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coming off the pages through Caroline Rabei’s scenes in this beautiful synthesis of poetry and pictures.
A ‘must have’ for the family bookshelf and for all early years settings and primary schools.

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The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The summer hols. are over (that really must be a bad dream; they’ve not even started yet: but back to the story). “What did you do this summer?” the teacher – as they always do – asks the young narrator of this crazy tale. Instantly we’re on the beach where the lad, accompanied by his dachshund, finds a treasure map only to have it snatched immediately by a passing magpie. Thus begins a chase which takes boy and dog (and readers) onto a pirate ship …

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and thence into a fast moving adventure involving a giant squid, a submarine …

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a film set with a very helpful actress who assists in the retrieval of the map.

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With the treasure hunt back in full swing so to speak, there follows a trip in a hot air balloon, a foray into the desert, a timely rescue by the boy’s uncle (in his flying machine) who drops his nephew onto a desert island where the pesky magpie (yes, the same one) seizes the map once again.

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Operation map retrieval is thus resumed taking our hero to the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and a snowy land populated by yeti.
Yes, in case you are wondering, the boy does finally discover treasure which, after all that, is something of a let down, although it’s not actually THE treasure but hey! the underwater scenes are still pretty wonderful. (Observant readers won’t miss what the boy does.) And that’s not quite the end of this bonkers book; there’s something of a twist in its tale; something that took place a few months earlier … bringing us back full circle to where we began, and I suspect readers back to the start of the book searching for clues of a visual nature, in Benjamin Chaud’s gigglesome, detailed pen-and-ink illustrations.
Another winner from the Cali/Chaud partnership.

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Play and Pondering Possibilities

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Blocks
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
Most children, young and not so young, delight in block play. It’s brilliant for developing concentration, spatial understanding and creativity; and, sometimes, sharing and co-operation: however, at least at the outset of this story, not the last two.
First off we meet young Ruby busily balancing and building with her blocks – all of one colour notice.

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Along comes Benji with his blocks intent on doing a bit of constructing and off he goes. Soon both are absorbed in their play …

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But then, Benji reaches out (hand across the gutter) for one of Ruby’s blocks, seizes same leaving a cross Ruby desirous of her block. “Mine!” each of them shouts and pretty soon, catastrophe …

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Time to repair the damage and work together; that way lies a super co-creation …

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until Guy appears on the scene. Guy has green blocks. What do you think will happen now? Maybe these endpapers will give a clue …

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A wonderfully simple story on the sharing theme that will surely pack a powerful punch with early years audiences; it’s a must have book for pre-school settings and families with very young children and even has die-cut block shapes on the front cover. What’s more, with its easy to read, brief text, this debut picture book is ideal for those just beginning to read for themselves.

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Over the Ocean
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
This book was first published in Japan over 30 years ago but it still has plenty to say to children today, especially those of the contemplative kind. It features a girl who stands at the water’s edge gazing out across the ocean waves and wondering. ‘What is in the ocean over the ocean?’ she asks; ‘Are there farms over the ocean?’ or …

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Maybe there are kids living there’ and ‘Are they all friends?

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She never moves from her lookout spot but continues pondering on the possibilities of fairs, animals, the night-time, different climates and  other watchers …

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and then makes a wish. A wish that, so it seems in her mind’s eye at least, is about to come true … Her longing is heartfelt and readers will surely feel it too.

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The whole thing is a marvellous, if quietly spoken celebration of the imagination and the wide, wonderful world. I particularly like the way that the author has given the girl a credible child’s voice: ”Maybe there are kids living there … I bet there are probably some bullies.” She certainly doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind there.
Those who look closely will notice that the details in the illustrations open up further questions – where are all those boats going, especially that ocean liner? Whither the air balloon? And many more in addition to those the girl herself raises.

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This is not a picture book

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This Is Not a Picture Book
Sergio Ruzzier
Chronicle Books
Essentially this delicious work of metafiction is about learning to read, or rather, becoming a reader. It begins with a duckling coming upon a book. No actually it begins with the front endpapers which, for a competent reader, present no problem, but might well be how a not yet reader views a printed text – as an intimidating jumble of letters and seemingly senseless words. Here are the first few lines: ‘One day, a itellet ldgicukn was anigtk a wkla, nhwe he wsa itegmohsn erd nyigl on the gonrdu. “A book!” he etyclxied. He kiecpd the book pu, eladyra ikgnntih fo all the faileutbu eispcutr hatt, he was eicnrta, eerw snedii.
Back to our duckling and his book, a fat looking volume, which, he discovers on opening it, is completely lacking in pictures. This is what happens next …

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Along comes a bug, eager to know what duckling has and whether he can read it. There follow an ingenious couple of spreads symbolising the beginning of duckling’s transition from someone that finds pictureless books a no go area, to a reader in the full sense of the word …

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One who appreciates the worlds that open up through words be they funny, sad,

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wild or peaceful, words that take you far away and also, bring you back home again, words that no matter where you are, will always be with you …

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What a wonderful testament to the power of reading and the way it can change individuals and, one hopes, the world.
Readers of this terrific book should turn now to the back endpapers to see the transformation to comprehendable text completed … job done for that particular duckish reader.

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Ruzzier’s gentle watercolour and ink illustrations speak volumes demonstrating the power of visuals too. Quite simply, brilliant.

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Flora and the Peacocks

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Flora and the Peacocks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, so I believe, has already starred in two previous picture books though this is my first encounter with the diminutive dancing delight. Herein she encounters a pair of preening peacocks who proceed to use their gloriously coloured tails in tandem with her fan, mirroring her every move until one, the rather more curious of the pair, crosses the gutter and approaches the girl. Thereafter we have a paired dance on the verso and on the recto, something of a solo drama. Eventually however, we have this …

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After which Flora reaches out (here readers can lift the tails or lower them as the fancy takes them).

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What then follows is a tug of war over her fan,

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orchestrated by readers moving an arched page (we know threesomes can be problematic where friendship is concerned) until the delicate fan becomes two pieces and Flora flounces off-stage in despair

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leaving the birds to work out a solution – which they duly do – with an amazing fold-out finale that more than makes up for the disaster and places a smiling Flora centre stage in a dazzling display of iridescent beauty and bewitchment.
Beautifully choreographed by Molly Idle, this breath-taking, wordless pas de trois is a real virtuoso performance, both on stage and off, that will have readers transfixed and wanting encore after encore. And don’t you just love the way those wispy willow fronds form a kind of proscenium arch for the whole show.

Those who particularly enjoy wordless picture books may also like:

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Dog on a Train
Kate Prendergast
Old Barn Books
This wordless debut picture book begins with a boy dashing downstairs and dropping his hat in his haste to leave the house. His dog spots said hat and chases off down the road after the boy, all the way to the tube station.

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‘Dogs must be carried’ says the sign at the turnstile and as luck would have it, a girl comes along and takes Dog down the escalator onto the platform.

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Dog then boards an underground train, makes the journey, is jostled by crowds, almost loses the hat and finally catches up with the boy and gives him the hat.
Kate Prendergast’s detailed drawings are beautifully executed in soft pencil, with just the red and white stripes of the boy’s hat and red and white details on his trainers standing out, giving a splash of colour on every spread and drawing the eye to the main characters. The pacing of the story is cleverly managed by the use of whole page, double spread, split page and comic strip images.

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A warm story about friendship and determination: wonderful for developing visual literacy.

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The Big Book of Bugs/A Beetle Is Shy

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The Big Book of Bugs
Yuval Zommer and Barbara Taylor
Thames & Hudson
Now is the time of year to go in search of all things buggish and armed with inventive illustrator, Yuval Zommer’s and bug expert, Barbara Taylor’s fantastic book, you’ll be in a position to find out all about them. It’s absolutely packed full of fascinating facts and some figures relating to minibeasts of all kinds – insects, snails, spiders, centipedes and worms and indeed we are given a classification explaining how to tell what’s what …

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as well as some other general bug-related information, before moving on to look at particular species in greater detail. This, the author does by posing intriguing questions such as ‘Does a dragonfly breathe fire?’ or ‘Just how slow does a snail go?

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as leads in to double spreads on over twenty-five topics. Most spreads look at one kind of mini creature, say spiders, where among the facts we find that spiders have 48 knees (I’ve never thought of spiders having knees before, I have to say); or Ants ‘the queen ant can live for 15 years!

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Or, Centipedes where we discover ‘most of these creatures have around 30 legs and can have over 300.

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And, in relation to Bugs on the Move, ‘A horsefly (my most unfavourite bug) can fly faster than a car on the motorway.’ That’s as maybe, but the one that bit me and caused an infected wound on my back that grew to the size of a duck’s egg and needed daily lancing for over a month, certainly wasn’t doing that!
Each spread is beautifully illustrated by Yuval Zommer, who adds touches of humour here and there, making bug discovery and factual learning a fun activity for all. Zommer even extends his creativity and readers’ enjoyment by including a ‘search and find’ element throughout, asking on the title page, ‘Can you find exactly the same fly 15 times in this book? Watch out for imposters.’ And he’s also hidden a couple of stripey wasps on the Bees spread …

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This is exactly the kind of captivating, treasure trove of a book that will turn youngsters into bug lovers, effervescing with enthusiasm to go on a minibeast hunt. It’s a must have for all family bookshelves, primary schools and early years settings – most of the latter two include some kind of minibeast theme in the curriculum.

Also on the topic of minibeasts, focusing on one category of insects is:

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A Beetle Is Shy
Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books
This one is vibrantly illustrated in glowing watercolours by Sylvia Long, and the poetic text is provided by Diana Hutts Aston. Although originating in the US,(and so some of the species may be unfamiliar to say, UK readers) the book has plenty to offer everyone with an interest in the subject. And some species just have different names ‘Convergent Lady Beetle’ is a ladybird.
The author uses attention-catching phrases such as ‘A beetle is kaleidoscopic’ …

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or ‘A beetle is telegraphic’ …

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to introduce particular characteristics that are then further explored on the spread in text that is perfectly pitched to engage and keep readers involved and wanting to know more.
We learn of the helpful things some beetles do (ladybirds eat aphids for instance), others can be a food source (in India some people eat stag beetle chutney. I’ve never come across this despite frequent visits). But some kinds such as weevils devastate crops like cotton and lettuce.

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A good one for individual reading or for sharing – it reads aloud so well.

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Board Books Briefing

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodnight Tiger/Little Hoot

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Goodnight Tiger
Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes
Little Tiger Press
It’s the middle of the night and Emily is still wide awake; but what is the cause of the BELLOWING, STOMPING, TRUMPETING and GROWLING that’s stopping her from sleeping? It’s not animals out in the street escaped from the zoo, nor anything under the bed, or in amongst her clothes and toys – she’s checked those possibilities; my goodness, that commotion is actually emanating from the animals on her wallpaper. They too, so they tell Emily, are unable to sleep. So she climbs into the wallpaper and thus begins a lesson – or rather several –on getting ready for bed, as the young miss takes them through a routine of bathing themselves, having a goodnight hot chocolate drink …

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snuggling up with a cuddly bear and a lullaby rendition. But even after all this, there’s only one tired being and it certainly isn’t any of the animals. Did I just say routine though? What actually happened was tiger caused a rumpus at the water hole; the drink was truly disgusting, the bear bolted and the lullaby became a raucous chorus …

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Hold on though, what’s that Emily is clutching?

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Could this be the answer to the animals’ insomnia and finally, her own …
Well, yes and no: it certainly works for some …

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With a satisfying final twist in the tale, this book is enormous fun to share at bedtime (though maybe not if there happens to be jungly paper on your child’s bedroom walls) or indeed at any time. Emily is a delight as are the creatures whose nocturnal world she temporarily enters. I can see this one becoming a much requested, just before bedtime favourite.

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Little Hoot
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
Little Hoot is generally a happy little fellow. He enjoys school, loves playing with his friends and will even do the practice routines his Mama Owl asks him to. But there is one thing he absolutely hates and that is staying up late. “All my other friends get to bed so much earlier than me!” he complains. Yes, he actually said that and what’s more, decides that when he grows up he’ll let his offspring go to bed as early as they want. He’s definitely not a night bird, this one despite papa Owl’s “Rules of the roost.” But off he duly goes for one hour more play …

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and it seems to be an especially long time when it comes to the last ten minutes …

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Having done his owly duty at last, he whizzes off to bed without even waiting for a bedtime story. Now that is not so good, Little Hoot.
This enchanting story will appeal to adults as much as to the young children who will delight in the irony of Little Hoot not wanting to stay up late. The tiny day birds I shared it with also loved the bed jumping and fort building in particular. My favourite scene however was that wonderful pondering practice …

 

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Adorable.

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Playing the Game

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The Very Cold, Freezing, No-Number Day
Ashley N. Sorenson and David Miles
Familius
Talking numbers are certainly an innovative device for reader engagement, particularly when they send out a desperate-sounding cry across what looks like a snowy landscape. Who can resist that plaintive H -E-E-E-E–L-L-L-P-P-P-P! plea as the numbers fall from the clocks and are scattered across the ground?

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We’re NUMB. B-B-B-BRRRRR!” they continue from the blocks of ice surrounding them … “Unless we warm up, time stops.” With such things as birthdays at stake, young children are unlikely to ignore the warning. Fuelled by their motivation to participate in the rescue, children free the numerals and with the thaw, the colours change from chilly blues and purples to warmer hues: greens, yellows, oranges …

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and tiger striped. Here they’re hiding among thick foliage, so counting, tracing and even soft blowing are required to further warm them up …

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until finally success – 20 is reached and it’s time to celebrate …

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David Miles’ clever use of colour transports readers from chilly climes to ferociously hot ones, as they’re swept along by their textually-driven actions.

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Let’s Play!
Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books
Readers will find it hard to resist the invitation issued by the sunny yellow dot – a dot that enjoys exercise moreover – to join it on a journey filled with fun, feelings and a sense of freedom as it leaps, loops, lurches, hides, …

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hops and hurtles its way through, and on one occasion off – the book’s pages, encountering thrills, hazards and horrors in so doing.

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What makes this one work is the tacit pact made at the outset between painter Tullet and player, the reader, whose head even becomes a landing place for the errant dot at one point. Crazy but lots of fun nevertheless and a wonderful demonstration of creativity unbound.

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A Moose on the Loose & Some Monsters

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There’s a Moose on the Loose
Lucy Feather and Stephan Lomp
Nosy Crow
When Moose leaves his rural residence and heads for the big city, it’s not long before everyone therein knows there’s a MOOSE ON THE LOOSE. First port of call is the fire station through which he dashes, catching a fireman’s bucket on his antler as he goes. From there he visits a department store full of shoppers where he adds a wellie boot to the bucket on his antler and a shop assistant joins the fireman in the chase.
Imagine the mayhem a loose moose in a busy library can cause, especially when there are several book-filled floors but our moose isn’t hanging about here, particularly as he’s somehow managed to add a dictionary to the items attached to his antlers and now the librarian too is in hot pursuit. There’s no stopping our moose though as he dashes on, galloping madly through the museum, speeding through the supermarket, hurtling through the hospital, careering through the castle, sploshing through the swimming pool …

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sprinting through the school collecting all manner of objects upon those antlers and increasing the number of pursuers at each location. Then, he goes bounding through an apartment block …

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and up onto its roof where it seems his presence, though not that of all his pursuers, is awaited. Oh NO! Now it looks as if our rampaging moose has forgotten something; he certainly doesn’t seem full of the party spirit …

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Uh-oh – there he goes again …

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My readers were immediately sucked in to the action and eagerly dashed through the book following the footsteps of moose and then immediately turned back to the beginning and spent a considerable time exploring each detailed, action-packed spread. It’s absolutely full of comic scenarios such as the elephant having a hair do, the music lover in the library …

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and the impending trolley disaster on the supermarket ramp and if you are looking for a book that generates interactive talk between young children, then this one is definitely a good bet.
It has all kinds of potential in the classroom; for mapping, counting, positional vocabulary and more but most important, it’s enormously entertaining. I had to beg my copy back out of the hands of a group of enthusiastic children, and that surely speaks for itself.

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Monster & Son
David Larochelle and Joey Chou
Chronicle Books
We share in fun and games monster style as all manner of dads and their offspring engage in such activities as throw and catch …

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chase and tag, tickling, fishing, making music …

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building a hideout, telling jokes, piggy back riding and occasionally pausing for a snack.
These are the daytime activities of the mock-scary creatures –ghosts, ghouls, yetis, werewolves, dragons and the like – that inhabit this book. When the night comes and the moon shines bright, it’s no surprise to discover that their bedtime rituals are pretty much the same as those of humans – filled with love and gentleness – ahhhh!
In addition to the innocent-sounding rhyming narrative running through the book, there are stories aplenty to be found in Joey Chou’s digital illustrations rendered in suitably subdued hues. Indeed, it’s the mismatch between what is said and what is seen that is key here: The dragon laughter is such that it sets a castle blazing; the snack being gorged on is a car, the occupants of which look on helplessly …

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and the sea serpents’ ball game is causing boats to founder and capsize.

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Clothes and Countryside ABCs

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D is for Dress-Up
Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books
Wonderfully playful: every page in this delightful alphabet book is a starting point for discussion or storying. What is being made by the cook wearing that apron on the A page?

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Who are the children sporting the bow and bow tie illustrated for B? Where are they going?
On what occasion will the ensemble be worn?

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Indeed Maria Carluccio’s digitally rendered scenes celebrate the world of clothing and fabrics for a whole variety of occasions from costumes to be worn for Hallowe’en to glasses and underwear for every day use.
There are also activity-related items such as leotards and yoga pants …

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and I like the way fabric-related words such as quilted, and polka dots & pinstripes

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are included in addition to articles of clothing.
An unusual choice of theme for an alphabet book but it’s one that works, although one might want to quibble about ‘neckties’ for instance (I guess this is in use in the USA) and none of the clothes featured on the overalls page equates to the UK definition of the word. All in all though, this is certainly worth adding to any early years book collection; and it could be a good starting point for children to collaborate on their own ‘Dress-Up” alphabet.

For a slightly younger audience is:

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ABC A Walk in the Countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
In this charming alphabet book, published in conjunction with the National Trust, we accompany two small children on a gentle stroll in the country. There are frequent pauses to observe …

 

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to play,

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and sometimes to be observed too.

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Every spread has plenty to engage and to discuss with youngsters around the same age as the two walkers; and the sturdy board book format should stand up to the enthusiastic handling it’s likely to receive.

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Twinkle Tames a Dragon/Mamasaurus

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Twinkle Tames a Dragon
Katharine Holabird and Sarah Warburton
Hodder Children’s Books
In this, the third story of friendship, fun, frolics and all things fairy, young Twinkle has a yearning for a pet as do her pals Pippa and Lulu. Her wishing song is heard by the Fairy Godmother who duly grants each one a wish. Pippa’s pet is a butterfly; Lulu gets a ladybird and Twinkle? The ‘sweet little pet’ she’d anticipated turns out to be anything but cute and fluffy, rather it’s scaly, decidedly boisterous …

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and in need of a rather drastic training regime – Dragon Obedience Class no less. But can she tame him in time for that Fairy Pet Day her godmother had mentioned?
The day of the show dawns and Scruffy has certainly scrubbed up well; in fact he looks pretty darn cute, but winning a prize?

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He definitely isn’t the prettiest pet: Pippa’s butterfly wins that award and Lulu’s ladybird is the cleverest trickster but what about the best-trained pet? No chance surely; or maybe, just maybe …

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I know quite a few under sixes who will love this book though I have to admit they’re all female. Sarah Warburton’s illustrations are just quirky enough to be cute but not sugary sweet; they’re full of zany details that will delight adult readers aloud as well as young children – look at the expressions on the faces of those animals here …

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Don’t forget to have a good look at the endpapers too; you’ll find all the animal characters there.

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Mamasaurus
Stephan Lomp,
Chronicle Books
When Babysaurus accidentally loses his grip on Mamasaurus’s spine he’s launched into space

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and then finds himself in a heap of leaves but with no sign of his parent. So there’s nothing for it but to wander about in the jungle asking its other inhabitants if they’ve seen her. However, each one he asks only sees Mamasaurus with characteristics of their own parent. But she can’t run like the wind, doesn’t have a long horn, nor wings to fly as high as the sun,

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she’s much larger than tiny Hespero’s mama and she definitely doesn’t have the sharp teeth that Rexy’s mama has.

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Where, oh where is Babysaurus’s mama? I wonder what that loud noise might be …
The luminous colours of the various prehistoric creatures set against the black background really make the images stand out in Lomp’s striking brush pen and photoshop illustrations. The storyline reminds me somewhat of P.D.Eastman’s’ classic Are You My Mother but the visuals are altogether different.

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