Tag Archives: Chronicle Books

Sea Star Wishes / Ocean

Sea Star Wishes
Eric Ode and Erik Brooks
Sasquatch Books

Singer, songwriter and author, Eric Ode shares the sights and sounds of the seashore in his twenty poems, some tightly rhyming, others more free, and some such as Wrinkles and The Sea Lion sans rhyme altogether; but all painting wonderful word pictures.

I love for example, those closing words of his The Sea Urchin where he describes the creature as ‘that thistly / bristly / hedgehog of the sea.’ as well as Wrinkles and The Stunt Kite. The latter rather than fly, ‘swoops / and loops./ … circles / and lunges, / lurches, / dives, / climbs / and plunges.’ Text and illustration work particularly well together in this one.
Moods range from comical

to contemplative

and there’s certainly much to discover and enjoy whether or not a seaside trip is planned. No matter, herein without getting sand in your sandwiches, you can construct a sand castle and perhaps encounter a sandy royal family.

I have to admit I’ve never heard of a geoduck – the subject of one of Ode’s more insouciant poems, perhaps because it’s native to waters around the coast of northwest US and western Canada, although geoducks are apparently available through a shellfish trader in London’s Billingsgate Market.

From barnacles to boats and fishing to footprints, you’ll find something to stimulate children on a visit to the coast, to search for some of the wonders captured herein.

Ocean
Ricardo Henriques and André Letria
Chronicle Books

Billed at “A Visual Miscellany’ this book takes the form of a digest. There’s a wealth of information about a wide variety of ocean-related topics starting with a look at the major oceans themselves.

Then follows several spreads on ‘watercraft’ – the various kinds of sea vessels; the parts of a ship, the use of stars as guides for seafarers and other means of navigation. There are several practical activities including making a paper boat and a submarine.

Historical facts too are included, from a look at some famous explorers, to the kinds of food eaten and illnesses that might trouble sailors of yore, as well as mention of mermaids, the kraken, Neptune and superstitions; and there’s a spread on some famous tales from the deep.

Fishing, waves, safety at sea and marine wild life have also seeped between the covers;

there’s even a recipe for Portuguese fish stew, although as a veggie, I won’t be trying that.

With its eye-catching blue, black and white illustrations by André Letria, this is an enticing book to include in a primary school library or classroom topic box.

Mabel and Sam at Home

Mabel and Sam at Home
Linda Urban and Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam and things look pretty chaotic from the viewpoint of the siblings.

To keep out of the way of the grown-ups they embark on a series of adventures related in three chapters. The first is ‘On the High Seas’ and here Captain Mabel and First Mate Sam set out in the good ship Handle With Care. Bossy sis. gives the orders as they go sailing on the high seas, a dangerous voyage full of pirates, whales and sea serpents

until they spy some friendly landlubbers, after which it’s “All ashore” for some tasty pizza.
‘At the Museum’ has curator Mabel showing Sam new ways of looking at old familiar things: the dialogue here is especially wonderful with Mabel “Behold“ing at every opportunity as she introduces the various artefacts to her brother.

Finally, after supper the two become astronauts blasting through space heading for Planet Perfecto and for this they need to be especially bold, “Space Bold” Astronaut Mabel declares, “Space Bold is bigger, because space is bigger.

Linda Urban’s entire text is a delight – funny, full of charm, reassuring and cleverly structured so as to embrace the kind of things that cause young children moving day anxieties; and before the end, the children are feeling upbeat about the move with Mabel concluding that their ‘new planet was surprisingly homey’.
Hadley Hooper’s illustrations (created with printmaking techniques and Photoshop) are, like the siblings’ adventures, wonderfully imagined, both in their rendering of the children’s adventures and the portrayal of the somewhat frazzled parents at the end of the book.
Just right for sharing with a child or children moving home.

The Brilliant Deep

The Brilliant Deep
Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe
Chronicle Books

‘It starts with one.’ So begins the inspiring true story of Ken Nedimeyer, who as a boy was fascinated by the underwater world of Florida Keys, in particular the coral reefs. He became troubled when he discovered that those reefs were fading and dying, seemingly there was nothing he could do to save them.

Then as an adult he had one of those ‘what if …?’ moments relating to the staghorn corals he’d grown on his rock farm. His brilliant idea was to transplant the staghorn coral colony he’d grown onto that reef he’d loved as a child: could that colony be brought back to life?

It was surely worth a try and so Ken went back to his beloved reef and glued six small coral colonies onto the limestone surface of the erstwhile reef.

Month by month these transplants grew and became the catalyst for the Coral Restoration Foundation, which now has international links.

Kate Messner pitches her telling of this inspiring story perfectly for primary school age audiences, telling of Ken’s passion, of staghorn corals grown on the rock farm, of his successful experiments and of the volunteers his inspirational work has recruited, finishing as she began with the upbeat, ‘It starts with one.’

A love of wildlife shines through Matthew Forsythe’s exhilarating illustrations. Using a rich colour palette to portray the undersea world and the divers he takes us right up close to the action making this a great book to share with a class or group and who knows, it might just inspire budding marine biologists.
To that end, the final spread provides details of further reading, websites to visit, ways to help and explanations of some of the terms used in the narrative.

Night of the Moon / Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets

With the month of Ramadan starting soon here are two lovely picture books to add to your early years or KS1 class collection:-

Night of the Moon
Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis
Chronicle Books
There’s a slither of a new moon in the sky and Yasmeen’s mother reminds her that it heralds the start of the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

We then follow 7 year-old Yasmeen and her family through the month as the moon waxes and wanes and the girl expands her understanding of what Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr mean.

All the while, the author skilfully integrates information about the celebrations with the warmth of Yasmeen’s love of family and friends as she talks to her mother about fasting, attends family parties, goes to the mosque

and learns about the importance of sharing during Ramadan.

Eventually there is no moon in the night sky and Yasmeen knows that the next night will be the Night of the Moon signifying the end of Ramadan and the much-anticipated Eid-ul-Fitr.

At sunset Yasmeen’s family go to the community centre for a special Night of the Moon celebration and from one of the stalls her mum buys new clothes for the family to wear on the day of Eid.

Back home Yasmeen has her hands decorated with beautiful Mehndi patterns …

and finally next morning it’s time to wish everyone “Eid Mubarak”.

What makes this book so arrestingly gorgeous is Julie Paschkis’ richly coloured gouache paintings bordered with motifs and designs borrowed from Islamic art.

Children of all faiths and none can enjoy sharing in the young girl’s joy in celebrating her faith and its traditions.

a Muslim family celebrates

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets
Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini
Chronicle Books

Following on from Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, the author and illustrator explore both shapes and some cultural and religious aspects of the Muslim world.

Most shapes are two dimensional – the rectangle of the mosque’s wooden door; the octagonal pond surrounding a fountain; the triangular sides of the mimbar’s stairs.

There’s a beautiful square garden fragrant with sweet smelling oranges; the large drum used on festive occasions – a daff – is circular; a painted tile hexagonal; the table an oval and there’s a diamond design on the child narrator’s new Eid kaftan.

Others such as the cone shaped tip of the minaret are 3D and the Ka’aba stone is an enormous cube shape.

So much beauty / in the shapes that I see / adds to my faith / and the world around me.” So concludes the narrator at the end of the book after which comes a helpful glossary in which I discovered that ‘ayah’ used here is a verse from the Quran rather than the meaning ‘nursemaid’ that I’m familiar with.

Mehrdokht Amini’s illustrations, which accompany Hena Khan’s straightforward rhyming text portray Muslims from a number of countries, each spread representing a different country, thus encompassing the cultural diversity of Islam.

Timeless Tales: I Really Want to See You, Grandma / I Wish I Was Sick, Too!

I Really Want to See You, Grandma
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

First published in Japan (the home of the book’s creator), in 1979, this story about a small girl and her grandmother and their efforts to see one another is now available in English for the first time.

Yumi and her Grandma live some distance apart, Yumi on a hill, her grandma on a mountain, and simultaneously each decides to visit the other – why they didn’t ring one another one can only assume is due to there being no mobile phones in those days.

They both leave home in upbeat mood, Yumi boarding a bus, her Gran taking a train.

Both arrive at the other’s home to discover the muddle and head back to their own homes …

missing each other again.

Will they ever get to meet or are they destined to spend the day passing each other on the way?

Gomi’s illustrations fill in much of the detail not mentioned in his simple text: ‘How come she was allowed to go on a bus without a grown-up?’ my listeners wanted to know after hearing this story of mix-ups and changing emotions.

Those in the early stages of becoming readers may well be able to try this one for themselves having heard the story read aloud first.

I Wish I Was Sick, Too!
Franz Brandenberg and Aliki
The New York Review Children’s Collection

I first came across this book as a young teacher in its Picture Puffin incarnation, I Don’t Feel Well.

It features sibling kittens, Elizabeth and Edward. Elizabeth is resentful of the attention her brother receives when he’s ill in bed. “It isn’t fair! … I wish I was sick, too!” she says.
When her wish comes true a few days later, she realises that, rather than all the attention received, it’s as her brother says, “The best part of being sick is getting well.

Aliki’s chalky illustrations capture the emotions of the infant cat characters superbly and the story’s as amusing now as it was over three decades ago.

Share and enjoy no matter the state of the listeners’ health; equally, with its clear print and inviting layout, it’s a good book for solo readers to try for themselves.

The Long Island

The Long Island
Drew Beckmeyer
Chronicle Books

This is an enigmatic debut picture book – a modern fable essentially – that will I suspect, have as many interpretations as there are readers.

We follow a group of five friends as they contemplate and then endeavour to visit the other side of the island they live on.

They set out in a canoe only to discover the far side is ‘too rocky to land on’; one of the crew is lost overboard. Four encounter vegetation ‘too dense to cut through’ where big cats stalk and the explorers’ number is reduced to three.

The trio construct a slide down which they eventually slither in so doing losing another one of their number

leaving the remaining two to discover they are unable to get back from whence they came.

The elaborate edifice they co-construct eventually attracts outsiders who start destroying the beauty of the place

and as the book concludes we see just a single one of the original five setting out alone …

This is a long book with a kind of circularity, richly illustrated in textured crayon, which raises many questions, leaving readers to ponder and to try and draw their own conclusions. It would be an interesting one for community of enquiry discussions, be that with primary or secondary age children, or with students in college.

Aquarium

Aquarium
Cynthia Alonso
Chronicle Books

Leaving her home a little girl follows the path towards a river jetty.

There she stops and gazes into the water completely at one with her surroundings. As she imagines herself swimming among fish of all shapes and sizes,

one fish leaps from the water and lands on the jetty.

The girl catches it in a jar and rushes home with it.

Using an assortment of containers and hose piping, she creates a complicated, multi-container aquatic environment and then, inflating a small pool …

and donning her bathing suit, she enjoys splashing around with the fish.

Suddenly, leaping from the pool, the fish makes a break for freedom and that’s when the girl realises that the creature isn’t happy in its new surroundings.

There is only one thing to do …

This thought-provoking wordless tale is beautifully told in Cynthia Alonso’s debut picture book. Using a gorgeous and unusual colour palette of blues, pinks, browns and oranges rendered in pencil, pens and by digital means she immerses the reader in her heroine’s world of water, fish and wonderment leaving plenty of room for her audience to story for themselves.

Testing Friendships – Fox & Chick: The Party and other stories / Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury

Fox & Chick: The Party
Sergio Ruzzier
Chronicle Books

Let me introduce Chick and Fox. Fox is an equable character who enjoys reading, cooking and painting; Chick, in contrast, is totally irrepressible – a bit of a pain to say the least. Surprisingly these two are friends. They star in three comic style episodes aimed at those just taking off as readers.

The first story (which gives the book its title) is I think the funniest. Chick calls on Fox, gains entry asking to use the bathroom and then proceeds to throw a party for his pals therein.

In the second story, Good Soup, Chick gives Fox a hard time about his vegetarian predilection wondering why he eschews frogs, small furry creatures, grasshoppers and er, little birds as ingredients for his soup.

Finally, Sit Still focuses on Chick’s total inability to do just that , leaping up every few minutes for a cushion, food and a drink while Fox endeavours to paint his portrait.

How long-suffering Fox puts up with Chick is anybody’s guess: – shades of Lobel’s Frog and Toad here – but their interactions are highly amusing, the text very readable and the illustrations rendered in pen, ink and watercolour are wonderfully expressive and enormously engaging.

Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury
Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
Andersen Press

I’ve been a huge admirer of Stewart and Riddell’s Rabbit and Hedgehog since A Little Bit of Winter (one of the four tales included here) was published about twenty years ago. If you’ve not met these two enchanting characters then this book of four stories is a great opportunity to get to know these two and the challenging nature of their friendship: one is awake all day and the other all night.

In the first neither of the best friends knows the date of his own birthday let alone each other’s. To be on the safe side they decide to celebrate the very next day and each goes about finding a very special gift to give the other.

Rabbit’s Wish is the second story but when he wishes that hedgehog will stay awake so they can spend a whole day together, the outcome is not quite what was anticipated.

In the third episode a remembering game tests the friendship between the two protagonists but an accident serves to remind them of the strength of their bond.

The final A Little Bit of Winter sees the friends facing another challenge. As Hedgehog prepares to hibernate he carves a message on the bark of an oak tree asking the somewhat forgetful Rabbit to save him a little bit of winter so he can find out what the season he’ll sleep through is really like.

Despite the chilly nature of the season, it’s a truly heart-warming story and like the others, beautifully and sensitively illustrated.

Big Bunny

Big Bunny
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books

Rowboat Watkins does off the wall humour brilliantly as demonstrated in Rude Cakes and Pete With No Pants. Now he’s come up with another quirky, no make that totally bonkers, offering.

‘Once upon a time there was a BIG BUNNY’ begins the storyteller. ‘A ginormously SCARY bunny?’ responds the listener – presumably a child.

From then on the tale becomes an increasingly tall one with BB gorging himself on truckloads of carrots,

until the adult finally hands over the narrative to the child whereupon things spiral out of control with said rabbit devouring not only the carrots but the delivery trucks, a bridge

and then an entire city – the buildings were very tasty after all.

As for Big Bunny surely all that consumption would have damaged his inner workings wouldn’t it, rendering the creature totally unscary?

Thus far, we’ve not seen the two story makers and so have assumed their humanness.

Then comes the penultimate spread where all is revealed – a terrific splutter inducer if ever there was one.

There is no narrative as such, merely the dialogue between the two story makers whose identity I won’t reveal, but let’s just say it’s a bit of a cruncher and the final spread, absolutely delicious.

Seemingly Watkins’ inventiveness knows no bounds: this telling in combination with his crazy scenes of carrots, trucks and that omnivorous Big Bunny are wonderfully weird; look for all the lesser jokes scattered throughout too.

All ages will relish this yummy book for sure.

Maths, Manipulations and Mindfulness

5 Wild Numbers
Bella Gomez
Words & Pictures

Vibrant scenes of jungle animals introduce counting and the numerals 1 to 5 in this chunky book.
The thick sturdy pages accommodate a die-cut numeral on each spread with a sliding disc so that small fingers can follow the arrows, move the disc and trace the numeral for ‘One fierce tiger’, ‘Two stripy zebras’, ‘Three parrots’, ‘Four long-tailed monkeys’ and ‘Five pink flamingos’.

The rhyming text introduces exciting words such as ‘paces and snarls’ for the tiger; ‘laze’ and ‘scorching days ‘ for the zebras and even metaphorical language – ‘ their feathers shining bright as jewels’

A fair bit of pressure is needed to move the discs so in my view the value of this activity lies in helping develop fine motor skills but is of limited help in learning to form the numerals.

Shapes Colours Numbers
Dario Zeruto
Words & Pictures

This is a wordless, (apart from the initial ‘How many shapes and colours can you find?) simple, yet ingenious, chunky book that as it unfolds, encourages youngsters to find out about 2D shapes and colours, and do some counting along the way as they explore a series of gatefold flaps.

Playful, engrossing and educational, and all based on five colours, squares, triangles, rectangles, circles and diamonds.

Touch Think Learn Wiggles
Claire Zucchelli-Romer
Chronicle Books

An engaging rhythmic text, inspired perhaps by Hervé Tullet, urges young children to use their wiggly fingers to dance on each spread as they trace shapes, tap and hop, slide up and down, follow circle outlines, zigzags, and spirals as the text is read aloud.

The text is upbeat and playful, the shapes cut out in fluorescent green, pink, or yellow are attractive and inviting but the white type against pale blue pages less satisfying that the brighter shade of blue used for the cover.

ABC Mindful Me
Christiane Engel
Walter Foster Jr.

Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment, or being in the here and now – is very much in vogue at the moment, with schools adding it to their daily programme, often sadly, tacked on as an optional after school extra rather than it being part and parcel of the curriculum.

Christiane Engel’s sturdy large format board book could help integrate it into the foundation stage curriculum at least. She takes us on a journey through the alphabet linking each letter to an activity – walk, yoga, breathe for example, or a state of mind or concept –awareness, giving, joy or thankfulness.
The rhyming text talks directly to the child and the illustrations are attractive and inclusive.

The book concludes with some creative ideas related to the book’s overall theme.

If you think young children need help to be mindful then this will be useful: I know from experience that if left to their own devices, preschool children naturally reach a state of mindfulness; adults just need to step back – it’s they, rather than children who need a book such as this.

Forever or a Day

Forever or a Day
Sarah Jacoby
Chronicle Books

Sarah Jacoby explores the passage and power of time in a profoundly beautiful picture book meditation that takes the form of a conversational narrative.

The whole thing begins with a Times newspaper van moving through the streets as day begins to dawn watched perhaps by the child on the opposite page through whose eyes we then see a sequence of scenes of family life, some slow, others hurried …

or even frenetic seeming, but each one frozen in time in Jacoby’s watercolour spreads of commuters, a holiday train journey, a car ride to visit grandparents in the countryside.

All the while the accompanying text is gently nudging the reader to think deeply about the passage of time: ‘It can be precise, like pouring the first cup of tea’;

‘Sometimes it’s far, far away – like when you will be old, gazing out at the sea.’

Time can be illusive as here: ‘The more you try to hold it … the better it hides. Where does it go?’ accompanies this sand-castle building sequence .

By now day has given way to night: the family gathers for a sing-song around a campfire but after a fond farewell “You cannot hold it. … We’ve only got what we’ve got.” it’s a night train ride back to the city with its glowing lights

and a final benevolent ‘I love the time I have with you.’

The questions Jacoby poses are profound, though simply asked; and it’s her elegant watercolour spreads that do much of the talking, sometimes surprising and amusing as with the Tyrolean-looking hikers who appear in some of the scenes.

This is a book to share, to ponder over, to talk about, to speculate upon (it’s certainly one for a community of enquiry style discussion) and to savour, and unlike time, to hold on to.

Hello Hello

Hello Hello
Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books

An exchange of hellos between a black cat and a white one sets in motion a concatenation of greetings that celebrates the world’s amazing diversity of zoological life forms, as each turn of the page leads on to something different.

First it’s the varieties of ‘Black and White’ showcasing the black cat, a black bear, a panda, a zebra and a zebrafish.
This fish starts off the colour blast on the next spread where we find …

which completes the rhyming couplet.
The salamander greets the striped and spotted animals on the following page and so it continues with more and more animals and greetings as the creatures pose and posture, display their tongues,

avort, turn upside down or strut across the pages leading into a dance of interconnectedness over the final double spread.
Wenzel uses many different media – pastels, markers, coloured pencils, cut paper collage and oils to showcase his arresting animal and human compositions.

Each of the animals portrayed has a vital role in the ecosystem it inhabits and Wenzel reminds readers of this in the final pages of the book. There is also a double spread identification guide – a cast in order of appearance –that includes information on which ones are ‘vulnerable’, ‘near threatened’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ species. We should get to know more about these amazing creatures and the need to protect those under threat.
As Wenzel, himself an animal enthusiast, says in his author’s note, ‘It starts with saying hello.’

A clever and artful book that celebrates both difference and what unites us, and a message about acceptance of all.
Savour, share, and discuss.

Who Was That?

Who Was That?
Olivier Tallec
Chronicle Books

That Olivier Tallec is a genius in seemingly effortless characterisation was evident in Who Done It? and Who What Where? Now he follows with another equally wonderful memory and observation testing offering, this time making clever use of occasional die-cut holes in the long, narrow pages.

If you ever thought looking and seeing were one and the same, think again.

We begin with a spread that introduces a mix of animal and human characters with a child inviting readers to ‘Blow out the candle and turn the page.’
Having plunged them into darkness we’re then asked ‘Who is wearing a yellow scarf?’

The answer to the question ‘What is Olive afraid of?’ on the next spread, is revealed by turning the die-cut page, but then another tester greets us concerning the colour of Oliver’s undies.

The questions are totally unpredictable as for example when we’re instructed to cover a character standing on a diving board and then asked how many teeth he has.

Sometimes there’s a tricky double poser as when the first question asks ‘Which of these friends likes sleeping on both ends of the bed? You think ‘no problem’ but when you turn over you’re faced with ‘But who wasn’t wearing pyjamas?’ Hmm.
The illustrative details are enormous fun in themselves, take this line up here: every one of the characters must surely have a myriad of stories to tell …

The final scenario is a knockout – literally –it’s as well the archers are using sucker-tipped arrows …

as we discover when the die-cut page is flipped to reveal …

Enormous fun and if you can’t solve the posers, there’s a final visual answer page.

I envisage children inventing their own tricky questions once they’ve solved the posers herein; the potential is huge. Some slightly older readers might even try making their own books along similar lines.

I’ve signed the charter  

Search-and-Find Bonanza – The Walkabout Orchestra, Mice in the City London and Cycle City

The Walkabout Orchestra
Chloé Perarnau
Wide Eyed

What has happened to the members of the orchestra? They’ve all gone missing and there’s an important concert coming up in a few days. Seemingly they’ve dispersed to locations all over the world from where they’ve sent the maestro postcards telling of their various activities. These appear in the top left-hand corner of each locale spread.
In a desperate effort to locate the musicians, the maestro, together with his side- kick, sets off in search of them. Their journey takes them to such diverse places as a fishing village in Iceland, Tokyo, a campsite in France, the pyramids of Egypt, carnival in Brazil and a football field in Abidjan.
In addition to finding the missing musicians, almost every place has a little yellow bird whose speech bubble provides something additional to search for in the lively scenes of the musicians’ sojourns.
Each one is packed with amusing details so that finding the musicians is often no easy matter. However they do all appear within a large arena ready for the concert with their maestro ready to conduct, bird atop his head.
Don’t start reading this if you are short of time, unless you are happy to cheat and look at the answers on the two final spreads.

Mice in the City London
Ami Shin
Thames & Hudson

It’s a mouse takeover: London had been invaded by an army of tiny rodents; some – The Mouses of Parliament for instance, – have jobs to do, others are there to enjoy the sights and some are turning Tate Modern into complete disarray. One daring mouse has even installed herself as Queen Mouse in Buckingham Palace.
A verse introduces each location, opposite which is a detailed whole page pastel coloured illustration of the particular tourist attraction under mouse occupation: every one is full of things to delight and entertain.
The purpose of the book, in addition to enjoying what the mice are up to, is a game of ‘hide-and-squeak’ that entails finding eight things – Inspector Mouse, a stripy tailed cat, Bumble-mouse, a mouse in a bin, a teddy, a Union Jack top hat, a mouse hiding in a top hat and a balloon seller.
Happy Hunting! You’re in for some fun with Ami Shin’s mice.
In the same series is Mice in the City New York. Oh my goodness! Think of the chaos the little creatures might cause in The Strand Bookstore!

Cycle City
Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

It’s the morning of the Starlight Parade in Cycle City but the parade committee has yet to send out the invitations so they decide to call on the assistance of Mayor Snail.
Can he get all those invites delivered in time for the evening? Perhaps, with the help of Little Ella Elephant who has come to visit one of the city’s residents, her Aunt Ellen. If so, who will play the important role of Grand Marshal at the big event?

A captivating search-and-find for slightly younger readers: this one has a clear storyline and a plethora of speech bubbles and is populated by a vast array of anthropomorphic animals. The spreads are less densely packed than some of its ilk, but have plenty of lovely details, and the endpapers are a visual glossary of all the different bicycles included.

I’ve signed the charter  

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep and Old MacDonald Had a Boat

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep
Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Now here’s a cool idea: new author Katrina Charman has based her upbeat rhyming romp on the rhythm of ‘Baa baa black sheep’, and I’m guessing the playful notion of the strategically placed black sheep passenger on one of the trucks was Nick’s.

So let’s get going on our journey through this vehicular extravaganza, but first we need to make sure that those fuel tanks are full …

Now let the journey begin and see how many different things with wheels, not to mention rotors and sails, we can spy on our travels through the pages.
All that honking, beeping, zooming, chugga chugga choo-ing, flicka flacking, rumbling and scraping, vrooming, screeching and more is pretty tiring, especially when it’s kept up throughout the whole day.
So, come nightfall it’s more than time to head home for some shut-eye …

A terrific, rhythmic read aloud that’s packed full of wonderful sounds to let rip with, in combination with Nick Sharratt’s characteristic cartoon bright illustrations, (love that bus ad.)  this is surely any pre-schooler’s idea of picture book wonderland.

Old MacDonald Had a Boat
Steve Goetz and Eda Kaban
Chronicle Books

First we met the MacDonalds and all their animals with their truck and now they’re back in a new story, truck and all. As the story starts the truck has just drawn up near the barn and it’s pulling an old boat.
Then it’s time for Old Macdonald to set to work. Out come his tools. First it’s a buzz saw with a ‘BUZZ BUZZ here and a BUZZ BUZZ there.’
That’s followed by some hammering

though perhaps the pigs have a better aim that the farmer himself when they BANG BANG in those nails.

Gradually things take shape, then out come the blowtorches, the sanders and finally the paint rollers.

As evening falls their craft is launched and it’s time for a spot of water ski-ing.

Once you’ve had a couple of sing-alongs of Goetz’s text with the book, you’ll likely want to go back and take time over Eda Kaban’s expansive, brightly coloured spreads; of the farmyard crew enjoying themselves together and working together as a team. They’re full of detail and humorous touches.

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words
Animals

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping
Mariana Ruiz Johnson
Chronicle Books

Words there are none, but this picture book is absolutely brimming over with stories.

We start with a view through a window of a mother reading a goodnight story to her child …

then on the next spread, tiptoeing out of the bedroom as the youngster falls asleep.

The view widens as we see both inside the house, and outside in the urban setting where fantasy and realism mix. Under a starry sky what appear to be animal characters from the storybook cavort, while in their homes people eat, chat, cook and embrace. We see a nurse and patients in a hospital, an artist working at an easel, someone with a telescope and more.

The lens widens still further revealing two animals on a jetty carrying a large object.
Keep turning and you see all six characters from the book cover have left the city and are paddling out across the ocean in a kind of long canoe (note the pattern and compare with the child’s bedspread).

They reach the shore of a wild jungle and there in the darkness, light torches and build a bonfire around which they play instruments and dance.

Then, something even more amazing takes place: the bonfire rises up into the sky becoming the morning sun.

Back in the city dawn breaks, the child awakes and a new day begins …

The magical realism of Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez come to mind as the story slips effortlessly between its real and dreamlike, surreal elements.

This is a book that demands close attention and several readings during which, new details will be discovered and fresh possibilities emerge from the dazzling folk-art hues of Johnson’s scenes.

Halloween Briefing: Monsters Galore and a Witch or two

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

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

SHHHH!

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

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

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

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

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

For older solo readers:

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

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!

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.