Tag Archives: Friends

Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World

Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the World
Mo Willems
Walker Books

It’s over a decade since we first met Mo Willems’ Leonardo the Terrible Monster along with Sam, the boy who is terrified of everything other than Leo. Now they’re back with Sam, (just as scared as before), being in the limelight until he encounters these two .

Seemingly Sam has a rival in Kerry, for immediately both humans, terrified of one another, start screaming uncontrollably.
Irked by their behaviour, the monsters decide to leave the children to ‘Figure it out’ and wander off the page together.
Having explored their similarities …

and differences, the humans eventually do just that and they too come to a decision, a wise and slightly mischievous one. And the two monsters are certainly in for something of a surprise when they return.

If you’re familiar with the first Sam and Leonardo story, then you’ll love this as a companion volume; if not it stands alone as a wonderfully funny account of forging a new and unlikely friendship.
Willems’ sombre colour palette, stand-out capitalised fonts and comic-style characters serve as well here as they did before, making this another monstrous winner for the USA’s master of drollery.

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The Hat that Zack Loves

The Hat that Zack Loves
Michelle Robinson and Robert Reader
Puffin Books

There’s a satisfying circularity about Michelle Robinson’s new spin on the traditional The House that Jack Built.
It features Zack who buys the hat, a dog that snatches same and leads Zack in a merry dance down onto the subway; then into the park precipitating a frenetic concatenation of events wherein a host of other characters get involved.
There’s a cat, the wind, a grey goose and a policeman on horseback.
The whole chase is exhaustingly riotous, not least for Zack who falls from a tree;

then leaps into a boat in pursuit of his titfa.

But suddenly the wind takes over whisking it from the goose’s head, out of the park and up atop a statue, atop a column.

Will Zack ever get that elusive hat back? Or the whole thing just a wild goose chase?
Thanks to some nifty teamwork and precarious balancing, the hat is finally retrieved and then it’s hats all round.
This is a fun read aloud that, with its repeat refrain, ‘the hat that Zack loves’, cries out for audience participation.
Robert Reader debuts as a picture book artist with this rhythmic tale, gracing each spread with retro style scenes, every one of which has deliciously droll happenings that make you want to slow the pace and revel in the details.

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Fergal is Fuming!

Fergal is Fuming!
Robert Starling
Andersen Press

Fergal the dragon is a pleasant, friendly enough little fellow when he’s getting his own way, but he’s a hot-tempered creature when things aren’t quite to his liking. That’s when his fieriness gets the upper hand; like the occasion when he’s told by dad to eat all his veggies or forego his pudding. Guess who stays hungry that teatime …

Then there’s the time on the soccer field when he’s asked to play in goal: another fiery situation.

In fact, Fergal’s blazing temper seems to get him into bothersome situations wherever he goes; and before long, his friends are having no more to do with him.
Time for the little dragon to start learning some anger management techniques it appears.
We all get fiery,” his mum tells him “but we find a way to cool down.” Counting to ten is her trick and that’s what Fergus does the following day when he feels that inner fire starting to get the better of him.
Other animals employ different calming down methods and pretty soon, Fergal has a range of techniques at his disposal.

A really good stretch

This turns out to be a pretty good thing, not least because he can expend his energy on exciting pastimes with his friends.
In addition to being sheer fun, Robert Starling’s debut picture book offers youngsters a host of possibilities for taking the heat out of potentially tricky situations.
I take myself off somewhere quiet, sit still and do some deep breathing or a bit of yoga if I feel myself getting over-heated. What about you?

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Lois Looks for Bob: At Home / At the Park & Better Together

Lois Looks for Bob at Home
Lois Looks for Bob at the Park

Gerry Turley
Nosy Crow
In an exciting new series, two amusing, sturdily build board books involve toddlers in a game of hide and seek to find a missing bird.
Lois is a black cat; Bob her unlikely, feathered friend.
In the first book, Bob has disappeared somewhere indoors but has left a trail of yellow feathers to help Lois in her search. The canny feline hunts high and low and in the process introduces readers to a host of other resident animals with unlikely names, before locating her friend (sans a few feathers).
I’m not sure what Bob was doing in the park but it’s the location for Lois’ second search.
There are many possible hiding places as well as a hilariously named set of park residents to discover (Derek and Susan ducks, Roger the squirrel, Cynthia snail …

and Frank the peacock) before her feathered pal is finally found.
The simple question and answer text involves young listeners from the outset and will keep them amused throughout Lois’ investigations during which they’ll be encountering a range of positional prepositions.

Better Together
Barbara Joosse, Anneke Lisberg and Jared Andrew Schorr
Abrams Appleseed
Die-cut gatefold pages turn single animals – a nervous zebra, a hungry bat,



a curious crow, a frisky meerkat, a brave prairie dog and a little rat into members of their respective communities as each is comforted, fed, or otherwise nurtured by its fellows.
The penultimate spread has an infant with its human family who have all gatherered together to celebrate its first birthday.

Observant readers will notice that along with the humans, each animal has also found its way into the birthday party.
There’s a final ‘Fun Things to Know’ spread that provides some brief facts about some ways the featured animals help each other.
Satisfying rhyming or alliterative phrases such as ‘flicky ticky’, ‘rumbly tumbly’ and ‘doodle daddle’ enliven the brief text and Schorr’s densely coloured collage illustrations offer attractive animal environments.

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Maisy Goes to the Bookshop / Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise

Maisy Goes to the Bookshop
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
A book that promotes the idea of reading and bookshops for the very young – what’s not to love? And when it’s a child-friendly establishment (or in this case Maisy friendly) with a kindly bookseller on hand to help you make a choice once you’ve had a good browse, as is so at  ‘We Love Books’, you know you’re in one of the best possible places.
Then when you happen to bump into your friends, all enthusing about their choice of reading matter things get even better. There’s even a story time session …

and a café to complete the delights, before you head off to give another friend a very special present.
Lucy Cousins captures the magic of books and bookshops for pre-schoolers in her bright, engaging scenes of budding bibliophiles. Hurray for Maisy and friends, and child-friendly bookshops everywhere.

Kiki and Bobo’s Super Surprise
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Two friends return in another lift-the-flap fun story.
It’s a special day in Kiki and Bobo’s house, so they both think; far more special than waffle day, Bobo tells his friend as he departs to market.
Kiki meanwhile decides it must be her best friend’s birthday and sets about preparing for a surprise party. She bakes a cake, blows up balloons, hangs bunting and dons her best party clothes.
She of course, is not the only one preparing for a surprise party.
Bobo’s shopping includes lots of yummy food …

and a special present; and on his way home, he stops to pick a birthday bouquet for Kiki, who back  indoors, seems totally unaware that it’s actually her birthday that is being celebrated.
Let the merriment begin …

Gentle offbeat humour for the very youngest: it’s brimming over with flaps to explore, labels to read and yummy things to tingle the taste buds, not forgetting that BIG SURPRISE for one of the main characters that will be eagerly anticipated by knowing toddlers.

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Big Brown Bear’s Cave

Big Brown Bear’s Cave
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing

What is more important to you: friends or ‘stuff’? I know which I’d prefer any day.
Could it be though that Yuval Zommer secretly visited our home before writing this story: I certainly wish Big Brown Bear, star of his latest picture book would drop in on our human cave (garage): he’d have a field day surrounded by stuff, stuff and more stuff; and he’d be able to fill his new abode with all manner of goodies.
The ursine collector definitely goes overboard on acquiring creature comforts for his empty cave, so much so that its fame spreads far and wide, attracting the attention of all his pals who are eager to see inside his residence.

Lack of room prevents their entry however, and off they go leaving Big Brown Bear to continue filling the space.
Alone with his boxes, Bear begins to be overwhelmed by lack of wiggle room, so much so that when his three friends return with an invitation, he’s well and truly hemmed in …

Then there’s only one thing to do and our hero does it: wise move, Big Brown Bear.
Zommer’s portrayal of the acquisitive trait, and the accumulative chaos it can cause, is a rib-tickling treat. There’s Bear pondering over the sheer variety of ‘stuff’; and his obvious delight over the selection of his favourites – ‘stuff that came with wheels, stuff that came with handles and stuff that came in boxes.’ He almost looks as though he’s dancing with joy despite the precarious balancing act required to carry that stack of boxes.

This is very much a fable of our time and will, I suspect strike a chord with readers of all ages.

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Play

Play
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
The adorable Bobo is back and he’s in defiant mood. Mummy chimp declares it’s bedtime and the little chimp is far from ready to settle down for the night. The sun’s still bright, his friends are still up and ready to play; and play is exactly what Bobo wants to do.

Being Bobo he does …

Until Mummy discovers what he’s up to, and back into bed goes Bobo. Not for long however: there’s plenty of go in the young chimp yet and Turtle is on hand for some watery fun. But as the sun sinks over the hill, Turtle decides it’s time to sleep, which leaves Bobo alone and facing …

He does what most infants would in that situation: hollers ‘Mummy’ for all he’s worth.
Fortunately another of his pals is still around and willing to deliver the little chimp safely home to an extremely anxious parent. There’s no argument about ‘bed time’ now. In fact it’s Bobo himself who says the words and in no time at all they’re both snuggled up for the night.
Next morning at sunrise, who should be ready and waiting for another day’s fun and games but all his jungle pals..
Following on from Hug, Tall and Yes, Jez Alborough has created a celebration of play and friendship. Once again, with very few words, he fashions a wonderful drama that will not only be a winner with existing Bobo fans, but will gain him a host of new would-be playmates.
Brilliant for developing visual literacy, encouraging talk, and perfect for beginning readers; but most important, it’s enormous fun.

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Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle
Matt Hunt
Scholastic Children’s Books
Town life doesn’t suit Lion: he dreams of clear sunny skies, wind in his mane, sand in his paws and, his guitar. Nothing more. So when he spies a ‘beach house for sale’ advert he cannot believe his luck. That very evening he packs the necessities – mostly strawberry smoothies – and heads off over land, air and sea until he reaches the island of his dreams. There, he takes up residence and thus, his perfect existence commences …

What joy to wake to the sounds of parrots and splashing waves, to breakfast on succulent coconuts and strum a guitar to your heart’s content. Soon though, unsurprisingly, Lion begins to feel lonely; but how can he communicate his need for a pal without a phone or mail service?

Sunlight moment! Lion decides to write a message, pop it in one of the many bottles he has (sans smoothie of course) and drop it into the sea. No response. Lion writes more messages, puts them into more empty bottles – many bottles, tosses them into the sea, watches them disappear, and sleeps …
What happens thereafter, is not exactly what Lion had hoped;

but suffice it to say without giving the whole thing away, all ends happily and … rather noisily. Which all goes to show that you don’t always know what will make you happy; and that stepping out of your comfort zone, embracing difference and welcoming new arrivals can work wonders.
A timely, important message for readers and, a tumultuous one for Lion. Matt Hunt delivers both with verve and humour.

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Triangle

Triangle
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Walker Books
Knowledge of a friend’s ophidiophobia is in part, the driving force behind Triangle’s foray from his home in his triangular neighbourhood, across a barren place of rocky humps ‘They were shapes with no names’ Barnett informs us; and on through the place of squares –

big, medium and small ones – to Square’s abode. All the while he’s been plotting the sneaky trick he’s about to play.
He walks right up Square’s door, whereupon he delivers a round of snake-like “HISS” sounds.
Square is momentarily petrified: Snake dissolves into paroxysms of laughter. A pregnant pause follows,

rapidly replaced on Square’s part by incandescent rage.
Thereupon the four-sided being chases the three-sider all the way back to his home. His shape however, prevents him from entering and there he stands stuck in the doorway and thus accidentally discovers Triangle’s nyctophobia.

I know you’re afraid of the dark. Now I have played a sneaky trick on you! You see, Triangle, this was my plan all along.” Hmm! I’m not so sure about that.
Klassen’s restrained earthy palette and minimalist scenes (those eloquent eyes again), are in perfect harmony with Barnett’s even sparer, deadpan text allowing readers to step into the narrative landscape and fill for themselves, the host of gaps left by the book’s genius creators.
Prankish play or something more sinister? I come down on the side of the former.
This book is the first of a planned trilogy from this formidable team: I eagerly anticipate the next one … and the next.

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The Darkest Dark / Ludwig the Space Dog

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The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
Macmillan Children’s Books
The dark is for dreams – and morning is for making them come true.’ So says Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut on whose childhood this book is based. Herein we meet him as a boy, a boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut, flying to the moon or Mars.
Chris however, was afraid of the dark. For him the darkness that filled his bedroom when the lights were turned out was a darkness filled with aliens, very scary aliens.

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One particular night, he has to overcome his fears and sleep in his own bed or miss the opportunity to visit a neighbour’s house the following evening to view the Apollo 11 lunar landing. So on the night of July 20th 1969, as he watches the TV (the only one on their island home) and sees the events unfolding, he realises just how dark space is – ‘the darkest dark ever’.
This is a turning point for the would-be astronaut. Chris has lost his fear and for the very first time he appreciates ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.’ And in that dark your dreams await, dreams that can become your life, not tomorrow morning but some time …
The illustrators of this story really bring out both the mystery of darkness and the depth of young Chris’s nyctophobia when everything around him takes on a brooding, sinister appearance …

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Certainly this is an inspiring story to share with youngsters who fear the dark, as well as those with an interest in space, whether or not they aspire to become astronauts: one never knows. Stories can generate dreams and you’ve read what Chris Hadfield has to say about those …
There’s more for space lovers in

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Ludwig the Space Dog
Henning Löhlein
Templar Publishing
I guess if I had to choose an alternative world in which to live, I’d be pretty happy with the one wherein Ludwig and his five friends reside. It’s a world of books no less and unsurprisingly Ludwig loves to read, especially books about space. These books – as books generally do – generate dreams and ideas; and for Ludwig those ideas are about space and flying.
Try as he might though, Ludwig just cannot stay in the air for more than a very short time;

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but then something unexpected crash lands right before his eyes. From that something steps its pilot – a space explorer who is in urgent need of assistance. And that is the starting point for a whole new life for Ludwig. Having fixed the rocket’s engine, he accepts the explorer’s invitation and finally takes flight on an amazing exploration of space.
Children can enjoy entering the bookish world of Ludwig and his friends, and joining the dog on his space adventure through the 3D glasses provided in the pocket inside the book’s front cover.
I love those quirky collage style illustrations of Henning Löhlein, which, even without the glasses, have in places, a three-dimensional look.

This Book is Out of Control / Happy Hooves Yuk!

These two picture books welcome back some old friends:

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This Book is Out of Control
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
The perils of the remote control are explored in this third comic romp starring Ben and Bella, not forgetting Bella’s dog of course. It all starts when Ben turns up clutching his new favourite toy – a remote controlled fire engine. Eager to show off his control skills he begins by demonstrating the UP button but a press yields no response or rather the ladder stays fixed: Bella’s dog doesn’t as we readers can see. Ben and Bella however are oblivious to the action taking place inside the house behind the door, which nestles in the gutter of the book and Bella has firmly closed.
With their eyes fixed firmly on the ladder Ben tries another button, which results in this …

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I’ll leave you to imagine the results of pressing the siren button. Ben tries VOICE, which yields an utterance from the dog who opens the door revealing his predicament to the children. Things go from bad to worse despite Ben’s frantic button pushing and it’s then a case of over to you “Dear reader” especially as the expert remote controller has started to turn a delicate shade of green. Things are getting pretty desperate up top when readers are addressed once again …

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Does this work, you might be wondering – it certainly appears that one of the characters is in control …

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but we’re still left with one button none of them has tried …
With some rather crazy interactive opportunities, this is somewhat more sophisticated than the previous stories in the series. For me, the dog is undoubtedly the star of the show here.

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Happy Hooves Yuk!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox
The third Happy Hooves story sees Pig deciding to treat his pals to a culinary feast. But even after his careful preparations things don’t go quite as he’s planned. Cow turns her nose up at the first dish; Foal frowns at the second;

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Donkey is decidedly disturbed at the third and Sheep shudders at the thought of what she’s offered. Poor Pig: it seems none of his favourite dishes tempt his friends. He has one final course though: could this be the one? It certainly looks pretty scrumptious … let the party begin!

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I envisage a whole lot of ‘eughs’ and ‘yucks’ when you share this engaging rhyming tale; and as a veggie, I found myself in total sympathy with Pig’s friends about his offerings – definitely disgusting! Let’s celebrate friendship and chocolate cake instead. Let’s also celebrate Rebecca Elliott’s patterned scenes: I love the retro style and the occasional bordered spreads.

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Focus on those frogs …

The Wolf Who Cried Boy!

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The Wolf Who Cried Boy!
James O’Neill and Russell Ayto
Picture Corgi
I doubt there are many readers who aren’t familiar with the classic The Boy Who Cried Wolf story but what happens when someone turns the tale clean upside down? Well, in this instance, it’s something utterly delightful and funny to boot.
On opposite sides of a river live two communities – one human, the other, the forest dwelling wolves. Now these particular wolves, despite what the human elders have told their children …

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are soft, fun-loving friendly creatures. However, they do live in fear of those across the water. Hmm!
Let’s focus now on one of their number, a very small wolf cub who has some very big ideas (and very mistaken) about himself for indeed he is an extremely fearful little fellow, not brave at all and given to crying “Boy” at the slightest shadow shape, rustle of a bush or hint of a breeze. So frequent were his cries that soon nobody took the slightest scrap of notice.
Now one particular sunny morning this cub decides to take a cooling dip in the river and what should he spy but a scruffily clad, sticky faced …

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This particular little lad had much in common with the cub in that he was wont to cry out at the slightest rattle of a bin lid, moo from a cow or waft of the wind. Naturally nobody took heed – well you know that part of old.
Their face-to-face encounter results in a torrent of outpourings …

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all rather protracted and exhausting too. And totally ignored by both humans and wolves thus leaving the two infants to frolic the afternoon away together until …

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It looked as if their fun was over.

So hereafter, is it to be a case of never the twain shall meet or could there be other possibilities?
James O’Neill’s background in comic drama is evident in his droll telling of this head-on collision between two worlds; and combined with Russell Ayto’s priceless comic-strip style rendering of same, the result is picture book theatre of the first order. Read into it what you will …

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Happy Birthday Old Bear 30th Birthday blog tour

Red Reading Hub is delighted to be part of the blog tour celebrating Old Bear’s 30th birthday

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Happy Birthday Old Bear
Jane Hissey
Scribblers
I find it hard to believe that we’re celebrating Old Bear’s 30th birthday. He’s been one of my all time favourite characters since my early days as an infant teacher; and I have – I think – still got all his books, treasures every one.
I particularly treasure my original copy of Old Bear, still with its press release and review slip …

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I cannot possibly imagine how many classes, individuals and groups of young children I’ve shared this and the other stories with. So, I’m way beyond thrilled to be part of the celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of that first publication and Jane’s new Old Bear story which opens with all the toys, helped by a new friend, Elsie elephant busily preparing for Old Bear’s party.
Poor Little Bear, he just can’t keep up with Elsie who, rather than tie a bow around her umbrella gift seems to be tying bows to anything and everything …

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No party would be complete without balloons and the toys have those in abundance, even an anteater, so Little Bear thinks; but we know better …

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Meanwhile in the kitchen, Bramwell Brown has been hard at work baking and now the fruit of his labours is ready for decorating – or rather it was, but Elsie precipitates a slight mishap which results in a fair bit of cake being squashed. Undaunted, Elsie soon has the whole near-disaster turned into a creative ‘half-a-cake’ opportunity when in marches Sailor whose concern is for the celebratory music …

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and of course, Little Bear is eager to be part of the band.
Out in the garden is some bubble mixture: Elsie and Little Bear start to get a bit carried away with blowing ‘big, wibbly-wobbly bubbles’ and it’s as well that the ever-resourceful Elsie fetches the perfect cake protector just in time for the VIP’s appearance.

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We all know what happens when gusts of wind take hold of open brollies and all of a sudden Elsie is whisked skywards clinging on for dear life. Thank goodness then for another one of the friends, Hoot. She hears all the noise and is straightway off to the rescue, returning soon after with Elsie and the umbrella safe and sound.
Then finally, it really IS time to celebrate: ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLD BEAR’: here’s a cake we made just for you. …

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and may we all be here with you for many more birthdays.
I wanted an Elsie to come to our Old Bear celebration and here she is:

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Elsie whom I made in India from scrap materials bringing her own special umbrella gift for Old Bear

This latest Jane Hissey book is STU-PEN-DOUS: sheer delight from cover to cover. Every spread is a sensory treat: it’s so tactile; you can almost feel the fur and felt of the toys and that storybook cake really sends your olfactory organs and taste buds into over-drive. Old Bear and his creator truly are as magical as ever.
Inspired by Elsie, some of your fans have made celebratory Happy Birthday umbrellas specially for the occasion too:

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I have two copies of Happy Birthday Old Bear to give away thanks to Scribblers. To be in with a chance to win, simply retweet my celebratory tweet #OldBear30 by 22nd September. (UK only) And just in case you’ve missed the previous celebrations or want to know what’s still to come …

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Pom Pom is Super

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POM POM is Super
Sophy Henn
Puffin Books
This has got to be my favourite Pom Pom title yet (and I’ve LOVED the previous ones). If that isn’t testament enough to the quality of this tale, then nothing is. Dare I say, it’s a howlingly, show-stoppingly, way beyond magnificent, book.
Pom Pom is so excited at the prospect of is friends coming round to play that he’s full of fidgets; in fact his feet start dancing all on their own. He’s got his favourite toys at the ready and the snacks too when DING DONG! The first friend has arrived: its Buddy or rather “Buddy the FANTASTIC Footballing FLASH!!!’ and he’s already strutting his stuff right around Pom Pom’s living room when who should burst in but “The ANT King“: (aka Rocco) and “Swooshing SCOUT the SPECTACULAR” complete with cape and more.

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They are closely followed by “Twinkly Twirly TORDANO BEAR” – that’s Baxter and he’s certainly pretty good at twinkling and twirling.
Eager to get on with the day’s agenda, Pom Pom tries introducing the toys – not very successfully –

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FLASH! SWOOSH! TWINKLE! SCURRY …

so he hastily follows up with the snacks and it’s then that Pom Pom admits he might be a little short on superness. (Not in my book you aren’t, little guy.)
He decides to try his hand – or rather his whole self – at flying. Do we have lift off here? Urm, not quite …

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but maybe his pals can come up with an idea or two …
Wow! Pom Pom, you really are a true super-duper mover par excellence WHOPPEE!

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Sophy Henn has done it again and this would make a brilliant little TV show me thinks.

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Colourful Considerations

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What’s Your Favourite Colour, Pascal?
Magali Le Huche
Twirl Books
Spring has arrived and Pascal Platypus wants to bring some seasonal cheer to his nautical themed room with a fresh coat of paint and when he enlists the help of his friends in choosing a colour, every one of them is ready to help.
Cardigan suggests orange: “Trust me, it will be delicious!” he states but once the colour has been applied, Fancy the Turtle announces that the room looks like a giant carrot.

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He thinks green would be a whole lot better and off they go again but once more, on completion, there’s a dissenter. It’s Zelda Frog and pink is her suggestion but now Ringo Dog isn’t happy. “All the colours!” is his idea and there follows a SPLOOSH! SPLAT! colour-splatter battle …

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and now Pascal has had enough. It’s not new paint he needs but a whole new home and off he goes to create one. No prizes for guessing what colour predominates …

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Deliciously detailed and full of droll humour. Children will enjoy opening the multitude of flaps to peep inside the various cupboards, drawers, the bathtub and even the pictures adorning Pascal’s walls. They’ll also have fun watching the antics of those other residents of Pascal’s home – the tiny mice.

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The Colour Monster
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing
Meet the monster of the title and the little girl who helps him sort himself out, or his mixed up feelings at least …

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Her means of so doing is separation – into glass jars: each emotion being linked to a colour. Happiness is yellow ‘You feel bright and light. You laugh, you jump, you dance. You want to share that feeling with everyone.’

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Blue represents sadness ‘gentle like a blue rainy day.’ Anger is red – no surprises there- it’s ablaze like fire, making you want to stomp and …

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Fear is black, lurking among shadows: you feel alone, diminished.
In stark contrast, calm is green ‘quiet like the trees and soft like their leaves.’ It’s slow, deep breaths … I love this near yogic saravasana …

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And that’s pretty much it – fait accompli.
Hold on though, there’s been a change of hue in Colour Monster himself: he now looks like this …

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maybe this particular emotion just cannot be contained.
What a monstrously good way to introduce ideas about feelings and emotions to young children: the whole thing is a delight.
The child-like collage illustrations built up from cut out card and paper, painted, scribbled or daubed are immediately engaging and the characters instantly endearing.

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Old Friends and New

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Max
Marc Martin
Templar Publishing
Most of us will be familiar with the empty feeling that comes when circumstances separate close friends. In this affecting story by an award winning Australian artist, the avian protagonist certainly does.
Max is a seagull – a very fine looking one and slightly mischievous, so a gull after my own heart. He has a particular penchant for fish and chips

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and a special friend, Bob who keeps him supplied with the latter. And the former? The friends spend their evenings together catching those: life is pretty peachy for Max.
Then one day when Max arrives at Bob’s shop, he finds it empty; but where oh where is Bob?
Max waits a long time but then decides it’s time to take flight and off he goes searching …

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until as he flies above a city, a familiar smell pervades his nares.
Down he swoops and eventually finds …

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Wonder of wonders – there is his old pal and a joyful reunion is the order of the day, along with a few chips of course.
Oh, and their after hours fishing trips are resumed too …
Beautifully rendered through mixed media illustrations and a spare text that allows observant readers and listeners plenty of room to fill the gaps, this is a tender-hearted celebration of friendship triumphing against the odds. For instance we are never told about the fairground and its possible impact on the shops it dominates but it’s shown several times in the early scenes.

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Delicious!

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Best Friends
Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater
Hodder Children’s Books
Crazy capers ensue when three balls are thrown: these are immediately pursued by Dexter, Daisy and Lily, three altogether different dogs. Dexter McFadden McSimmons McClean (imagine yelling ‘Come here DMMM’ in full when he charges off) is a dashing greyhound, Daisy is a somewhat dreamy-looking dachshund and Lily, a prettified poodle.
Hot on their trails go respective owners, William – at a mad dash, Jack at a more leisurely stroll and a somewhat embarrassed Maddie, sporting a new haircut. But Dexter crash-lands right into a rather genteel picnic;

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Daisy somehow scares a reader and Lily becomes entangled in a kite. That however, is nowhere near the end of the canine-caused chaos …

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There’s a soaking in store too and it’s not just for those demented dogs

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But, with new friendships forged, all ends happily in Mara Bergman’s hilarious rhyming romp. It’s told in a jaunty fashion entirely in keeping with which are Nicola Slater’s superbly energetic, retro-style illustrations that have all the verve and vigour of Lynley Dodd’s well-known and much loved, Hairy Maclary.
Definitely a book that will stand up to the many re-readings I’m sure young listeners will demand, mine certainly have. I found myself falling for all three of those canine charmers despite being dog-phobic.

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Friends
Eric Carle
Puffin Books
A boy and a girl are close friends playing together and sharing each other’s secrets until one day the girl is gone; she’s moved somewhere far away. The boy counts to ten then sets off to find her. Having swum across a cold river, slept under a starry sky climbed up a steep mountain and down into a grassy meadow. He journeys through the rain till sleep overtakes him. Next day off he goes once more through a shadowy forest and a garden where he gathers flowers and eventually finds his friend again. “I have found you!” he shouted. “I knew you would come,” she said.
Much of the journey features only the landscape, which is conveyed through abstract brush-strokes and collage forms, with the children appearing just at the beginning and end. This serves to allow the reader to step into the shoes of the boy and in so doing get a feeling of the enormous distance he travels. Certainly the lad was a determined over-comer of obstacles.
The final pages show a photograph of Carle and a girl friend from his early childhood in 1932 from whom he was separated when his family moved. Seemingly this friendship was part of the inspiration for the book, although the real-life friends have never been reunited.

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