Tag Archives: humour

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

Clumpety Bump / Barnyard Boogie!

Clumpety Bump
Phil Alcock and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Wally Wobblebottom is a kind-hearted soul; he has a horse named Clumpety Bump, a very lazy animal indeed. So lazy that when Wally sets out to deliver goodies to his various friends and neighbours, the horse’s response to his master’s words of encouragement on each occasion is “I can’t be bothered!” which leaves Wally more than a little frustrated, especially as the items he intends to deliver all go to waste.

By Thursday Wally has had enough; he decides to use his tractor when he goes, bearing flowers, to visit his lady-friend. However it seems machines can be just as unreliable as horses …

and in the end it’s Clumpety that takes Wally, at full speed this time, all the way to Ann Kacheef’s house. There disaster strikes … but all ends happily for everyone.
With its playful phrases and refrains to join in with, this story, with its themes of thankfulness and friendship, is one to encourage audience participation and promote the message that language can be fun.

More playful language in:

Barnyard Boogie!
Tim McCanna and Allison Black
Abrams Appleseed
Be prepared for a noisy storytime if you share this one: it’s a riotous read aloud thanks to the musicians of the Barnyard Animal Band.
All the animals have their instruments poised: Horse has a tuba, Goat plays a sax, Cat fiddles, Pig is a pianist, Sheep blows a trumpet and Dog bangs the drums. But what can Cow do? …

The crowd’s assembled ready to hear the performance; but how will the show start and who will lead the band?

Crazy rhyming onomatopoeic instrumental sounds, and a repeat refrain that young children will love to join in with, are part and parcel of the brief text that scans beautifully. Put together with bright, zany illustrations, the whole thing makes for a fun session with young children actively involved both vocally and physically.

I Want To Go First!

I Want To Go First!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

I’ve never quite understood the obsession with being first in a line but it’s something that seems to take hold of children almost from the minute they start school – that’s if they’re made to line up anyway – a teachers’ obsession, often fuelled by parents, and one I dislike intensely.
The whole ‘going first’ thing can make for a fun story though and Richard Byrne exploits its potential for creating humour in his latest interactive picture book.
We join five funkily attired elephants, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Elton, Elgar and Elphie as they’re about to embark on ‘the long march to the watering hole at the back of the book’.
Elphie, the smallest of their number, is always the one that brings up the rear.
On this occasion however, he’s had enough of being last and asks to go in the front of the line. As usual though the response comes, ‘ … the littlest always goes last’.
Elphie isn’t prepared to walk at the back and instead he enlists the help of readers to help him with his plan of action. Help that involves first, shouting …

followed by hissing,

wobbling the book, squeaking and other noise making; all of which serve to get him to second place in the line right behind Elgar, just as they reach their destination where it looks as though we’re about to be rumbled …

Oops! The water hole is already occupied. Now what? Perhaps that squeak-squeak noise might come in useful after all … Could it even make the other elephants rethink their first in line criterion.
Enthusiastic orchestration and demands of ‘again’ were my listeners’ responses to this sizeist tale with its playful attempt to alter the status quo.

His Royal Tinyness: A Terrible True Story

His Royal Tinyness: A Terrible True Story
Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts
Walker Books

I think I’ve just found my favourite ever picture book take on a new sibling. This one had me spluttering at every turn of the page; both words and pictures are utterly priceless.
Let’s meet the Happy Family: there’s a mum, a dad and a little princess: ‘the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever-so-kindest Princess with long flowing wondrous hair’ is how the young miss describes herself. (“That’s her tights,” one of my listeners was quick to point out.) Oh! and there’s a gerbil too.
All is peace and harmony in the kingdom aka The Land until one fateful day, a new ruler is born: His Royal Highness, King Baby. Let right royal disaster commence for, from that day forth for a whole year thereafter, the increasingly chubby babe rules The Land, not to mention the household. A certain young Princess’s nose is well and truly out of joint, but come infant’s first birthday, things get even worse.
Relations gather from far and wide to celebrate, fawning and fussing over the infant, and totally ignoring big sis. Seemingly the prince has cast a spell over The Whole Land.
Time for some drastic action: our innocent Princess knows just what to do – a disguise and a cunning plan are called for.

Before she’s barely even begun however, the sight of birthday cake and the sound of singing …

spark off horrendous screams, drooling dribbles and a tremendous tantrum from young King Billy.

Can anyone console the poor little chap?
Surprisingly, yes. But to find out exactly who and how, you’ll need to read the story for yourself …
Let’s just say that peace and harmony are finally restored and from a most unexpected quarter.
David Roberts must surely be king when it comes to pen and watercolour illustrations. Herein his distinctive illustrative style is retro 1970s (mum with frizzy permed hair and dad wearing bell-bottoms) ; but running in tandem with that are crayoned images showing the Princess’s version of events taken from Princess Marigold’s Drawing Book– a brilliant comic counterpoint if ever there was one. All this, alongside Sally Lloyd-Jones’ terrific fairytale pastiche and the result? A new dream team is launched.

Here’s one little princess totally loving the story.

World Pizza / The Wompananny Witches Make One Mean Pizza

World Pizza
Cece Meng and Ellen Shi
Sterling
Who would have thought that pizza could become a peace-maker but you never know.
The vast majority of us wish for world peace and the mum in this story does just that one night when a wishing star appears in the sky. But as she speaks her wish a sneeze comes upon her and her children are convinced her wish is for pizza. Suddenly a large pizza falls from the sky and truly delicious it turns out to be.
Soon yummy pizzas of every kind imaginable are raining down all over the world making people happy and content.

Even bullies become kindly and pirates cease their plundering; everywhere differences are forgotten and unlikely friendships forged and all in the name of pizza. Peace and love fills the world and all unbeknown to the instigator of the whole process.
Interesting and thought-provoking: would that it were that simple though.

More about the power of pizza in:

The Wompananny Witches Make One Mean Pizza
Jennie Palmer
Abrams Books for Young Readers
The Wompananny witches, Anita and Winnifred are sisters who like nothing better that preparing a delicious pizza in their kitchen. In fact they seldom set foot outside on account of the local, so they think, wild children. So when three of them come a-calling the two sisters are quite overcome with terror and decide to give vent to their feelings by pounding a new batch of dough.
Before you can say ‘baked pizza’, the dough has morphed into ‘one mean pizza’ that in true ‘runaway pancake style’, has upped and flopped its way out of the oven, through the front door and out into the street, hotly pursued by Anita and Winnifred.

Soon the entire child population of the neighbourhood, hungry and desperate for a nibble of pizza, is chasing after the yummy thing, all the way to the park where something very unexpected happens. Yes, the children are still wild decide the witches, only now witches and children are actually a very tasty combination and all thanks to pizza.

Full of humorous touches, Jennie Palmer’s ink, watercolour and photoshop illustrations for her whimsical tale bring to mind James Stevenson’s art.

I Want to be in a Scary Story

I Want to be in a Scary Story
Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien
Walker Books

From the dream team that brought us Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, here’s a story told entirely in dialogue: black type for the external narrator and purple – aptly – for chief protagonist, Little Monster.
Eager to be in a story, the totally endearing little enthusiast turns down the suggestion that a funny story might be preferable, assuring the narrator that a scary story it must be.
Talk about dropping you in it, but that’s exactly what the narrator does by placing the monster right outside a haunted house.

‘Spooky’, seems preferable, and that’s no walk in the park either, as the house might be inhabited by a scary witch, or a ghastly ghost just waiting to jump out; at least the narrator forewarns our Little Monster though. But there seems to have been something of a misunderstanding.
Little Monster wants to do the scaring, not be scared silly. Here goes …

But then comes another thought: what lies behind that door? The witch?
Much too scary; so what about ‘just a teeny weeny monkey and his friend’? Surely scaring them should prove suitably funny …

Sean Taylor knows just how much scariness little monsters, purple or otherwise, can take, and his clever scaling back of the terror as the tale proceeds, is spot on for keeping young listeners on the edge of their seats. Equally Jean Jullien’s creepy scenes have a sufficient degree of zaniness to grip but not unduly alarm; and that final twist really hits the spot.
Can I be in a story again tomorrow?’ asks Little Monster on the final page: I suspect young audiences, thrilled rather than chilled, will want it to be more immediate than that.

Kevin

Kevin
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins

Sid Gibbons and trouble seem to go hand in hand: first it’s smashing the birdbath with his ball; then forgetting to put the tops back on his pens; his bedroom resembles a ‘pigsty’ and now his dinner is all over the floor. Needless to say, his mum is less than happy. But, none of this is Sid’s fault: no it’s Kevin’s.
And who is Kevin you might be thinking; he’s Sid’s friend. The pink spotted, vanilla furred pal with a single tooth and a tendency for clumsiness who comes through a hatch in his bedroom ceiling when Sid feels lonely, so he tells his mum, who naturally is having none of this ‘make-believe friend.’
Make-believe? Through that ceiling hatch there shines a light – a light of vanilla and pink striped rays: up the stairs goes Sid to be confronted by a truly amazing sight – a magical world filled with strange beasties…

Now though, the boot is on the other foot, so to speak: Sid is the invisible being here and this gives him an idea. Uh-oh!

As a result however, it also gives him an opportunity to question his actions: is it fair to blame your misdemeanours on a friend, albeit an imaginary one?
Time to make reparation – first to Kevin and then to his very own Mum …

All this and more is delivered through Rob Biddulph’s faultless rhyming narrative – a longish one – and his equally superb visuals. For the latter he moves from the monochromes of Sid’s reality to the glorious rainbow hues of Kevin’s kingdom. Fans of the author’s previous works will delight in guest appearances from Fred, the bear from Grrrrr!; Blown Away’s Blue and the occasional Odd Dog dachshund.

And, those beastie inhabitants of Kevin’s world, be they hairy, slimy, leggy or frilly, are splendid. As for Sid, he’s a totally believable character, full of mischief and absolutely adorable – I’m pretty sure I’ve taught him somewhere along the line; many times over in fact.
All this while exploring ideas about imaginary friends and the notion of facing up to the consequences of our own actions, which is so subtly embedded into the tale – genius!

Toad has Talent

Toad has Talent
Richard Smythe
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Frozen ponds in the moonlit would, I suspect, normally have more allure for humans than forest animals; but not so in this story. Even those one might expect to be hibernating are willing to risk freezing paws, or tingling noses and toes, in the hope of winning the Moonlight Pond talent contest.
Not Toad however; he’s absolutely convinced he has nothing to offer this extravaganza. “It’s best if I keep myself out of sight,” he decides lest the other animals think he’s useless.
As he watches the glittering performances of the contestants …

further self-deprecatory comments pour forth from the amphibian, until, the competition draws to a close.
However, just as a winner is about to be announced, a snail halts the proceedings declaring, much to Toad’s displeasure, that one of their number is yet to perform.
Fully intending to resist, the hapless creature steps from the shadows and slips, trips, swirls, twirls and cartwheels across the ice, landing right in front of the judges.

Such a glittering ice-skating performance by a toad has never before been seen and so, by a unanimous decision, and to great applause, Toad is declared the winner. After all, to use Toad’s final words, “You never know what you can do until you try!
Hugely entertaining scenes are the real strength of the far-fetched tale so far as I’m concerned; and yes Toad (despite looking like a frog) may have won the prize; but for me, that yogic snake …

and the duckling troupe are the real show-stoppers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Mopoke

Mopoke
Philip Bunting
Scholastic

Ever heard of a mopoke? I certainly hadn’t until this book arrived and even then I thought at first it was a made up word. Then I discovered a note at the back telling readers that a ‘Mopoke’ is the Australian nickname for the Southern Boobook, their smallest and most common owl species.
The particular mopoke of the title is the star of Philip Bunting’s debut picture book, which unsurprisingly begins ‘This is a mopoke.’
What follows is a deliciously playful sequence in which the mopoke, sitting on its branch longing for some solitude, becomes a highpoke, a lowpoke, a poshpoke and a poorpoke.

One then becomes two and then, more pokes, and a wee poke. Thereafter the real fun starts with a ‘Fee-fi-fo-poke’.

Before long the creature has become a ‘yo-poke’ – twice thanks to the addition of an exclamation mark.
Other animals also put in an appearance – there’s a wombat, totally unexpected, a snail riding a tortoise …

and a crow(poke) until finally the long suffering creature has had enough and flies off, presumably in search of a peaceful spot, leaving an empty branch.
Gently humorous, with a deceptively simple text and delightfully droll illustrations, this extended wordplay joke is great fun to share; and perfect for beginning readers of all ages.

Pirate Baby

Pirate Baby
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Otter-Barry Books

Yo ho ho! me hearties, there’s a brand new crew a’sailin’ on the high seas and we all love a good pirate yarn. This one though is altogether different and an absolute humdinger.
The crew of the Ramshackle are more than a little discombobulated when they discover a bawling baby bobbing about on a raft;

all the more so when they find out that the object they’re trying their level best to feed is actually a girl baby.

That’s only the start of their adventures however. The crew become the owners of a nanny-goat which they aptly name Nana; very useful when it comes to providing nourishment for the babe. Spoons the cook turns his hand to stitching nappies and other baby attire; and Red Bart the bosun even makes the infant a toy squid from a pair of old gloves.

None of your stereotypical pirates these.
As time passes and the babe, now named Isla, becomes mobile, the pirates, bothered by their lack of piratical action, resolve to plunder the next ship they spy. They think better of their plan though, when they discover the crew is all women.
Then an enormous sea monster looms up from the deep. The crew fear for their ship and their lives; and it’s Isla who saves the day with a truly selfless deed.
Thereafter, she’s recognised as “a true Pirate Baby” with a dazzling piratical future to look forward to.
No pirate crew is really complete without a parrot and a cat; these vital bit parts are admirably played here by McSquark and ship’s moggy, Plunderpuss.
Who better than Ros Asquith to bring out the humour of Mary Hoffman’s salty story? Awash with chucklesome details, her jaunty, swashbuckling scenes are set fair to create a splash with landlubbers young and not so young. A real treasure.

I’ve signed the charter  

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake
Michael Rosen and Kevin Waldron
Puffin Books

I can’t possibly imagine how many times I shared Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem from Quick Let’s Get Out of Here during my time as a primary teacher; it was certainly the most requested poem with countless classes and always an ideal offering to have at the ready when working in an advisory capacity. So to learn it was to be published in picture book format with Kevin Waldron supplying the illustrations was very exciting.
The poem itself is sheer genius telling of a little boy who just cannot get out of his mind the scrumptious chocolate cake he’s sampled earlier in the day and, knowing that there’s a considerable chunk still downstairs, cannot resist its temptation.
He creeps out of bed (ensuring he misses the creaky floorboard outside his parents’ bedroom) and downstairs into the kitchen. There, in the cupboard, is the object of his desire …

Out it comes and he notices there just happen to be some crumbs, and that the cake itself needs a spot of tidying up …

until things get just a tad out of control …

Such are the agonising details  used to relate the whole experience, that we’re right in that child’s head as he’s overwhelmed by desire, and we’re desperately wanting him not to get caught – which of course he does, although not until the following morning.
Oh dear, the embarrassment, the humiliation …

Kevin Waldron brilliantly captures all the subterfuge, the suspense and the final priceless denouement in his deliciously funny scenes, every one of which will leave you spluttering with delight.
If the whole thing doesn’t get your taste buds all a-tingling, then nothing will.

All About Cats

All About Cats
Monika Filipina
Child’s Play

Oh my goodness! There was I under the misapprehension that domestic cats spend the vast majority of their days sleeping: how wrong could one be?
The feline narrator of this book confides in readers, offering an altogether different picture, with a whole host of activities being on the agenda once those humans are out of the way and the cats left entirely to their own devices.
And there’s a variety of adorable moggies to participate in this show and tell.
Naturally after a fair bit of physical exercise, the odd snooze is perfectly in order but there’s too much to do to let any curl-up time last long. Very high on the agenda is cooking when it’s a case of all paws on deck …

Snack over, a spot of knitting maybe? Or even better some reading time – a perfect curl-up opportunity methinks; or what about a swim in the bathtub?
Better still engage in something co-operative such as forming a band or being creative …

Seemingly there are no holds barred just so long as all participants are safely back innocently curled up in that chair by the time any humans return; then they’ll never know. I wonder … Observant readers and listeners certainly will if the mess is anything to go by.
Now I’m far from being a cat lover but these creative creatures are just SO appealing and full of mischief that I was totally under their spell by the time I reached this …

Superbly illustrated, funny and such a wonderful invitation to youngsters to get out their pastels or paints and get creating.

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission / Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase / Animazes

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission
Sophie Guerrive
Wide Eyed Editions
In his plane, which looks more like an inflatable toy than anything capable of carrying a dinosaur, famous Dinosaur Detective sets forth on a mission: to find five missing items as requested by the likes of a dog, a princess, a teacher and a distraught wife, hidden somewhere in eleven different locations including what looks like a Medieval European village, an underground cave network, atop a mountain,

a funfair, a forest, a completely crazy-looking outer space neighbourhood and a city.

It’s difficult to know where to start each search as your eyes keep getting drawn to features of interest – mine did anyway – and some of the spreads are so densely packed, it’s mindboggling, and easy to get absorbed in the surreal nature of the whole thing rather than the task in hand. It’s just as well there’s an answer spread at the end.
Dinosaur Detective’s plane transforms into a kind of tank (to find the missing toad) and a flying saucer – another fun feature.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase
Lomp
Little Tiger Press
Herein we meet natural history explorers Wilfred and Olbert and follow them on a quest to discover a new animal and thus win the coveted Nature Discovery Prize. And when an unidentified butterfly just happens to float through the window, they decide their chance has come. Off they go in hot pursuit but who will be the one to claim the prize?
Their journey has them dashing through forests, diving into oceans, crossing deserts, and wild grasslands,

scaling mountains and delving into tropical jungles …

as they battle to reach the butterfly first.
In the end teamwork wins out and mission complete, they claim their trophy.
The whole adventure is perilous and it’s something of a task to keep track of the two competitors and their antics en route – almost being the next meal of a lion, or being engulfed by ice, for instance – but the whole crazy drama is totally engaging, full of funny moments, things to search for, and of course, wild animals.
Wild too are Lomp’s hilarious, cartoon-like illustrations, full of daft doings and silly speech bubbles making every spread a treat to linger over.
Action-packed they surely are!

Animazes
illustrated by Melissa Castrillión
Big Picture Press
This unusual book of mazes follows the journeys of fourteen animal migrants from Antarctic krill and Monarch butterflies to Humpback whales and Mali elephants.
For some of these creatures such as reindeer, finding food is the reason for their journey; for others, such as Rockhopper Penguins, it’s to seek a suitable environment for the survival of the next generation.
In tracing their journeys, the aim is to discover the one safe path for each animal and in so doing, readers will discover a host of fascinating facts about the creature. Did you know for instance that Mali elephants all pass through one narrow passage, The Porte des Éléphants on their migratory travels? Or that Wildebeest participate in the largest mass migration of mammals on earth?

It’s Katie Howarth who provides these and the other interesting snippets of information that support Melissa Castrillión’s intricately detailed illustrations through which the mazes are woven.
Absorbing, fun and educational.

I Really Want the Cake

I Really Want the Cake
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Publishing

Now here’s a lip-smacker of a book guaranteed to make your salivary glands go into over-drive.
Who can resist that wonderful aroma of a fresh from the oven chocolate cake?
The little girl narrator of this story really has my sympathies when she follows the delicious smell emanating from the kitchen and discovers a totally yummy-looking confection just sitting there waiting to be tasted.

The trouble is though, her mum has left a warning note ‘YOU MUST NOT EAT THIS CAKE’. There’s no ambiguity about that, so the whole deliciously tempting chocolate cake must quite simply be forgotten.
Easier said than done though and the temptation proves too much for the young miss who, after holding back for a while, then finds herself drawn by an irresistible longing, back to object of her desire. What else could she do but sample the thing?
But then, the lick gives way to a bite, which turns into a slice and …

Oops! No cake!
Still a replacement shouldn’t be much of a challenge, surely?

Simon Philip’s tasty rhythmic, rhyming tale slips so smoothly from the tongue making it a great read aloud. Combined with Lucia Gaggiotti’s high energy, laugh-out-loud illustrations of chocolate cake and calamity, the whole thing becomes a scrumptious treat to serve up to young listeners. (I love the way the narrator takes on a variety of personas as she grapples with her conscience.)
If my experience is anything to go by extra servings will be immediately demanded.
There’s even a recipe for chocolate cake on the final page – mmmm!

I’ve signed the charter  

Salty Dogs

Salty Dogs
Matty Long
Oxford University

Matty Long packed plenty into his Magic Forest picture books; now he turns his creative attention to pirates and once again the result is full of fun and frenzy.
Let’s meet the Salty Dogs: there’s Captain Fifi, super strong first mate, Barker, Mylo, the crew’s official watchdog, the rather excitable Sherman; Stewart the swordsdog extraordinaire – so he claims; Pug, the questionable cook and last but not least, Horatio Pawsworth 111, head of grooming. They however are not the only crew to be sailing the high seas in search of treasure; there are also The Green Shell Gang, The Crazy Horn Crew, The Feathered Furies and The Sea Monkeys – all forces to be reckoned with.
As the Salty Dogs sail towards Crossbone Island to unearth their long-buried treasure, they manage to get the better of the first three of their enemies; but then, they find themselves facing the mighty galleon the Scoundrel and its crew the dreaded Sea Monkeys.

It seems as though those Salty Dogs are in for some BIG trouble when the Scoundrel’s captain gives the order to fire the cannons.
Then it’s a case of sink or swim – doggy paddle style – as fast as they can to claim what is rightfully theirs.

But what exactly is this treasure that both crews are ready to go head to head over?
This crazy tale is absolutely brimming over with suitably daft details, speech bubbles and piratical humour. Readers will want to linger over every spread relishing the irresistible buccaneering bounties.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sofa Dog

Sofa Dog
Leonie Lord
Alison Green Books
When it comes to the sofa, the canine narrator of this book reigns supreme: the only person he’ll allow to share it is the aptly named, young Sophie, his ‘human’. Hence his name, Sofa Dog.

Seemingly others, be they animal or human are unaware of the territorial rule; they too want to share the springy seat. And it seems the doorbell is never going to stop ringing.
Before you can say, “Budge up, Sofa Dog!” there are a couple of cats from next door, three aunties – all avid knitters,

friend Polly plus pony, a host of rabbits, Grandpa (from Bavaria) with his orangutan oompah band, and a panda; and they’ve all piled onto the sofa.
Hang on though, there’s an additional guest, a very tiny one that’s managed to sneak in unnoticed. Now what could that be? And why has everyone suddenly started scratching?
Is this perhaps an opportunity for Sofa Dog to regain his rightful place on the sofa? It can’t be much fun sitting outside all on his own, now can it?

Utterly crazy, and bursting with zany characters to delight both readers aloud and listeners. Leonie Lord portrays every one of them, and the chaos they create, with great panache.
Who can resist falling for the charms of the exuberant Sofa Dog in particular, though I did rather fall for the drum-playing member of Grandpa’s Bavarian band too.

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They Came from Planet Zabalooloo!

They Came from Planet Zabalooloo!
Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
Sean Taylor does crazy stories supremely well and this one surely tops the pops for craziness.
Three aliens, inhabitants of the planet Zabalooloo head to earth in their spaceship and they have a mission. There’s the brainy one, that’s Zoron our narrator; Bazoo, the strong one and Zob, prone to hyper-exuberance and crazy wiggle-woggle dancing.
Their aim is to be the first to capture a “BIG-SIZE thing” by means of their supersonic-sucker with special shrinker nozzle and take it back to their own planet. Quite a challenge judging by the relative size of the aliens and their prey, Undaunted and with supersonic sucker at the ready, the three creep up behind the creature ready to strike.

But then Bazoo wants to stop for a photo shoot. PHOOAH! Big mistake! Followed by rapid retreat back to spaceship.
Maybe they’ll have more success with MEDIUM-SIZED thing. Or maybe not …

Surely nothing can go wrong capturing a SMALL-SIZED thing; after all it would still be a first for their planet.
But even aliens from Zabalooloo cannot resist feeding our earthly ducks and it’s a case of love at first sight for both Zoron their intrepid leader and the target duck.

So is their mission doomed to failure or could there perhaps be another way of capturing their prey?
Sean Taylor’s deliciously zany text, some of which is rendered through colour-coded speech bubbles, is full of utterances guaranteed to make you splutter with laughter. Take this one for instance ‘I am COMPLETE BIG-GOB NINCOMPOOP WITH PANTS ON INSIDE OUT!
Perfectly complementing Taylor’s words are Kate Hindley’s sublimely silly, intricately detailed visuals of the diminutive Zabaloolooian explorers and their tin can craft complete with steering wheel and party area, going about their mission.
Human explorers of the pages will find many more small-sized things including a wealth of insects hovering on, and buzzing around, the various kinds of plants liberally scattered throughout the terrain of the aliens’ hunting ground.
Epic!

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Superhero Hotel / Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away

Superhero Hotel
Abie Longstaff and Migy Blanco
Scholastic
Have you heard about the exclusive, top-secret hotel atop a hill that’s the number one destination for any superhero in need of a spot of rest and relaxation?
It’s ably managed by young Joe Malone who knows exactly what each of his special guests most needs to restore them to peak form, which is just as well for he suddenly gets an influx of superheroes.
First comes Captain Power in need of a strength recharge. He’s followed by Gadget Girl, Ice Woman (with a sore thumb), The Flame, whose boots need attention, and last of all, Mr Invisible who slips in unnoticed, except by Joe.
Being superheroes though, it’s not long before they’re back to their former energetic selves and raring to go.
Joe meanwhile decides to do some gardening but the by now, bored superheroes cannot resist joining him and are soon at work making their own improvements to the garden.
Before you can say ‘be careful’ Captain Power has tripped over Mr Invisible,

accidentally precipitating a catastrophic chain of events.
Can the combined skills of the superheroes save Superhero Hotel from disaster?

Abie Longstaff’s fast moving tale with its crazy happenings, teamwork and a wealth of superheroes with their unique and diverse attributes provides Migy Blanco plenty of scope to employ his illustrative imagination; his arresting style will certainly engage young would-be superheroes.

Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper edition containing three stories, all featuring flying machines, is a great way to catch up if, like me you’ve missed some of the individual Winnie and Wilbur picture books.
In the first, Winnie and Wilbur: The Broomstick Ride, Winnie tries various other forms of locomotion after a series of accidents while cruising on her broomstick, only to discover that the solution to preventing further mishaps (especially to Wilbur who seemed to come off worst in all the aeronautical disasters), lies not in alternative forms of transport,

but in something altogether different; something that will improve Winnie’s eyesight.
A flying carpet is the subject in the second story wherein we find Winnie, conscientious witch that she is, busy writing thank-you letters for her birthday presents. There’s one letter left to do and it’s proving especially tricky as her much wanted gift of a flying carpet had turned out to be an absolute disaster.
Can she find a way to use the thing so that she has something positive to say about it? Let’s just say it’s surprising how many alternative uses a single item can be put to …
The final tale sees Winnie off to stock up on her favourite vegetables at the farmers’ market, especially her very favourite – pumpkins. These weekly trips leave much to be desired though and so Winnie decides to grow her own at home instead –

with Wilbur’s help of course; and the odd touch of magic to speed up the process.
And speed it up is exactly what her wand waving does, so much so that very soon her whole house is surrounded by a veritable veggie jungle full of enormous, produce including enough pumpkins – Winnie’s favourite – sufficient to feed not only herself and Wilbur but the whole neighbourhood . What though should she do with a gigantic pumpkin shell? Think propellers; think a highly convenient means of travelling to market …
As with all Winnie books, the stories are terrific fun, but it’s their combination with Korky Paul’s hilarious, highly detailed illustrations that make this series such perennial favourites. (You might even find the odd character from another of his books has dropped in.)

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Rhyme Crime

Rhyme Crime
Jon Burgerman
Oxford University Press

Beware the googly eyes staring out through the cover of Jon Burgerman’s follow up to Splat!. It’s another chortle inducer starring a thief, albeit one whose light-fingered habit leaves a rhyming replacement item for every one stolen. In fact the whole thing is a veritable rhyming extravaganza.
First to fall victim to those thieving fingers is Hammy; his brand new hat is swapped for a c– .
I’m sure Gumpop is none too pleased to lose his head, only to have it replaced by a slice of …

And so it goes on: Arney loses his chair; Tootle – his dog; Moomoo – a pair of clogs;

Gertie’s house is swapped for a giant m —- .
Tumble’s orange however proves the thief’s undoing.
As he ponders upon a suitable rhyming object with which to replace the juicy item he’s apprehended by a couple of police officers

and marched off to jail.
Not for long though: seemingly our light-fingered jail bird is an expert lock-picker …
This hilarious romp is absolutely brilliant for developing rhyming skills and encouraging prediction, a vital skill in reading for meaning.
Burgerman’s bold, bright, matt illustrations are attention grabbing and deliciously zany.

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Professional Crocodile

Professional Crocodile
Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Chronicle Books

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

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

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

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

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Tiny Tantrum

Tiny Tantrum
Caroline Crowe and Ella Okstad
Little Tiger Press

Temper tantrums are part and parcel of being a toddler and the little girl in this story is no exception.

Indeed she seems to have got the whole tantrum thing down to a fine art causing windows to wobble, jelly to shake and birds to fall from trees and all because mum has requested that she put on her coat.
Enter one purple hairy monster with talk of a freezing bottom and hence no fun and before you can say ‘chilly bum’, the little miss has donned her coat and is meekly following her mum.
All is fun and cuddles until back home at lunchtime. Then comes tantrum number two: it’s broccoli induced. Fortunately there just happens to be an apron- wearing monster to advise on improving the taste of veggies too; and it works like magic.

Those are not the only tantrums Tiny throws during the course of her busy day, but each time it happens there’s a monster on hand with timely advice.
Come bedtime though, Tiny has four very lively monsters to put to bed. Can she gain the upper hand and get them to take one final bounce, right into bed and stay there?

She’s certainly had some good training.
Ella Okstad’s portrayal of the capricious infant shows her ticklish temperament to great effect in an offbeat colour palette, and Caroline Crow’s rhyming narrative is just right for sharing with tinies especially those of a tantrum-prone nature.

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This is NOT a Fairy Tale

This is NOT a Fairy Tale
Will Mabbitt and Fred Blunt
Puffin Books

Dad and his story sabotaging daughter, Sophie, return in a sequel to This is NOT a Bedtime Story; now though, the time honoured fairy tale is under attack and all because Grandad couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to finish the story.
No matter, Dad is on hand to take over, or rather attempt to; but he’s reckoned without the creative interjections of the opinionated subverter of narratives sitting right beside him.
Let the imagination roll… and roll it surely does.
Sophie’s having none of your pathetic princess stuff: her young royal female is the one wearing the armour and she’s all for using the latest mod cons – a combine harvester transformer for instance – to save time and perform heroic deeds involving dragons.

Fast paced, metafictive mayhem is the order of the day in this deliciously bonkers book.
Yes there IS a prince – a slumbering bald one whose fate it is to be rescued …

(although he does inadvertently have moments of less inert, even momentarily useful and agonisingly ROAR worthy activity, where dragon’s bums are concerned). YEOWCH!

Giggles aplenty guaranteed. The super-crazy team of Mabbitt and Blunt have scored another ace with this one.

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Fairy Tale Pets

Fairy Tale Pets
Tracey Corderoy and Jorge Martin
Little Tiger Press

Bob and his dog Rex live a happy life in their neat abode but Bob needs a job. Being an animal lover he decides pet-sitting is just the ticket and advertises his services all over town.
The following day business is booming but not with the cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters Bob had been anticipating. Oh dear no!
First comes a golden-haired young miss with a baby bear that needs minding while she’s on her hols.

Next to call is Jack (who insists on paying with beans) and his goose Gabby. Not the comparatively easy task Bob anticipated and before long eggs are flying around all over his once tidy home. That however is actually after the arrival of client number three with her billy goats, and you certainly don’t say no to someone looking like that.

Just when it looks as though matters can’t get any worse, along come three little pigs with their oh so ‘friendly’ um, ‘puppy’. Who are they fooling?
Certainly not young listeners, who by now will be positively squealing with delight.
It’s not difficult to guess what that so called puppy does, which leaves an exasperated Bob without a home or job: he quits pet-sitting and who can blame him; it’s far too hazardous.

That just leaves those beans …
Talk about fairy tale frenzy; Tracey Corderoy’s text is a treat for both listeners (who will enjoy spotting all their favourite characters) and readers aloud.
Laughs aplenty are assured in Jorge Martin’s zesty, slapstick depictions of the mayhem caused by the stream of outlandish animal arrivals at Bob’s residence.
Full of potential following a classroom sharing; but most important, a thoroughly fun-filled picture book.

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Troll Stroll

Troll Stroll
Elli Woollard and David Barrow
Nosy Crow
Having grown tired of an unrelenting diet of billy goat, the large lumbering troll in this tasty tale goes lumbering off in search of something different to tickle his palate. Off he heads through the town, stopping at the bridge – after all that’s where trolls hang out, isn’t it? Seems as though he’s about to strike lucky for what should come pedalling into view but a lad out for a spin. “Mmm” says the Troll. “There is nothing I like quite as much as a nice juicy boy on his bike.
The lad however, despite his relatively diminutive stature, shows a decided lack of fear.

Clearly he is familiar with the Three Billy Goats Gruff story for he responds thus: “Please don’t eat me just yet! There is something much better behind me, I bet!
Sure enough almost instantly, along comes an infinitely more tempting possibility.

And so it goes on, with first a school bus and then a digger full of mucky young passengers coming along to tempt the troll with even better, more substantial sounding treats.
Has the Troll finally met his match with that digger, or are those ‘scrumptious young morsels” aboard about to become his next tasty repast?

This is a lip-smacking offering from the toothsome new twosome, Woollard and Barrow. Elli Woollard’s rhyming text simply slips off the tongue – a veritable treat if ever; and David Barrow’s soft-focus, splodgy illustrations are deliciously diverting.

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The Best Chip

The Best Chip
Kate Leake
Alison Green Books

Chubble – what a lovely word; apparently it’s urban slang for ‘to move or be like a mass of fat’. Mmm; maybe I don’t like it quite so much now.
In fact, I’m not a big fan of chips although I’m not averse to pinching a few from my partner’s plate when he indulges himself.
In this veritable ode to chips, our narrator is so she says, “the world’s Chip-Chubbling Champ!” Now there’s a claim to fame; and throughout this rhyming chip extravaganza, she extols the virtues of the humble chip in all its shapes and sizes. Well perhaps not Granny’s frazzled ones, nor those black-eyes ones.
Apparently she comes from a family of chip lovers; Dad too is a huge fan although he’s rather a messy eater.

It’s our narrator’s largest and ‘bestest’ chip though which gives rise to enormous anticipatory excitement and all manner of flights of fancy …

not to mention crazy a song and dance act, all hilariously visualised in lip-smacking scenes.
But will that much -lauded titbit ever actually pass through the lips of its owner?
I’ll say no more on that matter but just add, there’s a spot of fickleness in the finale.

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The Only Lonely Panda

The Only Lonely Panda
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press

Deep in the forest, a lonely panda sits among the bamboos longing for a friend. He sets his sights on another panda; but how to go about making friends with her, that is the thorny question.
He spends time observing his fellow forest animals: first the flamingos who befriend one another through a graceful dance. Panda’s efforts at fluffy flamingo dancing however don’t quite pass muster; in fact they’re a total flop.
So what about emulating those bouncing sifakas? Surely being springy like those bouncy creatures can’t be difficult and it’s bound to impress the other panda …

Well, maybe not!
Nor can he manage that majestic booby walk like the strutting blue-footed birds, without losing sight of the object of his desire.

And that peacock is in no hurry to part with any of his tail feathers; so Panda will just have to make do …

until the rain comes that is.
It’s a very despondent panda that plods off to eat his dinner all by himself. But then … Perhaps this is the opportunity he’s been looking for: carpe diem, lonely Panda …
What a gorgeous production this is. Its metallic silver ink finish really makes the gorgeous glowing colours of the forest animals stand out.
Jonny Lambert uses the space on the page with supreme artistry: every spread is skilfully choreographed in what seems like a virtuoso performance of an animal ballet.
Moreover, thanks to Jonny, I’ve now made the acquaintance of two animals new to me – the blue-footed booby and the sifaka. His story, with its important message, reads aloud beautifully but it’s those visual sequences that linger long in the mind.

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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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I am Actually a Penguin

I am Actually a Penguin
Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek
Templar Publishing

I once had a little girl in one of my reception classes who insisted for the first week that she was a dog, crawling around the place, drinking her milk on all fours, clutching the carton in her ‘paws’ and barking at her classmates. We all played along and soon the novelty wore off.
The small girl narrator of this book is equally cute and equally determined; but having received a penguin suit from her Uncle Pat in Patagonia, she goes into full on, ‘actually a penguin’ mode right away.
This involves all sorts of crazy activities such as festooning the living room with loo paper to create snow in which to keep cool.

Such behaviour definitely doesn’t go down well with a certain older brother although he does approve of the additional penguin at a family wedding …

and is willing to play along at meal times, especially when fish fingers are involved.

All good things do have to come to an end however. Apart from anything else there’s the question of school, not to mention as Dad rightly says, “Your penguin suit needs a wash.
Time for a change perhaps …
Sean Taylor’s zany sense of humour shines through in this narrative providing Kasia Matyjaszek with a hilarious sequence of events to wield her illustrative magic on and she does it brilliantly making every spread a small piece of theatre.

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Cat In A Box

Cat in a Box
Jo Williamson
Scholastic

The joys of being a family cat are chronicled through the eyes and voice of one particular black and white moggy.
She starts by waking the household – a gentle walk over the twins, a more vigorous pushing and miaowing for the grownups.
As the family day unfolds, our narrator pretty much pleases herself despite assertions that she’s indispensible.
Jo Williamson shows her sitting about, chasing a ball of wool, clawing the curtains,

fishing with her pals, climbing and hunting outside …

and in.
She has to be in on the action no matter what or where; and all, or almost all, in the name of necessity. Who’s kidding whom?
There are one or two activities that don’t offer such delights even if they are self-induced …

but that’s the penalty for wanting to be a part of everything, no matter what!
Who wouldn’t fall under the charms of such a creature: even this cat-phobic reviewer was totally beguiled; but then Jo Williamson’s portrayal of this particular feline’s antics are so delectably insouciant and the feline narration so wonderfully tongue-in-cheek.

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There Is No Dragon In This Story

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

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

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

and this leads to unexpected consequences …

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

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I Dare You

I Dare You
Reece Wykes
Andersen Press

This book is certainly not for the faint hearted. It’s Reece Wykes’ debut picture book and assuredly, he has a very wicked sense of humour.
The story – a extremely short one – revolves around two bored gorillas lounging languidly in the forest.

They dare one another in turn to consume something that happens to be in close proximity.
With each dare the item to be swallowed gets larger – a bug, a bird,

a huge rock;

but how long can the crazy game continue before one or other of the contestants disgorges the entire contents of its stomach?
Actually that’s not what happens: it’s something entirely other and totally unexpected, certainly for one of the participants involved in this dog eat dog contest.
With every spread, Wykes offers at least one laugh-out-loud moment (the expressions and body language of the gorillas are priceless), although the penultimate one stops you dead in your tracks.
Deliciously, anarchically ridiculous, but choose your audience with care …

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Have You Seen My Giraffe?

Have You Seen My Giraffe?
Michelle Robinson and Claire Powell
Simon & Schuster
Did you know that large animals have replaced goldfish as fairground prizes? No? Me neither, but it’s so according to the purveyor of this tall tale, so it’s definitely worth being forewarned– just in case you too happen to win a giraffe.
The crux of the matter is keeping one’s parents on board; but if you can’t manage that, you’ll just have to hide the thing – somehow or other.
So, let’s consider the possibilities: a forest would be ideal but since that’s not going to grow up overnight, a temporary expedient will be needed; or camouflage perhaps.

If you are to keep this giraffe, then a name is desirable – even if it is one that’s acquired in less than favourable circumstances …

Could it be however that there might be a solution that would make everyone happy, after all forests can prove pretty hospitable environments for both humans and a certain species of African even-toed ungulates to reside in and they’re great places for the occasional game of hide and seek too.

Gloriously silly scenes of consternation, chaos, catastrophe and clever thinking show just how preposterous the whole idea is: but then, that’s what makes it such a rib-tickler.

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The Prince and the Pee

The Prince and the Pee
Greg Gormley and Chris Mould
Nosy Crow

Deeds of derring-do really cannot be done if you’re crossing your legs.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve just gotta go – right? Not so in this hilarious tale of holding on against the odds.
Prince Freddie is summoned from his holiday by his trusty steed, Sir Rushington. Crumbly Castle is under attack from a dragon and there’s no time to lose.
Off they go and before long, Freddie gets that tingly “I need to pee” feeling which is made decidedly worse by the rhythmic ‘Up and down’ motion of the horse’s gait. Distractions fail to distract from the constant urge and suddenly, down comes the rain

and inevitably its plinkety plink serves to exacerbate the need.
Several stops later, all abortive on account of an ogre, then a princess in a tower and finally a long queue at the loo …

they reach their destination with the prince now absolutely desperate.
There before him stands a very large, very fearsome dragon; but there’s no stopping the young prince who charges forward completely surprising the dragon, over the drawbridge, through the castle gates to find the privy.

His long-delayed micturition not only brings relief to the prince, but saves the day by extinguishing an unexpected conflagration.
Gormley’s deliciously suspenseful telling is guaranteed to have audiences in fits of laughter and Chris Mould’s illustrations are utterly brilliant. He captures to perfection the diminutive prince’s journey and his ever-increasing discomfiture.
There’s the sight and sound of water, the up and down motion in the saddle while riding Sir Rushington and the false hopes of some relief every time he thinks he’s found a likely spot to go; all ratchet up the pressure on the poor prince’s bladder.
Priceless!

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Mr Tweed and the Band in Need / The Case of the Stinky Stench

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Prepare for a musical magical mystery tour.
The dapper dog with the super tall top hat returns to carry out further public-spirited acts. Now it’s the members of a band – the very one Mr T. has come to the zoo to hear perform – that have, so their leader Wollo walrus informs him, dispersed around the gardens.
The two begin their search with Pinky Jackson, the guitar playing flamingo; not an easy task on account to the large number of the species; but that of course is where readers come in. Once he’s been located, Pinky …

is more than willing to join the hunt and has an idea where trumpet player, toucan Jimmy Toots might be.

He in turn suggests a possible location for sax. player Mary Lou Lemur; so off they go to the Lost Forest. And so it goes on until Otis O’Rangutan trombonist, iguana, Cool Jules drummer and only reptile (he’s pretty tricky to spot), banjo strummer Jellyfish Jack and four other musicians have been found – just in time for the show. The location of the final missing performer happens conveniently, to be in the busy gift shop, which is also the space wherein the stage is set for the concert.
There the entire ensemble comes together to entertain the crowd and thereafter to bid Mr Tweed a rousing farewell.
There’s an interesting mix of human and animal visitors to the zoo, some scenes of which are presented in a kaleidoscope of psychedelic colours absolutely bursting with activity, while others, such as the arctic pool, are rather more restful on the eye, although equally intricate. Every one though, is absolutely brimming over with talk potential and storytelling material.

The Case of the Stinky Stench
Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Hold your noses; something malodorous is emanating from a certain fridge, but worry not; Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have been called back while holidaying on Marshmallow Coast at the request of Inspector Croissant, Sir French Toast’s nephew. They’re on the case right away searching for what it is that’s causing shelves of food to turn bad and pong alarmingly.
Following clues, the three of them set about searching the fridge’s inner landscape: across Salsa Ravine, around smoggy Mount Everbean and through Applesauce River, but still all they discover are false alarms and red herrings. Will they ever get to the bottom of the mysterious stench: perhaps Casserole Cliff might yield the answer …

and if so, how will Inspector Croissant deal with the culprit?

Replete with a culinary vocabulary and served up in a saucy rhyming text and deliciously funny foody scenes, this tale of stinky sleuthing is satisfyingly silly, not least in its final resolution. There’s even a foldout map of the whole search at the end to feast your eyes on.

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How To Look After Your Dinosaur / Caring For Your Lion

How To Look After Your Dinosaur
Jason Cockroft
Nosy Crow
The outsized creature herein simply bursts into the life of a small boy when the postman makes a special delivery one day.
Just in case the same thing happens to you, it’s advisable to be in the know. Best then to take it from one who’s learnt from experience: get it right and you’ve got a friend for life.
The day needs to get off to a good start so a nutritional breakfast will give your new pet the energy required for the day: through trial and error you’ll find out what appeals.
Next on the agenda should be a spot of outdoor exercise. The park is a suitable place to head for and inevitably, the animal will need to take a dump at some time so it’s best to take a large container.

Dressing for the occasion, the rules of friendship, regular meals and knowing when to head for home are other important considerations.
Once back indoors, establishing a proper bedtime routine from the outset will make life a lot easier and after a good scrub you can settle down with your pet for a soothing bedtime story …

Essentially this is a giant leg-pull of a book that works on the witty interplay between words and pictures.

More on unusual pet care in:

Caring For Your Lion
Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings
Sterling
It’s the big day; the day a boy’s kitten will finally arrive. Apparently however, the company ran out of kittens and so have sent a lion instead. ‘Luckily, a lion is practically the same thing!’ says the label on the crate and ‘caring for your lion is easy.’ All one has to do is to follow the step-by-step instructions set out in the handy guide provided. Step 1 is to open the crate to reveal the new pet and Step 2, to locate the enclosed feather (to be kept for emergencies) – such as the one referred to in Steps 4 and 5.

Back to Step 3 though lest we get ahead of ourselves; this urges the owner to avoid looking like a zebra, a gazelle or a bunny for obvious reasons. This is where the feather might come in handy; ditto if the ravenous creature accidentally consumes the deliveryman, along with the assorted pizzas you’ve ordered.
Potty Training (with the help of the enclosed deluxe lion potty pack), setting up an appropriate play space, sleeping arrangements, rewards for good behaviour, the bath time ritual …

and the bedtime routine are all covered. And naturally after all this the final ‘purrrrr-fect pet’ step will speak for itself.
Completely antithetical to Tammi Sauer’s deadpan ‘how to’ style’ text are Troy Cummings’ laugh out loud artistic interpretations of the instructions: an altogether uproarious combination.

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Woolf

Woolf
Alex Latimer and Patrick Latimer
Pavilion Children’s Books
The trials and tribulations of pretending to be something you aren’t are sensitively and humorously explored in this collaboration between Alex Latimer and his illustrator brother, Patrick.
Part wolf, part sheep, Woolf is the offspring of an unlikely and much frowned upon marriage between a sheep and a she-wolf.

Woolf has both sheep and wolfish characteristics but as he grows older, he experiences an identity crisis. Out exploring one day, he encounters a pack of wolves and as a result decides to rid himself of his woolly coat.
Thus the pretence begins; but inevitably as the wool starts sprouting again, maintaining the disguise becomes tedious and Woolf leaves for pastures new.

Over the hill he comes upon a flock of sheep: again Woolf isn’t true to himself, lying about his wolfish characteristics and then adopting a new ovine look …

Once again, pretence proves unsatisfactory for Woolf and his stay with the flock short-lived.
Convinced he doesn’t belong anywhere, the little creature is distraught and that’s when his parents step in with some timely words of wisdom, pointing out that trying to be something other than your real self can never make you truly happy. Much better to accept and celebrate all that makes you truly special and unique.
Patrick Latimer’s illustrations executed in an unusual colour palette of black, greys, browns, greens, teal, cream and biscuit with occasional pops of purple, blue and pink are delectably droll.
Like me you may well find yourself howling with laughter at Woolf’s attempts to fit in but there is a serious and important life-lesson at the heart of the book: true friends accept and love you for being you.

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Rapunzel

Rapunzel
Bethan Woollvin
Two Hoots
The witch in Bethan Woollvin’s alternative version of Rapunzel has a good little business going: she snips off lengths of the girl’s golden tresses and sells them.

Keeping Rapunzel locked up in the high tower she threatens her with a curse should she dare to attempt an escape.
With Rapunzel however, the evil woman has more than met her match. Far from being fazed by such threats she’s positively emboldened.
If the witch can ascend using her captive’s hair, then the girl can descend by the same means; and so she does.
Once free Rapunzel explores the forest, forms a friendship and hatches a plan.

No it isn’t with a handsome prince: this wily young miss is more than capable of managing her own fate. She’s determined to get the better of the old hag. Thus it’s Rapunzel, not the witch who wields the tonsorial scissors and sacrifices her flowing locks ridding herself of her jailor once and for all.

Then with the aid of her forest friend, she embarks upon her very own witch hunt.
Again Bethan Woollvin uses a limited colour palette – black, grey and yellow on an expansive white background to dramatic effect for her fairy tale rendition. Her assured lines and minimalist shapes are rendered in gouache and she injects subtle humour into every scene: the flies bothering the frog, the abandoned sock on the floor, and more darkly, her subversive heroine continuing to show no fear in the face of her captor’s threats, standing meekly before her with her intended weapon of witch destruction hidden behind her back.
Make sure you check out the endpapers too: the hunted of the front ones becomes the hunter at the back.

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The Cow Who Fell to Earth

The Cow Who Fell to Earth
Nadia Shireen
Jonathan Cape
If you happen to be a sheep, you might want to watch out for stars and other falling objects.
It’s night; sheep huddle together beneath the stars when suddenly a mysterious body plummets earthwards, landing with a resounding BOOM!
What the sheep are confronted with is something altogether unexpected: a jetpack and a small cow. It’s communication skills are apparently restricted to a single utterance: “WOOO” is the response the sheep receive to their ministrations and their questions about its name and place of origin. Indeed that’s the manner in which the cow transmits its entire story …

a story none of the sheep understands. Nevertheless they decide to call their visitor Dave.
Dave is faced with a communication problem: surely someone must be able to understand her: Bertha the cow perhaps? But no. The other animals are equally mystified.
Poor Dave is distraught; how on earth is she to get back from whence she came?

Could it be that the chickens are going to save the day? And if so, how?

All IS finally revealed in this splendidly silly book but you’ll need to get yourself a copy to discover how the bonkers finale unfolds.
Nadia Shireen’s beautifully bulky beasts are a hoot; and to share this crazy tale is to invite a whole lot of noisy participation of the “wooo” kind.
It was extremely difficult prising my copy back from one three year old I shared it with, who declared, ‘I really, really LOVE that book’ and I had to promise that like Dave, it would be returned to her at a later date.

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Daisy Doodles / Ella Who?

Daisy Doodles
Michelle Robinson, Irene Dickson & Tom Weller
Oxford University Press
Get ready to go doodle crazy with Daisy.
One rainy day the little girl is stuck indoors and almost before she can say ‘Pipsqueak’ her drawing has upped off the page and is helping the child adorn the entire house with doodles of all shapes and sizes.
The rain stops but that is not the end of the adventure; in fact it’s the beginning of a whole exciting experience,

as dragons and dragonflies, castles and carousels, mermaids and much more are conjured into being, which culminates in the claw-wielding, jaw-snapping Battle of Crayon Creek.
All good things have to end though and end they do when the tickly octopus chases everyone back home and mum appears on the scene …

although that is not quite the end of the story …
In this lovely celebration of children’s creativity and imagination, the book’s creators cleverly use the device of a mirror to transport the little girl and her companion into their fantasy world of make-believe and back again: a world created by a variety of doodle-appropriate media.
With all the exciting visuals, it would be easy to overlook Michelle’s manner of telling, which, with its sprinklings of alliteration, and interjections of dialogue, is also a delight and allows plenty of space for Irene Dickson’s illustrations to create their magic.

Ella Who?
Linda Ashman and Sara Sanchez
Sterling
There’s a touch or two of the Not Now Bernard’s about this story of a family moving day. The parents of the young narrator are far too busy to take notice of their daughter’s talk of the presence of an elephant in the living room of the home they’re moving in to.
While mum, dad …

and grandma are engaged in getting their new abode into some kind of order, the little girl, having ensured that her baby brother is soundly asleep, engages in some elephant-shared activities, first in her new bedroom and then, outside in the garden. And that is where our narrator notices a man coming to the front door: a man inquiring about a missing baby elephant going by the name of Fiona and having – so it says in the flier he leaves – a particular penchant for apples, . Surely it couldn’t be … could it?

Much of the humour of this book is in the interplay of words and pictures: It’s the little elephant that hands dad a tool as he struggles to fix the shower – a fact he’s completely oblivious to as he utters the story’s “Ella WHO?” catch phrase. As are the other family members, throughout the book: even on the penultimate spread, having told her mum she’s just been bidding the elephant farewell, she gets this same “Ella WHO?” response from her dad.
An extended joke that works well enough to engage young children who will be amused at the adults who don’t listen and delight in joining in with the repeat question.

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Daddy Long Legs

Daddy Long Legs
Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey
Two Hoots
Matty’s Dad drives him to nursery; that’s what he always does; but on this particular morning their old green car has had starting problems. So, when Dad drops the boy off, young Matty is more than a little troubled. “What if the car doesn’t start again?” he wants to know. Dad’s response is that he’ll borrow their neighbour’s red tractor. Now most youngsters would, I suspect, be thrilled at this idea but not Matty. He comes back with another what if … ? Seems this little guy is something of a worrier; either that or he enjoys exploring ‘what if’ possibilities for pretty soon, Dad has had his alternative modes of transport – a ride on the back of Matty’s old teddy; an airlift by the garden birds; a sailing boat with water supplied by a neighbour’s garden hose …

hopping rabbits under his feet and a dragon flight all countered by further ‘what ifs’ on his son’s part.
Matty seems determined to have the last words. Has his Dad finally run out of ideas?

Is he stuck at nursery trying to reassure his child until it’s time to go home? Or is there perhaps one particular personal attribute that he can always depend on, and thus finally allay Matty’s fears.
With its echoes of Hush Little Baby (the Mocking Bird Song) this reassuring tale is perfect for sharing with young children, particularly those of an anxious disposition. Having taught both nursery and reception age classes I am aware that there are always fears lurking in the minds of a few individuals; so this is a book to have on hand in any early years setting to allay any doubts that niggle: no matter what, Dad, (or Mum, or another special person) will always come for them.
All children will enjoy the give and take with its escalating chain of fanciful notions; and be amused by Guillerey’s wonderful retro illustrations of Dad’s responses.
A good one to give Dads on their special day.

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The Big Bad Mood / Everyone …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paws Off My Book

Paws Off My Book
Fabi Santiago
Scholastic
Giraffe, Olaf is something of a bibliophile and so is delighted to discover a new book. Enter Wilbur, (who appears to be a Rockhopper penguin,) all of a bluster and determined to demonstrate the ‘right’ way to read.

He however, is not the only one who thinks they have the monopoly on the right way to read; for he’s closely followed by first, Matilda, then Vincent – he knows ‘ALL about reading’ – really?
Then come Felicia flamingo,, and finally, banana- wielding Eduardo. His demonstration results in a resounding …

After which, the long suffering Olaf has had enough and trots off for a spot of reading alone … “Do not follow me. Do not even think about it.” he warns his would-be teachers.
Before long though, apologies have been made, and accepted and Olaf has a splendid idea concerning the best way to read.
Now if you’ve looked at the title page of this wonderful book, you might guess the nature of the punch line that is concealed beneath the flap in the right hand corner here …

We all have our favourite places to read and favourite ways of being when we read; comfort being an essential element and of course, a book worth reading. What Fabi Santiago so amusingly shows is that there is no one right way: what feels right for a giraffe will not feel right for say, a kangaroo or a crocodile or a monkey, let alone a flamingo. They all bring different things to the reading experience and each is so busy being right that the importance of the book itself is lost. And so it is with humans..
I come to this book with particularly strong feelings about the way in which children are now being taught to read with a narrow, one size fits all approach from the outset. And what they are being offered by way of early reading material quite frankly appals me. Consequently this is the message I’m finding in Fabi’s hilarious, luminously coloured tale. Other readers will likely make something completely different from it. However I’m sure everybody will agree that the final scene showing the enjoyment of a shared reading experience, with or without its final throwaway line, is what we should all be striving for.

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Tiny Dinosaurs / Dance Is for Everyone

Tiny Dinosaurs
Joel Stewart
Oxford University Press
Daisy is dinosaur mad: so says Rex, the canine narrator of this enchanting picture book. Such is her passion that Rex has to endure all kinds of adornments …

and engage in all manner of dinosaur-like behaviour.

Daisy’s mind is filled with dinosaurs: wherever she and Rex go they keep their eyes peeled for the creatures until one day, right in their very own garden they discover … dinosaurs.
These dinosaurs, Rex informs us, are not large but perfect Daisy-sized creatures. The trouble is, they seem to be all that Daisy is interested in and so …

Everywhere he goes, reminds Rex of his pal: but Daisy won’t even notice I’m missing, thinks Rex.
To say what happens thereafter would be to reveal too much; let me just say that the story reminds me of the opening lines of a song, a Dutch teacher friend of mine once taught one of my nursery classes: ‘Make new friends but keep the old/ Some are silver but the others are gold.’

Dance Is for Everyone
Andrea Zuill
Sterling
There’s a new member in Mrs Iraina’s ballet class: a rather large one with a very long tail. Language is an issue, but she’s a hard worker and able to follow the others so she’s allowed to stay. She does have a tail issue too,

though that is less easy to cope with, on account of that language issue; and the class members are wary of upsetting the newcomer.
Teacher and class together come up with a plan: they create and learn a new dance called “The Legend of the Swamp Queen” starring Tanya, as she’s now called: a role that requires a spot of cummerbund wrapping to keep that errant tail in check …

The audience are enchanted; but the following day, the star is nowhere to be seen …
After some time however, the class receive an invitation to a very special performance …
Droll visuals and a deadpan text combine to make a delicious demonstration of the ‘no holds barred’ idiom.

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My Daddy is a Silly Monkey / The Dictionary of Dads

My Daddy is a Silly Monkey
Dianne Hofmeyr and Carol Thompson
Otter-Barry Books
A little girl shares with readers, the characteristics of her dad, likening him first thing in the morning, to a huge, yawning, grizzly, grouchy bear. Then as he performs his ablutions, a toothily grinning crocodile …

He becomes octopus-like as he texts, brushes her hair, overturns a chair, burns the toast, spills the milk, ties shoelaces and prepares her lunch. PHEW!
His chitter-chatter monkeying around makes our narrator late for school too.
Afterwards though at the pool, he’s a …

And then after a spot of kangaroo bouncing, he turns into a ravenous, tooth-gnashing tiger; after which he still manages to summon the energy to morph into a monster ready to boss, chase, catch and …

Unsurprisingly after all those energetic activities, there is only one thing to do: snuggle up for some well-earned rest having earned the final “just my lovely daddy”.
This adorable, sometimes rhyming, portrait of a single dad is a delight and perfect for sharing with young children, no matter what their family situation.
Carol Thompson’s exuberant, mixed media scenes are at once funny, full of love and at the same time, show a father struggling to cope with the frenetic life of being a single parent of an energetic youngster and managing to stay upbeat and entirely lovable.

The Dictionary of Dads
Justin Coe illustrated by Steve Wells
Otter-Barry Books
Dads come in all shapes and sizes: in this, his debut collection, performance poet, Justin Coe introduces a veritable alphabetic assortment. From Abracadabra Dad to Zen Dad we meet over fifty of the paternal species, the least energetic of whom, surprisingly, is Sportsman Dad: ‘Dad’s favourite sport / On the couch with the baby / Synchronised snoring.

For the most part the mood is upbeat but there are also plenty of reflective, sometimes sad poems too, such as Prison Dad which takes the form of an apologetic letter from a dad to his children. Having acknowledged that he let them down, he says this … ‘Despite my bravado I’m no macho man. // How can I act hard when these guards have got me sewing? / And sitting in my cell, I’ve even started writing poems! / Days go by slowly. I’m lonely and the only times / That I can find to be close to you are in these rhymes.
Totally different, but equally poignant, is Old Dad wherein a snow-haired man and his brown-eyed boy take a walk in the park in late autumn and the man is mistaken for the child’s grandpa. The two collect seasonal souvenirs and as they leave; ‘the boy picks up one last leaf/ a gift for his father. // “Is it mine to keep forever?” / the old man asks. / And this time it is his boy’s turn to nod and smile. // The old man beams with pride, / holds the leaf gently to his lips / and kisses it, / as if this gift were some kind of / golden ticket.
There’s a poem about having Two Daddies and we also meet Mum-Dad – a mum who plays both the maternal and paternal role and as the child tells readers, ‘However wild the weather / She’s got a way to get it done / And I could not have asked for / A better dad than Mum.
My favourite I think though is Storytelling Dad (there are seven S dads) wherein we hear that this particular father actually seems to undergo a metamorphosis to become various characters from The Wind in the Willows, ‘ … But best of all / was when Dad turned into a Toad, / a horn hooting, / toot- tooting, poop-pooping Toad, / Motor-Car Maniac, / menace of the Road.

It’s impossible to mention all the dads that feature in this collection but it’s certainly one I’d want to add to any primary class collection, or to a family bookshelf. Steve Wells’ visual pen-and-ink embellishments are numerous – at least one per spread – and add to the individual reader’s enjoyment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mine! / Thousand Star Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poor Louie / Raymond

Poor Louie
Tony Fucile
Walker Books
Louie the Chihuahua narrator of this story leads a life of contented predictability with Mum and Dad until things start to change. Mum still meets up with friends, which was fine but now there are other small creatures at those get-togethers, meaning Louie is no longer the centre of attention.

Then Mum’s tummy gets visibly larger … and larger …

Lots of new things are delivered; but why two beds, two carriers, two sets of clothes and a double buggy. The prospect of two ‘of those creatures’ is just too much for Louie: he waits for an opportunity, grabs his belongings and attempts a runaway. It’s thwarted by a well-intentioned neighbour however and Louie feels his life is over.

You can close the book now” he tells readers.
We don’t of course, for that is not the end of the story …
Dry humour, a restricted colour palette which gives the whole thing a subtle air of retro sophistication, constantly changing and sometimes, unusual perspectives, and some laugh-out-loud spreads make the whole thing a delight from cover to cover. Fucile’s delicious comedy will appeal to dog lovers and families adjusting to a new sibling in particular; but neither of those are applicable to this reviewer who loved it nonetheless.
Here’s another tale of a canine accustomed to leading a pampered pooch life:

Raymond
Yann and Gwendal Le Bec
Walker Books
Meet Raymond, used to having his own special spot by the sofa, scratchings behind the ears in ‘just the right place’ and a surprise birthday party every year. What more could a canine want? If you’re Raymond, a considerable amount it appears and thus commences his being more like a human behaviour. Sitting at the table for meals; ‘cappuccino-and-cupcake Saturdays at the café and cinema trips’ become part and parcel of his life. but Raymond is not alone; seemingly the whole doggy world wants to act human.
Raymond’s four-footed gait becomes two and naturally the world now looks very different. Big thoughts invade his head and before you can say DOGUE, Raymond has landed himself a job as rover-ing reporter on the up-market magazine and spends all hours working to meet deadlines.

Soon though, Raymond embarks on a new role: he becomes newscaster on the TV channel, Dog News. Eventually however, an excess of pampered fame means that he’s in dire need of a break away from it all. Could it be that the canine celebrity is about to undergo a light-bulb moment …

This funny, ‘be careful what you wish for’,‘ don’t bite off more than you can chew’ tale, with its New York setting, will resonate with adults as much as children, or perhaps more. The trouble is though, it’s not necessarily all that easy to step off that workaholic, achievement treadmill, which seems always to be driving us onwards towards greater heights …
There’s plenty to make readers – be they or be they not dog lovers – smile in the comic style scenes of a life as a top dog.

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Never Take a Bear to School

Never Take a Bear to School
Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books
The creators of the gorgeous Your Hand in My Hand have teamed up again for this starting school or nursery story; and according to the two of them, there is only one rule: ‘you just cannot take your bear into school.’ As if!
After all he’d scare everyone silly with that huge bulk and gigantic paws;

he’d sabotage the child-sized furniture and fill the room with ill-timed growls and grizzles. Then, come lunchtime, nobody else would get a look in …

Imagine his crushing capacity in a PE session; and he’d completely trash your role-play area: his havoc wreaking potential just makes the whole idea a complete no-no. And anyhow you’ll be far too busy getting to know the ropes, making friends, even making a picture of your favourite thing …

Much better then, to have that ursine pal waiting by the school gates at the end of the day, when he’ll welcome you with open arms; and you can walk home together talking about that important first day. Then once at home well, you can do whatever you want – just you and YOUR BEAR!
The possibilities entertained in Mark Sperring’s funny rhyming narrative lend themselves so beautifully to Britta’s picture making. Her scenes of chaos and consternation among the children are a treat for those around the age of the little boy and his classmates; equally so, the fun times boy and bear have together at the end of that first school day. Yes it’s a lovely starting school story but too much fun to keep just for those run up to it days, or those in the little boy’s situation: it’s a wonderful ‘what if ’ story for foundation stage audiences no matter when or who.

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