Tag Archives: humour

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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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The Cave

The Cave
Rob Hodgson
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Inside a cave there is a ‘little creature’: the cave is his home. Outside the cave is another creature: the cave is not his home, but his heart is set on getting the troglodyte to come out and join him. “I’m sure we’d be VERY good friends.” he says encouragingly. The little creature refuses to budge.
This goes on day after day, after day. Boredom isn’t an issue for the little creature despite what the lupine outsider says. “Only boring creatures get bored” is the response of the cave-dweller. Time passes and with neither animal giving way…

come wind or rain … it’s situation impasse.

Then one day in desperation, the creature without lets slip the words, “I’m getting hungry now!” then quickly amends the ‘I’m’ to ‘YOU’. This results in an admission of slight hunger from the little creature within, whereupon a deliciously tempting doughnut, complete with sprinkles, is proffered. This confection proves irresistible and the ‘Little Creature’ emerges. To say what happens next would make me a story spoiler but I can reveal that the doughnut disappears and there’s a new resident in the cave.
An absolutely splendid debut for Rob Hodgson. There is just SO much to love about this book.
The illustrations are scrumptious with delectable details chronicling, in addition to the main action or rather lack of it for the most part, Wolf’s total disregard for little creatures such as worm, snail and slug, that play silent bit parts throughout.

Hodgson’s text in contrast, is spare, and plays in perfect harmony with his visuals. A super read aloud: you’ll have children squirming in eager anticipation throughout and they’re sure to demand at least one encore performance.

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Grumpy Frog

Grumpy Frog
Ed Vere
Puffin Books
Grumpy Frog wasn’t the only character to be leaping around when I opened his book parcel: I started leaping round the kitchen waving the book in delight especially as its arrival coincided with Earth Day and there on the first double spread is a more upbeat version of the amphibian proclaiming thus:

He then proceeds to blow it though by damming every other colour, he can think of: “Uh oh!” to pinch his words, “Grumpy Frog alert!“.
Better organise a hopping contest with some pals ASAP, but make sure he crosses the line first or else …

Don’t think of suggesting a swim – that involves blue; or a bounce, which, so Grumpy Frog decrees, is yellow.
It looks as though isolation is the best thing; after all, aloneness he absolutely adores. It gives him time to contemplate colour, diet, annual events and err … loneliness.

Not such a good idea after all then, this setting oneself apart.
Enter stage left another kind of jumper but as you might expect, a pink rabbit gets a huge thumbs down from our frog who manages to make the poor unsuspecting creature cry for its trouble. What about this large snuggle toothed croc. then? He’s definitely making friendly overtures towards GF and SNAP! Oh no! surely Grumpy Frog hasn’t met his demise; has he?
Actually no: a spot of self-reflection appears to have saved his skin so …

Furthermore it looks as though some apologies are on the cards too; though that is not quite the end of this corker of a book: this is …

and, to discover what happens in the interim, I urge you to hot foot it, or rather hop foot it immediately to your nearest bookshop and bag yourself a copy.
It’s an utter triumph for Ed Vere and maybe even for Grumpy Frog, just so long as he gets there first. This reviewer found herself snortling at every turn of the page: it’s the perfect antidote to grumpiness (and election blues).

I’ve signed the charter  

A Home for Gully / Through the Gate

A Home for Gully
Jo Clegg and Lalalimola
Oxford University Press
Gully is a long-suffering resident of the park; long-suffering because every morning his makeshift home is swept away by the keeper. This should no longer be tolerated, decides the scruffy dog that happens along one morning, introduces himself as Fetch and claims to be returning Gully’s stick. Fetch calls a meeting of his 412 resident fleas and thereupon they decide to assist the seagull in a search for a more satisfactory place of residence: one “that doesn’t get swept away, where my feet are warm and dry, and my tummy is full” is the bird’s desire.
They leave the relative peace and quiet of the park …

and head into the city where, after being shown the door of a smart hotel, they come upon the seemingly stuck-up Madison who offers her assistance as city guide. The three circumambulate the whole city before ending up at the library for some R and R. Make that R, R and R for therein they meet rat, Zachary.

On learning it’s a home rather than a book they’re seeking, Zachary leads them out and eventually, to a likely spot. Then with Gully safely installed, the other three head off into the darkness leaving their pal to his new warm, dry abode.
Next morning however, all is not quite hunky-dory with Gully. What good is a home if he doesn’t have others to share it with thinks our feathered friend …

There is a wonderful vintage look to Jo Clegg’s warm-hearted, funny story, thanks to Lalalimola’s delectably droll illustrations. These she packs with diverting visual (and verbal) asides that cause the reader to pause for a while and spend time exploring every spread. This is an artist I shall watch with interest, as I will the author.

Through the Gate
Sally Fawcett
EK
A little girl narrator, unhappy about a move to a new house, shares her step-by- step transformation from feelings of sadness and loss, to those of joy and satisfaction. The process is recounted as she travels with initially, downcast eyes, in a plodding manner to and from her new school; then after a week, the plod gives way to a mooch and the sighting of wild flowers growing through cracks in the pavement. Another week passes and she changes to an eyes-forward wander and hence, more awareness of the positives the environment offers …

The following week our narrator is ready to look all around her as she walks and thus, one becomes two walkers to school; and thereafter, things are altogether different.
Concurrent with the little girl’s changing feelings as new opportunities manifest, we see the new house gradually becoming a wonderful new home; but those aren’t the only changes: a lone bird on a bare tree builds a nest, finds a mate, eggs are laid, and life begins anew as three fledglings appear, just in time for blossom to burst forth on the tree.

Look closely at the spreads and you’ll notice a cat that plays a bit part in the whole transformation; delicate details of plants which, like the rest of the girl’s surroundings, change from shades of grey to full colour.
Sally Fawcett orchestrates this lovely story of change, hope and resilience superbly using a patterned text in tandem with subtly changing scenes of the girl’s actual and metaphorical journey.

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Our Kid

Our Kid
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
What an intolerant teacher ‘Our Kid’ has, responding to his lateness by sending him to the ‘Naughty Corner.’ (I have strong feelings about naughty corners/steps but won’t pursue the topic here). The Kid has an enormously fertile imagination and so, following his dad’s “Go straightly to school, Our Kid. Don’t be late again.” he tells how he took the shortcut along the beach, which led to hoof dunkling,

an encounter with a dinosaur pirate-chasing submarine driven by fish …

which resulted in the loss of his homework-containing schoolbag and trousers; followed by a rendezvous with an enormously helpful elephant who eventually dropped him at the school before he ‘kerlumped’ off: hence the kid’s tardy arrival.
However, just as the errant pupil has finished his tale and been admonished for his making up of “total and utter nonsense” the classroom tenor takes a sudden unexpected turn. The school, after a considerable degree of turbulence, is invaded by three creatures asking for “Our Kid” and proffering some objects …

To relate what ensues thereafter would spoil this fantastic story so let’s just say, the teacher has something of a change of heart, which leaves our protagonist bounding home joyfully after a thoroughly uneventful day at school. Did I say at the start Our Kid has an enormously fertile imagination? Actually, I may have been just a teensy bit wrong on that score.
This cracking tale put me in mind somewhat, of Cali and Chaud’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School but its manner of telling is completely different. Ross’s off-beat use of language is both inspired and playful: I absolutely loved ‘shoffled’ ‘bumpeeded’ ‘felumpingly’, ‘boomdered’ and ‘glumbtious’ to mention just some of the wonderful words he sprinkles throughout the kid’s saga. Equally brilliant are each and every one of his watercolours. The expression of utter joie-de-vivre the narrator shows as he dunkles his hooves in the seawater; the way he clambers up the elephant’s trunk to reach the howdah on its back;

and the nonchalance of the teacher as he hands back Our Kid’s unread homework are beyond brilliant; which in fact, applies to the whole book.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rockabye Pirate / The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit

Rockabye Pirate
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Don’t expect loud shouts of ‘Avast me ‘arties’ and similar in this pirate tale; far from it, for Knapman’s text is a lilting, under the covers-luring, lullaby for mummy pirates or daddies for that matter, to share with their pirate offspring at bedtime.
Yes, it’s full of freebooters, the likes of Black Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail and Freddy the Fright, but they’re not doing the wicked deeds upon the seas, rather they’re performing their ablutions

albeit with some maternal assistance in preparation for the most important part of their daily ritual …

After all, their day has been packed with mischief and mayhem, so now it’s time for some tucked-up-cosily-under-the-duvet dreams. I wonder what those might feature …

Ada Grey’s piratical characters, far from alarming, are portrayed as an endearing bunch of marauders as befits the inhabitants of a gentle bedtime story. Having said ‘bedtime’, this fun picture book could equally be shared with an early years group especially if they’re engaged in a pirate theme.

The Tooth Fairy’s Royal Visit
Peter Bently and Gerry Parsons
Hodder Children’s Books
The Tooth Fairy returns for another adventure, this time responding to a missive from Her Majesty the Queen informing of the loss of her great grandson’s first tooth. Come nightfall, the little fairy is palace bound but has a few obstacles in her path

before she finds a way in.
Once inside there are still further hazards – corgis, a cloth-wielding maid and some undies …

Finding the little prince’s bedroom is none too easy and the Tooth Fairy finds herself assisting in another ‘toothy’ search before receiving assistance for her troubles.

Will she ever make that all-important coin/tooth exchange and get home for some shut-eye?
Bently’s rhyming text is full of read-aloud fun with some unexpected encounters and, some expected ones: the corgis seem to find their way into every Royals’ picture book as do members of the Queen’s Guard. Garry Parsons’ exuberant illustrations provide gigglesome details at every turn of the page. All in all, a right royal chuckle.

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The Covers of My Book Are Too Far Apart / Harvey the Hero

The Covers of My Book Are Too Far Apart
Vivian French and Nigel Baines
Picture Squirrels
Huh! Reading’s rubbish!” So says the angry-looking boy on the first page of this lively, enormously engaging, cartoon-style book. It tackles the ‘reluctant reader’ issues precisely and wittily; and the anti-reading comments will most likely be familiar to those of us who are teachers, as well as a fair number of parents.
Each ‘grumble’ is allocated a spread with a host of pro-reading people countering the moan with their own positive idea. Thus, the ”I don’t have time to read. I’m too busy!” guy is offered: on the bus, just before sleep, in the bath, instead of tidying a room, as an accompaniment to doing something boring such as shopping, and while the dinner’s cooking as possibilities.
The most important thing that Vivian French and Nigel Baines do is to make this a truly inclusive book with an extremely wide range of characters being featured: there are those who want to read but don’t find it at all easy …

but possibly my favourite spread starts with the opener “Pictures are for little kids” …

It’s great too that reading is interpreted broadly to include comics (love the superhero advocate who puts in an appearance at every possible opportunity); audio books, eBooks, picture books (at any age or stage) but most important of all is – and it’s the reason that every primary classroom should have at least one copy of this –

‘Reading isn’t a competition! It’s FUN!’

that and another fact many teachers tend to forget – that reading, at any stage, is a highly personal process: one size DOES NOT fit all. Inspired and inspiring both.

Harvey the Hero
Hrefna Bragadottir
Nosy Crow
Would-be superhero, Harvey is thrilled to be attending a book signing of Superhero Steve. But after the event, Steve drives off leaving his cape behind: Harvey resolves to follow him to the Big City and return the cape.
The Big City though is a bustling place and Harvey needs help – a map perhaps …
Seemingly he’s inadvertently helped in the apprehending of a thief …

In fact, during his search for Steve’s house, Harvey is responsible, unwittingly, for extinguishing a fire; and rescuing a little bunny.

Then, having returned the cape to his hero, Harvey returns home and gets the surprise of his life: could his dream of superherodom really be coming true?
Young superheroes and would-be superheroes of the human variety will delight in this tale of misadventure and applaud Harvey’s final rise to hero fame. Like Baxter’s Book, Hrefna Bragadottir populates her second story with a host of whimsical animal characters whose activities make both children and adults chuckle.

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Winnie-the-Pooh The Great Heffalump Hunt / Goldilocks and the Three Potties

Winnie-the-Pooh The Great Heffalump Hunt
Giles Andreae
Egmont
My initial thought on opening the parcel containing this book was ‘Oh no! Messing around with Pooh Bear!’ But then I read the rhyming story aloud all the way through and was utterly enchanted: it is Giles Andreae after all and he knows how to write a rhymer if anyone does.

The story simply trips off the tongue rather like that delicious honey that Pooh just cannot resist consuming; even when it’s his very last jar: and it’s supposed to be Heffalump-catching bait in the pit that Piglet has dug in the hope that it, rather than ‘Fresh Piglet(s)’ will become the creature’s next feast.
That jar of honey in our trap.” / groaned Pooh, “it was my last. Oh bother! Double bother! / And if no-one’s listening, / BLAST!

So saying, off goes Pooh, leaving Piglet all alone in bed, pondering on the “horrid, hairy Heffalump” and whether it will indeed, prefer the sweet sticky stuff or “juicy piglets in his tummy.” But then before you can say ‘Heffalump’ it’s time for Piglet to foray into the forest and see what, it anything is in that pit.

Delicious! It certainly left me, and my listeners, hungry for more …

Goldilocks and the Three Potties
Leigh Hodgkinson
Nosy Crow
Even fairy tale characters have to learn about using a potty; young Goldilocks is no exception. Fed up with soggy nappies, she decides it’s about time she began wearing “Big girl pants’ instead. – so long as she has the perfect pair _

Of course, though, wearing pants means remembering to use a potty when you need a wee: that too has to be just right. Then there’s the question of timing: there are occasions when it seems you really need to go but it turns out to be a false alarm; other times you might leave it a little too late …

Sure enough though, Goldilocks soon gets the hang of things making her mum and dad very proud parents indeed.
Just the book to share at home or in a nursery setting, with toddlers embarking on potty training; and equally those just past that stage who will delight in Goldilocks’s toileting activities from their own slightly superior, ‘been there’ standpoint.
There is plenty to amuse in Leigh Hodgkinson’s scenes be they indoors or out in the woods. The infant Goldilocks is an adorable character and that final spread will surely make readers aloud chuckle as much as their young audiences.

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The Giant Jumperee

The Giant Jumperee
Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury
Puffin Books
Donaldson and Oxenbury – a formidable team if ever there was one: together they’ve created a picture book that has all the hallmarks of a classic.
Who or what is occupying Rabbit’s burrow: some monster perhaps; it certainly has a loud voice as it claims “I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’m scary as can be!” stopping Rabbit short as he’s about to enter his home.
Rabbit’s friends, starting with Cat, come to his aid:

she offers to “slink inside and pounce” only to be threatened with “I’ll squash you like a flea!” Cat then cries for help and Bear responds.
The Giant Jumperee however seems to have the measure of each of the would-be assailants: this time issuing the threat of a bee-like sting sending Bear into a tizz and calling for help. Help that comes in the form of Elephant but he too ends up in retreat, remaining, like the others though, in close proximity to Rabbit’s burrow.
Enter Mummy Frog, and paying scant heed to the frets of the other animals, she calmly approaches the burrow and employs what will surely be a technique familiar to early years audiences: she calls the Jumperee’s bluff as she slowly counts to three.
Out pops her gleeful offspring, totally unrepentant …

and more than happy to be led off home – for tea, with the other animals in tow, of course. This is sure to result in equally gleeful responses from young listeners who will have been totally captivated by the whole saga – I say saga, although this is a short story. It’s impact though, is far from small: it’s truly a case of less being much, much more. Take a look at this final wordless spread:

Everything about this is pitch perfect, from the wonderfully effective plot with its repetitions, occasional forays into rhyme, and tone of telling, to Helen’s glorious renderings of the animals whose demeanours are totally priceless, especially that of Mum Frog – an indomitable force if ever there was one- on discovering the culprit of all the hullabaloo.

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There’s a Walrus in My Bed!

There’s a Walrus in My Bed!
Ciara Flood
Andersen Press
Flynn is thrilled at the prospect of sleeping in his new bed, but come bedtime, it appears that his much-anticipated sleeping space has been invaded. Neither Mum, nor Dad believe his “there’s a walrus in my bed,” assertions so he’s forced to try and fit himself alongside an enormous intruder. Things aren’t straightforward even then: could the creature be hungry perhaps? Or suffering some malaise …

Blankets and a drink of soothing milk seem to exacerbate the problem, the latter sending the walrus to the bathroom for a wee.
Perhaps a lullaby might be sufficiently soothing to induce slumbers on the walrus’s part. It certainly doesn’t seem to please Flynn’s parents. What IS the lad to do?

There aren’t any monsters lurking and finally Flynn resorts to an embrace …

which appears to do the trick but there’s still the issue of fitting Flynn and the slumbering sea creature into the same space: it just isn’t big enough.
Flynn has one more trick up his pyjama sleeve: “Mum, Dad, can Walrus sleep in your bed tonight?” he requests. Their affirmative reply leaves their son able to snuggle into his soft warm bed at last; but he’s the only human likely to get a good night’s sleep thereafter …
Rich, warm hues make the invader and the place he invades, full of geniality; and Ciara Flood’s characterisation is superb. Mum’s and Dad’s expressions at Flynn’s increasingly demanding and disturbing activities speak volumes.
Another winner from rising star, Ciara Flood: I’d avoid sharing it just before bed though: you just never know – new bed or not …

I’ve signed the charter 

Parps and Splats

Old MacDonald Heard a Parp
Olaf Falafel
Harper Collins Children’s Books
I foresee a whole lot of tittering and mouth yoga from your audience when you share this noisy book.
Up bright and early, Old Macdonald is out and about on his farm: his aim, to identify the perpetrator of a loud parp. First he thinks it emanated from a cow – ‘With a Plrrb Plrrb here and a Plrrb Plrrb there … ‘ (instructions supplied to make the cow parp). But seemingly it wasn’t she. Perhaps instead it came from a duck …

Or could it have been a goat, a unicorn – surely not! – in your dreams Old MacDonald. No? Maybe then, a pig; or possibly a horse.
Apparently none of these lively creatures is the parper. Who could it possibly be?
That would be telling …

Suitably droll illustrations accompany the vocal gymnastics supplied by surreal comedian/illustrator Olaf Falafel. I see this becoming a resounding hit with early years listeners.
More crazy shenanigans – this time with the emphasis on the visual – in:

SPLAT!
Jon Burgerman
Oxford University Press
Many years ago, as an advisory teacher for language I used on occasion, to go on school visits with the advisory teacher for primary science; and we’d do a double act. One of the things we explored was “The Splat Factor” I recall.
This crazy book took me right back to those days when we had the children investigating all manner of splats.
Here, Burgerman confines his splatting to a slightly less messy amorphous green blobby thing, which undergoes various splat experiences when the reader turns the page. First it receives a pair of googly eyes and a mouth, followed by a pie, a pair of specs, a nose and lips; and a slice of bread spread with what looks like liberal coatings of sauces.
Thereafter comes a SQUISH SQUASH, an attack by some peckish birds, and worse … This though is followed by a truce.

Surely nothing can threaten those scrummy-looking ice-creams, can it?
Best shared with an individual; my testers to date have all deemed it a tasty, albeit rather squishy, treat, and thoroughly enjoyed being the splat perpetrators.

I’ve signed the charter  

Mrs Mole, I’m Home!

Mrs Mole, I’m Home!
Jarvis
Walker Books
Walking along the canal path this morning near my home I noticed unusual mole activity and immediately thought to myself, that Mr Mole of Jarvis’s must have recently popped up along here. How does the guy do it? Jarvis I mean, not Mr Mole – coming up with one superbly funny picture book after another in rapid succession. Back to Mr Mole: the creature is exhausted after a hard day’s work at Gordon Ratzy’s and eager to get home to his wife and children; the problem however is that he’s unable to find his specs. – ANYWHERE!

No matter, he thinks to himself, “I ought to know my way back home by now!
Off he burrows and … Up he pops calling out to announce his presence to his family. It’s a wrong call however, with rabbits not moles greeting him. So off he burrows again and the same thing happens when first he lands up at the residence of the Owl family demanding a “kissy kissy” from his little ones;

then bumping into the penguins in the Antarctica; and next the crocs in their swampy commorancy. Oops! Better move out of there fast before you become crunching matter for Croc’s dinner, Mr Mole. Good job you can’t see those jagged teeth they’re brandishing at you.
After all that burrowing and popping up in the wrong places, Mr Mole is near despair but then ‘Sniff – sniff … Something familiar!’ causes his nostrils to tingle – worm noodles!
There’s only one place that aroma could be coming from; and so it’s ‘Up he popped!

Explanations as to the delay inevitably amuse his offspring and a promise is made never by lose those glasses again. But …
With its glorious throw-away final scene, this story is utterly hilarious from cover to cover – literally: there’s even a wonderful visual pun on the back cover and that eye-chart title page is priceless. In-built repetition of ‘Up he popped!‘ and ‘And off he burrowed …‘ cry out for audience participation; and this is an absolute gift for readers aloud: just make sure you give your audience plenty of time to enjoy the wit in every one of Jarvis’s scenes.

I’ve signed the charter 

Follow Your Dreams: The Wooden Camel & Jimmy Finnigan’s Wild Wood Band

The Wooden Camel
Wanuri Kahiu and Manuela Adreani
Lantana Publishing
Despite his youth and lack of stature, Etabo dreams of becoming a camel racer, much to the amusement of his older siblings. But the lad’s dreams are not destroyed, even when his father announces that they have to sell the family’s camels to buy water. He asks the Sky God, Akuj for help but receives the response: “Your dreams are enough.” Surely this cannot be so, but it looks increasingly likely as Etabo and his brother and sister are sent out to mind the goats …

and eventually his siblings too have to find paid work so the task is left entirely to Etabo.
He continues to dream of racing camels; but his dreams are not enough. He begs to ride one of the horses in big sister, Akiru’s care but receives a firm refusal; even the cats, chickens and his favourite goat won’t let him ride on their backs.
Once again, the boy prays to Akuj but receives the same “Your dreams are enough” response.
Akiru, saddened by her brother’s increasing unhappiness, sets to work on a project that keeps those dreams of Etabo’s alive,

and for the time being, they have to be enough. Hold fast to those dreams Etabo.

Adreani’s scenes of the Turkana people of Kenya set against the harsh landscapes are truly beautiful and perfectly complement the soft, sympathetic humour of Kahiu’s text. A book to cherish, to share, ponder upon and discuss widely.

Jimmy Finnigan’s Wild Wood Band
Tom Knight
Templar Publishing
Jimmy Finnigan has a dream: he wants to start a band. He has something of a problem though – his place of residence has an award for ‘the prettiest village ever’ and seemingly each and every other resident is protective or at least wants to keep their particular place ‘nice’. Every place except the woods that is: they’re a pretty wild spot and the subject of adult warnings to keep away. Jimmy’s parents are no exception and send him to the attic in search of a quiet, indoor pursuit. What he finds though, results, with a bit of help from Dad, in this …

Pretty soon, this musical interest has become an obsession, Posters appear, but there are no takers …

until Jimmy remembers a place that might just prove fruitful; but when he forays into the forest, even that one is nowhere to be seen.
The lad is on the point of giving up the whole enterprise when he hears a distant crashing, bleeping, booshing, boinging, doofing, plonking and crashing. Hardly able to contain his excitement, he follows the sounds to their source and discovers a wild trio busy practising.
A conversation, some shenanigans and a search ensue; a search resulting in something altogether unexpected and beyond Jimmy’s wildest dreams. And after that nothing is ever quite the same again …
Suitably zany, action-packed, wilder than wild, illustrations accompany Tom Knight’s boogying extravaganza. Get your ear plugs ready, your bodies bopping and join the fun. Some of those spirited scenes certainly got me going.

I’ve signed the charter  

I’m Going To Eat This Ant

I’m Going To Eat This Ant
Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I did see many years ago, several kinds of insects – albeit cooked, chocolate covered and dried, being offered for sale in a Hong Kong market; but ants? Surely they wouldn’t be worth the effort: unless of course, you happen to be, like the narrator here, an extremely hungry anteater. This character is, in fact, fed up with the whole ‘licking, wriggling, tickling, stinging, biting’ little insects but his hunger appears to have got the better of him. That leaves him just one choice and that is to contemplate the most palatable way of consuming one particular little black wriggler: might it be thus,

or sucked up a straw perhaps; what about mint sauce smothered, splatted with a spatula or swallowed from a spoon full of simmering soup. (love all the sibilant alliteration) Not to your taste? There are less soggy sounding alternatives such as …

even seared, steak-like, speared on a stick or squished in a sausage -DISGUSTING!
I could go on but my stomach is already heaving, so let’s skip the sweet possibilities and move on to find what our anteater chooses …
Oopsie! Looks as though the pesky minibeast has done a runner.

What now? … Our poor narrator is quite simply salivating …
The conclusion is priceless but I’m no story spoiler so lets leave the creature there contemplating.
A total hoot of a book that’s definitely going to get the taste buds of listeners tingling from the outset and their stomachs sated by the final scene. Greatly gratifying, gigglesome graphics grace every page; and there’s a tiny pinch of Klasson in the whole droll dish. Try it and see, you’ll love the insouciance.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sunk!

Sunk!
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Yet another Biddulph bobby-dazzler and it comes in the form of a second Penguin Blue (from Blown Away) adventure.
Donning pirate gear, Penguin Blue, along with his penguin pals, Jeff and Flo, and polar bear, Clive, set out, armed with a map, on a nautical treasure-seeking trip.

Pretty soon though, they find themselves in trouble and have to abandon ship.

The result being, they land up on a tiny island and come face-to-face with an old sea dog who seems eager to make their acquaintance: “My name is Captain Walker Plank. / Been stuck here since my galleon sank.” The very galleon that Blue and his piratical pals had recently discovered on the ocean bed. Are they all to be stuck on the same tiny island now? Of course not: Blue knows just what’s needed …

Then, lo and behold (cue audience join in) “THAR SHE BLOWS!” … Off they go, and it’s homeward bound, with something much more precious than that gold they’ve bagged.

I’ll unreservedly second that final ‘Fun times with/ buddies, new and old. // That’s treasure worth/ much more than gold.‘ comment as the pals feast their eyes upon their wonderful new play equipment.
A deliciously swashbuckling, rhyming saga, dazzlingly illustrated and with Biddulph’s signature style design brilliance. Treasure indeed. What more can a story reader ask for?
A must for the family bookshelf; ditto, anyone who works with young children.

I’ve signed the charter 

Chicken Nugget in Scrambled Egg

 

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Chicken Nugget in Scrambled Egg
Michelle Robinson and Tom McLaughlin
Puffin Books
Little Chicken Nugget seems to have a slight complex about being the smallest member of the family but is soon to lose this position in the family pecking order: a new baby, Benedict, is being hatched as Mum keeps on reminding her offspring Moreover, the soon-to-be infant ‘can hear every word’ its brothers and sisters unenthusiastically utter.
Our narrator however, vows to be the ideal older sibling,

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so obviously when Mama suggests taking the ‘eggling’ outside to play, warning that special care needs to be taken of the creature, Nugget duly obliges. A game of footie – solo style – ensues but then who should pop her head over the fence but neighbour, Mrs Kiev. I don’t know; Nugget complains about Benedict not listening but somebody should be admonishing Nugget for not looking …

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There follows a crazy ‘Red Riding Hood episode’: “Why, Mrs Kiev, what furry arms you have today.
All the better to warm you with, … Why don’t you let me look after the baby while you play?
We all know where this is going, or rather WE do; seemingly not Nugget though who scoots off to take a break from being kind. Uh-oh!
But then a wild kick from an older sibling send their ball right over fence into Mrs Kiev’s back yard and Nugget goes off to retrieve it. What is lying trussed up on the barbecue brings the ball rescuer up short. And as for Benedict, it looks as though he is about to become the chief ingredient for a lip-smacking meal.

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And, as we know already, he can hear every word; but maybe that is the key to an escape. …
This cheepy chirpy twist on the fox and chickens tales we all know and love, really tickled the imagination of my audiences. Nugget’s naivety and Michelle Robinson’s frequent cracking of eggy jokes really appealed, as did the final twist in the tale – just the thing to ruffle their feathers and keep them engrossed in Tom McLaughlin’s pun-filled, fun-filled illustrations.

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For Your Fiction Shelf

The Cherry Pie Princess
Vivian French (illustrated by Marta Kissi)
Walker Books
Vivian French is a cracking storyteller. Oliver’s Fruit Salad and Oliver’s Vegetables have been perennial favourites with many, many infant classes I’ve taught; ditto Yucky Worms. Here though she is writing for a slightly older audience and immediately I was drawn into her story – partly because when it begins, the setting is a library. Grating Public Library to be more precise, and the staff (Miss Denzil at least) are eagerly anticipating a visit from seven princesses. Much more circumspect though is the chief librarian, a rather crusty old dwarf by the name of Lionel Longbeard.

When the party duly arrives, it turns out that only one princess has any interest in books and she is Princess Peony. The book she takes, or rather later, sends a pageboy for, is A Thousand Simple Recipes for Pies, Puddings and Pastries and, she holds on to it for a very long time. The king though, has the librarian arrested for breaking the rules, on account of his kindness in speaking to the princess, and locked up in his dungeons. The princess meanwhile, takes to baking until her overbearing father puts a stop to it.
Years pass, a new royal baby is born …

and a christening party duly announced and invitations sent out – with one notable omission.
Now that sounds like there could be trouble on the horizon. What happens thereafter involves a whole lot of rule breaking, a rescue and a host of exciting twists and turns, The story moves along at a fast pace and is made all the more enjoyable by Marta Kissi’s pen and ink illustrations, which are liberally scattered throughout the book adding to the slightly zany tone of the whole thing.

Spy Toys
Mark Powers (illustrated by Tim Wesson)
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Imagine a totally weird bunch of superheroes and you’d probably never quite come up with such an unlikely crew as those in Mark Powers’ book. So let’s meet Snugaliffic Cuddlestar teddy bear, Dan, made by accident 1000 times stronger than was intended;

rag doll, Arabella, a far-from friendly character; a soldier with an eyesight issue (which can sometimes be a hinderance) … and a foot where his head ought to be; and Flax the rabbit, a policebot on the run and more.
All have computerised brains and are recruited by the Department of Secret Affairs for a mission to protect the prime minister’s son from one Rusty Flumptrunk – a half-human, half-elephant breakfast cereal promotion gone wrong. What follows is a cracking, crazy, fast-moving, action-packed yarn full of slapstick and witticisms: lots of fun and made all the more so by Tim Wesson’s zany illustrations.

Louie in a Spin
Rachel Hamilton (illustrated by Oscar Armelles)
Oxford University Press
Louie is enjoying life in New York at the School for Performing Arts and is determined to remain upbeat despite the efforts of Arnie and grumpy dance teacher, Madame Swirler. Here though, it looks as if he might be losing the battle: in error, he’s been signed up to represent his dance school in the ballet category at a national dance competition. With the school’s reputation at stake, can Louie, with an enormous amount of self-belief to make up for what he lacks in skill, save the day?
It’s all beautifully funny and one cannot but admire Louie’s inexhaustible supply of inner strength and positivism. Long live Louie who is made all the more adorable through Oscar Armelles funky line drawings

Nelly and the Flight of the Sky Lantern
Roland Chambers (illustrated by Ella Okstad)
Oxford University Press
If you’ve enjoyed Pippi Longstocking – or even if you haven’t, you really should meet Nelly Peabody in her second splendid story. Here, on returning from her first adventure, Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody, the fearless explorer discovers that her mother has mysteriously vanished and nothing will stop the young redhead from tracking her down. This entails a flight in a laundry basket, high above the clouds, not to mention a deep-sea dive courtesy of a tin can contraption. As ever, of course she’s accompanied by her best friend, Columbus the turtle.
It’s quirky, full of deliciously off-beat characters and most important, superbly written, with wonderful illustrations by Ella Okstad in black and white with touches of red.

I’ve signed 

Pigeon P.I.

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Pigeon P.I.
Meg McLaren
Andersen Press
Murray is a private investigator of the pigeon kind. Of late, since the departure of his fellow operative, Stanley, Murray has been taking life rather easy. Then out of the blue – or rather, the rain – who should show up but the Kid, aka Vee, with a mission: to locate her missing friends.

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Intrigued, but not yet ready to take on another case, our narrator Murray asks her to come back the following day. She doesn’t show up and, with the police busy on a ‘big case’, he realises this will have to be a ‘do it yourself’ crime investigation.

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Seemingly there’s a feather thief at large in the town. Who or what is responsible for the dastardly scene that meets his eyes once inside the Red Herring Bar and Grill;

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and why does the voice emanating from the depths of the place sound oddly familiar? Even more importantly, is Investigator Murray ‘s goose well and truly cooked; or will the town’s streets again become safe for his fellow avians of every hue, once and for all?
Meg McLaren’s (Life is Magic) winning piece of detective fiction is bound to make you cackle. Take a look at those end papers for starters, especially if you want to do a spot of detecting yourself. Full of visual and verbal puns, witty details, speech bubbles and delivered in the manner of the best crime writers, this will appeal particularly, to anyone with a passion for setting things to rights. For sure, it’s a case of the more you look, the more you discover …

When Grandad was a Penguin / Snip Snap Croc

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When Grandad Was a Penguin
Morag Hood
Two Hoots
When is a Grandad not a Grandad? That’s the dilemma facing a little girl when she goes to visit her Grandad. His behaviour seems somewhat out of character, he looks a trifle different, he keeps talking about fishing, his clothes are ill fitting and he keeps turning up in unlikely places such as …

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Could it perhaps be his age? Fishy indeed.
Can a timely phone call, followed by a trip to the zoo, sort things out? Grandad certainly looks at home in his icy surroundings, so will he agree to another change of environment?

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Unlike the child protagonist in this latest Morag Hood delight, young readers and listeners will happily go along with the whole crazy situation, aware that they’re being taken for a ride, so to speak; and they’ll certainly have a good giggle over the silly scenarios. Best shared with a Grandad, but shared it needs to be. The restricted colour palette, controlled ink and lino print scenes and a simple direct text delivered by the child narrator combine to make a delectably droll drama …

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and that final twist is inspired.

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Snip Snap Croc
Caroline Castle and Claire Shorrock
QED
This tale takes us to the River Nile, where, should you happen to be wandering along its banks, you might encounter Snip Snap Croc. If so beware: this creature boasts of sixty snip snipping teeth just waiting to ‘nip, nip, nip’. Mama Baboon, Mama Meerkat,

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and Mama Lion, whose homes are along the river all urge their little ones to stay close to their sides.
On the bank meanwhile Snip Snap Croc is busily engaged digging and very soon TAP! TAP TAP! and out come …

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Soon she has twenty three new born baby crocs to take care of; but it looks as though she’s gobbling them up – at least, that’s what the other baby animals think …

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Mama Croc – the newest mama on the riverbank has a secret though – a protective one; and once she has moved her offspring to a suitable spot, she opens her enormous jaws and plop, plop, plop: out come the twenty three babes, with a word of warning from their mama, “Stay close by me and / no harm you’ll meet./ For I love you more/ than the river is deep.” As it is with the other mothers, so it is with Snip Snap Croc. Now, as day gives way to evening, all the animals know they can rest content that night.
The text moves in and out of rhyme as the story flows merrily along and Claire Shorrock’s illustrations have a droll humour about them, which adds to the enjoyment of the shared joke between author and readers.

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Surprise! Surprise!

Surprise! Surprise!
Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books
Mr and Mrs Tati live together in a little yellow house, but one thing is missing from their otherwise happy life: Mrs Tati longs for a “sweet little baby”.
Mr T. visits the Baby Shop asking for a “fat, happy baby” for his wife but all they can offer are all the things that, without a baby, she has no use for at all. On his way home however, he encounters a man offering baby pigs for sale. Could one of those be the answer to Mrs Tati’s dreams?

For a while the Tatis are blissfully happy with the new addition to their family and eventually Potter is old enough to start school and that is when the trouble starts …

Potter’s parents decide their attempts to turn him into a little boy were a mistake and he’s allowed to be messy with mud and sleep outdoors instead of going to school.

Weekends though are inside times; and it’s on one such occasion that Mrs Tati makes another wish. A wish that leads to a whole chain of further wishes culminating in Mr Tata’s wish upon a falling star. “I wish, I wish, I wish, that when we wake up in the morning … we will all look the same.” …
Do you think his wish came true?
This corker – or should it be porker? – twist-in-the-tail story is an absolute delight. With themes of family love, acceptance and diversity, this is perfect for sharing both at home or school. Niki Daly imbues every illustration, large or small, with his wonderful wit and joie de vivre.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Naughty Naughty Baddies

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The Naughty Naughty Baddies
Mark Sperring and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
One baddie’s bad enough but four ‘Naughty Naughty’ ones is something else, especially if it’s this particular quartet – a motley bunch if ever there was one.

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These NNBs especially enjoy creeping and they excel in same: sometimes, or rather, this time, their creeping leads to a big fat nothing: they simply can’t find a single naughty thing to do no matter how hard they try, or where they look.
So, ideas are discussed and Four’s plan is the favourite. It entails bouncing from their trampoline to their Badmobile and thence into a helicopter, then parachuting over a certain palace and there doing a spot of ‘spotnicking’ which will leave her royal highness’s pooch, er, spotless.
They have plans for putting to use their swag bag of spotty spoils too …

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Can those dastardly deed doers execute their mischief though; or might there be a chance that they’ll be spotted and apprehended in the act of thievery?

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If so, can they talk their way out of trouble and who will get the last chuckle? Um, that one’s easily answered: it’s anyone who is lucky enough to read or hear this wickedly funny book read aloud.
The combination of Sperring’s super-silly story that is brimming over with word-play, and Tazzyman’s terrific, rib-tickling visuals is a fabulous treat for all who encounter the outrageous shenanigans of the awesomely awful foursome. Bring it on baddies!

Counting with Tiny Cat / The Fox Wish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter 

Superbat / A Good Day for a Hat

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Superbat
Matt Carr
Scholastic Children’s Books
There’s a new superhero on the block – or should that be a would-be one? Meet Pat the bat. Sleepless and bored with inverted hanging, one day, he longs to be special like those superheroes in his comics. Suddenly ‘POW!’ Light bulb moment; straightway it’s out with Mum’s sewing machine and he sets to work …

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Hours later, Pat is ready to hit the high spots, but persuading his fellow bats of his super powers is going to take some doing. After all, super-hearing, flying and echolocation don’t count: all bats have those capacities; and he certainly can’t lift cars or shoot laserbeams from his eyes.

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Pat is disheartened. “I’m just a normal bat in a silly outfit,” he says holding back his tears. Is he though? Suddenly, his super ears pick up a distant cry …

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Could this be his big chance?
Matt Carr’s debut picture book is slightly crazy –or rather, batty – and none the worse for that. I suspect Pat the Bat, with his stitched-on-star suit, will win the hearts of young human would-be superheroes. The yesteryear colour palette is perfect for portraying his antics be they by day or by night.

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A Good Day for a Hat
T. Nat Fuller and Rob Hodgson
Abrams Appleseed
Donning a smart titfa, Mr Brown is ready to sally forth and he has a destination in mind. Try as he might though, he just can’t get beyond his own front path. First it’s the weather, then all kinds of unexpected, unlikely events unfold: a band marches by, magical bunnies are leaping all over his lawn,

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a rodeo gallops along; there’s even a huge fire-breathing dragon …

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and that is followed by a pirate ship. But, with no time for further dallying Mr Brown steps out again and this time, he’s well prepared.

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Will he ever make it to Miss Plum’s house though? And what is the purpose of his visit?
Oodles of fun, with clever use of repetition, making its patterned text easy to read, and a super surprise ending, this jolly picture book is a treat for sharing and individual reading.
Early years teachers, think of all the hatty fun you could have with this playful book.

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas / Be Brave Little Penguin – Stepping out of your Comfort Zone

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Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas
Aaron Blabey
Scholastic Children’s Books
Brian is anything but your normal piranha; Brian feeds on fruit and veg. – bananas, silverbeet, (the Australian word for chard) peas,

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and plums; and he’s on a mission to convert his fellow piranhas to a similar diet. They instead gorge themselves on feet, knees and bums! They’ll need to nibble through those boxers first though …

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Despite their fervent declaration “We don’t eat apples! We don’t eat beans! We don’t eat veggies! We don’t eat greens! We don’t eat melons! We don’t eat bananas! … “ can he persuade them to sample something from his tempting-looking fruit platter?

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Perhaps; but the allure of bum consumption will surely reign supreme.
Brian’s dietary requests will undoubtedly resound with many adults trying to persuade their offspring, or others to eat more healthily; young children will definitely laugh uproariously over the use of ‘bum’ and both will appreciate the subtle visual differences between Brian (no warts, no red tinges to the sclera of the eyes, even perhaps a slightly healthier-looking green hue about his skin) and his fellow piranhas. They’ll also love Brian’s wonderful facial expressions.
Flesh-eating, fruit eating, rhyming hilarity but with an important message too. Sample and see!

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Be Brave Little Penguin
Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books
Pip-Pip is a tiny penguin, smaller than all the other penguins and he has a problem: he’s too scared to go in the water. He gets taunted by his fellow penguins which makes him sad and sometimes, lonely. His dad insists he should be brave; but mummy penguin takes over with a more gentle approach leading him by the wing towards the icy-looking water.

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Brrr! It looks freezing and there might be monsters waiting to eat him. He clearly has a fertile imagination so his mum capitalizes on this, suggesting an alternative for him to imagine;

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and step-by-step they go till Pip-Pip’s right at the water’s edge. He just needs to take that final plunge …
A gentle rhyming story with important messages about risk-taking for both children and adults. Parker-Rees’ icy-fresh illustrations convey the Antarctic chill but there’s also a warm glow to the sky making it less threatening for Pip-Pip and his young audiences alike.

Mostly Mary & All Mary

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Mostly Mary / All Mary
Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy
Egmont Publishing
Oh joy; two books I loved as a child, borrowing them frequently from the library, now reissued; and re-imagined by the wonderful Clara Vulliamy: I can think of no better person to bring fresh zest to these timeless beauties than Clara with her gently humorous touch.

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For those who have yet to make the acquaintance of Mary, ( or Mary Plain, which she discovers is her full name early in the book), she’s an orphan bear cub, resident of Nursery Pit, Berne Zoo, who, in the first story is attempting to find her place in the pecking order of her extended family. She finds school lessons a bothersome experience and is much happier sallying forth with her friend, Sir Robin who provides some shrinking powder so that Mary can adjust her size and take a moonlit ride on his back and have a wonderful, rather crazy adventure.

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Then there are the St Bruin’s Day celebrations when best behaviour is the order of the day, and Mary is in trouble, over a suitable gift before she’s even set out for the festivities.
Having re-read the ten episodes in the first volume they’ve lost none of their appeal: a spirited bundle of mischief, at once ursine-like and child-like, Mary is still a charmer.
Equally funny and fresh-seeming is Mary’s second set of adventures. It begins with Mary receiving an invitation to pay a visit to ‘the Lady in the Fancy Coat’ and having to consult – or more accurately ‘ask a private ask’ of her friend and designated chauffeur, Owl Man, on the meaning of luggage before they set off to the residence of Fancy-Coat-Lady.

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What happens thereafter I won’t reveal; but rest assured it’s more than worth getting hold of a copy of the book and discovering for yourself. There’ll certainly be plenty of laughs provided by the trouble-prone young bear.
I do hope other titles from the series are to follow.

Wanted The Chocolate Monster

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Wanted The Chocolate Monster
Pip Jones and Laura Hughes
Faber & Faber
Hide all your yummy confections, there’s a ‘mighty, sticky thief’ aprowl in the neighbourhood. How do we know? A public announcement has just been aired on the opening page of this book. Moreover, this creature, aptly named The Chunk, is a silent beast with a bulbous nose, eight feet tall and a master of disguise. Hmm!

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Nothing with a tiny hint of chocolate is safe, not your pudding, your flan, that mousse, eclairs or cakes will escape his clutches and he has, reputedly, a special penchant for pricey truffles (he can have those any day so far as I’m concerned); and the cheeky beast will then have the audacity to plant the wrappers in your mum’s bag.
Worse than that; he’ll snatch your favourite cookie and plaster your face so you get the blame for over consumption …

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It just isn’t fair but does he care? Oh dear no; he’ll just make a silent dash for another home to raid. Surely there couldn’t be anything worse; or did I just hear he was heading for a wedding party where there happens to be a certain kind of fountain ?
Will he ever be caught? What do you think?

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Not only will I be hiding my chocolate; but after sharing this delectable rhyming treat with young listeners, I’m going to be hiding my copy of that too, for fear one of the eager story consumers decides to emulate The Chunk and snatch the book.
Mind you, Laura Hughes’ deliciously mock scary, sometimes brilliantly funny (as in the rollers-wearing scene)  portraits of same beastie might deter them doing that; but one never knows. All I can say is, I hope he gets terrible toothache soon and has to have lots of fillings.

A Perfect Day

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A Perfect Day
Lane Smith
Two Hoots
What makes a perfect day? Seemingly it depends on your perspective: for the animals in young Bert’s care, that’s certainly the case. For Cat it’s basking in the daffodil bed feeling the warmth of the sun on your back; for Dog it’s sitting in a cool paddling pool. Bird’s perfect day is a feeder full of birdseed and for Squirrel, there’s nothing better than a tasty corncob to nibble on.

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Life is pretty peachy in Bert’s garden on this day.
Enter stage left, Bear, an enormous hulk of a beast that comes lumbering across the garden (and the page) …

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totally sabotaging their idyll, and entirely unaware of so doing. It WAS a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Bird, and Squirrel: but now who is having the perfect day, full, after devouring the food of others, cooled by the water from the pool and dozing in the warm sunshine?

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And the perfect picture book? This one is surely a contender, (as was the author’s There is a Tribe of Kids). Lane Smith’s glorious textural illustrations are masterful in so many ways. They’re imbued with that sardonic wit of his; then there’s the way his ursine character takes centre stage, filling the spreads as he pursues his own pleasures, pleasures so satisfyingly portrayed through those blissful expressions; and the beautiful pastel colour palette. Added to all this, is the simplicity of the playful text with its equally satisfying repetition that is so perfect for reading aloud and for learner readers.
Yes, for me, this IS certainly a perfect picture book.

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The Perfect Guest

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The Perfect Guest
Paula Metcalf
Walker Books
Meet Walter, a rather persnickety pooch; he’s extremely house proud and exceedingly enamoured of his brand new teapot. Enter squirrel, Pansy, Walter’s friend; he’s not seen her in a while so is delighted when she calls and announces she’s coming for a visit. Now Pansy is something of an enthusiast – can you see where this might be going?
Even before Walter has finished smartening himself up for his guest, there she is ringing his doorbell.

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Oh dearie me! He’s not even finished some running repairs to his trousers, no matter though; his pal is an expert when it comes to sewing. But that will have to wait because first a catch-up cuppa is called for – the perfect opportunity for Walter to show off his precious possession.
Tea over, she gets to work whipping up her celebrated lemon cake, followed by wielding her needle on Walter’s torn trousers. Oh no! looks like she’s got a little carried away with her hole sewing: Oopsie! Those really big ones were the legholes.
Never mind; Pansy can demonstrate her tailoring skills by making him a brand new pair – in some very jazzy material. Now where could that have come from? Walter’s soon to find out … OMG!

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No matter: Walter, like many of us, reaches for the chocolate at times of extreme stress, but it appears Pansy’s sharing skills seem to leave a little to be desired …

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In fact, it’s starting to appear that Miss P. is something of a nuisance.
However, things are only just starting to go pear-shaped: the inevitable happens when she offers to do the washing up. After which, long-suffering Walter comes up with a damage limitation – so he thinks – plan.. He sends her outside to water his veggies while he attempts to restore his home to its former state of spotlessness.
The whole thing unfolds like a delicious sitcom culminating in a wonderful and altogether unexpected finale …

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The lengths some people (or animals) go to in the cause of friendship …
Joking apart, Paula Metcalf’s dramatic rendition is a wonderful demonstration of how, when it comes to special friends, one is willing to look beyond their imperfections and love them for what they are. Her illustrations are deliciously droll, her characterisation and dialogue truly brilliant. Encores will certainly be the order of the day.

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I Don’t Want Curly Hair / My Tail’s Not Tired

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I Don’t Want Curly Hair
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We all have bad hair days but the small curl girl narrator of this hair-raising story really has my sympathies. While I don’t have madly curly, well nigh uncontrollable hair like hers, mine does have a wave and try as I might, I can never get it to go straight in the right places. I certainly wouldn’t however, go to the lengths she does to get it super straight and smooth.No matter what though, that deliciously red mop does as it will.

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

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The rhyme moves along apace rising to a glorious pinnacle in its final stages.
All that angst and anguish is wonderfully portrayed in appropriately fiery hues and all members of the supporting cast are a delight.

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My Tail’s Not Tired!
Jana Novotny Hunter and Paula Bowles
Child’s Play
Like most infants, Little Monster is reluctant to begin his bedtime routine. He’s far from tired: his knees still have plenty of bounce in them,

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his bottom has lots of wiggle-jiggles left, and even after a demonstration of same, his tail is still full of swing and his back ready for more roly polys. Any excuse is worth a try; but Big Monster knows all the tricks too: she counters each lively action with a gentle sleep-inducing one of her own.

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Will Little Monster ever run out of steam; and who is going to be the first to succumb to complete exhaustion?
Billed as a bedtime story, I suggest NOT reading it at bedtime, or at least, not until your own little monster is well and truly under the duvet, otherwise you could be in for a dose of action-packed delaying tactics – bouncing, dancing, acrobatics, roly-polying, roaring, jumping and jet plane-like zooming before that shut-eye stage finally sets in, just like the little charmer in this amusing, time-for-bed tale.
Perhaps it would be better to share it during the day when there’s plenty of time for being energetic, and, if you’re sharing it with an early years group, then it’s a splendid opportunity for some very active participation. Just ask the children to ‘SHOW ME!

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