Tag Archives: Maverick Arts Publishing

Clumpety Bump / Barnyard Boogie!

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

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

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

More playful language in:

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

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

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

The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Wishker
Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

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The Snugglewump / Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day

The Snugglewump
Lou Treleaven and Kate Chappell
Maverick Arts Publishing
Molly has a host of toys and sitting side-by side awaiting her arrival one day, each claims to have pride of place in her affections. There’s Ted, an antique doll, Alien, Robot and Action Andy …

all strutting their stuff so to speak. It’s no wonder that Snugglewump lies forgotten on the floor feeling less than confident about his lot. But then, having seen and heard the others showing off, it ups and snugglewumps away through the catflap and off down the road.
Thanks to a free ride on a postman’s shoe, it ends up spending the night, damp and virtually shapeless contemplating the possibilities offered by having limbs and a countenance, or batteries, and generally rueing its lot.
Is it Snugglewump’s fate to be cast so it thinks, into the dump or could there perhaps be an alternative ending for this brightly coloured, albeit amorphous thing which, thanks to a couple of pigeons is, as the sun rises, hanging across the branch of a tree in the park?

Told through Lou Treleaven’s jaunty rhyming text with its fun descriptive phrases, and Kate Chappell’s beautifully expressive, quirky illustrations (she even manages to imbue that Snugglewump with a personality) this is great fun to share with young listeners either at home or in an early years setting.

Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day
Rochel Lieberman and Lloyd Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Ten year old Pearla likes nothing better on Sundays than to help her father in his bakery. She’s something of an expert herself, cooking up perfect cupcakes and cookies that people come from far and wide to buy.
One Sunday however, having so she thinks whisked up the usual perfect mix for her cookies and cupcakes, and put them into the oven to bake, she realises that she’s left out a vital ingredient. Disaster for one used to a perfect baking outcome.

But then as she paces up and down, Pearla starts out on what is to be a huge learning curve: “I’m a person, People are not perfect. I did my best. I know I will be helped with the rest,” she tells herself.
Out come the far from perfect confections some time later and rather than throwing the whole lot in the bin, Pearla decides to sell them at half-price.
What happens thereafter is a big surprise for the girl and after the odd sales setback, every single item is sold. Thank goodness Pearla managed to stay calm and turn her mistake into something positive. Even more important she learned the crucial life-lesson: that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process; something all teachers worth their salt would agree with, and that all youngsters need to take on board early on in their education. That way lies success.
Full of important and empowering lessons. Written by a speech and language specialist, this is a book to share with all young learners, especially those who, for whatever reason, are averse to risk-taking. Lloyd Jones’ illustrations add gentle humour to Pearla’s plight.

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Fum / Beauty and the Very Bad Beast

Fum
Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming
Maverick Arts Publishing
Despite their name, the Crumbs are a very large family: there’s Pa, Ma, Grandpa Plum, Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum. Or rather there should be; Fum, the smallest Crumb was gone missing. The search is on: first stop, the houses of the three little pigs …

No sign of him there. “He could be hiding … / In the woods with Little Red Riding.” That’s the suggestion from one of the pigs. Off they go again with everyone joining the hunt, but Grandma and her crew cannot help. Or rather, the Big Bad Wolf gets a whiff of his socks and thinks it’s worth locating Golidlocks. Guess whose bridge they cross to get to the house of the bears. The three are eager to assist and take to the air . Further locations are visited, all to no avail, until suddenly a small voice is heard. Now who might that be up the tree – or rather beanstalk? (I just wanted to be in line with the story’s rhyme.)

Lo and behold, the little chap wasn’t lost after all – just small! And in true fairy tale style, ‘The woods filled up with songs and laughter, / and all lived happily ever after.
Satisfying stuff, delivered through Newson’s exuberant rhyming text, full of repeat refrains, KNOCK! KNOCK!’s and “No” s to join in with; and Lucy Flemming’s funny pictorial rendition of the search with its unusual perspectives and spilt page scenes.

Beauty and the Very Bad Beast
Mark Sperring and Barbara Bongini
Scholastic
I love a story that mucks around with fairy tales, or as here, a fairy tale.
Let’s meet Beauty’s sisters, Grace,a golf-loving lass, and May, who likes to tong her hair. Both ask their doting father to bring them appropriate gifts on his return from a shopping trip in town. Beauty – well we know what her request is; her Popsey however decides to steal it from someone’s garden …

and that’s when the trouble begins. The Beastly Beast appears, makes an accusation and demands his price. Inevitably, it’s Beauty who greets him on his return and thus she duly departs to reside with the Beast.
Beauty asks him to let her go, the creature agrees to consider it and he does – over a long period that stretches into seasons during which time he falls head over heels with his captive; he even proposes.

What happens thereafter includes further considerations, a return, a whole lot of forgetting, the death of a rose, a frantic dash and a kiss …

l’ll leave you to imagine the final event: assuredly it’s rather splendid and made all the more so by Barbara Bongini’s hilarious, action packed scene of same.

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How do you do, Mr Gnu? / What’s More Scary?

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How do you do, Mr Gnu?
Billy Coughlan and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
Gnu has received a royal invitation, to take tea with Her Majesty the Queen no less. First though he needs to polish up his etiquette and for this he has plenty of role models: the dogs with their polite begging “Woof” Woofs for starters and then there’s that “Caw” of raven’s: that’s definitely worth imitating especially with those spindly legs of his flapping like wings. The fish have such eloquent “Glug”s that Gnu just cannot help but try emulating those …

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Add to that the dinosaur’s “ROAR”; the refined “Neigh” of the guardsman’s horse, not to mention the raspberry blowing from a little girl (think twice Mr Gnu, before you try that one on Her Majesty. Err …

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With its wonderful, final piece de resistance, “Pfffffft” this lesson in manners is sure to have your audiences in fits. They’ll love joining Gnu in trying out the other exquisitely mannered expositions and actions of the other animals so amusingly portrayed in Maddie Frost’s hilarious scenes too. Prepare yourself for a noisy story session when you share this beauty.

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What’s More Scary?
Min Flyte and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow
This ‘choose-the-flap’ adventure takes readers along with the little boy narrator for a jungle adventure. First though he has to pack his rucksack with the appropriate gear, (especially according to his mum, a toothbrush) and don his rosy red wellies – just the thing for a camouflaged safari walk.

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Off goes the lad along the jungle path and before long he hears some alarming sounds; seemingly he’s being followed but then comes a fork in the path: which way should he go? Crisis averted, it’s time to proceed but again the path divides and another choice needs making – or not! Well yes in a way but a spot of tree climbing is required.

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And so it goes on with a bit of dangling, followed by rowing and another fork – in the river this time, with a croc one way and piranhas the other. Next there’s a choice between a tree with a snake, or one with a grumpy gorilla, to climb; then inside a cave, our narrator, aka “Jimmy” is confronted with something with the scariest ever eyes: what could that be? The little guy has had enough of safari-ing and beats a hasty path back home: has he escaped though?
With a final choice left to the reader, Flyte and Hunt’s flap-filled foray into the wild, has plenty to engage and involve youngsters.

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A Clutch of Activity Books

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inside, outside, upside down
push, pull, empty, full

Yasmeen Ismail
Laurence King Publishing
As a big fan of Yasmeen Ismail’s work I was thrilled to see these new Draw and Discover activity books. Herein children can, having grabbed their pens and pencils, join Rabbit and Duck and have lots of fun responding to the instructions on every page.
Those who work with young children know that concepts such as ‘tall and short’ …

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‘short/long’, ‘small/ big’ and ‘empty/full’ are learned gradually through experience: inside, outside, upside down will add to such experience. In addition opposites such as outside/ inside, top/ bottom, left/ right …

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are also playfully presented.
Push, pull, empty, full adds scientific concepts – push/ pull …

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and warm/ cool as well as ‘beginning/ middle/ end’ which invites readers to ‘draw the middle’ and colour the rainbow created by so doing.
Draw Colour Discover’ says the message on the back cover: I’d add, Enjoy.

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Woodland Hedgehugs Activity Book
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Spring’s not far away; already catkins are appearing on the hazel trees so it’s a great time to get out into the countryside or park with Horace and Hattie hedgehog (not forgetting Sid the Snail – he pops up on every page) and take up their invitation to engage in some sensory play. They suggest you wear wellies and wet weather gear and take along ‘A pot or box and a spoon, paper, chalk, glue, sticky-tape and ( most important I think), your imagination.’
Suggested outdoor activities include observations of colours in nature, looking for animal tracks, a scavenger hunt, some woodland challenges …

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an exploration of woodland textures, and taking rubbings of bark and leaves.
There’s a page of tree leaves to search for; and an invitation to listen out for natural sounds can be followed by drawing what was heard on the related page,
These are just some of the in-the-field suggestions but there are plenty of indoor ideas too. Why not try making a shaker from a Y-shaped stick, do some messy leaf printing, or creating some tasty ladybird treats starting with an apple.
I like the way the outdoors is brought to the indoors through activities such as these and the woodland map making. The pictorial map outlined in the book can be coloured, but I’d suggest children make their own, either in two or three dimensions, perhaps with the help of photos taken on a walk.

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8 Ways to Draw a Fish
Luisa Martelo
Tara Books
The author of this thoroughly engaging and instructive activity book has enlisted the help of artists from various regions of India. There are eight different art styles in all including Rajasthani Meena work from artist Sunita, Gond art from Madhya Pradesh from Bhajju Shyam, and Subhash Vyam, Madhubani style from Bihari artist, Rambharos Jha, Bhil art from Subhash Amaliyar and Patua style from West Bengali artist, Swarna Chitrakar.
As with all Tara publications, the whole thing is of top quality: the paper itself is beautifully thick (card almost) and each spread is a combination of grey outlines – thick or thin – and colourful design/pattern.

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The suggestion is that users trace the fish outlines and then be creative in how they add their own details and colours. The guidance is subtle rather than overly instructive and accompanying it are snippets of basic scientific information about the fish and their environments.
And of course, the book proves lots of fun, both for its intended child audience and for the many adults who enjoy such books as a means of relaxation. Make sure you read the author’s ‘What is Art?’ on the inside front cover flap too.
Buy to give and buy to keep. I intend to give my copy but first I’ll do some sneaky tracing so I don’t miss out on the creative opportunities.

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As Nice As Pie

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Dolci and Ellena relishing the story …

As Nice as Pie
Gary Sheppard and Tim Budgen
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Mavis Manewaring decides to share her freshly baked loaf with a bird one day, little does she expect that within a week she’ll be catering for twenty, all enthusiastically stuffing themselves with her delicious pasties and pastries …

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A couple of weeks later, her hungry throng has reached hundreds: birds of all shapes and sizes– great greedy gannets, a plump parakeet, chubby-cheeked crows, potbellied pigeons and the like have heard the news of the tasty fare Mavis has been dishing up to the avian throng. What’s more it’s not merely bread, but biscuits, buns and bacon baps she’s feeding  her winged visitors. Mavis’s shopping bill must have gone through the roof and now it seems she’s no time for anything else but satisfying the ever-increasing throng.

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Enough is enough decides the long-suffering cook and having baked a giant flan case, she issues an ultimatum to the hungry hoards: either join her in a co-operative venture or become the filling for that “Birdie Surprise” flan.

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For her guests, blind-folded at her request and already knee-deep in gravy, it’s a no brainer and before long there’s a new co-operative enterprise operating in the village …
Rhyming stories seem to be all the rage at the moment but unless they’re well written, the rhyme works against them. This one of Gary Sheppard’s, with its sprinklings of alliteration and jaunty rhythm works a treat. Add to that Tim Budgen’s chirpy, chucklesome illustrations and the outcome is an altogether tasty read aloud. And then there are those counting opportunities and potential for discussions on teamwork and sharing.

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Stone Underpants / The Great Sock Secret

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Stone Underpants
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Stone underpants? Have you ever heard of anything more preposterous? Back in the Stone Age though, when young Pod lived there wasn’t an awful lot around to make bottom warmers from when your rear end felt decidedly chilly, so a pair of stone underpants is what he makes himself. Needless to say however, they’re not the best things for running around in, and as for swimming, well …

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Pod decides to try another material, but wood proves equally unsuitable …

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as do several others he tries. Is he destined to have a chilly rump for ever or is there something else he could try…

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The very mention of underpants and bottoms frequently reduces young listeners to fits of giggles and I suspect this one will do just that. The whole scenario is totally crazy: beetles demolishing his wooden underpants overnight for instance; and what was wrong with using an animal skin, there are certainly wild beasts evident in some of the scenes; but this madcap romp requires total suspension of disbelief so, why worry. It’s assuredly something youngsters will raise anyhow and they’ll also more than likely ask about the material used for that football too, and perhaps question why Pod didn’t just try making leafy underpants But all this could lead very nicely into some investigative work on materials if you happen to work with young children. Alternatively you might just enjoy the ridiculous story as told by the aptly named Rebecca Lisle, and have a good giggle over the equally crazy pictorial rendition of same from Richard Wilson.

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The Great Sock Secret
Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones
EK Books
My alternative uses for socks have been restricted to a resource for making puppets in the classroom; and when teaching yoga, as props for those needing a little bit of help in certain stretches.
In Sarah’s house though, the socks are put to all manner of imaginative uses by the fairies who share her home. When Sarah’s mum initiates a hunt for the socks that have mysteriously gone missing from the laundry basket,

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the little girl has to stay one jump ahead as they search all over the house. She knows who the culprits are; but can she manage to stop her mum from discovering those borrowers?
This foray into the fanciful is most likely to appeal to imaginative listeners around the age of the young protagonist.

Big Bob, Little Bob / Mine Mine Mine Said The Porcupine

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Big Bob, Little Bob
James Howe and Laura Ellen Andersen
Walker Books
The possibility of friendship seems unlikely when Big Bob moves in next door to Little Bob: the boys are just so different and it’s not just their relative size; their interests are totally different too. Little Bob likes quiet activities such as block building and playing with dolls; Big Bob’s play is altogether more boisterous. “Boys do not play with dolls,” he asserts. Despite this Big Bob does make efforts to involve his neighbour in his play …

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but nothing can bring the two round to the same way of thinking or doing.

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However when a girl moves into their neighbourhood, the first person to jump to Little Bob’s defence when she questions his choice of play activities is none other than Big Bob. “Hey! You stop picking on my friend!” he tells her. “Boys can do whatever they want!” Gender stereotyping is seemingly not so fine now.
But then it turns out that Blossom prefers trucks to dolls: can the three find a way to accommodate everyone’s choices …
Any story that challenges gender stereotyping is worth a look in my book. This one is delivered with a gentle humour that is accentuated by Andersen’s comical scenes of the children at play. Definitely a book to share with those around the same age as the characters herein; it will give them plenty to think about and discuss.
Also looking at building friendship is:

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Mine Mine Mine! Said the Porcupine
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
Alfie returns and this time he has a porcupine as his visitor; a porcupine whose sharing skills leave a lot to be desired. Alfie does his best to engage the porcupine in some play, but everything he offers is immediately seized by his visitor. “Mine!” he claims at each attempt.

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Eventually, Alfie decides enough is enough and leaving the possessive creature to his own devices, he goes to play on his own. Now the porcupine has what he wants – or has he? Can he perhaps find a situation where that word he loves so much, is appropriate?

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A gentle lesson in sharing delivered in a rhythmic text easy enough to read so that those around Alfie’s age can try it for themselves. Emma Levey portrays the porcupine as hirsute making him appear cuddly rather than a prickly character and he certainly knows how to talk with his eyes.

The Snowflake Mistake / The Bot that Scott Built

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The Snowflake Mistake
Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost
Maverick Arts Publishing
The latest scientific research shows that what we’re told as children – that every snowflake is different – isn’t altogether true, although there are a great many structural variations. Now here’s a modern pourquoi tale explaining the popular idea that every one is different.
Princess Ellie lives with her mum, the Snow Queen, in a floating ice palace high above the clouds. In that palace is an amazing machine that collects clouds, squishing, crunching and stamping them to make into identical snowflakes.

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But when Ellie’s mum has some business to attend to elsewhere, the young miss, (who would much prefer to be out playing) is left in charge of the machine. She decides to speed up the snow production …

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and that’s when things, or rather the machine goes terribly wrong, and with a BOING! BANG! POP! it grinds to a halt.
With the only alternative being no snow for the children to enjoy, Ellie knows she must find another way of making snowflakes. Out comes her scissors and with the help of the birds, she makes snowflakes of all shapes and sizes, not perfect exactly, but every one beautiful, every one different. Hooray!
Full of wintry delight this rhyming story is another invention from the creator of the Oojamaflip – another quirky machine. Maddie Frost’s digitally rendered collage-style illustrations, especially those of the snowflake machine, are great fun and the final page provides information on how to make a snowflake.

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The Bot That Scott Built
Kim Norman and Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling
It’s Science Day for Scott and his classmates and it’s Scott’s turn to demonstrate his robot. Things don’t go quite to plan though and that moment of glory rapidly descends into chaos as angry ants rampage, freaky frogs frolic and feast on flies, there’s a big-bellied boa on the loose and a whole lot more besides.

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The cumulative rhyme dashes along at a frenetic havoc-making pace; and with lashings of alliteration and illustrations packed with hilarious details as the whole session turns from calm to mayhem, young listeners have plenty to enjoy as the catastrophes cascade into being until finally, a sense of order is restored. PHEW! Now who could have pressed that button in the first place, one wonders.

Mr Mustachio / George Pearce and His Huge Massive Ears

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Mr Mustachio
Yasmin Finch and Abigail Tompkins
Maverick Arts Publishing
I’ve never seen a moustache quite like that of the star of the show in this funny story. He’s very, very tall and thin, sports a maxi camel hair coat and pointy black boots; and on the day we meet him, is off for a picnic in the park …

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This he enjoys but then his eyes light on one of those roundabout things and that’s when the trouble starts- well it would, wouldn’t it? Before long the hirsute Mr M. is in a bit of a fix …

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Various children attempt to release him by pulling and soaping and a granny trio try tooling a rescue but to no avail: even the gang of builders can’t do the trick …

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so it looks at though it’s down to one of the teachers to snip him out (not sure what they’re doing walking in the park wielding scissors but no matter). Mr M is finally released but there’s something about his appearance that’s not quite as it used to be … Can our resourceful Mr Mustachio find a replacement for his missing facial filaments: perhaps he could choose from those wonderful endpaper ideas.
A crazy tale for sure, but it’s one that will elicit giggles from young audiences: Abigail Tompkins’ subtle-toned scenes of the moustachioed Mr M are a hoot.

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George Pearce and His Huge Massive Ears
Felix Massie
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
George Pearce is an ordinary sort of boy except for one thing, or rather two – his ears. They are enormous and protrude – wing-like – from either side of his otherwise ordinary head. George doesn’t use them for flight though, for him, they’re secret sound catchers. The only trouble being that pretty soon, George’s head is stuffed full of words – some good, others decidedly not …

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So much so that his head is so muddled, he just doesn’t know how to sort right from wrong, or what to think at all. Opinions seem to be crowding in on George everywhere he goes and it’s impossible to please everyone.

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There’s only one thing to do and George does it. He puts a finger in each ear, pushing them in hard to block out everyone else’s ideas and words.
Suddenly there comes a very tiny voice from deep within George’s own skull; this voice doesn’t tell him anything, rather it provides a thinking space for George’s own thoughts to form and at last, there’s no need for pretence. The real boy can finally emerge and yes, his ears still stick right out, but now there’s only one person who can make up George’s mind and that is George himself …

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Sad, funny and insightful, this is a cautionary tale to share with those who are easily swayed by what others say and think, especially, though I suspect it will bring a smile to the faces of most youngsters particularly if they enjoy a bit of quirkiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Enough for Queen Fluff / Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

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Not Enough For Queen Fluff
Rachel Lyon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing
Queen Fluff has everything a person (or a fancy bunny) could want: a large, lavishly furnished burrow full of queenly comforts, quite the opposite of all her subjects. They live in near poverty out in the Kingdom beyond the palace boundaries. Riches, as most of us know, don’t equate to happiness though, and thus it is with Queen Fluff who spends a bored, lonely existence.
So her royal bunnyness sends out a communication to all the other bunnies …

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It’s hardly the way to win friends methinks, but how do the recipients respond?
They certainly start making some plans for their royal visitor. She meanwhile, sets off with bulging bags, eagerly anticipating a welcome befitting her regal status. What she gets however, is something of a surprise, or rather a shock, as she visits burrow after burrow in search of delight.

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And what of that ten-course feast she’s set her sights on? Well, those rabbits surely know how to serve up a surprise menu; but is it one that will cause their monarch to eat her words? It might just be …

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With a rhyming text from Rachel Lyon that simply rolls off the tongue, mixed with super-cute, funny illustrations from Catalina Echeverri …

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this book has gone down very well with my audiences. I had great fun with one group suggesting their own disgusting courses to serve up to Queen Fluff.

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Ellena snuggled up for the story

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast
Christine Pym
Nosy Crow
Little Mouse has a big appetite or so it seems; but maybe not: let’s wait and see.
We first meet our intrepid little hero one chilly evening when he’s decidedly peckish and having nothing ready for a breakfast nibble the following morning.
Fortunately though, Little Mouse knows just where to go and off he sets, scampering along the footpath, scaling the drainpipe and hopping in through an open window where on the table he spies this …

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followed quickly by a rosy apple and then a whole lot of ‘big brown biscuits’ …

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But that’s not all. Pretty soon, despite the odd doubt about the deliciousness of one or two items, he has all this precariously balanced …

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Guess what though: he then spots the ABSOLUTE perfect item for a tasty breakfast – one ‘shiny, stripy sunflower seed’ and of course he just HAS to have it … Seems someone else is after that perfect breakfast too and we know what that is …

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I wonder who gets their perfect breakfast – that would be tale telling, wouldn’t it. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty tasty.
Christine Pym’s timing is spot on, and her tale deliciously illustrated with a mix of double spreads, single pages, panels and frames. This really went down a treat with my early years audience who delighted at the ending and were eager for an immediate re-reading.

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Umbrellas, Cards and Crazes

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Harrison Loves His Umbrella
Rhoda Levine and Karla Kuskin
The New York Review Children’s Collection
Umbrella loving Harrison keeps his brolly open everywhere, at all times, even, to the consternation of his parents, in the house. “Severely limiting,” they deem it, and so it is. Clutching his beloved brolly, Harrison is unable to unscrew the toothpaste cap, use scissors or play the piano two-handed. Moreover, his dad finds reading to Harrison more than a little challenging …

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No matter what either parent says, Harrison flatly refuses to restrict the use of his ‘best friend’ to the outdoors.

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Then one day, it rains: Harrison no longer stands out from the crowd. Moreover, even after the downpour ceases, the other children do not close up their umbrellas. There’s now consternation among all the parents and you’ll not be surprised to hear that they too deem the brollies “severely limiting.” The parents all ponder their problem; their offspring meanwhile love their sub-brolley life. The adults continue planning and executing various ruses but nothing they do or say seems to furnish a satisfactory outcome. Not until that is, young Harrison does something altogether else …

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Delightfully dotty, this unassuming little book is sure to have children and adults alike giggling over the wry take on human behaviour – child and parent. My first encounter with the work of Karla Kuskin was through her wonderful poems. Here, her brolley-filled spreads, executed in a limited colour palette, underline the wit of Rhoda Levine’s narration as those always open objects morph from rain-protectors to sunshades, companions, tents, maypoles and more.

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Hurray for Harrison and his individuality, say I.

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George and the New Craze
Alice Hemming and Kimberley Scott
Maverick Arts Publishing
Those of us adults who have dealings with children either as educators or parents, know what happens when a new craze comes along sweeping up all and sundry in its wake. So it is here, with the animals at Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park; their passion is People Cards.

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George – despite having only three cards of which two are the same – and all his pals, are avid collectors; Seymour has just the one, albeit a rare one; and even then he’s not sure what this whole collecting thing is all about.
The friends try to think of card using activities, not very successfully though …

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and then George decides to go off in search of more – which is more successful and results in a thought provoking encounter and an excellent idea. Just look what they can do with ninety-nine shared cards …

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They even manage to play a satisfactory game of snap; and their joint album is all but complete. I wonder who holds the final card …

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That’s not quite the end of this amusing story however. As we grown-ups know, crazes tend to be pretty short-lived. What are those small spherical objects on the ground in the final spread …
The doings of the Wildlife Park inhabitants continue to delight  and I particularly love that spread of Kimberley Scott’s displaying all ninety-nine cards plus spares. Did I notice a certain MD of a certain publishing company thereon?? Spot him too in the album spread, left-hand side, bottom row, third card along.

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Pants and Pirates

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Hooray for Knickers
Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright
Egmont
The very mention of knickers in a picture book is likely to get children giggling and so it is with this one, although other than the title, it was some way into the story before the k word came up at all. The whole thing is based on a kind of cumulative Chinese whispers mix up that occurs when the Royal Butler incorrectly passes on King Grouchy’s order for ‘floats, deck chairs and silky slippers.’ (Items needed to impress his soon-to-arrive guest, Prince Jolly whom he’s invited for a swim at the palace.) What he tells the Royal Footman instead is: “They need boats, black bears and silly flippers.”  The message eventually reaches the ears of the Royal Maid who interprets it thus: “He needs skipping ropes? A funfair? And everyone needs frilly knickers? Oh well, if that’s what the king’s best friend in the whole wide world wants …
It’s more than the royal servants’ lives are worth to ignore orders of King Grouchy, even if they are trying to keep out of his way, so what he says goes. Errm …
Both King and Prince are in for a surprise when they look down from the balcony at the sight that awaits …

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Fortunately both host and guest see the funny side, a friendship is forged and then it’s time to party.

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Comical scenes abound in this crazy caper.

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The Best Pirate
Sue Mongredien and Dan Taylor
Scholastic Children’s Books
Meet the pirate crew: there’s Pirate Dave – big and brave, clever Pirate Nell, Pirate Giles – ace swimmer and the diminutive Pirate Paul. Having set sail Dave, Nell and Giles are immediately busy

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but Paul (not considered a proper pirate by fellow crew members on account of his lack of stature) is deemed too tiny for a task. The same applies once they reach dry land and set off in search of treasure; Paul is left on the ship while the others explore. Will he ever get an opportunity to prove himself a worthy member of the pirate band? Maybe this is his golden opportunity: his shipmates certainly look like they need some help – and fast …

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Told in appropriately rollicking rhyme and humorously illustrated in bold tropical colours, this will appeal in particular to young landlubbers who enjoy tales of the action-packed kind. And there’s a fold-out cover flap with cut-out pirate hat and treasure.

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Bossy Jonathan Fossy
Julie Fulton and Elina Ellis
Maverick Arts Publishing
Meet Jonathan Fossy, a real bossy boots if ever there was one: he’d issue orders to his mum, his neighbours, the whole town in fact. Eventually PC Moran decides something has to be done and at dead of night a plan is hatched. Next morning as he heads off to play, Jonathan sees this …

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On reaching the beach he’s confronted by a gang of dastardly looking pirates one of whom grabs young Jonathan and having hustled him on board as a crew member, produces a rather long list of tasks the lad’s required to complete.

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Seems there’s nothing for it but to get stuck in. There’s washing, scrubbing, sail repairs, deck swabbing, polishing and much more and all the while the rest of the crew jeer at and scorn the lad, issuing threats if he appears to be slacking.
Eventually a somewhat exhausted Jonathan sees the error of his ways: “Being bossy’s not nice, I can see. /I’ve been a real pain, I won’t do it again.” he cries. And then it’s time for the rest of the crew to unmask and set sail back to Hamilton Shady with one altogether reformed character.
Jonathan Fossy is the latest addition to the series of Hamilton Shady inhabitants. The exploits of some of the other residents of the town of ‘over-the-top’ characters have been reissued with new titles and covers, so if you’ve not read their cautionary tales, there are giggles aplenty to be found therein too.

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Baxter’s Book/Strictly No Crocs

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Baxter’s Book
Hrefna Bragadottir
Nosy Crow
Meet bibliophile Baxter. So strong is his love for books – especially scary wolf-infested ones and those inhabited by brave lions, cuddly bears or cute rabbits – that he yearns to be in a book himself. Then one day he spies a large notice outside a house and seemingly there’s no time to lose …

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Lots of other characters have the same idea and they’ve all played parts in books before but Baxter seems undeterred. After all, he can sing, dance, do acrobatics and act – what more could they want?

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Well, seemingly not an unusual creature like Baxter after all. His audition is a let down and poor Baxter gets the brush off.
Time for a spot of coaching from some of those other characters … but nothing feels quite right. Baxter has a pressing question …

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After all he’ll never be scary like Wolf, brave like Lion, cuddly like Bear or even, cute like Rabbit. Maybe it’s time to bow out gracefully and head off home … or is it?
An exciting picture book debut from Hrefna Bragadottir; I love her offbeat style and look forward to seeing what’s next.

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Strictly No Crocs
Heather Pindar and Susan Batori
Maverick Arts Publishing
It’s party time for Zebra and the invitation is posted but there’s one proviso.

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Crunchie, Chomper and Snapper are determined to gain entry however. You might guess what their favourite food is going to be; and Snapper has a plan at the ready.
The plan proves pretty successful initially and none of the others suspects that spotty-clad high bouncer, nor the winner of the pass the parcel teddy

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or that cake scoffer.

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In fact the threesome even go so far as to lead the vocals for the conga and that fireworks finale is really dazzling.
All too soon however, the crocs are wending their way back home, extolling the virtues of “an amazing party!” Hold on guys – wasn’t there something you forgot: it certainly wasn’t that scrummy-looking cake.
A tasty treat for young listeners although definitely not for crocs. Susan Batori’s zany illustrations are real laugh inducers and the story’s likely to keep your audience on the edge of their seats as they wait to see whether those snappers will be unmasked.

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Two Wacky Tales

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Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
Lou Treleaven and Julia Patton
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Professor McQuark invents a wonderful new gadget, so weird and wacky is it, that she names it Oojamaflip. Then off she dashes to her workshop – aka the shed – and sets to work bringing that design in her head to finished product.

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What is the next thing to do once the Oojamflip is finished? Take it to be displayed at the Science Fair of course, and so with headlights polished, the next stop is the town hall. There is just one snag however and it concerns the relative size of the building’s doors and that of the Oojamaflip;

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so the prof. is forced to leave her machine outside.
Inside there are all manner of wacky inventions: a square balloon maker, a zip up door, an infinitely re-sizeable alien suit and a self-playing flute to name a few and they’re all vying for the judges’ attention to win that first prize. And here comes an announcement …

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Or maybe not – all the visitors are suddenly dashing outside leaving the judges startled and puzzled and there’s only one thing they can do; head outside too and discover what all the fuss is about …

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Seems they’re all pretty impressed with this extra mural exhibit but there’s one thing still puzzling them: “what does this Ooja-thing actually do?” The clue is in the title – I’ll say no more.
Great to see a female in the role of scientist cum inventor: the aptly named Professor McQuark should be an inspiration to all young inventors. Debut author Lou Treleaven’s sparky rhyming story is wackily illustrated by Julia Patton, whose scenes are full of zany details to pore over, and possibly provide some ideas to child inventors.

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Giant Jelly Jaws and the Pirates
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unlike his fellow crew members, new cabin boy Jake is not brave or strong; indeed he has no head for heights, cries at the slightest hint of a scratch and at night, his hammock-mate is a teddy bear. It looks as though Captain Fish-Breath Fred has made an almighty mistake in engaging young Jake. But can the lad manage to prove his worth in the face of a rival pirate crew whose members are intent on getting their hands on the treasure map whereon X marks the spot. Seemingly not, for here’s a rather stinky situation where we see his fellow shipmates about to walk the plank…

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and the cabin boy himself cowering behind some kegs of pop.
Hold on me hearties! What is Jake up to now? Surely it’s no time to be guzzling pop, or is it? …

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If you want to know how this ripping rhyming yarn concludes, you’ll have to get your own copy of the riotous romp and read the rest yourself. It’s certainly true to say ship’s figurehead Giant Jelly Jaws has found his match when it comes to monstrous eruptions; and awash with detail, Ben Mantle’s riotous scenes are suitably salty and swashbuckling.

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Let’s Play

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Ready, Steady, DIG!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ed Eaves
Hodder Children’s Books
As one little boy plays with his collection of vehicles, his playmat becomes the scene for Construction Crew to rumble into action. There’s Connor Crane with wrecking ball to bash and smash, big tough Dumper Dave to haul and heave, Mixer Millie is at the ready,

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followed by Ravi Roller to squash the tarmac and Doug the Digger with that enormous scoop – OOPS!

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He’s got stuck, so now it’s a case of teamwork to heave him out and complete the task …

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before that well-earned rest.

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Ed Eaves transforms the various vehicles into friendly-looking monsters, which, in combination with Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ lively rhyming text, make for a rumbustious read to share with the very young.
Teachers in early years settings may well want to take the opportunity this book offers to add some movement to the story session with the children themselves becoming the various members of the Construction Crew as the story unfolds – after an initial seated reading, that is.
Certainly this is one to add to an early years collection.

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Hedgehugs Hopping Hot
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
The delightful duo, best friends Horace and Hattie return with their third story and it’s a very sunny day on which we find them attempting to play a favourite hopping game. The trouble is they’re feeling far too hot and the only shady spot doesn’t furnish sufficient hopping space. Their cooling strategies don’t meet with much success either

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and it’s well nigh impossible to emulate frogs when you make so much splash. Hiding under rocks like woodlice will certainly not work, if you want to hop that is …

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and nor will a squelchy mud covering. What about emulating that bird up there on a branch, think the friends but although it’s definitely a cooler place, it’s not suitable for jumping and …

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Hold on though, perhaps down here might be just what those spiky friends need – whatever the weather …

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Gentle humour delivered hedgehog fashion is fun no matter what the temperature: Horace and Hattie are such a joyful twosome; even in the face of all those misadventures they just bounce right back up, and that’s exactly what’s needed for a hopping game too! Lucy Tapper’s beautifully patterned illustrations capture the mood perfectly.

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Aliens Love Dinopants & Aerodynamics of Biscuits

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Aliens Love Dinopants
Clare Freedman and Ben Court
Simon and Schuster
Aliens, underpants and dinosaurs all in one story – what more can a pants loving reader ask for? Herein the spacecraft, piloted by the pantsophile aliens, is zapped by lightning as it whizzes through the skies forcing it to crash-land in the jungle.
But BLEEP BLEEPS are heard loud and clear from the pants-tracker and immediately the aliens are hot on the swampy trail. A trail that finally leads them to …

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shortly followed by …

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And it seems those dinosaurs are ready to fight to the death over their precious stash. But perhaps that isn’t going to be necessary: after all both are really on the same side – that of PANTS. So maybe a solution – a pantstastic one – can be found that works to the satisfaction of all concerned …

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And if so, all of us humans had better keep extra special watch over our washing lines when it’s chuddies drying time.
Can it really be the seventh of this ever-popular Underpants series? This one was eagerly seized upon by the five and six year olds I took it to, and several readings were demanded.

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Maria was certainly impressed by the story and left me this.

More power to the seemingly indomitable pants force and the creators thereof.

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Aerodynamics of Biscuits
Clare Helen Walsh and Sophia Touliatou
Maverick Arts Publishing
When hunger pangs strike, Oliver (normally a good, kind sort of a boy) creeps downstairs to raid the biscuit barrel only to find it completely empty. But what are those shadowy things scuttling across the floor, ‘Hauling and heaving, towing and tugging.’ out through the door and into the garden?

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The marauding mice however, are not consuming their spoils, oh no, they’re in the process of constructing or attempting to, aerodynamic biscuit rockets in which to fly to the moon and there partake of some – well you know what the moon is said to be made of.

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However their design skills leave a lot to be desired and it’s only when Oliver offers to help with the rocket building that things start to look more promising, and finally it’s blast off time.
Once at their cheesy destination, the mice can hardly wait to tuck in to the feast that awaits them when they discover that their leader, Captain Sneaky McSqueaky has gone missing: seems his appetite is for something other than cheese …
Are the mice to be marooned on the moon without a craft or can they find another way to return to earth? Perhaps, with Oliver’s help …

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This unlikely story is great fun. The nature of the telling is such that it draws listeners in from the start, keeping them involved and interested throughout and offering possibilities for active joining in with the rocket building and cheese gathering as the story unfolds.
Equally, Sophia Touliatou’s quirky illustrations are packed with amusing details, creating a visual feast of small rodents engaging in all manner of tasks, tiny tools, and tasty treats – sweet and savoury, not to mention a whole host of speech bubbles, noises, labels and more for the eyes to digest.

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Of Men and Mice (and the odd elephant)

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Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too)
Keith Negley
Flying Eye Books
The dozen tough guys boldly depicted in bold blocks of colour in this book represent a wide range of roles from wrestler to racing driver and each one is shown in a moment of strong emotion be it sadness, frustration, loneliness, disappointment or fear. …
‘… tough guys have feeling too.’ says the text and Negley’s powerful illustrations speak volumes and certainly show the guys in all their vulnerability. There’s a huge tattooed biker weeping over a tiny squirrel lying dead in the road …

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a pirate digging on a beach already covered with holes as he tries in vain to locate the treasure marked on his map,

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an astronaut floating around in space clutching a photo of his wife and child.

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In fact an adult and child together are the raison ‘d’être for the whole thing as we see them on the final spread – a father and son – snuggled together sharing a book and surrounded by scattered action figures and other relevant items pertaining to the already shown tough guys.

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And the endpapers are about the same pair: the front ones showing just the boy in all the roles and those at the back including Dad participating in the role-playing.
A wonderful and important demonstration that it’s fine, indeed cool, to show your feelings no matter who you happen to be: this book is a great starting point for discussion both in educational settings and families.

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As Quiet as a Mouse
Karen Owen and Evgenia Golubeva
Maverick Arts Publishing
Edgar has fond feelings for his new baby sister but he does find it extremely challenging not to keep waking her up – no matter how much he tries.

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You need to be as quiet as a mouse!” his Mum tells him so off goes Edgar to consult his friend Ruby. She takes him along to Mouse School and hands him over to Head Mouse, Mr Cheddar who insists he should pass the “Quiet Mouse Test” and lessons commence forthwith.

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Eventually Edgar manages to pass the test, becoming the first ever elephant to do so and then it’s time for a celebratory party …

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Well, it wasn’t Edgar this time! …
An extended joke of a story, winningly illustrated, that will resonate with youngsters in a similar, new sibling situation to Edgar.

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Don’t miss the Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October

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Dads and A Digger-Driving Pirate

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Daddy I Can’t Sleep
Alan Durant and Judi Abbot
Picture Corgi pbk
It’s bedtime for Little Panda but he just cannot get to sleep: He can hear all kinds of scary noises. What could be roaring and howling outside their cave in the forest?
Fortunately, Daddy Panda knows exactly how to quell those fears. Taking Little Panda on his back off he goes into the forest and there they hear not scary sounds, but the gentle music of the bamboos,

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see the palm fronds waving bird-like in the wind and smell the sweet aroma of the fresh juicy shoots. Then having collected stem, leaves

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and shoots they head home and after partaking of a tasty treat, Little Panda snuggles down in bed. But before he sleeps there’s a lovely surprise – or rather, two lovely surprises – waiting for him, courtesy of Daddy Panda.

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A warm, reassuring tale with a pair of delightful characters; what a super, empathetic father figure Daddy Panda is. Judi Abbot’s densely coloured illustrations capture the atmosphere of the moonlit forest beautifully and those panda expressions speak volumes. Snuggle up close and share at bedtime or any time.

 

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I Want My Daddy
Tracey Corderoy and Alison Edgson
Little Tiger Press
There are times when only a dad will do and Arthur is having one of those days. The first time it’s when his castle collapses, then when his knightly activities cause him to come a cropper

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and after that his foray into fishing proves rather too much for the youngster. But happily for Arthur his Daddy is on hand to rescue the situation every time disaster strikes. After such an eventful day the young knight decides from the safety of his super new castle that it is time to inaugurate a very special king to rule over the kingdom and he sets to work creating …

 

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Share with Dads (and others) especially after one of those days when everything’s been just a bit too much. We can all applaud the fatherly care and consideration shown to young Arthur in this warm-hearted story for the very young.

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Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers
Alex English and Duncan Beady
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Brad comes from pirating stock; his Dad is determined young Pirate Brad should go off and join a crew. Brad however, has other plans: rather than fighting and plundering, he longs for a life driving diggers on a building site. Dad wishes win the day and so Bradley packs his bag and boards ship as crew member of the Salty Dog.

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Right from the start though, Brad fails to live up to Captain Blood’s expectations: his compass reading is topsy turvy, sword fights turn him to a quivering, cowering jelly and he takes a terrible tumble landing right in Blood’s bunk.
Begging for a final chance, Brad is presented with a large map and ordered to return with the treasure or walk the plank, so off he rows, fearing for his life. As luck would have it however, he eventually lands up on shore and having found the X begins to dig but …

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Surely our Brad isn’t about to meet his doom? As he keeps saying, “A pirate’s life is not for me,/ I want to drive a digger, see.” Hold on though lad … what did you just say? Off he dashes to the building site.

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But can he persuade those astonished builders to help him out? What do you think? …

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Woolly Wonders and Katie’s Wondrous Starry Night

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A Box of Socks
Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Granny Mutton is knitting again – not a scarf this time but socks – a whole box of them. Little Lionel cannot wait to open the box of delights that is Granny’s container for the woollen gifts she Clickety-click’ creates with her trusty needles. Instead he plays the “What’s in the box … “ guessing game; (now that sounds familiar to me in my foundation stage teacher role) and learns that its contents will keep the feet of his friends horse, duck, dog and mouse cosy and warm.
After a spell spent pairing and labelling said socks, off goes an excited Lionel to deliver them to his pals.

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But disaster strikes in the form of sheepdog, Rocky who zooms past sending the box and its contents whirling skywards – whoopsie! You will guess what happens when Lionel finally retrieves all the socks and labels – labels that have been separated from their sock pairs …
Then it’s a case of Operation Swap Sock until order is finally restored and those stylish socks (and one more pair) duly celebrated.

 

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Part of the enjoyment of this amusing tale is in the anticipation of the sock mix-up and the story is a fantastic starting point for an early years game of sock sorting/matching. (You will need a few pairs of funky socks to play and there are several possibilities for activities, some open-ended, others less so.)
First though, share this super-socky story with your class or group and let them relish the antics portrayed in Calalina Echeverri’s wild and woolly artwork.

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Katie and the Starry Night
James Mayhew
Orchard Books pbk
Katie and her Grandma enjoy visiting art galleries together and on this particular day, the purpose of their visit is to look at some of the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Katie’s favourite is The Starry Night and as Grandma dozes in front of the painting, Katie goes right inside it and catches one of the dazzling stars. Other stars tumble out and follow her as she leaves the picture and moves on visiting

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Vincent’s Chair, Noon, The Olive Grove and Fishing Boats on the Beach each of which becomes part of her magical journey. But she must catch and replace all the stars before the gallery guard discovers their absence. Katie is joined on her journey by the subjects of the other paintings,

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but rest assured, everything and everyone is returned to the rightful place before Grandma stirs from her own dream.
It’s over twenty-five years since James Mayhew first introduced Katie as a means of sharing his enthusiasm for art with children. He has continued to delight countless under eights (and adults) with further Katie books and this one will be no exception. It’s a wonderful way to introduce the work of Van Gogh to a young audience (along with seeing one of the artist’s paintings for real that is) and will surely inspire many of them to try creating their own twirly, starry, skies. There’s even a final page message from Katie to help set those paint tools or fingers a-swirling.
Not to be missed: a classic.

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Bad Behaviour and Good

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Rude Cakes
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books
If you’re looking for a quirky take on manners bad and good, then this entirely crazy confection is certainly one you should bite into. The tale shows what happens when the two-tiered character of the title – a far from sweet, indeed thoroughly ill-mannered, badly behaved object – that bullies and totally disrespects his four-tiered parents is whisked away

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to a place inhabited by Giant Cyclopses and one of their number starts sporting “Rudey” as my audience named him as a ‘jaunty little hat.’

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From upon a Cyclops’ head, the cake discovers a completely new way of being: one where sharing, politeness and respect for one’s elders is the thing and is then returned, a reformed character, to his bedroom safe and altogether sweeter.
Watkins has used watercolours in pastel shades, and delicate lines, to portray his wonderfully silly cakey characters and somehow manages to create sufficient solidity and gravitas in the Cyclopses to give them a powerful presence, a presence that began in the form of a toy stolen from a chocolate cupcake and a poster above the chief protagonist’s bed. (Observant readers will have noticed these.)

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And the moral of the tale? Well, that’s pretty clear but the deliciously playful manner of telling means that there’s no preaching. Rather the whole thing is a cleverly concocted metaphor showing how greater forces for good can prevail.
Would that it were so in our world of conflicts and catastrophes.
Powerful stuff: I wonder what Watkins will cook up next.

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A Gold Star for George
Alice Hemming and Kimberley Scott
Maverick Arts Publishing
I’m not a fan of the rewards and punishments system that is so prevalent in schools but I have to applaud, and wholeheartedly endorse George Giraffe’s endeavours in this story, set in The Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park.
When the notice announcing Heavenly Hippos Gold Star Awards is posted George ponders the possibilities of getting a shiny gold star for that special place on his fence.

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He’s always on hand to assist his pals in their endeavours but could he be a winner? All the other animals have talents to display but George cannot win that category; what about the most stylish animal perhaps? No – that’s goes to the only unadorned of the animals.
It’s a somewhat downhearted George that celebrates his pals’ prizes but goes to sleep without one of his own. What then is that sound he hears on waking … and that bright twinkle? …

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Kindness and consideration win through in this story, which I envisage being shared as a prelude to circle time sessions in early years settings especially. Amusingly expressive illustrations grace every spread and celebrate an endearing character.

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Be the Change/Watch the Change

 

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Bogtrotter
Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell
Walker Books
What is this life, if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare’ said the poet W.H.Davies.
Pretty awful and extremely hectic, and that’s certainly so for the hero of this fantastic philosophical tale.
Bogtrotter lives his life in a gloomy cave in a mushy bog by night, and by day he dashes madly up, down and around the bog. He never questions this monotonous existence although on occasion and without knowing why, he feels bored, lonely and in need of a change.
The catalyst for that change comes in the form of a more radical frog who stops to question Bogtrotter’s unrelentingly dull existence then hops off with an “Ah,” leaving a Bogtrotter in whom a seed of change has already started to take root. Indeed he notices something small and yellow at his feet and …

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That night the flower is clutched tight to Bogtrotter when he goes to sleep and the following day he’s quickly up and off for his morning run but with a friendship forging stop en route. And so it goes on morning after morning, Bogtrotter embracing new experiences but all the while continuing with his same bog-bound running regime.

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Yet something still seems to be missing from this changed existence; what or who might it be?
There follows a timely reappearance of frog. “Do you ever run outside the bog?” he asks and leaves Bogtrotter pondering. Then, responding to the Frog’s question Bogtrotter is off on his run… over, up and over again DSCN4672 (800x600)
and … DSCN4673 (800x600)
I love the author’s contrasting characters – unimaginative, blinkered Bogtrotter and the more divergent thinking frog who does nothing much but pose two questions and respond entirely appropriately “Ah.” to what Bogtrotter replies.(He’d make a good early years teacher, that frog.)
I also love Judith Rossell’s watercolour renditions of those characters in the swampy scenes and the way she has made both Bogtrotter (despite his limited world view)

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and frog so endearing. I just wanted to hug that Bogtrotter tight and give him a few gentle shakes to get him out of his rut.
So much to think about, so much to talk about in this book; but first, share it and enjoy the journey, for that’s really what it is and it’s one I’d wholeheartedly recommend is undertaken by anyone from around four years old onwards.

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Hedgehugs Horace and Hattiepillar
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Marverick Arts Publising pbk
Handstanding Hattie and tree-climbing Horace hedgehogs are almost inseparable friends. One day they discover a tiny, smooth shiny object beneath a leaf; something that turns out to be a stripy and extremely hungry caterpillar. In no time at all it has devoured the leaf and Horace and Hattie have to go in search of fresh food supplies for the constantly growing creature. Until that is, it’s had it’s fill and is ready to pupate.
Then it’s a waiting time for the friends; but eventually they are rewarded with …

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If you want to know what happens when Hattie and Horace follow suit, you might try emulating the caterpillar

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in this sequel from the partnership that gave us the delightful Hedgehugs, find your own copy of this book. And, it would be wonderful to let children bury themselves in a fluffy bed of flowers (unpicked of course) – so long as they don’t get hay fever, that is.

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As in the first story, the richly patterned artwork is charming and may well encourage children to create their own Hattie and Horace collage pictures and perhaps, stories.

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‘Little Pig, Little Pig …’

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The Three Little Pigs
illustrated by Ed Bryan
Nosy Crow
Ed Bryan’s funky illustrations for this somewhat truncated version of the nursery favourite are full of humour. That the third little pig uses a kit to construct his brick house is a source of amusement to young audiences as are the three day-glow colour pots of paint

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he uses to adorn the exterior and it’s good to see evidence of his use of wind power. The Big Bad Wolf is rather a hoot too, sporting red plaid shorts and a baker’s hat. Even so he manages to scare the first and second little pigs as they cower inside the house of sticks before beating a hasty retreat to the safe haven of their brother’s brick house. Soon after, said wolf is huffing and puffing outside with his intention-revealing pie van parked close by;

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however as children relish, it’s not the porcine trio who receive a roasting but …

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One thing though – what is the role of the small rabbit who introduces himself on the title page and makes just one further silent appearance. I was hoping to see this bit-part developed during the course of the book.

There is a companion story, Cinderella,

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published at the same time by Nosy Crow and also illustrated by Ed Bryan.

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The Four Little Pigs
Kimara Nye and Marcin Bruchnalski
Maverick Arts Publishing
Tom’s Granny is a witch (she’s no threat to children I hasten to add) so it’s no surprise that her story sessions have an added touch of magic and when she starts reading him The Three Little Pigs at bedtime, she knows just how to respond to his “I know that story! … It’s boring.” comment.
In a flash Tom himself is cascaded into the tale,

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cast as a fourth pig and off he dashes to warn the three traditional protagonists of their impending doom. In fact he has all manner of tricky plans up his sleeve to outsmart the big bad wolf and protect the trio.
Even when the BBW does gain entry to the brick house, he finds himself face to face with a character who has the nerve to call him a bully. Far from happy at this home truth, he beats a hasty retreat and heads off to participate in an alternative tale leaving the three little pigs to – well we all know that part. And Tom? His choice for Granny Mag’s next bedtime story will definitely be Little Red Riding Hood.
This one went down very well with my audience of fours and fives who were all familiar with the tale’s progenitor and thoroughly enjoyed this twisted version, in particular the sight of the BBW whooshing across the soap-smeared floor.

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and the idea that Tom’s gran could change fairy tales at will – that’s something I suggested they might try for themselves.
Bruchnalski’s bold, bright, broad-brush watercolour illustrations add further new perspectives to the tale.

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Testing Situations with Mouse, Penguin Blue and Rhinoceros

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All Mine
Zehra Hicks
Macmillan Children’s Books
It’s lunch time: Mouse is just about to embark on his cheese sandwich when down swoops Seagull, pinches it,

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flies off and scoffs the lot. Mouse is far from pleased; he reprimands the thief for his bad manners and dashes off in search of something else to eat. Imagine how he feels when down swoops that greedy Seagull again and proceeds to polish off Mouse’s entire packet of crisps.

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The tiny rodent is anything but happy and both he and Seagull are still in need of sustenance. So will Seagull manage to gobble up the delicious looking confection that stops him dead in his tracks? It’s time for Mouse to draw on his resources if he’s to outwit that marauding bird and satisfy his hunger pangs, and that he does very cleverly.
That foxy-looking ‘puppet’ is just great and looks almost exactly the kind of thing young children make from scrap materials.

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That Zahra Hicks uses a stick for painting (combined with photography) to create her illustrations fascinated my audiences. I love her child-like simplicity and the way for instance, she has added the lower jaw to the fox.
A tasty book through and through. Who’s for cake?

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Blown Away
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins pbk
This seemingly simple, perfectly crafted tale is the thoroughly uplifting picture book debut from Art Director of the Observer Magazine, Rob Biddulph. By an interesting co-incidence, my copy arrived in the post on Sakrant, the day of India’s kite flying festival.
Far away in the Antarctic, Penguin Blue is test flying his brand new kite. The wind is particularly strong and before long our supposedly flightless friend finds himself airborne. Penguin pals Jeff and Flo, Wilbur (seal) pegging washing on his clothesline, and Clive, (polar bear) out fishing in his inflatable dinghy, attempt to help

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but they too are swept aloft and way across the ocean until they spy far below,
A tiny island, lush and green/(A colour that they’ve never seen). “The trees look soft, we’ll be all right./Hello jungle! Goodbye kite!” – the author’s rhyme is spot on as well as his design. Down they cascade into a jungly landscape full of friendly animals.

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However, unused to the tropical heat the friends long for home so it’s fortunate that Blue is the creative type. They can make use of the resources to hand and the same element that brought them there: all that’s required is another large gust of wind

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and the travellers are on their way, albeit with a stowaway.
Safely home and a warm welcome, but their visitor finds the climate far from comfortable;

 

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it’s as well then that Blue just happens to have a spare kite …

 

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Preposterous Rhinoceros
Tracy Gunaratnam and Marta Costa
Maverick Arts Publising pbk
The jungle animals are far from happy; King Lion has lost his voice and that means no bedtime story unless they can find another story reader. Rhinoceros is eager to step in; the others doubt his ability but reluctantly agree to let him try. When confronted with a book however, Rhinoceros is stymied; seemingly he’s misunderstood how the reading process works – the words don’t just speak themselves from the page and his key doesn’t unlock that text either. And shaking the book is disastrous.
Off goes Rhino in search of some storytelling advice. Both Drama Llama and Techie Toucan offer useful suggestions “Just open it and dive straight in,” (Llama) and “Just open it and get stuck in,”

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from Techie.
But Rhinoceros takes both literally with disastrous, or rather as Sly Salamander tells him, “preposterous” consequences.

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Nor does her own explanation “… They just need to be READ!” prove any more fruitful. But finally with Salamander’s help,

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Rhinoceros cracks the code and is ready to deliver his first bedtime tale – even though by that time, King Lion’s voice is fully restored.
The interaction of the verbal and visual definitely works well with young audiences. This chain of misunderstandings herein had my listeners, who are themselves learning to read, in fits of giggles
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Family Matters

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15 Things NOT to do with a Baby
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Sibling jealousy (mixed with anticipation, love, anxiety) is a familiar scenario when a new sister or brother arrives in the family, though the topic is anything but new when it comes to picture books. Three that immediately come to mind are The New Small Person by Lauren Child, There’s Going to be a Baby – a collaboration between Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham and the Anholt’s Sophie and the New Baby .
Margaret McAllister takes a humorous approach to what can often be a mixture of strong feelings, presenting – rule-book style – a selection of Don’ts – a delicious mix of flights of fancy

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and some plausible situations.

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These are followed by a series of ‘Do’s culminating in an adorable

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all so beautifully depicted by new picture book illustrator, Holly Sterling whose work I first came across in Over the Hills and Far Away. Her illustrations herein exude both joie de vivre and a strong sense of love and affection. Who can resist smiling at such scenes as the baby planting, for instance?

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This is one loving family realistically portrayed, at a time of big change and emotional upheaval, with an endearing naturalness and modernity.

There’s a broader look at families in:

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Who’s In My Family?
Robie H. Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott
Walker Books pbk
This is essentially an exploration of all manner of families through the speech bubble conversations of brother and sister Gus and Nellie, and a straightforward narrative information text. We join the siblings as they and their parents leave home and visit the zoo where they encounter and discuss a variety of familiies.

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’Some have two mummies. Some have two daddies.’ … ‘Some children live with their mummy part of the time and with their daddy part of the time.’
The whole tone of the book is positive, “FAMILIES LOVE BEING TOGETHER” … ‘But sometimes families have angry times. And sometimes families have unhappy times.
Illustrated in a suitably upbeat, digitally created style, this inclusive book is full of potential for discussion with under sevens,

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ROBOPOP
Alice Hemming and James Lent
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Subtitled ‘A Dad in a Box’, this is an offbeat look at one particular dad, Dylan and Daisy’s who, so they tell him is “not like normal dads,”. Their dad is an inventor and knows nothing about football (my kind of person perhaps?).
Dads don’t come in a box,” he tells them and goes on to prove his point in no uncertain terms by creating a robotic super dad complete with packaging.

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This invention speaks in rhyme and is eager to demonstrate his soccer prowess in the big match

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as well as cooking up a special dinner for football players.
By the end of a very unsatisfactory and exhausting day, Dylan and Daisy have come to an all-important realization about their own father and are more than happy when he makes a timely reappearance.

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Quirky illustrations and opportunities for joining in with the ‘robot speak’ add to the fun.

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Milo & Mucky: In Need of A Friend

 

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The Really Abominable Snowman
Valentina Mendicino
Walker Books
In a high Himalayan cave resides a smallish creature, with a terrible reputation. Milo, for that is the name his mother calls him, spends his time making things, cleaning, bathing and eating, not children but his favourite cherry cupcakes. Sad and lonely, he longs for a friend to share those cupcakes with. Time for a change, he decides. A makeover perhaps?

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Maybe not.
Social media? His tweets are a resounding failure and his foray into Facebook is sadly, a hilarious (for readers) case of misunderstanding.

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Undaunted Milo keeps trying until he comes across an announcement in the paper…
Surely that must be the answer but …
He’s even misunderstood by the Society of Misunderstood Creatures.

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Seemingly Milo is to remain friendless and lonely for ever? But wait; who is that bidding him ‘hello’?

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Could it be that longed for soul mate? Without wanting to spoil the ending, suffice it to say, it’s a victory for the power of cupcakes, and perseverance of course.
Valentina Mendicino’s 3D style, subtly coloured, digitally rendered illustrations convey Milo’s changing feeling and emotions (and those of the minor characters) humorously and touchingly. And there are plenty of amusing domestic details in this unusual story with misunderstandings aplenty, that has at its heart, a search for friendship and happiness. Delicious endpapers too. All in all, a tasty debut.
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Also on the theme of friendship is

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I Wish I’d Been Born a Unicorn
Rachel Lyon and Andrea Ringli
Maverick Arts Publishing
Mucky the horse has become somewhat malodorous on account of his dirty habits so the other animals avoid him. If only I’d been a unicorn, he wishes, then others might like me more. His wish is overheard by Owl who sagely tells him that true friends are concerned with feelings, not looks. He offers to help nonetheless and flies off to find the resources to make Mucky into a unicorn. The cows give him milk for the whiteness, which Frog obligingly churns, then he heads off to the beach in search of a pointy shell to serve as the horn. After a night’s work, Mucky has been transformed and is presented to his would-be friends.

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All appears to be going well until a big black cloud appears overhead. Oh-oh …
Will the other animals think less of him without his milky white coat or will Mucky realize that friendship awaits right under his brown nose?
Told in jaunty rhyme, the delightfully expressive, digitally rendered illustrations add much to this story. Those flies hovering around the whiffy Mucky are just one example of the visual humour

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and I love the idea of Frog churning the milk by swimming around in it.
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Fussy Animals – Rita’s Rhino and Alfie’s Yak

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Rita’s Rhino
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Young Rita decides to take things into her own hands when the pets she is offered by relations prove a big let down. Off she goes to the zoo and there offers a home to a rhinoceros no less. Having suitably disguised said animal, the pair depart

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for Rita’s residence. However it’s pretty tricky hiding a large animal in a small flat especially an upstairs one and the creature proves to be a very fussy eater – no toast, only very expensive African grass will do for him.
It’s not just his sheer size or his diet that present problems for Rita; his piles of poo are pretty tricky to hide too.

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Neither side is satisfied seemingly – lifts are not the rhino’s thing and he misses his comfy bed.
And then, Rita takes her pet to school, securing him belly up by the horn in the playground and informing the teacher that he’s a bouncy castle not a rhinoceros.
Imagine the children’s reaction; out they dash for a spot of bouncing

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and that is the beginning of the end. Off back to the zoo goes the rhino leaving a sad Rita who, from then on, has to be content with annual seaside visits with her erstwhile house pet.

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The perfect combination of understated text and brilliantly comic, droll illustrations work in absolute harmony in Ross’s wry take on pet ownership.
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While on the subject of picky animals there’s another one in this story:

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YUCK! Said the Yack
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
The young host in this amusing book also offers his visitor toast (with jam not marmalade though) and receives an unequivocal YUCK! Poor long-suffering Alfie gets the same answer in response to his offers of freshly picked apples,

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eggs, peas, cheese and even strawberry jelly and chocolate ice-cream. So he tries his hand at baking a delicious-looking cake but this meets with an even stronger reaction.

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Poor Alfie is beside himself “I GIVE UP!” he yells and then his visitor explains… “yaks like grass!” and offers Alfie a taste of this yummy fare. No prizes for guessing what Alfie replies …
Young audiences relish the opportunity to shout YUCK at almost every turn of the page of this short, enjoyable story and be amused by Emma Levey’s hilarious, wonderfully expressive portrayal of the fussy eater and his despairing host.
With its easy to read, rhyming text printed in large type, this is a book learner readers can enjoy for themselves after an initial read aloud from an adult.
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Grans are Great

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How to Hide a Lion from Grandma
Helen Stephens
Alison Green Books
In this follow up to How to Hide a Lion, Iris has a tricky problem: where to secrete her leonine companion when her parents go away and her Grandma comes to stay. When she duly arrives, Grandma brings an enormous box, so heavy that it’s a real struggle to carry it up the stairs: those hats and bits and bobs must be very heavy ones think her parents as they heave it to gran’s room just before they leave. Seemingly though Iris’s worries are unfounded: her Grandma is so short-sighted she mistakes the lion for all manner of household items from a lamp to a sofa

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and she doesn’t even notice when he accompanies them to the supermarket. So why is she buying such vast quantities of milk, bananas, peanut butter and honey (clue here)? Supposedly Grandma suffers from night time hunger pangs. Why too does she ignore Iris’s pleas to play dressing up with the contents of her trunk?
If you haven’t met Iris in How to Hide a Lion, then do make her acquaintance now; she’s a delightful character. So too is her Grandma – a really endearing, fun-loving person and just right for Iris.
With a slightly retro feel, and rendered in a somewhat subdued palette, Helen Stephens’ illustrations have an old-fashioned charm and are suffused with a gentle humour.
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There’s another funky Grandma in:

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How to Babysit a Grandma
Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Young babysitters like the little girl narrator of this companion to How to Babysit a Grandad know just how to keep a Grandma happy when it’s a sleepover at her house. The recipe is pretty much the same as before, much of the information being offered in the form of lists with vital tips on such things as how to say a silent I love you and how to make shadow foxes kiss goodnight at bedtime.
With a mix of full-page illustrations and smaller vignettes, there is much to feast the eyes on: some spreads are choc full of busy details such as the shoe shop

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and decorated gran scenes, (did I catch a glimpse of Grandad and his charge in the park pictures?) Others offer space for a more reflective lingering look like that of gazing at the first star of the evening.

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Just the thing for Grandmas to share with their charges and vice versa, especially when called upon to babysit.
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A Scarf and a Half
Amanda Brandon and Cataline Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Granny Mutton just loves to knit so when Little Lionel’s birthday draws near she starts making him a rainbow scarf. The only trouble is, she doesn’t know when to stop so it just gets longer and longer and longer … Having completed said scarf, she rolls it up, makes a parcel and gives it to her grandson. Excitedly, Little Lionel looks at its bulgy shape and convinced his present is a football, anticipates the fun he’ll have with his friends. Imagine his disappointment on discovering the contents of his parcel: off he goes looking decidedly bundled up and before long convinced that “… you can’t have a laugh with a scarf” abandons his useless gift. However his friends have more imagination and it’s not long before said article is being put to good use for all manner of fun activities for, as his friends all tell him, “That’s not a scarf, that’s a scarf and a half!” His Granny’s pretty cool too.
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Conflict and Resolution

 

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Nina loves the idea of odd socks

Two Giants
Michael Foreman
Walker Books
How wonderful to see that Walker Books have brought back a Foreman story first published in the 1960s – one of his very early titles.
We meet two giants, great friends who live in a beautiful country where they make the birds sing and some even nest in their beards. Friends, that is, until one day they discover a pink shell and then oh dear, both want it for personal decoration. There follows a huge falling out,

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stones are thrown, a flood comes and the giants find themselves on opposite sides of a cold sea. In a continuous winter, the fight carries on; rocks are hurled, each giant scoring multiple hits and all the while their anger is growing. The thrown rocks become stepping stones for Sam, armed with huge club, to visit a sleeping Boris. Boris however wakes and a world shaking, club-waving charge takes place.
Just in time though the two notice their footwear (muddled in the scramble to escape the flood) and standing stock still, remember the old days of friendship but not what the fight was about.

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Time for a reconciliation … clubs tossed aside, the giants return to their islands, the sea recedes, wild life returns and before long all that separates the two mountains is a beautiful tree-filled valley where the seasons come and go once more and peace and harmony reigns. Guess what the friends now do as a reminder, no matter what …

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It’s interesting to see how Foreman’s style has evolved over the years. For this gently humorous fable he has used paint and torn or cut paper collage to build up the scenes.
A book that is likely to appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous, particularly those, and I do know some, who like to wear odd socks.
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There is arguing too in this Hueys story newly out in paperback:

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The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
The usually peaceable Hueys are having an argument; what is it all about? One of their number, Gillespie wants to know but his question merely provokes further squabbling among the others. He asks again, “What ARE you fighting about?” Hmm – good question but can they come up with an answer?

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Maybe distraction is a better form of conflict resolution in this situation …

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oh have we come full circle here? Bzzz…
You need to start reading this hilarious book before the title page where the cause of the argument is visible; thereafter it becomes transformed into a bird, a flying teacup, a winged horse, even a flying elephant as the squabble escalates until Gillespie steps in and points out something that is lying lifeless on the floor.
Simple but certainly not simplistic is the manner in which Jeffers has depicted the Hueys and their trouble. The course of the argument is presented in speech bubbles and shown contained within a cloud above the Hueys’ heads

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– very clever and a highly effective means of representation.
Assuredly one to have on the family or classroom bookshelf for those inevitable times of conflict, although once read it will quickly become an oft requested,
any time story.
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Cantankerous King Colin
Phil Allcock and Steve Stone
Maverick arts publishing
When King Colin wakes up feeling cantankerous he finds himself getting into all manner of minor conflicts with his wife Queen Christine.

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Rosa and Nina sharing in King Colin’s cantankerous behaviour

She tries ruling against eating a ‘yucky and mucky’ breakfast, his refusal to wash his hands after using the loo, and his wearing of a shirt stinking of the previous night’s dinner.
Every time Queen Caroline said, “You can’t …”, King Colin’s response was the same: “I can,” and of course, because he was king, he could and he did. Hmm…silly, dirty, smelly King Colin. A sulky Colin decides to go for a horse ride. Imagine his displeasure then when he discovers his favourite horse, Pink Nose unsaddled.
More conflicts ensue during the ride and a furious Colin returns to the palace where, you’ve guessed it, he causes more upsets

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until his roars of “I can!” are overheard by somebody who has the power to overrule our grumpy, crazy, lazy naughty monarch; it’s none other than Great Queen Connie. Guess where she sends her badly behaved son.
A humorous story illustrated in cartoon style with appropriately garish colours to match Colin’s over-the-top character and told through a patterned text; children will relish Colin’s somewhat disgusting habits and enjoy joining in with the Queen’s ‘ You can’ts ’ and the oft repeated, ‘ “I can,” said King Colin … because he was king.’ They could also offer suggestions as to how the king could mend his undesirable ways and present them in poster form perhaps.
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Bedtime Bookshelf

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Zoom Zoom Zoom
Katherina Manolessou
Macmillan Children’s Books
Unable to sleep in their jungly environment, Bird and Monkey fly off, Zoom Zoom Zoom on a night-time lunar excursion. Their landing brings them face to face with a friendly alien who invites them aboard his spaceship. On the way they count five glowing orange meteors, four pink alien arms, join in a race of three green moon buggies,

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climb two yellow ladders and press one red button on the spaceship to blast them off back home to earth and finally, to sleep.
Taking a popular children’s song as her starting point Katerina Manolessou has created a glowing debut picture book. With its combination of superb design, arresting screen printed illustrations in vibrant colours, endearing characters, counting opportunities and a well-loved song, this is sure to become a firm favourite with early years audiences as well as parents and youngsters at bedtime.
I look forward to seeing more from this promising artist.
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Bing Bed Time
Ted Dewan
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Toddler bedtime Bing style is going fairly smoothly despite some inevitable procrastinations. With potty time postponed,

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teeth brushed and bath time over, it’s time to get into some pyjamas. choose a story and snuggle up with Flop. But where is Flop? Under the covers? Playing hide and seek? Outside in the dark even? Nope. Bing is distraught but what’s that protruding from under the bed?
With the pair safely tucked in, it’s time to turn out the big light. But now, where is Bing? – back on his potty to do the necessary – all by himself. Finally both Bing and Flop are safely snuggled up and sound asleep.
First published over a decade ago, this reissue is sure to delight a new generation of tinies who will be entertained by the endearing Bing and his every day activities. Dewan’s bold, bright, uncluttered illustrations are immediately engaging and have sufficient detail to hold the attention of the very young.
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Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard
Steve Cole and Bruce Ingman
Jonathan Cape pbk
The New Babysitter is having a very hard time with Joe and Ellie who simply refuse to stay in bed for more than a few minutes.She threatens all manner of things such as the sleep ray zapping robot and the toy-munching monster but the children merely laugh. Refusing to be beaten however, the babysitter has one final weapon in her armoury. Could she, would she, should she let that leopard loose? Maybe not, but GROWL… Oh! What’s that cuddly, snuggly sleep-inducing sweetie doing in the bedroom… Snore… silence.
No doubt every parent and babysitter would welcome a leopard like the one in Cole and Ingman’s amusing tale with its satisfying, somewhat surprising ending. Ingman’s illustrations have a slightly retro feel to them. His seemingly flattened images, especially of the characters, bring to mind the cut out paper people that children love to create and play with in their own stories.

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It is this child-like innocence that make his work such a delight.
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Princess Stay Awake
Giles Paley-Phillips and Adriana J. Puglisi
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
No matter what her parents do, feisty young Princess Layla just refuses to go to sleep. They call in all manner of people to help but none can send her off to the land of nod and neither can the new, specially made, extra snug bed. Indeed it has the opposite effect making a splendid launch pad for all manner of leaping and bouncing activities.

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Thoroughly exhausted, the Queen and King decide to call upon Grandma for assistance. Her tactics are somewhat different; she requests that Layla stays awake. Confusing for Princess Stay Awake perhaps, but what is that we see? Droopy eyelids and floppy limbs, aaahhh… Grandmas do know best.
Perhaps bedtime isn’t the best time to share Paley-Phillips jaunty rhyming story with youngsters; they may well decide to try some of Princess Layla’s delaying mischief.
Puglisi’s bright, jolly pictures are sure to bring a smile to young stay awakes (and there are plenty of those); how angelic that princess looks as she proceeds to exhaust all those called in to tire her out.
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So Cosy
Lerryn Korda
Walker Books
A snuggle cumulative style begins when Dog curls up in his comfy basket. Before long he has been joined by Goose, Cat, several rabbits, a Mummy Bear and her baby, Goat, Snake and even Elephant all wanting to cosy up. Contentment reigns supreme but then patter, patter, patter, along Mouse comes with his tickly feet onto the tip of Elephant’s trunk. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA … ”

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The enormous sneeze sends the animals tumbling leaving the basket to its rightful owner and just one very small visitor really cosy.
Perfectly pitched for the very young. An absolute delight: simply irresistible.
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Ten Monsters in the Bed
Katie Cotton and Aaron Bleecha
Templar Publishing
‘ TEN NOISY MONSTERS
Were tucked up face-to-face.
We’re really very squashed,” they said.
“We need a bit more space.” ‘
So begins a wonderfully anarchic version of the monster countdown rhyme wherein we encounter a snoring Sleepy, a burping Belchy, a screaming Scaredy, a snot dripping Sneezy, a scratchy flea-ridden Itchy, a snack munching Greedy, a Hiccupy, a dribbling Slurpy, a room-shaking Farty and a boinging, bouncing Giggly as each is jettisoned from the top bunk.

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But, by the time they are all piled up on top of one another on the floor, the squash is  worse than ever. All this action creates havoc for the long-suffering solo occupant of the lower bunk who is forced to give up his bedtime reading and take shelter under the bedclothes.
I’d strongly advise you not to read this at bedtime as an initial sharing is certain to result in repeated demands of ‘read it again’. You could well be there for some time especially as the noises generated by the invitation to press each evicted monster’s white button results in an appropriate sound and further hilarity. A sure fire winner!

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Dylan is disgusted by the yucky monsters

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Love is in the Air

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Foxy in Love
Emma Dodd
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Emily is making a Valentine’s card but is unsure about what to draw. Along comes Foxy to her aid. “What do you love best of all?” he asks her. With some timely flicks of his magic bushy tail, misinterpretations not withstanding, he goes on to help her create an almost perfect card. But, there still seems to be something missing; just what can that vital ingredient be?

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Time for further thinking. Foxy has something very important to explain to Emily: Valentine’s Day isn’t about WHAT one loves but WHOM. So who is the object of Emily’s affections? Foxy, of course! And moreover, the feeling is mutual.
Emma Dodd has created a pair of adorable characters in Emily and Foxy. This, the second story about the duo should mean that they make a whole lot of new friends among readers meeting them for the first time as well as pleasing those who have already made their acquaintance.
Perfect for sharing with loved ones around Valentine’s Day, or any other time for that matter.
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Bear in Love
Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand
Walker Books pbk
Bear is puzzled. One morning when he wakes up he discovers a tasty carrot has been left at the entrance to his cave.

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The following day there are two, the next day, three and then on the fourth day, a whole bunch. “Someone must like me,” thinks the bear to himself singing happily. He decides to reciprocate the kindness of his mystery friend and leaves an offering at the mouth of his cave in return, determining to see who comes. Having gorged himself however, the bear falls fast asleep and wakes to discover a new offering. This exchange of edible treats goes on for several nights until finally the bear discovers the identity of his secret friend. Although it’s something of a surprise for the bear, young children will probably have guessed the identity of mystery friend long before bear discovers it.
Pinkwater has penned a sweet, gentle story about a large bear, endearingly portrayed through Hillenbrand’s lovely mixed media illustrations rendered predominantly in soft shades of greens, browns, greys and blues. In fact both characters are totally huggable.
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Dinosaur Kisses
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
Newly hatched, Dinah dinosaur is full of the joys of just being alive in a world with so much to see and do. Eager to be part of everything she tries stomping and then chomping. But having seen kissing, that’s next on her agenda; the trouble is, finding a suitable subject for her kisses. That’s altogether more tricky as she soon learns … WHOMP! CHOMP! STOMP! Best intentions notwithstanding, several mishaps and some thinking time later, Dinah finally discovers her perfect kissing partner. Hmm, maybe.

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Wonderfully expressive crayon and watercolour pictures, smatterings of onomatopoeia, the surprise ending, and the anarchic dino siblings are just some of the ingredients of this hilarious romp.
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Paul Meets Bernadette
Rosy Lamb
Walker Books
Goldfish, Paul, spends all his time swimming round and round in his bowl, until one day, Bernadette drops in. She introduces him to the world outside and encourages him to look beyond the glass and think about what he sees. The yellow object on the plate (banana) “is a boat!” she tells him and the blue teapot “is an elephant.” … “But you must not disturb her when she is feeding her babies.

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This gently humorous (goldfish style romance) book demonstrates how life changes when that special one comes along to expand your vision, altering the way you see things
Rosy Lamb illustrates her goldfish romance with thick brushstrokes and daubs, dropping the goldfish bowl, bubble-like, to take centre stage on the spread, or seemingly floating among the other everyday items.
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The Driftwood Ball
Thomas Docherty
Templar Publishing pbk
George is a badger; Celia is an otter. They live with their respective families , Celia in the sea, George in the forest beside it. The two families have poor opinions of one another, all except George and Celia that is. Surprisingly though both badgers and otters have something in common; they love to dance albeit with distinctive styles. Not so George and Celia, theirs are a fusion of badger and otter steps. When the annual Driftwood ball draws close, all the animals set their sights on the trophy awarded to best dancer, practising their moves hard. Tired of the constant shimmying and jigging, Celia and George find themselves face to face on the seashore and it’s a case of love at first sight. At the ball next day with the dance in full swing, there are suddenly just two dancers moving, dancing paw in paw what’s more;

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and theirs is a transformative dance in more ways than one.
The joys of dancing are eloquently expressed in Thomas Docherty’s finely drawn ink and watercolour illustrations. These are infused with a gentle humour and the variety of expressions he manages to create on the animals’ faces is remarkable.
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The Perfect Hug
Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot
Simon and Schuster (board book edition)
There are hugs for wrigglers and hugs for gigglers. Hugs that are tickly, and hugs that are prickly … ‘ In fact there are so many different hugs little panda hasn’t managed to find one that is just right for him so he sets out to look. Having searched over land and under sea,

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out in space even, back he comes to find the perfect hug waiting right where he started.
I’d like to think, indeed I’m trusting, that the perfection is not because the embrace is given by one of his own kind but because he is returning another’s hug. You could initiate a discussion about this with young children.
Circle time is a great time for sharing and passing round a hug and this rhyming book with its cute pastel pictures could be a suitable starting point for nursery settings.
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Hedgehugs
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk.
Best friends Hattie and Horace hedgehog have a thorny problem, or should we say, a hugging problem. No matter what they try they just cannot manage to give each other a hug.

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Then one sunny day they come upon a washing basket filled with odd-looking items including a soft thing with a tunnel- like entrance. With a bit of wriggling and jiggling, Horace manages to poke his arms through and after further nibbling out pops his face. Hattie is inspired and makes herself a similar shaped, prickle-covering garment. After that it’s a case of no holds barred and moreover, we now all know the reason for those odd socks that never seem to have a pair no matter how hard we search.
This is the first picture book collaboration from author/artist partnership Wilson and Tapper and a promising one it is. Patterns abound in the bright, fresh illustrations and the hedgehogs, with their problem solving ideas, are an endearing pair. I wonder whether the characters might be further developed into a mini series for the very youngest.
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Don’t forget International Book Giving Day:

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