Tag Archives: Michelle Robinson

It’s Time For School

               Here’s a handful of picture books, each with a school setting, albeit a somewhat unlikely one in the first three.

First Day at Skeleton School
Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Following on from First Day at Bug School, Sam Lloyd moves deep into the dark forest for her new school-based offering. (Some of my listeners recognised the illustrative style having spotted it on my table and eagerly pounced on the book demanding an immediate reading.)
Skeleton School doesn’t restrict its intake to skeletons though; all manner of creepy pupils are to be found here in this night-time educational establishment run by one, Mr Bones who stands ready and waiting to welcome newcomers (and readers).
I’m happy to see that there’s a school library, albeit a haunted one; but at least one of the pupils needs to learn some appropriate behaviour – maybe she just hasn’t learned to read yet.
The curriculum includes a jingle jangle dance class with the skeletons, how to float through walls, ghost style and spell making, which has some surprising outcomes, not least for Mr Bones.

Sam Lloyd gives full rein to her imagination and in addition to the zany storyline delivered in her rhyming text, provides a visual extravaganza for young listeners to explore and chuckle over.
The endpapers cutaway spread of the school interior will definitely illicit lots of giggles not least over the toilet humour.


More crazy happenings in:

School for Little Monsters
Michelle Robinson and Sarah Horne
Scholastic
Side by side stand two schools, one for monsters, the other for ‘nice boys and girls’. The question is which one is which? And if it’s your first day, how do you know you’re in the right school, especially when some little monsters have been up to a spot of mischief making?
No matter which door you enter, there are some rules to abide by – fourteen in all;

and the whole day is assuredly, a steep learning curve for both human and monster newcomers; and has more than a sprinkling of the kind of gently subversive humour (bums, poo, trumps and bottoms) that young children relish.
Riotous scenes from Sarah Horne showing the pupils’ interpretations of Michelle Robinson’s rhyming rules in this read aloud romp.

Old friends return in:

Cat Learns to Listen at Moonlight School
Simon Puttock and Ali Pye
Nosy Crow
Cat, Bat, Owl and Mouse are not newcomers to Miss Moon’s Moonlight School; they already know about the importance of sharing; but listening? Certainly Cat still has a lot to learn where this vital skill is concerned.
On this particular night Miss Moon is taking her class on a nature walk to look for ‘interesting things’. She issues instructions for the pupils to walk in twos and to stay together. “Nobody must wander off,” she warns.
Before long, it becomes apparent that Cat has done just that. She’s spied a firefly and follows it until it settles far from the others, on a flower.

Suddenly though her delight gives way to panic: where are her classmates and teacher?
All ends happily with Cat’s friends using their observation skills until they’ve tracked her down; and the importance of listening having been impressed upon Cat once again, they return to school with their findings.
Ali Pye’s digital illustrations are full of shadows brightened by the moon and stars and Miss Moon’s lantern, illuminating for listeners and readers, the delightful details of the natural world on every spread.
Puttock and Pye seem to have a winning formula here: my young listeners immediately recognised the characters and responded enthusiastically to the sweet story.

Now back to reality:

Going to School
Rose Blake
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The pupil here is a girl, Rose, who shares with readers a very busy day spent with friends in their primary school class. There’s certainly a lot to pack in for our narrator, her classmates and their teacher, Miss Balmer: geography, art, English, maths, PE, science, computing and drama.
Fortunately though, it appears to be an active curriculum …

and Miss Balmer reads a story to the children in the “Book Nook’. Hurray!
Seemingly all of the children have firm ideas about their future paths and what they want to become. This is reflected in their choice of activities at work and play: visual clues as to what these are occur throughout the book.
Rose Blakes’s digitally worked spreads are full of visual narratives offering much to interest and discuss, and though this certainly isn’t a first ever day at school book, she certainly makes school look an exciting place to be.

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The Hat that Zack Loves

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

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

then leaps into a boat in pursuit of his titfa.

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

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

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Have You Seen My Giraffe?

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

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

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

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

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Daisy Doodles / Ella Who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicken Nugget in Scrambled Egg

 

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

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

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

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

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Monkey’s Sandwich

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Monkey’s Sandwich
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What is your favourite kind of sandwich? I think mine would have to be roast vegetables and hummus, or maybe goat’s cheese and tomato; it all depends in part on how I’m feeling. I certainly wouldn’t relish the crisps, Nutella, bhuja and banana variety one of my teenage friends loves to make for breakfast when home on holiday from her boarding school. Nor would I bother with butter, which is the first thing Monkey helps himself to when he visits still-sleeping Yak’s abode in search of something to fill his rumbling tum very early one morning before the shops are open.
Almost inevitably though, he deems plain old bread and butter boring so off he goes again, helping himself this time to a wedge of slumbering Mouse’s cheese – he does have the courtesy to leave him a “Thank You” note though.

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Monkey cannot quite stop himself from adding cucumber, custard and a whole lot of other tasty items to his stack

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Jellybeans, chocolate spread and mustard from Flamingo …

until his sandwich is positively towering but even then he just doesn’t seem satisfied. Who actually eats this monstrous repast though? That is the all-important question …

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Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox have assuredly concocted an offering to be relished with their toothsome tale of monkey’s mischievous marauding. Michelle’s text is a treat to get your tongue around and Emily’s comical scenes of the cheeky creature helping himself to all those tidbits are to be sure, saporous.
I suspect, like me, you’ll have your audience calling for second and third helpings after a sharing of this one.

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Magical Journeys of the Night

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Before I Wake Up …
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel Publishing
As she sails away on a flying bed, a little girl narrator takes readers on her dream journey into the glowing moonlit world and, pausing first to take on board her lion friend, into her imaginary ‘world without end’. Cares and worries are left far behind as – child enfolded in Lion’s strong arms – they weather storms …

 

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then rock gently on calmer waters. Leaving Lion aboard the boat, the little girl swims with whales and other marine animals …

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and then the two are transported into a wood dark and deep – a wood full of wild creatures that wander free …

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creatures that present no danger to the narrator. For with her protective lion always close at hand, she feels fearless and longs to remain in the murky world on the shadowy forest. But as morning light begins to show, it’s time to flee from dark and move into the bright of day’s dawn; time to bid a fond farewell to her furry nocturnal friend, safe in the knowledge that after another day, his arms will always be there waiting to welcome her once more.

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I’ve long been a fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work but this one might just be my favourite. Imagined worlds are conjured into being in her wondrous dreamy scenes rendered in a glowing collage style that is densely layered and alternates between rich earthy hues …

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and more subdued ones.
Share this one at bedtime, morning time, any time, but share it you must, it’s a real beauty.

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Goodnight Spaceman
Michelle Robinson and Nick East
Puffin Books
It’s bedtime and we join two small child narrators as they bid goodnight to the various items in their small world space set,

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putting them carefully into the toy box at the end of the day. Then having also bid goodnight to their father’s rocket ship deep in space, the children embark on an imaginary flight far out into the darkest world of outer space. There, they rendezvous with the space station –

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meet the crew …

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and with their dad, enjoy a space walk addressing the extra terrestrial sights as they go. ‘Goodnight Neptune. Goodnight Venus. Goodnight light years in between us. Rocket ships and shooting stars. Saturn, Mercury and Mars.’
All too soon though, it’s time to return to earth and snuggle down in their cosy beds with thoughts of their spaceman dad ever in their minds.
Inspired by the mission of British astronaut Tim Peake, who himself has two young sons, this lyrical space odyssey will delight young listeners around the age of the two protagonists who will revel in the adventure at bedtime or anytime. In all my years of teaching young children I’ve not come across many who do not take delight in space stories and play with small world space theme toys. Let’s hope that this book will, as Tim Peake suggests in his introductory letter to readers, ‘inspire a new generation of boys and girls to look up at the stars and not just ask questions but to go there and seek answers of their own.’ Nick East’s dramatic illustrations should certainly go some way to fuelling that inspiration and their imaginations.

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Potties and Pyjamas

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Skip to the Loo, My Darling!
Sally Lloyd-Jones and Anita Jeram
Walker Books
If you’re looking for a ‘potty’ book then look no further; this one’s a cracker.
I have to admit though, I thought the agitated-looking bunny pressing his paws down hard on the balloon on that first spread was attempting to change its shape so he could wee into it. But how wrong was I; he just picks up the string and leads the line of small – and not so small – animals skipping to the loo.

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Close behind come drumming pup, bouncy Kangaroo (he’s hitching a lift in mum’s pouch), a dodo – yes really, a friendly frog,

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piglets, an elephant, and a whole host of others …
And seemingly the whole lot of them are in urgent need by the time they reach the venue

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but it looks like they’ve all made it – just in time, PHEW! Now there’s just one guest missing at that potty party …

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An inset mirror invites readers – the toddler variety I hasten to add – to participate and do as the text suggests, ‘Come on, /come, my darling!/ You come, too!
Anita Jeram’s delectably exuberant watercolour illustrations perfectly capture the upbeat mood of the rhyming text making the whole potty experience something everyone wants a part of.

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Elephant’s Pyjamas
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
When Elephant receives an email inviting him to a pyjama party he’s delighted but then he discovers that his pals all have seemingly perfect pjs,

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whereas his night attire looks decidedly past its best. Taking Llama’s “Just go shopping!” advice, Elephant heads into town but no matter how hard he tries, it seems nothing is quite right for such a large animal.
There’s only one thing for it, our pachyderm must turn down the invitation after all – and, he does.
His friends however, won’t take no for an answer and straightaway operation pyjamas is put into action and come Saturday night when Elephant sits sadly at home,

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there’s a ring on his doorbell …
With Elephant and his friends communicating on line via ZOOGLE, this amusing book is definitely a 21st century story. I love the way Elephant becomes a divergent thinker when he ‘shops around’ for suitable party wear.

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That spread in particular appealed to this reviewer and the audience I shared it with.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting
Michelle Robinson and David Roberts
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
2016 looks set to be the Year of the Bear so far as picture books go anyway (I’m counting in the Gough/Field offering here). And now here we have an achingly rib-tickling treat from Robinson and Roberts who just want to make sure we’re all fully informed before going on a bear hunt, so to speak. I have to say here at the outset, that bear country itself looks pretty hostile and that’s even without a single bear sighting …

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Oh I tell a lie – our intrepid ursine explorer has something looking distinctly bear-shaped attached to his luggage.
Right then, on with the show: there’s the black bear (aka Ursus Americanus) and the brown bear (Ursus Horibilis), both of which can be highly dangerous and not at all averse to gobbling you up. Sometimes however, their coats might just show a touch of otherness. so it’s important to keep your wits about you at all times. Now, which kind could this little – oops! I mean large- beauty be?

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Did I hear you say, “back away” just then; well that advice doesn’t seem to have been altogether reliable in the circumstances …

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And nor does the pepper spray, so what about the bubble gum??

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Oh well, at least that bought a bit of time but now desperate measures are called for…

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Hmm seems this might just be going to work …

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Errr! Or should that be, Grrr!?
I’m totally bearsotted with this one and it certainly takes field notes to a whole different level.

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Odd Socks

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Odd Socks
Michelle Robinson and Rebecca Ashdown
Andersen Press
Meet Suki and Sosh as unlikely a pair of storybook characters as you can imagine, new socks, perfectly matched and totally besotted with one another. They love their life too as they fit into jellies, wellies, the washing machine of course and naturally they just love hanging out together.

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Perhaps best of all though is when, at the end of a day, they’re snuggled up together in the dark drawer and that’s when Suki might be heard to utter, “Just you and me, darling, we never will part. Your threads are entwined in my warm, woolly heart.” Ahhh!

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Life continues in this blissful fashion until the dreadful day when their whole togetherness is threatened by Sosh’s discovery of a tiny hole in Suki’s big toe. And we all know what happens to a small sock hole – it just gets bigger and bigger …
You’re done for … bound for the bin,” asserts the bullying Big Bob, a moany character if ever there was one but Sosh is having none of it. “Chuck a super sock? They wouldn’t dare.” he reassures her.

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Come evening however, Sosh is without his partner in that drawer they shared and so begins a desperate search for his sole mate and he’s prepared to risk heel and toe to find her.

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So is that the end for the devoted pair?
Well, not quite; seems they’ve both undergone a reincarnation and have a new home to boot …

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This crazy rhyming tale is jauntily told in an appropriately melodramatic manner by Michelle Robinson who seems to have found the perfect illustrative partner in Rebecca Ashdown. Those woolly warmers of hers are certainly ones that make you want to snuggle into them. Great fun for a chilly, wintery day.

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Unexpected Arrivals

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George and the Dinosaur
Felix Hayes and Sue Heap
Brubaker, Ford and Friends (Templar)
When George’s passion for excavation results in his unearthing a dinosaur egg, little does he know that its contents – a perfect creature no less – will have such a voracious appetite. Insatiable in fact, for not only does it consume the furniture, TV, fridge and everything inside, down goes a garden tree, the paddling pool, even the tiny mouse in George’s care belonging to Class 2. From then on things go from bad to worse: the dino. swallows both George’s parents, two sweet old ladies, cars and larger vehicles – quite literally everything. Finally only George remains; so what does the dinosaur do? Well, it opens those terrible jaws and SNAP!
Of course we all know what happens when a digestive system gets over-loaded; it makes lots of gas and …

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Moving in and out of rhyme, the text reads aloud beautifully as one would expect – it’s written by Gruffalo actor Felix Hayes and he should know.
But, when he cleans his treasure he finds …
the gems are stones, dirt and dust.
The sword is a spoon all covered in rust.
The leg is a root, cracked and dried.
But the egg’s still an egg
With something inside.
George puts the egg in the cupboard under the stairs.

Sue Heap’s mixed media illustrations are full of amusing details and show much more than is said in the words:
Young audiences will particularly enjoy spotting the whereabouts of the items burped out by the dinosaur on the final spread; and Hayes’ final sentence leaves space for children’s own flights of fancy.
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What Makes a Hippopotamus Smile!
Sean Taylor and Laurent Cardon
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
It’s not every day that a hippo comes to visit but when one does – or should that be, if, then take the advice of the small girl narrator of this funny picture book. Open wide the door,

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play a splashy-sploshy game, then give him a warm bath with silly toys thrown in to make him laugh, after which you should share a very large crunchy salad, freshly harvested, naturally. Oh, and make sure when it’s time to bid your new best friend farewell that you do so in style – a little dance might be appropriate. That’s if you want him to come again, of course. Err …

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It’s all in the interplay of Sean Taylor’s playful words (which sometimes rhyme) and the comical scenes created by Laurent Cardon using mixed ink techniques and digital art. Herein, it’s the antics of the bit players, largely froggy,

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as much as the hippo’s (mis)behaviour that make the scenes so amusing. Then, there’s that almost throwaway last line and don’t forget to take a look at the endpapers with those telltale footprints too.
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Gracie is amused at the animals’ antics

There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes
Michelle Robinson and Jim Field
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk.
Just like many children, Eric, the narrator of this story and his brother Dan have been saving cereal box coupons for a free gift; here ‘it’s a ‘Free Lion’ on offer. They’d bought so many boxes of cornflakes it took a year’s pocket money to pay for them and forever to cut out the hundred coupons needed. With said coupons duly sent off, the children wait, anticipating the fun they’ll have with the lion.

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A week later nothing has arrived although numerous others have their lions – real ones. Monday comes again and with it a delivery truck. Out steps – wait for it – a huge grizzly bear, the only trouble being it’s sent next door in error; well not quite the only trouble: Mr Harper’s back yard is trashed too.

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Complaints are made and the animal replaced but, not with a lion (they’d run out of those) but a crocodile. More complaints … another replacement animal  …

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a face to face encounter with the cereal people … compensation of the packet kind … furious children’s faces … some serious thinking …

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Mmm yes, the alternatives do have their advantages and after all, lions are just so common nowadays.
Well what about the next offer then? Err
This totally crazy tale, which brings together for the first time the talents of Michelle Robinson and Jim Field, is a joy to read aloud. The former has caught the conversational style of a young boy narrator beautifully. The latter’s wildly energetic illustrations are crammed full of delicious details to pore and giggle over.
Definitely destined to become a story time favourite.
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Upside Down Babies
Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press pbk
There is a wonderful, surprise twist at the end of this funny rhyming tale of a world turned upside down when ‘the earth went blue and the sky went brown.’ On this fateful topsy-turvy day, all the baby animals find themselves with the wrong mums. What is Mummy Cow to do when confronted with a Lion Cub demanding meat in the middle of a field?

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And baby Rooster’s dawn greeting of “Cock-a doodle-dee!” definitely does not go down well with a sleepy Mummy Owl trying to get some shut eye in her tree.

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With its bold, bright, wonderfully expressive pictures of the consternation all round and a text that trips off the tongue, ‘Baby Bunny bounced into Squirrel’s drey./He clung to a branch with his claws all day.’ this is one to share with the under sixes and will assuredly prompt many an encore to the huge enjoyment of readers and listeners alike.
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Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Shopping

Billy the Goat’s Big Breakfast
Jez Alborough
Doubleday
As Nat the Cat prepares a tasty breakfast to share with her friends Billy Goat and Hugo Hare, she is interrupted by the early arrival of a ravenous Billy. Nat leaves Billy waiting and continues her preparations but her pal is unable to resist the temptation to start sampling the food and before long, not only has he slurped all the juice but also taken an enormous bite of the bread – a very gooey mouthful. That’s when the real trouble begins; instead of a rumbling tum, Billy Goat now has a gurgling, swelling one not to mention a very sticky grin. It’s that grin which causes Nat to take her bag and head off to the shops leaving Hugo Hare to listen to Billy Goat’s confession. On her return she discovers Billy wrapped in a coat supposedly cold and tells him to sit by the fire. Well, we know and she knows what will happen then… Time for Billy to own up to his hostess but she knows he has learned his lesson so its time for a belated breakfast and a singsong. (words are provided).
Alborough’s gentle cautionary tale bounces along and his large illustrations are immediately engaging. The expressions on the faces of the three friends, particularly Billy Goat’s, are hilarious. Billy’s Breakfast Song can be downloaded from http://www.jezalborough.com.billythegoat
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Just out in paperback is Jez Alborough’s first story about the three friends, Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile previously reviewed in the March Selection.

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The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet!
Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk.
The McFly’s Christmas pooping dinosaur is back in another rhyming romp. This time, armed with a packed lunch, he accompanies Danny to the Science Museum to see the rockets. They discover one with a door large enough for a boy plus pet dinosaur to go inside. It’s an open invitation and needless to say, the temptation to touch the controls is too great: Intergalactic Mission is under way. Before long the dinosaur’s tummy rumbles in readiness for lunch but where are those packed lunches? Certainly not on board! So begins a disastrous dinosaur feast and not only the controls but great chunks of the rocket itself are consumed, even the moon, Martians and more are munched. Finally, with nothing at all left of their rocket and Danny crying space-suits full of tears, the dinosaur realizes there is only one way to get them safely back to earth. Time for another pooping plan to be put into action right away…
Poo, planets and pandemonium – definitely a recipe for resounding success with small children who will laugh uproariously at the galactic gallivanting of the boy and his pet, hilariously portrayed and documented in tongue teasing verse that will have many adults in fits too.
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Ding Dong Gorilla!
Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books pbk.
In this ‘off the wall’ story, we hear first hand from a small boy what happens when he opens the door, not to the pizza delivery boy who is expected but to an enormous gorilla. Said gorilla barges into the house and proceeds in pursuit of fun, to take enormous liberties creating havoc all over the house and in the garden too. Such activities as crayoning, dressing up and picking flowers not to mention smashing a vase, a window and a chair have given him large appetite, so he sets to work creating even more mess with the blender and ingredients for a chocolate cake. Finally the delivery boy does turn up with the order but guess what – there is a big black hairy shape exiting through the front door clutching a huge cheesy pizza just as a pair of high heeled feet can be seen on the stair.
It’s truly amazing just how much chaos one gorilla or one small boy can create in the time between ordering a pizza and his mother going upstairs to get ready for dinner. Leonie Lord runs riot with wonderful scenes of devastation at every turn of the page; I know a good many mums with young children who will recognize such scenes. Wonderful stuff.
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Spells-A-Popping Granny’s Shopping
Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow pbk.
Supermarket shopping can be rather a bore but that is definitely not the case in this story. The little girl narrator recounts what happens when she accompanies her Granny to stock up on provisions, a granny who just happens to be a witch. Needless to say it’s not long before biscuits are dancing, popcorn is popping and the fish fingers are swimming towards the door. And that’s before the two of them spot a couple of robbers stashing sweets and cakes into a large sack. Time for another wave of granny’s wand and a bit of help from a chocolate bear and then, robbers safely under arrest it’s back home and a tasty meal for two cooked up by one very special granny.
Zany characters, action-packed scenes full of amusing details and a lively rhyming text – just the right ingredients for a hugely enjoyable storytime read.
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Witches, whales, washing and wandering

Rich Witch Poor Witch
Peter Bently and Jim Field
Macmillan pbk.
Meet twin witches, poor Rose who provides her services free to the ordinary folks and rich Rita whose wealthy clients include royalty. Indeed it is the King himself who calls asking for help to cheer up the young Princess Anna Lucinda Cecelia Grace who just will not smile. However, no amount of wand wielding and magical trickery makes one iota of difference to the gloomy miss. Before long the whole palace is in utter chaos with drapes aflame and tables trashed but what of the princess? It’s left to butler Mort, to announce not only the arrival of Witch Rose but also the whereabouts of the missing Anna Lucinda. Both are outside playing chase and yes! the Princess has an enormous smile on her face. Magic or what? Definitely not explains Rose; all that the princess needed was someone to play with.
This rhyming tale fizzes and sparkles with energy and the appropriately gaudy illustrations abound with visual jokes.
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The Storm Whale
Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Noi lives a rather lonely life in a beach-side house with his fisherman father and their six cats. One morning after a stormy night, he goes down onto the seashore and as he walks he comes upon a small whale left high and dry by the storm. Noi manages to get the whale home and into the bath where he tells it stories about his island life. Concerned about his dad’s reaction to the newcomer, Noi keeps quiet all evening but finally his secret is discovered. Then he has to face the fact that his new friend belongs in the sea and together father and son return the whale to its rightful home.
A gentle tale of loving and caring enough to let go. I love the fact that Noi is shown playing records of Sounds of the Sea and Handel’s Water Music to the whale in the bath. Understated as it is, this warm-hearted book packs a powerful punch.
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How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
Michelle Robinson & Kate Hindley
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Presented as an instruction manual, a small girl narrator provides a step-by-step guide to performing a very tricky and likely to be, protracted, operation – Woolly Mammoth washing or rather, bathing. Should your mammoth need this treatment, make sure you don your mackintosh and wellies and have to hand: a broom, spooky mask, skateboard, heavy-duty crane, cake, and of course, shampoo. Just make sure the latter doesn’t go in its eyes though. Oh, oh! … for STEP EIGHT: To get said ‘wet woolly mammoth down from a tree you’ll need … a very STRONG trampoline.’ To discover the remaining steps, you’ll just have to get hold of a copy of this delightful book. Beautifully understated, simply told in dead- pan style, the text leaves Kate Hindley plenty of scope to exercise her sense of the ridiculous in both her full-page scenes and smaller comic cut capers.
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Pi-Rat!
Maxine Lee
Caterpillar Books pbk.
Meet the fearless Pi-Rat and his mates as they sail the high seas. Seemingly nothing daunts them be it crocodiles, sharks or the darkness but when the brave pirate captain sights a hairy paw through his telescope it seems the hearty crew are about to meet their doom.
The visual clue to the setting of this adventure is the name of Pi-Rat’s craft on the back cover and the first spread. This bath-time tale of the imagination is told almost entirely through speech bubbles and bold visuals that zoom right in on the action. There is plenty to laugh at in the larger than life illustrations inspired by the treasure trove of bath-time and everyday toys; I love the space- hopping and pogo-sticking crew members as they leap and bounce across the crocodile-infested waters. I envisage this one being asked for over and over again.
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Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox pbk.
When the boy narrator receives a letter announcing he’s won a prize, off he cycles to run a zoo for the day. And what a strange, chaotic place this turns out to be. Its inmates include the growling Grimblegraw, the dangling Dinglebee, the Morph, Quees, Furry Furbles and horror of horrors, the child gobbling Squirgal, to mention just some of the crazy creatures he encounters. But in our small, prize-winning hero, those recalcitrant rioters more than meet their match.
Crying out for audience participation, this story certainly went down well with several groups of under fives who loved the tongue tingling rhyming text and crazy mock scary monsters.
It’s a good one to stimulate young children’s artistic and verbal creativity: have huge sheets of paper, paints and large pens at the ready.
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Dog Loves Counting
Louise Yates
Red Fox pbk.
Louise Yates’ endearing bibliophile Dog returns for a third adventure. Now he’s looking for alternatives to sheep to count, so that he can get to sleep. And the vehicle for his search is of course, a book.; a Big Book of Curious Creatures wherein he discovers all manner of fascinating things to innumerate, beginning with one baby dodo that emerges from a large egg. The two of them continue through the book encountering in turn, a three-toed sloth, … a five-lined skink… to a ten-legged (pincers included) crab and so on to an infinitely grained sandy desert whereupon the the all-important number one is counting stars. And we leave the whole cast star gazing and still counting, until … it’s morning again, the start of another day filled with books, friends and, let’s hope, many more adventures.
This flight of fancy is another winner from the inspirational Lucy Yates. It’s wonderfully imagined, cleverly constructed and brilliantly portrayed through both words and pictures. Moreover, it is likely to make young listeners enjoy counting just as much as the chief protagonist who has already encouraged countless children to become like him, lovers of ‘Books’ and ‘Drawing’.
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The Acorn
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (BF&F) pbk.
This wonderfully simple book has lessons a-plenty between its covers – reading lessons and science lessons but more important than those, the whole thing is a real pleasure to share with the very young.
A little yellow acorn falls from a tree, a little acorn with a large purpose. But there is a problem – also large –all manner of hungry forest animals think that an acorn would make a tasty tidbit. Such are the acorn’s powers of persuasion ‘Oh, please don’t eat me now, … I’ll be even tastier later.’ that it manages to escape the jaws of white mouse, orange squirrel, blue bird, grey rabbit, brown boar and red deer. Then the acorn begins to grow, time passes and true to its words, it becomes a huge shelter-giving tree with acorns aplenty. And, in familiar folk-tale, patterned text style, the whole thing begins over again…
Each spread is cleverly linked to the previous one so that every turn of the page serves to move the visual narrative seamlessly forwards. Gibbs’ delightfully scribbly animal images on the forest floor are a treat in themselves, and, there is a further fold-out surprise at the end.
Perfectly predictable, endlessly re-readable.
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