Tag Archives: Nosy Crow

Board Book Collection

Tales from Nature: Rabbit
illustrated by Magali Attiogbé
Tales from Nature: Bird
illustrated by Olivia Cosneau
QED
These two books are the first in a series of wildlife board book nature stories for the very young.
In each, the animal in question acts as narrator.
Rabbit tells how he finds food in the garden; runs fast into his burrow when he catches sight of a potential predator and finally, when winter’s over, meets a doe and together they produce a litter.
Bird talks of being greedy as she feasts on a little caterpillar that’s nibbling through some leaves. Love is in the air come spring when Bird sings, finds a mate, builds a nest, lays three eggs and hatches her babies.
Both tales are simply told through a spare text, and each has die cut holes and flaps to encourage exploration of the nicely textured pastel illustrations.
Engaging introductions to nonfiction texts for toddlers.

More bird encounters in the first of these:

Listen to the Birds from around the world
Listen to the Music from around the world
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow

What toddler can resist the invitation to hear the sound of,  in turn, the mynah bird, the kingfisher, a whistling lorikeet, a toucan, a penguin on the ice and some wading flamingos, when all they have to do is press the button strategically placed on each of Marion Billet’s alluring spreads?
No doubt your home or nursery will become a temporary menagerie when you share this enticing little board book.
In the same series is Listen to the Music from around the world wherein a guitar-strumming turtle, a panda violinist, a bagpipe playing sheep, a harmonica blowing donkey, a bongo banging Croc. and a bull with flamenco guitar perform. Noisy fun, but you can always turn off the sound button at the back of the book.

Hello Farm
Hello Zoo

Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

In these jolly little books we meet stripy cat, Ludo, who likes to discover new places to play.
At the farm he visits first the barn, home of cow family where Bianca is ready to join his fun. So off they go to call on the chickens in their henhouse and invite the baby chicks to join them. Little lambs, Eric, Clem and Finn are also eager for some fun but then Ludo hears snoring; one of his friends is still fast asleep but a bit of tummy tickling will help get him moving and then finally all the pals head for the paddling pool for a dip.
The pattern is similar for Hello Zoo except that Ludo cycles off to collect his wild animal pals in their various zoo abodes, on this occasion discovering Minty the panda in need of some toe tickling to rouse her from her slumbers before they all go off to find the bouncy castle.
Nicola Slater’s bright, jolly scenes with die-cut holes, flaps and squidgy tactile areas to explore are part and parcel of these simple toddler stories whose questioning narratives involve young listeners from the start.

The Knight Who Said “No!”

The Knight Who Said “No!”
Lucy Rowland and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Ned had always been a biddable, obedient little knight complying with each and every one of his parents’ wishes,

and always come nightfall running indoors to hide from the dragon as she swept through the sky. One night as he watches the dragon from the safety of his bedroom window, Ned wonders if, like himself, the dragon is lonely.

Next morning – the day of the tournament – a change has come over the lad. A firm “No” is his response to every request from his parents and the townsfolk alike. When the dragon whooshes through the sky and lands at Ned’s feet, he accosts the creature, inquiring about her lack of roar.

The dragon’s response brings about a mood shift in Ned …

and thereafter, an unlikely new friendship is forged.

Lucy Rowlands’ rhyming text bounces merrily and faultlessly along, providing join-in ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ opportunities for listeners who will delight in Ned’s sudden attack of recalcitrance and its final outcome. Kate Hindley documents the whole saga with wonderful scenes of days of yore village life capturing not only Ned’s mood changes, but also the dragon’s and the bit part players’ characters, absolutely splendidly.

A potential storytime favourite, methinks.

Creative Manipulations – Nature Origami & From Morning to Night

Nature Origami
Clover Robin
Nosy Crow

You’re in for hours of pleasure from this origami book published in collaboration with the National Trust. Containing thirteen nature inspired things to make from shells to squirrels and snails, and minnows to moths and mice, each one is allocated a double spread with a beautiful illustration by Clover Robinson on the verso while the recto has concise step-by-step instructions prefaced by a short poem by poets including Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetta, Lilian McCrea, Kenneth Grahame

and William Wordsworth.
The back part of the book is a pad of 50 sheets patterned on one side, plain on the other, which are the ideal size and weight for the projects.
Each of the projects is graded, there being a mix of each of the three levels of difficulty, the third level requiring considerable dexterity, not to mention a degree of patience.
If you scan the QR code inside the book you will be able to link to ‘how to’ videos for each object.

From Morning to Night
Flavia Ruotolo
Princeton Architectural Press

Flavia Ruotolo has a design background which she uses to great effect in this little book that plays with line, colour and form, creating sixteen pairs of objects manipulating the elements of the ordinary one to fashion something new.
She uses just two complementary colours to play with so that for instance a morning meal becomes a magic mushroom …

an orange becomes a planet, a piano is transformed into a robot toy and an open book morphs into a pair of adjacent beds.

It’s easy to see the visual relationships between the pairs but imagination is required to link for example, an orange segment on a plate with a crescent moon in orbit around a planet.
I’m all for books that help in the development of the imagination: this one certainly does that in a playful way and at the same time offers plenty of opportunities for storying. It might also encourage readers to try their own creative manipulations.

Wild World, The Coral Kingdom and Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?

Wild World
Angela McAllister, Hvass & Hannibal
Wide Eyed Editions

The author has chosen thirteen natural habitats – Rainforest, Arctic, Prairie, Woodland, Coral reef, Desert, Rock pool, Mountain, The Outback, Moorland, Deep sea, Mangrove and Savannah – that are under threat due to human activity, and captures the essence of each one in a series of free verses.
Here’s the opening to Mountain:
‘I am the highest mountain, / Born in a collision of continents. / All is beneath me, except the sun, moon and stars. / I am rock, / Crag, cliff and ledge, draped in veils of white. / I am snow-maker, with glaciers in my arms, / Whose meltwater swells great rivers below.’

In stark contrast is the quieter sounding Savannah, which opens like this: ‘Savannah speaks in whispering grasses, / In the chatter of cicadas across an endless plain. / Spacious homeland of swift cheetah / And gazelle, with the horizon in her eye.’

Using matte colours, the illustrators Hvass and Hannibal showcase the flora and fauna of each location in a series of eye-catching paintings that incorporate the text within them.

Human use, climate change and pollution are responsible for the damage to the environment and after her introductory poem, it’s not until the final pages that the author enlarges upon her conservation message citing the specific damage within the thumbnail sketch of each of the places portrayed. Thereafter she implores readers to use less energy, to recycle and to buy with care.

We’d all do well to keep in mind her final words about our precious planet: ‘Explore it, protect it, love it. / Our Earth is a wonderful wild world. ‘

Also with an ecological message is:

The Coral Kingdom
Laura Knowles and Jennie Webber
Words & Pictures

Our coral reefs, with their gorgeous colours: crimson, red, rose, yellow,

turquoise, emerald, jade, purple, even black, that have taken 1000s of years to grow and give home to a myriad of creatures large and small are under threat.

When the coral is bleached white due to acidity caused by climate change, and stays white for too long, then the reef dies.

Laura Knowles has written a rhyming narrative that outlines the life cycle of a reef and includes a caution that unless we humans take action these amazing ecosystems will be lost forever.

Jennie Webber’s detailed watercolour illustrations show the beauty of the undersea habitat and a final fold-out page gives additional information about coral reef conservation.

A useful addition to a primary school conservation topic box, or, for a child interested in ocean life or ecosystems.

Who’s Hiding on the River? / Who’s Hiding on the Farm?
Katharine McEwen
Nosy Crow

It’s never too early to start learning about nature and here are two board books just right for introducing animals, some wild and some domesticated, to the very young.

Both are beautifully illustrated by Katharine McEwen and there are lots of animals to find in both locations.

Toddlers can spend a day by the river, from a busy morning through to night-time as they explore the pages, manipulate the sturdy flaps in response to the ‘Who’s hiding here?’ on every right hand page to discover tadpoles, cygnets, fish, dragonflies, a stoat, a beaver and more as they swim, wriggle, wade, leap, build and paddle.
The farm book also moves through the day in similar fashion and McEwen’s text is carefully worded to introduce new vocabulary including ‘pecking,’ ‘trotting’, ‘snoozing’ ‘prowling’, munching’ and ‘diving’ along the way.

Published in collaboration with the National Trust these are fun and at the same time, gently educational.

A Bear is a Bear

A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not)
Karl Newson and Anuska Allepuz
Nosy Crow

The adorable looking bear in this book appears to be suffering from amnesia as to his true animal form, brought about by forgetting that come December he’s supposed to be snuggled down inside his cave for the long winter hibernation.

Instead the ursine creature is bumbling around pondering possibilities: might he perhaps be a bird …

Oops no! He can’t fly and as for fitting in the nest – forget it!

If not that, then maybe … a moose? Lack of antlers and an aversion to dry grass quickly put paid to that notion.
What about a dancing prancing fox or even a squirrel? Those don’t feel quite right either.
Stuck up in a tree, bear ponders: “I’m not a squirrel – /they climb too high. // I’m not a fox – / but I gave it a try. // I’m not a moose – / I don’t know why. // And I’m not a bird. / I cannot fly. // So what, oh what / on earth am I?

As snowflakes whirl around his head that Bear should really be in bed, especially as he is now suffering a bad attack of the grumps to go with his memory loss.

Suddenly realisation dawns … and off he goes to sleep till spring. Sweet dreams! Spring isn’t too far away.

Now, look who’s come a knocking to greet their friend …

BEAR!
Karl’s rhyming text takes the form of Bear’s internal monologue as he wanders hither and thither in his state of forgetfulness, and with its repeat refrain and cumulative structure, it’s a great ‘join in with’ read aloud.

To render her mixed media scenes of the increasingly wintry forest and its animal inhabitants, Anuska Alleppuz has used a carefully considered, beautifully textured palette that really makes readers feel they’re with Bear every step of his journey – the highs and the lows – both physical and mental.

Books for Tiny Hands

A Tiny Little Story: Farm
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the third title of the series the adorable Baby Boo and his mum pay a visit to the farm. They meet the farmer in his tractor,

a mother hen and her baby chicks, the cow, the sheep, some pigs and a cockerel, each of which greets the visitors with its characteristic sound; and then it’s time to leave.
With its soft, squidgy pages, simple, bold, patterned images and a Velcro buggy strap, this boxed book, like its predecessors, is just perfect for giving to a new mum and her baby.

Animal ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow
Having explored Halloween and Christmas, Jannie Ho’s third ABC book for babies and toddlers features animals large and small, some familiar, others less so, from elephant to narwhal and iguana and owl. One fantasy animal – a unicorn – puts in an appearance too.
Boldly illustrated with just the single word and corresponding letter as text per page, there are talk opportunities aplenty in this sturdily designed little board book. Which ones have long tails? Which have horns? Can your infant think of what noise each animal might produce?
Full of animal fun for sure.

Little Truck
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
In this lovely little board book toddlers share a day in the life of a little pink truck. He’s a fast mover and determined hill climber and is accompanied on his travels by a larger (parent) truck.
The latter is available to give a gentle push up the steep slope …

and when Little Truck enters a dark tunnel, is right behind to ensure he’s not completely lost and is ready to carry the little one when he falls fast asleep.
With a simple text, some of which is addressed to the Little Truck by the larger one, Taro Gomi uses his wonderful minimalist style to imbue both trucks with distinct personalities as well as creating stylised background scenes in contrasting greys, browns and tans.
I love that Little Truck is pink and identified as male in the narrative.

Where’s Mrs Zebra?
Where’s Mr Dog?

Ingela P.Arrhenuis
Nosy Crow
Just right for some playful book sharing time with your baby are these two hide-and-seek board books.
Each one contains five scenes with bold, bright images and an animal that has hidden itself behind an appropriately shaped, brightly coloured felt flap on the spread.
In the first title Mr Rhino, Mrs Gorilla,

Mr Flamingo, Mrs Zebra are hidden or almost so and the final spread has a hidden mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
The same question concludes the second book wherein Mr Dog, along with Mrs Cat, Mr Mouse, and Mrs Rabbit have tucked themselves away behind various objects all waiting to be discovered by tiny hands.
Award winning Swedish illustrator Ingela P. Arrhenius has illustrated both with just the right amount of detail for the very youngest infant.

Guess Which Hand?
Hans Wilhelm and Ilaria Guarducci
Chronicle Books
Here’s a little board book based on the ever popular guessing game after which the book is titled.
On each of eight pages toddlers are invited to guess the location of the item be it a ladybird or frog, a bone or ball, flower or feather, pink fish or blue, banana or peanut, carrot or clover leaves, star or moth, hidden under one or other of the flaps on each animal’s page. Paws, ears, scallop shells,

hats, fluffy tails, wings and eggs are in turn used as hiding places. The objects are moved by turning the interactive wheel at the side of each page so you can play the game over and over with a toddler.
Each bold bright scene offers more to talk about than the guessing game though but that depends on the users.

Just Like Mummy / Superhero Mum

Just Like Mummy
Lucy Freegard
Pavilion Books

Following on from last year’s Just Like Daddy, Lucy Freegard turns her attention to mums, especially the one featured here.

The young narrator introduces his/her special super-talented mum– full of fun, both creative and practical, ready to offer some words of wisdom at just the right time and provider of cuddles whenever they’re needed. Who wouldn’t want to have a mother like that, and perhaps, to have those qualities when they grow up? Certainly that is what the little leopard here is aiming for. (We don’t know the gender so the story works well for all.)

I suspect any youngster would wish for a mother who spends so much time with her child be that making music, gardening, exploring or whatever, and the cub really does appreciate this togetherness.

It’s important to acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly how we’d like them to; there are sad times, challenging times and inevitably, times when we make mistakes, and so it is here.

Lucy Freegard’s expressive illustrations do a great job of encompassing both the highs and lows of everyday life in a book that is perfect for sharing and discussing with pre-schoolers, and especially, it’s a lovely story for giving to a special mum on Mother’s Day.

Superhero Mum
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

We had Superhero Dad and now Knapman and Berger even things up with a companion title about mums.

The narrative is an upbeat rhyming celebration of all the things that make them so amazing. Mums, and in particular this little girl narrator’s mum, is on the go from morning till night, whizzing around, often multi-tasking.

Whether it’s making sure we catch the bus to school,

inventing and participating in energetic playground games, administering first aid,

joining in with bath time fun, seeking out a favourite lost toy, or sharing a bedtime story, she always delivers.

In short, she’s an inspiration to every would-be super hero girl (or boy come to that.)

It takes someone special to do all these things with a smile on her face and that’s how Joe Berger’s comic book coloured, action-packed scenes portray her in every one of these seemingly ordinary, everyday activities that could be easily taken for granted.

I’ve signed the charter  

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words
Animals

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

Lionel and the Lion’s Share

Lionel and the Lion’s Share
Lou Peacock and Lisa Sheenan
Nosy Crow

Lionel is a lion with sharing a problem – a big one; in fact he does NOT like to share at all. More than that, he’ll go out of his way to prevent one of the other animals from having something they really want.

On Monday he’s in the music shop choosing himself an instrument and is certainly spoilt for choice. Elsa elephant is also shopping there and has set her heart on the shiny tambourine when who should snatch it from her grasp to add to the drum and tuba he’s already clutching but greedy Lionel.

A similar thing happens on Tuesday in the hat shop. Lionel needs but a single hat but has already purchased ten when he notices Benji eyeing up the banana titfa. No prizes for guessing who grabs that one for himself too …

And so it goes on: Wednesday sees him disappointing Rosie rabbit and on Thursday at Chloe’s party …

he scoffs the entire cake., again claiming it only right he gets’ “the lion’s share.” Cries of ‘I wish you would share’ are now replaced with a chorus of “we wish you would share.
This time however, with Chloe in tears, the other animals have had enough of Lionel’s greed and tell him what they think of him in no uncertain terms.

It’s a furious lion that stomps off home but by the time he reaches there, he has come to a very important realisation: it’s time to make amends …
Can Lionel save the day after all?

With opportunities for joining in with the “That’s not fair, Lionel” protestation of the other animals and his “But I’m a lion … and I get the lion’s share” responses, this is a great book to share and discuss with young children.
Lisa Sheenan’s scenes of greed and disappointment capture the animals’ feelings beautifully and each spread offers plenty to interest and explore.

Ellena enjoying the story.

Look, there’s a Tractor; Look, there’s a Helicopter / I Love You Little One

Look, there’s a Tractor!
Look, there’s a Helicopter!

Esther Aarts
Nosy Crow
Here’s a pair of board book adventures for the very youngest.
In the Tractor a rhyming narrative guides young listeners as they climb aboard and accompany the farmer and his dog on a search around the farm for a missing hen.

Strategically placed die-cut holes help move the story forward towards the final surprise finale.
In the Helicopter book we join the pilot as she takes her machine out on a rescue mission to save a family and their dog from a sinking boat.

This one also has the same ‘Follow-the-holes’ feature. I think the rhyme works better in the tractor tale though.

I Love You, Little One
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
If you want a super-cute board book to share with your little one then look no further than this outpouring of love from a mother guinea pig to her infant.
Actually though, she says words cannot express the strength of her feelings, so instead actions do the speaking – through her pride in little guinea pig’s artistic creations; the songs she sings for him and the music they create together, the baking they share in.

Then there are those moments when some TLC is required …

Most of all though, is the idea – a magical one – that wherever Mummy guinea pig is, be it near or far, her love for her little one is always there and so it will always be.
Told through a rhyming text and adorable illustrations, this could have been sickly sweet but it isn’t; the showing makes sure of that – both Holly’s and the mother guinea pig’s.

Firefly Home

Firefly Home
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The second interactive picture book from the Clarke and Teckentrup duo features another creature from the natural world, a little firefly called Florence, and she’s got lost.

It’s up to readers to help her find the way back home. There’s a problem though: there are so many flashing lights in the night sky that Florence follows lots of false leads.

Young listeners, more worldly wise than the little firefly will revel in anticipating the bright moon, the lighthouse beam,

the moving train and the brightly illuminated buildings in the city before the respective pages are turned, as well as responding to the verbal instructions given to help Florence on her long flight in search of her firefly friends.

The yellow used in Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations glows so intensely that I found myself wanting to check to see it there was a hidden battery somewhere.

A potential story-time favourite for early years listeners for sure. And shared one to one, it’s totally absorbing: each of my listeners has followed Jane Clarke’s instructions with gusto and been thrilled to be instrumental in Florence finally finding her way back to her friends.

Now in paperback is their Neon Leon, which I absolutely loved and used frequently last year always with enthusiastic responses.

Oliver Elephant / It’s Christmas!

Oliver Elephant
Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens
Nosy Crow
Armed with a list of people to buy for, Noah, his mum and little sister, Evie-May sally forth to the large Christmas shop; Noah with his beloved Oliver Elephant tucked under his arm.
Once inside, Mummy shops while Noah and Oliver play happily until disaster strikes when Oliver dances into a large jug full of baubles …

That disaster pales into insignificance though when it’s followed soon after by another one.
Having finished their shopping mum takes them all to a café and as they are leaving Noah notices that Oliver is no longer with them.
Back to the big shop they dash but a search reveals no sign of his precious toy.
Does Evie-May perhaps know anything about his disappearance?
Fear not: all ends happily although they do have to dash back inside yet again to make one final purchase …
Beautifully told in Lou Peacock’s faultless rhyme and accompanied by Helen Stephens’ gently nostalgic, superbly expressive illustrations – her characterisation is great– this is just right for sharing after a hectic bout of Christmas shopping with your little ones.

 

It’s Christmas!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The big day is almost here and super-exuberant little rhino Archie is full of the Christmas spirit.
He improves Dad’s Christmas biscuits, and, not content with Mum’s new decorations, redecorates the Christmas tree; but that’s not all; his ideas keep on coming. Having seen Granny and Grandpa’s Christmas jumpers, he decides his own festive jumper needs some sprucing up.
This results in a resounding …

after which mum gives him a very important role as ‘snow watcher’. Bored by the distinct lack of snowflakes though, Archie comes up with his own way of making it snow which precipitates further disasters.
Will the family ever get themselves sorted out in time for Christmas morning?
As always, young Archie knows just how to steal the show and amuse his audience be they young listeners or adult readers aloud.

Seasonally Flavoured Fiction

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells!
Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow

If you’ve yet to meet comedic twosome, the wonderful baker dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam I urge you to do so with this book of three stories. Shifty’s the more industrious, of the pair; Sam means well but tends to lack his pal’s organisational skills.
In the first story, the dogs have been commissioned to create Santa’s Christmas cake and deliver it to him the same afternoon. No easy task especially with next-door neighbour Red Rocket determined to create mischief at every opportunity.

The other two tales, Sea-Monster Ahoy! and The Lucky Cat aren’t Christmassy but they are equally good fun and all are perfect for those just taking off as independent readers, who will particularly relish Steve Lenton’s lively scenes of the canine mystery solvers at work.

Harper and the Fire Star
Cerrie Burnell illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic

Harper, the girl endowed with a rare musical gift, who resides in the City of Clouds and is able to play any instrument she picks up without learning a single note, returns in her 4th adventure and once again it’s full of music, magic, friendship and gentle humour.
In this story, the Circus of Dreams (Harper’s birthplace) is back in town and as well as seeing her parents, Harper has something important she wants to do and that is to help the Wild Conductor win back his place in the magical show. Why he wants to do so is a mystery to Harper and her friends, nevertheless they put on an amazing show but things don’t quite go according to plan.
Then they learn exactly why getting back into the circus is so important to the Wild Conductor: it’s on account of his love for a girl named Fire Star, so called because ‘whenever she heard music she began to shine like a star.’
Adding to the fun of the tale are Laura Ellen Andersen’s sparkly illustrations.
Always ready to help others, Harper is a delight.

The Storm Dog
Holly Webb
Stripes Publishing

Young Tilly and her mum are going to stay with her Grandma and Great-Gran over Christmas but when work delays her mum, Tilly travels ahead alone on the train.
Great-Gran (almost ninety) has sent Tilly a parcel to open on the train and inside she discovers a Christmas tree decoration and a photo.
Soon, lulled by the motion of the train, Tilly starts to doze and finds herself back in the time when it was her Great-Gran taking the journey as an evacuee more than seventy years back. (Tilly is learning about World War Two for a school project.) She then re-lives some of Great-Gran’s evacuation experiences along with her two younger brothers who also stayed at Mr Thomas’ farm on the Welsh borders, attended the village school, tended the farm animals, had their first experience of snow and sledging, and prepared for the Christmas season..
Tilly forms a special friendship with Tarran, Mr Thomas’ sheepdog and it’s he that plays an important role on more than one occasion.
Gently told, the twisting, turning adventure draws you in right away and keeps you entranced right through to the end. It’s great for giving young readers an insight into life in WW2, especially those who, like Tilly, are learning about the period at school. Line drawings by Artful Doodlers, several per chapter, are scattered throughout the story, further adding to the reader’s enjoyment.

Curse of the Werewolf Boy
Chris Priestley
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This had me gripped from the start. Essentially it’s a boarding school parody of the Gothic kind and its stars, or rather heroes – neither seems to quite fit the bill – Arthur Mildew and Algernon Spongely-Partwork aka Mildew and Sponge are pupils at Maudlin Towers School, by all accounts a pretty awful establishment for the ‘Not Particularly Bright Sons of the Not Especially Wealthy’.
Returning after a half-term holiday, the pupils are informed that a terrible crime has occurred: the School Spoon (once owned by the school’s founder) has been stolen and the headmaster threatens terrible consequences for the culprit(s).
Who better for a spot of detectivating than Mildew and Sponge who are about to learn that crime solving isn’t as easy as they might have thought. Particularly when there’s a ghost in the attic, not to mention a Viking wandering around, a history teacher, one Mr Luckless who has a ‘temporo-trans-navigational-vehicular-engine’ (a time machine to you and me); even a werewolf boy (but you’d expect that from the title), and more.
It’s not only the lead crime solvers who are splendid; every single character is wonderful be they pupil or teacher – you can meet the whole cast at once via the role of honour board at the start of the story. With staff names such as Mr Particle actually newly deceased when the story opens; you can guess what subject he taught, Mr Stupendo and the Latin speaking Miss Livia; and Enderpenny and Furthermore numbering among the pupils.
Then there’s the narrative itself which is peppered with such deliciousness as:
I know what a ha-ha is, you nose hair,” said Kenningworth … ; and
… Mildew’s upper lip began to lose some of its structural integrity…”;
a brilliantly controlled plot that twists and turns while keeping readers totally engrossed throughout its mock scary entirety; and if that’s not enough, the book is chortle-makingly illustrated by none other than Chris Priestly himself.
Why am I including this story in a Christmas review, you might be wondering: that’s for me to know and for you to discover when you get hold of a copy of this cracker of a book.

Festive Fun for the Very Young

Listen to the Christmas Songs
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow

Half a dozen favourite seasonal songs are illustrated – one per spread – and each one can be brought to life by pressing the sound button on the respective spread.
(Adults can turn off the switch at the end of the book when they’ve had enough of the jollity.)
Interactive, sing along fun for the very young illustrated with bright animal scenes of festive fun and frolics.

Snow Dog
Puffin Books

To share with the very youngest, a dog-shaped board book with short rhyming text tells how the playful Snowdog runs and jumps, chases his ball and generally enjoys the company of his friends be they of the snowman or human kind.
Five snowy scenes show all the fun of the chilly outdoors.

Make & Play Nativity
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

Here’s a nice strong, easy-to-assemble Nativity scene for small fingers.
It comprises twenty characters, some human, others animal that are easy to slot together, and in so doing, youngsters can hone their manipulative skills as a lovely seasonal scene is constructed.
Joey Chou’s artwork has a delightful simplicity that may well inspire users to make some of their own figures to add to the completed scene.
I’d suggest sharing the Nativity story included in the latter part of the book before starting on the construction. Once this is complete, then there are other activities including making an adventure calendar, songs to sing and more.
A festive delight that can (the pieces are easy to take apart after Christmas) be used over and over, either in a nursery setting or a family.

All I Want for Christmas
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books

In this short rhyming tale we join penguins – one Big, one Little- as they count down the days to Christmas.
There is plenty to keep them busy: baking, wrapping presents, making cards and decorations and seemingly, the entire penguin population is eagerly anticipating what will be under the Christmas tree.

There’s one penguin however who has no need to join the queue to post a letter to Santa, for the one thing Big really wants above all else is right there all the time: it’s a 4-lettered word beginning with l: can you guess what that might be?

Stomp! Stomp! / Count on Goz / Night and Day

Stomp! Stomp!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In this new addition to the ‘Can you say it too?’ board book series, a handful of dinosaurs have hidden, or rather attempted to hide themselves, in Sebastien Braun’s brightly illustrated spreads.
Very young children will get lots of pleasure manipulating the flaps (plants, a cloud and a rock) to discover what’s hiding beneath them, as well as getting their tongues around the names and noises.

Children beginning to read often find words such as ‘triceratops’, ‘diplodocus’, ‘stegosaurus’, ‘pterodactyl’ and ‘tyrannosaurus’ easy to recognise especially in a meaningful context, so why shouldn’t infants just starting to talk encounter them early on too, perhaps even with that older sibling reading the book with its short, predictable text, with them.

Count on Goz
Steve Weatherill
Steve Weatherill Books
Goz the baby goose has just taken his early morning swim but now he’s managed to lose the other geese. In his search he encounters in turn a cow and her calf, a sheep and 2 lambs, a mother cat and her 3 kittens and a dog with 4 lively puppies. To each he says, “Hello. Are the geese here?” but is greeted with “No, only me and my …” followed by a “Moo!”, “Baa, baa!” and so on …

until finally beside the big pond we spy …
Guess what is tucked in the nest beneath that large wing.
In addition to the baby animals revealed by opening the flap on each spread, the final page has 6 swallows, 7 sheep, 8 eggs, 9 newts and 10 tadpoles for those who want to continue their counting.
First published over 25 years ago, Goz has certainly stood the test of time. In addition to being a first counting book, this re-issue is, with its brief, predictable text, just right for beginning readers and far better than the rubbishy reading schemes offered to children starting to read in schools nowadays.
Equally it’s perfect to share with a small group of listeners in a nursery setting or an adult or older child to read to a younger sibling.

Night and Day
Julie Safirstein
Princeton Architectural Press
In ‘A Big Book of Opposites’, as the subtitle says, Safirstein uses simple shapes, clever design and bold colours together with flaps of various sizes, pop-ups, fold-outs and other interactive devices to help demonstrate opposing relationships such as tiny/ huge (and sizes in between); left/right – which has a secondary numerical element …

high/low; night/day – in this instance a large tree unfolds to illustrate both.
Circular sliders can be manipulated to demonstrate alone/together and next to/far (with ‘in the middle’ also included for good measure).
The whole thing is a handsome and inventive production …

and even the finale is ingenious; a gatefold is lifted to ‘open’ a bright red flower after which the book is ‘closed’ as printed on the back cover.
Once in their clutches, young users will I suspect spend a considerable amount of time with the book ‘open’, being reluctant to ‘close’ it, thoroughly enjoy playing with the various moveable parts so it’s as well the whole thing is sturdily constructed. It might even help them develop a few concepts while so doing.

A Briefing of Board Books

Time to Go With Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Ted, the wonderfully imaginative toddler is back and he’s ready to go.
Whether it be to the park, the shops, the pool or the playground swings …

he’s always sure to have the appropriate gear with him.
And being such a friendly little boy, he’s bound to make friends wherever he goes; so come teatime he’s got plenty of guests to share with.
Lift-the-flap pages hide a host of animals as well as opportunities for some noisy roaring, shivering, sploshing and making monkey sounds.

Listen to the Dance Music
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
Just in time for ‘Strictly’ here’s an opportunity to brush up on your dance moves with the animal movers and shakers. You can waltz with the wolves, tango with the horses, practise some Charleston swivels with the bears, salsa with the flamingos, rock n’ roll along with the cats and hip-hop with the frogs. And, to get you and your little ones going, there’s a sound button at the back of the book, so as well as enjoying the dancers visually, you can listen to the various types of music. What are you waiting for: let’s dance.

I Thought I Saw a Lion!
Lydia Nichols
Templar Publishing
Using the sliders on every spread, toddlers can develop their manipulative skills while enjoying playing hide-and-seek with a mischievous lion that invades a variety of venues. Is he somewhere in the restaurant? Or perhaps he’s visiting the fancy dress shop or the bookshop maybe.

Surely he can’t be getting his mane trimmed at the hairdresser’s, so where is he?
Built-in repetition and bold, stylish illustrations enhance the game.

Colours/ Opposites
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Two popular topics feature in stylish look and find presentations by Britta Teckentrup.
In addition to the colour element of the first, there are opportunities for counting and developing talk on each spread.

Opposites here entails essentially, finding the odd one out, be that outside, above, fast, short, heavy, white, closed or small. Some concepts such as tall/short or heavy/ light are relative and thus not so clear-cut, but the rhyming text ensures that answering the questions asked is not an issue. Here: for instance,

‘Some animals plod / with a slow heavy pace, / but who is so fast she’s / winning the race?’

Opposites/ Colours
Nosy Crow and The British Museum
The two new Early Learning at the Museum titles contain around thirty fascinating objects from the museum collections per book.
Apart from the basic concepts presented in the two books, each fascinating image offers opportunities for developing open-ended conversations with young children.
You can look into recent history and go back over 2000 years with intriguing artefacts from a variety of cultures in Opposites. Or in Colours go back even further to 2600BC or be bang up to date with a Grayson Perry vase from 2011.
These chunky books will be of interest to children long after they’ve acquired the basic concepts related to opposites and colours.
Adults can scan the QR code in each book to find out more about the featured objects and there is a full key at the back.

The Marine Team / The Forest Folk / The Sky Guys
Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here are three new additions to the Mibo board books series featuring five animals, apiece, two spreads being given to each one.
Once again in each book, superb graphics are accompanied by fact-filled rhymes and there is a final fact page that tells you a little bit about each animal presented, their habitats and what we can do to help protect them.
The Marine Team comprises the green turtle, the great white shark, which is actually only white on its lower part, the seal, the blue whale and seahorses.
Did you know that it’s the male that carries the eggs from which the babies are born?
In The Forest Folk we meet temperate forest dwellers, brown bears, grey wolves, red squirrels, otters and deer, both male and female.
The Sky Guys features five bird species – the majestic albatross, the elegant flamingo, the wise owl, the guzzling pelican and the tiny hummingbird.
The rhyming texts will help young children absorb the information as an adult reads it aloud; and each book offers plenty of talking points.

This Zoo is Not for You

This Zoo is Not for You
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

A misunderstanding is at the heart of Ross Collins’ latest picture book.
It stars a bus-driving platypus who arrives at the zoo on a day when interviews for new admissions are in progress.
He’s duly made to put up with a series of scrutinies by some very self-important residents.
First off is panda, Chi Chi an enormous creature propped up by a large heap of self-promotional items, who disdainfully utters, ‘To get me here / was quite a coup. But you don’t even / eat bamboo. I think this zoo / is not for you.

All the other animals are in agreement. The flamingos liken him to a ‘worn-out shoe’; the monkeys bombard him with poo;

his lack of colour displeases the chameleons and elephant instantly fails him on account of his diminutive stature.
Off goes platypus; the interviewers confer and eventually a monkey actually bothers to open and read platypus’s dropped communication.

Is it too late to make amends?
This playful tale, told in jaunty rhyming couplets accompanied by splendidly eloquent illustrations is a delight to read aloud and destined to become a storytime favourite. With its inherent themes of difference, understanding and acceptance, there is so much food for thought and discussion.

Stardust / In My Room

Stardust
Jeanne Willis and Briony May-Smith
Nosy Crow

For the little girl narrator of the story, it’s deeply upsetting being the sister of someone who always seems to be the star of the show where family members are concerned, other than Grandad, that is.
Then one night after losing the Fancy Dress Competition to her big sister,

Grandad finds our narrator outside gazing up at the starlit sky. Her wish to be a star prompts him to tell her a story: the story of how the universe came into being.

A story that explains the connectedness of everything and everyone: “Everything and everyone is made of stardust,” he tells her. “… Your sister isn’t the only star in the universe… you all shine in different ways.
And, inspired by his words, shine she does – in the most amazing way.

Such wise words; words that the little girl never forgets but equally, words that every child needs telling, sometimes over and over.
Briony May-Smith’s stunningly beautiful illustrations really do celebrate connectedness, diversity and individuality; they’re every bit as empowering as Jeanne Willis’ text.
Strongly recommended for families and early years settings to share and discuss.

In My Room
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

The fifth of the ‘Growing Hearts’ series of novelty books starring a little girl protagonist is essentially a celebration of creativity and imaginative play.
The thick pages are cut so that when the book is turned through 90 degrees, they form together a variegated pencil crayon with which the girl conjures up a series of playful scenarios.
All I need is paper, crayons, chalk … and my imagination!” she tells readers.
First she’s an explorer, then a dancing princess; she becomes a speed racer, a teacher, a writer,

a sailor, a swimmer, a bride, a vet and finally, a funky rock star; all without leaving her room other than in her head

and courtesy of her art materials. Not a sign of any technology anywhere – hurrah!
Yes, there are already plenty of picture books that celebrate the power of the imagination; what makes this one different is the format.
Long live creativity!

I’ve signed the charter  

What’s Next Door?

What’s Next Door?
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow

Carter the crocodile from Open Very Carefully appears to have got lost and landed up between the covers of a book, -this book – and he needs our help to get home. He’s not above issuing threats either, judging by the sign he’s clutching.

Much better to do as he (and the narrator) request; we certainly don’t want him getting cantankerous: those barbed teeth of his look pretty scary.
This will entail exercising drawing and thinking skills, and a bit of pushing and shoving, together with some deft manipulation of the book itself, as Carter requires -heaving, blow drying, having his tummy rubbed to warm him up and fanning to cool him off, before he finally arrives back home, safe and sound.
Nicola O’Byrne talks directly to the reader in her engaging, chatty style narrative but despite her best efforts and those of readers, the croc. ends up in some totally inappropriate places en route – a salty sea,

a chilly snowy landscape and a scorching desert .
Carter’s progress through the various doors and the die-cut pages of the book itself, are documented in the author’s superbly expressive scenes that show Carter’s reactions to all our efforts,

along with some animal friends he acquires during the course of his adventure.

Board Book Shelf

Hidden Animals
Find the Wolf

Agnese Baruzzi
Templar Publishing
Here are two wonderfully playful board books from Italian artist, Agnese Baruzzi.
In the former, the peep-through die-cut pages beguile readers with a series of different coloured shapes which, when the page is turned become transformed into in turn, a bird, a fox, a bug, a cat,

a dog, a jellyfish and a lion.
Part of the fun, once children have worked out what is happening, is to guess the animal from the coloured background on the left-hand side before the page is turned. I was wrong on a couple of occasions.
Find the Wolf takes readers on a hunt for a ”WANTED’ wolf . As we walk through the woods we see for instance, two pointy ears or a set of grey paws. Or are they?
Here Baruzzi uses two die-cut circles on each right hand page and by asking such questions as ‘Are those his eyes?’

leads us to believe’ that behind them the missing lupine lurks. But on turning over we see something completely different.

The elusive creature (or traces of same) is actually lurking somewhere on every recto which further adds to the delicious hide and seek element.

Up and Down
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This lovely board book, published in partnership with the National Trust is Rosalind Beardshaw’s latest addition to her A Walk in the Countryside series.
Winter has well and truly arrived; so the two small friends don warm clothes and boots before setting off into the great snowy outdoors.
Then it’s Up hill and Down on their sledges, followed by on foot encounters with a variety of creatures both feathered and furry

as they spend a wonderful day together savouring the delights of their rural romp.
There’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with toddlers in addition to the inbuilt ‘opposites’ the minimal text offers.

Bizzy Bear Ambulance Rescue
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in making the ‘nee-naw’ ambulance sounds and manipulating the moving parts in the new Bizzy Bear board book.
Bizzy Bear assumes the role of paramedic in his latest episode and he’s responding to an emergency call out. A little cat has had a cycling accident and Bizzy rushes to the scene where he helps lift the patient into the ambulance

which then rushes the injured kitty to hospital where he’s treated for what looks like a broken leg. Short and sweet!

It’s Time for Bed

A Bear Hug at Bedtime
Jana Novotny Hunter and Kay Widdowson
Child’s Play
Imaginative play rules in this enchanting pre-bedtime romp: snuggle up and prepare for a bedtime hug or two.
A small child meets a variety of animals, large and small as bedtime approaches or does she? Look again and we see that in fact something entirely different is happening as she imagines various members of her family as animals: Gran morphs into a stripy tiger, Mum becomes a monkey,

her little brothers a lizard and a lobster. And Dad? He’s a huge hairy bear just waiting to leap out and engulf his daughter with a wonderfully warm, goodnight hug. Gorgeous!
Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated and SO full of heart, it’s perfect for bedtime sharing.

Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
Lisa Wheeler and Carolina Búzio
Abrams Appleseed
There’s a distinct retro look and pleasing pattern to this languorous rhyming look at sleeping places. ‘Bats take a nap in a cave upside down. / Hay is a bed for a mare. // Wolves cuddle up in a den ‘neath the ground./ But babies can sleep anywhere.’
This three animals followed by one human infant pattern is used throughout the book until the final spread. This shows an array of sleeping human babes all looking totally blissful.

It’s good to see a mix of well-known and less familiar animals included, as well as the variety of human families on the final pages. Carolina Búzio’s bold colour palette is gorgeous.

I See the Moon
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
For this delightful bedtime sharing book, Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated sixteen popular rhymes, lullabies and poems (mostly anonymous but with poems by J.M.Westrup, Thomas Hood and Robert Louis Stevenson).
Populating her moonlit world with adorable children, foxes, squirrels, mice and other small creatures set in scenes generously embellished with silver and gold,

Beardshaw makes each spread sparkles with colour, light and nocturnal enchantment.

Preschool Menagerie

Animosaics: Can You Find Me?
Surya Sajnani
Words & Pictures
This lovely, large format search-and-find counting book will keep youngsters engaged for ages while they look for the animals illustrated on the right-hand pages that are also hidden within the full-page mosaic style habitat opposite; habitats such as the garden, the pond, on the farm, in the jungle or in the ocean.

In addition this is a counting book wherein you are invited to spot other creatures, for example, 1 butterfly in the garden, 2 tadpoles in the pond, 3 hens on the farm and so on, culminating in 10 fireflies in the nocturnal sky mosaic.
What makes this large format book stand out is Surya Sajnani’s bold, graphic art style, which is immediately striking, and also her cubist-constructed creatures set within the habitat appropriate coloured tesserae.

How Do You Sleep?
Olivia Cosneau and Bernard Duisit
What Are You Wearing Today?
Janik Coat and Bernard Duisit
Thames & Hudson
Here are two new additions to the playful, interactive Flip-Flap-Pop-Up series of board books with Duisit acting as paper engineer for both titles.
In the first readers can by manipulating the tabs, discover the sleeping places/positions of seven different animal species from various parts of the world.

In the second book children will enjoy changing the animals’ dress depending on their location, the weather conditions; or on occasion, the mood of the featured animal. This one has both tabs and flaps to help develop manipulative skills.
I’m sure Rita Rhino’s skirt being lifted by the wind …

will be a favourite with youngsters.

Dress Up Jojo
Xavier Deneux
Twirl
Jojo rabbit is back and he’s in playful mood. He dresses up in eight different ways: as a snowman, a spotty leopard, a sword-wielding knight, a cowboy, an alien, an astronaut bound for the moon, a deep sea diver and finally a pilot.
Toddlers can develop their fine motor skills by covering the little creature with snow, helping him balance on a tree branch, swish his sword, open the gates for him to find his horse, roll his eyes like an alien,

spin around in space, dive down deep in the ocean and resurface, and fly away on an adventure; all by placing a finger on the red dots and using their fingers to activate Jojo in his let’s pretend activities.

Zoo
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the second ‘Tiny Little Story’ Baby Boo and Daddy are off to the zoo on the bus. Once there, they meet giraffe, elephant, lion,

monkey, snake and the penguins and then it’s time to leave.
Short and sweet.
With attractive, brightly coloured, strikingly patterned illustrations and a brief text with some animal sounds to enjoy, soft, squashy cloth pages, and a velcro strap for attaching it to a buggy, it’s a perfect introduction to books for the very youngest; and, it’s washable.

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.

I’ve signed the charter  

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Stick! / That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!

Stick!
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
The joys of finding and playing with a stick are explored in an unassuming tale of a small boy and his dog as they take a walk together. There are so many pleasures such a simple, natural object can yield including a game of throwing, retrieving, use as a tapping instrument, an aid to balancing, a corn swisher, a drawing implement …

a mud stirrer, or a floater. Such a versatile find.

All in all a delightful celebration of playing in the great outdoors told through a brief, straightforward text and rendered in vibrant scenes that have a slightly retro feel.
Quite simply, a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the importance of free play with natural objects.
With its minimal text closely matched to the illustrations, it’s great for those just starting to read as well as for sharing with the very young.

That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!
Angie Morgan and Kate Alizadeh
Little Tiger Press
Many young children form an attachment to a blanket or other soft toy from which they become virtually inseparable; so it is with Bella the small female protagonist in this story. Her ‘Blanket’ has been everywhere Bella has and absorbed a good few spills, smells and a whole lot of dirt in the course of their adventures together.
Then along comes a new baby brother, an adorable creature but what a crier. Bella tries all kinds of diversion tactics but suddenly something catches New Baby’s attention. New Baby has a lovely new blanket of his own, a cosy stripy one that should do the trick as a pacifier but no: he prefers Bella’s muddy, painty, stinky one and doesn’t want to let go.
Bella doesn’t act in haste though, snatching her blanket back as many youngsters probably would; rather she encourages her tiny brother to use his own pristine blanket in all kinds of messy activities in the hope it might in time become as much loved as her own.

Until then, who knows: perhaps her patience, loving words and sharing compromise will do the trick?

Endearing characters steal the show in this unusual take on a new sibling.

I’ve signed the charter  

Troll Stroll

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Mummy! / First Words & 123

Mummy!
Lerryn Korda
Nosy Crow
What a cool idea: a lift-the-flap board book with an ancient Egyptian setting published in association with The British Museum.
A small girl has been separated from her mummy and is searching for her: “Where’s my mummy?” she asks repeatedly as she looks in various likely locations: the market, the lotus pool,

by the enormous sphinx, among the foliage by the river and in the temple.
Finally, she reaches her own home and …

With nine visual references to artefacts belonging to the British Museum, (each with an associated hieroglyph to discover), this is such a fun way to introduce very young children to history. (The final spread is devoted to photographs of these and there’s a QR code to scan for more information about the objects shown.)
Equally, with such engaging illustrations and simple repeat pattern narrative it’s also great as a beginning to read picture book.

Some interesting reissued board books are:

Alison Jay’s 123
Alison Jay’s First Words

Templar Publishing
In 123, Alison Jay uses a fairytale landscape for counting as a girl dreams that she travels upon a golden goose to different fairytale scenes.  Each new spread features a number from 1 to 10, and then counts back down to 1 again.  Observant readers will notice that on every spread, the artist includes other sets of the number featured.  She also leaves a visual clue that suggests the next spread and perhaps beyond.

First Words begins with a grandfather clock face surrounded by decorative images that point to the four seasons and to what is to follow on subsequent pages. There are visual allusions to nursery rhymes in addition to the opening Hickory Dickory Dock (yes there’s a mouse atop the clock); we see Jack and Jill climbing up the ‘hill’; while for instance, ‘hat’ and ‘fish’ allude to ‘12345 once I caught a fish alive’

The book spans a whole day, but moves through the seasons too. Featuring seemingly random objects, Jay also uses foreshadowing in this book – an added talking point for children and adults; and each page having just a single word leaves readers free to make up their own stories.
In fact I see both these not so much as concept books but as starting points for promoting talk and visual literacy.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Prince and the Pee

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

How To Look After Your Dinosaur / Caring For Your Lion

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

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

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

More on unusual pet care in:

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

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

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

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That Bear Can’t Babysit / Brobot Bedtime

That Bear Can’t Babysit
Ruth Quayle and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow
Little did Mr and Mrs Burrow know when they had to resort to hiring Bear as babysitter for their night out, leaving their seven bunny offspring in his charge while they went off to a party, what those young rabbits or indeed Bear, might get up to.
The junior Burrows certainly seem to have Bear wrapped around their little paws from the start – or some of them do at least. They choose inappropriate reading material; cause chaos, and worse when it comes to supper;

create mayhem with the hosepipe and then embark on a moonlit adventure with Bear at the helm.

Finally our ursine child-minder seems to have the upper paw, all the more so when out comes the perfect bedtime storybook.

Which is just as well because before you can say ‘goodnight little bunnies’ back come Mr and Mrs B to find a scene of serenity and shut-eye; accompanied by some rather surprising words from their babysitter. Shame that counting isn’t one of his better skills.
Author, Ruth Quayle’s debut picture book is a charmer through and through. It’s full of lively, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, scattered throughout with join-in-able repeat phrases, not the least of which is the title of this book, and there’s a lovely final twist in its tail.
Alison Friend’s scenes fizzle with fun. Her portrayal of frolicsome mischief, furry friend style, is full of amusing detail and her characters are adorably impish.

Brobot Bedtime
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Scott Campbell
Abrams
The only words of this pre bedtime story are speech bubbles – one colour per character – and encased within outlines that approximately correspond with different shapes of the speakers’ heads. The dialogue, which is liberally sprinkled with wordplay, opens with the mother robot sending her three offspring to bed. A seemingly straightforward “time to enter sleep mode” instruction however, is anything but that. Beep can’t possibly sleep; he has “the flick-ups” and needs help. His brothers Crash and Buzz offer assistance in the form of a “nice cup of oil”,

to no avail. Then Buzz leaps into action with a spot of diverting impersonation …

And so it goes on with all manner of supposedly helpful shenanigans until, with Beep on the point of insomniac self-destruction, mum robot calls out, expressing extreme displeasure demanding to know “Why are there still gears turning up there?” and threatening “a hard reboot”.
A plan is hatched but will those little bots ever settle down and drop off to sleep? Well, um yes – and no!
The crazy, occasionally slightly confusing, visuals of the romp, in tandem with those colour-coded speech bubbles, offer a wonderful opportunity for readers aloud (and young listeners), to engage in robot-speak. A word of warning though: if you share this as a bedtime book, it might well lead to rather too much child-robot talk and as a result, insufficient infant wind-down.

I’ve signed the charter  

Three Pirate Tales

There appears to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present: these three arrived in a single postal delivery:

The Treasure of Pirate Frank
Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham and Jez Tuya
Nosy Crow
Taking the rhythmic pattern of the nursery rhyme The House that Jack Built, the authors have woven a lovely lilting tale of a young boy set on discovering the hiding place of Pirate Frank’s treasure.
He has a map so show him the way, a trusty ship in which to sail,
To the island with spices and gold and tall mountains all snowy and cold,
On which is a forest with monkeys bold, and a swamp with lilypads topped with frogs.

He must beware of the volcano, spitting out fire,
As he ascends the steps going higher and higher;
then crosses the bridge to the tall palm tree; there to behold – my goodness me!
Who’s this standing atop that chest?

It seems there’s only one thing to do. What would that be if the boy was you?
Jez Tuya’s imaginative perspectives and creature crammed spreads are worth revisiting once the treasure has been found and the tale completed.

Pirates in the Supermarket
Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton
Scholastic Children’s Books
First there were Dinosaurs in the Supermarket; now the place is beset with pirates hell-bent on creating mischief and mayhem among the groceries as unsuspecting shoppers go about the task of filling their trolleys with goodies. They leave plenty of clues but nobody save one small boy is aware of the piles of rubble appearing in the aisles,

the cannon-wielding gang on the rampage, or the piratical accoutrements appearing around the store. Fortunately for all concerned just when it seems things might be getting somewhat out of hand, the aforementioned boy springs into action and before you can say, ‘shiver me timbers’ he has things under control – well and truly so methinks …

Which all goes to show that you need to keep your eyes wide open whenever you embark on a supermarket shop; you never know who might be lurking …
Fun, fast and full of crazy characters, oh and the odd observant one too.; and they’re all colourfully portrayed in Sarah Warburton’s comedic supermarket scenes. What more can a swashbuckling child ask?

Pete’s Magic Pants: Pirate Peril
Paddy Kempshall and Chris Chatterton
Egmont
Another pair of Pete’s snazzy magic pants come out of the suitcase for a wearing – pirate’s stripy ones in this instance – and before you can say ‘Avast’, with a wiggle and a wobble, the lad is off on the high seas aboard the Flying Fowl with Cap’n Ted and his trusty, clucking crew. They’re on the trail of Long John Silverside the most feared buccaneer on the high seas; he who has seized the treasure rightfully belonging, so we’re told to Cap’n Ted and his pals.
Can they escape the jaws of the sharks and the clutches of the soggy-suckered octopus, find their way to where the treasure is stashed and then get past the loutish-looking Long John himself?

Perhaps – with the help of Pete’s brain and the odd touch of brawn thereafter.
Fans of Pete’s previous adventure will welcome this second tale, which is pacey, pant-revealing and full of high drama and I suspect it will capture some new pants followers too.

I’ve signed the charter  

Quality From The Start

Park
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
It’s never too soon to introduce babies to books: this ‘Tiny Little Story’ is a delight. We accompany Mum and Baby Boo on a walk in the park where they see a dog, a squirrel – squeeze the page and the leaves rustle – and a snail.

It rains, they feed the ducks and then the infant bids farewell to a bird and the park. That’s it; but with its squidgy fabric pages, simple, bright, attractive illustrations and brief text, it’s perfect for a first book. The whole thing comes in a presentation box and there’s a velcro strap to attach the book to a buggy.
With its soft pages, this would make a super present for a mum and new baby.

So Many Feet
Nichole Mara and Alexander Vidal
Abrams Appleseed
HIGH FEET, SLOW FEET; FAST FEET: SNOW FEET; DANCING FEET, HANGING FEET – these are just some of the many different kinds to be found in this largish board book that introduces toddlers to the diverse forms and functions of animal feet be they toed, clawed, webbed, sticky, hoofed, padded or other. Each animal’s feet are adapted for its life style whether it’s  mountain climbing, slow plodding, jumping, swimming, digging,

or perhaps, wall scaling.
Interesting, informative and alluringly illustrated, and with its final spread, which concludes with a parting question, ‘What can YOUR FEET do?’ an open invitation for youngsters to try some experimental movements with their own feet. In fact, nursery practitioners might make it the starting point for some playful group movement activities.

123
ABC

Nosy Crow
Nosy Crow has embarked on a new collaboration with The British Museum and these two board books are some of the first of a new joint non-fiction list.
Each one contains photographic images of objects found in the museum and thus give very young learners an opportunity to see and celebrate some of the wonderfully rich cultural collections while at the same time re-enforcing alphabetic and numerical concepts.
I randomly opened 123 at the first spread and was surprised to see a pair of what look like almost identical Indian shoes to a pair I have that I bought in Rajasthan, India a few years back, and where there are a fair number of makers/sellers of these jooties or mojaris as they are called. Those illustrated here are given in the index as ‘shoes: date unknown’ so I have no idea how old they might be, but it just shows how certain things remain almost unchanged over time.
In fact the whole book starting with 1 llama (a gold figure from Peru); and ending with 20 coins, is full of fascinating objects to look at and talk about.

There is a mix of photos of illustrations (paintings, etching, drawing) and 3D objects including drums, bowls, kites, beads, bags and spoons from the collection.
A similar mix of illustration and 3D items graces the pages of ABC. This spread shows a Japanese woodblock print of a snail, a porcelain teapot from the UK and an ivory figure from Sri Lanka.

Think of the rich vocabulary you might help your child develop by focussing on any of the objects shown: there’s certainly no talking down to toddlers here.
In addition to the index each book has, there is a QR code that if scanned on a smart phone supplies further information about the objects depicted. So, share these exciting little books and then if possible pay a visit to the British Museum and try to find the objects on display there.

I’ve signed the charter  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter 

 

One Happy Tiger/ Colours: A Walk in the Countryside / My Little Cities: London

One Happy Tiger
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
What a delight to have Augustus back and between the sturdy covers of a wonderful board book. Everything about this is splendid from the look and feel of that cover through to Augustus’s sublime smile as he watches the movements of his ten friends on the final spread.
In between, he starts off sitting alone and then we see a sequence of encounters with 2 bugs (beetles I think); 3 birds with bright plumage; 4 ‘floating butterflies’;

5 dragonflies hover above his head. Augustus then bounds off leaving 6 large footprints and moves through a rain shower dancing with 7 ‘plump raindrops’ …

relaxes to watch 8 bees; splashes into the pool to tease 9 fish before clambering out to dry off in the sun and greet his friends all together.
This is a board book, (based Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and His Smile), that looks, apart from its sturdy card pages like a real picture book; and its shape is truly satisfying too. Adults will get as much pleasure as the toddlers they share this one with.

Colours: A walk in the countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this is another delightful countryside walk wherein readers accompany two toddlers on a joyful nature ramble; this time, it’s colour-related. We join the children as they exuberantly run down a slope surrounded by green – look closely and you’ll see a cricket and a butterfly on the plants. They stop to observe a ladybird on a grass stem in a poppyfield; then notice an orange-tip butterfly by a stone wall; a group of ants attracts the attention of the boy while the girl views a black bird through her binoculars. Their walk continues apace till picnic time, when they have a snack before moving on, all the while keeping their eyes open for interesting sightings such as …

A veritable paintbox of twelve colours and an entire rainbow are part and parcel of their rural ramblings. Awe and wonder for tinies: if this doesn’t inspire an adult to take their young infant out into the countryside on an observation walk, which may or may not mirror that of the children in this lovely little book, I’d be very surprised.

My Little Cities London
Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
Chronicle Books
Board the bus and take a tour of London. Ten of its famous landmarks are featured in this board book although none is named until the final spread whereon there is a ‘cast in order of appearance’ style briefing about each one depicted. The whole thing is beautifully presented, the text being in rhyming couplets; and the font changes on each spread.

Concepts such as new/old, many/few, soft/hard (rain) are introduced in relation to The Tower of London, the Shard, Trafalgar Square (many pigeons), the Natural History Museum (few dinosaur skeletons), and the two final spreads show wonderful illuminations – the London Eye

and Big Ben – against the night sky.
Altogether a class act, with so much to see and so much to talk about: that’s London. Author, Adams, and illustrator, Pizzoli, have, for toddlers, done it proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sleeping Bunnies / My First Books/ Picky Eaters

Sleeping Bunnies
Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
The latest Sing along with me title is a favourite with almost every nursery child I’ve encountered; they just love to sing and act out this one. This beautifully illustrated version of the song offers the opportunity to have some book-related singing and manipulative play, lifting the sunshade over the bunny crib and making the sun rise at the same time, in time to hear the ‘merry tune’ from the animal trio that pop up from behind the fence to play to the baby bunnies.

These furry infants are reluctant wakers; ‘Are they ill? Oh so still!’ Oh no! Off they go, hop, hop, hopping till it’s time to stop. Yipee! Delight from cover to cover and if this doesn’t get your sleeping bunny hopping, then scan the QR code on the cover and play it nice and loud …
Books such as these can have another use too: once a child has learned the words by heart, they can return at a later stage and begin to match the words in their head with those on the page – one way into beginning reading.

My First Words
My First Colours and Shapes
My First Animals

Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Finnish artist, Metsola has clearly used her background in printing and design to create these three stylish, invitingly interactive board book additions to the Learning Garden series. Each has seven brightly coloured spreads with ten named items per spread; My First Words encompasses items of clothing and a set of hangers, modes of transport; play-related things; Snacktime goodies and a spoon; and things related to the outdoors.
The two final spreads are devoted to Dinnertime and Bedtime.
There’s a related question to discuss on every spread (some more open than others) and an abundance of pattern throughout each book.
My First Shapes and Colours begins with the three primary colours, followed by green, purple and orange, with a final spread of shapes …

My First Animals (my favourite I think, because there’s a slight quirkiness about the animals’ shapes) has a plethora of creatures small and large. The garden,

pond, ocean, jungle, farm, polar regions and savannah are the habitats of the chosen animals; here I think a few of the questions were not so carefully considered: ‘… which animal is the tallest?’ we’re asked. The correct answer relies on knowledge rather than observation of what’s presented on the spread –the giraffe shown is not taller than say, the cheetah, for instance.
There’s rich language learning potential within each book, far beyond the mere naming of the labelled images depicted.

Picky Eaters
Ellen Jackson and Amy-Clare Barden
Sterling Children’s Books
As this playful, rhyming board book demonstrates, picky eaters don’t just come in human form. Creatures large and small, from koalas to caterpillars, turtles to turkeys and honeybees to giant whales are also very choosy about their dietary intake. Their favourite fare, and that of the other animals herein, is revealed by lifting the various flaps, two per double spread.

Fun learning for tiny hands.

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A Farm Visit, An Egg Hunt Activity Book & Masha and her Sisters

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Look and Say What You See in the Farm
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
Published in partnership with the National Trust, this book with its thick pages presents us with thirteen farm scenes going right through the year from early spring when there’s an abundance of lambs in the fields, little chicks have been born and there are calves needing their share of milk …

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Back outside at the pond, ducklings and goslings are learning to swim and tadpoles wiggle and waggle their tails. In summer, there is an abundance of insects, wild animals and wild flowers; their presence enriches the farm and some weeks later, it is time for the collecting of yummy vegetables .

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Autumn brings the wheat harvest, pumpkins aplenty and in the orchard, the apples are ripe and ready for picking, so too the pears.. Mmm!
Winter sees the animals snuggling in the warm barn with the door firmly shut against the cold.
Every spread has a strip along the bottom asking readers, ‘What can you see … ? with nine items to search for in the large scene above. Perfect for developing visual literacy, for encouraging storying; and, it’s lots of fun.
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We’re going on an Egg Hunt Activity Book
illustrated by Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The bunnies from last year’s We’re Going on an Egg Hunt picture book return inviting youngsters to participate in a variety of activities including matching shadows to images, egg decorating, spot the difference, a word search and much more. The centre spread has beautiful stickers with which to adorn the pages as instructed – or otherwise if you’re divergent. I suspect some children won’t want to cut out the triangular shapes to make the bunting, especially as there’s a game of hide and seek with the bunnies and a follow the path game on the reverse sides; if so, I’d suggest copying the spread or drawing your own triangles to decorate. These are just some of the games in this attractive book, made all the more delightful by Laura Hughes’ cute bunnies. Just right for Easter.

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Masha and Her Sisters
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books
This is a retro delight: a maryoshka doll-shaped board book that, once the cover is lifted, opens downwards to reveal, one by one, five dolls, the first being the smallest. Flip that page down and a slightly larger sister is revealed and so on. First we meet Natasha, the storyteller, then nature lover, Galya; Olya is the chef, Larisa, the performer and finally, Masha who is the collector. The body of each is decorated – front and back – with objects related to their special interest. Thus for instance, Galya has fauna, trees and a tent;

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Olya the chef has herbs, mixing bowls and kitchen tools. Innovative, charming and near enough egg-shaped to make an Easter treat for a small child.

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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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Here Comes the Sun

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Here Comes the Sun
Karl Newson and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow
In a treetop way up high, / Little Owl blinks / and rubs an eye.’ So begins an entrancing tale of one small nocturnal bird, who spreads her wings and flies forth with a mission: to extinguish each and every star in the night sky. As she goes, she passes all kinds of snoozing creatures both great and small: there’s Mouse and Squirrel, Giraffe and Elephant,

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Bear curled up in his cave and Tiger atop a cliff, ‘Swooping, looping, left and right, / wishing every star/ goodnight.’ Then on past Whale and Penguin, now in pursuit of an elusive shooting star

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that leads her over woods and waterfalls, seas and sands, jungles and swamps to that very last shining star.
With a final puff, the job is done, every star has gone: just in time for the sun to rise. Then all those sleeping animals begin to stir, stretch, yawn, wash and feed.

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A new day is dawning but for Little Owl, it’s time for a much-deserved sleep.
Superbly somnolent sounding, Karl Newson’s gentle tale has just the right ingredients for a bedtime read aloud: a languid rhyme with repeated refrains, and a hypnotic rhythm; and I love the whole notion of blowing out the stars.
Migy Blanco’s captivating animal characters stand out beautifully against the inky night skies and the landscapes.

Board Book Shelf 2

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Mix & Match Animal Homes
Mix & Match Colours

Lo Cole
Walker Books
Innovative design – a tiny book within a small one – is key to these two board books for the very youngest. In Animal Homes, six habitats the (African) plains, the desert, the jungle,

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the sea, the forest and the Arctic are visited with four animals per spread and a fifth is waiting to be discovered in the inset smaller book.
Colours has a spread for each of the primary colours plus green, pink and orange each of which has eight or nine brightly coloured objects both large and small (although relative sizes aren’t explored) and the inset book has the pages of the six colours which children need to match to the colours of the objects on the surrounding larger pages.

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Vocabulary development and colour concepts are the main learning opportunities offered in these playful little books.

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Where’s Mr Lion?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
A handful of wild animals – Mrs Giraffe, Mr Crocodile, Mrs Elephant and Mr Lion are the subjects to search for in this board book. With its felt flap hiding places and a final hidden mirror, toddlers will have lots of fun manipulating the flaps to reveal and missing animals which have in fact only partially managed to conceal themselves behind the various brightly coloured objects. This of course adds to the enjoyment, as does the repetitive patterned nature of the text.

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Cheep! Cheep!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In the latest addition to the Can You Say It Too? series Sebastien Braun involves readers in a trip around the farm and surrounding area where five animals have hidden themselves behind a clump of flowers, a gate, a basket, a stable door and a clump of reeds.. Once located, toddlers can emulate the ‘Cheep! Cheep!’, ‘Baah! Baah!’ ‘Meew! Meew!’, ‘Hee-haw! Hee-haw!’ and ‘Quack! Quack!’

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of the baby animals. Involving, noisy fun made all the more so by Braun’s gently humorous visuals.

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Flora and the Chicks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, the balletic star from Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguins and Flora and the Peacocks now performs in an almost wordless counting book for a younger audience. The young miss, suitably clad in her red jump suit, more than has her hands full with the nest of hatching chicks emerging one after the other. As each new chick breaks out, the book counts, the numeral being revealed when the page-sized folds are opened out, or as one turns to the next spread to follow the action,

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until finally all 10 chicks have hatched, the mother hen has her full brood and Flora sits for a well-earned rest. Then come the only words ‘The End’ aptly heralding the show is over. The tottering first steps of the chicks provide a nice contrast to Flora’s graceful swoops, lunges and stretches as she attempts to round up the fluffy yellow hatchlings. Lots of fun and deliciously re-readable.

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Board Book Shelf 1

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Flip Flap Dogs
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow
There’s a newcomer to the Flip Flap series in Nikki Dyson who introduces readers to eleven breeds of dog in this split page pooch-lovers delight. In all though you can make 121 different combinations by manipulating the bissected cardboard pages..
There’s a descriptive, two verse rhyme for each breed in which, for example the Terrier, introduces itself
opposite a portrait of same, and a characteristic ‘Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!’ or whatever. And then, that might become with a deft flick of the flaps, say, a ‘Terrihuahua’ …

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or all manner of other crazy crossbreeds. Splendid stuff especially, if you’re canine crazy.

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Pairs! in the garden
Pairs! underwater

Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Pairs! is a new series which provides young children with an interactive information book, a memory game (via the flaps and a straightforward instruction such as ‘Find each matching pair of snails’, and an inviting, brightly illustrated board book all between the same two covers. In the Garden penned by Smriti, introduces, with a series of jolly rhymes, including some nice alliteration ‘swirly, sparkly silver trails’, all kinds of minibeasts scattered among a plethora of flowers.
One of my preschool testers has a great time ascribing names to the various creatures Lorna Scobie has illustrated: ‘buzzy fat bee’, ‘cuddly bee’, ‘grumpy bee’ ‘but this cross skinny bee doesn’t have a friend’.

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The grasshoppers became ‘dotty’, ‘spotty’ ‘stripey’ and ‘skinny striped’ while among the caterpillars were ‘hairy, scary blue’ and ‘red spotalot’. My favourite though I think, was ‘pinky purply underpants’ beetle’.
Underwater looks at marine life both on the shore (despite the title) and under the sea …

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and is equally attractive and involving.

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Baby Dinosaurs
Minibeasts

DK
These two larger than usual board books ask users to ‘Follow the Trail’ or trails, as there are several offered on some spreads to interact with Baby Dinosaurs or a variety of Minibeasts. The trails are glittery embossed lines that readers can trace across the pages with their fingers and at the same time find out something about the Allosaurus, Diplodocus, Styracosaurus and Tuojiangosaurus or alternatively butterflies, honeybees, ladybirds and dragonflies.
Digital illustrations of the baby dinosaurs are set against clean white backgrounds on which are digitally drawn flora to give a idea of their environments. Interactive instructions (‘Loop around’ or ‘Make an oval shape as you go round the dinosaur egg’), brief facts about the animals (‘Allosaurus walked on two legs’. ‘Mummy Allosaurus was about as tall as a giraffe‘),

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and die-cut holes through which to peep at what dinosaur is coming next add up to a playful, multilayered reading experience.
Similarly with the minibeasts (all four are winged insects), there are glittery trails – looping or zigzagging, going straight or curving up and down, to take the insects to the flowers containing nectar, honeycombs,

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aphids on a leaf, or a pond. All are illustrated by Charlotte Milner and the inclusion of a snail with its spiral shell to trace as the ladybird travels over a flowerpot, justifies the Minibeasts title.
One of my preschool testers seized on these and, after spending a considerable time enjoying sharing them, wanted to keep them; this had to be put on hold until I’d had a chance to reflect and write however. Beautifully done and certain to be read over and over.

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Neon Leon

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Neon Leon
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
If you want a fun, maximum audience participation story to share with your early years listeners then look no further; Jane Clarke’s tale of chameleon, Leon, is all that and more. You might need to put on your sunglasses though for Leon is, shall we say a chameleon that stands out from the crowd. No matter where he goes with his companions, be it the green leafy jungle, the sandy yellow desert …

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or the ‘big, grey, rocky mountains, no matter how hard he tries, even with the help of listeners instructions, he stays very visibly, Day-Glo orange.
Come nightfall, Leon returns, with the other chameleons, to the jungle. Dark it may be but there’s no chance of sleep for any of them with that brightness emanating from Leon. Feeling very sad, he sets forth in search of somewhere he can fit in. His first spot looks promising but then hunger calls the birds …

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so the dejected-looking creature hurries off once more, to …

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This certainly looks the perfect place but there’s something missing, something that can make Leon even happier …
Colours, camouflage, counting, different environments, and above all a thoroughly enjoyable story, make this a great read aloud especially if you have dealings with fives and under. Britta’s Leon really does stand out from the crowd and from her wonderful collage style, patterned backgrounds. I love those differing designs on Leon’s fellow chameleons too.

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When an Elephant Falls in Love / I Love You

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When an Elephant Falls in Love
Davide Cali and Alice Lotti
Chronicle Books
Davide Cali of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School and The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer fame brings his sardonic wit to an exploration of falling in love, elephant style.
In his straightforward text, he offers, one by one, eight symptoms of this state of being. Alice Lotti portrays each of these ‘foolish things’ with equal wit in her stark, mixed media illustrations. Elephant is the perfect purveyor of the condition as his huge bulk serves to emphasise the daftness of each action …

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He hides whenever he sees her.

And, there’s a tiny yellow bird that pops up as an observer of each scene, further adding to the overall impact of the whole crazy scenario …

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Look by the bowl …

Both young readers and adults will find plenty to make them smile in this, whether or not they recognise the symptoms from personal experience or observations of others, for it’s plain to see that when an elephant falls in love …

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his actions are pretty much those of a besotted human.

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I Love You
Clemency Pearce and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
The all important title message is delivered through Clemency Pearce’s warm-hearted, rhyming text and super-cute, patterned illustrations. With its textual pattern that begins, ‘ When you feel so very small, / when no one seems to care at all, / what can make you ten feet tall? // Three little words …
(turn over) … ‘I love you!’ …

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this cries out to the very young to join in with those three words after each verse is read aloud.
But those recipients of love can also help make others feel better …

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Ideal to share with your toddler, this board book is a delight.
Another board book with the same title is

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I Love You
Dawn Sirett
DK
This is the latest addition to DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series.
Colour photographs of animals, toys and humans …

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each with a finger-sized tactile feature are the ingredients of this chunky little book. Just right for the very youngest to explore.

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I’m in Charge!

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I’m In Charge!
Jeanne Willis and Jarvis
Nosy Crow
It’s patently obvious who rules the roost in the rhino family, not daddy rhino, nor mummy rhino; it’s little rhino and he surely knows exactly how to make his presence felt as he goes around doing such dastardly deeds as scattering the meerkats, startling Giraffe and squashing Baboon’s banana – well the meanie refused to share; he even has the audacity to barge Elephant in the bottom. “I’m in charge!” is definitely the order of the day.

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But who has executive control of the mango tree and its delicious fruit? That is the all important question and it’s one that feisty little Rhino has the answer to, at least he thinks he does and it’s certainly what he assures Pygmy Mouse despite what the little creature has to say.

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Could it be that the belligerent beast is about to change his mind however …

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… a hundred beefy wildebeest … came charging down the hill.

Jeanne Willis and Jarvis deliver the message about learning to share superbly well. Jeanne Willis’ lively rhyming text bounces along beautifully and Jarvis’ savannah-glow illustrations of the bossy beast and his challengers holds up a mirror to infant behaviour with panache and humour.
So cleverly titled, this is perfect for sharing be it at home or in an early years setting.

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Dave’s Rock

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Dave’s Rock
Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow
The delightful troglodyte from Dave’s Cave is back with another troublesome scenario; on this occasion it’s rock related rivalry.
Dave love rock, Jon too.
Bigger rock Dave’s; Jon’s rock faster …

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Dave find pretty new rock, err …

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Cavemen fall out. Dave has idea. Dave busy. Jon busy too. New rocks, nice and round:just right for – new game …

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Dave and Jon both happy; friends happy too.

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… friends happy too.

Delivered in similar clipped caveman speak to its predecessor, this is a terrific tale of friendship, falling out and fun from the fabulous Frann Preston-Gannon. The inclusion of the Mark Twain quote, ‘Name the greatest of all inventors: accident’ sets the scene so perfectly.
The deliciously droll visuals are just SO eloquent. Her hirsute humans and their animal audience are simply splendid. The animals’ doodlings in the sand outlined my own thoughts as to the likely use of Dave’s and Jon’s new rocks but seemingly, the era of Homo ludens had a much earlier origin than the twentieth century advent of computer games, right back in the Tertiary period no less.
Perfect for storytime sharing (watch out for a spate of caveman speak thereafter); and equally perfect for beginning readers. A real cracker this!

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Lucy Ladybird / Where’s Mrs Ladybird?

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Lucy Ladybird
Sharon King-Chai
Templar Publishing
This is a re-issue and it’s good to see Lucy Ladybird back in circulation once again.
Ostracised by the other ladybirds, the despondent creature takes off and soon meets Fred Frog. He pays her a morale-boosting compliment and gives her one of his green spots. As she continues to fly all through the seasons, her encounters with Carla Caterpillar, Felicity Fish and Bella Bird yield further compliments and three additional spots …

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after which Lucy returns home feeling like a true ladybird, albeit a variegated one. Will she now fit in with the other ladybirds?
Actually no but something much more exciting happens instead and before long a change has come upon the entire community …

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With its themes of difference, acceptance, sharing and friendship this is a super story to share with early years listeners and if my experience is anything to go by, immediate re-readings will be the order of the day.
This one’s rich in potential not only for discussion but creative work – I’ll leave that to your imagination. Sharon King-Chai’s paintbox hued, mixed media illustrations have certainly sparked off a whole plethora of activies, both artistic and other, whenever I’ve shared the story. Vive la difference, say I.

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Where’s Mrs Ladybird?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in this brightly coloured hide-and-seek board book wherein four minibeasts are hiding behind felt flaps, one on each spread, except the final one whereon they watch the revelation of a mirror just waiting to be looked in.
The single sentence question and answer per double spread follows the same pattern, for instance …

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and that makes the audience two-fold: beginning readers can enjoy sharing the book, perhaps with younger siblings.

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Festive Fun and Frolics

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Nuddy Ned’s Christmas
Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nuddy Ned likes nothing better than to dash around in the altogether and yes, he’s super excited it being Christmas Eve; but dashing outside into the snowy evening chill is nothing short of crackers. There’s no stopping the little fellow though; he’s on a mission to meet Santa and he’s perfectly prepared to charge down the street and around the town completely starkers, parents in hot pursuit, in order to do so. Only some strategically placed flaps and other judiciously positioned items including a bird, a glove …

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and a bauble preserve his modesty.
Does this madcap streak finally get Ned what he wants – that Santa encounter, you’ll probably be wondering. Yes he does and Santa’s none too impressed at Ned’s lack of clothing but in the end it seems like a question of beat’em or join’em: what will Santa do? That would be telling wouldn’t it!
Kes Gray’s cracking rhyming text combined with equally giggle-inducing illustrations from Garry Parsons makes for some delightfully silly festive fun.

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The Queen’s Present
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Imagine being able to call on Father Christmas himself for a spot of last minute emergency present buying, but that is exactly what the Queen does in her desire to find the perfect gift for her great grandchildren. Down he comes and off they go on a whistle stop flight with a whole host of hangers-on in the form of Santa’s little helpers who have much work to do in the way of festooning the various landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Himeji Castle, Sydney Opera House …

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and the Statue of Liberty over which they fly before finally landing in the North Pole. Even there though, Her Majesty is unable to find the perfect present. With Christmas Day almost upon them, there seems to be only one thing to do …

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This whole crazy romp is executed using an appropriately seasonal colour palette. It’s not my favourite Steve Antony but it’s full of things to make you smile; and those elves really do earn their keep as well as having a terrific time adorning all those iconic landmarks.

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Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
The excitement is palpable in Winnie and Wilbur’s house as they bake, write cards and festoon the place with decorations. Then it’s time for writing those all important letters to Santa …

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Christmas Eve comes at last and just as the pair drop off to sleep, they hear a cry for help: something has gone drastically wrong with Santa’s chimney descent. It’s fortunate that Winnie just happens to have her wand right there on the bedside table and with a quick wave and a magical utterance, she soon has their visitor back on his feet and they’re off on an amazing adventure.

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Full of seasonal magic and excitement, this is sure to delight, especially that final pop-out surprise …

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For the very youngest:

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
This song on which this chunky board book is based is probably one of the most frequently sung in primary schools and nurseries in the run up to Christmas.
Here we join a host of warmly clad, cute animal friends celebrating the seasonal joys together as they sleigh, skate, ski and deliver presents before gathering together in a warm cosy room to share some gifts.

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In addition to the moving parts, you can further add to toddlers’ enjoyment by scanning the QR code inside the front cover and getting an audio version to sing along with.

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

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The Princess and the Christmas Rescue
Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
Nosy Crow
On top of the world where the icy winds blow,
A beautiful palace grows out of the snow.

This palace is home to Princess Eliza, a bright child with a passion for making things of a technological nature, though not for making friends, largely because she never sets foot outside the palace walls.
One day as she stands gazing out across the valley after abortive friend-making efforts within, she sees some smoke and decides to follow it and discover its source. Off she goes into the forest and is soon lost. What should loom up out of the snowy mist but a friendly reindeer who offers to take her to a place of safety.

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This turns out to be Santa’s Workshop where she discovers that the elves are in desperate need of some assistance and before long Eliza has set herself to work designing and creating some new machines.

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Can the problem-solving princess and her inventions speed things up sufficiently; and will she succeed in her friend-finding quest?
Just the thing for sharing at the start of the build-up to Christmas: this rhyming tale reads aloud beautifully. Children will doubtless enjoy the fact that Eliza’s kindness and problem-solving skills are both rewarding and rewarded.

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Sarah Warburton’s North Pole scenes are full of humour, wonderful details and seasonal warmth; and those elves with their crazy headgear are terrific fun.

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer / The Christmas Fairy

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Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer
Nicola Killen
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
It’s Christmas Eve; Ollie is suddenly awoken by a jingly sound. What could it be? She creeps to the window seeing nothing but a snowy landscape. Determined to discover the source of the sound, she boards her sledge and off she goes down the hill and into the dark wood.

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It’s there she comes upon a collar studded with silver bells caught on a tree branch. Then from the darkness emerges a reindeer, a collarless reindeer.

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With its collar safely back on, the reindeer takes Ollie on a magical ride through the starry skies…

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Saying farewell to a new friend is hard for Ollie but she knows that there’s important work awaiting him; and then there’s Christmas morning to look forward to …
Judiciously placed splashes of red and silver are used sparingly to enhance the dramatic effect of the otherwise black and white scenes of all the activity that fills this quiet, snowy night. A gentle, simple and magical story.

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The Christmas Fairy
Anne Booth and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
When Clara hears that ‘Christmas fairy’ lessons are on the curriculum she’s thrilled; being a ‘proper’ Christmas fairy is exactly what she’s been wishing for. The trouble is this involves standing statue-still on tiptoes and staying absolutely silent: in other words no giggling, absolutely no wriggling and positively no singing. As show day draws nearer, it looks as though this whole Christmas fairy thing is just way too demanding for Clara.

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The big day arrives and Clara is distraught. Suddenly though events take a turn. Santa’s there in front of her and seemingly he has not just one, but three roles that need filling, and he thinks Clara fits the bill perfectly. Can she step in and save the show?

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And what about that Christmas wish of hers …
Cute, seasonal rhyming fun for tinies. A lovely demonstration of the idea that everyone has something to offer, especially those who are slightly divergent; it’s just a matter of finding what that special something is.

The Winter Fox / Presents Through the Window

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The Winter Fox
Timothy Knapman and Rebecca Harry
Nosy Crow
As summer gives way to autumn, a little fox is too busy enjoying himself romping in the flowers and chasing butterflies to pay heed to his friends, Rabbit, Owl and Squirrel as they prepare for the long winter that’s to come. He plays through the autumn too …

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and come winter when the other animals are all snuggled cosily in their nests, Fox is alone out in the forest.
Cold and hungry, he makes a wish beneath a star. What happens then changes the course of events not only for Fox but for the other forest creatures too.

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Full of wintry warm-heartedness and friendship, and just enough seasonal sparkle, this is a story to share with young listeners in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They’ll need to look carefully at the sky to discover where that surprise parcel came from.

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Presents Through the Window
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is out on his present delivery round. He has an unconventional mode of transport and seems in rather a rush. So much so that his quick peep through the (die-cut) window of each house before dropping off a gift will result in some rather inappropriate offerings being received come Christmas morning.

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Part of the fun is that by turning the page, readers will discover the identities of the gifts recipients and relish each mis-match.

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Santa in contrast never does learn the outcome of his hasty choices: another part of the fun is imagining the reactions of the recipients. However the most fun of all is seeing how everything works out just fine come Christmas morning.
The entire text is composed of Santa’s utterances presented in speech bubbles as a running commentary – literally – directed to his audience as he moves from one home to the next. Simple, clever and highly effective.