Tag Archives: Otter-Barry Books

Run, Elephant, Run

Run, Elephant Run
Patricia MacCarthy
Otter-Barry Books

As a storm gathers, lashing the vegetation of his Indonesian rainforest home and pelting down upon Little Elephant, he becomes separated from his mother.
The storm gets increasingly wild but there’s something even more fierce close by. It’s a tiger.
Little Elephant battles against the whirling, swirling elements, the creature hot on his trail. With no time to hide, Little Elephant has to run for his life through the slippery mud.

He slips and falls, whooshing pell-mell down a muddy slope right into his anxiously searching mother.
There’s only one thing to do: make as much noise as possible; so they trumpet and stamp till suddenly

the tiger turns tail and dashes away.
Eventually the storm blows itself out and with the change in the weather, the herd moves on. The weather isn’t all that’s different though: thanks to his adventure, one small pachyderm has changed on the inside. He now feels bigger and braver as he sploshes and splashes with the other elephants in the rain pool.

With its wealth of onomatopoeia this is a great book for adding sound effects during a story session. Children could use their voices, found objects or musical instruments – possibly ones they’ve made themselves – to orchestrate the reading.
First though, read the story, look closely at the superb visuals and then, using the final puzzle spread, go back through the book and search for the thirty odd rainforest creatures in the richly coloured illustrations.

The Creature

The Creature
Helen Bate
Otter-Barry Books

Cats have a habit of dragging things in from the outside; usually it’s a bird or small rodent.
Not so with marmalade cat, Alfie however. What he deposits on the mat is a strange little creature, bedraggled yes, but growly and frightening.

Once inside though, the creature seems to want to stay and when spring comes, smell not withstanding, it’s well and truly settled in and part of the family …

It certainly enjoys a rather strange diet; cardboard, banana skins, plastic and toast being its breakfast favourites.

Night is for roaming; that appears to be part of the creature’s nature, but come morning, it never fails to reappear.
Autumn turns to winter once more and there are clues that the Creature is up to something on the top bunk.

By Christmas however, everyone has forgotten all about it. Has that Creature perhaps got a very special seasonal gift tucked away up there?

With its quirky illustrations, surprise ending and rhyming text that echoes the rhythm pattern of “The Night Before Christmas’, this is a fun read aloud that leaves plenty of gaps for readers to fill.

Mrs Noah’s Pockets

Mrs Noah’s Pockets
Jackie Morris and James Mayhew
Otter-Barry Books

This totally fresh and original take on the Noah’s Ark story is an absolute bobby-dazzler and what an inspired author/artist pairing.
Jackie Morris’ s powerful prose is honed to perfection so that not a single word is superfluous: here’s a taste:
This rain came from a sky
dark as a bruise,
falling hard and fast,
beating the earth,
washing down tracks,
making streams of pathways
and rivers of roads.

I love that Mrs Noah is portrayed as a subversive character who, instead of snipping, threading, tacking, tucking and stitching what her husband assumes are curtains for his ark windows, is in fact fashioning herself a multi- pocketed cape within which to stash all the ‘troublesome creatures’ that Mr Noah has on his list to leave behind when they set sail on their voyage. Genuis!

James Mayhew has used a strikingly brilliant, new style for his atmospheric illustrations – a mix of collage and print-making …

The design too is superb and those vignettes are little beauties.

This, I think, is destined to become a classic: it deserves a place on every family bookshelf and would make a great addition to any primary classroom collection.

Pirate Baby

Pirate Baby
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Otter-Barry Books

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

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

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

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

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My Daddy is a Silly Monkey / The Dictionary of Dads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Blind Mice and An Elephant

Six Blind Mice and an Elephant
Jude Daly
Otter-Barry Books
So often in my teaching career have I used Six Blind Men and an Elephant that despite having the book beside me, I instinctively mistyped the title of Jude Daly’s rendition of the Indian fable at the start of this review.
Daly sets her story somewhere in rural South Africa and begins with a somewhat sleepy elephant wandering from its forest habitat into a farmer’s barn and there falling fast asleep in the straw. On discovering it and excited by his find, the farmer rounds up his family and neighbours to view the creature and its wonders.

Meanwhile six blind mice nesting in a tree nearby are aroused from their slumbers by a strange aroma. Eager to discover the source of this new sensation, they follow their noses, encounter a cat and take refuge in a hole where they hear the humans chatting about the visitor asleep in the farmer’s barn. Search over they decide, and once the crowd has dispersed off they go to the barn.
Suddenly “Ouch!” that’s the oldest mouse coming up rather hard against the elephant’s side and declaring the beast to be “like a – wall”.

The second mouse disagrees likening the animal to a spear as she almost nose dives from the end of a tusk. And so it goes on with the other four mice giving their opinions based on partial evidence until as the youngest completes its simile, the somnolent pachyderm gives a flap of its enormous ears and expostulates so loudly that the rodents run for cover. The elephant then delivers a piece-by-piece description of himself (love those palm fan-like ears)

before finally, likening himself to … (readers aloud might want to pause at that point and give listeners an opportunity to complete the sentence) and crashing out once more exhausted by laughter.
Exit six fully satisfied mice …
Daly’s playful take on the fable still leaves plenty of food for thought and is perfect for a community of enquiry style discussion with early years or primary children.
Glowing African light radiates from every one of her illustrations; the golden straw-strewn barn floor is for me, reminiscent of some of the fractured swirls of Hockney’s pool painting.

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For Your Information Shelf: Books Books Books / Taking Flight

Books Books Books
Mick Manning and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books
Award-winning team, Mick Manning and Brita Grandström takes readers on an exploratory journey around London’s British Library, a library that holds over 150 million items in all, going right back to the earliest printed books and coming bang up to date with some printed this year.
First stop is the St Cuthbert Gospel, an ancient hand-made volume that was found in the saint’s coffin at Lindisfarne Priory some time after he died in the 7th century and which was sold to the British Library in 2011 for £9,000,000.
We’re also shown the Lindisfarne Gospels; a copy of Beowulf written in Old English …

and eighteen other landmark publications from the Hound of the Baskervilles to Alice in Wonderland, including the gigantic Klencke Atlas, dating back to the time of Charles 11, that needs six people to lift it …

handwritten sheet music and newspapers.
Mick makes the whole place sound absolutely fascinating and Brita’s visuals really bring each and every entry to life. I haven’t visited this enormous library for many years but reading their book sent me first to its website, http://www.bl.uk and from there to planning my next visit in the near future.

Taking Flight
Adam Hancher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Adam Hancher tells in words and pictures , the amazing story of the Wright Brothers and how through determination and fearlessness, they brought their childhood dream to fruition.
From humble beginnings in Ohio, the boys, inspired by the gift of a toy helicopter from their father, worked tirelessly on project glider. Starting with observations of birds in flight, then working on designing and making, they built their first glider, which they then tested in one of the wildest parts of the US. The machine was a failure, so it was back to the drawing board to work on Mark 2.
Finally a powered machine was ready for testing and … yes, the first journey of a Wright flying machine took place.

It still needed perfecting however and patience was needed until in 1908, everything was ready but …

‘ … something was wrong.’

Fortunately the brothers had kept the promise they’d made to their sister never to fly together, so although Orville was badly injured, he recovered and meanwhile Wilbur had been hard at work flying and breaking records. Fame at last for the Wright Brothers and thoroughly deserved it was.
A mix of superb double page spreads of key scenes, single pages and small scenarios, Hancher’s illustrations really do evoke a sense of their late 19th century settings.
An inspiring, beautiful book for KS1/2 readers at school or at home.

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Gecko’s Echo / Monster Baby

Gecko’s Echo
Lucy Rowland and Natasha Rimmington
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The lengths a soon-to-be mother goes to in order to protect her eggs is hilariously demonstrated in this delicious rhyming tale by debut author, Lucy Rowland. Meet brave Mummy Gecko who stands up to the threats of Snakey,

and Eagle (later in the day) with warnings about “a hundred angry geckos”.
Come the evening, a very nasty-looking, ravenous rat appears, also with designs on the eggs; he though is less easily convinced. His response to Gecko’s, “If you’re staying I can show you … I hope you’re feeling brave.

is met with a spot of lip licking and “Why, yes I’m staying Gecko, / and I’m having eggs for tea./ A hundred geckos living here?!/ I don’t believe it’s true. … /I’m quite sure it’s only you.
Whereupon the wily Mrs G. lets forth an enormous “RAAAAH!” and back come those hundred voices …
Guess who beats a rather hasty retreat, leaving one echoing gecko to have the last laugh. The last laugh maybe, but not the peaceful evening she’d anticipated for, with a wibble and a wobble, what should appear but …

A real winner of a book with plenty of opportunities for audience participation, laughs galore and superbly expressive illustrations by Natasha Rimmington. Her wily animal characters are absolutely wonderful.

Monster Baby
Sarah Dyer
Otter-Barry Books
A topic that has been the theme of numerous picture books already is given a cute narrator herein.
Little Monster is none too thrilled at the prospect of an even littler monster; neither is Scamp, the family pet. Even before the newcomer arrives though, it’s presence is being felt: rest and healthy food are on the agenda and not only for Mum. The expectant monster needs a great deal of rest, which may account in part for her increase in girth, and certainly gets in the way of carrying the young narrator. He’s far from impressed with the scan either:

a wiggly worm is how it appears to Little Monster, but probably because Mum has several months to go yet: even so it’s capable of hearing apparently.
When the big day finally comes around, Granny comes to stay and Dad takes Mum Monster to hospital; the baby is duly delivered and Little Monster becomes a ‘BIG’ one according to his dad.
Having Mum and baby back home gives rise to mixed feelings on the narrator’s part: it’s great to have Mum around; but that noise-making babe is going to take a fair bit of getting used to. The inevitable feelings of being left out soon give way to accommodation and thereafter, the beginnings of a bond of brotherly love starts to form …

Sarah Dyer’s Little Monster is adorable: his account of the weeks leading up to, and just after, the arrival of his new sibling will be enjoyed not only by those in a similar situation, but also general early years audiences, whether this is shared at home or pre-school.

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Surprise! Surprise!

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

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

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

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

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Where Zebras Go / How to be a Tiger

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Where Zebras Go
Sue Hardy-Dawson
Otter-Barry Books
Let The Weaver of Words, the subject of the opening poem, capture you in her threads and take you on an amazing journey past ghosts, through the fog and out across the plains, embracing en route wildlife in many forms and then leading you towards enchanted fairytale worlds where mermaids sing silent songs, magical boxes wait to be opened and tales you thought familiar are cast anew: ‘So what if he did find my golden ball, I didn’t once mention a kiss. More like I put him gently over the wall. Oh well then – maybe as you suggest, it was the teeniest little kick. Then naturally, I ran and ran, as only really a true princess can, in silly shoes and a dress. I never once dreamed he would follow me – No, Dad.’ (That’s from The Frog Princess, one of a sprinkling of deliciously playful shape poems.)

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Wonderfully inventive, or occasionally re-inventive – Motorway Poem after Night Mail by WH Auden and Ugly Sister Sonnet
Many things will look a little different – ‘I’m the flame in the nettles sting / the fleet snow of goose’s wing. / I’m the feather in grass’s seed / wheaten waves in meadow’s sea.’ – after a few excursions into this amazingly diverse, and surprisingly, Sue Hardy-Dawson’s debut, solo poetry book.
Some cry out to be read aloud – performed perhaps – such as Sludge-Bog Stew and how many times have the teachers among us heard the words of this, which has a title longer than the poem itself …

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Talking of school – think of the visual (2D and 3D) potential of the ‘spiky salamander,’ ‘slithering, skinny snake’, ‘cranky crocodile’ and ‘flippy, floppy frog’ from that swampy, glue-like sludge-bog, or indeed, many of the other poems. Sue herself has illustrated almost all of her poems.
A must get for primary classes and individuals in particular with a taste for the slightly quirky – the latter will, after dipping into this treat of a book, surely become poetry lovers.
For somewhat younger audiences is:
How to be a Tiger
George Szirtes
Otter-Barry Books
Award winning poet Szirtes also takes his readers foraying into fairy tales with a belching princess in The Princess and the Bad King and the tongue-twistingly superb Rumpelstiltskin. Now who knew he has brothers the likes of Dumplingstiltskin, Crumpetstiltskin, Stumblingstiltskin, Jumperstiltskin, Plumplipstiltskin, Crumpledstiltskin, Grumpystiltskin, Chumptripstiltskin, Mumppillstiltskinm Gazumpstiltskin; oh and Billy-ho! Mustn’t overlook him!

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(Think of what you might do with that one in the classroom … )
In addition there are seasonal poems, poems such as You Have a Body and The Leaping Hare that cry out to be dramatised,; and Spelling Your Name: ‘Here’s your name and how to spell it. See it, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it! – a gift for creative early years teachers, and much much more. And, Tim Archbold’s delightfully scribble-style, smudgy illustrations further add to the delights herein.
In fact, the whole thing is packed with learning adventures just waiting to be embarked upon … What are you waiting for?

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Classic Christmas Briefing

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The Twelve Days of Christmas
William Morris and Liz Catchpole
Penguin Random House V&A
With a gorgeously tactile cover, this is a super-stylish rendition of the ever popular classic seasonal song. It’s illustrated with a mix of patterns chosen from the V&A’s William Morris archive and glorious new artwork by illustrator Liz Catchpole inspired by the work of Morris who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.
Best-loved designs such as ‘Cray’ furnishing fabric …

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and ‘Pimpernel’ wallpaper are included …

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but every turn of the page brings fresh delight.
Just the thing to give to a loved one especially a book-lover, or to anyone who likes art and design of the classic kind.

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The Newborn Child
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
Jackie Morris has created her own text as an accompaniment to her gorgeous illustrations for this new edition of a book previously published a decade ago as Little One We Knew You’d Come. This is very much a feelings-centred telling of the nativity story with much of the focus being on how the mother herself feels before …

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and after the birth. There’s beauty on every page: into Jackie Morris’ richly coloured scenes are woven symbols from the natural world – butterflies and moths, birds and their feathers …

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flowers, fruits and shells, making them truly memorable, especially that final mother and child spread with the thumb-sucking infant.

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Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas
Alison Uttley and Margaret Tempest
Templar Publishing
A classic Christmas read if ever there was one. I can still recall, as a small child laughing over Hare standing outside in the snow “catching cold, and eating it too,” as my dad read it to me. First published in 1939, but still offering lots to savour and talk about, it’s deliciously nostalgic and full of Christmas kindness. Imagine inviting carol singers in, to pass round a mug of wine and hot mince pies …

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Animals, One Cheetah One Cherry & Flip Flap Pets

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Animals
Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Studio
This over-sized picture book by Swedish illustrator/designer Arrhenius is sure to have youngsters poring over its gigantic retro-style pages. It features thirty two animals large and small from grasshopper …

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to gorilla, and hippo to frog …

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Every one of the pages would make a lovely poster and it’s hard to choose a favourite animal: I love the muted, matt colours used and the careful placing of pattern; and the lettering fonts and colours seem to reflect the essence of each animal portrayed.

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If you’re looking for something impressive to generate language in youngsters, try putting this book on the floor in your book area and see what happens.
It might also be put to good use in an art lesson for older children.

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One Cheetah, One Cherry
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
Absolutely stunning paintings of wild animals grace the pages of this stylish, smallish counting book. We start with ‘One cherry, one cheetah’ showing a graceful beast with a luscious-looking cherry between its paws and continue, encountering two dogs, three bears, four foxes …

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five elephants, six tigers, seven pandas, eight otters, nine mice, ten cherries – all carefully poised, thus :

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which takes us back (numberwise) to None. The cheetah has feasted on those ten delicious cherries and looks mighty pleased about it.
What a wonderful array of animals and activities. The language too is so carefully chosen: alliteration abounds as here: ’Four fine foxes/ sharing strawberries.’
or, try getting your tongue around this one: ‘Seven giant pandas, with pretty painted parasols.’

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Such delicate patterning on those parasols and lantern. Indeed pattern is part and parcel of every painting, so too is gold-leaf; but that’s not all. The end papers are equally gorgeous, the front being a dance of numerals, orchestrated by the cheetah and the back shows the number symbols in order with animals/cherries alongside.

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Flip Flap Pets
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Axel Scheffler offers a multitude of opportunities to create quirky creatures in his latest Flip Flap rhyming extravaganza. Youngsters can turn the basic ten or so popular pets into a whole host of crazy combinations of feather, fur, scale, shell and more. What happens for instance when you cross a stick insect with a budgerigar? You get a STICKERIGAR of course …

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Try crossing a goldfish with a tortoise – that results in a GOLDFOISE:

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and a snake crossed with a cat gives something pretty irresistible – a cake!
It’s possible to make – so that butterfly on the back cover of this bonkers book informs us – 121 combinations. What are you waiting for? If my experience of previous titles in this series is anything to go by, this new addition to the series is likely to inspire children to set about making their own flip flap books.

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Adder, Bluebell, Lobster / Dinosaurs & Dinner Ladies

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Adder, Bluebell, Lobster
Chrissie Gittins, illustrated by Paul Bommer
Otter-Barry Books
I was intrigued by the title of this collection of “Wild Poems’ from Chrissie Gittins and delighted by the explanation for its choice. The author was inspired by the list of natural world words that were left out of the most recent (2015) edition of Oxford Junior Dictionary and replaced with 21st century terms So, this is Chrissie’s offering as part of the protest against their omission that was endorsed by almost 30 authors intent on the laudable aim to send a “tremendous cultural signal and message of support for natural childhood”.
The poems are arranged alphabetically with almost every letter represented, the exceptions being E, J, K, Q, U, X, Y and Z and every one is a treat for the ears and eyes. For A in addition to the snake of the title we have Allotment, which describes a wonderfully wet time: here are the first few lines: “When it rains the soil sighs deeply, / the leaves of the purple sprouting broccoli giggle as rivulets tickle their veins,/ rainbow chard reaches out to catch droplets in its wrinkles ,/ the strawberries smile – their redness becomes redder, their sweetness sweeter,/ broad beans swell inside their emerald pods/ waiting to be picked.
What a splendid evocation of a downpour: and it’s vertically presented for extra effect.
For B there’s Bluebell, Blackberry – such a tasty treat with its wordplay –and its ‘luscious globules’ and ‘purple dribbles’; and the superbly bossy Beetroot shown in Bommer’s line drawing wielding a pot of red juice capable of causing ‘a red Niagara Falls’.

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The fastest animal on land, the Cheetah races in and across the spread – ‘made for flight’ as one of the Cs and then we have a run of flora – Dandelion, Fern, Fungi – two species – and Gorse. I have to say I was shocked at some of the omissions; how can a dictionary for the young not have Hamster – surely a favourite pet, the majestic Heronrigid as a cement pterodactyl’, Ivy, Lark, Lavender? All these and the many others herein are essential parts of childhood – Newt, Poppy, Violet, Willow, Wren. Oh my goodness, I got more and more sad and angry as I continued reading; but thank goodness for Chrissie Gittins’ wild and wonderful, sometimes wacky words; and she’s ably abetted by artist Paul Bommer with those stark black and white illustrations – some funny …

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some beautiful …
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and all apposite, on almost every spread. I have a feeling this will be read to extinction/destruction fairly fast; it’s such a tongue-tingling assortment of poetic forms and fanciful phrases: what a way to ‘turn sows’ ears into a silk purse’.
A must have for all primary classrooms, for the family bookshelf and for anyone who loves words, the natural world, and those who, like me and the creators of this book are eager to help play a part in saving from extinction, these names from nature. Long may they reign and remain…

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Dinosaurs & Dinner Ladies
John Dougherty illustrated by Tom Morgan-Jones
Otter-Barry Books
This is a debut foray into poetry collection created by the author of the popular Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series of stories, John Dougherty, whose humour is evident in each and every offering. Many of the preoccupations of school children, most notably school and what happens therein are featured and in some instances superbly sent up in his verses. Take for example The Alliterative Alligator who: ‘lurks languidly, looking like a lazy log/ by the bank, beneath the blue/ wavy waters, waiting, wanting,/ hunting hungrily but unhurriedly,/ seeking something satisfyingly savoury.’ This is cleverly juxtaposed with an impatient Alligator that –and who can blame it – ‘hates the crime/ Of bending words to force a rhyme.’ (I hope those responsible for the current Primary English curriculum are listening.) And I absolutely love his Note to an English Teacher, an oh-so-telling offering comparing a poem with a hamster. You’ll need a copy of this splendid collection to relish this one yourself (relish, if like me you are party to, and hate, what’s currently served up in many classrooms in the name of English. Teachers feature quite frequently in one way or another by the way.
Slow Reader provides a view of what reading might look like to one such (you have to read each line backwards) and I have to say, it makes about as much, or as little sense, as a phonic book for beginners. Don’t you just love Tom Morgan-Jones’ visual representation of same?

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Not all the poems are school-themed however: there are natural world poems, Seeds being one; another is this Lonely Haiku: ‘Bare autumn branches/ The emptiness of lost leaves/ The long wait for spring.’ . There are pets such as Next- Door’s Cat, a creature with ‘attitude’ and ‘fat cattitude’, Dogs, some of which are liked, others definitely not; and poems about faces, food-related verses and an exciting lunar ‘Countdown’. I think if I had to choose a favourite, it’s Sail Away Between the Pages that includes this; ‘Their words are not enough to name the blessings/ that they bring/ The wonder of their pictures or the songs their poems/ sing./ And their prose by any other name would have/ as many flavours/ So I can’t think of a better thing to do/ Than sail away between the pages.’ (of the books read).Good on you, John Dougherty. If you want to turn children on to poetry, then grab a copy of this and share it; buy a copy or more and give it; which ever – JUST DO IT!
And I’m interested to read at the back of the book, that its author now lives in Gloucestershire and is an ex-primary teacher.

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Dreamer

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Dreamer
Brian Moses and Bee Willey
Otter-Barry Books
Subtitled ‘Saving Our Wild World’ we join a dreaming child in this stunningly beautiful book: ‘ I dreamed I was a whale … and no hunters chased after me.’ The child continues to dream; about a world where animals are safe and nobody pursues them for food, for their fur or their ivory …

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a world where the waters of streams and lakes, and the air, are pollution-free,

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where rainforest trees are not cut down and valleys left to nature, locations where animals have territorial rights and can stay safe and perhaps undiscovered.

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Through poet, Brian Moses’ starkly powerful words and Bee Willey’s equally powerful, mixed media collage and acrylic artistry through which she conjures up atmospheric scenes of land, lake, sea and air, we have an almost prayerful visual plea for a world that is environmentally friendly, where wildlife is respected and habitats unpolluted. Every one of the spreads would look beautiful framed and the whole book is a wonderful and wondrous starting point for discussions about protecting our precious planet, and on sharing the earth’s resources. It could well spark off children’s own creative endeavours, both visual and verbal, on this vitally important topic.
To further the environmental cause, there’s a final ‘Take Action’ page with some alarming facts (did you know that every year 3 times as much junk is dumped into the world’s oceans as the weight of fish caught, for instance); and useful websites to encourage children to get involved with various ‘green’ organisations.

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Zim Zam Zoom

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Zim Zam Zoom
James Carter and Nicola Colton
Otter-Barry Books
This corker of a book arrived during the holidays and I had to restrain myself from dashing out into the road, grabbing any child I could find and saying, ‘Come with me and listen.’ ‘Zappy poems to read aloud’ announces the cover by line; and every one of the sixteen included truly is a treat to do so. From fireworks to a farmyard Hullabaloo (do I detect a touch of Charley Causely here?)

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bedtime (with a teddy) to Billy Goats there’s something for all tastes; but I suspect re-reads of them all will be the order of the day. From a performance point of view, I think my favourite has to be Grump, Grump, Grump! (or … The Three Billy Goats Get Rough Rap), with verses such as this:
Says Goat, “Ohh, Trev – you don’t scare me-
cos my bruv’s tough, as you’ll soon see!”
So Goat number 1 trots off to the grass
As Goat number two pops up so fast.
“Yells, Oi, Goatie – off you squeal,
or I’m gonna scoff you as my meal!”
Grump, grump, grump!
If you’re in the mood for something altogether quieter then try this lullaby…

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Or, for maximum audience participation of the silent kind share this …

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I also love Hey, Let’s Go, a once upon a time invitation to participate in some fairytale frolics such as ’Let’s dress up in a riding hood./ Let’s take that shortcut though the wood.// let’s race that wolf to Granny’s door./ Let’s huff and puff that house of straw.
Assuredly, this is a book if ever there was one, to turn children on to poetry. It leads on perfectly from nursery rhymes and deserves a place in every early years setting and on every family bookshelf. So, do what James Carter suggests in his final offering and Take a Poem … 
Nicola Colton ‘s spirited illustrations allow the poems to take centre stage right where they should be – a tricky undertaking, deftly done.

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I Will Not Wear Pink

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I Will Not Wear Pink
Joyce Dunbar and Polly Dunbar
Otter-Barry Books
When Plunkett the pig receives an invitation to a pink themed party his reaction is one of more than a little peturbation …

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What him? No way. The one who’s called “Plunkett the plonker. Plunkett the oinker. The hooter, the honker. The toff who shows off, stands out in a crowd.”
There follows a veritable litany of further protestatory outpourings from our porky pal before he states the obvious: “…there is one sort of pink so divine, so sublime, and the best of it is that it’s already mine, from the tip of my tail to the snoot of my snout, pink is the shade of the skin that I’m in. Pink’s where I end and where I begin.” Thereafter he scoots off to state his case for being in the buff to his waiting host, Priscilla …

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and having done so, he proceeds to deliver an exhortation to her other guests to throw caution to the wind and join them in a glorious strip off and plunge party of the wallowing kind.

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Then seemingly, a terrific time is had by one and all.
One gets the impression that both Joyce and Polly Dunbar had an equally terrific time creating this gloriously dotty, thoroughly upbeat celebration of being yourself – au naturel – so to speak. Joyce’s – or should that be Plunkett’s narrative – is pure pleasure to read aloud, especially to those who, like this reviewer, enjoy the opportunity to put on a story-telling performance. Young audiences

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are certain to revel in the hilarious antics of Plunkett and Priscilla as portrayed by Polly in her effervescent scenes.
Altogether a bravura performance by both mother and daughter.

Another lovely picture book with themes of being yourself and friendship is re-issued with a brand new look:

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The Star-Faced Crocodile
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
This one tells of a developing bond between a banjo-strumming bear and the crocodile of the title, who is not actually star-faced at all but is frightened to reveal his ordinariness to the bear.

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The bear however is perfectly happy in the knowledge that the croc. is just a plain, snippy-snappy creature, but goes to great lengths to transform his new friend into a twinkling animal nonetheless.
Melling’s humorous watercolour scenes are sheer delight.

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Adventures at Bedtime

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Mr Moon Wakes Up
Jemima Sharpe
Child’s Play
I’m not sure what kind of creature Mr Moon is but that’s part of the beauty of this magical book – it leaves spaces for children to step into. What is certain though is that he has a tendency to nap at all the wrong times – for the child narrator at any rate …

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One night however, summoned seemingly by birdsong, he springs from the bed and climbs into the wallpaper on the stairs …

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Intrigued, the child follows and together they enter an altogether different, mysterious place. Here Mr Moon is wide-awake and the two play games …

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frolic in the maze, go adventuring, and boating …

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Then there’s a wonderful picnic tea party with Mr Moon’s friends …

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On this occasion though, it’s not Mr Moon that starts to feel sleepy and think about bed …
The gorgeous dreamlike quality of Jemima Sharpe’s illustrations draws children into a parallel reality that reminds me at once of Sendak (The Moon Jumpers) and Alice’s wonderland. The voice of the brief telling is unobtrusive allowing the reflective, almost meditative scenes to be pondered over at leisure.

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Kangaroo Kisses
Nandana Dev Sen and Pippa Curnick
Otter-Barry Books
Headstanding (not a good idea for one so young thinks the yoga teacher in me), flying, hippo cuddling …

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whale’s tail nuzzling, alligator racing, giraffe tickling and dancing with rhinos are all proffered as bedtime delaying tactics by the little girl to her patient mum in this gently rhyming picture book, the text being presented as exchanges between mother and daughter.
And even when she’s eventually got her pyjamas on, the very mention of a toothbrush sets her off again. There’s elephant’s tooth flossing and bear’s fur brushing to attend to, and more. Then the clock chimes and despite her yawns, the young miss must still give her pup a hug – oh and that kangaroo needs kissing …  Will she ever snuggle down for the night? … Yes, finally …

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Sweet dreams.
The blend of fantasy and reality works well here. It’s as well that this little girl didn’t have any more animal theme toys or other paraphernalia in her home …

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or she might be letting her imagination run wild even now …
Pippa Curnick beautifully captures that childhood joie de vivre spirit and the mother’s determination to remain calm and in control in her bold, bright scenes.

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