Tag Archives: Oxford University Press

You Can Do Anything (Hip and Hop)

You Can Do Anything (Hip and Hop)
Akala and Sav Akyüz
Oxford University Press

Rhythm, rhyme and repetition, the 3 Rs of reading come together in a book with an important theme from award winning hip hop artist Akala and illustrator Sav Akyüz.
It features in particular pals, Hip the wise, top hat sporting, rapping hippo and his friend, Hop.
Everyone is preparing for the Blueberry Hill bike race.

For Hip and the Cheeky Monkeys, bike riding is a piece of cake; not so for Hop.
You can do anything if you try,
You can do anything, ride or fly.
Don’t let anybody tell you no.
Focus on your dreams and go!

Hip encourages him and Hop desperately wants to learn to ride his bike but can’t stay upright.

Riding a bike is all about balance. / Letting go of your fear is the greatest challenge.” is the advice from the Cheeky Monkeys. But despite all these encouraging words, Hop still keeps falling off. His morale is at rock bottom.
Time for a story from Hip.

Will this be enough to convince his feathered friend that practice, perseverance and determination will eventually pay dividends?
Can Hop become proficient in time for the event and who will emerge as the final winner? What do you think?
Definitely a winning formula from Akala – love his positivity mantra – and Akyüz, whose funky illustrations add street cred to a powerful self-belief message for all young learners.
Let friendship and inner confidence rule. Just focus on your dreams and go.

I’ve signed the charter  

Daisy Doodles / Ella Who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Tiny Dinosaurs / Dance Is for Everyone

Tiny Dinosaurs
Joel Stewart
Oxford University Press
Daisy is dinosaur mad: so says Rex, the canine narrator of this enchanting picture book. Such is her passion that Rex has to endure all kinds of adornments …

and engage in all manner of dinosaur-like behaviour.

Daisy’s mind is filled with dinosaurs: wherever she and Rex go they keep their eyes peeled for the creatures until one day, right in their very own garden they discover … dinosaurs.
These dinosaurs, Rex informs us, are not large but perfect Daisy-sized creatures. The trouble is, they seem to be all that Daisy is interested in and so …

Everywhere he goes, reminds Rex of his pal: but Daisy won’t even notice I’m missing, thinks Rex.
To say what happens thereafter would be to reveal too much; let me just say that the story reminds me of the opening lines of a song, a Dutch teacher friend of mine once taught one of my nursery classes: ‘Make new friends but keep the old/ Some are silver but the others are gold.’

Dance Is for Everyone
Andrea Zuill
Sterling
There’s a new member in Mrs Iraina’s ballet class: a rather large one with a very long tail. Language is an issue, but she’s a hard worker and able to follow the others so she’s allowed to stay. She does have a tail issue too,

though that is less easy to cope with, on account of that language issue; and the class members are wary of upsetting the newcomer.
Teacher and class together come up with a plan: they create and learn a new dance called “The Legend of the Swamp Queen” starring Tanya, as she’s now called: a role that requires a spot of cummerbund wrapping to keep that errant tail in check …

The audience are enchanted; but the following day, the star is nowhere to be seen …
After some time however, the class receive an invitation to a very special performance …
Droll visuals and a deadpan text combine to make a delicious demonstration of the ‘no holds barred’ idiom.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Dressing-Up Dad / Little Monster’s Day Out with Dad

The Dressing-Up Dad
Maudie Smith and Paul Howard
Oxford University Press
I’m sure most children are embarrassed by their parents from time to time: I suspect the boy in this funny story with its being yourself no matter what theme, feels increasingly that way as he gets older.
Danny’s Dad, like his son just loves to dress-up: I don’t mean in his favourite gear say, his best jeans and T-shirt. Oh no! Danny’s Dad really gets into the swing of the young lad’s fantasy play, donning whatever costume he deems appropriate for the situation in hand. He might become a space rocket, a fearsome dragon;

a wizard at the library, or a snow bear; and at Danny’s themed birthday parties, you can guess who was the most dreadful dinosaur or the dastardliest of pirates …

As Danny’s next birthday approaches, Dad contemplates his attire: should he perhaps be a ladybird, a dragonfly; there are plenty of bugs to choose from. Danny however, has other ideas for his Dad this year. And yes, he does look pretty cool as an ‘ordinary everyday’ dad but can he resist the invitation of Danny’s pals who have decided they want to be chased by a giant caterpillar. I wonder …

There’s a dilemma at the heart of this story and it’s evident in the body language and facial expressions of Danny’s Dad at the party. He’s doing his level best to enjoy being the perfect ordinary father when inside he’s torn: what he really wants is to don a costume and be a bug too; but how can he please himself and at the same time please his son? Paul Howard portrays all this and much more so adeptly in his enchanting illustrations. The presence of Danny’s lively dog wanting in on all the action and managing to creep in to almost every scene adds to the visual enjoyment of Maudie Smith’s captivating story.

Little Monster’s Day Out with Dad
Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt
Egmont
Little Monster is excited at the prospect of a day trip to the fair with his dad, despite the fact that they’re going by car rather than train: that at least is the intention. No sooner on the road though than they’re held up in a traffic jam; when the car breaks down en route, after which the rescue truck gets a flat tyre, one begins to wonder whether they’ll ever reach their destination at all. Thank goodness then, for the bus: and there’s room for all aboard.

Finally they arrive at the fair ground and it seems as though Little Monster might be going to get his longed-for train ride after all …

With its funny, suitably garish Sharratt scenes with their plethora of flaps to lift, large print and sturdy pages, this will please most little monsters about the age of the chief protagonist herein.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Home for Gully / Through the Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Parps and Splats

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Museums and Machines

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The terrific twosome of The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School fame have combined forces in another zany Henry adventure; and as always he is accompanied by his dachshund pal. This time the protagonist is put on the spot by a question about the class trip to a museum. The lad seems to have been rather tardy in his arrival at said museum and consequently undertaken his own explorations therein. Whether he, or the exhibits were more entertained, one can only imagine. He supposedly got up to all manner of unlikely activities: balloon sculpting for the Neanderthals,

and there was certainly plenty to feast his eyes on. A T.Rex for instance, sculptures, a great whale and a woolly mammoth, lots of paintings –

some abstract art requiring the odd finishing touch here and there, and the museum’s storage facilities needing a bit of reorganisation.
See how many art references you can spot …that dachshund portrait does appear to bear more than a passing resemblance to the famous Mona Lisa. And yes, Henry does eventually catch up with the rest of his class, albeit by some rather risky means.
Pretty off-the-wall stuff; but those who have enjoyed the previous flights of fancy delivered by Cali and Chaud will certainly find plenty to amuse herein.

Winnie and Wilbur Gadgets Galore
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper book of three, re-named, previously published titles featuring the much-loved duo, Winnie and Wilbur in Space, Winnie’s New Computer and Winnie and the Big Bad Robot will surely appeal to those of a mechanical bent.
The first sees the pair hurtling skywards in a rocket and discovering the ‘Purrfect” picnic spot, then having their picnic invaded by a horde of hungry space rabbits. The odd swish of her magic wand produces the ideal fare for the bouncing bunnies; but the voracious consumption of their favourite metallic meal leads to the visitors being without any means of getting back home. Can Winnie’s wand save the day once again?
You’d think after all that excitement in previous adventures involving machines, now renamed for this compilation, Winnie would have learned to stay clear; but her first foray, that involving a misunderstanding on Wilbur’s part, the scanning of her spell books into her computer and a mal-functioning mouse – Wilbur’s doing; and the second, an extremely unfortunate experience with the robot constructed by Winnie in her weekly creativity class at the local library, didn’t deter her at all. Hence her ‘big adventure’ in space.
The magic still holds good, no matter how the stories are packaged.

I’ve signed the charter 

For Your Fiction Shelf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve signed 

My Bunny’s Chocolate Factory

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Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory
Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press
Elys Dolan follows her wonderful Doughnut of Doom with another confection-related picture book.
Imagine being force fed chocolate; that’s the fate of the chickens that work in Mr Bunny’s chocolate-egg making factory pressing the chocolate into bars, eating the chocolate bars, squeezing out chocolate eggs, wrapping and packing same. Mr Bunny has his own special secret recipe and to ensure perfection he also employs a quality control unicorn named Edgar.
Like many successful entrepreneurs Mr B. is greedy …

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hence the force-feeding, to ‘crank up egg production to the max’ – no breaks, cancelled holidays even, the latter as a result of a plethora of bad eggs being discovered by Edgar.

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Finally the chickens revolt. They down tools: a strike is declared.

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Can Mr Bunny and Edgar run the factory by themselves? What has happened to missing worker, Debbie? And, can change happen, or will the boss remain a ‘bad egg’ evermore?
Elys Dolan has, yet again, created a picture book full of comic scenarios that are absolutely brimming over with rib-tickling detail. There is just SO much to giggle over and explore on every spread, not least the wonderful speech bubbles emanating from her superb cast of characters.
All in all, a stonkingly good picture book upon which to feast your eyes and ears.

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Me and Mister P

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Me and Mister P
Maria Farrer illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Oxford UniversityPress
Arthur is less than happy with his lot: he longs for a normal family wherein he can have his fair share of parental attention. Instead he has to contend with a brother on the autism spectrum towards whom much of his parents’ attention is directed.
Now, sent to his room instead of being able to watch the much anticipated football match on TV, Arthur – with lucky crystal in one pocket and survival tin in t’other – decides to leave home,, for good! But what, or whom should he encounter on the doorstep but an enormous polar bear, Mister P. The bear doesn’t speak but Arthur gleans this from the name on his old brown suitcase, which has a distinct fishy aroma about it and has a label with Arthur’s family address on. Could it be that the creature intends to stay?
He does; and Arthur’s life starts to get a whole lot better– not to mention that of brother Liam and the rest of their family.
Full of warmth and humour, this story is a delight to read, either aloud to a class, or as an individual. Listeners will revel in such scenarios as that when Mister P. endeavours to fit his huge bulk into Mum’s car (hilariously illustrated by Daniel Rieley) …

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or that of Mr Craddock’s class endeavouring to discover interesting facts about polar bears while Mister P. reclines on beanbags in a corner of their classroom.

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There’s another character who needs a mention too, and that’s Rosie. She doesn’t put in an appearance until about half way through the book but she’s certainly pretty persuasive: “Anyway, our scores are going to improve because now Mister P is going to be our lucky mascot, isn’t he? “ ‘She put her hands together in the praying position.’ “PLEASE.“; and contributes some extremely apposite insights and comments: “See … Mister P knows how to get things sorted.
And a sorter of things is most definitely what Mister P. is – in more ways than one – shades of Nurse Matilda aka Nanny McPhee here.
I’ll say no more other than to urge you to get hold of Maria Farrer’s superbly empathetic book, made all the more so by Daniel Rieley’s wonderfully droll illustrations.

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland
illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Oxford University Press
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?’ It’s almost impossible not to break into song on seeing those opening words to the seasonal favourite written down, and now illustrator Tim Hopgood has taken that ever-popular Christmas song (with some slight alterations) and turned it into an enchanting and truly joyful, snow-filled picture book experience for children and adults to share together.
As musical notes drift across every spread, we join a family of five walking …

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and playing …

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in a woodland landscape populated by wild animals (foxes, deer, a squirrel and rabbits) and birds …

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Hopgood’s pastel and crayon scenes capture the magic of idyllic winter countryside with newly fallen snow, sledging, snowman building, and then the family snuggling up together in the warmth from a fire. I particularly love that musical note tree …

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and the endpapers too are lovely – so simple and SO effective.
To add to the delights, the book comes with a three track CD. The first track is the wonderfully jazzy rendition of the song performed by Peggy Lee, the second is a reading of the book with tinkling sounds to let you know when to turn the page, and the third a (somewhat superfluous) listening game.
A Christmas cracker.

The Mouse that Cancelled Christmas

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The Mouse That Cancelled Christmas
Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy
Oxford University Press
This is certainly a Christmas story with a difference: the story of Mouse for whom Christmas means danger, danger because, as a baby, he’d been biffed on the head by a flying bauble. Now, he seems to have assumed the role of health and safety officer with a vengeance. Donning fluorescent jacket and hard hat Mouse dashes around the clearing in Jingle Bell Forest inspecting the animals’ preparations and finding fault with everything. The pine needles are far too sharp, the lights too dazzling and the star way too pointy.

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The Rabbit Chorus seems to be breaking every rule in the book – Mouse’s book that is. In fact nothing passes muster where he is concerned: he wants the entire celebration called off …

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But then Mole and Owl quietly mention the ‘p’ word and suddenly events take a turn for the better. Maybe, just maybe, that cancellation of Mouse’s might be reversed after all …
There are so many things to love about this book, not least the delightfully unexpected grand finale. Then there’s that tiny robin who offers his own mini narrative at almost every turn of the page …

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and the thoughtful placing of certain elements of the text; all that’s in addition to the wonderful fanaticism of health-and-safety ‘jobsworth’ Mouse and the growing concern of the other forest animals as they hear him passing judgement on their various activities All are brilliantly portrayed in Samara Hardy’s splendidly funny illustrations for this amusing (for adults, tongue-in-cheek) tale. I bet there’s not one reader aloud out there who hasn’t been on the receiving end of a human version of Mouse on occasion; it’s certainly so in schools and usually the ‘mouse’ person has no idea of the ridiculousness of their pronouncements. Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy will assuredly make many youngsters and adults laugh this festive season.

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.

Cracking Seasonal Reads

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Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Great Kerfuffle Christmas Kidnap
John Dougherty and David Tazzyman
Oxford University Press
It’s Christmas Eve and all’s right with the world. Right? Well not quite.
When Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face wake up it’s after midnight (so technically they can call it Christmas Day) with cries of “He’s been! He’s been!”, it takes but a few seconds for them to discover that this is not the case: Father Christmas has definitely not visited their abode, and that’s despite the pair having been extra good that year. All they see where those presents should have been is a great big pile of nothing, absolutely zilch.
Obviously Father Christmas must be in some kind of trouble – think dastardly badgers – and it’s up to Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face to come to the rescue, find Santa and save Christmas for all the inhabitants on the little island of Great Kerfuffle.
As with previous books in the series, this one is full of wonderfully off-the-wall characters, bonkers jokes, evil-sounding laughter, magic and mayhem, crazy dialogue and perfect comic timing to boot. What’s more it’s illustrated by the brilliant David Tazzyman whose seemingly scribble illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to John Dougherty’s clever and deliciously silly writing style.
A seasonal cracker if ever there was one.

Altogether different but equally worth seeking out is:

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There May Be a Castle
Piers Torday
Quercus Children’s Books
It’s Christmas Eve: a family – mum, two sisters and a brother – are on the way to visit the grandparents. Violet the eldest is dressed as a pirate, toddler Esme has a passion for chocolate and Mouse, a smaller than average, highly imaginative eleven year old is still in his robot pyjamas; Mum is at the wheel. Snow is falling fast, the visibility is bad, but the journey across the moors should be fairly short.
As it often does on such occasions, bickering begins and Mum loses control of the car and it spins off the road. Mouse is thrown from the car by the crash but everyone else is trapped inside.
When he comes to, Mouse finds himself in a magical landscape with no snow and no car, just a peculiar sheep named Bar, a talking one-eyed horse called Nonky, a garrulous minstrel, a size-changing dinosaur; oh, and there may be a castle. Thus begins Mouse’s quest to find that castle despite not knowing quite why.
Back at the scene of the accident, Violet is on a mission to save her mother who is unconscious and bleeding, and little Esme, who keeps demanding chocolate. To do this she has to use her knowledge of a very fierce pirate woman, which, harnessed with her own imagination, gives her the strength she needs to cope.
Without giving away what happens let’s leave those two wonderful, very brave characters in their spellbinding wintry tale of hope, courage, the power of the imagination and the stories we tell ourselves.
Brilliantly imaginative and totally immersive it’s a beautifully written book; read it and you’ll be hooked, but be warned, you’re on something of an emotional rollercoaster.

A Dot in the Snow / Bunny Slopes

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A Dot in the Snow
Corrine Averiss and Fiona Woodcock
Oxford University Press
Polar bear cub Miki would much rather play with his mother in the soft snow than fish in the icy Arctic waters. Off he goes up the ridge presumably in search of a playmate. That’s when he sees it – a red dot in the snow. Then from out of the blizzard emerges a figure – one that looks, smells and sounds friendly.

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And, joy of joys, it wants to play  at first anyway…

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Suddenly though, the dot isn’t so smiley and playful; something has gone missing. One of the child’s mittens: can Miki rescue it and save the day? He can; the ice breaks, the two continue playing; more snow falls blotting out almost everything. Two infants bid each other farewell, return to their respective mothers and doubtless each will have much to talk about.
Gorgeous texturing in the illustrations and a suitably spare text combine to create a warm-hearted wintry read with themes of friendship, determination and parental love, albeit with a bit of stereotyping. Snuggle and share.

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Bunny Slopes
Claudia Rueda
Chronicle Books
Following in the footsteps of Hervé Tullet (Press Here, The Dot), Claudia Rueda has created a metabook with a wintry theme – a wintry theme that is, if readers play along. Bunny is ready for a ski day and invites us to join him; but snow is decidedly lacking. Readers have to create it by shaking the book – hard. Oops!

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Then tap the top of the book to extricate Bunny but that ground looks rather flat. The book needs a right tilt to set our would-be skier in motion, and again. Yeah! He’s off … but all of a sudden …

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(ingenious precipice-gutter moment). A  hasty 180 degree book turn and a page flip will, sort things. Now what?
More manipulating will see a battered Bunny up on his skis again and ready for another run at that cliff. Whoppee! He’s made it right to the opposite side but can he clear that hole? Phew! Just about, but surely not another one; the little fellow’s getting just a tad too big for his boots now but there he goes again …

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Fortunately this leap leads to his very own den where Mummy Bunny is ready and waiting with a warming treat …
Love those rabbitty expressions and the minimal colour palette: with its simple text this is a good bet for those in the early stages of reading as well as individual listeners and book manipulators.

Plants and Animals: Fact & Fiction

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How Plants Work
Christiane Dorion and Beverley Young
Templar Publishing
A sequence of questions is used to introduce nine topics relating to the world of plants in this book that’s jam-packed with information. Each question is explored in a stylishly illustrated double spread, the first being ‘Why do plants have flowers?’ However an even more fundamental consideration: What is a plant?’ is discussed on the fold-out flap on the side of this spread.
This is followed by how plants grow from seeds, what plants feed on and how, defence, habitats and the importance of trees …

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We’re then introduced to some of the ‘weirdest’ plants, the edible ones and the final spread focuses on some of the uses of plants including some ideas that have come from observation of particular plants such as that by Swiss engineer George de Mistral who got his idea for Velcro from the burrs that attached themselves to the fur of his dog.
There are lots of flaps and tabs to explore; and the superb paper-engineering from Andy Mansfield really brings the whole thing to life. (Some of the tabs are not very robust and may not stand up to the enthusiastic handling of classroom use so it may be better to give this to individual readers.)

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Knowledge Encyclopedia ANIMAL!
written by John Woodward
Dorling Kindersley
This truly is a weighty, although not a heavyweight, tome. After the contents page, introductory ‘What is an Animal?’, discussions on ‘Evolution and Extinction‘ and a classification diagram, the book is divided into six sections: Invertebrates, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and finally, Mammals.

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The first spread of each section explains the meaning of the class as well as providing some general information.
I learned a fair bit (even with zoology as part of first degree studies) from this fascinating book including meeting some new animals such as the Sugar Glider and the Blue-Tongued Skink (note the helpful thumbnail picture, beside a human hand to give an indication of real size).

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The 3D photographic illustrations are very impressive and many of the animals appear to be leaping right out of the pages, and the textual information has been authenticated by the Smithsonian Institution for accuracy.
A book for the family, for animal lovers young and not so young, and a worthwhile addition to the primary or secondary school library.
For those who prefer animals in stories take a look at:

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Greatest Animal Stories
chosen by Michael Morpurgo
Oxford University Press
Author, former Children’s Laureate and co-founder of the children’s charity Farms for City Children, Michael Morpurgo has selected seventeen of his favourite animals tales from various parts of the world for this anthology.
These traditional tales are retold by ten different authors and illustrated by a dozen different artists.
Some of the stories can be read in a few minutes, others such as Pippa Goodheart’s lively telling of Puss in Boots

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Puss in Boots is confronted by the ogre – a   Thomas Radcliffe illustration

and Morpurgo’s compelling rendering of Peter and the Wolf take a fair bit longer. No matter which story you choose to share at any particular time, make sure you allow time to explore the illustrations – every story has superb illustrations at every turn of the page.
All manner of animals from tricksters such as Anansi the Spider, Brer Rabbit, and Baboon to talking cows and cats are featured and Morpurgo provides a brief introduction to each of the tales outlining its origin, underlying message and something to ponder upon.
One for the family bookshelf or classroom library, or to give as a present perhaps.

This Book is Out of Control / Happy Hooves Yuk!

These two picture books welcome back some old friends:

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This Book is Out of Control
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
The perils of the remote control are explored in this third comic romp starring Ben and Bella, not forgetting Bella’s dog of course. It all starts when Ben turns up clutching his new favourite toy – a remote controlled fire engine. Eager to show off his control skills he begins by demonstrating the UP button but a press yields no response or rather the ladder stays fixed: Bella’s dog doesn’t as we readers can see. Ben and Bella however are oblivious to the action taking place inside the house behind the door, which nestles in the gutter of the book and Bella has firmly closed.
With their eyes fixed firmly on the ladder Ben tries another button, which results in this …

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I’ll leave you to imagine the results of pressing the siren button. Ben tries VOICE, which yields an utterance from the dog who opens the door revealing his predicament to the children. Things go from bad to worse despite Ben’s frantic button pushing and it’s then a case of over to you “Dear reader” especially as the expert remote controller has started to turn a delicate shade of green. Things are getting pretty desperate up top when readers are addressed once again …

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Does this work, you might be wondering – it certainly appears that one of the characters is in control …

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but we’re still left with one button none of them has tried …
With some rather crazy interactive opportunities, this is somewhat more sophisticated than the previous stories in the series. For me, the dog is undoubtedly the star of the show here.

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Happy Hooves Yuk!
A.Bogie and Rebecca Elliott
Fat Fox
The third Happy Hooves story sees Pig deciding to treat his pals to a culinary feast. But even after his careful preparations things don’t go quite as he’s planned. Cow turns her nose up at the first dish; Foal frowns at the second;

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Donkey is decidedly disturbed at the third and Sheep shudders at the thought of what she’s offered. Poor Pig: it seems none of his favourite dishes tempt his friends. He has one final course though: could this be the one? It certainly looks pretty scrumptious … let the party begin!

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I envisage a whole lot of ‘eughs’ and ‘yucks’ when you share this engaging rhyming tale; and as a veggie, I found myself in total sympathy with Pig’s friends about his offerings – definitely disgusting! Let’s celebrate friendship and chocolate cake instead. Let’s also celebrate Rebecca Elliott’s patterned scenes: I love the retro style and the occasional bordered spreads.

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Focus on those frogs …

Meet Ada Twist Scientist, Mira & Em

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Ada Twist, Scientist
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Readers may well be familiar with previous titles Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck from the creators of this inspiring rhyming read; Ada is the third in the series and like its predecessors, it’s a MUST to add to primary classroom bookshelves.
Ada remains silent, observing, investigating and thinking much until she turns three and then quite suddenly things change. ‘Why?’ she demands to know (of the grandfather clock: “Why does it tick and why does it tock?” “Why don’t we call it a granddaughter clock?

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And once she’s started, there’s no stopping this curious young lass. Her other favourite words are ‘Why?’, ‘What?’ ‘How?’ and ‘When’. (the very ones that should fill the hearts of all early years teachers worth their salt with delight). Yes, this child’s curioslty and imagination have no bounds and thank goodness she has such encouraging parents to support her.

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Then, one spring day – the first in fact – a revolting smell reaches Ada’s nostrils, setting questions flying and her curiosity into over-drive. Could that stench be emanating from Dad’s cabbage stew perhaps? That’s hypothesis number one.

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No – then where? The cat maybe? Wrong again and now Ada’s parents have had enough seemingly and Ada’s banished, silenced. Silent she may be, but her mind’s still very active and pretty soon, so is her thinking pencil until
thank goodness, Ada’s parents have had a rethink and before long, are back in support.
Will she ever find the answer to that ‘stink’ question? I suspect she might, for despite all her failures and blind alleys, Ada is an unstoppable problem-solver and what’s more, she’s ready to enlist the help of others. If not, then she’ll find other equally fascinating questions to pursue.
Delivered through a rhyming text and brilliantly characterised in David Roberts’ stylish illustrations, this story is sure to please young audiences and readers aloud, especially those who want to encourage the spirit of curiosity and champion the cause of girls in science. Ada is a force to be reckoned with – long may she continue. Seek this out and share it wherever you can.
Also take a look at the tale of another young girl who becomes a scientist :

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Mira Forecasts the Future
Kell Andrews and Lissy Malin
Sterling Books
Mira’s mother is a fortune teller but try as she might, all that Mira sees when she gazes into the crystal ball is herself, “Telling the future is a gift,” her mother tells her. “You have it, or you don’t.” Mira most definitely didn’t; but one day she notices something – the wind whirring the blades of her pinwheel and fluttering the streamers of her windsock.

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That’s the start of her meteorological findings and before long she’s putting her scientific talent to good use in predicting the future; she’s a weather forecaster no less.
Creativity and the imagination are at the heart of all scientific discoveries: they all begin with someone asking ‘what if’ or ‘suppose that’ and now here’s a book claiming to inspire creative play:

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The Way to Outer Space
Jay Eunji Lee
Oxford University Press
Herein we meet Em who on this particular day is feeling bored until that is, she receives a mysterious parcel containing a book and a card. She’s on the point of tossing them aside when she notices some rocket-making instructions and pretty soon here she is …

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blasting off and hurtling through the solar system to a strange place – a place she’s told belongs to her; and it’s in serious trouble. A challenge is issued and, accepted …

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and off she goes creating …
Part story (told in comic strip style), part activities, this unusual book is likely to get young minds buzzing and fingers working on creating some of the ideas suggested herein – and one hopes moving on to projects of their own imagining.

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How to Find a Friend / Flying Lemurs

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How To Find a Friend
Maria S. Costa
Oxford University Press
I love the double narrative style of this, Maria Costa’s debut picture book. Herein we follow the search for friendship of Squirrel and Rabbit, both of whom have just moved into new abodes. The trouble is (despite the  stage whispers from a pair of bit-part players) the two animals are just not looking in the right places. Listeners will delight in the manner in which we’re shown the unfolding dramas of the two main characters, one in full colour, the other in outline, highlighting their invisibility to one another: It’s all very hit and miss – or rather hit …

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and hit …

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Children will love the mismatch between words and pictures as well as the fact they can use the story maps at the front and back of the book to track the action and the crossed paths of the main characters.
Maria Costa’s linocut illustrations are terrific fun: her use of a limited colour palette is particularly effective in highlighting this small drama of flipsides, folly and friendship – eventually. And I particularly love that when the going gets tough, Squirrel finds solace in his books …

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That, and the gentle irony of the whole thing.

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Flying Lemurs
Zehra Hicks
Two Hoots
The lemurs are a talented jumping family: Mum on the trapeze, Dad the trampoline and Granny is an ace cannon jumper. There’s one little lemur however, who just cannot jump at all. Other family members encourage …

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and demonstrate …

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but the result is DISASTER  – always …

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Fortunately, her family is sympathetic and even more encouraging …

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so can their little one finally cut it as a rocket jumper?
This funny story is just the thing for those who strive but find things challenging; it demonstrates beautifully how it is possible to overcome your fears, unlock your personal aptitudes and find your own forte.
Zehra Hicks’s illustrations, be they in strip format, whole page or full spread, are wonderfully chucklesome and I love her choice of colour palette; it’s absolutely right for the circus setting.

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Monster in the Hood

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Monster in the Hood
Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
When a notice appears in town warning of THE MONSTER IN THE HOOD, Sammy Squirrel, Henri Hedgehog and Marvin Mouse all want to see the creature for themselves. Sammy dares it to show itself: “Come out, come out, wherever you are! You won’t scare us!” he shouts. The only response is a squeak but that’s from a pack of rats, one of which warns of the large orange-eyed monster. “The monster in the hood … grumbly and rumbly and will eat you for dinner.” Does this scare the pants off the fearless trio? Most certainly not; it’s Henri’s turn to address the monster this time and as he does so,

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there comes a screech, which turns out to be a cloud of bats. They add ‘huge shaggy hands’ to the monster’s attributes but do nothing to ruffle the cool headedness of the three monster seekers.

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Marvin Mouse tries his luck at calling for the creature and no sooner has he completed his challenge than a ‘clutter of cats’ comes by with words about a ‘big scary mouth’ – to no avail of course. The intrepid trio try calling in unison and out of the silence steps …

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Yes, it definitely matches the description given by the rat, bat and cat but none of them has given the vital piece of information that makes all the difference; and that related to what it didn’t have – a friend. Seemingly the other animals were wrong about what the monster really wanted after all – or, were they?
I love the night-time urban setting and the wacky characters of this twisted cautionary tale and Steve Antony’s choice of colour palette is, as ever, spot on. Every time I see a new book from this guy, I think ‘that’s my favourite’ but then along comes another and another and …

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Nixie Splashy Summer Swim

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Nixie Splashy Summer Swim
Cas Lester illustrated by Ali Pye
Oxford University Press
Already famous for her ability to manipulate the truth is Nixie the mischievous fairy who is, once again, up to all kinds of frolics – by the pond mostly herein; and when a story begins ‘BOING! BOUNCE! SPLAT! “Bumblebees’ bottoms! I can’t do it!” (bottom-sits on the cobweb trampoline) newly independent readers will surely be unable to resist. With an ‘accidental watering of the too-good-to-be- true, Adorabella (and it’s VERY cold water) as she lies peacefully reading; a float that (with just a small flick of Nixie’s wonky wand) turns into a real frog and hops away;

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and a burst lilo – the snazzy new one belonging to the Fairy Godmother who is supposed to be having a relaxing day off, it seems the day is set fair for fiascos. Of course, they are only some of the things that Nixie gets up to. There’s also this …

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plus a spot of fin building – that’s for Willow who’s more than a little scared of the water; and of course, there’s the inevitable water bomb battle. And to round off the day, courtesy of the long-suffering Fairy Godmother, there are fab. ice-creams, not all of which are quite as delicious as anticipated …
There is however an ‘Ice cream sundae generator’ after the story so readers can discover which of the fairies shares their taste in the confection.
What are as delicious as anticipated however, are those wonderful Ali Pye illustrations liberally sprinkled throughout this sparkling book. The Lester/Pye combination works that special brand of magic once more. Don’t miss this one if you’re a ‘just flying solo’ reader or know one.

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Super Stan & Steven Seagull – Action Heroes

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Super Stan
Matt Robertson
Orchard Books
Meet two very different brothers, Jack and Stan. The latter always seemed to be the centre of attention, which is hardly surprising as he excelled in everything; moreover he had an AMAZING superpower enabling him to …

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You can imagine how this made Jack feel on the 364 days of the year when it wasn’t his birthday; but surely young Stan wouldn’t do anything to spoil his big bro’s special day would he? He’s certainly very excited and that’s before he starts …

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Not to mention wrestling with a lion and engaging in a game of soccer with the giraffes …

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Jack is not happy.
Suddenly though, a scream pierces the air, a scream the significance of which only Jack knows.

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At last it’s his turn to do something that puts him in the limelight for a change; something that proves to be a turning point in the relationship between Jack and Stan …
Choosing a suitably limited colour palette in keeping with the superhero theme, Matt Robertson delivers spread after spread full of comic humour. Don’t you love the way Jack deftly snatches Stan’s teddy from the clutches of the bear, for instance…

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Altogether a super debut picture book.

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Steven Seagull Action Hero
Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press
Steven is a seagull – a retired cop so we are told. Now there’s a crazy scenario if ever there was one. But it seems his retired status is about to change: his ex-partner Mac, needs his assistance and he needs it right away to assist in the search for Beach City’s sand thief. The two consult …

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and then head off to the scene of the crime in search of likely suspects.
First stop Harry’s ice-cream van but Harry has an alibi so it can’t be him. Nor is it Lola the lifeguard – her day’s been spent saving not digging but what about Rick? Looks like he’s a reformed character although his volleyball skills need a bit of polishing. Steven is at a loss but who is the builder of this magnificent edifice?

 

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Bingo! It’s the handiwork or rather claw-work of Claude Von Crab and he has weapons of destruction up on those ramparts.
Can Steven pull out all the stops and save the day? Perhaps, with a little female assistance …

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Totally off the wall but this one did appeal to my sense of the ridiculous – particularly this throwaway comment of Mac’s …

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We’re in the Wrong Book

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We’re in the Wrong Book!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Ben and Bella (plus her dog) from This Book Just Ate My Dog return for another crazy adventure, or rather, a whole host of adventures as their jump-in-a sack game results in them – Ben and Bella that is – being unceremoniously bumped right off the page …

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and into …

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They don’t stop there though: another jump takes them to a comic book housed in a library where a very helpful librarian, having heard the description of their book, sends them off to one that matches their criteria – tall buildings and an enormous dog but …

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And even the puzzling mazes don’t lead to ‘their’ book; in fact a dinner invitation is issued at their next port of call …

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Fortunately we readers are able to come to their rescue here and the friends undertake a nifty bit of paper folding , not to mention a spot of creative colouring to get themselves to safety

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– almost anyway  …

 

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But let’s give the final word to that dog of Bella’s …

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Totally engaging and full of diversions that are best kept to a second or third reading. If not, their plea will go unanswered and the two pals will be forever stuck between the pages of ‘the WRONG BOOK’ …

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It’s Bedtime

 

DSCN6535 (800x600)Unstoppable Max
Julia Patton
Oxford University Press
I suspect many parents of a lively youngster will recognise Max: his batteries never seem to run down. So when it comes to almost bedtime, Max is brimming over with energy and has a whole lot of things on his ‘to do’ list. …”So if you can tidy away your toys, get into your clean pyjamas, and feed Fluffy, I’ll be back in five minutes.” his mum says. A simple enough request except that Max doesn’t have toys; what he has is an army engaged in Operation Castle Attack and stopping is not what Max wants to do.

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Out comes his thinking hat to help our young hero make a choice… sensible – tidying up; or naughty – keeping Mummy out of his bedroom; or crazy – going on an expedition to the South Pole? Max decides and that’s number one task he can tick – more or less …

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However he stlll has the clean pyjamas to get himself into and Fluffy is yet to receive his evening feed. How does Major Unstoppable Max deal with those other two tasks? Suffice it to say he needs a little assistance from that thinking hat, some very careful planning and a rather nifty move or two.
When his mum comes back she’s pretty impressed with young Max but as for following her instructions to “pop to the bathroom and brush your teeth.” – well um …

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A crazy tale of mayhem, making up your mind and an irrepressible imagination, this one’s sure to delight the countless Max’s of the world and make adults smile knowingly.

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Beep Beep Beep Time For Sleep
Claire Freedman and Richard Smythe
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
It’s almost the end of the day and the road-building machines have been hard at work on the motorway: there’s the Backhoe loader, the digger, a tipper truck, a concrete mixer, a dump truck, a grader and a road roller all ready to wind down and take some well-earned rest. But first they need a bit of a clean up and then one by one the vehicles all line up in their yard under the silver moonlight for their nightly slumbers.

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Despite the onomatopoeic beeps, vrooms and pops, this rhyming text has a strangely soporific rhythm about it ,so once youngsters have had the opportunity to explore all the action in Richard Smythe’s busy scenes, (some have fold-out pages), they might well be ready to close their eyes and just listen one more time to the words and let the images drift into their sleepy heads and join the big machines in sweet dreams.

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Coming up next week:
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Treats for Tinies

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Kiss it Better
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Massini
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
How many times have you said the title words in your dealings with young (or not so young children? I suspect you’ve lost count.
This tender celebration of the healing power of kisses is charmingly presented courtesy of a bear family as they, in particular the two young bears, go about their daily lives with those inevitable thrills and spills. No matter those ‘down in the dumps’ feelings when a tumble has been taken there’s always a kiss to make it feel better.

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There are playful kisses too, and those that mean ‘I’m sorry’ when the siblings come to blows.
Then comes the cheer-up kind after a bad day at school or nursery and the wonderful goodnight, go-to-sleep variety that help shoo any of those bedtime storybook monsters that might be lurking
No matter the time of day or night, whether you’re feeling poorly or grumpy a kiss will help. Or maybe more than one … and they never run out. Kisses work no matter how big or small you are In fact everyone needs a kiss from time to time …

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Sarah Massini’s bears are truly adorable and a perfect match for Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ gentle rhyming text. Just the thing to have on hand in the home or an early years setting; you never know when a kiss and cuddle up with this delightful book might be called for.

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Good Night, I Love You
Caroline Jayne Church
Hodder Children’s Books
We join a brother and sister as they embark on their nightly bedtime routine: splashing,

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scrubbing, wrapping and brushing. Then it’s on with those pjs and time to share a story before snuggle down and lights out time.

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Told in rhyming couplets, it’s gently playful, cosy and just the thing to round off the day with your toddler.

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Jane Foster’s First Words
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
Here is a beautifully illustrated board book introducing twenty items – one per page to babies and perhaps those learning English as an additional language. The uncluttered nature of each page and the single word label make it obvious at once what is being so clearly named. The images themselves – animals,

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transport, a house and some things you’d find in and around a house – are for the most part, richly patterned reflecting Jane Foster’s background in textiles;

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and on occasion, the image is set against a softly patterned, textured background.
Altogether a stylish little book for babes and their parents/carers to share:

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despite its apparent simplicity, this is rich in language potential.

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Hide and Seek Bob and Flo
Rebecca Ashdown
Oxford University Press
The endearing penguin pals are back in the nursery again and it’s a rainy day so Bob’s brought his brolly. This triggers a game of hide-and-seek and Bob’s first to hide – so he thinks. The trouble is Bob is at the developmental stage where he thinks if he can’t see people (or penguins) they can’t see him and even after a bit of coaching he’s still not quite getting the hang of things.

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Sam and Flo decide to give him even more help; they go off to play in the kitchen giving him much longer to find a good hiding place.

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Can Bob manage to disappear this time? And what’s cake got to do with all this?
Gentle, playful humour delightfully delivered by Rebecca Ashdown and perfect to share with those around the age of Bob and Flo.

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Operation Rescue!

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Intergalactic Ed and the Space Pirates
Ella Denton and Jamie Littler
Oxford University Press
Just behind Ed’s bedroom wall, safely hidden by a panel, lies his Intergalactic Operations Headquarters so when through his bedroom window, Ed notices the troubled-looking moon, it takes almost no time for him to alert his cat Sputnik , grab his Turbo Torch and backpack, don his spacesuit, step into the Space Transporter Capsule and zoom off into space.

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Before long, into view comes the largest spaceship in the galaxy –the Interplanetary Plunderer no less. And what’s that? A gang of pirates intent on a dastardly, almost unbelievable plan: to steal the moon itself. Can Ed, with his knowledge about the lunar landscape not to mention the relative size of the moon vis-à-vis Jupiter’s moon Ganymede foil the plot, especially in the face of threats from the ghostly galactic crew? …

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Let’s just say, that the marauding crew hadn’t quite reckoned on the guile of Ed’s faithful Sputnik and his beguiling feline footwork …

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With Jamie Littler’s frenetic, cartoon style illustrations, this far-fetched frolic with its sprinkling of facts, will definitely appeal to those who like their action fast, furious and full of fun.

Much gentler but also involving a dramatic air-born rescue and teamwork is

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Badger and the Great Rescue
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
When Badger and his pals discover some bits and pieces lying abandoned in various places, they are quick to put them to good use: a washing line for Mouse, a new shed for Hedgehog and then there’s that large piece of red and yellow cloth. It would be ideal for a tent, a hammock and perhaps a kite – once the friends have shared it fairly that is.
Then all of a sudden, down swoops Bird with news of a little mole stranded in a tree …

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And that little mole knows just what the ‘trampoline’ offered for him to leap onto is a part of. Then it’s time for the friends to abandon their original creative plans and work together on operation repair and rescue.

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Wintry Wonders

 

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Nixie: Wonky Winter Wonderland
Cas Lester
Oxford University Press
Here’s one fab. fairy: she has bucket loads of cheek and attitude. With her wonky wand, tatty dress and mischievous ways, Nixie puts me in mind somewhat of Little Rabbit Foo Foo. This instantly adorable character won me over right from the moment when she ‘clambered into her big red clompy boots … shoved her wonky wand into her left boot, so hastily that the red star on the end wobbled about madly, and shoved her trusty spanner into the other boot.’
Then off she goes wreaking seasonal havoc – or rather having fun as Nixie calls it – in fairyland as the other fairies are frantically dashing around going about their preparations for that annual highlight, The Midwinter Midnight Feast.
With its eleven action-packed chapters, bespattered with ZAPs, FIZZLEs, Swoooooshes, and TINGs; and those funky illustrations from Ali Pye aplenty,

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this is such a fun book for newly independent readers ready to take off and fly solo (with just a tiny bit of help from Nixie and her magic perhaps.)
And if that’s not enough there are three suitably magical activities – ‘Tabitha Quicksilver’s Snow-covered Gingerbread Trees’, Nixie’s Swirly Snowstorm in a Bottle’ and ‘Nip’s Winter Wonderland Lantern’ to create; just in case readers haven’t turned to the beginning and started enjoying the story all over again, that is.

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Pugs of the Frozen North
Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Oxford University Press
A plethora of pugs predominate in this the third author, Philip Reeve/artist Sarah McIntyre collaboration and it’s a stonkingly good book for the young and not so young alike. Hilarious just about sums it up but doesn’t really do justice to either the writing, the illustrations or the amalgam of both, for that’s what it really is, so well do the text and pictures meld: the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
This seems to be a growing trend in books for the beyond picture book stage (not that one IS ever beyond them): the recognition that illustrations can add an extra dimension at any time in a person’s reading journey. And the way Sarah McIntrye managed to draw 66 pugs and make every one have its own name, let alone personality, is in itself something of a feat.
There’s a frenetic pace to the telling and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to whizz along, swept up in the pace of the whole thing and miss some of the glorious visual humour that is so much part and parcel of the whole. Essentially, the book features ex cabin boy, Shen lost when his ship gets trapped in the ocean of the frozen north, Sika, a Po of Ice worker (got it?) who is in urgent need of some dogs to pull her sled in the all important Great Northern Race. (We’re told a wonderful tale of how this came to be by Sika’s grandpa.)

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The arrival of True Winter marks the start of this race, destination the Snowfather at the top of the world for it’s he who will grant the wishes of the winner and Sika truly wants to win on her ailing grandpa’s behalf.
Of course, nobody has ever had a sled pulled by pugs before and just harnessing them is a challenge in itself; but can the Shen/Sika/66 pugs team harness their own courage and determination and see off the competition?
Competition in the form of Professor Shackleton Jones with his SNOBOT and canine robots,

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the bearded Helga Hammerfest and her pair of polar bears (the local favourite)

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and the unscrupulous Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling and his side-kick butler Sideplate and …

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glamour puss Mitzi Von Primm with her team of pink poodle-primped huskies.
The race takes them over into dangerous parts: through the Night Forest, over the massively tentacled Kraken Deep and then there’s the dreaded Yeti Noodle Bar to contend with.

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And the ultimate winner is … that would be telling.
As I said, the book is truly funny but it’s also a real heart-warmer with just a tiny touch of final sadness; well that’s what I felt, though not Shen. I just turned back a little way and re-read these words of the wise Snowfather: “All old things die in the end, but not stories. Stories go on and on, and new ones are always being born.” … Unmissable!

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Sparky Spellers: the Littlest Witch and Winnie

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Dragon v Dinosaur
Helen Baugh and Deborah Allwright
Jonathan Cape
Twin tempers get more than a little frayed when competition rivalry sets in between the littlest witch and the littlest wizard both of whom are determined to win the prize for best fancy dress costume at the party. Wands are brandished, spells are cast back and forth until things start to get out of hand as it’s a case of dinosaur versus dragon in a face off.

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Thank goodness then that before any real damage can be done, the witch’s ITCH makes its presence felt, the spells are broken but so are the wands.
Without their magic, can the twins find something else to wear to the party by three o’clock?

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The combination of sparky rhyming text and action-packed, zizzy scenes make for another winner for that little Itchy Witch and her creators.

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Winnie’s Haunted House
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
When is a ghost not a ghost? When it’s a bee that’s being chased around the house by a cat named Wilbur one sunny afternoon.

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But that’s not what Winnie the Witch thinks in this latest action-packed escapade. Rudely awakened from her postprandial nap, she’s convinced her house is haunted and thinks a spell will put things right. The trouble is she’s misplaced her specs and so her choice of spell isn’t quite what she’d thought.

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The result sends her into a spin or two before, thanks to a passing owl, she discovers the whereabouts of her glasses

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and is able to read the actual words in her book and perform a reversal of the haunted house spell. Then all that’s needed is another wave of her wand to clear up the havoc and Winnie can have the remainder of her by now, well-earned sleep.
Another crazy Thomas/Paul romp for Winnie fans to laugh at; they’ll delight in being in the know as to the location of Winnie’s ‘lost’ specs as she trips, tumbles and fumbles her way around.

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Magic Forest Forays

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Super Happy Magic Forest
Matty Long
Oxford University Press
Billed as Tolkien for toddlers, this epic quest assuredly has the right ingredients to engender enthusiasm for the fantasy genre in young children. So, let’s go to Super Happy Magic Forest wherein our story starts. It’s full of fun, frolics and picnics all year round; life’s pretty peachy you could say.

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But then disaster strikes the Forest: the Mystical Crystals of Life – source of all that’s joyous therein – are stolen.
It must be Goblin work announces Old Oak at an urgently called meeting of forest residents. Five brave heroes are selected to reclaim the Mystical Crystals …

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And despite their reluctance off they set on the journey of a lifetime but of course, their epic quest will not be an easy one. There are frozen tundras full of fearsome creatures to battle through, a haunted forest and dreadful dungeons to test their nerves and skills to the utmost and even then there’s no escape from enemies …

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Finally Goblin Tower is in sight but will the five locate the missing crystals within its walls? There’s plenty of unexpected confectionary items but crystals well err …
Certainly it’s a celebratory finale but is it cake or crystal induced?? Hmm …
Let’s just say, there’s a twist to this crazy magical saga of epic mischief and silliness. I’m not sure who will get more enjoyment out of this one – the ‘toddlers’ billed as its target audience or those older readers/adults who are the book’s mediators to the very young. Certainly the former will enjoy spotting items in the fantastical visuals but some of the subtle and not so subtle humour will definitely go way over the heads of most four or five year olds. But then that’s the thing about a good book – that multi-layering, which means it offers something to a wide audience.

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Ella Bella Ballerina and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
James Mayhew
Orchard Books
Young Ella Bella returns once again and on this occasion, dance teacher Madame Rosa’s magical music box is playing Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for the ballet class to dance to.

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Inevitably, after the lesson Ella Bella cannot resist opening up the musical box lid for one last dance in her fairy costume. And thus she meets Puck who whisks her, with her floral headband, away to a fairyland forest where Oberon waits for the ‘magic flowers’ with which he hopes to cast a spell upon Queen Titania.

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James Mayhew’s elegant watercolour illustrations evoke a timeless quality to this engaging tale of magic and mischief and dance.

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Friend or Foe?

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One little alien built himself a spacecraft and sat inside to read the story.

My Alien and Me
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Tom McLaughlin
Oxford University Press
When is a human not a human? When he’s a small boy who crash-lands his rocket on another planet and meets the inhabitants, thus becoming the alien centre of attraction in this amusing story. The narrator is a small creature whose dad is an expert on UFOs and his mother eager to offer hospitality to a shipwrecked earthling visitor. This earthling finds his new-found friend’s school something of a trial, especially when it comes to such things as eating lunch with toes not fingers, or black-hole bungee jumping.

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Life is not peachy for either party concerned especially when …

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When night comes the small narrator starts feeling somewhat sad in his tummy and wants to talk. It’s time to make amends: but where has that little alien gone?
All finally ends happily leaving space for a return visit…

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And, it all goes to show that we need to accept people for what they are, and celebrate our differences and our unique individuality. Equally importantly we need to find out as much as possible about those whose world views differ from our own: that way comes understanding and the likelihood of harmony.
The important themes embedded in this amusing story are delivered in a straightforward, gently humorous manner by the author who turns the But Martin idea upside down, in effect. Tom McLaughlin ‘s visuals are wonderfully upbeat and his delightfully quirky scenes speak volumes about the feelings of the two main characters.
This one will definitely go down well in early years settings and younger primary classrooms as well as with individuals around the age of that little alien.

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Crunch!
Carolina Rabei
Child’s Play pbk
Crunch (aptly named because he just loves to eat) is a guinea pig and a rather appealing character at that. His life is pretty good: judging by his somewhat rotund appearance he’s more than amply fed and he has a comfy bed but something seems to be missing though he knows not what.
Then one day he finds himself sharing his breakfast with an uninvited guest,

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a mouse named Cheddar. All the little mouse wants is a small share of the tasty meal but Crunch is having none of it – or rather all of it. “No way! My food is MY food!” he tells Cheddar in no uncertain terms even when offered a hug in exchange. I suspect his feast didn’t taste quite so good after that encounter …

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especially as we learn that Crunch’s conscience is starting to trouble him. He’s managed to keep his food but in so doing has lost a friend. Time to move outside your comfort zone Crunch;

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you might just find something much more valuable than a mere meal.

 

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Beautifully visualised in subtle colours, lovely characterization and a delightful story that offers plenty of food for thought. I love Carolina Rabei’s attention to detail and the gentle humour of her illustrations large and small.

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Betty Goes Bananas In Her Pyjamas

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Enjoying Betty’s antics

Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas
Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
Brilliant bananas! Beloved Betty is back sporting her snazzy banana print PJs this time and being her usual recalcitrant self. It’s her bedtime but – like most infants – she has other things to do. Things like making music …

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A sleep-inducing activity surely thinks Mr Toucan but oh dear me …

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especially not when there’s a painting easel standing there just calling out to be used; and use it she does emphatically …

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Till yawn … But no inducement from Mr T. is going to work, not even that snuggle up with “your big, cuddly teddy bear.’ Because there are all those exciting-looking vehicles to BEEP! HONK! CHOO! CHOO! and WHOOSH!.
Finally the long-suffering Mr T. has had enough. “STOP!” he yells but he has a trump card up his sleeve and it’s one that any self-respecting infant gorilla or child should be happy to settle for …

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So let’s leave the two of them happily together sharing the bedtime story book as I really don’t want to spoil that wonderfully funny finale.
This is such a cracking book, one of those you want to shout about and wave from the rooftops.
Assuredly parents of youngsters will immediately recognize the delaying game Betty is playing and empathise with Mr Toucan as he patiently – well, most of the time – does battle with Betty But, even more importantly, I hope that they will employ his sleep-inducing tactic.

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Love and Safe-Keeping

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I’ll Catch You If You Fall
Mark Sperring and Layn Marlow
Oxford University Press pbk
As a small boy with fishing gear journeys on a small boat on a big, big ocean, the question to ponder is ‘Who will keep him safe?’ His mother is there for that; and the captain to keep them both safe;

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and a star to guide the boat through the stormy seas until they all reach the harbour safe and sound where Daddy waits with open arms.

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And then it is the turn of the little boy to offer safekeeping – to …

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There is a satisfying circularity to Mark Sperring’s short, gentle question and answer text, which is beautifully depicted. Layn Marlow’s illustrations radiate warmth, really capturing those feelings of loving care and security engendered by the words.

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I Love Dad
J.M.Walsh and Judi Abbot
Simon & Schuster pbk
A young dinosaur narrator relives with readers his day, a day shared with his Dad that’s filled with playful fun and games. Together Dad and offspring walk, cycle (once Dad has fixed up their bikes that is), bounce –that’s little dinosaur using Dad’s knees as a trampoline, and more. Back at home there’s plenty of shared fun too: playing games,

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cooking and sharing a meal; and nobody but Dad can make a bedtime story such an action-packed delight.
After all that, what’s better than to dream of tomorrow’s Dad-filled day?
What young child wouldn’t wish for a father like that Dino-dad who can turn his hand to pretty much anything.

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Enormously endearing characters both large and small in scenes delightfully created in Walsh’s words and Abbot’s warm-hearted pictorial renderings.

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I Love You Daddy Grizzle
Mark Sperring and Sebastien Braun
Puffin Books
In the third story to feature this delightful duo, Little Pip is just about to wake his slumbering Dad one morning when discovers a note saying …

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Unsure what is to be celebrated, he ignores the request and discovers the pair have planned a special day out, a day that starts with the collecting of sticks. Off they go together into the woods and slowly, bit by bit, with Daddy Grizzle’s helpful clues, Little Pip pieces together a whole adventure filled with fun,

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fire-lighting, feasting and a final unplanned surprise …
A gorgeously warm-hearted celebration of paternal affection that quietly delivers a message about love and companionship being more important than material gifts.

 

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Braun’s illustrations are packed with humorous details and heart melting moments.

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Fast and Furious; Slow and Steady

Daniel devouring the story

 

Space Dog
Mini Grey
Jonathan Cape
It’s 3043 and deep in space, Space Dog is ready to zoom homewards having completed a lengthy problem-solving mission in the Dairy Quadrant. Supplies are stashed and he passes the time with a game of solo Dogopoly before sleeping.
Not far off however, is Astrocat, zooming in his space saucer, or actually is about to plummet into a thick creamy mire. Then it’s a case of operation rescue – for the Astrocat if not his craft. No time for age old enmity now, it’s go with Space Dog or be stranded.

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Once safely in SS Kennel, the two erstwhile enemies sit face to face for a game of Dogopoly, followed by a tasty snack courtesy of Astrocat. Then, co-ordinates set, there comes yet another distress call …

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And another … Moustronaut has been captured, bound and perilously suspended above a chasm of bubbling fondue by the Cheese Ants.

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With another rescue duly completed – well almost – they have to satisfy that drooling, dribbling look in the Ant Queen’s eyes first. Then it really is time to head for home. Of course, poor Moustronaut needs a bit of tlc first; and there’s a whole universe out there waiting for friends to conquer – together. So, it’s Mission UNKNOWN ZONE – after a round or so of Dogopoly that is.

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Wonderful stuff! This action-packed adventure is bound to appeal to the numerous established fans of Mini Grey and will I’m certain, win her a whole host of new ones. This is overflowing with exciting happenings, visual jokes and verbal ones; and every turn of the page brings fantastic and frenzied features to divert and delight.

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Fast and Furry Racers The Silver Serpent Cup
Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves
Oxford University Press pbk
Playing fair is at the heart of this riotous romp of a ride (or should it be race) that takes place over land, under sea and in the air. Packed full of alliteration and other tongue-teasing phrases to test the reader-aloud, this story unfolds at breakneck speed.
Everyone’s gathered in Furryville for the race and the line up’s an impressive one. BEEP! BEEP! TOOT! TOOT! There’s Roderick Von Rooster in his Hot Rod rocket car, Stephanie Skedaddle in her super stylish boat, Ollie Octolinni in his submarine – a distinct advantage at times. Then we have Baron Billy Blackstripes aboard his super fast steam train, not forgetting Ella Egghart in her aeroplane. Could she perhaps be the winner after all?

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But foul play has struck, in the form of sabotage and who should be emerging from the depths but Al Mcnasty – a ruthless villain if ever there was one and wearing that smug smile too.

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But things are not quite over yet, for out of the ground emerges Max O’Moley just in the nick of time – a thoroughly deserving and honest winner. Three cheers for Max recipient of THE SILVER SERPENT CUP.

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Ed Eaves’ exuberant illustrations really do give the impression of tremendous speed and those vehicles are just the thing to excite and enthrall young listeners.

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Days with Frog and Toad
Arnold Lobel
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is the second of the larger format publications of the classic Lobel Frog and Toad stories. This one offers five more delicious episodes featuring the friends– all an absolute delight – though I might to go for Shivers

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(wherein Frog tells a spooky story) – if I had to pick a favourite; or maybe Tomorrow (we’re all guilty of putting off things we don’t want to do). Then again there’s Toad’s laughable efforts to fly The Kite; and The Hat Frog gives his best pal for a birthday present, to bring a big smile; oh and the final Alone in which Frog goes off to be by himself for a while

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– all equally brilliant and unmissable.
The Frog and Toad books remain unsurpassed in the field of newly independent readers. Three cheers for the two fictional pals and their everlasting friendship.

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Up the Beanstalk

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The Princess and the Giant
Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
Nosy Crow pbk
I love pretty much everything about this book but then I’m a real sucker for fairy tale spin offs or anything that promotes books and the enjoyment of reading. This one offers both. And, I’ve so much enjoyed every occasion when I’ve shared it with children; it’s a real treat to read aloud both for audience and adult reader – this one certainly.
The tale centres around Princess Sophie whose dwelling is a tiny house, her companions a tabby cat servant and a mouse butler, in addition to her parents that is:
Her father made the porridge
And her mother chopped the wood,’ (love that)

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Life should have been pretty peachy for our heroine who is free to ride her bike at will but every night the pesky giant who lives atop the magic beanstalk in the yard kept her whole family awake with his stamping and stomping.
So after a series of intolerably sleepless nights Princess Sophie stows various items in her backpack, scales the beanstalk’s dizzying heights and visits the giant. However, her sleep-inducing supper fails to produce the desired result and so she makes a second attempt –
also story inspired –

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but the noise only gets worse. Undaunted, Sophie keeps on visiting and trying until she hits upon a solution and guess what? It’s a bedtime story and the giant isn’t the only one she manages to send off to sleep with her once upon a time …

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A celebration is announced, though that’s not quite the end of this delicious tale. However I don’t want to spoil that, so let’s just say that Sophie has some nifty teaching, not to mention line walking still to do before she and her large new friend can live ‘Happily Ever After.’
Gorgeous illustrations absolutely packed with delicious details , and superb storytelling – what more can one want?

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Jack and the Beanstalk
Kathleen Lines and Harold Jones
Oxford University Press pbk
This is a classy classic collection of some of the best loved traditional tales retold by a great storyteller in a direct manner as befits the oral tradition, and illustrated by Harold Jones whose distinctive, wonderfully composed watercolour paintings are now so gloriously old-fashioned.

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In addition to the title story are nine other nursery favourites including The Story of the Three Bears, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and The Story of the Three Little Pigs.
It’s hard to believe this book was first published about fifty-five years ago. It was considered a treasure then and should be a treasure now.

In contrast, a thoroughly modern take on the traditional story is now out in paperback; it’s one I reviewed last year when it came out in hardback:

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Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk
Liz Pichon
Hodder Children’s Books pbk.

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The Clockwork Dragon

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The Clockwork Dragon
Jonathan Emmett and Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press pbk
When Max is sacked from the toymaker’s workshop he is forced to try his hand at the only job he sees advertised in the town.

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Knowing that knights need armour, Max goes to the armourer’s workshop where he meets Lizzie, who although amused by Max’s intentions, gives him an idea. DSCN3744 (800x600)

Equally important, she agrees to assist him in a spot of metalwork and together they toil for a week, heating, hammering, painting, patching and piecing together all the metal they can lay hands on. The result is a huge clockwork dragon.

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Next morning, Flamethrottle, for that is the name of the human devourer, decides that only a plump princess or two will satisfy his hunger. Imagine his shock then, when on leaving his cave he is confronted by an even larger, fiercer looking dragon. No longer feeling quite so brave, Flamethrottle beats a path across the countryside towards the next kingdom, hotly pursued by Max and Lizzie in their wind-up contraption. And therein lies the rub: the clockwork motor runs down at the crucial moment leaving Max and Lizzie desperate to turn that vital key and get the creature moving again. Flamethrottle meanwhile realizes his pursuer has stopped. So can its creators manage to trick him into giving the key the vital turns it needs to set the thing in motion once more?

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It’s either that or be baked alive …
The cocktail of dastardly dragons, mechanical and otherwise, wily and determined child characters and a rip roaring adventure combined with exciting illustrations packed with humorous details and mechanical ones, make this a sure fire winner for the young (and not so young). Certainly my child audiences demanded an immediate re-reading, pored over the inside covers as well as the action-packed colour spreads and were eager to know if the ‘A Max and Lizzie Adventure sign on the back cover heralds further adventures.

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Heroes Small and Large

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Mighty Small
Timothy Knapman and Rosie Reeve
Oxford University Press
Meet Max, a diminutive would-be superhero who wears a cape and his pants over his trousers. Despite his best efforts however, Max’s superhero status goes unrecognized and he is forced to abandon the role, until that is, the circus comes to town. In all the razzle dazzle none of the townsfolk notices the shady goings on of some of the so-called performers who are actually bent on robbing the town of its riches. Time to prove himself a scared Max decides and it’s a case of BADDIE PANTS BEWARE! as our young rodent leaps into action and is immediately hot on the heels of the dastardly thieves.

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Before long Max is inside the Big Top yelling threatening orders to the robbers as he casts an almighty shadow in front of them. Their leader however isn’t that easily fooled and there follows some aerobatics and more on Max’s part before he finds himself face to face with Mr Big himself. It’s then that Max realizes his superpower and on hearing what the clowns say, has no hesitation in putting it into action …

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Guess what young Max spends his reward money on …

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A slightly crazy story which demonstrates that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes – a powerful message for young children – delivered by author and artist with panache and humour, not to mention a smattering of Ka-Pows Yee-harrs, Thwacks, Whumpfs and Pows.

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Dinosaur Rocket!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow pbk
The dinosaur team returns with the fourth adventure in the series. So, it’s to the launch pad and after the final countdown,

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they’re off into space for a lunar expedition. Just imagine the size of their spacecraft to house such enormous crew members.
On arrival they drive their buggies,

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post their flag, for no dinosaurs have ever before been to the moon, then it’s time for space soccer and some collecting of rock samples. But before long it seems, the cosmonauts are blasting off back towards home and a safe splashdown on the ocean.
Dinosaurs and space are two endlessly popular topics with young audiences who will doubtless relish the combination of the two, herein. Penny Dale’s energetic illustrations (which also include other machines) are full of fascinating details and have enormous child appeal.

 

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Big Pet Day
Lisa Shanahan and Gus Gordon
Templar Publishing pbk
Mrs Dalton’s class is having a Pet Day and there’s to be a competition for the best pet. Courtney has brought hermit crabs, Ahmed, a pair of parrots, Caleb, a puppy, Sofia a duck, Glen, a ferret and Jody has her pony. Lily’s pet is a dragon. ‘There’s no such thing as dragons,’ Courtney maintains and continues in similar vein throughout. Soon with all those squawks, squeaks, quacks and woofs, the classroom has become a veritable menagerie. Best pet behaviour is supposed to be the order of the day but …

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The entire day is devoted to pet activities: there’s a carpet time discussion, a dried dog food eating contest between Caleb’s puppy and Glen (unofficial),

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the children draw pictures of their pets (Lily’s being the favourite – it shows her flying on her dragon’s back), lunchtime brings a show of pet tricks and after there’s the competition judging by headteacher, Mr Fisher.
The event turns out to be a rip-roaring success … kind of.
The winner of the large gold trophy is …

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With an action-packed text, a whole host of lively characters – human and animal, spot-on dialogue and amusing, wonderfully detailed mixed media illustrations, this is both a visual and verbal treat of a tale. I can see it becoming very popular in early years settings and younger primary classrooms.

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Badger and the Great Storm
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
This heartwarming tale features selfless Badger who, on hearing from Mouse that a terrible storm is on its way, puts friendship and the safety of his friends’ homes before his own. The resourceful character goes to great lengths to ensure that Rabbit’s burrow, Bird’s nest

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and Mouse’s hole are secure from the deluge and then stays overnight with Rabbit and his family. But on the morning following the storm his friends discover that disaster has struck Badger’s oak tree home. Badger however is not daunted. “Every problem has a solution!” he comments accepting their offers of help. Then together the friends set to work to create a very special new residence

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for their hero who finds an important use for Hedgehog’s tiny acorn.
A great message about being a true friend that offers children at home or in an early years setting a starting point for an exploration of friendship. The sight of badger sharing a bedtime story with all those baby rabbits is something to celebrate

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and I was delighted to learn that Badger prioritised the rescuing of his books in the aftermath of the storm. A creature after my own heart.

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Bathtime Problems with Small Elephant & Bruno

 

 

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Small Elephant’s Bathtime
Tatyana Feeney
Oxford University Press
Tatyana Feeney has created another endearing character, this time in the form of a small pachyderm. Said animal enjoys water in many contexts but despite his mother’s best efforts, most definitely NOT in his bath. Small he might be but Little Elephant has a strong will and, when crossed, a bad temper.

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So, when Mummy Elephant is almost out of ideas for cajoling her young offspring into the bath, she knows it’s time to enlist the help of Little Elephant’s Daddy.

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It’s a good job then that he is prepared to make a fool of himself in a good cause and it certainly does the trick where Little Elephant is concerned.

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Gentle humour, minimal colour and lots of white space allow the visual narrative to make maximum impact and the well chosen words are spot-on.
Yet one more Feeney winner for the very young.

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Whale in the Bath
Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett
Allen & Unwin
Bruno is a boy with a fertile imagination. Ordered upstairs for his nightly bath, Bruno the narrator of this tale is confronted with an enormous whale languishing in the tub, making liberal use of Bruno’s bubble-gum scented bubble bath which it has the nerve to complain about – the cheek of it. Bruno endeavours to explain his problem to sister Ally, his Mum, his elder brother and then his Dad (whose back scrubber the whale also purloins) but to no avail. Well, what would you say to the boy who’d reported a bear under the bed …

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and a walrus in the backyard only recently?
The whale is in no hurry to complete his ablutions no matter how much Bruno urges him and has the cheek to criticize the facilities to boot: “It’d be quicker if you has a bigger bath. I feel like I’m washing in a bucket.”

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Under pressure from Dad to be in the bath in five minutes, Bruno confronts the whale again only to learn he could still be in for a very long wait, whereupon the creature finally comes up with an alternative solution – power shower anyone?

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With a great read-aloud text, gloriously retro illustrations rendered in suitably muted shades, a terrific finale and a chucklesome take on children’s imaginations this one has much to offer teachers in the classroom as well as readers at home.
Children could have great fun writing the story from the whale’s viewpoint or possibly taking another scenario – making the bed, brushing their teeth or doing their homework perhaps.

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Snowy Worlds

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The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When penguin, Wellington, sees a beautiful garden in a picture book he shares with friend, Rosemary, he determines to grow one like it. His friends are skeptical: “… flowers can’t grow in the snow,” they tell him but then Wellington has an inspiration: instead of growing a garden, he can make one. And he does, with Rosemary’s help, a shiny blue biscuit wrapper and all manner of bits and pieces. Soon the garden is in full bloom: now his friends are impressed but then comes a storm that whirls Wellington’s garden right away. Is that the end of his beautiful creations? No – thanks to Rosemary, that blue biscuit wrapper, all Wellington’s friends, and most important, Wellington’s creativity and resolve, a wonderful new snow-sparkling garden comes into being, one that everyone wants to see.

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You never know what you can do until you try!” Ivor tells Wellington and he’s absolutely right.
Long live determination and divergent thinking.
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Snowflakes
Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic pbk
Newly arrived from her city home, a little girl Mia arrives to live at her Grandma’s deep in a forest. Inevitably she finds her gran’s wooden house surrounded by whispering trees strange and her days become a series of one new experience after another. There’s her first ever winter coat and hat,

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feeding the hens with Grandma and the strange silvery shadows of the forest on her way to see her soon to be new school.

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But then comes a fall of snow making things feel magical and Mia too feels touched by the magic: “Every snowflake is different, every snowflake is perfect” she tells herself realizing that she too is perfect. From then on Mia is able to start to come to terms with her new life , to embrace the changes and begin to make new friends.

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This reassuring story with its important theme, that every child is special and unique, is sensitively told by C Beebies presenter, Cerrie Burnell and beautifully illustrated to bring out both Mia’s changing feelings and the atmosphere of her new home.
Showing, not telling is very much the way in this inclusive book. That much is left unsaid allows children to bring their own experience, interpretations and ideas to the story; ideas concerning why Mia had to go and live with Grandma Mitzi whom she hardly knew, why she’d never before worn a coat and only heard of forests in storybooks for instance.
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Finally a couple of wintry books previously reviewed but now out in paperback and too good to miss are:
Max Velthuijs’ Frog in Winter an old favourite from over 20 years ago newly reissued by Andersen Press wherein Frog finds it impossible to embrace the joys of the newly fallen snow.

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And Layn Marlow’s gorgeous book from last year about a small child making a snowman, You Make Me Smile (Oxford University Press); I’m sure it will make you smile too.

 

 

 

 

Bob & Flo, Penguin & Pumpkin, Alfie & other Little Stars

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Bob and Flo The Missing Bucket
Rebecca Ashdown
Oxford University Press
Sporting a new bow and carrying a bucket containing her packed lunch, Flo goes to nursery for the very first time. There she meets Bob. Flo is interested in painting: Bob is interested in Flo’s bucket.

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Indeed he finds all manner of uses for said bucket both practical and imaginative …

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Lunchtime comes and goes; Flo heads off to the slide where she discovers her bucket at the bottom and then, Bob. Now it’s time for Flo to make use of her bucket – for a while anyway.

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With so much of the mystery of Flo’s missing bucket being told through the charmingly simple illustrations, it’s very much a case of showing not telling. A perfect lesson of the power of pictures and indeed picture books, and their vital importance in the journey to true literacy.

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Penguin and Pumpkin
Salina Yoon
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Unlikely as it might sound, young Penguin, curious about autumn, sets out with Bootsy on a trip to a distant farm to discover what the season has to offer, leaving behind a sad younger brother Pumpkin who is just too little. Having arrived at the farm, Penguin sees pumpkins everywhere and unsurprisingly they remind him of his little brother. So the adventurers decide to harvest their own autumn surprises to take back for Pumpkin. He meanwhile, has found his own autumnal adventure but it’s not the real thing – that’s still to come, thanks to Grandpa, Bootsy, Penguin and …

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With its spare text and plethora of endearing penguin characters with their distinctive accessories, this is an appealing seasonal tale for tots.

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Alfie in the Garden
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We join little Alfie rabbit on his flights of fancy as he helps his mother bunny in the garden. He explores the jungly vegetation where he becomes a ‘bouncing, pouncing lion’, then an elephant,

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makes a rainstorm and a swishy swashy summer breeze before his leafy wings carry him back to his nest and into Mama-Bun’s arms for a cosy, snuggly nap.
A gentle tale for the very young, the majority of whom just like Alfie, enjoy imaginative play. The muted watercolour pictures with their soft black outlines are a delight. The larger than life landscapes immediately attract tinies who become engrossed in a cosy world of make-believe conjured up by Alfie’s (and their) everyday playthings.

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My Little Star
Mark Sperring and Nicola O’Byrne
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
A lovely bedtime treat, not so much a story more a gentle lullaby rhyme with gorgeous pictorial accompaniments of adult animals and their offspring. Every double spread is a portrayal of tenderness; it’s difficult to choose an outright favourite – each one provides an ‘aaah!’ moment – but I think it has to be either the nuzzling giraffes or the snuggling elephants.

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Just the thing for sharing with the very young: it draws you in and makes you feel safe, warm and loved.
When the day is done and sleep draws near,
When the moon’s aglow and stars appear.

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Spellbinders

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The Witch with an Itch
Helen Baugh and Deborah Allwright
Jonathan Cape pbk
When the little witch passes her final exams she cannot wait to start working her magic outside school. Her first subject is a frog – he’s destined to become a hat but, at the crucial moment, an itch comes upon our young heroine causing her wand to wobble and point instead at a flower – whoopsie! The frog’s still there but …

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A similar thing happens with the spider; this time it’s a toadstool not the arachnid that becomes a broom.
Another failed attempt follows and then a thoroughly frustrated little witch loses her cool completely hurling her wand to the ground in disgust.

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Suddenly beside her she notices a little girl with one hat, one pot, one broom plus the frog, spider and newt. And, she knows what’s been causing that aggravating itch; moreover, she knows how to get rid of that trying allergy once and for all.
Suitably spirited, wonderfully expressive illustrations and a lively, rhyming text that gives adult readers aloud the opportunity to let rip are the main ingredients of this diverting tale by a debut author.
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Winnie’s Big Bad Robot
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
Winnie’s decision to wave her wand and turn her junk robot into a real one is far from clever, all the more so when the big bad creature makes a grab for her wand and starts wielding it. Before long, not only has her house has become robotic but Winnie the Witch has become Winnie the Robot.

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Now it’s left to faithful Wilbur to retrieve the wand and restore things to their natural order once more. But can he do it?
Another crazy caper illustrated in Korky Paul’s witty, exuberant style. Those robotic rabbits, ducks and frogs are superb but all the spreads are crammed with
delicious details.
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Especially for those who like to add their own creative touches of magic to a story is:

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Spells and Surprises Activity Storybook
Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson
Nosy Crow pbk
Best friends Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch become pupils at St Aubergine’s School just in time for the annual Hallowe’en festivities. First though there are all manner of lessons to be learned, not to mention costumes to be made and strange noises to be investigated. So it’s just as well that the pupils are ready to help each other out. Toasted marshmallows all round, I say.
There’s lots of fun to be had herein – glue, sequins and glitter at the ready: there are opportunities for adding to every one of the forty or so double spreads.
This one is definitely more likely to appeal to girls, probably from around five but perhaps younger depending on the individual. And don’t forget those witchy hats; time to head over to Mixtopia for some magical happenings.
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Canine Catastrophes

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This book just ate my dog!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Many of us avid readers devour books but here the situation is altogether different; it’s the book that does the devouring. All begins normally as Bella is walking her large spotty dog across the first page, but when he reaches the gutter, he starts to disappear headfirst

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and by the next page has vanished altogether, his lead protruding from the crack. Along comes Ben offering to help but he too meets the same fate, as does the rescue service van, followed by a police car and a fire engine! Time for Bella to take over but at the turn of a page and a very large BURP she too falls victim to the dreaded gutter.
All is not lost however; seemingly Bella has somehow managed to slip a note out to us book-devouring readers issuing instructions on how to help her escape. Wiggle, shake and shake and shake and shake and wiggle once again …

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normality restored –more or less.

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Don’t forget to read Bella’s final instructions or …. Oh well, we are bound to go back and start all over anyway.
Very clever, very funny and very, very satisfying.

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Smelly Louie
Catherine Rayner
Macmillan Children’s Books
Fresh from the bathtub, Louie has lost his unique doggy smell; instead, there’s a distinct aroma of roses and apple blossom about him. One unhappy Louie: off he goes in search of his own elusive odour. Fox, the snails, even some friendly flies all come up with helpfully pongy possibilities and then an improved, but not yet perfect Louise remembers the stagnant pond. There he wallows until his ‘Special Smell’ is restored. Back home trots a satisfied Louie with a big smile on his face; but what is that powerful aroma coming from upstairs and that noise?

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Please not –
Once again, Catherine Rayner’s characterization is superb. The text, with its scattering of alliteration, is a delight to read aloud and the circularity of her shaggy dog story so satisfying, for readers and listeners that is, although not perhaps for its determined canine protagonist. Her illustrations here exhibit a delightful blend of scribbled exuberance in Louie’s glorious messiness and the detailed, fine control evident in the small creatures such as snails and bees and the flora around them.

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One can almost smell that characteristic doggy whiff emanating from Louie on the penultimate spread and he’s definitely won my affection despite my not being a dog lover in general.

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Banana Drama, Mane Mania

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Betty Goes Bananas

Steve Antony
Oxford University Press
Betty’s grin is irresistible; in fact Betty herself is, despite her tantrums. Tantrums she seems to throw at the drop of a hat – or rather a banana; for it’s a banana that is the cause of all the bother. No matter how hard she tries hungry Betty just cannot open her banana.

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(It must be one of the same young finger-defying variety supplied to infant schools). So what does she do? Cries, sniffles, kicks and screams

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and finally, calms down, Along comes Mr Toucan offering to help but our determined miss is having none of it: off she goes again. WAAAAH! SNIFF! SNIFF! BANG! BANG! AAAAAAAAAAAA! …
wise words from Mr Toucan … Betty bites but the banana breaks …

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here we go again, repeat performance … More timely words from long-suffering Mr T. … Betty eats YUM! Mr T. departs … but what’s that on the ground there …

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Brilliantly simple, simply brilliant. Steve Antony’s second picture book is even better than his debut performance and that was a hard act to follow.

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Monty’s Magnificent Mane

Gemma O’Neill
Templar Publishing pbk
King of the jungle, Monty’s mane is his pride and joy. His friends the meerkats admire its glowing magnificence and flatter him about it, which pleases Monty so he allows them to play therein. Not for long though; their tugging and tickling become annoying and Monty shakes them off, taking a tumble in so doing and messing up his mane. The meerkats’ attempts to restore it to magnificence are not to Monty’s liking

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so off he stomps to check out his reflection in the waterhole heedless of a small meerkat’s warning. Now Monty’s just loves flattery and so when he hears words like “wonderful mane” coming from the green, cheeky eyed creature in the water, he’s only to happy to go nearer so he can show it off at close range… SNAP!

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Oops! One croc’s mouth stuffed with mane: one fleeing lion hotly pursued by said croc. hungry for dinner.
That croc. is still hot on his heels when he gets home, so it’s time for Monty to make an difficult decision –which is more important – the lives of his meerkat friends or an always perfect mane?
 Brilliant colours , and somewhat Scarfe-like, exaggerated images of Monty and croc. make for dramatic effect in Gemma O’Neill’s wonderfully textured mixed media illustrations.
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Feather, Frogs and Fur

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Woooo!
Gerry Turley
Hutchinson
Squeak”, “Meep” two baby owls wait hungrily for their mother owl to return with some nourishment before they take their first flight. Then it’s a case of ‘flap your wings and swoosh’ or rather flop and flump, swump, and swoosh.

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One ‘whoa’ … follows the mother into the wild woods; the other remains on the branch, “waaa”, stuck. All around other animal sounds come closer, “gnash gnash” and “nosssssssshh” …
Just in time, with an almighty “Screeeeeeeeech!” comes father owl and oops. Time to get those wings moving little one… flap flap off he goes –

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just – up and away, even as high as the moon …

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Beautifully simple, beautifully told, this tale of a maiden flight is rendered through a brief text comprising brief sentences and animal noises together with illustrations crafted with deft strokes of pen, brush and crayon.
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Tiger on a Tree
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk,
A baby tiger wanders off, crosses the river, encounters a goat that causes him to dash up a tree and there he surprises the village men who now have a dilemma: what to do with the animal. They confer on the tiger’s fate and fortunately for all, the decision is in its favour … Satisfyingly circular in nature – the opening ‘Tiger , tiger on the shore’ is the book’s finale too.
Told in slightly erratic rhyme, that swerves across the pages, this tale is full of drama and tension: Armed with an enormous net the men cry

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Get him! Net him! Tie him tight!’… ‘He’s caught. He’s got. Now what?
The tiger colour illustrations around which the author wove her tale are wonderfully expressive and abound with energy; Biswas was one of India’s leading illustrators, so this paperback edition will surely one hopes, help keep him in the public eye.
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Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble
Tatyana Feeney
Oxford University Press
Little Frog was happy being the only offspring of Mummy and Daddy Frog. So, when he learns of new additions to the family – nine no less – he is far from impressed. Can tadpoles build with blocks, play drums, jump even? Oh dear no. Moreover their doing nothing commands all of his parent’s time so,

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no bedtime story, no goodnight kiss, just one thoroughly fed-up Little Frog.
But as we all know, tadpoles quickly grow into little frogs and soon …

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One big, happy family.
As with her two previous titles, Tatyana Feeney’s limited use of colour and brief text combine to great effect producing a charming whole that, despite the small size of its main character, is much greater than the sum of its parts.
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More about new additions to the family in:

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Miffy and the New Baby
Dick Bruna
Simon and Schuster
Once again, Tony Mitton has created a new translation, in rhyme, of the original story wherein Miffy is thrilled to learn of a forthcoming addition to her family and straightway gets to work making treats for her new sibling to be.

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And, what a proud big sister she is when she finally holds the baby bunny and when she takes that special ‘Welcome Baby’ cake to school to share with all her friends.
Full of charm, as ever.
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Picture Book Medley

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The Strongest Boy in the World
Jessica Souhami
Frances Lincoln
Jessica Souhami’s latest offering is an alternative take on an old Japanese tale, the first records of which go back to the 13th Century. The original story featured an adult warrior whereas here, Souhami’s would-be hero is a plucky though puny boy who dreams of becoming a champion Sumo wrestler. Kaito sets out from his village to the Kyoto tournament and en route meets Hana, a girl with much greater strength. Hana decides to toughen him up but can she do it in the three weeks before the tournament? Training begins in earnest with a strict diet of tough meat, bony fish and semi-cooked rice together with a regime of running, jumping, kicking, lifting and punching.

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Finally Kaito is declared ready to fight and sets off once again for the city. The enormous and famous wrestlers he meets therein scoff at him but Kaito overcomes every one he comes up against and is declared champion. Greatly impressed, the Emperor invites him to live at his court as Imperial Champion. What is Kaiko’s decision? Suffice it to say he is the strongest boy in the land but both he and readers know of an even stronger young person, someone without whose help he could not have achieved his dream.
Striking collage illustrations, beautifully crafted and suitably energetic, underline the humour of this tale. It’s wonderful to have a female character with such strength of body and mind – a celebration of ‘girl power’, but at the same time, an acknowledgment of male strength, making this a book that will be pleasing to both genders.
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Counting Chickens
Polly Alakija
Frances Lincoln
Young Tobi’s pride and joy is his hen: his village friends have animals of their own too. One Monday, Ade’s cow has a calf and Tobi’s hen lays one egg. The next day, Tunde’s sheep has two lambs; Tobi’s hen lays a second egg and so it goes on.

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On Sunday it lays a seventh egg. The hen sits, Tobi waits and waits… After three weeks both are rewarded with a brood of seven, newly hatched, yellow chicks. The following year those chicks become mother hens with their own babies – so many Tobi needs help to count them all.
This lovely story with its Nigerian village setting is beautifully illustrated with earthy tones that contrast with the strong colours of the villagers’ clothes and vehicles. Patterns abound in the details of the weaves of baskets, designs on some of the clothing and the natural designs of the African flora and fauna.
With its counting opportunities, days of the week and most important, a great opportunity to share a story with a Nigerian setting, this is a book I would recommend highly to those in nursery and infant settings as well as anybody who wants to expand the horizons of their young child/children.
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Mr Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown
Macmillan Children’s Books pbk
Dapper looking Mr Tiger sports a top hat, suit and bow tie and lives in a street of houses the residents of which are very proper, upright people who drink tea and sit nicely at the table. Mr T. however becomes bored with this dull existence. Time to explore life on the wild side, he decides. Soon he isn’t content with being on all fours; clothing dispensed with, he’s off to ‘the wilderness’ as instructed by his now, horrified friends. There, his wildness is given full rein but roaring and roaming freely in the wilderness proves less than completely satisfying: Mr Tiger misses his friends and city home. Back he goes to discover that not only can he now be more true to his real nature, but that his friends too have become both more accepting and relaxed in themselves.

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There are echoes of Rousseau in Peter Brown’s digitally edited Indian ink, watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations. These begin with an almost monochromatic palette (apart from the tiger’s face) becoming brighter in tandem with Mr T growing wildness.

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Brown lets his illustrations do much of the talking. The ‘be yourself’ message comes through loud and clear from the pictures whereas he keeps the verbal content understated and to the point.
This clever picture book has much to offer although I wouldn’t suggest using it with under fives unless they have already had exposure to a wide variety of picture books and some experience of talking about and interpreting them.
The book is most assuredly an excellent starting point for discussions relating to being yourself, difference/divergence and acceptance for children in primary and even secondary schools.
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Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner
Gareth Edwards and Guy Parker-Rees
Alison Green Books pbk
Definitely don’t do that nor, says the boy narrator of this very funny, rhyming cautionary tale, should you share your toothbrush with a shark, never let a beaver in the basin or use a tiger as a towel. A bison will be a bully so despite its woolliness, don’t choose one for a blanket

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and a barn owl is nocturnal so most certainly not a suitable night-time companion. Shun them all and instead stick with your tried and trusted Ted for a blissful sleep in bed.
Delightfully dotty and made all the more so by Parker-Rees’s illustrations. His glowing colours are gorgeous, the scenes hilarious and the, oh so endearing cast of characters he portrays, make one immediately want to ignore the advice and snuggle up with all of them – well maybe not the shark on second thoughts.
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That Dog!
Gillian Shields and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Unloved, indeed virtually unnoticed, the Jones’ family dog is thoroughly miserable. So, determined to get some attention, he ups and leaves home. But then what is a hungry dog to do? Get a job, he decides and tries his hand or rather paws at washing up, taxi driving, farm working, litter picking, fire fighting, nursing and more.

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Eventually our canine pal is not only skilled, but also very knowledgeable. It’s then that the Jones spot their erstwhile pet on a TV talent show but of course, it’s too late; that amazing dog now has plenty of people to give him love and friendship.
Believe in yourself and you are unstoppable is the message that dog sends out loud and clear in this off-beat story. The illustrations abound with pattern and there is much else to entertain in the detail too.
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There’s a Shark in the Bath
Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic pbk.
Join Dulcie in a riotous bathroom farce wherein she discovers not one, but three sharks in the bath full of cold water left overnight by her dad. Now being breakfast time, Papa, Mama and Baby Shark have just one thing in mind and you can guess what that is. Quick-thinking Dulcie however, has others. First there’s the ‘Brushety-Brush Game’ with the toothpaste,

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then the ‘Wiggety-Wig Game’ involving masses of pink bubbles, hastily followed by the ‘Happy-Wrappy-Uppie Game’ an excellent diversion that results in a very large entanglement of sharks and toilet paper. No mess at all, she assures Dad who is anxiously waiting outside the door; so then one final game is called for. PHEW! Time for breakfast – Dulcie’s not the sharks’ I hasten to add . . .

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Wonderfully silly both verbally and visually. The wacky, over the top or rather, over the edge, bathroom scenes are cleverly so nearly catastrophic and are a perfect match for the tongue-in-cheek telling.
A brilliant one to share with individuals or groups large and small.
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Gracie is highly amused at the exploits of Aldrin and friends

The Great Moon Confusion
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press
Raccoon Aldrin is something of a know-all; he impresses his friends Fox, Rabbit and Woodpecker, but he’s not quite as clever as he likes to think. So, one night when Rabbit asks why the moon has changed its shape, too embarrassed to admit he doesn’t know, Aldrin proposes an investigation. A week later, with some clues provided by his friends, he concludes, erroneously, that the bears, Hubble and Lovell, are engaged in moon theft.

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The truth however is something far more constructive.
One cannot help but laugh at, but also have a little sympathy for, self-elected expert, Aldrin who does, before this funny tale is out, learn an awful lot, not only about the moon but also about showing off, jumping to hasty conclusions,

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accusing, and apologising and perhaps most importantly, about friendship, as he engages in one hilarious, blunder-making situation after another.
Get hold of this book for its hilarious story and wonderful illustrations, I love the endpapers too. Also, embedded within, is some basic information about the moon that young listeners will absorb effortlessly.
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Nursery Time
Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan
Hodder Children’s Books
The animals are bemused: Suzy Sue has disappeared. They search high and low to no avail and then cow discovers a sign – Sunshine Nursery. That’s where she has gone. The animals pay a visit and discover what a wonderful place it is; but is it so good Suzy Sue will never want to return to her farmyard pals? The animals hatch a plan and enter the nursery in disguise intending to take her home right away. That was the plan but the place is such fun that they want to stay too playing with the sand, water, bouncy balls, building blocks and much more.

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But, ‘oh my goodness’ their cover is blown; Suzy Sue spots them and tells them it’s a children only environment. Quickly though, she explains “I’m not going to live here, I just come every day. I play for a while and then go away.” Much relieved cow, sheep and the others return home with another plan in mind. Then it’s a case of home from home…
A reassuring, indeed enticing view of nursery is portrayed (not sure about the bookshelf though) in this amusing, rhyming tale. There are plenty of details for those already at nursery to spot and enjoy; those yet to start should be filled with eager anticipation. Adults too will enjoy the visual humour especially those who have spent time in a nursery.
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Boris Gets Spots
Carrie Weston and Tim Warnes
Oxford University Press pbk
This is the fourth Boris adventure. Herein his teacher makes an exciting announcement: Mr Gander from Gosling farm is coming to pay the class a visit. There is great excitement with everyone except Boris who merely wants to stay quietly in the book corner. When the special visitor arrives, Miss Cluck and her class go outside and enthusiastically experience all Mr Gander has to offer until Boris’s absence is discovered. Back to the classroom goes Fergus and then comes the cry, ‘Boris is covered with spots!’ Back they all dash to find a red -spotted Boris looking very sorry for himself. ‘Chicken Pox” announces Miss Cluck who fortunately knows just what to do.

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Before long though, she has an epidemic, not to mention an empty classroom on her hands. Time to put that honey cookies recipe to good use with the delicious ingredients Mr Gander left them.
Those who work in early years will immediately relate to this one. On several occasions I’ve had my nursery or reception class decimated by a chicken pox epidemic, perhaps not quite all at once as is the case here however. Authorial license notwithstanding though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable story to share with young children with or without the dreaded spots. There is so much to explore in relation to the food items and other things Mr Gander brings to show Boris’s class.
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Wintry Worlds

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When Charley Met Granpa
Amy Hest and Helen Oxenbury
Walker Books
This is the second story from the transatlantic Hest/Oxenbury partnership to feature Henry and his dog, Charley. Now it’s a cold, snowy Sunday and Granpa is coming to visit. Henry sets out for the station dragging a sledge behind him for Granpa’s big suitcase, Charley frisking in front. Henry is apprehensive about Granpa’s reaction to his canine pal; he has never had a dog for a friend he tells Charley as they wait for the train to arrive. But, as readers of Charley’s First Night will already know, Charley is no ordinary pup, he’s an adorable, playful little chap. Granpa finally arrives and as the trio start to make their way back home, the wind whisks Granpa’s hat high into the air and with a swish of his tail, Charley is off chasing it into the whirling snow. Happily, he returns before long with the green cap between his teeth.
This small incident is lyrically portrayed through both words and pictures. Told from Henry’s viewpoint, Hest’s attention to detail in her narrative has a child-like simplicity while at the same time capturing the warmth between the characters. Oxenbury’s gorgeous illustrations too, glow with warmth despite the chilly landscape and as always, her attention to detail is impeccable.
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You Make Me Smile
Layn Marlow
Oxford University Press
One can almost feel the chill in the air as those first snowflakes fall, watched by a little girl from her bedroom window. Softly they cover the ground all around her house and she rushes down to join her waiting parent. In the hall she puts on her outdoor clothes and then it’s out into the snowy world to start making a snowman. As she works, the rosy-cheeked little girl talks to the ‘friend’ she is building; she even wraps her own scarf around his neck before adding the final, all-important smile.

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Then it’s time for a photo-shoot with her new friend; and the two smile together – a smile that can last the whole year through.
A special event in the life of a small child, captured to perfection in Layn Marlow’s spare text and heart-warming pictures – simply beautiful.
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Up & Down
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Perched atop a large ice-block, Little Penguin thinks about his friend far away on another iceberg; he misses her. So off he goes to meet her, launching himself high in the air,

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then diving low under the waves,

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up towards a tunnel, down through seaweed, inside the tunnel, first pausing bravely outside … and reaching the end of that small tunnel, then out into the big ocean… There he negotiates various marine creatures moving in turn in front, behind, above, below, over or under them before finally catching sight of his destination. His once sad friend, having spotted Little Penguin is now happy as she watches him walking from the bottom of the slope to the top, where they are finally together.
As this brief synopsis shows, Little Penguin’s journey is filled with opposites. The opposing pairs being completed by opening the series of flaps (one per spread) as he moves through the grey murky seascape to his destination atop the distant iceberg.
As well as being a fun book to share with the very young, this straightforward story of friendship has lots of potential for language development with young children especially those for whom English is an additional language.
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After reading the story you can use either puppets or small world toy penguins for the characters, and marine small world creatures. Then with children’s help, build up an Antarctic scene with a short drain-pipe for the tunnel, murky coloured ‘water’ (screwed up tissue paper works well) and small pieces of white fabric draped over shoe boxes or similar. First you and then individual children can then move ‘Little Penguin’ at your instructions, following the route taken in the story. As they gain confidence, the children can tell you where Penguin is and then at a later stage, take over the activity themselves.

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red sledge
Lita Judge
Andersen Press pbk.
This near wordless picture book story is sheer delight.
A small child leaves a red sledge propped up outside the house one chilly night. It is found by a large bear who decides to take a joyride. On the way he accumulates a whole host of other woodland creatures and soon they are all enjoying a moonlit descent,

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which ends in a glorious eeeeeeeeeee fluoomp …….. ft as the sledge takes flight, crash lands and the riders come tumbling off to land in a huge heap. And what a wonderful sight that is; both bear and rabbit at least, look totally blissed out; Bear spread-eagled on his stomach and white rabbit peering over his head. Bear then picks up the sledge and returns it to the place he found it. Next morning the child notices animal footprints outside leading away from his house. That night, animals and child enjoy another ride – together this time. Wheeeeeeeeee
The whole exhilarating story is told with wonderfully dynamic watercolour illustrations and a sequence of glorious onomatopaeaic sounds. Scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch is just the perfect sound for bear’s footsteps in the snow. But my favourite of all accompanies moose crouching dog style on the sledge with rabbit between his hooves and bear – open mouthed – spread eagled atop moose’s antlers as the sledge bounces
Gadung  Gadung  Gadung  Gadung
down the snowy hillside.
So clever, so spot on for young listeners and beginning readers. Who could possibly want to use dull boring contrived phonic ‘reading’ books when there are brilliant real books like this one?
Destined to be read over and over and …
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Winter’s Child
Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith
Templar Publishing
Tom loves the winter days: he spends them skating and sledging. His Nana in contrast is old and feels the cold badly. Out playing one day, Tom meets a pale boy with ice-blue eyes and they become friends. His new playmate tells Tom he wishes winter could last forever.  At their parting, Tom asks the blue-eyed boy where he lives; “Everywhere and nowhere,” is the reply. That night Tom is unable to dry his wet clothes and he gives his blankets to a now ashen Nana . In the morning it’s a heavy-hearted Tom who goes out to play . He tells his friend about his ailing Nana who is in desperate need of some warm spring sun.
Now both boys have a dilemma.
The winter is long and cold. Tom loves it, but each day the boys play, his Nana grows weaker.

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Little does Tom know, when he meets his new friend, that the two of them are prolonging winter. As their friendship blossoms, Tom’s mother uses up all the logs, so he sacrifices his skis and his treehouse ladder for fuel. But there is a much greater sacrifice to be made if Nana, who is becoming increasingly ashen and wasted, is to survive to see another spring. For, unbeknown to Tom, his friend is Winter’s Child and unless he heeds his father’s call to rejoin him and sleep, Spring cannot wake.
This is a magical modern fairy tale of friendship, hardships and difficult decisions. It is wondrously illustrated in shades of blue, white and grey. Baker-Smith’s snow is truly brilliant; he achieves dazzling effects without a single touch of added glitter and his small framed  scenes of the potential human tragedy and the dilemma inherent in the boys’ friendship, set into the snowy landscapes, are a stark contrast to the beauty of the landscapes surrounding them. Hauntingly memorable; a book for all ages and one to return to again and again.
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October Miscellany

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Aunt Amelia
Rebecca Cobb
Macmillan Children’s Books
Showing not telling is the name of the game in this charming and witty book. The two small children in the story are in a bad mood; Aunt Amelia is coming to look after them overnight. Mum and Dad leave her a list of instructions but fortunately for her charges, she interprets these instructions with a considerable degree of latitude.
It’s not surprising then that the youngsters are eager that their parents issue another invitation to come and stay very soon and moreover, they suggest she be left another of those ‘helpful’ lists of instructions.
What makes this story such a delight is what we are shown, rather than told what takes place while the parents are away. Rebecca Cobb’s watercolour, pencil and ink illustrations are executed with a child-like freshness and panache that is appealing to both adults and young children.
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Pigeon Pie
Debbie Singleton and Kristina Litten
Oxford University Press
It’s market day so life down on Farmer Budd’s farm is especially hectic. There are the cows to milk, the eggs to collect, cherries to be picked so Mrs Budd can bake cherry pies, and the remaining cherries to be protected from marauding birds. Then there are all the animals to be fed, the scarecrow needs a replacement hat and the milk and eggs have to be loaded into the trailer. Busy, busy busy; but oh dear! Farmer Budd has forgotten to close the gate to the cornfield. He’s forgotten too, that there is a goat in the next field. Before long the scarecrow is reduced to a pair of crossed sticks – the ideal perching place for five peckish pigeons with their sights set firmly on the corn. It’s fortunate for him then that a tiny chick has a clever plan in mind, a plan that involves telling the other farm animals about a special dish that Mrs Budd is preparing to serve that day; and it definitely is not cherry pie.
There is plenty to make you smile in this gently humorous story. Children love the way the pigeons are duped and delight in joining in with the repeated refrain, ‘Pigeon pie! Oh my! ‘ That – and of course – the burping opportunities.
Kristina Litten’s richly patterned, comical pictures abound with amusing details, in particular the antics of the bit part animal characters, the rat trio and the snail that are never mentioned but greatly add to the fun. Then there are those wacky pigeons with their red-rimmed eyes and ballooning bellies; the sight of them shooting up into the air when they spy what they think is the dreaded dish being prepared is a hoot.

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I really like the way the end papers are part of the story portraying the changing time from early morning when Farmer Budd fixes the FREE RANGE EGGS for sale notice to his fence at the front, to early evening when the sign indicates ‘sold out’ as the sun sinks below the horizon.
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Spider Sandwiches
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk.
Do NOT accept Max’s invitation to tea or any other meal for that matter, unless like that green hairy monster, you have a penchant for all things disgusting. The things he dines on are sure to make your stomach heave; things like toenail scrambled eggs, grasshopper legs smoothie, cold, crunchy, cockroach curry or horror of horrors, squiggly spider sandwiches. Odd then that he turns his nose up at a relatively ordinary vegetarian soup with small, green spherical objects floating in it.
This rhyming litany of loathsome fare is one that will have your young audiences UGGGHHING, EWWWWW and YUCKING almost continuously as you read. And, they will love to feast their eyes on Sue Hendra’s suitably garish illustrations, which depict a series of satiating scenes. The supermarket for example, has shelves packed with an alluringly awful array of produce.
If you plan to read this aloud around Hallowe’en (or any time for that matter) I’d suggest making sure you can get your tongue around all those nasties first.
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Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten
Alison Murray
Nosy Crow
This is one of those pink, glittery covered books that are instantly attractive to many little girls. All too often though, such books fail to live up to their external sparkle. This one, and yes it does feature a little princess, proved to be an exception, and, that string bling does actually serve a purpose. What lifts Alison Murray’s book above most of its kind is her charming, retro illustrations with their fresh palette, gentle humour, and judicious use of pattern. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the balletic butler and the portrait of the princess on her prancing pony.

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Essentially the story, told in rhyme, revolves around Princess Penelope and the mischievous kitten that snatches one end of a ball of wool from the queen’s knitting basket and dashes off through the palace entangling almost everything in sight.
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Sugarlump and the Unicorn
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
Wishing and magic are the ingredients for former children’s laureate Julia Donaldson’s latest collaboration with What the Ladybird Heard artist Lydia Monks. The magic comes from a blue-eyed unicorn and the wishing is done by rocking horse, Sugarlump. He is happy rocking to and fro when the children are at home to ride him but when they go to school he has nothing to do. That’s when the wishing begins. He wants to be out in the big wide world. So, thanks to that unicorn and her flashing eyes he is able to try out all manner of horsey roles – a farm horse, a race horse and a circus horse; but then Sugarlump wants to go back home to the children. Time has passed though and the children have outgrown their once favourite toy. He makes another wish but fortunately, the unicorn is on hand again and she comes up with a much better one and Sugarlump finally finds somewhere in the world that is just perfect.
As one would expect from Julia Donaldson, the rhyming text reads aloud beautifully but this adult reader and some children among my audiences were rather brought up short by Sugarlump’s last request, “I wish I had never been born!” It proved a good talking point afterwards though.
Lydia Monks’ bold, bright, mixed media illustrations have a joie-de vie and sparkle even without the added glitter on every page.
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The Princess’ Blankets
Carol Ann Duffy and Catherine Hyde
Templar Publishing
The princess in this story can never get warm. The king promises that anyone able to stop his daughter feeling so cold, can have the reward of their choosing ‘even unto half his kingdom’. Intent on winning the princess as his prize, a cruel-eyed stranger covers her in turn with four blankets: the ocean’s blanket, the forest’s blanket, the mountain’s blanket and the earth’s blanket. All to no avail: despite his efforts, the beautiful princess remains as chilled as ever. Then a newcomer arrives, a musician with a flute and a good heart: just the heart to warm that of the princess as he fills her body with the beauty of his music, and his love.

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Lyrically told, this neo fairy tale has a pertinent message for our times: a message about mankind’s carelessness, greed and continuing destruction of our world. It is beautifully interpreted through Catherine Hyde’s powerfully atmospheric paintings, which orchestrate the story showing the changes brought about by the elemental blankets and finally, the power of love.
Not so much a picture book, more an illustrated story, with its longish text, this book is likely to have a wide appeal from primary age children to adults and one to return to over and over.
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Dragon Loves Penguin
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Baby penguin, Bib, lives in the land of ice and snow with his mummy and daddy. One bedtime as a delaying tactic he asks, ‘ “… can I have a story? The one about dragons.” ‘ So begins a tale of a dragon that wants an egg and an abandoned egg that needs a mummy. Perfect – or so it seems. Certainly the dragon loves her Little One and the Little One loves her. But, Little One’s appearance isn’t quite like that of the other recently hatched creatures; no flying, fire breathing or rock chewing. She doesn’t grow big and strong with a long neck and hard scaly covering. Rather she is slow, careful, small, fluffy and courageous – rather like a penguin. The others are showered with flashy gifts but Little One receives the best of all possible gifts; love and time.
Then one day all the big dragons have to leave their little ones and that’s when Little One is taunted by the small dragons and made to feel an outcast. So, feeling hurt, she takes himself off to be alone. However, things can happen for a reason… Little One suddenly feels her soft feathery body getting very, very hot; the volcano is alive. “FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!” he yells to the others and so they do, leaving Little One behind hotly pursued by the flames of the volcano. Fortunately for her though, she takes a tumble all the way to the bottom of the flaming mountain and what should she find waiting for her at the bottom? – an egg. And, thanks to her mummy, Little One knows just what to do…
Loving and being loved, being yourself and being different are all themes of this tender tale that moves between present and past, seamlessly uniting the two through the medium of story. For, Bib is the egg at the end of the bedtime story and Little One, his Mummy penguin.

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Debi Gliori’s charcoal and watercolour illustrations are glorious and beautifully convey the loving feelings that are a vital element of this book: the penguins and main dragon character are truly endearing.
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Herman’s Letters
Tom Percival
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
When your very best friend in the entire world moves far away, what do you do? Promise to write to one another and remain best friends forever.
That’s just what best pals Herman, a large brown bear, and Henry, a reddish raccoon resolve to do. Henry keeps his side of the bargain, writing often as promised and giving details of his new friends and the exciting things he’s been doing. But, his letters don’t make his old pal happy; instead he’s overcome with jealousy and begins to doubt the friendship. Poor old Herman.

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Eventually hibernation time draws close and he still hasn’t written.. Another Henry letter arrives; one that is much more reassuring and this one spurs Herman into a flurry of activity. He finally writes a letter and dashes off to post it right away. Oh no! The post office has closed for the winter. There is only one thing left for Herman to do – deliver that all-important letter by hand. Off he goes into the snow. But can he make that long, long journey before sleep overtakes him? Can he make it at all in fact?
With its realistic looking lift the flap letters and endearing characters, this book is a delight. Despite the inherent sadness of parting and feelings of loss, there is a gentle humour running throughout the whole thing. The sequence depicting Herman’s journey to deliver his letter into his friend’s hands is wonderful.

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The message (along with Herman’s snoring) comes across loud and clear: true friendship knows no bounds.
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Teachers wanting to stimulate children’s writing, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this and share it with the class group. Then turn an area of your classroom or nursery into Herman’s home with a letterbox another space into Henry’s. Add writing materials to each and start the enterprise going by writing a Henry letter of your own for the children to find.

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A Royal Baby is born

DSCN0908The Royal Nappy
Nicholas Allen
Red Fox pbk.
A new Baby Royal means that Nanny is going to be very busy. But then she has looked after the Royal Nursery and in particular, the Royal Nappy collection for a very long time. This is the starting point for Nicholas Allen’s latest exploration of royal undergarments and he’s clearly taking advantage of the imminent addition to the Royal family. Several scenarios are explored including a mix up in the Royal Mint where the Royal nappies are also printed, a ‘Poo-Detector On-Board Nappy’ for when the babe takes a ride in Daddy’s helicopter, flag nappies for wearing when foreign visitors are being entertained and horror of horrors, the possibility of an acute nappy shortage resulting in a bare-cheeked revelation in front of the president of the US. My favourite though, is the extra shiny variety especially for visits to Great-grandma’s, just the thing for super skids across the palace floor. Who can resist a good giggle!!!
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The Royal Baby
Tony Bradman and Tony Ross
Oxford University Press pbk.
A Royal Princess is expecting a baby; everyone is of course delighted. Immediately the speculations begin: boy or girl? Tall? Strong? Fair or dark? Everybody in the palace joins in but the Prince and Princess are happy in the  knowledge that their baby will be loved no matter what. Quite soon, joy of joys – the Royal birth is announced and there is a very beautiful, very special new baby (as all new babies are). Then of course, everyone must just wait and see how that particular baby turns out.
Tony Ross has chosen to set Bradman’s story in a fantasy kingdom wherein there are jousting knights as well as a rock band. As always, his illustrations are quirkily eloquent.
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DSCN0909Baggy Brown and the Royal Baby
Mick Inkpen
Hodder Childrens pbk.
After the best of beginnings, (having been the first of a limited edition made to celebrate the birth of Princess Sophinyiannia, (aka Sophie) Baggy Brown’s life takes a catastrophic turn. Even before he actually has a name or reached the end of the conveyor belt, the priceless bear fails to line himself up correctly and topples straight off into the depths of the teddy bear machine. Therein he is ‘grubbed and fluffed and plumped and scrodged and frizzled and squidged and pummeled and hooshed and hooshed and hooshed again!’ before being ejected onto the factory floor whereupon he’s trodden on by a factory worked.
Not knowing of his importance, said worker takes No.1, now looking very much the worse for wear, home for his son Alfie. Alfie is immediately enchanted by his new acquisition and renames him Baggy Brown.
Meanwhile at the palace, the new princess of Thingland is driving her parents crazy with her constant crying and a news alert about the missing No.1 is broadcast on TV. So is it time for a change of ownership after all? Well, let’s just say that it’s not Baggy that stops Sophie’s howling, though stop she does when Alfie enters the Royal Nursery, but that’s only part of the story …
This enchanting tale, albeit renamed, is actually a timely reissue for a new Royal baby, of a story first published a few years back.
There’s a lot to talk about herein including ownership and doing the right thing. With its longish text and wonderful watercolour illustrations, this is a lovely story to share with young listeners at any time.
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Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby
Marth Mumford and Ada Grey
Bloomssbury Childrens Books pbk
There’s uproar in the Royal Palace; despite their best efforts, neither the Duchess nor the Duke can get their baby to stop bawling. Time, for the Queen to intervene, she announces and soon has the babe aboard her private jet soaring through the clouds. But it’s only when the two of them are parachuting towards the palace grounds that the infant finally falls asleep. Not for long however and there follows a further round of failed attempts thanks to ever noisier happenings until finally back in the arms of its mother, the babe finally drops off.
Sometime later that same day, some very loud snores emanate from the nursery and they’re certainly not all coming from the sleeping infant.
This is a picture book debut for both author and illustrator and a very successful one too. From the illustrations with helicopter-flying Dad, redheaded uncle and corgis abounding, Ada Grey makes it very clear the particular Royal family to whom this baby belongs. Her paintings are full of amusing little details to chuckle over and Mumford has supplied lots of opportunities for noisy audience participation.
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