Tag Archives: Petr Horacek

Picken / Animal Counting


Mary Murphy
Walker Books
What a clever title for this ‘mix and match’ farm animal book. Here youngsters surely can ‘pick ‘n mix’ the opposite sides of this split page board book to create a host of crazy animals. Thus for instance, a Calf can become a Camb, a Cacken, a Catten, a Caglet, a Case …


(I’ll leave you to work out what animal the rear end belongs to) and a Cappy.
A kitten on the other hand, might be a Kilf or a Kimb …


or four other strange creatures.
Essentially this is a game in a book and with Mary Murphy’s bold, bright illustrations, a delightful one at that. In addition, it’s a wonderfully playful way to develop some sound/symbol associations.


Animal Counting
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
This lift-the flap animal book is just the thing to encourage the very young to participate in the development of their counting skills. Brightly coloured images of a giraffe, zebras, cheetahs …


snakes, crocodiles, chameleons, toucans, pandas, lemurs and finally fish are presented alongside the appropriate numeral and when the half-page flap on the right-hand side of each double spread is lifted, it reveals both a number symbol fashioned from the featured animal and the corresponding number word.


To add further interest, each animal is described in an adjectival phrase such as-‘Seven Screeching toucans‘ or ‘Nine leaping lemurs‘.

The Greedy Goat


The Greedy Goat
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
What a tremendous treat of an extended joke of a book this is. I thought at first that the particular Goat in question must have an extraordinarily strong constitution as she gobbles up dog’s food for her breakfast, washed down with slurps of the cat’s milk; this is followed by a veritable 3-course lunch: pig’s potato peelings for starters, the farmer’s wife’s plant as entrée and his daughter’s shoe for dessert. And her supper – can you believe it- is this …


It should come as no surprise then that after a whole day’s experimental gormandising our heroine starts to feel its effects.


Moreover, the farmer’s family too have noticed the absence of their things and the guzzler seems to have absented herself too. Come Sunday, she looks thus:


It takes a whole week for our experimental eater to get back to her usual self: but that still leaves one small girl in need of new footwear and the farmer short of his boxers. They never do turn up – well maybe they do but let’s not go there! And the goat? Is she now a reformed vegetarian, never to stray from her herbivorous diet again? Umm … who wants to ruin your dessert? The proof of the pudding is in the reading …
Petr Horáček has served up a truly flavoursome cautionary tale with spicy ingredients: a piquant main player, supported by a copacetic cast and – as ever – delectable mixed media illustrations that will be relished by children (who may well try their hand at some of his techniques) and the adults who serve up this treat to them.

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Shiny Red Objects – Misidentifications

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Toad and I
Louise Yates
Jonathan Cape
I’ve loved all Louise Yates’ Dog Loves … books so couldn’t wait to read this one. It’s altogether different; Dog is nowhere in sight but we meet some congenial new characters.
Herein we meet young Kitty who, by dint of searching for her lost ball, comes upon the resident of a large tree – a Toad no less; not the kind that on receipt of a kiss becomes a handsome prince, but one that is eager to invite Kitty into his hole of residence aka his treehouse.

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And it’s one that has all mod cons as Toad is only too happy to point out …

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but while he’s so doing, the pair are interrupted by the arrival of Squirrel who announces an injured owl without. Having hastily donned suitable gear, they hurry out to repair the damage so to speak and in so doing, they discover its cause: “A meteorite,” said Owl. “It knocked me off my branch.

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Next stop is back inside – the observatory in case of further meteorite fall. In comes Shrew with another announcement, concerning his house this time. There follows further investigations of a somewhat crazy kind …

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until finally, Kitty takes matters into her own hands, unearths the root of all the trouble and guess what: it’s that small, once spherical object that she’d been playing with at the start; and it had set in motion a whole catastrophic concatenation of Owl displacing, house squashing and hedgehog hitting. Fortunately nobody really minded and even more fortunately Toad and Kitty are able to repair all the damage …

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in time for a game before teatime.
With a lovely final twist – or should that be bounce, we leave the friends to their farewells and promises of further meetings …
What a delicious cast of characters Louise Yates has conjured up here: I hope she brings them back for further adventures.

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The Mouse Who Reached the Sky
Petr Horâček
Walker Books
Co-operation is key in this gorgeous follow-up to The Mouse Who Ate the Moon. Herein Little Mouse spies a shiny red ‘marble’ hanging in a tree, wants it and tries unsuccessfully to reach it.

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Determined to get it however, she enlists the help of Mole who decides it’s a balloon but is equally unsuccessful in reaching the object so they ask Rabbit, who assures them it’s a ball. But can they come up with a plan that will enable them to reach the spherical object, bring it down and finally, identify the thing? Maybe – so long as they work as a team …

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They try their best but despite all their stretching they can’t quite get there … “Oh no!” – “Whoops!” … CRASH! But all is not lost – definitely not, for down it comes together with hundreds more and at last identification done, let the feast commence …

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With a cut-out page and a fold-out, the bright, richly textured, collaged mixed-media illustrations are enormously tactile, appealing to both children and adults. The former will delight in peering down Mole’s hole …

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and then out when the page is turned; and opening the vertical gatefold to reveal the teetering trio.
A beauty from start to thoroughly satisfying finish.

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Blue Penguin

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Blue Penguin
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
There’s a magical and luminous quality to the icy landscapes dazzlingly rendered by Petr Horáček in this sublime story on the theme of insiders and outsiders.
Into a penguin colony, in the far south, is born a new baby – a blue penguin. His fellow penguins are amazed. ”Are you a real penguin?” they ask and indeed Blue Penguin does all the penguiny things like diving and jumping (although he doesn’t excel); but he is ace at fishing.

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Bemused though, they begin to shun him leaving a very sad, empty-feeling Blue Penguin with no company save his night-time dreams.
Into one, repeatedly, comes a beautiful white whale that transports him far from his lonely place every night; and every morning Blue Penguin sings the whale a song sending it out across the ocean.

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This song catches the ear of another penguin drawing her closer day by day until finally, “Teach me your song,” she asks.

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Thus the two forge a friendship as Little Penguin learns to sing Blue Penguin’s song and they play and sing together.
Then comes a night when Blue Penguin decides they should sing a new song. Such is its magic that it draws in the other penguins, who, enchanted by its beauty, also want to learn the song. But his teaching is halted in its tracks by the arrival of a huge white whale that has heard the song and responded to its call.

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Now Blue Penguin has a decision to make: old song or new? Go with his dreamtime friend or remain with his new friend Little Penguin: maybe the other penguins will have some influence on his decision …
Sometimes a book comes along that sends shivers of delight right through you. Such a one is this. If only Blue Penguin’s song could be taught to everyone, the world over; maybe a copy of this beautiful, big-hearted tale should be given to each and every child, educational establishment, organisation and every nation’s leader.

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Gracie and Leo enchanted by Blue Penguin and the beauty of the book

Imagine …

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Toddler Time

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A Recipe for Bedtime
Peter Bently and Sarah Massini
Hodder Children’s Books
Baby, baby soft and sweet,
Almost good enough to eat!
It’s night-night time so come with me,
And hear my bedtime recipe.

We are invited to share a bedtime ritual along with teddy (who has the perfect recipe book), and other assorted toys who help put the human infant to bed. After a snack, there’s a cuddle, clothes off, into the bath with lots of warm water and bubbles, then a rub-a-dub with a huge towel – perfect for a quick game of Peek-a-Boo,

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a tummy softening squirt– thank you elephant, into those jimjams and a drink of milk. Now put said infant into a warm place with a sprinkling of kisses and a cosy cover, not forgetting a sleep-inducing ‘Hush-a-bye’ song; now climb in everyone. Night-night.
With its tender, gently soporific rhyming text and pictures so beautifully in tune, I can imagine this becoming a bedtime favourite with many a toddler.

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Are You My Mummy?
Mary Murphy
Walker Books
In this enchanting board book we join a little pup as it travels around the farm asking the various animal inhabitants, “Are you my mummy?” After encounters with a sheep, a cow, a horse, a cat, a pig

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and a duck, our persistent pup finally finds a large dog and joy of joys, her response is “Yes … and you’re my lovely puppy!
Cute animals, a simple patterned text and flaps to open revealing each mother’s little one are the key ingredients of this new addition to the Baby Walker series. It’s just the thing to share with the very youngest child… again and again I suspect; and slightly older, beginner reader siblings might well enjoy reading it to a baby brother or sister.

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Where Do You Live Snail?
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
Snail sets out visiting mouse, the busy bees, a fluffy bird, a shiny fish and hoppy frog asking them in turn, “Where do you live?” Each time he receives the answer, “I (or we) live in … ” The frog then asks snail about his home and discovers that snail has a mobile home on its back.

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The predictable question and answer format together with Petr Horacek’s gorgeous mixed media illustrations make for a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Baby Walker series. This one has a wheel that when turned, makes the stars shine on snail.
Another beautifully illustrated title in the same series is:
A Surprise for Tiny Mouse
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
As we accompany Tiny Mouse through the seasons we share her enjoyment of nibbling the corn in the sunshine, moving in the crackly leaves on a windy day, feeling the crunchy night-time frost

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and the snow tickling her nose. What she doesn’t like though is splashy rain so off she scampers to hide until out comes the sun once more, and if the wheel is turned …
Cutaway pages and peep-holes further add to the enjoyment of this one.
In my experience beginning readers also get great pleasure from these books if left in early years book baskets for individuals to try reading for themselves.

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Animal Antics


Little E engrossed in Teddy’s bedtime tale

Teddy Bedtime
Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
In this board book we have some sixty words and seven spreads through which toddlers can enjoy sharing in the bedtime rituals of a trio of teddies plus other toys. Said teds play together then go upstairs for some fun in the bath.


After that , it’s pyjamas on, teeth brushed, storytime and lights out.
A jolly rhymimg text and cute pictures with lots of patterns and items of interest for the very youngest; for bedtimes and other times too.
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The Short Giraffe
Neil Flory and Mark Cleary
Allen & Unwin (Murdoch Books) pbk
When photographer Boba the baboon arrives to take a photo of the tallest animals in the world, he is confronted with a poser of a problem. The desired perfect photograph can easily fit in five giraffe faces but what about Geri? The shortest ever giraffe offers to step aside but the others are having none of it; all credit to them. Various ideas are proffered – stilts, stacking,


inverting, inflating and winging him; but none is successful and eventually the giraffes’ ideas are exhausted. Along comes a caterpillar with a seemingly simple solution (children of course, will already have got there).


Then it’s just a case of a bit of repositioning and neck arching and with Geri in the centre front … click! Perfection at last.


There are laughs aplenty in this neatly simple story of inclusion, embracing differences and exploring things from different perspectives.
With touches of slapstick, Cleary’s digitally manipulated images set for the most part, against manila coloured paper which has the effect of making the candy-coloured animals stand out, (and up) are bound to make you smile.
Share with individuals and small groups.
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The Mouse Who Ate the Moon
Petr Horacek
Walker Books
Little Mouse adores the moon, so much so that she longs to have a piece of her very own. One morning when she wakes up, there, just outside her hole is a slice of her heart’s desire – so she thinks. It smells so wonderful that she takes a tiny nibble, and another and …


Oh no! No round moon now. But when she tells Rabbit and Mole her sad news, they say that nobody can eat the moon. A distraught Little Mouse returns to her hole until dark begins to fall when she hears a noise outside. It’s her friends Mole and Rabbit and they have something to show her, something large and shiny and ROUND in the starry sky. Time for a celebratory sharing of the rest of Little Mouse’s portion of moon, they decide. Mmm – delicious!
This cleverly designed book, with its peepholes and cutaway pages build up the scenes and extend the action as the story progresses. Horacek’s striking illustrations are created with a variety of media including wax resist and strong watercolours; the various techniques serve to add depth and texture.


After sharing the story adults may well take the opportunity to examine more closely with their young audiences, how the scenes have been created and this could well inspire children to try out the techniques for their own artistic creations. Not only a charming and amusing story, but a great art lesson in looking.
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Nina orchestrating the story for her sister

The Farmer’s Away! BAA! NEIGH!
Anne Vittur Kennedy
Walker Books
When the farmer’s away, the animals play. What a din they make too as they tell the story in their very own words: a story of their day of boating,


picnicking, switch-back riding, waterskiing, taking a trip in an air balloon and dancing. All that, until ‘ARF, arf, ARF’… dog gives the warning of the farmer’s return.Then it’s a mad dash, a CHARGE and a leap over the fence


and shh shh shhhhhhhh. Phew!


With its only words being those neighs, baas, quacks, arfs, oinks, rees, clucks cheeps, ribbets, quacks, moos and more uttered by the farm animals as they enjoy their anarchic day while the farmer – with the odd hmm hmm or oh dee doh – toils away on his tractor in the fields –, this delightfully silly story will appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous. They will love joining in to create that animal cacophony (what better way to sharpen up those sound/symbol associations than this?) as well as relishing the shared joke between them and the author.
The watercolour illustrations of the rural scenes are an absolute hoot too.
Leave this one around in your infant classroom and you’ll hear those sounds echoing all over as children have a go at reading the story themselves.
(You might even create and laminate those animal sounds and leave them for the children to orchestrate their own versions of the book. Then what about some masks? small world play maybe … endless possibilities here.)
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