Tag Archives: play

The Quiet Crocodile / Hey Willy, See the Pyramids

The Quiet Crocodile
Natacha Andriamirado and Delphine Renon
Princeton Architectural Press
Fossil the crocodile is a lover of peace and quiet, preferring to be alone and away from hustle and bustle. He has however, a ‘few friends’ so we’re told although the endpapers in particular, belie this: some two dozen named pals large and small, (each with a colour-coded dot so we can keep track of them) line up thereon, seemingly ready to move.
And move is just what they do, one by one, across the pages of the book and find a place upon Fossil’s back until he resembles first an outsized sofa and then a climbing frame or a circus balancing act as the animals pile precariously up on his length.

All the while Fossil has a large grin on his face and despite our being assured that ‘He’s afraid of scaring his friends’ sceptical readers may be beginning to doubt that.
Things take something of a turn textually however when our narrator informs, ‘… as everybody knows, they’re fierce. Even in books!’ Hmm!
Are all his friends right in issuing that “Come and play with us!” invitation? And did anything accompany that hat of Piggy’s into his grinning mouth?

Surely he’d never even consider eating any of his friends, or would he?
Irony and wry humour abound in Andriamirado’s text which, accompanied by Renon’s stylised illustrations of intricately detailed animal characters, is likely to please those with a penchant for the quirky and open-ended.

Hey Willy, See the Pyramids
Maira Kalman
New York Review of Books
This is a re-issue of an early Kalman book and quirky it surely is.
Young Alexander has trouble falling asleep and asks his elder sister Lulu to tell him stories: a million are requested but she agrees to five and ends up by telling eleven. They’re all very short – flash fiction really – and therein she mixes the familiar with the downright bizarre and surreal.
One tells of a dog that wants to live in Paris and be a poet; another features a green-faced scientist.

There are crazy parties and fish flying into the sky.
Punctuating the stories, in white lettering printed on black, are brief conversations between sister and brother further adding to the overall strangeness of the book.
Maira Kalman has, seemingly, plumbed the depths of her imagination for both narrative and illustrations of this far out offering. It’s not for the very young, certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth a look if you’re into the highly unusual in picture books.

Play

Play
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
The adorable Bobo is back and he’s in defiant mood. Mummy chimp declares it’s bedtime and the little chimp is far from ready to settle down for the night. The sun’s still bright, his friends are still up and ready to play; and play is exactly what Bobo wants to do.

Being Bobo he does …

Until Mummy discovers what he’s up to, and back into bed goes Bobo. Not for long however: there’s plenty of go in the young chimp yet and Turtle is on hand for some watery fun. But as the sun sinks over the hill, Turtle decides it’s time to sleep, which leaves Bobo alone and facing …

He does what most infants would in that situation: hollers ‘Mummy’ for all he’s worth.
Fortunately another of his pals is still around and willing to deliver the little chimp safely home to an extremely anxious parent. There’s no argument about ‘bed time’ now. In fact it’s Bobo himself who says the words and in no time at all they’re both snuggled up for the night.
Next morning at sunrise, who should be ready and waiting for another day’s fun and games but all his jungle pals..
Following on from Hug, Tall and Yes, Jez Alborough has created a celebration of play and friendship. Once again, with very few words, he fashions a wonderful drama that will not only be a winner with existing Bobo fans, but will gain him a host of new would-be playmates.
Brilliant for developing visual literacy, encouraging talk, and perfect for beginning readers; but most important, it’s enormous fun.

I’ve signed the charter  

My Sister is Bigger than Me

My Sister is Bigger than Me
Kate Maryon and Lisa Stubbs
Jonathan Cape
In Kate Maryon’s bouncy, rhyming narrative, three-year old Ava tells what it’s like being little sister to Gracie who is almost three years older. Being the elder sibling, gives, Gracie, so she thinks, the upper hand when it comes to deciding what to play, choosing roles and directing the action.

Poor Ava always ends up as the underdog being bossed around; she’s only in charge in her imaginary games, until suddenly, she decides enough is enough. Off she storms, up to her room where as a witch, she begins mixing up some magic; but before long who should burst in and take over once again.
Poor Ava, it’s back to in-her-mind games to get the upper hand.

In an instant though, events take a turn as the two spy a pack of hungry wolves lurking, and it’s time for them to make a dash for safety together …

Lisa Stubbs beautifully captures the changing dynamics of the children’s play as sibling rivalry is acted out through their games of make-believe; but most important, and over-riding all their actions, is that bond of sisterly love.
Her wonderfully patterned scenes of young children at play speak volumes.
Just the thing to share within families where there are two young sisters; or for early years story sessions after which I suspect there will some earnest sisterly discussions.

I’ve signed the charter  

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane / Ellie’s Magic Wellies

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane
Katie Howarth and Daniel Rieley
Templar Publisihng
We meet young aviator Emma Jane as she takes off into the night sky heading so it appears for a distant city with its shining lights. London is her first stop-off and approaching the London Eye in the rain, she spots a fox and takes it aboard.

Before long. ‘Up ahead is something bright – it’s a city’s shining lights …’ Paris is the next stop where having looped around the Eiffel Tower, Emma Jane spies on Notre Dame, a rooster and …’So Emma Jane in her aeroplane, / a fox who doesn’t like the rain, / and a rooster who crows wherever he goes / fly on.’ … towards Venice and thence New York, Beijing and Sydney.

By now the plane looks pretty full and it’s heading straight into a storm; a storm that pitches them right into the churning sea. Are the plane and its passengers, not to mention Emma Jane, destined to be lost at sea or do all those animals possess skills that can be called upon in their hour of need?
Let’s just say that all ends happily, with fond farewells as our pilot drops each of her new friends off in their home city before whizzing off once again …
Katie Howarth’s peppy rhyming tale of travel, significant sights, and friendship without boundaries zips along nicely and is fun to share, all the more so if time is given to linger over Daniel Rieley’s delectably droll illustrations be they spread, single page, double spread or vignette.

Ellie’s Magic Wellies
Amy Sparkes and Nick East
Egmont Publishing
I’ve yet to meet a young child who doesn’t love to splosh around in puddles; it’s certainly so with Ellie Pengelly who has just been given a shiny new pair of wellies by her Auntie Flo who has come to do a spot of child-minding while Ellie’s mum visits the dentist. Having donned her polka-dot winged wonders, off heads Ellie in search of some lovely splash-about in puddles. Having located a particularly large one she leaps in and as she does, gets the surprise of her life. What should appear, courtesy of Ellie’s new ‘magical wellies, but a creature introducing itself as a “Flibberty-Gibberty” – a Flipperty Gibberty out of its puddle just waiting to play.
And play they do; the F.G. seemingly having boundless energy.

(Not sure the creature should be encouraging young Ellie to do headstands though, thinks the yoga teacher in me).
Play over, the two go indoors for a spot of something to eat, or rather, that’s the intention but what happens is something quite different and extremely chaos making.
Can they get the house back to its former tidy state before mum’s return? That is the crucial question…

Perhaps so with a little help from those magical wellies of Ellie’s.
Amy Sparkes’ sparkling rhyming text combines beautifully with Nick East’s equally sparky illustrations to produce a lively read aloud that is likely to induce a whole lot of puddle jumping – ready steady SPLOSH!

I’ve signed the charter  

Big Bob, Little Bob / Mine Mine Mine Said The Porcupine

dscn9219

Big Bob, Little Bob
James Howe and Laura Ellen Andersen
Walker Books
The possibility of friendship seems unlikely when Big Bob moves in next door to Little Bob: the boys are just so different and it’s not just their relative size; their interests are totally different too. Little Bob likes quiet activities such as block building and playing with dolls; Big Bob’s play is altogether more boisterous. “Boys do not play with dolls,” he asserts. Despite this Big Bob does make efforts to involve his neighbour in his play …

dscn9220

but nothing can bring the two round to the same way of thinking or doing.

dscn9221

However when a girl moves into their neighbourhood, the first person to jump to Little Bob’s defence when she questions his choice of play activities is none other than Big Bob. “Hey! You stop picking on my friend!” he tells her. “Boys can do whatever they want!” Gender stereotyping is seemingly not so fine now.
But then it turns out that Blossom prefers trucks to dolls: can the three find a way to accommodate everyone’s choices …
Any story that challenges gender stereotyping is worth a look in my book. This one is delivered with a gentle humour that is accentuated by Andersen’s comical scenes of the children at play. Definitely a book to share with those around the same age as the characters herein; it will give them plenty to think about and discuss.
Also looking at building friendship is:

dscn9216

Mine Mine Mine! Said the Porcupine
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
Alfie returns and this time he has a porcupine as his visitor; a porcupine whose sharing skills leave a lot to be desired. Alfie does his best to engage the porcupine in some play, but everything he offers is immediately seized by his visitor. “Mine!” he claims at each attempt.

dscn9217

Eventually, Alfie decides enough is enough and leaving the possessive creature to his own devices, he goes to play on his own. Now the porcupine has what he wants – or has he? Can he perhaps find a situation where that word he loves so much, is appropriate?

dscn9218

A gentle lesson in sharing delivered in a rhythmic text easy enough to read so that those around Alfie’s age can try it for themselves. Emma Levey portrays the porcupine as hirsute making him appear cuddly rather than a prickly character and he certainly knows how to talk with his eyes.

I Am a Very Clever Cat / Two Can

DSCN8750

I am a Very Clever Cat
Kasia Matyjaszek
Templar Publishing
With such an arresting cover, this book will be hard to resist. Its narrator, Stockon, is certainly not short on self-esteem: “I am a very clever cat,” he tells us by way of introduction and goes on to demonstrate some of his skills. His greatest claim to fame is his wizardry with a pair of knitting needles: here he is as he sets about creating the ‘fanciest scarf for the fanciest soirée.’

DSCN8751

Naturally being such a wiz with those needles though, Stockton has no need for a pattern: he just makes it up as he goes along. So super-confident is our wool worker that he is completely oblivious to what’s happening while he talks until …

DSCN8752

Seems his chances of strutting his stuff at that soirée have just taken a tumble.
How fortunate it is that all the while, his antics have been watched by a pair of mice; can they perhaps save the day?

DSCN8753

Stockton may have dropped a whole lot of stitches but he’s certainly picked up a couple of pals, very clever ones at that, in the course of his knitting capers.
I’m sure those capers will win him a whole lot more friends among young listeners (and adult cat lovers) who will delight in the interplay between words and pictures in Kasia Matyjaszek’s funny debut picture book.

%0A

Two Can
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ben Javens
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
What a cracking little book! Using just 29 words, its creators explore a whole range of emotions. Small children at play in a park demonstrate playing solo, playing apart and playing together, occasionally falling out …

DSCN8759

sometimes co-operating, sometimes empowering …

DSCN8762

or encouraging and concluding (almost) …

%0A

SO simple, so clever and SO effective. Perfect to share with one, with two or with a few …
It’s equally perfect though, for beginning readers to try for themselves: what an ideal opportunity to say, “I can” therafter.

Pom Pom is Super

DSCN8080

POM POM is Super
Sophy Henn
Puffin Books
This has got to be my favourite Pom Pom title yet (and I’ve LOVED the previous ones). If that isn’t testament enough to the quality of this tale, then nothing is. Dare I say, it’s a howlingly, show-stoppingly, way beyond magnificent, book.
Pom Pom is so excited at the prospect of is friends coming round to play that he’s full of fidgets; in fact his feet start dancing all on their own. He’s got his favourite toys at the ready and the snacks too when DING DONG! The first friend has arrived: its Buddy or rather “Buddy the FANTASTIC Footballing FLASH!!!’ and he’s already strutting his stuff right around Pom Pom’s living room when who should burst in but “The ANT King“: (aka Rocco) and “Swooshing SCOUT the SPECTACULAR” complete with cape and more.

%0A

They are closely followed by “Twinkly Twirly TORDANO BEAR” – that’s Baxter and he’s certainly pretty good at twinkling and twirling.
Eager to get on with the day’s agenda, Pom Pom tries introducing the toys – not very successfully –

%0A

FLASH! SWOOSH! TWINKLE! SCURRY …

so he hastily follows up with the snacks and it’s then that Pom Pom admits he might be a little short on superness. (Not in my book you aren’t, little guy.)
He decides to try his hand – or rather his whole self – at flying. Do we have lift off here? Urm, not quite …

DSCN8084

but maybe his pals can come up with an idea or two …
Wow! Pom Pom, you really are a true super-duper mover par excellence WHOPPEE!

%0A

Sophy Henn has done it again and this would make a brilliant little TV show me thinks.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

There’s No Such Thing As a Snappenpoop

DSCN8040

There’s No Such Thing as a Snappenpoop
Jeanne Willis and Matt Saunders
Little Tiger Press
I already know bits of this snappingly stupendous story off by heart after a week of reading and re-reading it with various groups and individuals. It features two brothers, Little Brother and Big Brother, and there’s a Snappenpoop involved too – despite the contrary assertion of the title. Much of the telling is through dialogue; it’s between the two siblings and essentially, Little Brother asks Big Bro. if he can play, with a promise to do anything Big Bro. asks in return; and Big Bro. issuing ridiculously impossible demands such as “Go and fetch me a unicorn.

%0A

Then having a good laugh behind his brother’s back as Little Bro. sets off to procure whatever; and then being forced to eat his words so to speak, as his small sibling returns with each item requested. Of course the inevitable must be delayed for a long as possible and so after every successful search, Big Brother dreams up one or another reason for the unsatisfactoryiness of, in turn, the unicorn (it’s the wrong kind – too small); the lion with wings (the colour’s wrong).
Long-suffering Little Brother is prepared to travel far and wide, even through time and space …

%0A

to achieve the desired end, as when he’s asked to fetch a dinosaur. How’s this for spot on comic timing and dialogue: “Go and fetch me a triceratops instead, “ said Big Brother. “Any particular size or colour?” asked Little Brother. “Big and brown,” said Big Brother. “OK, that narrows it down,” said Little Brother and off he runs, returning some time later with guess what – a big, brown triceratops.
Now, Big Brother is in a fix but he still wants to make playing together conditional: “You must fetch me a Massive Spiny Snappenpoop,” he insists. “Imagine the scariest monster times a million!
Whether he does or whether he doesn’t, is mine to know and yours to wonder, as our hero sets off into the menacing darkness …

%0A

Yes, there’s a dark twist in this tale; but I’ll say no more on that subject.
Let’s finish by saying that Little Brother does get to play, though who with and who not with, is also mine to know and yours to discover – once you’ve got your hands on a copy of this magical book.
Jeanne Willis is a storyteller extraordinaire and debuting as a picture book artist, Matt Saunders’ visuals are the ideal complement –wonderfully detailed, full of atmosphere …

%0A

and picking up on the subtle humour of the verbal telling superbly well.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Hiding Heidi

DSCN7645

Hiding Heidi
Fiona Woodcock
Simon and Schuster
Young Heidi has a special talent: she’s able to blend in with her surroundings – effortlessly and very successfully …

DSCN7646

She’s a natural camouflager which is particularly useful when it comes to a game of hide-and-seek with her friends.
At her birthday party you can guess what Heidi wants to play – and off she goes to hide …

%0A

A search ensues but Heidi’s just TOO good – all her pals find is some delicious ice-creams.
The party continues and finally Heidi’s friends discover where she is – right at the end though. and they duly depart leaving their host to do a spot of pondering.
Next day when the gang meet up, there are some different activities on the agenda and each one of the friends is able to shine at one game …

DSCN7648

or another …

DSCN7649

Fiona Woodcock’s picture book debut surely allows her artistic talents to shine: this is a real corker. Those beautifully textured, subtly coloured pages and the wonderful characters thereon, make for captivating scenes at every turn of the page. I can’t wait to see what follows. Meanwhile, this one’s perfect for one-to-one sharing and reading with a class or group.
I can envisage children being inspired to experiment with the art of camouflage using some of Fiona’s picture making techniques such as printing, and using stencils, blow pens, paints and more.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Play and Pondering Possibilities

DSCN7582

Blocks
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
Most children, young and not so young, delight in block play. It’s brilliant for developing concentration, spatial understanding and creativity; and, sometimes, sharing and co-operation: however, at least at the outset of this story, not the last two.
First off we meet young Ruby busily balancing and building with her blocks – all of one colour notice.

%0A

Along comes Benji with his blocks intent on doing a bit of constructing and off he goes. Soon both are absorbed in their play …

DSCN7584

But then, Benji reaches out (hand across the gutter) for one of Ruby’s blocks, seizes same leaving a cross Ruby desirous of her block. “Mine!” each of them shouts and pretty soon, catastrophe …

%0A

Time to repair the damage and work together; that way lies a super co-creation …

DSCN7643

until Guy appears on the scene. Guy has green blocks. What do you think will happen now? Maybe these endpapers will give a clue …

DSCN7644

A wonderfully simple story on the sharing theme that will surely pack a powerful punch with early years audiences; it’s a must have book for pre-school settings and families with very young children and even has die-cut block shapes on the front cover. What’s more, with its easy to read, brief text, this debut picture book is ideal for those just beginning to read for themselves.

DSCN7615

Over the Ocean
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
This book was first published in Japan over 30 years ago but it still has plenty to say to children today, especially those of the contemplative kind. It features a girl who stands at the water’s edge gazing out across the ocean waves and wondering. ‘What is in the ocean over the ocean?’ she asks; ‘Are there farms over the ocean?’ or …

DSCN7616

Maybe there are kids living there’ and ‘Are they all friends?

DSCN7617

She never moves from her lookout spot but continues pondering on the possibilities of fairs, animals, the night-time, different climates and  other watchers …

DSCN7619

and then makes a wish. A wish that, so it seems in her mind’s eye at least, is about to come true … Her longing is heartfelt and readers will surely feel it too.

%0A

The whole thing is a marvellous, if quietly spoken celebration of the imagination and the wide, wonderful world. I particularly like the way that the author has given the girl a credible child’s voice: ”Maybe there are kids living there … I bet there are probably some bullies.” She certainly doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind there.
Those who look closely will notice that the details in the illustrations open up further questions – where are all those boats going, especially that ocean liner? Whither the air balloon? And many more in addition to those the girl herself raises.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

Copy Cat

DSCN7732

Copy Cat
Ali Pye
Nosy Crow
Meet two cats – Anna and Bella. Bella is totally besotted with Anna and tries to do everything she does, from hula-hooping to playing princesses and that is where the trouble begins; it’s all over a crown – the only crown. And, the result is this …

%0A

which leaves Bella alone with no one to copy. There’s only one thing to do and Bella does it; she engages in some self-initiated solo play and discovers that practice makes perfect. She also discovers – eventually, but not straightaway because she’s so engrossed in improving her skipping skills – a watcher. Her name is Chloe and she too wants to be a skipper. Easily solved, Bella says, “Just copy me!” and soon both are happily engaged in their rope turning
Anna meanwhile has discovered it’s not a lot of fun being a princess all by herself …

%0A

and decides to go and seek out her imitator.
Pretty soon, thanks to the accommodating nature of both expert skippers, not to mention the setting aside of her crown and a whole lot of hard work, Anna’s rope turning skills are up to the mark; and then Chloe has a brainwave …

DSCN7580

Seemingly, where this trio is concerned, threesomes can be harmonious: sometimes they are happy copying one another, other times they do their own thing entirely

%0A

unless …
A-DOR-A-BLE pretty much sums up this, Ali Pye’s debut as author/illustrator. How well she knows young children (and cats!) is demonstrated brilliantly by the manner she portrays these ‘littles’ finding their own ways to manipulate and manoeuvre the world of the play space they find themselves in, or indeed, co-create in an early years setting. Her characterisation is spot on and I love her choice of colour palette, as well as the gentle humour of the whole thing.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

A Bounty of Board Books

DSCN7675

Clive and his Art/Clive and his Babies
Jessica Spanyol
Child’s Play
Preschooler Clive, as portrayed by Jessica Spanyol, is a total delight. In the first book he shares his love of being creative, something that takes many forms including printing, drawing, constructing and collage making. He also loves looking at other people’s art and sharing his own, especially with his cat, Moshi.

DSCN7609

Clive has a particular penchant for googly eyes (don’t most youngsters of his age) and loves to adorn his works with all things glittery and sparkly (ditto).
In the second book we meet Clive with his two ‘babies’. These certainly do get the full range of experiences: play …

DSCN7611

feeding, potty training, baths (with the help of friend Asif) rides, stories – very important, hugs and plenty of TLC.

DSCN7612

I love the slightly oblique, almost child-like views of Clive that Jessica often gives us. Her straightforward present tense narrative is such that beginning readers can also enjoy Clive and his world when they share these enchanting books with their younger siblings.

DSCN7419 (1)

Littleland Around the World
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
The animal friends from Littleland pack their bags and set off to explore the world. First stop is London and they finish up in New York City – in Central Park to be precise. There are five other European destinations, then they head to Egypt and the pyramids followed by a safari in Kenya (that’s Africa taken care of). Next port of call is India and the Taj Mahal in Agra – a very hot place indeed so we are told, not always so in my experience though. From there it’s to China for a dragon festival , Tokyo at night …

DSCN7421 (1)

Australia to visit the outback and sunny Brazil for a spot of beach fun and games.
Running below every spread is a “Can you see …?‘ strip with nine labeled items (the national flag, animals, foods and more) for lap-tourists to spot. Yes there is the odd bit of mild stereotyping: ‘In Italy, people often eat pizza for their lunch.’ but the illustrations are cute, there’s so much to discuss, and toddlers will love to play I-Spy on this whistle-stop global tour.

DSCN7619

My First Book of Opposites
Alain Grée
Button Books
Ten spreads playfully illustrate basic opposites such as big/small, short/tall, up/down, fast/slow
Most of the concepts are either mathematical or scientific – hot/cold, day/night with the exception of one relating to feelings – happy/sad. We know that children acquire concepts through life experiences but books such as this board book can help in the reinforcement of same, and provide a talking point for adult and child together.

DSCN7416 (1)

Bizzy Bear DIY Day
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Bizzy Bear is having a DIY day. He’s busy measuring, sawing, drilling; but what are he and his pals making?

DSCN7418 (1)

TADAAH! Somewhere they can all have fun together …
Toddlers can enjoy the surprise ending and hone their fine motor skills as they push and slide the tabs to assist Bizzy as he wields his tools.
Bizzy Bear already has many fans among the very youngest; this one could win him even more.

DSCN7677

Animal Babies in the River/Animal Babies on the Mountain
Julia Groves
Child’s Play
Adult animals and their offspring from two different habitats – the river and mountains – are presented in life-like, collage style illustrations. The half dozen river animals portrayed are swan/cygnets, crocodile/hatchlings …

DSCN7606

otter and her pups, frog/tadpoles, salmon/fry and duck/ducklings.
The mountain dwellers include the alpaca/cria, lynx/kittens, eagle/eaglets and wolf/cubs.

DSCN7603

Julia Groves really does capture the essence of each species in her portrayals; her graphic style certainly doesn’t dumb down her illustrations: she clearly believes that the very youngest children deserve quality artwork and this is what she provides here.

Use your local bookshop  localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button