Tag Archives: Templar Publishing

The Real Boat

The Real Boat
Marina Aromshtam and Victoria Antolini
Templar Publishing

The little paper boat has ambitions – big ones. As he floats on the pond, he hears a duck talking of ‘real boats sailing on the ocean’ and decides that just like the other ‘real boats’, the ocean is the place to be. Prove himself he must by leaving the safety of his home surroundings and heading off into waters unknown.
Getting to his destination though, that is going to be tough. Many of the river boats whose help he seeks – the rowboat,

the motorboat, the riverboat and the barge – are singularly unhelpful.
The tugboat however is encouraging and assists him down to the harbour.
There the paper boat is mesmerised by the tall cranes,

the cars coming off the ferry and the lights of a huge passenger liner.
Further help and encouragement though, come from a fishing trawler in whose wake the tiny paper traveller follows as they venture further and further out on the ocean waves.
Then a fierce storm breaks battering the little paper boat and separating him from the friendly trawler. Is all lost for the intrepid journeyer?

Not quite: in fact all ends in a totally unexpected and highly satisfactory manner for the tenacious little adventurer.
From its brilliant cover you know you’re in for a real visual treat with this one: it’s wonderfully tactile and intricately detailed. Then there’s the number of pages: it’s twice as long as the usual picture book length, one of several I’ve seen of late; just the thing to snuggle up with and relish along with a hot chocolate on these long wintry evenings.
Lyrically told and with illustrations that are arresting and demand exploration for their artistry and technique, this modern fable is a thoroughly rewarding read.

The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room
James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon
Templar Publishing

‘It started with an “OOPS!” … and a “LOOK OUT!” and a CRASH!’

So begins this wonderfully eccentric mystery concerning the identity of the guilty party responsible for breaking Father Giant’s treasured china elephant.

The suspects are numerous: it could have been Olive or her brother, Grub – after all they are hiding in a cupboard when the elephant’s owner strides into the room issuing threats of the dire punishment he will dish out to the culprit.
Seemingly though they’re in the clear; but what about the naughty newt, the laughing lady with the golden boot,

the clipping clopping yucky yack? No? Surely it can’t have been Sophie Sofa, the sun or the storm; so who? It must have been someone; after all, the thing is lying in pieces on the floor, but will the case be solved?

The whole thing romps along in absolutely faultless rhyme – for me a cross between Spike Milligan and Edward Lear – to its splendidly satisfying, twisting finale that will cause listeners to wriggle in delight.

Those wacky illustrations of Mackinnon’s – wow! There’s a touch of Seuss about some of them …

and that innovative colour palette with its neon orange highlighting gives the whole thing a slightly hypnagogic feel.

I can’t wait to see what these two come up with next.

Daydreams and Night Dreams

When I Grow Up
Tim Minchin and Steve Antony
Scholastic

Inspired by Tim Minchin’s song of the same name from Matilda the Musical, this book takes a (mostly) light-hearted look from a child’s viewpoint, at what it’s like to be an adult.
Of course, you’ll need to know the answers to a great many questions and that means being smart.
But think of being able to ‘eat sweets every day’,

‘go to bed late every night’, get up with the sun and watch endless cartoons without a care.
Life isn’t all roses though; there are heavy things to ‘haul around’ and creatures that lurk beneath the bed to fight with.

But all that’s offset by daily treats, playful opportunities in abundance …

and days spent lying in the sun without damaging the skin – we wish!
Is that what we grown-ups really do? Hmm …
Steve Antony surely has made adulthood look like a ball, even the less desirable activities; and those young narrators of his are boundless energy personified.

One Moonlit Night
Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim
Templar Publishing

Through a prose poem and amazing pop-ups we share in a little girl’s magical dream of an amazing adventure wherein she flies through the star-filled sky aback a dragon, encountering three-headed giants, trolls and ogres …

before, swathed in clouds, invoking her very own dragon spell.
Magical pop-out scenes of a journey through swirling waters and inky skies make for a wondrous, just before bedtime book to share.

Halloween is Coming: Hugo Makes a Change / Pretty

Hugo Makes a Change
Scott Emmons and Mauro Gatti
Flying Eye Books

Hugo the vampire is a total carnivore: tucking into juicy meat, be it burgers, hot dogs, steak or lamb, is his idea of satisfaction and he doesn’t stop until he’s stuffed himself to bursting.
Then one night he starts to feel bloated, sluggish and downright grumpy. Time for a change of diet he decides and wings it away in search of something new to tempt his taste buds.
Landing in a vegetable garden, Hugo examines the crops and is totally unimpressed with wrinkly leaves, lumpy blobs and bumpy skins. But then he comes upon something red dangling from a tree and feeling those hunger pangs starting up, he sinks his fangs right into the object. Ahhh! the delight; the tang.

Before you can say ‘vegetables’, he’s munching away on crunchy carrots, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers; wisely though he passes on the garlic.
Back home he makes a decision: meat is fine in moderation but a healthy mix of veggies, fruit and nuts is much more satisfying.

Before long he starts to notice the changes in himself: it’s a stronger, happier Hugo who takes his regular evening flight and just cannot resist leaving his mark whenever he stops for a quick bite.

Emmons’ rhyming narrative and Gattis’ bold, engaging illustrations (look out for Hugo’s feline companion therein) make for an entertaining story. If like me you’re a confirmed veggie, you might find yourself heaving somewhat at the opening scenes of Hugo gorging himself on mounds of meaty morsels.
A fun read, and a clever way to demonstrate, without a hint of preachiness, the benefits of a balanced diet: the ideal fare for adults wanting to get across the notion of healthy eating to young children.

Pretty
Canizales
Templar Publishing

Is it better to have ‘a crooked back, a lumpy nose, a big pointy chin and wiry hair’ or have ‘a nice straight back, a neat little nose, a very dainty chin and sleek wavy hair’? That is the dilemma facing the witch when she’s invited for a picnic by the troll.
She starts out duly attired in her best black outfit as her normal self warts and all, but after encounters with Squirrel,

Rabbit, Fox and Mouse, she is persuaded to alter her appearance, with a few deft flicks of her wand, to their perceptions of prettiness.
So effective is her transformation that her date fails to recognise her …

and stomps off in disgust.
The following day the witch invites the troll to a picnic of her own making.
Troll deems the food delicious and it certainly is, in more ways than one, especially if you like your revenge served cold.

A tasty mix of humour, magic, whimsicality and revenge, sprinklings of cumulative narrative and a darkly toothsome final twist, all served up with flat, stylised illustrations in a subdued earthy colour palette: the perfect Halloween offering.

You Choose in Space / Ludwig the Sea Dog

You Choose In Space
Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart
Puffin Books

The You Choose series just gets better and better: now young children can whizz off on countless journeys of discovery in the pitch black of outer space. They can choose their jobs aboard the space-craft; select some snazzy gear to wear; there’s a weird and wonderful assortment of potential friends to get to know;

a whole different diet to sample and much more.
The great thing- or one of them –is, there’s a seemingly limitless choice of possibilities, so that with each blast off, a whole new out-of-this-world story can unfold in glorious technicolour.
The Sharratt/Goodhart team truly have conjured up an inclusive and wonderfully interactive, treat for young space enthusiasts, as well as those who like to be in the driving seat when it comes to a story.

Ludwig the Sea Dog
Henning Lōhlein
Templar Publishing

In this, the second adventure of Ludwig and his friends, the dog receives from his pal, Peter the penguin, whose submarine has broken down, a postcard requesting his assistance.
How on earth or under sea, for that’s where Peter is stuck – is a book-dwelling dog supposed to go to the aid of a friend beneath the ocean?
There are of course, plenty of books to tell him about marine life but these don’t prove as helpful as Ludwig anticipates.

He has to be rescued, and then discovers that water is not his favourite medium.
Perhaps he’ll have better luck with a spot of fairy tale magic, courtesy of the book he’s left in to dry out;

that and of course, some further assistance from his friends.
I’ll say no more other than to recommend that you open the envelope at the front of the book, put on those 3D sea goggles and prepare yourself for an amazing underwater experience. There’s even a fold out spread to explore.

A Briefing of Board Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for Yesterday / Oh No! Where did Walter Go?

Looking for Yesterday
Alison Jay
Old Barn Books

It’s most often children who live their lives forward, eagerly anticipating what might come next, whereas adults tend to reminisce about what has already past.
In this story though, it’s the little boy narrator who is eager to turn the clock back: thinking nothing can ever be as good, he wants yesterday all over again.
Employing all his knowledge of science, he searches for a way to travel backwards in time …

and eventually turns to his grandad for help.
Instead, Grandad shares his own treasured memories of things he’s done;

but also shows the lad that there is much to look forward to, for every new day brings the possibility of exciting new adventures.
Although comparatively brief, Alison Jay’s text embraces notions of time and space, of hopes and memories, and of happiness.
Her illustrations add a surreal fantasy element to the story encouraging readers and listeners to embark upon their own flights of fancy. The whole book offers plenty to think about and discuss, especially to those teachers who have community of enquiry sessions with their children.

Oh No! Where Did Walter Go?
Joanna Boyle
Templar Publishing

Meet best friends and partners in crime, Olive aka Master of Mystery,  and the Duke of Daring, Walter her parakeet.
One day Walter goes missing and immediately Olive goes into detective mode following footprints, amassing evidence, interviewing the local residents and sticking up ‘Missing’ posters all over town.
Just when the whole search is becoming a tad overwhelming she receives a helpful pointer and off she speeds to the park: a very green place indeed.

How on earth is she to find her friend there among all those trees and bushes?
Undaunted Olive looks high and low but her search is fruitless: Walter is nowhere to be found and now she too is lost.

Will the two friends ever find one another again and if so, how will they manage to find the way back home?
Unless you look at the final page before embarking on the story, it’s not apparent that Walter is also searching for Olive and puts in an appearance on every spread; (although observant readers will probably spot him lurking somewhere as the narrative progresses). This adds a fun search and find element to the whole book and ensures that once the two characters are reunited, children will immediately want to go back and enjoy hunting for Walter all over again in Joanna Boyle’s stylish illustrations be they multi-framed strip sequences or expansive single scene spreads.

Board Book Shelf

Hidden Animals
Find the Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Museum / Crocodali

My Museum
Joanne Liu
Prestel
Here’s a thoroughly cool little wordless book by Joanne Liu, an illustrator/artist I’ve not come across before.
Max pays a visit to an art museum. It’s full of paintings and sculptures, each one an important work of art. Where better to go for a bit of art appreciation?
Max however, wonderfully divergent and imaginative child that he is, quickly discovers that there’s a whole lot more to see and enjoy than what the curators have put on display.
Art is everywhere, if you know how to look; and if you know how to look, you can also be a creative artist. That’s the message that shines through in each and every action of our young protagonist as he wanders among the grown-ups who are absorbed in the various exhibits, discovering art through the windows, on a burly man’s arm,

by changing his viewpoint, and by seeing the potential in other unlikely places …

He even explores ways of making his own …

A delight through and through.

Crocodali
Lucy Volpin
Templar Publishing
There’s a touch of Hervé Tullet in Lucy Volpin’s latest story. It stars Crocodali, who greets us, more than a little reluctantly, as we enter his studio.
The self-confessed ‘most talented artist in the whole wide world’ is about to start on a new painting but is having a little bother getting his canvas positioned. That’s when he decides to enlist the reader’s help.
Before you can say ‘masterpiece’ he has us tilting, tipping, shaking …

and rubbing and even blowing on the book,

as we become co-creators of his latest work of art. It’s bound to be stupendous; or is it?
Engaging, interactive, humorous and delightfully messy.

I Really Want the Cake

I Really Want the Cake
Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti
Templar Publishing

Now here’s a lip-smacker of a book guaranteed to make your salivary glands go into over-drive.
Who can resist that wonderful aroma of a fresh from the oven chocolate cake?
The little girl narrator of this story really has my sympathies when she follows the delicious smell emanating from the kitchen and discovers a totally yummy-looking confection just sitting there waiting to be tasted.

The trouble is though, her mum has left a warning note ‘YOU MUST NOT EAT THIS CAKE’. There’s no ambiguity about that, so the whole deliciously tempting chocolate cake must quite simply be forgotten.
Easier said than done though and the temptation proves too much for the young miss who, after holding back for a while, then finds herself drawn by an irresistible longing, back to object of her desire. What else could she do but sample the thing?
But then, the lick gives way to a bite, which turns into a slice and …

Oops! No cake!
Still a replacement shouldn’t be much of a challenge, surely?

Simon Philip’s tasty rhythmic, rhyming tale slips so smoothly from the tongue making it a great read aloud. Combined with Lucia Gaggiotti’s high energy, laugh-out-loud illustrations of chocolate cake and calamity, the whole thing becomes a scrumptious treat to serve up to young listeners. (I love the way the narrator takes on a variety of personas as she grapples with her conscience.)
If my experience is anything to go by extra servings will be immediately demanded.
There’s even a recipe for chocolate cake on the final page – mmmm!

I’ve signed the charter  

Mr Left & Mr Right

Mr Left & Mr Right
Daniel Fehr and Celeste Aires
Templar Publishing

Now here’s a book that makes ingenious use of flaps and the central gutter.
It stars Mr Left who lives on the left page and Mr Right who lives on the right page.

Thus far, the neighbours have never met but now they want to and therein lies the problem. There doesn’t seem to be a way to cross that central divide, no matter what they try.
Jumping across is a resounding flop …

as is climbing right over.
Digging under is an absolute disaster …

so seemingly, loneliness will continue to rule.
Unless that is, one of the characters can come up with a brainwave – some divergent thinking maybe.
Celeste Aires cleverly exploits the basic shape and form of the book and its pages using simple shapes and a restricted colour palette of matt red, blues, yellow, white and black to create a wholly satisfying treat that works in perfect harmony with Daniel Fehr’s cleverly conceived text.
I suspect this will appeal across a wide age range and has much to offer anyone studying picture book form be it in primary school or college.

I’ve signed the charter 

Dino (A pet unlike any other)

Dino (A pet unlike any other)
Diego Vaisberg
Templar Publishing

Recently there’s been a spate of picture books featuring large and unlikely animals as pets.
What makes this one stand out though, is that it’s screen-printed solely in striking red and blue Pantone colours. The author/artist is graphic designer, Diego Vaisberg whose superbly inventive debut picture book this is.
It begins with the arrival of an egg, albeit a pretty large one, about the size to encase a giant canary, a big lizard or even a huge tortoise; but no: out hatches …

Who wouldn’t want to keep such a cute looking little creature?
The trouble though is that the thing doesn’t stay little for long: it keeps on growing and growing and before long, Dino (a pet unlike any other) has become …

Owning a pet of Dino’s dimensions certainly isn’t without challenges whether inside –
or out. He’s certainly a voracious eater …

So be warned, it might be best to steer clear of any other eggs you may come across.
An ultra-stylish offering from Vaisberg, – an exciting illustrator to watch with interest; and a high quality production from Templar.

I’ve signed the charter  

Big Brown Bear’s Cave

Big Brown Bear’s Cave
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing

What is more important to you: friends or ‘stuff’? I know which I’d prefer any day.
Could it be though that Yuval Zommer secretly visited our home before writing this story: I certainly wish Big Brown Bear, star of his latest picture book would drop in on our human cave (garage): he’d have a field day surrounded by stuff, stuff and more stuff; and he’d be able to fill his new abode with all manner of goodies.
The ursine collector definitely goes overboard on acquiring creature comforts for his empty cave, so much so that its fame spreads far and wide, attracting the attention of all his pals who are eager to see inside his residence.

Lack of room prevents their entry however, and off they go leaving Big Brown Bear to continue filling the space.
Alone with his boxes, Bear begins to be overwhelmed by lack of wiggle room, so much so that when his three friends return with an invitation, he’s well and truly hemmed in …

Then there’s only one thing to do and our hero does it: wise move, Big Brown Bear.
Zommer’s portrayal of the acquisitive trait, and the accumulative chaos it can cause, is a rib-tickling treat. There’s Bear pondering over the sheer variety of ‘stuff’; and his obvious delight over the selection of his favourites – ‘stuff that came with wheels, stuff that came with handles and stuff that came in boxes.’ He almost looks as though he’s dancing with joy despite the precarious balancing act required to carry that stack of boxes.

This is very much a fable of our time and will, I suspect strike a chord with readers of all ages.

I’ve signed the charter  

I am Actually a Penguin

I am Actually a Penguin
Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek
Templar Publishing

I once had a little girl in one of my reception classes who insisted for the first week that she was a dog, crawling around the place, drinking her milk on all fours, clutching the carton in her ‘paws’ and barking at her classmates. We all played along and soon the novelty wore off.
The small girl narrator of this book is equally cute and equally determined; but having received a penguin suit from her Uncle Pat in Patagonia, she goes into full on, ‘actually a penguin’ mode right away.
This involves all sorts of crazy activities such as festooning the living room with loo paper to create snow in which to keep cool.

Such behaviour definitely doesn’t go down well with a certain older brother although he does approve of the additional penguin at a family wedding …

and is willing to play along at meal times, especially when fish fingers are involved.

All good things do have to come to an end however. Apart from anything else there’s the question of school, not to mention as Dad rightly says, “Your penguin suit needs a wash.
Time for a change perhaps …
Sean Taylor’s zany sense of humour shines through in this narrative providing Kasia Matyjaszek with a hilarious sequence of events to wield her illustrative magic on and she does it brilliantly making every spread a small piece of theatre.

I’ve signed the charter  

Mummy! / First Words & 123

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

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

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

Some interesting reissued board books are:

Alison Jay’s 123
Alison Jay’s First Words

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

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

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

I’ve signed the charter  

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver
Claire Freedman and Carrie May
Templar Publishing

Claire Freedman (of Aliens Love Underpants fame) has created a lilting lullaby telling how as night falls the flowing-haired weaver of dreams spreads her wings, fashions from nature and stows in her sack magical fantasies for soon to be slumbering young creatures.

For her first recipient, Little Bear …

it’s mountain flowers and snowflakes that will create a dream of playful mountain slope sliding with snow bears as companions.
Upon Little Tiger she bestows a dream of flying in space; Little Monkey’s dream is woven from: ‘Grains of sand on a distant shore/ Pink pearly shells from the ocean floor./ Long-lost treasure, a mermaid’s kiss, The shimmering scales from a rainbow fish.’ and will take him to swim with dolphins and dance to the tune of a mermaid’s song.

Her final dream is soft, white and full of love: this will be for the young child just on the edge of sleep; the child who has shared in the magical experiences of the baby jungle animals and is now, lulled by the sibilance of the rhyming text, ready for his or her own nocturnal adventure.
Debut artist Carrie May conjures up a lush nocturnal forest setting for the ethereal dreamweaver to scatter her dreams. The star-spangled dream scenes have for the most part, a somewhat softer palette of predominantly pinks, corals, turquoise, aquamarine, lemon yellow and white.
Just right for bedtime sharing or for other times when a spell of calm is required.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sun

Sun
Sam Usher
Templar Publishing
First came Snow, then Rain and now we have the third of Sam Usher’s enchanting days with Grandad and small boy narrator. Herein, what starts out as a fairly normal day, albeit the hottest of the year: “hotter than broccoli soup“, hotter even than “the surface of the sun“, Grandad deems it perfect for an adventure; and so having collected the necessary items for their foray, the two venture forth in search of the perfect spot for a picnic.
The sun blazes down and pretty soon, Grandad needs a rest, while his designated ‘lookout’ does just that …

You can almost feel the sun scorching them as they trudge on and pause for another rest. Shade becomes the second ‘must’ for their picnic spot, which is hardly surprising, as the landscape has now become incandescent.

Grandpa has added a cool breeze to his list of requirements by the time they reach what looks a likely place.
However, it appears that their perfect picnic spot is already in use.

So it’s a case of all hands on deck; let’s share resources and party …
Once again Sam Usher captures to perfection the closeness of the bond between Grandad and boy, while at the same time portraying the spirit of adventure and utter exhilaration that is brought on by being in the great outdoors, even on such a scorching day.
A sure-fire winner this.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rainbow & Opposites / Little Mouse’s Big Secret

Rainbow
Opposites

Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
Pleasing design and adorable illustrations are the hallmark of Jane Cabrera’s books for the very young. Her two latest offerings have both those qualities.
Rainbow has die-cut arched pages that build up to form a rainbow.
It’s a fun board book to enjoy together and each colour spread, with its named items …

could make a great starting point for adult and child to participate in some shared storying.
Opposites uses flaps and while young children acquire concepts such as slow/fast and wet/dry from real life experiences, books such as these can facilitate this development in an interactive, playful way, helping to reinforce the vocabulary.

Here you can play a game with your child or children by asking them to guess what is hidden behind each interesting shaped flap before being allowed to open it. This game also introduces the idea of predicting as an important reading strategy.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret
Éric Battut
Sterling
Little Mouse finds a yummy red apple on the ground and decides to keep it a secret. He buries it. Shhhh! Don’t tell. Friends pass by and each wants to know what Mouse is hiding. “It’s my secret, and I’ll never tell,” is Mouse’s reply to Bird, Turtle, Hedgehog,

Rabbit and Frog.
Nature takes its course and eventually, Mouse’s secret’s out – well and truly. Mouse takes a big decision; he shares and all his friends reap the rewards.

The spare, repetitive text and cute yet subtle illustrations make this best for sharing one-to-one or with a very small group of pre-school children. Equally, it’s ideal for beginning readers who are likely to be sufficiently savvy to realise what mouse doesn’t: that right behind his back, a tree is growing …

I’ve signed the charter  

Welcome to London / Jane Foster’s London & Jane Foster’s New York

Welcome to London
Marcos Farina
Button Books
London seems to be a very popular picture book destination at present and Marcos Farina’s quirky, retro style illustrations certainly make it look an exciting one.
Surrealism abounds right from the arrival at a station whose platform will be familiar to fans of Harry Potter. From then on it’s a case of spot the literary references; chortle at the crazy cast of characters or giggle over the multitude of other visual anomalies scattered throughout as we visit the various famous London landmarks and encounter the multitude of characters that make it such a dynamic and vibrant city.

If like me, you know London, you’ll likely never look at it in quite the same way again: you’ll always be on the lookout for a storybook character lurking somewhere, or an animal emerging from the next taxi that stops close by one of its famous stores.

Marcos Farina’s London encompasses parks, sporting venues, bridges,

palaces, galleries, shopping venues, iconic buildings and much more. His clear, graphic, design led illustrations make almost every page a potential poster for the city.

Jane Foster’s London
Jane Foster’s New York

Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
In bold bright colours, designer Jane Foster introduces the very youngest children to two of the world’s most popular tourist cities.
Set against vibrant, sometimes patterned backgrounds, she places famous landmarks, objects and occasional less likely images such as the red squirrel (I wish there were more of those in London), although New York includes a grey squirrel.

Her intricately patterned imagery is sure to engage both toddlers and adults as they enjoy such iconic London sights as the red bus, Big Ben, the London Eye and Tower Bridge but also fish and chips and a pair of wellington boots. New York boasts the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park as well as Broadway theatre and Staten Island ferry. Interestingly both cities have pigeons.
Foster’s characteristic eye-catching mix of strong colour, pattern and retro-styling do these famous cities proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Nut Stayed Shut

The Nut Stayed Shut
Mike Henson
Templar Publishing
Squirrel Rodney, the world’s best cracker of nuts, has a problem: a confounding nut-shaped one. He’s succeeded in cracking nut number 1 and nut number 2; but nut number 3 stays firmly and unequivocally shut. Brute force doesn’t do the trick, so maybe a spot of tickling, or perhaps whopping it with a fish, scaring it maybe? None of these have the slightest effect – on the nut at least: nor do chainsawing, door dropping or even this …

Clearly something larger is needed …

No? Then a big bang maybe?

No matter what Rodney does all through the day and all through the night, not a chink of an opening appears in that nut shell. Is it perhaps time to admit defeat and walk away: it certainly appears as though poor Rodney is cracking under all the strain. Or is there something else he can do? …
With its rhyming narrative and over-the-top notions, this superb piece of slapstick is satisfyingly silly. The staccato rhythm of Henson’s delivery is comic timing of the first order, and leaves just the right amount of space for his visuals to have maximum impact. Rodney’s side-kick, complete with camera to film the champ in action, further adds to the delights of this whole smashing experience.

I’ve signed the charter  

Follow Your Dreams: The Wooden Camel & Jimmy Finnigan’s Wild Wood Band

The Wooden Camel
Wanuri Kahiu and Manuela Adreani
Lantana Publishing
Despite his youth and lack of stature, Etabo dreams of becoming a camel racer, much to the amusement of his older siblings. But the lad’s dreams are not destroyed, even when his father announces that they have to sell the family’s camels to buy water. He asks the Sky God, Akuj for help but receives the response: “Your dreams are enough.” Surely this cannot be so, but it looks increasingly likely as Etabo and his brother and sister are sent out to mind the goats …

and eventually his siblings too have to find paid work so the task is left entirely to Etabo.
He continues to dream of racing camels; but his dreams are not enough. He begs to ride one of the horses in big sister, Akiru’s care but receives a firm refusal; even the cats, chickens and his favourite goat won’t let him ride on their backs.
Once again, the boy prays to Akuj but receives the same “Your dreams are enough” response.
Akiru, saddened by her brother’s increasing unhappiness, sets to work on a project that keeps those dreams of Etabo’s alive,

and for the time being, they have to be enough. Hold fast to those dreams Etabo.

Adreani’s scenes of the Turkana people of Kenya set against the harsh landscapes are truly beautiful and perfectly complement the soft, sympathetic humour of Kahiu’s text. A book to cherish, to share, ponder upon and discuss widely.

Jimmy Finnigan’s Wild Wood Band
Tom Knight
Templar Publishing
Jimmy Finnigan has a dream: he wants to start a band. He has something of a problem though – his place of residence has an award for ‘the prettiest village ever’ and seemingly each and every other resident is protective or at least wants to keep their particular place ‘nice’. Every place except the woods that is: they’re a pretty wild spot and the subject of adult warnings to keep away. Jimmy’s parents are no exception and send him to the attic in search of a quiet, indoor pursuit. What he finds though, results, with a bit of help from Dad, in this …

Pretty soon, this musical interest has become an obsession, Posters appear, but there are no takers …

until Jimmy remembers a place that might just prove fruitful; but when he forays into the forest, even that one is nowhere to be seen.
The lad is on the point of giving up the whole enterprise when he hears a distant crashing, bleeping, booshing, boinging, doofing, plonking and crashing. Hardly able to contain his excitement, he follows the sounds to their source and discovers a wild trio busy practising.
A conversation, some shenanigans and a search ensue; a search resulting in something altogether unexpected and beyond Jimmy’s wildest dreams. And after that nothing is ever quite the same again …
Suitably zany, action-packed, wilder than wild, illustrations accompany Tom Knight’s boogying extravaganza. Get your ear plugs ready, your bodies bopping and join the fun. Some of those spirited scenes certainly got me going.

I’ve signed the charter  

100 First Words / Animal Sounds & Things That Go / My First Wildlife Sticker Activity Book

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100 First Words
Dawn Sirett and Charlotte Milner
DK
This large format book is definitely a lap style board book not a ‘clutch in the pram’ kind. It encompasses fourteen topics, one per page; and those on opposite pages are related, so we have for instance: My body and My clothes; My toys and Colours, Pets and Wild animals and …

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Naming is an important element of a very young child’s language learning but essentially the language learning potential in this book is far greater than that: focussing on a single image could furnish so much language learning, and that is where it comes down to the skill of the person sharing the book with a baby or young infant, (or equally, a person just starting to learn English as an additional language).

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The labelled photographic images are clear, uncluttered, and pattern is very much part of the whole look of the book.
Definitely a worthwhile investment if you have dealings with tinies

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Animal Sounds
Things That Go
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
Rich in pattern and colour, and rich in language potential, are the two new board books from fabric designer, Jane Foster. Animal sounds include the ‘meow meow’ of a ginger cat and the ‘woof woof’ of an endearing spotty dog, the gentle ‘flitter flutter’ of a butterfly’s wonderful wings and the contrasting ‘ROAR’ of a lion; and these two delectable creatures …

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The final spread comprises 22 named portraits of all the animals, taking a break from sound-making.
The layout of Things That Go is slightly different. We have eleven items represented: some that move through the air, some through water and others across land. I love the inclusion of this …

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Each ‘mover’ has a double spread, its name is given against a subtly patterned page opposite which is the object and an associated sound, I can’t imagine any toddler not enjoying sharing these beauties with an enthusiastic parent or carer.

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I foresee hours of fun and language learning where the three (or four) come together. Both books are a clever, winning mix of simplicity and sophistication.
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My First Wildlife Sticker Activity Book
illustrated by Gina Maldonado
Bloomsbury Activity Books
Published in conjunction with the rspb, this attractively illustrated book asks young children to look closely at what is on the printed page: to search for particular fauna and flora, to find matching pairs, to locate minibeasts, add stickers to scenes, find the odd one out and so on. There’s no substitute for seeing the real thing, but one hopes having done the activities herein, youngsters will be inspired to go out and look at the natural world for real.

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I Love You (nearly always)

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I Love You (nearly always)
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing
Roly is a woodlouse – the king of camouflage, Rita, a super-cool firefly. Surprisingly, or maybe not if you believe the ‘opposites attract’ idea, they like one another. That’s at the beginning however.
One day Rita becomes critical of Roly’s tough skin, his controlling manner and his habit of hiding away quietly. Roly too has issues: they’re logged in his black book: Rita’s light’s too bright, she’s noisy and too fast a flier; in fact she’s downright annoying.

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Can they overcome their differences? Seemingly it’s worth a try.
Roly takes measures to soften his suit, just a little …

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Rita attempts to slow her flight somewhat …

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A bond of trust begins to form … And then it’s a case of vive la différence: love conquers all.
What an absolutely brilliant way of demonstrating the importance of friendship and that we should acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Roly and Rita are such endearing characters, so adorably portrayed in Anna Llenas’ mixed media illustrations. Every spread made me smile and the plethora of pop-ups, wheels, flaps and sliders ensures visual delight, not to mention ‘wow’!s from young children, at every page turn.
I’m keeping close tabs on my copy for fear it gets booknapped by an enthusiastic child.

Lucy Ladybird / Where’s Mrs Ladybird?

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lumberjack’s Beard

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The Lumberjack’s Beard
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing
Delivered with gentle humour, Duncan Beedle’s new picture book is an environmental fable. Herein we meet Jim – Big Jim Hickory, bristly-bearded, burly tree feller who (after his daily limbering-up, or should that be lumbering-up regime) …

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does what lumberjacks do; he takes his axe, heads to the forest and destroys trees.
This activity, he subsequently learns, spells disaster for the forest-dwelling animals: the bird no longer has her new nest, the pine needles and leaves for porcupine’s shelter have gone up in smoke and moving those tree trunks down the river has deprived beaver of his new dam.
Furthermore the alternative accommodation Jim’s providing for these creatures is becoming more than a little troublesome to him.
Time for some felling of a different kind decides our hirsute lumberjack …

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which of course leaves its residents homeless once more. Another idea is needed, Jim – a better one this time. And here he goes …

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The domestic scenes of Jim and his tenants are hilarious and Beedle renders his superb landscapes in appropriately earthy hues –

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as the impact of deforestation is introduced to the very young. The message assuredly packs a powerful punch.

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There’s just SO much to think about and discuss with foundation stage and KS1 audiences. This one’s an absolute ‘must have’ for classrooms as well as individual sharing.

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Classic Christmas Briefing

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

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and ‘Pimpernel’ wallpaper are included …

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

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

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

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

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

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Raven Child and The Snow Witch

Raven Child and the Snow Witch
Linda Sunderland and Daniel Egnéus
Templar Publishing
Right from its textured sparkly cover, there’s something of a Russian folk tale feel to this magical, chilling story of love, loss and bravery, from debut picture book author, Linda Sunderland, and illustrator Daniel Egnéus.
Travel with me over frozen lakes and shimmery mountains and through the Forest of a Thousand Eyes to the Snow Garden, home of young Anya and her parents. Despite her chilly surroundings, Anya is kept warm by the dress of feathers woven for her by her friends the ravens whose language she has learned. On the first day of spring Anya’s mother sets out towards the glacier on a mission to collect gentian flowers, her daughter’s favourites, accompanied only by the ravens.

 

Anya and her father remain at home and after a while, the child falls sleep and dreams. She dreams of hearing her mother’s voice telling of her capture by the Snow Witch and this is followed by terrible news from one of the ravens that had gone with her mother.
Anya tends him and listens to his story. What he tells her has father and daughter setting out next morning on a frightening and dangerous journey together in search of Anya’s missing parent.

 

It turns out though, as the two learn during the course of their journey, that Anya’s mother is not the only person missing: a whole village’s children have been stolen away. Anxious not to waste time waiting for the villagers, Anya, accompanied only by the raven she’s named Broken Wing and Half Tail (a fox rescued on the way) travels on, until finally they come upon tell-tale signs that their search has brought them to the right place.

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Deep inside the glacier, Anya must confront her deepest fears; but is she a match for the Snow Witch? Can she rescue her mother and the children from the clutches of the evil woman …
Totally enchanting from cover to cover, this book will grip you right from its introductory verses to Anya’s final flight with the ravens. Daniel Egnéus’ haunting scenes of icy and snowy landscapes and Anya’s encounters with the animals she befriends are spell-bindingly beautiful.

 

One Hundred Sausages

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One Hundred Sausages
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing
As a vegetarian, sausages are NOT my thing at all, I’ll cross the road to avoid walking past a butcher’s and I’m certainly no dog lover. That said I was more than happy to see the return of Scruff, mischievous mongrel of One Hundred Bones fame. This funny story revolves around sausages, Scruff’s favourite food in the whole world and he certainly has a nose for them; sausages even fill his dreams every single night. Imagine his devastation then when he learns that his daily sausage sniff has been thwarted by a robbery.

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Even worse, the number one criminal suspect is none other than Scruff himself.
What’s to be done? Either he faces a stint behind bars or he tracks down the real culprit. Straightaway, Scruff goes off to enlist the help of his doggy pals …

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But it’s not until the s word is mentioned that the other dogs show any inclination to join the search.
Finally, the hunt is on: a sniffing party hits the city and eventually Scruff’s nostrils catch a whiff. Time to put those paws into action …

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A chase ensues and the thief is finally apprehended …

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after which it’s time to celebrate. You don’t need me to tell you what was on the menu for Scruff and his fellow pooches.
Zommer’s canines are a real laugh, not only Scruff, but Ada the Afghan, Pixie the Poodle, Percy the Pug and Sidney the Sausage Dog too, are real characters with their own idiosyncrasies. Pixie for example likes to file her nails and Percy considers himself a bit of a charmer.
Dog lovers especially will be delighted: the rest of us will have a good giggle over the crazy shenanigans shown in this daft detective tale.

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.

Pinball Science & The Pen

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Pinball Science
Illustrated by Owen Davey
Templar Publishing
The teacher part of me has always advocated putting scientific learning into a meaningful context: now here is an exciting project incorporating a whole lot of scientific principles that’s a tremendous learning opportunity. All you need to do is open up the box and follow the step-by-step instructions for assembling an 88 piece model complete with levers, plungers and flippers – awesome! In practice, I think it may prove a little more tricky.
Before plunging in though I suggest reading the pages describing the science behind the whole pinball wonder.

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Here’s Jack working on the model

It’s fascinating stuff: I learned it in deadly boring, text book only O-level physics with nay a practical in sight, but only understood what some of it really means, for instance Newton’s third law of motion ‘Every action results in an equal and opposite reaction’ when messing around with toy cars while teaching infants many years later. Now, it’s explained along with a simple investigation with a balloon.

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And the difference between kinetic and potential energy? I remember learning that off by heart with little understanding but here, it’s neatly explained through an investigation with a tennis ball.

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These practical activities and many others, all relevant to the enterprise about to be undertaken, provided by authors of the project, Nick Arnold (of Horrible Histories fame) and Ian Graham, are all stylishly illustrated by the wonderful Owen Davey.

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The Pen
Raphaël Fejtö
Firefly Books
This near pocket-sized book is one of a series called Little Inventions. It’s a fascinating and delightfully quirky look at the history and development of a writing implement from the beginnings of writing when sharp reeds were used to engrave on soft clay tablets. It takes us up right through to the advent of Biros and then, the disposable BIC pens we’re so familiar with. In Japan, brushes were used for writing and these led to the invention of felt-tip pens so popular today for writing and colouring.
That’s it briefly; and the final page is a memory quiz. With amusing illustrations on every page,

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this is just the kind of book to fascinate those youngsters less keen to embark on fictional stories: a whole lot of information, delivered narrative style, is packed into just 32 pages. Having read this one, I suspect children will want to seek out the other titles in the series: The Fork, French Fries, Glasses, Pizza and The Toilet (I bet that one proves popular!).
Just right for a school topic box, home library – anywhere there are readers (and writers) actually.

The Darkest Dark / Ludwig the Space Dog

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The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
Macmillan Children’s Books
The dark is for dreams – and morning is for making them come true.’ So says Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut on whose childhood this book is based. Herein we meet him as a boy, a boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut, flying to the moon or Mars.
Chris however, was afraid of the dark. For him the darkness that filled his bedroom when the lights were turned out was a darkness filled with aliens, very scary aliens.

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One particular night, he has to overcome his fears and sleep in his own bed or miss the opportunity to visit a neighbour’s house the following evening to view the Apollo 11 lunar landing. So on the night of July 20th 1969, as he watches the TV (the only one on their island home) and sees the events unfolding, he realises just how dark space is – ‘the darkest dark ever’.
This is a turning point for the would-be astronaut. Chris has lost his fear and for the very first time he appreciates ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.’ And in that dark your dreams await, dreams that can become your life, not tomorrow morning but some time …
The illustrators of this story really bring out both the mystery of darkness and the depth of young Chris’s nyctophobia when everything around him takes on a brooding, sinister appearance …

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Certainly this is an inspiring story to share with youngsters who fear the dark, as well as those with an interest in space, whether or not they aspire to become astronauts: one never knows. Stories can generate dreams and you’ve read what Chris Hadfield has to say about those …
There’s more for space lovers in

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Ludwig the Space Dog
Henning Löhlein
Templar Publishing
I guess if I had to choose an alternative world in which to live, I’d be pretty happy with the one wherein Ludwig and his five friends reside. It’s a world of books no less and unsurprisingly Ludwig loves to read, especially books about space. These books – as books generally do – generate dreams and ideas; and for Ludwig those ideas are about space and flying.
Try as he might though, Ludwig just cannot stay in the air for more than a very short time;

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but then something unexpected crash lands right before his eyes. From that something steps its pilot – a space explorer who is in urgent need of assistance. And that is the starting point for a whole new life for Ludwig. Having fixed the rocket’s engine, he accepts the explorer’s invitation and finally takes flight on an amazing exploration of space.
Children can enjoy entering the bookish world of Ludwig and his friends, and joining the dog on his space adventure through the 3D glasses provided in the pocket inside the book’s front cover.
I love those quirky collage style illustrations of Henning Löhlein, which, even without the glasses, have in places, a three-dimensional look.

Duck Gets A Job

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Duck Gets a Job
Sonny Ross
Templar Publishing
How many people end up doing jobs in city offices, jobs that perhaps pay well but are not fulfilling and certainly not the kind of thing they’d dreamed of? I suspect an awful lot, but they haven’t the courage to do anything about it and may even claim to love what they’re doing. Perhaps that’s also the case with some of Duck’s friends …

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in this droll, super stylish debut picture book from Sonny Ross. First let’s meet job seeker, Duck as he peruses the situations vacant columns in search of a job, a job like his pals.

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In spite of not sounding totally his thing, Duck applies for one and succeeds in getting himself an interview. Now more decisions have to be made – appropriate gear and mode of travel. Both prove somewhat problematic …

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but eventually Duck arrives at the office where he lands himself a job.
Pretty soon however, he realises facts and figures are never going to float his boat; a city job is not the life for him so he walks out and decides to follow his heart and dreams.

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Using an uber cool colour palette that is perfect for the job, Sonny Ross puts a brand new spin on joining or rather, not joining the rat race: and he ought to know – there’s an element of autobiography herein.

I Am a Very Clever Cat / Two Can

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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.’

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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 …

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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?

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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.

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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 …

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sometimes co-operating, sometimes empowering …

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or encouraging and concluding (almost) …

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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.

Midnight At The Zoo

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Midnight at the Zoo
Faye Hanson
Templar Publishing
We join Max and Mia on a school trip to the zoo; but this is no ordinary zoo for seemingly there are no animals there at all. So where are the lemurs, flamingos, pandas and salamanders, the lions, meerkats and monkeys? There’s not a single one in sight … they hunt but eventually it’s time to go. Everyone boards the bus; everyone except Max and Mia who manage to get themselves left behind …

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Midnight strikes and that’s when the magic begins. With a new friend as guide …

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there are fabulous fountains, flouncing flamingos, mischievous monkeys, prancing pandas …

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and many more marvels to be seen before eventually, replete with wondrous sights, the two children fall fast asleep

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and don’t wake up until morning light when there’s another warm embrace awaiting them – from their Mum this time. Will she believe what they have to tell her? Would you?
Everything about this wondrous whimsical book is dreamy delight. Faye Hanson’s artistic skill is truly awesome: Her intense rich colour palette glows with near incandescence; every line, every brush-stroke, every tiny detail builds up to an exquisite resplendent whole scene at every turn of the page.
Go back and look again at the early vignettes and you’ll notice that Max and Mia might not see any of the animals they’ve come for, but they do what small children tend to do, they stop and pay close attention to detail …

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finding things of interest where less observant others have passed by unaware.
Faye Hanson’s The Wonder was truly that; this one is even more brilliant; even the endpapers are amazing.

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D is for Duck / P for the Perfect Picnic

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D is for Duck!
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
We start with magician, Duck, doing a spot of prestidigitation on the opening spread resulting in …

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followed pretty rapidly by …

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and a King Lion. He is summarily shoved out of sight Narnia style; though what should emerge from the bottom drawer but something equally, or even more, dangerous: it’s very large, has spikes all along its back and often breathes err – well in this case, stars …

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There’s only one thing to do and Duck does it PRONTO, with a flick and a swish, causing said ‘something’ to up and vanish: which is not quite the end of this superb alphabet story; the only words of which follow a strict alphabetical order pattern, with the odd aside, stage direction, or spot of direct speech (also in perfect timely alphabetical place). Oh, there’s a speech bubble strategically placed too. And the finale? That you’ll just have to discover for yourself – it’s pretty cool, is all I’ll say on the matter.

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A show-stopping, dazzling rendition by Melling and of course, Duck: not to be missed. Book your tickets NOW!

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The Perfect Picnic
Ciara Flood
Templar Publishing
The enormously talented Ciara Flood has followed her terrific Those Pesky Rabbits with another winner and it’s just perfect summer reading.
Meet best friends Squirrel and Mole, a terrific twosome despite being totally different (a bit like Lobel’s Frog and Toad): Mole is the laid back one whereas finicky Squirrel insists everything is done ‘just so’. So when they decide to go on a picnic, Squirrel wants it to be – that’s it – ‘the most perfect picnic ever’.
No butter on the sandwiches!” insists Squirrel (I’m with you there Squirrel) and of course, butter-loving Mole obliges.

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Finally, with picnic bag packed perfectly, the pair head off with guess who carrying the load but …

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First stop the meadow but that’s too sunny; the cornfield in contrast is too shady …

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(By now your audience will probably be shouting to the pair as they shed more and more items through the hole in the snagged bag.) The bench’s too busy, they have the hill to themselves but Squirrel decrees that too windy; and the river, cave and beach don’t pass muster either.
Eventually Squirrel comes to a halt: seemingly the ideal place has been reached at last (take a look at the map at the back) and it’s then that Mole makes THE discovery – OH NO! (Superb Edvard Munch moment).

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Happily all is NOT lost, thanks to a host of animals the friends have encountered along the way: and yes the food’s not quite as perfect as it was at the outset but hey –sometimes make do and mend can turn out to be pretty dam near perfect …

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Bursting with subtle humour and oozing with awesome touches and delectable details, this is genius at work. The whole thing’s as pretty near perfect as anyone could imagine and it’s absolutely bound to be demanded again and again (that’s my experience anyway). Most will find their mouths watering at the scrummy, squelchy strawberry cake; my preference though is for Mole’s jaw-stretching sandwich or that unassigned slab of what looks like my favourite, coffee cake.
Ciara’s colour palette (computer photos don’t do justice to the quality) exudes sensations of summer sunny days lying back and soaking in the warmth.  Picnic hampers out and off you go – don’t forget the book though.

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The Fox and the Wild

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The Fox and the Wild
Clive McFarland
Templar Publishing
Fred’s an urban fox born and bred but even so he’s not at all keen on urban life with its smoke, noise and fast moving traffic. In contrast, his cousins are city lovers roaming the streets at night hunting for tasty tidbits. One particular night while so doing, Fred and his fellow marauders cause a disturbance around the bins and have to flee.

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Fred becomes separated from his cousins and that’s when, having seen a flock of birds, he decides to find out about the possibilities of life beyond the city. But how can he do so without being able to fly like the birds – in particular the one he has an encounter with? “I don’t need to fly, I’ll hunt!” he assures the bird but that proves rather more difficult than he’d envisaged …

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Trees with spreading branches and the wind blowing over the hills seem elusive; all he finds is hard ground …

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noisy monsters … and a dark tunnel. But our Fred is a determined character and he carries on looking, feeling, smelling and listening …

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There’s a wonderful finale which I won’t spoil but suffice it to say, what he finds makes everything worthwhile …
Such a lovely story with a powerful, inherent environmental message and such sublime illustrations (McFarland uses paints, crayons and cut paper, and then digitally renders): this is a super book to share and one that’s likely to inspire listeners to try creating their own urban and ‘wild’ scenes using some of Clive McFarland’s techniques.WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Boris, Albert and Babies

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Boris Babysits!
Sam Lloyd
Templar Publishing
Boris (Calm Down, Boris!) is back and he’s been given the job of babysitting Monster Baby while Mummy Monster goes to the shops. Now you’ll not be surprised to learn that boisterous Boris doesn’t have much clue about minding a baby. Sweet eating and telly watching certainly won’t keep the babe entertained all day so Boris decides the garden is the place. But, he leaves her to her own devices and goes off to bounce on his trampoline and of course, Baby wants a turn too – Boris lets her bounce way too much though. He then proceeds to dump her in the pongy dog basket while he rustles up a meal for himself, but Monster baby gets nothing.
There inevitably follows a little accident but is Boris able to deal with it?

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Of course not – that, like all the other Baby Monster minding is left for us to assist with and even then big bro. is so exhausted by all his ‘hard work’ that, having plonked the babe down on the sofa, he falls fast asleep beside her. Quick – we’d better finish the job by putting the little furry infant in her cot before Mummy Monster comes home.

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‘Rat-a-tat-tat’ – quick before we open the door. …
Complete with furry monster baby on a ribbon to assist Boris’s helpers and velcro spots on every spread to keep the infant in place, this sturdy book ensures maximum young child involvement with the amusing tale.
Slightly older children could make their own furry monster babes and create their own stories around them.

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Albert and Little Henry
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
There are gentle echoes of the Not Now Bernard about this Jez Alborough offering. It stars young Albert who has a particular prowess for storytelling and loves entertaining his parents with his flights of fancy.
One day though, there’s a new arrival in the family. “I can’t listen to a story now, … Little Henry needs his bath.” and “Not now, Albie, I’m trying to get Little Henry off to sleep,” is what he hears from his weary Dad and Mum, along with their frequent “Why don’t you tell us a story later?
Albert goes off to his room to wait for ‘later,’ a peculiar feeling comes over him …
Nobody notices his sudden lack of stature; and at Little Henry’s celebration party it’s the same story.
Sad and angry, Albert heads for his bedroom leaving others very firmly on the other side of the door. But then, Mum leaves a special present for him; a present bearing three vital words; and after that things start to change – for the better this time. Albert is restored to his former size and those creative juices of his start flowing again …
Albert’s story clearly shows how the arrival of a new sibling can make a child feel small and insecure. His woeful expressions and temper tantrum are tellingly visualized in Alborough’s adorable scenes of ‘new arrival’ jealousy. Young Albert is certain to find a place in the hearts of any family facing the potential emotional upheavals of a new baby.

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Now! / Say Hello/ Kiss Goodnight

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Now!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The older little Archie gets, the more demanding (albeit adorable); well maybe he was always VERY demanding but ‘Now’ is a word more frequently used by adults in my experience. Moreover, his constant demanding of same, always tends to end in minor catastrophes – for others mostly…

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though he does sometimes have to learn from his over-eagerness …

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When holiday time looms – ten days away to be precise – Archie finds it hard to contain himself; ten days is an enormously long time to wait. Dad comes up with an idea …

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and a few distractions to help time pass quickly.
Eventually the big H-day dawns and suddenly Archie has changed his tune; “Wait!” he cries. “We can’t go NOW!” …
To discover why Archie is demanding a delay, and to learn if they ever do get that promised plane trip

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and holiday, you’ll need to get hold of a copy of this beautifully funny book. Yet again the Archie/Tracey Corderoy/Tim Warnes amalgam works its magic.

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The little rhino’s always a winner in my book.

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Say Hello
Kiss Goodnight
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
These two charming little books provide lots of opportunities for the very young to join in with the various baby animal sounds (not forgetting, a human one) and some actions too.
In Say Hello we do just that, first greeting the sun and the day itself …

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and then once they’re awake, greetings can be exchanged with Chick, Piglet, Puppy, Frog, Calf, Bunny, Lamb, Bee (I love this buzzy being) …

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and finally, a Baby “Goo Goo”.
Kiss Goodnight starts by bidding ‘Goodnight’ to the Moon and proffering a kiss to all the ‘Sleepy babies’: Fox … isn’t he adorable?

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Owl, Bat, Mouse, Kitten, Bear, Hedgehog, Wolf and Baby. Shh!
As with all Jane Cabrera’s books, pattern plays an important part: here it’s gorgeous patterned backgrounds against which she places the subjects addressed in the simple, patterned texts  and the brush-stroke patterns on the faces.
Perfect for sharing with the very youngest listeners and ideal too, for slightly older beginning readers to try for themselves. (And far superior to dull early scheme fodder.)
I love the near, but not perfect, symmetry of the various faces …

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and I can see youngsters, inspired by the illustrations, attempting to create similar faces for themselves and perhaps making them into masks.

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Naughty Naughty Monster

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Naughty Naughty Monster
Kaye Umansky and Greg Abbott
Templar Publishing
This is utterly delicious: from the moment I set eyes on that monster grinning at me from the book’s cover I was ensnared. The thing is though, he’s – as we’re told from the outset – a monster of the naughty naughty kind. Forget kind – he’s the one and only Naughty Naughty Monster and he has the woodland creatures shivering and shaking in their holes when he’s peckish and on the rampage. Not so one particular Fairy however –

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looks pretty sweet I agree, but not when she’s riled and she is – on account of the NNM. “I am sending you straight back home again./ Be off! Back to your cave!/ And don’t you dare come out/ Until you’ve learned how to behave.” she tells him. This instruction, the NNM ignores completely and continues rampaging, through the farmyard causing terror therein until the Fairy arrives on the scene. She calms the frenzied animals but not the NNM who ignores her “… back into your cave until you learn to be polite” order and proceeds down the street, alarming , nay terrorising, the children with his dustbin kicking and acting tough.

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And that’s when the ‘goody-goody’ Fairy finally goes crazy. She sends him into his cave and blocks the entrance (and of course, the monster’s exit) with ‘a great big, heavy stone’ leaving him to stew  and ponder on his wicked ways, for try as he might, no matter how hard he shoves and thumps, the NNM cannot shift the stone, not one little bit. Is that a tiny tear I spy being shed by the creature here …

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Days pass, a lot of thinking gets done and finally the Monster sees the error of his ways, grabs pen and paper and writes …

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A helpful bird delivers the letter, the Fairy – now happy – reads it, considers, has doubts but decides one more chance is the order of the day. The NNM is released from his solitary confinement and … ‘The Naughty Naughty Monster went rampaging through the wood … ‘

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Surely after all that, the Fairy wasn’t wrong in letting him out, was she?
Kaye Umansky’s rhyming text simply rocks: it’s perfectly paced, marvellously mischievous and reads aloud like a dream. In combination with newcomer Greg Abbott’s superb scenes of mischief, mayhem and a winsome monster, the result is pure picture book pleasure.

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Kings of the Castle

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Victoria Turnbull
Templar Publishing
Victoria Turnbull set the bar astoundingly high with her debut picture book The Sea Tiger; but oh my goodness, she’s more than cleared it with this, her second book, which if possible, is even more enchantingly beautiful.
Once again, the sea features large in many of the scenes but this time, it’s seen from the shore. A night-time shore on which we meet George, a little monster with a whole lot of determination, when it comes to sandcastle building that is: he wants to build a sandcastle ‘that would turn any monster green eyed with envy …’ Boris, his friend is doggedly unhelpful …

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so much so that George is on the verge of abandoning his castle building when from the moonlit waves emerges this strange-looking creature …

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Introductions are something of a failure but thanks to Boris and a stick, the two begin to forge a friendship;

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and slowly and surely an amazing edifice is fashioned under the twinkling stars …

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It’s one- a veritable kingdom really – over which the friends reign supreme till dawn when the tide comes in, and as the sun rises, slowly subsides into the sea.
What now will be the fate of the friendship?
Brilliantly imagined and equally brilliantly executed, this night to day tale is truly heart-warming.

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The whole thing unfolds in a slow, gentle manner that is entirely in harmony with the gently rolling waves forming the backdrop; and one cannot help wishing that like the George/Nepo friendship, it could last forever. Victoria Turnbull’s paintings are rendered in a gorgeous colour palette that so perfectly captures the blues and greens of the moonlit sea, and gradually gives way to the glowing golden hues of the dawning day. Equally perfect is the way in which every turn of the page brings fresh delight, from expansive spreads to small comic strip style squares …

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and everything in between.  Awesome. Ahhhh!

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Rain / What Will Danny Do Today?

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Rain
Sam Usher
Templar Publishing
The small boy narrator from Snow and his Grandad are back to regale us with another wondrous weathery delight. The youngster cannot wait to get outside and catch raindrops, splash in puddles and look at reflections; but Grandad has other ideas, or rather one idea – “…wait for the rain to stop.” So they wait and wait, and it rains and rains.

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Grandad busies himself with paperwork: the boy reads and imagines …
He imagines voyaging with sea monsters, floating cities with carnivals and musical boatmen …

 

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Then at last, and co-incidentally, Grandad finishes his writing and the rain stops. Time to sally forth, suitably attired, for that voyage …

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until down comes the rain once more, but no matter: there are raindrops to catch, entertainers to watch and an important letter to post.

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After that, it’s a return to dry land with its reward of hot chocolate, warm socks and cosy togetherness.
A splendid lesson in delayed gratification if ever there was one; and another beautiful portrayal of childhood’s exuberance and delight in the great outdoors come rain or shine. Sam Usher’s paintings brilliantly capture the watery world of a rainy day, the boy’s energy, and the loving relationship between child and grandparent: and the way he plays with space on the page is superb.

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More of Sam Usher’s marvellous scenes in:

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What Will Danny Do Today?
Pippa Goodheart and Sam Usher
Egmont
Following on from her You Choose series with Nick Sharratt, Pippa Goodheart joins forces with Sam Usher for another decision-making book only this time the decisions are made on behalf of young Danny.
From the moment he wakes up, Danny is faced with making choices: what kind of clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast,

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how to get to school …

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what lessons he’ll have and who will teach him. Then there are PE activities to decide upon …

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how he’ll spend his playtime and a whole range of art and craft possibilities with which to fill the afternoon: ‘What will Danny make?’ is the question.
Danny’s dad is there to meet him from school and he’s fairly easy to spot as, we are told, he wears a green jacket. Moreover, he’s willing to allow Danny an after school treat and here too it’s for us to decide whether that will be rowing, watching a film or skating. Finally, there’s the matter of bedtime reading and it appears that Danny has made his own choice this time.
This is a great book for getting talk going be it with one child, a small group, or – if you can stand it – a whole class, the majority of whom will doubtless be eager to offer their ideas on Danny’s day.

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Gorgeous detail from the endpapers

Every one of Sam Usher’s scenarios is crammed full of wonderful details and interesting characters, and is sure to generate a great deal of discussion.

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Petunia Paris’s Parrot

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Petunia Paris’s Parrot
Katie Howarth and Jo Williamson
Templar Publishing
Petunia is one indulged infant: she has everything she could possibly want – a swimming pool, countless toys, a thousand dresses, her own library (well maybe that’s not spoiling) and even a bike with chauffeur …

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It ‘s no surprise then that when her parents ask what she’d like for her 5th birthday, the young miss cannot really come up with anything. “… a parrot, please …” she replies, that being the first thing that came to mind.
Come her birthday a lavish party is duly organised and the parrot presented –

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a Peruvian scarlet macaw.
Once the final guest has departed, young Petunia sets about teaching the bird to talk, a task she finds a whole lot more difficult than she’d anticipated. Fancy foods, pertinent conversation topics, piano playing and outlandish outfits are all resounding failures: “Squarrk!” being the parrot’s only response. After months of failure Petunia finally loses it, stamping, stomping and yelling …

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Silence from the parrot: a suggestion from the butler. “Suppose you try asking him nicely, Miss Paris?” Miss Paris does and receives the following response:
I DO NOT WANT a perfectly presented pile of prawns. I DO NOT WANT a pleasantly played piano. I DO NOT WANT to ponder parrot philosophy. I DO NOT WANT to wear a pink parrot poncho. I DO NOT WANT ANY of it, Petunia Paris!”
Well that certainly told her but she asks one final question and learns the parrot’s softly spoken, heartfelt wish, “I want to go home.”
One year later Petunia’s parents ask her the usual ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ question and this time, Petunia has an answer at the ready …
With its plethora of alliterative ‘p’ words, the predominantly deadpan text is a real delight to read aloud. The alliteration is even picked up playfully by Jo Williamson in one of her delectable retro style illustrations …

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For the most part she restricts herself to a limited colour palette with just splashes of blue or pink (apart from the parrot) but breaks into glorious technicolour in the final fold-out spread of the Peruvian parrot paradise, of which I’ll say no more for fear of being a story spoiler. This is definitely one not to be missed.

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Colourful Considerations

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What’s Your Favourite Colour, Pascal?
Magali Le Huche
Twirl Books
Spring has arrived and Pascal Platypus wants to bring some seasonal cheer to his nautical themed room with a fresh coat of paint and when he enlists the help of his friends in choosing a colour, every one of them is ready to help.
Cardigan suggests orange: “Trust me, it will be delicious!” he states but once the colour has been applied, Fancy the Turtle announces that the room looks like a giant carrot.

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He thinks green would be a whole lot better and off they go again but once more, on completion, there’s a dissenter. It’s Zelda Frog and pink is her suggestion but now Ringo Dog isn’t happy. “All the colours!” is his idea and there follows a SPLOOSH! SPLAT! colour-splatter battle …

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and now Pascal has had enough. It’s not new paint he needs but a whole new home and off he goes to create one. No prizes for guessing what colour predominates …

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Deliciously detailed and full of droll humour. Children will enjoy opening the multitude of flaps to peep inside the various cupboards, drawers, the bathtub and even the pictures adorning Pascal’s walls. They’ll also have fun watching the antics of those other residents of Pascal’s home – the tiny mice.

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The Colour Monster
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing
Meet the monster of the title and the little girl who helps him sort himself out, or his mixed up feelings at least …

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Her means of so doing is separation – into glass jars: each emotion being linked to a colour. Happiness is yellow ‘You feel bright and light. You laugh, you jump, you dance. You want to share that feeling with everyone.’

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Blue represents sadness ‘gentle like a blue rainy day.’ Anger is red – no surprises there- it’s ablaze like fire, making you want to stomp and …

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Fear is black, lurking among shadows: you feel alone, diminished.
In stark contrast, calm is green ‘quiet like the trees and soft like their leaves.’ It’s slow, deep breaths … I love this near yogic saravasana …

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And that’s pretty much it – fait accompli.
Hold on though, there’s been a change of hue in Colour Monster himself: he now looks like this …

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maybe this particular emotion just cannot be contained.
What a monstrously good way to introduce ideas about feelings and emotions to young children: the whole thing is a delight.
The child-like collage illustrations built up from cut out card and paper, painted, scribbled or daubed are immediately engaging and the characters instantly endearing.

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Better Together

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Good Knight, Bad Knight
Tom Knight
Templar Publishing
Summer is over and Bad Knight is about to return to school. Up until now the young knight has hated school  but things look set to change for two reasons. Bad Knight is building a special secret weapon and, his cousin is coming to stay …

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That was the plan; but when said cousin arrives, Bad Knight is in for a surprise; his cousin is GOOD! Indeed much more than good – he’s star pupil in every respect. Disaster! Especially as bad Knight’s status as worst knight in the school is made official and the two are to meet face to face in the end-of-term jousting contest.

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You’ll only need one guess as to the winner of the match, but perhaps what appears overhead as the victor is announced will give Bad Knight another chance to prove himself …

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and put that invention of his to good use.
And perhaps, the two young knights aren’t quite so different: two heads are often better than one after all…

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A crazy tale of folly, fighting, friendship and the odd stink bomb too. Tom Knight’s debut solo picture book will surely find friends among young would-be knights and catapult creators in particular.

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Cool Cat Versus Top Dog
Mike Yamada
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Cool Cat and Top Dog are sworn enemies, which is somewhat problematic as they live under the same roof. Top of their list of reasons to fight is Pet Quest, the annual round the town race and nobody has won the trophy other than our two adversaries CC and TD with Top Dog being the cup’s current holder.

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Now the race night is upon them and both parties are determined to win, no matter what. But there’s another contestant – Buck Thumper – who has set his sights on claiming the trophy this year.

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Cool Cat has a plan up her sleeve and pretty soon Top Dog has fallen for it but he’s quick to resort to some tricky doings of his own.

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The race continues with the rivals neck and neck until eventually both parties’ vehicles are totally out of control and Buck Thumper zooms into the lead.
Can that be the end for TD and CC; or is there perhaps a chance that some clever teamwork might just save the day?
This final shot gives a hint but you’ll have to get your paws on a copy of this breakneck riot of a book to discover all that happened along the way. PHEW!

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The Bear Who Stared

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The Bear Who Stared
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing
Duncan Beedie’s staring bear is sure to bring a smile to your face as he goes around the countryside ogling at the very first thing he sees every day and on one particular morning that just happens to be a ladybird family enjoying their breakfast. I don’t like being stared at when I’m eating and neither do those ladybirds; they tell bear so in no uncertain terms before scuttling off to find a new breakfast spot. Bear however, wanders on, the next recipients of his innocent stare being a mother bird and her fledglings.

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They too angrily send Bear packing and on he goes, rather foolishly poking his head into a badger’s sett. This results not only in a face off with a furious badger, but also a very sore nose.

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Our ursine friend then decides to take a rest beside a pond wherein sits a frog. The two animals eyeball each other

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and then the frog’s comment, “Not much fun being stared at, is it?” results in an exchange wherein bear confesses his staring is really on account of his not knowing what to say to those he meets. After which, on looking into the water, he finds himself face to face with another bear…

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At this point, children will quickly identity the slightly wobbly face that stares back at him and will delight in frog’s final words and departing smile.
And Bear? He still goes on that same morning stroll every day but now he greets other creatures with a friendly, “Hello!” and a big smile.

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And, as you might expect, he’s quick to make lots of new friends and there’s one friend in particular who doesn’t object to being stared at; one who gives as good as he gets!

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Playful Books for Little Ones

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Peek-a-Boo You!
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
A frisky cat plays peek-a-boo with a small girl and her ted as it frolics through the peep holes in the pages of this delightful rhyming book. Kitty delights in activities such as jumping into a shoebox

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and overturning a beaker, although perhaps she isn’t quite so delighted by this …

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However, the playful puss has a surprise for the little girl …

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and there’s a surprise finale for readers too.
Great fun to share with the very young. Equally, with its predictable patterned text, this book is ideal for beginning readers and so much more fun that dull reading scheme fodder.

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One Lonely Fish
Andy Mansfield and Thomas Flintham
Templar Publishing
‘A counting book with bite!’ announces the cover of this playful book as we begin with one very tiny fish swimming through the sea watched only, or so it seems, by a couple of crabs from the ocean floor.
Flip the fin-like page and a second fish is revealed now swimming behind the first.

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Continue in similar fashion until nine fish of increasing size swim one behind the other, still watched by that pair of crabs that are now looking decidedly alarmed and turning over one more time will reveal the reason why.

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What follows is a satisfying finale? – Err, that all depends on your viewpoint.
Great fun and full of mathematical potential within and beyond the pages of the book.

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Brown Bear Colour Book
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
This charming concept book is also an invitation to play hide and seek with Brown Bear – he peeps through the increasingly large die-cut circle on every colour spread. The three primary colours plus orange, green and purple each have a double spread which follows the same form: text on the left-hand side; seven small pictures, plus bear peeping through, on the right. The text too, keeps to a repeating pattern: here is Red …

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In fact pattern is key to the whole thing. The individual objects are beautifully patterned

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and often set against a patterned background in a shade of the featured colour.
As the pages are turned the previous colours are visible through the increasingly large hole on the left hand die-cut circle until the surprise grand finale …

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Those of us who have taught young children /and or/ are parents, will know that the very young do not generally acquire colour concepts from books, rather they develop them through experiences of the real world and interactions with adults. However, this book will certainly help to reinforce ideas relating to colour and is a delight in itself. There is so much to talk about on every spread; and the predictable, repeating pattern of the whole thing makes it a book that beginning readers can enjoy trying for themselves.

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Gobbly Goat
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
It’s lunchtime and Gobbly Goat has a rumbly tum. He wanders around the farmyard in search of something tasty to munch. Ugh! That straw hat tastes pretty disgusting, the rosy apples are way too high and Horse isn’t keen on sharing his hay so what can Gobbly gobble? …

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Told with a rhyming text and with deliciously funny farmyard scenes, this is a tasty treat for toddlers who will delight in pressing that sound button and making Gobbly bleat.

In similarly delightful Scheffler style and also in boardbook format is

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Higgly Hen
Nosy Crow
Here, although Higgly is hungry as the story begins, food is not the main object of her search. No sooner has she begun her food finding walk than her eggs hatch – six in all –

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and it’s those she wanders around the farm in search of. Silly hen; it’s a good thing that the cat, horse, pigs and other farmyard animals are on hand to help with her hunt.

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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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A River

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A River
Marc Martin
Templar Publishing
This beautiful book comes from award-winning Marc Martin and begins in a child’s bedroom from where we are taken on a journey– real or imagined? – in a silver boat, down a river as it winds on its long journey through high rise city with its ant-like zooming cars and smoke-belching factories, meandering past farms with a patchwork of fields …

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into hills and alleys rich and green, cascading down a waterfall;

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then, watched by dozens of eyes, through lush tropical forests alive with birds and animals, past mangroves and on to the ocean smelling of salt and seaweed

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where a storm is gathering strength … and then returning to the bedroom once more, there in the gloom are those same pictures and objects that inspired the whole journey.
This journey is more than merely a visual one; truly it’s one that engages all the senses as we smell and taste that belching smoke …

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hear the running water as it murmurs along and then cascades down a waterfall, listen to the bird and animal sounds of the jungle,

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feel those watching eyes in the dark jungly depths …

 

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and of course, every spread is an arresting feast for the eyes.
Make sure too, to look for the tiny sailboat itself with its adventurous navigator as it charts its course through all those amazing landscapes so richly hued and textured. See how many animals you can notice dotted throughout the pages: look closely and be captivated. You’ll be reluctant to rejoin that child as she returns to the bedroom where raindrops pelt against the windowpane and a soft light shines, perhaps calling her forth once more. I certainly was.
When you do though, pay careful attention to those inspirational endpapers.
This truly is a book rich with potential for inspiring children’s creativity, for environmental and geographical discussions and more. First though let it be enjoyed and savoured for its aesthetic riches both visual and verbal.

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Home Tweet Home

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Home Tweet Home
Courtney Dicmas
Templar Publishing
Courtney Dicmas’ delightful story follows Pippi and Burt swallows’ forays into the big wide world in search of a new abode that will more comfortably accommodate them and their eight younger brothers and sisters. They fly forth from their cliff top nest into the night sky looking for somewhere that is a better fit for Rupert’s stinky feet, Maude’s judo and Cecil’s band practice.
Morning comes and with it a likely looking place certainly large enough and pretty sturdy looking …

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But perhaps a bit on the hard side.
Maybe a fluffier spot would be better but not that one – (a cheetah’s back), nor the pointy place they discover next …

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Why is nothing quite what they’d expected?

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Eventually the two together come to a realisation that it’s a case of ‘east, west home’s best’ for none of the places feels as homely and snuggly as that small nest of theirs with all their siblings for company.
Cleverly constructed and totally engaging at every turn of the page; those birds are adorable, every one of them. And the other animals are equally winningly portrayed in Courtney Dicmas’ super spreads.
Her best book so far in my opinion.
(Some of my audience of 5s to 9s were inspired to create their own birds to add to the family.)

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A super hero swallow, a recorder player, a hockey player, a ballet dancer, a school bird and a book reader.

 

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If you’re in or near London at the end of October don’t miss the opportunity to visit the exciting Children’s Book Illustration Art Exhibition on in Piccadilly from 23rd to 29th

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SPLATS & BURPS: A Pooping Bird and Burping Twins

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What a Naughty Bird!
Sean Taylor and Dan Widdowson
Templar Publishing
A story about a bird that flies around the world dropping splats of poo upon all manner of unsuspecting animals and some humans too, is bound to be a hit with young children. But when it’s delivered (courtesy of Sean Taylor) via a wicked rhyming narration from the poo dropper himself and coupled with Dan Widdowson’s hilarious renderings of the recipients of said splats it cannot fail to make its mark.
Every spread will brings giggles but my favourites are the large brown bull that gets one right between his horns

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and the bear in whom our inveterate splatterer more than meets his match. TeeHee!

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Young children love this one because they, or at least some among them, know more about ursine skills than does our avian narrator …

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Great fun for an early years storytime session, especially with that oft repeated ‘What a Naughty Bird!’ refrain to join in with.

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The Burp That Saved the World
Mark Griffiths and Maxine Lee-Mackie
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Meet young Ben and Matt the Mustard twins, burpers extraordinaire whose noisy eruptions drive the townsfolk to despair.

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So much so, that they issue the pair with an eviction notice. But then from outer space appears a fleet of alien raider invaders that seize the toys and books of all the town’s children and seemingly nothing can be done to stop them. Or can it? Maybe those burping boys might just save the day …

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With a fun to read aloud rhyming text, crazy and suitably garish, action-packed scenes and plenty of opportunities for adding sound effects, this is the sort of thing that appeals unashamedly to early years children who particularly seem to relish anything that involves bodily functions of the gaseous variety.

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