Toys Lost, Toys Found

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Gracie was intrigued by the way the mammoth came unravelled but retained his perfect shape.

Little Lou and the Woolly Mammoth
Paula Bowles
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
What is that bright wriggly thing protruding from among the muddle of toys wonders bored, lonely Little Lou. Being of an inquisitive nature she decides to tug at it. The thread wriggles away; Little Lou follows until she finds herself in the middle of a massive, tangly mess.

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Lou tugs and feels a shake and a shudder. From the tangle emerges a huge woolly mammoth right before her eyes. Little Lou runs away, zigzagging here and there, hotly pursued by the massive mammoth

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but then … OOPS his tail is caught up with a castle and that begins his undoing – literally. A shadow of his former self, the cuddlesome creature pitter- patters, turns and dashes off in alarm, this time with Little Lou in pursuit, both zigzagging to the point of exhaustion. Time for an elephantine embrace, Little Lou – a new friendship begins thereafter.

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Paula Bowles’ soft colours, set against cream background pages serve this gentle tale of looking beyond the perceived information beautifully. The mixed media illustrations, with their gently humorous details have great child appeal; that mammoth is truly irresistible. A thoroughly engaging story, playful language, lovable bit-part characters and a variety of print sizes complete the package.
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Nightbear
Rebecca Patterson
Jonathan Cape pbk
The adorable-looking yellow bear narrator is not, he tells us, a new bear; he’s been around for ages and ages. Born in a northern factory, given as a birthday present, unloved and mistreated; indeed, bundled into a bag crammed with shoes and socks and sent to a charity shop. That becomes his home for long years, lonely and waiting for a new home.

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Then one day in comes a little girl with her mum and joy of joys, she buys that bear for just 50p. Off they go home, the bear with a new name, Buttercup. However, Buttercup discovers he’s bear number seven in his new home. Moreover, all the ursine residents have special jobs to do; each and every day they are hard at work. There’s Tufts, he’s the lift operator, Mr Brownbear who has to dress like a baby and have a daily buggy ride, Betty and Doffy don earrings and dance, Frank does stunts and Babyblue assists the little girl with bike riding and they all participate in daily beauty shows.

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Buttercup begins to worry about his role but then comes the realization that his fellow bears are all exhausted by their toil and fall fast asleep thereafter. Not so Buttercup; that’s when he comes into his own as story listener, comforter after scary dreams, sick attendant

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and story teller to the day bears, for what is Buttercup? Nightbear, of course!
Tinged with humour, this is a gorgeous tale of ursine love with endearing characters both teddy and human. Rebecca Patterson infuses every single spread with tenderness. Add to this, her choice of colour palette and attention to detail: the sum total is irresistible.
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Found
Salina Yoon
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Bear finds a lost toy bunny under a tree one day and despite loving it immediately, resolves to find its owner. He makes a huge stack of posters and off he goes to post them on each and every tree.

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In addition he and bunny consult the ‘lost’ notices and search everywhere to no avail. Poor bunny and poor bunny’s family thinks the empathetic Bear as he goes to bed.
Next day the two have great fun together

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but all good things must come to an end … or so it seems.

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Well, yes and no, for special toys are meant to be passed on to special others.
There is so much sensitivity in this perfectly constructed story; that young bear shows such inter- and intra- personal intelligence in his behaviour. This is beautifully conveyed through the author’s spare, undidactic prose and brightly coloured pictures. The latter, to which Salina Yoon has added some soft texturing, also speak volumes about the emotions of the characters.
A total delight; perfectly pitched and a book that offers so much to think about and discuss with young listeners.
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