Board Books Matter

Board books form the bedrock of children’s reading – or rather one hopes they do; but not all new parents appreciate their potential and their importance. Thanks to Little Tiger, here are some new titles. The first is already published the others will be early in February.

Where’s My Unicorn?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger
Right from a very young age, there seems to be a magnetic attraction between young children, (girls mostly) and unicorns, so I’m sure this textured book will please.

Its first spread shows the rear end of a hoofed animal that has left a trail of footprints as clues to follow through the pages until the missing unicorn is found on the final spread hiding in plain sight.

On the way little ones encounter a mermaid with a colourful tail, a flamingo with soft fluffy plumage and a narwhal with a magical horn.

Tactile hide-and-seek fun for tinies who can enjoy the search as well as joining in with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my unicorn?’ Becky Davies provides the words, giving a sentence about each creature; Kate McLelland has created the alluring visuals.

What Can You See: On the Farm?
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

As well as providing an introduction to what might be seen on a farm, and something to count on each spread, this, the first of a new ‘spot and count’ series provides plenty to interest little ones in Maria Perera’s jolly scenes of farm life.

First we visit the farm shop where different kinds of delicious-looking vegetables are on sale. Lunchtime is an opportunity to watch the sheep being fed; the pigs too need feeding and fruit trees near their sty supply a wealth of apples when they’re ready for eating.

The farm also has a duck pond alongside which is a weeping willow; there are several different kinds of birds to see in that scene.

Later in the year, the combine harvester gathers the wheat from a field where lots of small creatures have made their homes; and finally it’s teatime and the farmer collects eggs from the barn where there are hens, cows while other animals scamper along the rafters.

Toddlers can by means of the die-cut visuals, acquire some facts, do some counting and develop their observation skills, using Kate Ware’s words as guidance.

I Can Do It!
Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir
Caterpillar Books

Try teaching preschool and reception age children and you’d be amazed how many 4/5 year olds start school unable to dress themselves properly. I know parents find it easier when they’re rushed in the mornings to dress their youngsters but essentially this is deskilling children. Much better to set time aside to help them learn in a playful manner to cope with zips, buttons, poppers, laces and Velcro type fastenings themselves.

This robust board book with Patricia’s text and Hilli Kushnir’s enticing illustrations will be a boon in this respect.

Using five little children as models, the narrative provides an introduction to each fastening with instructions on how to work it, and asks each time ‘Can you fasten the …? alongside a bold, bright illustration of a child wearing the item needing to be done up.

One boy fastens shirt buttons, a little girl zips up her hoodie,

another boy does up the hooks and loops fastening on his coat; a child closes the popper on a backpack and finally a little girl has lace-up shoes to tie up on her trainers.

Fun, instructive and I assure you, early years teachers will be truly thankful if your child can manage all the five fastenings.

Getting Ready for Spring / Make and Bake

Getting Ready for Spring
Kathryn Selbert
Nosy Crow

I’ve no doubt that we’re all looking forward to the arrival of spring. I’ve already seen snowdrops and the occasional primrose but have yet to spot any baby deer like those shown in this sticker storybook created in collaboration with the National Trust; and, inevitably already as I write, the supermarket shelves are stacked with hot cross buns and other Easter fare.

Herein we see a family picnicking beside a lake, children decorating Easter eggs, birds being fed in a garden, spring cleaning on a rainy April day.

There are more preparations for Easter, a family visit to a farm, the children bake Easter treats with Grandma and when the festival day arrives there’s an egg hunt and an Easter parade.

The final pages comprise a ‘Can you spot?’ feature with over 30 items to find in the preceding spreads, and 3 pages of stickers to add to the named pages.

Seasonal fun to engage little ones and there’s plenty of interest to discuss on each of Kathryn Selbert’s main spreads.

If your opportunities to get outside with youngsters are limited in this unpredictable weather, then this book will help them anticipate the delights of what is to come in the next two or three months.

Also useful on days when the weather tends to keep youngsters inside is:

Make and Bake
illustrated by various artists
Oxford University Press

This is part of the OUP ‘Read with Oxford’ series that uses ‘step-by-step’ stages and is phonic based. Many readers of my blog will know that I’m anything but a fan of the approach to reading that underlies this way of learning to read. However, this non-fiction title offers six fun activities for those in the early stages of becoming readers.

Young children can, guided by the six sections make frog cards (and paper plate animals that could become puppets – children can think up their own animals too);

enjoy some pancake making (with an adult); create a sock goblin hand puppet; find out something about growing foods you might eat on a picnic; discover how to grow strawberries and eventually make ‘Strawberry Mess’ and enjoy eating same; the final part, ‘Snack Attack’ is about what constitutes a healthy snack. Readers follow two characters who visit a market and on their return, make the snacks using what they bought.

Also included are simple activities such as matching animal pictures with their names; sequencing instructions, sorting, unjumbling letter sequences to make food words and a word search. A mix of photographs and illustrations by various artists

help make everything clear.

The Incredible Hotel

The Incredible Hotel
Kate Davies and Isabelle Follath
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (First Editions)

Stefan the understairs porter has a rather mundane life working in the kitchen of The Incredible Hotel situated in the great city of Delaunay. He spends much of his time fetching and carrying, mopping and chopping and doing the washing up; but Stefan dreams of cake making.

One morning early, a meeting of all staff is called. Mr Starch announces that the hotel is celebrating its centenary with a grand ball, the guest of honour being none other than the Duchess of Delaunay, an incredibly royal, particularly picky person with a penchant for closing down hotels. Uh – uh!

In her honour Chef Zagat is asked to make her favourite delicacy – a profiterole tower – the tallest, creamiest, ‘most profiteroley’ one ever.

The bakers set to work right away with Stefan acting as coffee maker; however he is an observant fellow and can see why the chef’s efforts are not a success, so he offers a suggestion.

All he gets for this is a tongue lashing from the chef and he’s banished from the kitchen.

That night Stefan leaves the hotel and sets to work profiterole creating in his own domain.

Come the morning of the ball, without Stefan’s input, the hotel’s usual clockwork routine breaks down. Indeed disaster strikes and a call for Stefan’s help comes from the chef.

He of course isn’t there to hear.

Meanwhile upstairs the guests start arriving, including the Duchess. She’s far from happy to be stalled by Mr Starch and insists on entering the grand ballroom … She’s even more unhappy at what follows and is about to stomp out … until a wonderful aroma wafts into the room.

The rest, shall we say is mystery – until you get your hands on a copy of this truly delectable treat of a book cooked up by Kate Davies whose words are superbly selected, and Isabelle Follath, whose illustrations are a splendid mix of nostalgic delight, rich detail and fun. (Keep your eyes open for the bit part players, the cat and mouse that appear on every page.)

Don’t miss this one! Satisfaction assured!

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

To alleviate her boredom while Wilbur naps, Winnie the witch scrolls through her mobile and discovers that Chinese New Year is coming soon. It sounds exciting and so she decides to throw a Chinese New Year party to celebrate with friends and family.

The preparations go pretty smoothly with Winnie waving her wand to create fabulous decorations and a yummy-looking feast.

Then comes a spectacular parade with dragons large and small, as well as lions including a baby one; but just as the fireworks are about to start, Winnie realises that Wilbur has vanished.

Is the party sparkle about to disappear too, or is there an explanation for the cat’s mysterious absence?

Perhaps just one more wave of that wand of Winnie’s might just rescue the situation …

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul’s magical two W characters have been exciting children for over thirty years and their powers seem to be showing no sign of waning. Youngsters to whom I introduced Winnie and Wilbur as a young teacher now have their own children to share this whizz bang crackling,

lucky money envelope cascading story with in celebration of Chinese New Year at the weekend.

The illustrations are absolutely brimming over with detail and I love the gallery of children’s art that adorns the endpapers.

Superhero Gran

Superhero Gran
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow

Timothy Knapman children’s author, playwright and lyricist teams up with illustrator Joe Berger for I think, their seventh in the Superhero family series.

Most young children I know think their grans are amazing humans and so it is with the gran in this story.

No she doesn’t fly through the air, battle villains, control minds or wield an indestructible shield; instead she makes the days her grandchildren spend in her company the very best possible.

Her house is full of exciting paraphernalia for creating disguises.

Her stories are enthralling, the Tickle Monster Test tale being the very best of all. especially when accompanied by tasty cookies.

Unlike mum and dad, she doesn’t put a limit on the consumption of these treats.

As for her garden, it’s blooming brilliant and great for games of hide-and-seek; moreover she knows when, at the crucial time her grandchildren want to stay, to make a call to Mum and Dad suggesting the little ones remain with her for a sleepover.

Super powers indeed; and what a thoroughly heart-warming, vibrant celebration, verbal and visual, of a loving grandmother.

It’s just perfect for grans and little ones to enjoy reading together.

Some Dinosaurs are Small

Some Dinosaurs are Small
Charlotte Voake
Walker Books

Can you EVER have too many dinosaur books? Definitely not if one of them is this, the latest offering from Charlotte Voake.

Charlotte weaves opposites – big/small, fast/slow, flat/pointy, (as well as showing both carnivorous and herbivorous creatures), into an exciting and amusing picture book story where the action and feelings are shown in the art, while the words are pretty much descriptive: it’s the amalgam of the two that makes this book such a tasty offering.

It begins with one very small dinosaur foraging for fruit which goes into a basket.

Lurking in the background are some BIG, sharp-clawed, pointy toothed dinosaurs with their eyes on a tasty snack or two. And seemingly these speedy movers are never satisfied …

While the confrontational drama is taking place between the marauders and one ENORMOUS dino.

little humans will be relieved to see the little dinosaur has found a safe place to withdraw from the action before embarking on some further foraging, which is shown on the final endpapers.

Terrific fun with thrills aplenty, early years audiences will find this irresistible and, like those big hungry dinosaurs, are bound to demand second or even third helpings …

Nop

Nop
Caroline Mageri
Walker Books

Meet Nop resident of Oddmint’s Dumporium, a dusty place piled high with assorted goods all in need of some mending, fixing or fancyfi-ing by those that work by candle light.

When it comes to Nop though, nothing, be it button, ribbon, or spangle quite fits the bill. Seemingly the bear is doomed to remain on the unwanted shelf instead of being placed in a splendidly crinkly paper bag and carried away in the arms of a happy customer.

But then he spies something red on the floor just waiting to be transformed into an exciting adornment and thus embellished with same, an idea floats into his mind.

Come morning, stitch by stitch

the idea becomes the means to start an exciting adventure in the big wide world where, who knows, perhaps a new friendship awaits.

Spendidly whimsical, Caroline Mageri’s Nop with its themes of hope, enterprise and new beginnings is an uplifting, lyrically written delight.