Playing and Learning with Board Books

Little Bear Where Are You?
Little Dog Where Are You?

Ekaterina Trukhan
Nosy Crow

It’s true to say that babies enjoy playing with mirrors and this new Where Are You? series has a mirror on every spread.
Taking inspiration from the hugely popular Family Finger rhyme, Little Bear introduces in turn little frog, little deer, little rabbit and little bear by means of a text with a repeat pattern: ‘Little —— , / Little —— , / where are you? // On the opposite page, comes the reply, ‘Here I am! Here I am! / Where are you?’ When the animal’s face is flipped down we see the words, “There you are!’, and a mirror is revealed for little humans to see their faces.
The final spread shows all four animals and beneath the fold, the titular character addresses the baby whose face is reflected in the mirror.
The large card flaps are easy to manipulate and sufficiently sturdy to stand up to the frequent use the books are likely to have.
Using the same structure, in Little Dog, illustrator Ekaterina Trukhan portrays first little hamster, followed by little bird, little cat and lastly, little dog (sporting a bobble hat).

Peekaboo Lion
Camilla Reid and Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

This latest in the novelty series with sliders and a final mirror, features wild animals, although they look deceptively friendly in Ingela’s vibrant, patterned illustrations. The playful rhyming text comprises two words per page and introduces animals large and small; and there are opportunities to meet both adult animals and their young on some spreads.
A fun way to develop tinies’ language and manipulative skills together with a surprise finale.

Don’t Mix Up My Puppy
Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson
Little Tiger

Little humans will enjoy getting their paws on this mix-and-match doggie delight, with its five different puppies depicted, one per spread, in Spencer Wilson’s bold illustrations.

First we meet a Dalmatian with a spotty, dotty tail, then a velvety tailed dachshund, next comes a sly terrier whose tail is fancy and flowy; the white poodle’s tail matches his cute, curly self and finally there’s an Irish setter with a fluffy, furry tail.

Toddlers can have fun turning the wheel, finding each pup’s tail and feeling the respective tactile rear end appendages. Just right for developing hand-eye coordination too.

All Change! / Colour Gallery

Here are two new board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

All Change!
Harriet Evans and Linda Tordoff

Transformations in the natural world is the theme of this board book with its clever, enticing cover picture.
By means of the flaps integral to each of Linda Tordoff’s illustrations, we see changes brought about by the seasons, through life-cycles of insects and frogs, the weather, danger, the lunar cycle, the need to catch food, for safety and more. Executed in soft, soothing colours, each scene is pleasing to the eye and the simple text offers a starting point for discussion with very young children.

Colour Gallery
Sophie Ledesma and Isabel Otter

Ready and waiting to take the animal visitors, and readers, on a learning tour around the art gallery is Gigi the giraffe. First stop is the Red Mosaic Hall, followed by the Blue Portrait Gallery, the Green Sculpture Park and the Yellow Landscape Room. This art establishment certainly makes effective use of all its space for there’s a corridor devoted to still life paintings

and the cafe displays abstract art on its walls.
As well as reinforcing the concept of colour in an unusual manner, Isabel Otter’s interactive text, the book’s design with its shaped pages and gatefolds and Sophie Ledesma’s bright illustrations (with a tiny mouse lurking on every spread), provide a fun introduction to the world of art for the very youngest children.

Let’s Go Home, Baby Tiger / Eggs! / Pip and Posy: Favourite Things

Three new board books all published by Nosy Crow: thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Let’s Go Home, Baby Tiger
Carolina Búzio

By means of the sliding discs on each recto, little humans can help the baby animals featured in this chunky book to find their way home. First comes baby tiger, followed in turn by baby parrot, baby elephant and finally, baby crocodile, each of which responds to the respective adult animal’s ‘Let’s go home baby …’

The moving discs and tracks will help to develop hand-eye coordination as young children endeavour to keep the baby animals upright and not make them dizzy by revolving the discs. There are several items to look for on each journey and the verso pages show what they are.

Lots of of fun learning here.

Katie Dale and Jenny Lovlie

A counting book with an egg theme that invites young children to guess what’s inside the eggs shown on each spread. What could be in the one egg about to crack open in the desert?
The nest beside the river contains two eggs: what is soon to crawl out of each? The jungle nest holds three eggs, each with a baby animal waiting to emerge, but what? Four eggs are ready to crack in the nest beneath the ocean: the babies within have lots of legs. I wonder what they could be … The farmyard nest holds five white eggs, just starting to crack and five fluffy birds are ready to hop right out.
A ‘guess what’ game and counting practice presented through Katie Dale’s rhyming text and Jennie Lovlie’s detailed scenes of the nesting locations of the five featured creatures. With a new life theme it’s just right for Easter and beyond.

Pip and Posy: Favourite Things

Inspired by illustrator Axel Scheffler’s original series and based on the TV show for preschool children, this tabbed board book introduces the best pals Pip (a rabbit) and Posy (a mouse) and their other friends, showing how they love playing together dressing up and having adventures. The friends in turn introduce their favourite toys: Froggy is Posy’s favourite and Piggy is Pip’s.
We also meet Jamila the squirrel, Zac the terrier pup who loves to zoom around on his bike, and level-headed Frankie the cat. All very different but with one thing in common: they love playing together.

I suspect adults and toddlers will enjoy reading this together.

Kind Crocodile / Who’s Hiding? On The Farm

Kind Crocodile
Leo Timmers
Gecko Press

Little does Crocodile know when he decides to leave his watery abode and go for a stroll that he’ll end up as an animal rescue service. First comes a mouse fleeing from a scary snake, closely followed by a warthog hotly pursued by a hyena; next is an impala chased by a cheetah and then a rhinoceros with a lion in pursuit. Crocodile sees off the chasers with some strategic and menacing GRRRRs and offers a safe haven to what becomes, with the addition of the heaviest animal, a surprised heap comprising rhino, impala, warthog and mouse each precariously balanced in a tower upon the kind croc’s back. This makes him let’s say, somewhat flattened, physically at least, as well as voiceless.

How will they see off that hungry lion now?

Happily teamwork comes to their rescue; but the last word (make that almost the last) is definitely that of Crocodile, which creates a moment of suspense before his final utterance. Then off they all go, the animal tower somewhat differently arranged.

With Timmers’ humorously expressive mixed media illustrations, simple patterned text and that fun plot twist, this a funny large-format board book to share with little ones.

Who’s Hiding? On The Farm
Little Tiger

When a little chick loses his mummy, he asks Pig to help him find her but they can’t do so without little readers’ assistance. Following Pig’s instructions, they can explore what’s hidden behind the flap on each spread. They will also discover several other little chicks that have tucked themselves away cheeping, and once located those too can help in the search.

With bright jolly art by Pintachan and cutaway pages of farm scenes with minibeasts too, a simple text that includes animal speech bubbles to join in with and a happy ending, there’s plenty to entertain little humans in this fun board book.

Hop, Hop! / One Little Egg

Both these titles are from Little Tiger: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Hop, Hop!
Isabel Otter and Sophie Ledesma

In this interactive ‘slide and seek’ board book little humans can follow Little Bunny through an entire day from sunrise to bedtime. In so doing they will meet Bunny’s forest friends, those that live in and on the river and goodness me, behind a large rock, not completely hidden so youngsters can guess what’s there, is something growly, furry and hungry.

After all that hopping and scurrying, Little Bunny needs to sleep, zzzz.

With sliders to move up and down, or in and out, flaps to open and a wheel to turn, young children will be developing their fine motor skills, enjoying a simple story and feeling involved in Bunny’s day. Then with a final spread that asks, ‘What did you spot on the way?’ showing ten labelled items, they can also develop their observation skills.

For older children, also with a nature theme, and lots of interactive elements is

One Little Egg
Becky Davies and Charlotte Pepper

This sturdy book is part of a non-fiction series that encourages children to use all their senses to actively engage with and explore in detail, the natural world.

Starting with eggs, Charlotte Pepper presents brightly-coloured spreads of birds’ nests, birdsong, feathers and birds in flight. There’s a spread devoted to bird spotting – you can do this without binoculars no matter where you are –

the food chain and urges youngsters to become involved in helping birds (and indirectly all wildlife), survive and thrive. The text presents a wealth of facts, some of which are hidden beneath flaps adding further reader involvement, and there are questions and activity suggestion boards that will stimulate discussion with young children.

A lively, engaging introduction to the wonders of the world of birds.

Not Just Another 123 / Not Just Another abc

Not Just Another 123
Not Just Another abc

illustrated by Jack Viant
Noodle Juice

All kinds of crazy shenanigans occur between the covers of these concept books; their creators clearly had both adult and child audiences in mind when they dreamed them up. Whether or not young children will understand the clever combinations of visual and verbal humour, I have yet to decide. However I certainly had a good laugh at for example, in 123 the chicken and egg conundrum, the flexible flamingos working on their yoga asanas

and the sheep endeavouring to emulate them and the not so elegant octopuses getting their tentacles in a twist as they do a repeat performance of the hokey cokey. After a tongue twister involving toucans, a representative of each animal group turns up on the final spread – a number line – to encourage little humans to count from one to ten.

The abc book uses three letters per spread (except for the y and z page), and the chosen words on each verso combined with the illustration on the recto, present a mini story as well as perhaps, a starting point for a longer tale co-created by adult and child. Facing the words ‘alligator before crocodile’ are two scaly creatures standing outside a door above which is the sign ‘Dr Smiles Dentist’ and via speech bubbles they discuss who should go in first. The possibilities are many here, but my favourite is this …

I suspect the dragon’s thought bubble will go way over the heads of young children though they can have great fun generating ideas as to what might happen next. The fairy is clutching a wand so maybe she can find a way to save herself …

Different parts of speech – adjective, verb, noun, preposition – comprise the word combinations used adding the possibility of an extra grammar lesson for older readers.

As the characters’ speech bubbles on the covers assert ‘Boredom-free guaranteed!’

Where’s Mrs Panda? / Bizzy Bear: Chinese New Year

Both these board books are from Nosy Crow – thank you to the publishers for sending them for review

Where’s Mrs Panda?
Ingela P Arrhenius

In addition to Mrs Panda, Mr Elephant, Mrs Yak and Mr Leopard are hiding.n this latest in Arrhenius’s popular, fun, find the animals felt-flap book. Little ones are asked to help a bird, a small rodent or a butterfly discover their whereabouts. On the final spread is a hidden mirror for the little humans to see their own reflections.

Simple, effective and ideal for sharing with the very youngest.

Bizzy Bear: Chinese New Year
Benji Davies

We join Bizzy Bear and his pals as they celebrate Chinese New Year together. Young children will enjoy using the five sliders to help Bizzy Bear decide on which outfit to wear and hang up the lanterns in a straight row to welcome guests. That done, it’s time to sit down with his friends for a special meal. Then everyone gathers in the square to watch the firework display light up the sky ready to welcome that special festive dragon.

The simple rhyming text, Benji’s spirited scenes that are full of detail and a slider on each spread, ensure lots of involvement for little ones, who along with enjoying story with its interactive element, will develop their fine motor skills and learn something of how the festival is celebrated. If you’ve yet to introduce your little human to Bizzy et al, this is a good place to start especially as it’s the lunar new year this weekend that starts the Year of Rabbit, which Bizzy’s rabbit friends will love.

We Are Love / Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur

These are two new titles from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

We Are Love
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott

Animal parents furry, wrinkly, scaly and feathery invite little humans to watch their demonstrations of love for their offspring. Whether it’s leaping squirrels, plodding pachyderms, diving dolphins, waddling penguins or whatever, we can find loving care in a multitude of places. Young children will be reassured to see that the final pages show a mother and her small child showing their heartfelt love for one another.

A clever cutaway design feature enables the second of the two spreads allocated to each loving parent and little one, to show them coming together to form a heart shape. 

A simple rhyming text that flows nicely and Elliott’s textured illustrations of the featured creatures make for a reassuring lap book or bedtime book to share with the very youngest, some of whom may notice that there are other unnamed animal pairs in the background also forming heart shapes and even some minibeasts forming hearts with their wings.

Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur
Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson

Five dinosaurs provide tactile fun in this matching game of a book. By turning the wheel little ones can help Triceratops find her missing horn; enable Ankylosaurus to get back his lumpy, bumpy club, make sure Velociraptor and her fluffy tail are reunited, 

put Parasaurolophus’s crest where it should be and put Spinosaurus and her scaly tail together again.

The wheel is easily moved by little hands and young children will enjoy meeting the various brightly coloured dinosaurs – in their correct or mixed-up forms. They’ll also enjoy learning (and trying to get their tongues around) their correct names; these are provided on the back cover though not in the simple repetitive text. Interactive, inventive and appealing.

Begin the New Year with a Board Book or Two

Name Your Numbers
Smriti Halls and Edward Underwood
Walker Books

Using a jaunty rhyming text Smriti Halls introduces little ones to eleven different creatures, each of which offers a counting opportunity and is accompanied by a bit part player (or two). Here for instance is Leopard Evan:

Both words and number symbols for one to ten are used and the final spread has a snappy stand-out surprise, no numerals or number words but a chance to take those counting skills to twenty and beyond. Edward Underwood’s illustrations cry out for youngsters to emulate the subject of each spread be that with some bouncing, trumpery-trumping , growling, roaring or whatever.

One slight snag rears its wings however when Billy Bee states with reference to his stripes, “I’ve got three!” Astute observers may well point out that here the image shows the bee with four yellow stripes and three black ones.

Zebra Won’t Wear Spots
Noodle Juice and Mr Griff
Noodle Juice

Zebra detests spots, so much so that she never wears any clothes, until that is, her pals point out that going nude can be thought of as “rather rude!” There’s a snag though, Zebra doesn’t possess clothes of any kind. So, her friends take her on a shopping spree and after an exhausting day, Zebra has clothing for all occasions. Even then, so unused to being clad is our stripy friend, that she gets all in a tizzy when she has to choose what to wear for a trip to the pool; and as for drying herself with a spotty towel – not a chance: nor will she don a spotty sweater in the park as darkness descends

or join in the game of Twister at Giraffe’s birthday party.

However hard she tries though, there are some spots that simply cannot be avoided …

This board book about an aspect of good manners presented in a rhyming text and accompanied by wacky illustrations of Zebra and her friends will certainly amuse little ones who will love the unexpected turnaround.

Where’s My Santa? / My Little World: Christmas

Here are two Christmassy board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Where’s My Santa?
Becky Davies, illustrated by Kate McLelland

When Santa goes missing, it’s up to little fingers (and eyes) to track him down in this touchy-feely book. Guided by the simple text with its repeat refrain and with boot prints, a snowman’s hat, sparkly boots belonging to Elf,

Reindeer’s warm coat providing different tactile experiences and the trail of colourful prints traversing the pages towards a final fold-down flap that reveals the object of the search, very young children will delight in exploring Kate McLelland’s brightly coloured festive pages to discover Father Christmas’s whereabouts.

My Little World: Christmas
Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

There’s seasonal counting fun for the very young as Patricia Hegarty’s rhyming narrative takes listeners and readers from ‘One little Christmas tree’ through to ‘ten presents to find on Christmas Day’.

On the way they’ll encounter a host of characters – polar bears, bunny rabbits, owls, snowmen, carol singers, penguins,

elves and reindeer, all in one way or another busy around the central die-cut Christmas tree, until those reindeer take Santa on his delivery round and the tree is adorned with baubles and lights. All this is shown in Fiona Galloway’s bright, jolly scenes of snowy fun and frolics.

Perfect Presents / Let’s Play, Little Rabbit

These are two small books from Gecko Press – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Perfect Presents
Anke Kuhl

In this mini hardback wherein Kuhl uses crayon to great effect, a monstrous-looking creature sits in an armchair, waiting. He keeps looking at his watch until BRRING! goes the doorbell. Enter a skinny lizard pulling a trolley, who greets him with, “Best wishes for today!” Clearly the large creature is celebrating his birthday and the visitor holds out first a cake, then a bunch of flowers and finally, a gift-wrapped surprise, all of which the monstrous one devours with obvious relish.

He then grabs hold of his guest: surely the lizard isn’t going to be consumed too? The tension mounts … Anyone for tea? …

Hugely satisfying: I hope it’s to your taste; it certainly is to mine.

For younger children is

Let’s Play, Little Rabbit
Jörg Mühle

Herein we see Little Rabbit behaving in the same exuberant fashion as would his human toddler counterparts – playing peekaboo, enjoying a swing and wanting to go ever higher, splashing in a tub of water and having fun with a soft toy rabbit. “Can my little rabbit play too? One, two, three….” “Wheeee!” comes the request in Jöge Mühle’s simple first person text, which speaks directly to his intended audience.

A sweetly playful, vibrantly illustrated, interactive board book to share with the very youngest.

Board Books for Christmas

Cat Family Christmas
Lucy Brownridge and Eunyoung Seo
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

There’s an olde world feel to this Christmas count down. We follow the Cat Family through the busy days in the run-up to the festival, right through to Christmas Eve in this lift-the-flap book.

With twelve days to go to the big day, after many hours working in town, Mummy Cat joins her kittens just back from school and Daddy Cat already there to welcome them, and then it’s all systems go. There’s so much to do: the first being putting up the decorations – a task for the kittens; then comes the baking of Christmas cake and mince pies – hmmm you can almost smell that lovely spicy aroma. While their parents write cards, the kittens write to Santa and the following day, the family go to meet Granny and Grandpa at the station. Next the Cat Family go out into the village to do some cat-a-carolling, “We fish you a meow Christmas and a tabby new year”. 

With six days to go, there’s a bit of garden harvesting needed of veggies for the Christmas feast and finally with all the last minute jobs done, it’s time for a snuggly Christmas Eve with the family and a regaling of Grandpa’s special story.

There’s seasonal cheer aplenty here with not a hint of a cross word or a tear and the family seemingly cruise through all the preparations. Eunyoung Seo’s scenes are bursting with detail and each spread has a plethora of small flaps to peep behind (careful handling required), where further details are revealed. This large format board book will last more than one season in contrast to the traditional advent calendar; moreover it’s something to share with your little ones.

Santa’s Christmas Countdown
Kath Jewitt and Sebastien Braun
Townhouse Publishing

Poor Santa! Having lost his list of jobs to do, he’s worked himself into such a state, till, lightbulb moment: he’s been doing them for so many years that surely he can now recall every single task. It’s surely worth a try so off he goes. First he checks the sleigh is clean and shiny; then there are all the presents to wrap and his own snacks to put in his food box. Singing jolly songs helps him get into the spirit of the season and of course, the reindeer must be well fed and their coats brushed. Good old elves, they’re at the ready for this job and more.

Then Santa works on himself: that entails donning his lucky socks and pants, some tonsorial treatment and then it’s time to get into his red outfit (heated of course). That done, he feeds his moggy, makes a hot chocolate, hitches the reindeer, loads the sleigh and Ho! Ho! Ho! off he jolly well goes on his round.

A touchy-feely, fun book for tinies with a rhyming text and Sebastien Braun’s bright, busy illustrations. It’s great to see a black, bespectacled Santa and a diverse team of elves too.

1 2 3 Sleepy Me / I Can Count

Here are two playful counting books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

1 2 3 Sleepy Me
Sophie Aggett and Gareth Lucas

This die-cut counting book has a nocturnal theme and moulded textured numerals 1-5 offer a variety of tactile experiences. Strangely Gareth Lucas sets his illustrations of stars to count and talking minibeasts – a ladybird, a firefly, a butterfly, a baby bee and a glow-worm against brightly coloured rather than dark backgrounds, although the final one is rather more subdued as the glow-worm decides it’s time for sleep. The rhyming text begins thus, ‘One little night star shining over you. “Goodnight!” says a ladybird as she spots …’ and continues adding a star 

until in addition to the five twinkly stars there’s a full moon in the sky and all five minibeasts assemble to bid, ‘Goodnight, everyone!’
Simple, interactive pre bedtime counting fun for tinies.

I Can Count
Lauren Crisp and Thomas Elliott

This cleverly designed board book is intended to help little ones with both counting and number recognition. A die-cut shape through both the covers and the pages contains an arched shape plastic rod through which are threaded ten beads. The rhyming text alternates giving an instruction like ‘Horses gallop in the sun. Can you count them as they run? or asking a question such as ‘How many arms do starfish grow?’ Additionally on each page is the relevant numeral and on each spread the sentence, “Slide the beads to help you count!’

On the 10 page stands a rocket and rather than counting up from 1, the instruction is ‘Join the countdown to see it fly.’ encouraging children to count backwards 10 9 8 etc … LIFT OFF! 

Thomas Elliott provides the brightly coloured illustrations on every page with cute googly-eyed characters and in addition to maths skills little ones will develop their fine motor skills.

My First lift-the-flap Nursery Rhymes / Bizzy Bear My First Memory Game: Things That Go

Hours of fun guaranteed from these two Nosy Crow board books – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

My First lift-the-flap Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius

In this sturdily built, large format nursery rhyme board book Ingela P Arrhenius illustrates fourteen popular nursery rhymes and songs, each with a flap to lift. Her beautifully patterned, striking scenes playfully hide either key elements of each rhyme, or sometimes, additional characters. From Sing a Song of Sixpence to Incy Wincy Spider and Little Miss Muffet

to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, it’s never too early to introduce little ones to the delights of nursery rhymes, the bedrock of playful language, though sadly many children start preschool knowing none at all, or only one or two. On the back cover is a QR code to scan enabling adults and little ones to listen to and sing along to the rhymes as they turn the pages of what I suspect will quickly become a favourite book that parents and carers will enjoy sharing over and over.
The same is true of

Bizzy Bear My First Memory Game: Things That Go
Benji Davies

Containing four scenes with lots of action going on – the construction site, the city, the airport and outer space – each venue offers three games to develop memory skills and enhance the vocabulary of little humans. To play hide-and-seek the sliders all start closed and a little hand should open them one at a time and then search the full page scene opposite for the vehicle revealed. Matching pairs requires players to remember the positions of the vehicles beneath the sliders and the search and find game has three questions, the answers being found in the relevant large illustration.

Bizzy Bear has a special role to play at the building site: he drives a large yellow bulldozer clearing the site for the other team members to begin their work. The city scene shows a railway line as well as things that go up in the sky and on the road. In this illustration, Bizzy Bear is a passenger on the train rather than a worker.

He’s taken on a new role as a pilot of the jumbo jet in the airport scene and finally, in the space scene Bizzy is an astronaut. His rocket has just landed on a green planet far from earth where there are aliens waiting to greet him – let’s hope they are friendly ones. Benji Davies’ Bizzy Bear character is already popular with young children: I suspect he’ll win even more fans with this book.

Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia / Night-Night Animals

Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia
Sally Symes, illustrated by Hanako Clulow
Britannica Books

With just over seventy pages in all, this board book first encyclopaedia is divided into sections: our world, animals, plants, body, food, machines, art & music, shapes and numbers, every one of which is beautifully illustrated in bold colours. Each section begins and ends with a full page picture and the accompanying suitably simple text is thoughtfully worded to read like an opening and finale. 

For example Our World starts thus: ‘Our world is a place called Earth. In the morning, the sun comes up and the day begins.’ and concludes, ‘At the end of the day, the moon and stars light up the night sky.’ So, it would work well if an adult and child shared the book, one section per sitting. Little ones will love joining in with all the ‘sound’ words: this section has ‘Plip-plop!’ ‘Flitter! Flutter!’, ‘Gurgle! Burble!, ‘Crash! Smash!’ and several farm animal noises. 

Just the right amount of information is included in each section to engage small children, while also enhancing their vocabulary and knowledge.(A consultant Dr Amanda Gummer was used to this end.) It’s good to see that care has been taken to include a diverse range of humans in every topic presented.
A book to add to family collections if there is a very young child.

Night-Night Animals
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott
Little Tiger

This ‘pull the sliders, change the picture’ title takes little ones to various natural locations where it’s time for the fauna to go to sleep. First visit is the forest wherein there are rabbits, deer, a fox, a mouse and a nesting bird. Which one is nocturnal and needs waking with the help of the slider?
The savannah animals all seem to have shut their eyes already except for one; he needs help to get to sleep. The deep sea has lots of sleepy creatures large and small but one with eight limbs needs the reader’s help. After helping whichever of the rainforest animals is wide awake, it’s the turn of little humans including one very bouncy person who has to stop all those boings.

A fun, interactive bedtime book for the very youngest children who will enjoy assisting the animals before nodding off themselves.

Mind Your Manners, Dinosaurs! / One Little Bug

These are two recent board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

Mind Your Manners, Dinosaurs!
Danielle McLean and Gareth Williams

A fun book with cutaway pages that introduces toddlers to some basic table manners as one by one five little dinosaurs assemble around the table for their dinner. On the recto of each, one of the five dinos is introduced and beneath a flap, which is an integral part of the illustration, is a sentence that moves the action forward. Turn over and on the verso that same dinosaur is now seated and showing how to ask politely for something, while on the recto we meet dinosaur number two. This same pattern continues until all five little dinosaurs are sitting ready to eat and Mother Dinosaur reminds them all of a few additional basic manners and wishes them ‘Bon Apétit’.

Cleverly constructed, cheerily illustrated and with a simple upbeat text that praises the little ones appropriately, this offers interactive learning for the very young.

One Little Bug
Becky Davies and Jacob Souva

This lift-the-flap board book offers a good way to introduce very young children to minibeasts, along with of course, seeing the real things in the wild. Little ones will discover the best places to look for bugs and how to collect some for observation. There’s information about the amazing homes some bugs construct, for instance, black garden ants build nests with different chambers for different purposes, as well as a look at how humans can build a bug hotel – a safe insect habitat to be used for living or hibernation purposes. Readers also find out about the abilities of some of our back garden dwellers: did you know for example that a cockroach is able to live without a head for up to a week and also survive under water for more than half an hour?

There’s plenty to explore on every spread as a lot of additional information is hidden beneath the flaps and adults will need to help them digest some of the text, so this is definitely not a book to hurry through.
Altogether a beautiful introduction both visual and verbal, to the natural world.

More Board Book Fun

These are recent board books from Gecko Press and Nosy Crow – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Lionel Eats All By Himself
Lionel Poops
Éric Veillé

Lionel is a lively little lion and in the first story he’s endeavouring to become an independent eater cheered on by a paternal voice as he consumes his peas, his pumpkin, a slice of cake, a banana and some kind of pudding, using either his paws or a spoon. After each food, although most of it has gone into Lionel’s mouth some has splattered onto his mane making it increasingly blobby 

until it’s almost entirely covered. Then after a hearty roaring burp that sends the blobs on his mane flying every which way, the little creature makes it known he wants to get down and as he walks away from his high chair we see a trail of food.
Doubtless little humans will enjoy seeing Lionel’s increasingly messy mane as he receives repeated praise for his eating.

In the second book Lionel is trying to get to grips with pooping in the appropriate place but as he bounces on his trampoline the urge comes upon him and he contemplates dumping elsewhere: on some passing cows, a pair of wild cats, tennis balls, a couple of polar bears, a bus, even the Eiffel Tower and the sun. However with each passing possibility he receives a loud ‘NO, LIONEL, NO!’ aside and it’s that which causes him to seek another possible place on which to poop. Eventually our infant lion bounces right onto his potty and there, not only does he drop his pile of poo but he also has a wee – hurrah! A rousing cheer comes from all the animals and landmarks Lionel very nearly pooped upon. 

Veilllé’s vibrant scenes of the mischievous Lionel in combination with the simple texts with their repeat refrains will delight young humans and will surely make adults laugh too.

Who’s Hiding?
Satoru Onishi

Those who play the Who’s Hiding? game with this book will meet eighteen different animals. For each of the double spreads Onishi uses alternately white or a brightly coloured background. On each of the coloured spreads readers are asked to work out the answer to the titular question with the missing animal(s) merging with the background, although the black and white facial features – eyes, nose and mouth – are still visible.
After the first, which introduces the named characters, on all the spreads with white backgrounds, a creature (or more than one) is in turn, crying, 

angry, with horns, facing backwards, sleeping, facing backwards (the answer is different this time). Finally out go the lights: this spread is black save for eighteen pairs of eyes and the question is “Who’s who?’
An engaging and entertaining alternative to the usual seek-and-find books through which little ones can sharpen their observation skills, for attention to detail is vital and memory is also important. Why does zebra appear to be suffering from the grumps on every spread, one wonders. Is that its normal nature or has something upset this particular animal?

National Trust: Big Outdoors for Little Explorers: Woods
Anne-Kathrin Behl
Nosy Crow

Young children will meet a multitude of creatures in the woodland habitat visited in this book. There’s a woodpecker that creates a loud tap, tap sound as it pecks at the tree trunk with its sharp beak (the slider really demonstrates this well), while among the trees lurks a fallow deer and a hedgehog scuttles by. Minibeasts aplenty are there too – munching caterpillars, ladybirds and a beautiful blue butterfly. Turn the page and a couple of moles have popped up from their tunnels and rabbits hop hither and thither.

Night has come on the final spread bringing out some foxes from their dens and owls are a hunting.

A lovely introduction to some of the fauna, and indeed flora, of a wood.

Board Book World

Who’s Tickling Tilly?
Rob Jones
Pavilion Children’s Books

Following on from a search for Brian’s Bottom, Rob Jones’ second concertina fold-out book features some prehistoric creatures, one very lengthy one in particular.

In the forest Tilly dinosaur is being tickled, but who is the tickler and where can they be? It’s certainly making her laugh but her enormously long body makes discovering the perpetrator of those fidgetty-inducing feelings very tricky. It’s not Valerie – she’s busy with her cup of tea; Terry is otherwise engaged enjoying his book beside the volcano; 

Al (in the swamp) has already had his fill; Steve, hidden in the long grass can’t help; but is there anything in the cave that could be the culprit? A-ha! Lo and behold something has emerged there and is eager to say hello to very long Tilly. 

Like many stories, there are two sides to this one: the first has the questions and answers text concerning the hunt for the tickler; opening it the opposite way reveals the nocturnal happenings: 

Tilly busy with her new arrivals while her prehistoric pals enjoy either some play or slumber blissfully under the stars.

Unfolding to a whole two metres of double-sided fun, the combination of playful visual storytelling and clever design add up to a hugely enjoyable experience for the very young and those who share it with them.

Animal Families: River
Jane Ormes
Nosy Crow

Young children are introduced to four animal families whose habitat is the river and its environs in this beautifully illustrated board book. There’s a drake, a hen and their ducklings, the father otter – a boar, a mummy – a sow and their offspring – pups. My favourites, the king and queen dragonfly and their nymphs come next 

and finally the father swan, called a cob, the mother, a pen and their four cygnets. The final double fold-out reveals all four families – a paddling of ducks, a flight of dragonflies, a raft of otters and a bevy of swans.

Lots of new vocabulary learning potential, counting opportunities and lift-the-flap fun in this chunky book to share at home or in a nursery setting. Adults especially will appreciate all the lovely textures and patterns in Jane Ormes’ illustrations.

Rosa Explores Life Cycles
Jessica Spanyol
Child’s Play

Using the dialogue between Rosa and her friends, this book, which is part of a new STEM series for the very young, is both fun and educative. The four children, Rosa, Jiyoon, Noah and Joshua are excited to discover frogspawn in their pond. They go on to learn about metamorphosis by careful observations of the growth and changes the frogspawn undergoes until they have some baby frogs. So excited are they that Joshua’s suggestions that they create another pond in the hope that other frogs will lay their eggs therein is enthusiastically received and the friends set to work right away. The four have clearly already absorbed a fair amount of basic information and are able to explain what they know and to make connections.

Jessica Spanyol’s signature style art – bold, bright colours, exciting images and diverse characters – work well to illustrate the concepts.

Almost all nurseries and foundation stage educators include change and life-cycles as part of the curriculum and this little book is definitely one to add to any collection for young children.

Sarah Dellow
Child’s Play

Little ones will enjoy exploring the wealth of patterns Sarah Dellow has created with spots, stripes, hexagons, ovals and more as they discover the seven named ocean creatures in this board book with its peep-through die cut pages and exciting images. This little book offers lots of potential for language development and playful experimenting with creative materials.

What Can You See? In Space
Maria Perera and Kate Ware
Little Tiger

Making use of cut out pages with different shaped holes cleverly positioned, illustrator Maria Perera gradually reveals various basic space facts starting when a rocket blasts off skywards, launched by people in Mission Control Centre. Young children are introduced to the astronauts and discover what it’s like to be inside a spacecraft; learn a little about the moon and what can be seen on and from its surface. There’s a look at the solar system, a spread about the sun and nebulas, and the final one shows the Milky Way and mentions other galaxies too. With the factual text supplied by Kate Ware, this sturdily built space themed board book is a good starting point for the very youngest.

Fish, Llamas and a Visit to the Zoo

1 2 3 Fish in the Sea
Luna Parks, illustrated by Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

There’s tactile fun along with the counting and number recognition between the covers of this brightly coloured, textured, rhyming board book. We start with one three coloured little fishy swimming in the ocean, that one meets a speedy friend, and then another. The three explore inside a cave where they meet fishy number four, followed soon after as they dash around by fishy number 5. But then as they swim 5 abreast a scary shark gives chase. Time to hide little fishes …

Be Calmer, Llama!
Rosamund Lloyd and Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

In her rhyming, counting down narrative, Rosamund Lloyd starts with five llamas frenetically rushing around. They decide that it’s time to slow down for that way lies more greater happiness so they hope. Each one finds a different way to become calmer: the first does so by means of water, the next gives himself a bit of self-love, leaving three giddy creatures. A wise one does some relaxing exercises, leaving two females; one undertakes some deep exhalations and as the last is anticipating some solo relaxation, back bounce the others. I wonder what happens …
Counting fun set against Gareth Lucas’ five calm-inducing natural backgrounds, each bursting with wildlife that adults and toddlers can talk about together, in addition to trying out some of the llamas’ ways to slow down.

Not really a board book but offering a wealth of language possibilities is

Lola Loves Animals

In this wordless picture book illustrated with brightly coloured digital art, readers join young Lola and her mum on a trip to the zoo. Its clever concertina construction shows the red path they take against a white background on the walk to the zoo and as Lola enjoys her encounters with in turn an elephant, a gorilla, a moose, giraffes and a hippo. (I love the changing emotions on the faces of the characters). Her toy duck meanwhile enjoys making a new friend. 

During this time the weather has changed from sunny to rainy, and as they head homewards, it’s dark.

At the end is a lift the flap door; this gives readers entry to the second part of Lola’s adventure on the other side of the page. Here, a black background shows her dream of flying through the air and having an exciting adventure with the animals she met at the zoo.

The clever accordion fold means that the book stands up easily enabling it to act as a backdrop for a child’s imaginative play (thus fulfilling the cover boast: ‘Book & Playset in one!’) There’s a wealth of storytelling potential between the covers of this clever book, especially if you add some small world characters and objects.

Pops / Make Tracks: Trucks

Gavin Bishop
Gecko Press

With a straightforward, minimal text and close up illustrations, Gavin Bishop zooms right in to the important elements of an activity while highlighting too, the close bond between a child and grandfather (Pops). We see clasped hands – one large one small, as they meet; a single boot and two small bare feet walking, and so on as the two gather together the essentials (some from the garden), for making their sandwiches – one each. They then tell stories to one another and fall asleep side by side. The love they share is palpable in such actions as the tender manner in which Pops extends a supportive hand just in case the little child drops the egg.

Interestingly we are never shown the whole body of either person as they engage in life’s simple pleasures made all the more enjoyable by their close connection. Full of warmth, this is a lovely book for a grandfather to share with a very young child and a good starting point for conversations about special times shared with individual’s own grandparents.

Make Tracks: Trucks
Johnny Dyrander
Nosy Crow

This is a real treat for truck loving young children. In addition to the cover, it introduces five kinds of truck: a forklift, a lorry, a car transporter,

a ‘monster’ truck and a dustbin lorry. The parts of each one are clearly labelled in a large illustration on the verso beneath a two sentence introduction. On each recto is a more detailed scene around which little fingers can manipulate the counter bearing a tiny illustration matching the one opposite. So, for instance in response to ‘Can you drive this forklift around the warehouse?’ children can follow the instruction “Drive up and down the aisles in straight lines.’ and in so doing develop their fine motor skills. On this particular spread there’s also the question “How many lorries are waiting to be loaded?’

Each of the other spreads is equally interactive with a simple counting activity and another question set into the scene. Bright and alluring with the potential for hours of fun learning, what more can one ask from a non fiction board book?

You Can Be A Supercat / Vehicles

You Can Be A Supercat
Rosamund Lloyd and Chris Dickason
Little Tiger

Here’s a rhyming narrative that, together with fun feline scenes, invites little ones to participate in some role play. I’m sure small human would-be superheroes will love the opportunity to emulate wonder kitty Supercat as she whizzes around smiling at everyone and sporting her snazzy underpants, cloak and funky purple mask (there’s even one of those tucked inside the front cover for the little reader to wear) and performing acts of kindness as she goes. She’s always ready to offer help or invite a lonely person she spies to play with her, and despite not having lots of toys Supercat is more than willing to share those she has.

When it comes to a vocal rendition, this wonder kitty will sing with gusto and assuredly bring on a laugh as she performs with her feline flair. What youngster would want to turn down the chance to be a Supercat just like her; for sure it’ll make those who seize the opportunity feel good inside.

OKIDOKID, illustrated by Liuna Viradi
Little Tiger

This lift-the-flap book uses all kinds of means of getting around to present and explore five pairs of opposites. Thus a tricycle goes slow whereas a train moves fast; a submarine dives down low but a hot air balloon drifts high up in the sky; as she moves a pedal cyclist is quiet, on the other hand a motorcyclist’s vehicle is noisy.

There’s a small yacht sailing on the waves and there’s also a big steamboat and finally, the pink van is empty but the larger van has a full load. The book becomes interactive when little ones open the flap on each recto but adults can instigate many more interactions. For instance they might ask a child, “where do you think the train is going to?”; “how many passengers can you count?” and so on – there are numerous possibilities herein that are presented in Liuna Viradi’s bold, bright stylised illustrations

Tickle!, Roar and Embrace Nature with Board Books

Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín
Little Tiger

Little ones will need their fingers at the ready to help the creatures in this lift-the-flap board book wherein Moose has set himself up as the cookie to crack in a tickling contest. An assortment of animals – teams and individuals – try their luck at making the antlered animal laugh using their paws, (team Beaver), an array of tail feathers – that’s the proud peacock, then in turn, gorilla, octopus with an abundance of tickling potential

and finally, in the nick of time, a small child. Now maybe he can find Moose’s weak spot …
There’s so much to enjoy in this story told through Jorge Martįn’s droll visuals, the humorous speech bubbles, the sign (watch carefully what happens to that as the contest proceeds) and the surprise sound hidden beneath the final flap. A hoot from start to finish this.

Look, it’s ROAR ROAR Lion
Camilla Reid and Clare Youngs
Nosy Crow

This is the first in a fun-filled lift-the-flap board book series with a repeat pattern narrative written by Camilla Reid and striking collage illustrations, each with a decorative foil highlight element, by Clare Youngs. In turn Camilla introduces Clip Clop Zebra, Ooo Ooo Monkey,

Munch Munch Hippo and the titular Lion. Hidden behind four of the five felt flaps are mini beasts of which the text asks, ‘But can you see the … ?’ while the final spread recaps the creatures’ sounds and then asks ‘But what do YOU say?’ and when the flap is lowered a surprise, shiny mirror is revealed into which tinies will love to make their very own sound.
Interactive fun and offering just the kind of experiences to help develop that all important books are fun message in the very youngest.

100 First Nature Words
Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

In the same series as 100 First Words and 100 First Words: City, this large format board book has two large flaps to explore on each double spread.The first has a Garden theme, the second shows Seaside themed objects large and small; in the third little ones visit the Countryside,

the fourth has a Forest setting. Next comes a Jungle spread, followed by one rather oddly entitled ‘Cold’ and the final pages are devoted to the Seasons, two per page.
Tinies will certainly have fun looking at each one, naming all the items in Edward Underwood’s bold, bright pictures, revealing the characters – human, animal or plant – hidden behind the shaped flaps. Highly engaging, lots of fun and with great learning potential, this is a super book for developing vocabulary and getting little ones talking about the natural world.

I Love Me! / We Are the Rainbow!

I Love Me!
Marvyn Harrison and Diane Ewen
Macmillan Children’s Books

Narrated by two small children, this enormously empowering book of positive affirmations came about as a result of the author Marvyn’s own child-rearing experience.

Starting on a Monday, it takes us through the week giving examples to back up the powerful statement. So, Monday’s declaration, ‘I am brave’ is demonstrated by using the big slide, superhero play, facing up to monsters and showing courage in new situations.

Tuesday is brain boosting day with showing one’s skill at maths, reading, dressing and potion brewing. And so it continues through the week as in turn the focus word is brave, kind, 

happy, loving and on Sunday, ‘We are beautiful!’ Those though aren’t the only uplifting statements the book contains, as is revealed beneath the fold-out page that comes before the author’s notes for parents and carers.

This book, with Diane Ewen’s bold, eye-catching mixed media illustrations of the affirmations in practice might have originated with black parents/carers and their offspring in mind, but the powerful feelings of self-worth it will engender in children are crucial to developing confidence in every single youngster no matter who they are, making it an important book for all family and classroom collections.

We Are the Rainbow!
Claire Winslow and Riley Samels
Sunbird Books

One colour at a time, this lovely little rainbow of a board book explores the LGBTQIA+ flag, its symbolism and history. The first eight spreads each use a colour to highlight a particular attribute: purple is for spirit, a reminder to listen to your heart, you are unique. Blue is for harmony, ‘Together our voices can change the world.’ Yellow is sunlight – ‘Happiness grows when you let your light shine.’ These important heartfelt messages are for everyone so the next colour, brown, is for inclusivity and this is followed by black for diversity.

Having presented each of the colours of the rainbow plus black and brown, 

we see a joyful rainbow spread: ‘The rainbow is for PRIDE. Pride means being glad to be who you are’. The final spread is devoted to a short history of how the Pride flag developed since it was first created in 1973.

Yes, this is a board book but its messages of acceptance, empathy, kindness, inclusivity and celebrating who you are, are vital for everyone; it can easily be used with older children, perhaps in a circle time or assembly.

A Trio of Board Books

Sophie has Lunch
Sophie Goes to Sleep

Templar Publishing

Designed to foster routines that create happy mealtimes and bedtimes, these two board books feature a giraffe toy from France, ‘Sophie la girafe’.

In the first it’s 12.30pm – time for the little giraffe to have her lunch. Before that though, as per the instructions, she should wash her hooves (the text says, “Before we eat, we should wash our hands.’) Then having done so and helped set the table, we see what foods are on offer – it’s good that there are several vegetables and Sophie tries cucumber for the very first time. Seemingly she enjoyed her first course for her plate is almost empty and she’s ready to choose something sweet and healthy from the fridge.
In addition to the simple main, always upbeat narrative, each double spread has a helpful tip for adult sharers.

In the second book Sophie is almost ready for bed. But first she should tidy away her toys, enjoy a splishy splashy bath, brush her teeth – as per the instructions, then put on her pyjamas. Clever Sophie! She appears to have done this by herself and once in bed, it’s time for a bedtime story and a cuddle before she snuggles right down under her favourite blanket and light dimmed, drifts off to sleep.
With brightly illustrated, textured pages, practical tips from Lizzie Noble and simple home-related language, there’s lots of learning potential for little ones here.

Bizzy Bear My First Memory Game : Animals
Benji Davies and Camilla Reid
Nosy Crow

There’s an abundance of animals large and small to be discovered in the four settings – the farm, the zoo, beneath the sea and in the park – that Benji Davies illustrates in his busy scenes for this large format board book. At each location, Bizzy Bear has a different role: he brings food for the farm animals, acts as ranger driving around visitors to the zoo, is at the helm of a submarine under the sea and enjoys a cycle around the park.

There are three memory games for each location: hide and seek wherein all the sliders start closed and then a little hand should open them one at a time and search in the full page scene opposite for the creature revealed beneath each slider. Matching pairs is game two where memorising the animals’ positions beneath the sliders is required

and the third is a search and find game with three questions, the answers to which are found in the relevant large picture.

With a wealth of fun language possibilities, memory building and more (depending on the age of the child) this is recommended for family enjoyment especially, though I’m sure imaginative early years practitioners can also think of ways to share it with small groups.

Natural History Board Books

Who’s Hiding: In the Garden?
Pintachan and Amelia Hepworth
Little Tiger

Having lost her five babies, Mummy Snail needs help to find them. First she asks Frog and thanks to him, locates the first of her missing offspring. Following Mouse’s suggestion, she discovers baby number two and Puppy’s advice enables her to find the third. With two still in hiding along comes Butterfly as she approaches the strawberry plant. You can guess what’s beneath one of the juicy fruits … and that leaves just one. Now where can it be? …
With flaps for little fingers to manipulate in Pintachan’s bold, bright cut away spreads of the search, a simple narrative with speech bubbles and sounds coming from the baby snails to join in with, Amelia Hepworth’s countdown narrative provides plenty to engage little ones who participate in Mummy Snail’s hunt.

One Little Seed
Becky Davies and Charlotte Pepper
Little Tiger

It never ceases to amaze this adult reviewer how from one tiny seed, a lovely flower can grow, often indeed many, many beautiful flowers. It all depends on what kind of seed whether you get a single bloom or a multitude all blooming on one plant and we see both examples in Charlotte Pepper’s bright, alluring illustrations.
In her text for this biggish board book, Becky Davies’s engaging narrative certainly encourages young children to go outdoors with an adult, involve themselves in nature and use all their senses to investigate the flora, (along with the fauna and natural environment in general) around them,

preferably with the book to hand.
There’s a spread with information about how to grow your own flower from seed, and/or a bulb; another showing some of the delicious fruits and vegetables flowering plants produce; we visit a community garden and finally are reminded of the cycle of life in which every one of us, young and not so young can play a part. With a wealth of flaps to explore – several per spread – with further information – visual and verbal – beneath each, this book will one hopes, motivate little ones to be outdoor explorers.

The Tree Book
Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Illustrated by Hannah Alice, this large format book was produced in consultation with Simon Toomer, recently appointed Curator of Living Collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The sturdy, see-through pages contain a considerable amount of information written in a young child-friendly style. Interesting, fun and interactive, it introduces users to the inner workings of a tree.
The cut out, see-through pages allow you to ‘look inside’ each part of the tree – roots, trunk, branches and leaves – and see how it functions and grows. Each page presents a different tree-related topic such as new leaves, flowers and pollen, leaves and photosynthesis,

fruits and seeds, mighty minibeasts, underground roots of different types of trees.
The written narrative, with corresponding stylised but clear pictures, takes us through the four seasons and concludes with a look at the importance of caring for and perhaps planting new trees. Without these wonderful plants, none of us would have fresh oxygen to breath.
Walking in a place that has lots of trees is one of my favourite things to do, and I’d certainly suggest it’s never too early to start fostering a love of trees in children; this book could be a good place to start.

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime
Rotraut Susanne Berner

The award-winning creator of the seasonal Bustletown series of large format picture books shows us the town’s nocturnal happenings across an hour in this latest offering.

Look very closely – that’s always what you need to do to get the most from each spread – and you’ll see on the opening pages that it’s ten o’clock on a kitchen clock in a multi-generational residence. There’s still a fair bit of activity in and around the building: a boy (Joshua) is spending the night under canvas and reading by torchlight while his father (presumably) points to his wristwatch.
A couple (Cara and John) are taking a stroll – we learn the names from the back cover – and a cyclist, Frank rides past, sans light.
If we follow these characters, stories unfold. As Frank passes a petrol station with a police car being filled at the pump, one of the officers notices the lack of lights on his bike

and Tony chases after and eventually apprehends him several minutes later. I love the sleepover on the same spread – how many of the literary pictures do you recognise exhibited in the cultural centre?

Turn over and Frank is now pushing his bike, the strollers sit on a bench watching as the police deal with an attempted break-in at the dentist’s above the bookshop and a dog takes Cara’s hat.
On the penultimate spread we see the police have now caught the burglar, and the dog (plus hat) are hotly pursued by a man. In the final scene said hat is once again spied by Cara; Frank chains up his cycle outside a food outlet in front of which the police car is passing.
If you turn back to the beginning, you might decide to follow the man in black seen sitting in the police car in the final scene. Indeed it’s possible to trace all the recurring characters and Berner poses several questions on the back cover that will likely send you back for another read.

With the same mixture of a look-and-find and chances to invent your own stories, there’s hours of fun to be found in this totally immersive, cleverly created book.

A Quartet of Board Books

Bumblebee Grumblebee
David Elliot
Gecko Press

Brilliantly playful is David Elliot’s sequence of rhyming scenarios. We see, among others, an elephant donning dance gear, hence elephant balletphant; there’s a rhinoceros dropping a yummy ice cream cone and becoming crynocerus; pelican rushing to put its botty on a potty – pelican smellican; and when the bumblebee breaks its pull-along toy it becomes grumblebee. Last of all comes turtle – now what could the grinning creature be about to do …
This is just the kind of book to encourage very young children to delight in hearing and creating language and adult sharers will have fun as they read it aloud be that at home or in an early years setting.

How To Say Hello
Sophie Beer
Little Tiger

At the start of the pandemic people had to look for alternative ways to greet one another rather than with a hug or a kiss. Those are two of the ways illustrated in this board book; however some of the others – elbow bumping, smiling, fist bumping, waving would have been acceptable even before restrictions were lifted. How lovely it is to be able once again to give somebody a high five, a cuddle, to greet somebody with the offer of a snack, all of which Sophie Beer portrays in her latest inclusive book for adults to share with toddlers: there’s plenty of fun detail to enjoy in each inviting spread, while so doing.

Sing A Song Of Kindness
Becky Davies and Ciara Ni Dhuinn
Little Tiger

‘Sing a song of kindness, / a pocket full of joy. / Share a slice of friendship /with every girl and boy.’ That’s the first verse of the title song in this board book for which Becky Davies has adapted the words of ten favourite nursery rhymes and songs so that each one offers ideas of friendship, kindness, consideration or compassion.
Each one is illustrated by Ciara Ni Dhuinn who uses images of plants and animals to create gorgeous scenes that offer adult sharers and their little ones plenty to pause and talk about as they sing their way through this book, which is best kept until children are familiar with the originals.

Thank You, Little Rabbit
illustrated by Michelle Carlslund
Happy Yak

It looks as though Little Rabbit is going to have a busy day. As she wanders in the woods she notices her friend Little Squirrel is distressed. He’s hungry and unable to find food but Little Rabbit directs him to search in just the right place (little ones can assist by pulling the ribbon tab) to find a rich source of nuts. She also comes to the aid of Mama Goose and her little ones; they’re lost on their way to warmer climes for the winter. Little Frog has become separated from his friends and Little Rabbit offers a comforting hug and points them out. The result of all that helping is a lot of happy friends and a Little Rabbit who receives a big hug from a parent rabbit.

Little humans should certainly feel part of the action as they manipulate the tabs to reveal the outcomes of Little Rabbit’s helpfulness depicted in Michelle Carlslund’s empathetic illustrations as the story is read aloud.

Mole’s Spectacles / My Garden / Feeling Hungry

Mole’s Spectacles
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Macmillan Children’s Books

We’re back in Acorn Wood and Mole’s spectacles have gone missing. Wherever can they be? He hunts high and low in his house but they’re not in the cupboard, nor in his writing desk. 

They’re definitely not under the floor though there are some visitors down there. Off he goes to check the garden but they aren’t in the pond; nor did he leave them in Weasel’s sweet shop. After a day spent searching Mole’s in need of a comforting hot cuppa. I wonder what he’ll discover in his teapot …

Axel Scheffler adds lots of fun details to Julia Donaldson’s simple rhyming text in their latest lift-the-flap story. Little ones will enjoy helping Mole in his search and talking with an adult about the various parts of his underground home and what they can see in each.

My Garden
illustrated by Marijke Buurlage
Happy Yak

This addition to the My World in 100 words series presents small children and adults exploring the garden through the seasons. In spring lots of things are bursting into flower, it’s a good time for some planting; there’s plenty of things to discover beside the pond too and lots of tools will be needed for doing the gardening. Come summer, the sunflowers have grown tall and it’s so warm that it’s good to cool down under the hose or with a long drink. Up high, everything is in bloom and the bees and butterflies are busy as well as the humans who are planting. Which of the minibeasts will the latter come upon as they work and play? It’s decidedly chillier in the autumn and the wind brings the leaves tumbling down. Time for reaping the bounty of all that planting – there’s a wealth of veggies waiting to be picked or pulled. Winter has just one spread – a snowy one – so everybody is wrapped up warmly.

In addition to the items named in each scene, some of the spreads also have ‘an action word’ and a ‘feeling word’, for instance in autumn a child is ‘kicking’ leaves and an adult and dog are wrapped up because they feel ‘chilly’. 

There’s certainly plenty to explore and talk about with toddlers in Marijke Buurlage’s bright seasonal scenes.

Feeling Hungry
Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

With a rhyming text and appealing photographic images of a series of animals in natural surroundings, this board book explores choices of food, getting ready for a meal – washing hands, helping lay the table, good table manners, being prepared to try new foods and enjoying a family meal, each presented alluringly for little humans.

The narrative reads aloud well and has a gentle humour: ‘try not to guzzle / or eat with a slurp, / or finish your meals / with a really big burp!’ is one bit of advice.

Adding to the fun for young children is the touch-and-feel element on each spread. Adults whose small child finds mealtimes challenging might well find this a helpful book to share; however there’s plenty of language development potential even if this isn’t the case.

Toddler Take-Along: Nature / Hello, Bee / Jeppo Finds His Friends

It’s never too early to start introducing little ones to the delights of nature and the first two books from Little Tiger should help do just that. Thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Toddler Take-Along: Nature
Ana Zaja Petrak and Becky Davies

Bold images on bright backgrounds with peep through die-cuts and a simple question per spread, invite toddlers to look all around and with the help of the labels, name what they see, be it on the ground, up in the sky, or on and around the pond.
As suggested in the title, a handy carrying handle makes this one ideal for taking out on walks.

Also bursting with mini beasts is:

Hello, Bee
Sophie Ledesma

A buzzy bee leads the way through the pages of this touchy-feely, lift the flap book wherein we meet small creatures that fly, crawl, slither and walk; there’s an odd surprise too. Sophie Ledesma’s multicoloured images are gently humorous yet recognisable, and in combination with the brief chatty text and hidden animals element and the final ‘What did you spot on the way?’ spread showing an assortment of natural objects that were passed on bee’s flight, make for an interactive experience that little humans will enjoy sharing with an adult or perhaps an older sibling.

Another interactive board book is:

Jeppo Finds His Friends
Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Books

Tiger Jeppo can’t wait to meet up with all his friends but although he soon finds Larry Lamb and Flora Fox, of Odd the owl there’s no sign. So off the others go to look for him. After several misidentifications, disappointed, they’re on the point of giving up but there’s one last place to check. Perhaps they might be lucky this time …
Toddlers will have fun lifting the various flaps as they join in the search for Odd the owl in Ingela Arrhenius’ bold, bright playful spreads.

Board Books Small and Not So Small

Hello Frog
Sophie Ledesma and Isabel Otter
Caterpillar Books

Having greeted Frog as he sets out through the jungle, toddlers can then join him in saying ‘hello’ to in turn, Hummingbird, Snake, Monkey and Moth on subsequent spreads, as well as other creatures that have hidden themselves away behind flaps shaped as lily pads, flowers, leaves and fruit.
Then, come nightfall, as the little amphibian closes his eyes after an eventful day, it’s time to bid “Goodnight Frog” and, prompted by the question on the final spread, turn back to the beginning and search for the twelve labelled items.
With Sophie Ledesma’s bold, bright, patterned illustrations, lots of interactive features and a simple repetitive text, this is a board book little ones will want to return to over and over.

Where’s Mr Puffin?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

In her bold bright scenes, the illustrator Ingela P Arrhenius introduces toddlers to in turn, a kingfisher, a blackbird, a swan and a puffin each of which is all but completely hidden behind a felt flap in this addition to the super hide-and-seek series published in collaboration with the National Trust. They’ll also meet a fish, a buzzy bee, a frog and a gull before the final ‘And where are you?’ spread whereon a mirror is revealed when the yacht sail is flipped down.

When You’re Fast Asleep
Peter Arrhenius and Ingela Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Subtitled “Who Works At Night-Time’ this large format board book is a collaboration between team Arrhenius. With a largely urban setting, Ingela’s first six lively scenes show a busy bakery kitchen with a team of people hard at work making bread and biscuits; fishing boats setting out to sea;

a guard on the night shift of an art gallery; a train driver whose train is just emerging from beneath a bridge in the moonlight, a hospital doctor doing the ward rounds; a street deserted save for the half dozen hard-hatted men and women mending the road. FInally, as a new day begins the same street shows the night workers leaving their places of work and some other people whose days are just beginning while in his rhyming narrative, author Peter Arrhenius asks youngsters to “Remember all the special things the night workers have done.’

A fun, gently educational book to share just before little ones snuggle down at bedtime.

100 First Words / Britannica’s 150 First Words

100 First Words
Lauren Crisp and Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books an imprint of Little Tiger
Britannica’s 150 First Words
Claire Laties Davis and Kasia Dudziuk
Britannica Books

It’s interesting to look at the different approaches taken in these two recently published board books, the first being a compact book with a different theme per spread. It is easily held by small hands and has animal characters ‘At Home’, having fun with ‘Toys and Games’; there are ‘Colours’, ‘Pets’, we see what’s ‘At the park’, explore ‘Food’, ‘Clothes’, ‘Parts of the Body’, spend some time ‘On the Farm’, watch ‘Things That Go’, see animals ‘In the Wild’ and finally it’s ‘Bedtime’.
Single words label all the items depicted illustrated on Thomas Elliott’s brightly coloured spreads.

The second is a large format compilation that goes beyond the 150 named items by means of a narrative that takes little ones through a day from wake-up time to bedtime as they follow nine children from around the world through their daily routines. We wake up with John and his family; join Padma and her mum at breakfast time; meet Camille and Tong as they play; go out and about with Hugo in his pushchair, destination the park where he joins the other children and their adult carers. Then poor Ali takes a tumble but happily Dad is there to come to his aid before the two walk home.
By now it’s time to cook dinner and we watch Matias and Dad in the kitchen, Dad at the stove cooking the family meal they all share. Bathtime is spent with Tasha and finally, we pay a visit to Anna at bedtime.
This one is compiled by Claire Davies, a speech-language pathologist who used her knowledge of child development for the book in which she includes a search and find element: objects from the main scene along with a photo of the featured child are shown in a colour strip beneath each of Kasia Dudziuk’s thematic scenes.
Both books are useful for parents and carers but which would you choose, I wonder. 

I think the latter has more potential in the long run.

Information and More Board Book Style

Zoom: Building Site Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Susanna Rumiz
Zoom: Farm Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Aviel Basil
What on Earth Books

With their strategically placed die-cuts and cutaway pages, a final pop-up scene, a simple narrative and a wealth of relevant labelled objects, these are two additions to the Zoom series for toddlers.

In the first Maxie, clad in his safety gear, spends a day on the building site where the construction of a sky-scraper is under way. Little ones will see a wealth of machines that drill, dig, scoop, move materials, mix concrete, lift heavy items and get rid of unwanted debris.
Humorous moments occur when Maxie forgets to check all the pipe connections before turning in the water – oops! All ends satisfactorily though with a building ready for visitors.

In the Farm Adventure we join Bo as he drives his shiny red truck from his city home to the farm. Once there he is greeted by the animals and then he gets on with various tasks: he milks the cows, feeds the sheep, goats and alapacas, then gathers eggs from the hens – all before breakfast. Next he collects honey from the bees, harvests fruit and vegetables, and brings in the corn and wheat that he delivers to the barn. Phew! After all this it’s time for a snack before starting the peanut harvest. The mischievous duck that accompanies him will give little ones something to giggle over as will the fact that the goats escape from their field and have to be rounded up before Bo leaves.

Both books begin and end in the children’s own rooms and young listeners will realise that therein are many of the components of the imaginary adventures.

Race to the Rescue!
Georgina Deutsch and Olivier Latyk
Little Tiger Press

Emergency vehicles driven by animal crews take centre stage in this ‘flashing lights’ , rhyming board book. Toddlers will meet police mice chasing a robber; a hippo helicopter air rescue crew; Dog and his partner assist a swimmer in trouble out at sea, the Pandas in their ambulance rush to the aid of Danny Dog; and finally, a cat stuck in a tree is rescued by Fox and his fire engine team – all in a day’s work. Providing plenty to look at, Olivier Llatyk’s bright illustrations take toddlers right up close to the action for each event,

How It Works: The Body
Amelia Hepworth and David Semple
Little Tiger Press

With its cleverly layered die-cuts this look at the human body, both outside and inside, curated by Doctor Mouse, contains much more information than your average board book. Said mouse however doesn’t supply the main text: that’s provided by Amelia Hepworth; rather he provides additional facts mentioning such things as the sign for ‘hello’ on the Super Senses spread, explains the importance of practise in muscle memory, that the small intestine is something of a misnomer on account of its length and much more. Meanwhile the main text takes us through the various components of the body – muscles, organs and skeletal structure; and David Semple’s labelled illustrations show the details.

A nursery group or preschool child will find plenty to interest and talk about in this one.

The Mouse Before Christmas / Can’t Catch Santa!

Here are two festive books from Sunbird Books -thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

The Mouse Before Christmas
Tracey Turner and Jenny Lovlie
Sunbird Books

‘ ‘’Twas the night before Christmas, / when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring / … except for one mouse.’ So begins Tracey Turner’s mouse-themed tribute to Clement Clarke Moore wherein a tiny white mouse clad in a red fur-trimmed suit opens the action by giving a wink to readers and holds up a ‘ssh’-ing paw to his mouth before introducing his fellow mice all fast asleep. He then departs on his Christmas Eve delivery round in a small-scale sleigh, pulled by stag beetles portrayed in festive hues.

“On, Stiggy! On Twiggy! On, Scatter and Skitter! / Come, Snipper! Come, Skipper! Come Patter and Pitter!” he urges, guiding them down through the trees to a smooth landing in the snow instead of on a rooftop.
Then taking one of the sacks containing gifts for all, he heads for a house, leaving snowy mouse tracks (no boots for this Santa figure), entering via a crack in the wall and thence to a convenient mouse hole. Stockings are duly filled with Mouse toys and of course, lots of cheese as well as crackers. Then it’s back to the waiting sleigh, and with a flick of the reins, a squeak and a “Merry Christmas to all, / and to all a good night!” off he flies into the moonlit sky.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the original classic poem, this one with Jenny Lovlie’s mouse-centric setting complete with a cotton reel table, holding a candle, a thimble pot containing a decorated branch, mouse paperchains and a larger branch to which tiny stockings are affixed, is a delight. Cute and cosy but not overly so thanks to the wealth of humorous details, especially those Christmassy beetles.

Can’t Catch Santa!
Emily Cunningham and Steph Lew
Sunbird Books

It’s Christmas Eve, just the time to try and catch Santa: so says the canine narrator of this lift-the-flap board book. Santa however seems somewhat elusive as each seeming sighting of the jolly fellow turns out to be something altogether different – a bobble hat worn by a carol singer glimpsed through the window of the front door, it’s a snowman wearing the black wellies and so on. It’s not until several more spreads have been explored that Santa actually does make an appearance but when he does eventually do so, his would-be catcher isn’t quick enough to apprehend the jolly fellow. Still there’s always next year …

Slightly silly, but that’s all part of the fun that toddlers will enjoy, along with the festive spirit and the build-up.

Board Books for Christmas

Here are three festive board books from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Nibbles Christmas
Emma Yarlett

Nibbles gets all jolly and festive in this romping, chomping seasonal countdown wherein he topples the row of 10 robots, sings along with the 9 red birds , counts sleeps left till the big day with the help of the 8 stars, bounces around with the 7 bunnies and so on, taking a quick bite whenever he gets the opportunity, till we reach 1 big box beautifully wrapped and labelled. I wonder what could be found inside … It will surely be a surprise.
Emma’s mischievous toothy creature is a delight whatever the time of year so youngsters will love to meet him sporting his Santa’s hat in this rhyming Christmassy counting book.
There’s more counting fun in

Five Christmas Friends
Danielle McLean and Rosalind Maroney

Little ones can meet Santa driving his sleigh above the rooftops (just the one of course), two playful snowmen friends, 3 elves busily making presents in the workshop, four singing robins and five flying reindeer touching down alongside a house all lit up with strings of lights in this die-cut and slider book. As they manipulate the sliders, tinies might like to join in with some of Danielle McLean’s words by “ho! ho!’-ing a greeting to Santa Claus, shivering along with the snowmen, tap tap with the elves, singing along with the robins and ‘knock knock knock’-ing at the door of Little Mouse’s house where the reindeer have stopped, all of which are shown in Rosalind Maroney’s bright, jolly scenes.

What Are Santa’s Elves Made Of?
Becky Davies illustrated by Louise Angelicas

For those toddlers who stop and wonder what Santa’s special little helpers are really made of, this board book has the answers.
Having shared the book and enjoyed the final surprise pop-out spread, grown ups might even try baking some gingerbread shapes and adorning them just like the jolly elves shown herein, with their outfits made of sweets. These could then be stored away in a tin till the big day and then the lid opened at teatime to the sound of those magical jingle bells mentioned in Becky Davies rhyming narrative, with everyone present making a Christmas wish.

Peek-a-boo and Counting Fun Board Book Style

Monsters Play … Peekaboo!
Monsters Play … Counting

Flavia Z. Drago
Walker Books

Flavia Drago introduces a host of mock-scary monsters in the lift-the-flap Peekaboo treat.
In order to play a game of peek-a-boo seven ghoulish creatures – a werewolf skeleton (of the handsome happy kind), a vampire, a medusa looking very modish, a blobby beast, a banshee and finally a wee ghostie take turns to hide behind a sheet, their identity being revealed when each flap in turn is lifted. Little ones will delight in joining in with the repeat ‘Eek-a-peek-a … – – ! who’s hiding under the sheet? and relish the opportunity to make lots of ‘eeek!’, hiss!,

swishy swoosh!’, wah waaah!’, ‘peekaboo!’ sounds.

There are lots of playful beasties too in Counting as little humans encounter in turn, Simone with her hugely long tongue, Rosalind with her two ears ‘to hear the howling wind, Brooke who is endowed with three eyes so she can read her spooky book, four-winged Guy,

and so on till they reach ten- spiked Nicole with an invitation to drum along with her, (any suitable surface will do) which should of course, be monstrously loud.

I’m sure said humans will also take up the invitation to ‘count like a monster all over again’ too and that means lots more licking, swinging (maybe not of ears), fluttering, brushing of teeth, block building, running, spinning and a little bit of chilling as well.

Counting has never been such fun.

Hide-and-Seek Peekaboo
illustrated by Nicola Slater
Chronicle Books

This sweet interactive Beginning Baby board book combines two things babies and toddlers love – playing peekaboo and lift-the-flap books. Herein the jolly characters – Riley the narwhal, Elijah the elephant, giraffe Gabriel, octopus Paisley, Mia the monkey, Matteo the red panda and Layla the llama have all hidden themselves away in various parts of the house – under or behind items of furniture or furnishings – for little ones to find.

All the rooms are alive with vibrant coloured objects, most of which will be familiar to toddlers while others can become part of a ‘show me the …’ game once they’ve been told the names of say ‘the globe’ or ‘harp’ in the illustrations.

This I suspect is a book, little ones will want shared over and over again.

Wild Animal Board Books

A Cub Story
Kristen Tracy, illustrated by Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

The titular bear cub acts as narrator in this board book taking us through a year of its life showing readers its features, sharing its activities – sitting still in a favourite springtime spot by a waterfall being one; rolling downhill right into blackberry bushes is the favourite summer pastime and come autumn fishing is THE thing to do and that takes him through to the winter when it’s time to snuggle with family in their den for a long sleep. As each season starts, the cub compares his attributes with those of other creatures in the location: he eats a lot compared with a hedgehog

but little compared to a moose. In the meadow he’s much slower than the elk whereas by the pond, he moves super fast leaving the snails far behind.

With Kristen Tracy’s playful text that introduces positional vocabulary and lots of words relating to the natural world and Alison Farrell’s engaging mixed media scenes that have just the right amount of gently humorous details, this is a delightful book to share with the very young.

Wake Up
Pau Morgan
Little Tiger

This sweet addition to the little nature series features four animals that are or have been hibernating and are now emerging from sleep ready to eat and perhaps to play. We meet dormice, a bear and her cubs, a pair of lemurs

and finally, a tortoise and there’s a final ’Do you know any other animals that hibernate?’

I really like this series with its grainy card pages, peep-holes and Pau Morgan’s beautifully coloured, textured scenes of the creatures; like others in the series, it’s great for sharing and effortlessly educative.

Who Said Twit Twoo?
Yi-Hsuan Wu
Little Tiger

Toddlers are introduced to eleven different creatures as they turn the pages and look beneath the flaps to discover the answers to the Who said … followed by a sound – ‘Twit twoo!’ for instance, the question being asked by a sleepy squirrel who continues opposite ‘Was it Fox?’ with the correct answer, ‘No, it was Owl!’ being given beneath the flap.
The next three spreads are similarly presented with ‘Aaaooh!’, ‘Grrr!’, ‘Squeak!’ as the creature noises to identify

and the final spread has a shiny mirror opposite which some of the animals ask, ‘What do you say?’
Lots of fun learning potential herein.

Where is Everyone? / The Day Time Stopped

These are two quirky books from Prestel – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Where is Everyone?
Tom Schamp

Herein Tom Schamp invites little ones to discover the unexpected in the expected as they lift the flaps to find what is hiding beneath in turn the bushes, a toadstool, a small car,

a washing machine, a fridge, a toaster, a cup and saucer, a sofa, a toilet, a sink, a bath, a bed, a gift-wrapped box and a tiered decorated cake. The text on each page comprises a ‘who question’ and the answer hidden under the flap – a peacock, Puss in Boots or a tortoise raring to go, for instance.

Now who would expect to find a racoon inside the washing machine or a hamster getting rather heated in the toaster? And I suspect nobody would anticipate there being a monkey on a surfboard lurking behind that cup containing that cuppa, nor a napping camel tucked away behind that comfy couch.

Full of whimsical ideas, this playful board book with its duck commentator surely will encourage youngsters to go beyond the information given and look at things with a fresh, creative mind and eye.

The Day Time Stopped
Flavia Ruotolo

If you’ve ever stopped to wonder what your friend in another part of the world is doing right now, perhaps because you want to call them on your mobile, then here’s a fun book for you.

The young narrator who happens to be in Genoa, Italy is just taking her first bite from an ice-lolly (she calls it a popsicle) at 5:33pm her time when inexplicably, time stops.

At that exact time in another part of Europe – Berlin – Selma and Nora bring their scooter to a sudden halt – just in time to prevent a small creature getting run over.

In La Paz (Bolivia) however it’s 12.33pm and Rosa’s grandmother has just finished knitting a sweater while in New York City two children discover their tube of toothpaste is empty – it’s 11.33 am their time.

At that moment too Kimo’s underwear pings off the washing line in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) where the time is 2:33am and in Sapporo, Japan Yuki’s cat is woken by a noise. (The clock there would say 1:33am).

Concurrently, Makena, way off in Nairobi proudly shows her first ever self portrait to her dad, the time there being 7:33pm; whereas in Maurituis’s Port Louis it’s 8:33pm and Carl the canary wants his dinner.

And so on …

Then, suddenly time restarts and things seem normal once more: now for our narrator back in Genoa, it’s 5:34pm.

Flavia Ruotolo’s seemingly simple playful presentation of people, animals and their activities is essentially a philosophical reflection on the notion of time and place that takes readers across two dozen time zones and on a lightning visit to twenty six countries. These are shown on a world map on the penultimate spread and the book concludes with an explanation of why it isn’t the same time the world over.

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth / What’s in the Box? / Halloween

Ganesha’ Sweet Tooth
Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes
Chronicle Books

Just in time for Ganesh Chaturthi in a few days is this lovely board book edition of a modern version of one of the most popular Hindu legends – the episode in which Ganesha got his broken tusk. It tells how when young, Ganesha liked nothing better than eating sweet things, especially the Indian confection, laddoos. This results in tragedy during Ganesha and his ‘friend’ Mr Mouse’s search for sweets when they come upon a new kind of laddoo, The Super Jumbo Jawbreaker Laddoo.

Despite warnings from Mr Mouse, Ganesha just can’t resist chomping down on the thing – “I’m invincible.” he reassures his friend – and snap! Off comes one of his tusks. Furious at being unable to repair himself, young Ganesha hurls the broken tusk at the moon.

It misses, landing at the feet of the ancient sage and poet, Vyasa who happens to have a special task for the tusk thrower and thus Ganesha lands the job of scribing the great epic of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata.

This little book is a riot of dayglo colour with Sanjay Patel’s brilliant ultra-modern visuals, some of which are reminiscent of what you might see in a temple in South India. Others are decidedly closer to some of the contemporary Pixar animations he has worked on.

By adding their own embellishments and playing slightly with the original plot, Patel and Haynes have created a wonderfully playful rendering of a classic legend that will appeal widely .

The next two are published by Little Tiger:

What’s in the Box?
Isabel Otter and Jaoquin Camp

How exciting: a pile of parcels has just arrived waiting to be investigated. What could be packed away inside? That’s what youngsters are invited to discover in this chunky tactile, lift-the-flap book.

Box one looks as though it’s rather fiery but what has made those scorch marks? There’s a hint in the cut-away shiny, scaly shape just visible.

The second box seems to have the fidgets and there’s a warning on the wrapping … A tricky one this. I wonder what it holds …

Next is a beribboned container but strangely some wool has escaped from within. “Fragile” says the label on the fourth box wherein so we read, is something noisy – hmmm? 

However, the best has been kept till last – it’s a veritable treasure trove of … Can you guess what?

With Isabel Otter’s brief rhyming text andJoaquin Camp’s alluring surprise containers to explore, there’s sufficient to engage little ones during several book sharing sessions.

Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway

With Halloween coming up next month (I can’t believe I’m saying that), adults might want to reinforce counting skills with this mock-scary book that introduces in turn, one little skeleton that’s found a hiding place, two slightly anxious little trick-or-treaters, three glowing jack o’lanterns, four hoppy toads, five family portraits, one about to take a tumble, six sleepy bats, seven ghosts, eight spiders of the hirsute kind, nine snoozing moggies, or rather they were before being disturbed by the ten small, appropriately attired party goers.

The rhyming text and Fhionna Galloway’s cute, colourful illustrations offer plenty for preschoolers to enjoy herein.

Flip Flap Zoo / Where’s Mr Fire Engine?

These are recent additions to popular, playful series from Nosy Crow – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Zoo

The zoo is the latest location for Axel Scheffler’s split page animal extravaganza and happily there’s not a cage in sight for the dozen creatures that offer rhyming verses on themselves.
What fun you can have generating your own crazy conglomerates – 121 possibilities according to the frog on the back cover.

What would you get by crossing a lemur with an ostrich?

In case you didn’t guess – it’s a lemich. Then what about a jaguar and a hippopotamus? Roar! Roar! Growl! Growl! that one’s a jagotamus.

Full of zany names, noises aplenty to exercise the vocal cords and all those creature combinations to giggle over, this book will give preschool joiners-in, and Foundation Stage/KS1 children hours of pleasure both visual and verbal.

Where’s Mr Fire Engine?
Ingela P Arrhenius

Four potentially very noisy vehicles lurk beneath the variously shaped felt flaps in the latest of this series that ends with a surprise mirror (or maybe not such a surprise if your little one is familiar with previous titles). Nonetheless the very youngest will enjoy guessing what’s hidden, exploring the bright stylised scenes and joining in with the ‘Here s/he is!’ as the police car, ambulance, helicopter and fire engine are revealed.

ROAR! / Build

Thanks to publishers Little Tiger for sending these new board books for review

Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín

Who will be the winner of the Best Roar in Town contest? With a dapper duck as compere, the animals take turns to let loose their most fearsome roars. There’s Mouse who receives faint praise; Penguin – not overly impressive; Dog – definitely an underwhelming performance and then comes Dinosaur.

Now here’s a likely winner especially with a score of eight.

Hang on though, step forward another competitor …

With flaps to manipulate, number scores to recognise, contestants’ comments from the sidelines and the entire verbal presentation via speech bubbles, little ones will delight in the silliness of the whole thing as well as the opportunities for some roaring.

Pau Morgan

The latest in this Little Nature series presents animals as constructors of their own homes. There are honey bees busily building a beeswax safe place to store food and keep their eggs. Then comes stick-collecting eagle looking for materials to build a nest, followed by web-spinning spider and finally a pair of beavers. These strong-toothed mammals collect stones and bits of trees to build a dam wherein they make a cosy lodge.

Peek-through holes provide additional interest to this one and it’s printed on 100% recycled board which gives a lovely feel to the sturdy pages.

Animal Colours, Animal 123 and Animal ABC

Animal Colours, Animal 123, Animal ABC
Nikolas Ilic
Happy Yak

Three titles in a new First Concepts series feature some wonderfully wacky animal characters.

In the Colours book a twisty twirly snake and a grabbing crab introduce red, both fox and orangutan have orange fur, lion and a quacking duck are yellow, green is the skin of both a crocodile and a wide-mouthed frog, blue are the whale and a tweeting bird while other creatures are purple, pink, brown, grey, black or white. Then come multi-coloured chameleon and rainbow-beaked toucan, with the final spread showing all the animals featured.

123 has a different animal for each of the numbers 1 to 12 a double spread being allocated to a honey loving bear, 2 sharp toothed crocs, 3 racoons, 4 playful dogs, 5 staring black cats, six BAA-ing sheep, 7 grumpy frogs, 8 clucking chickens, 9 mucky pigs, 10 munching rabbits, 11 COO-ing pigeons and twelve toothy fish; and the final spread shows them numbering off with an invitation to count them one by one.

As well as being introduced to the alphabet in Animal ABC, little ones can discover an interesting fact about each of the featured creatures. For instance, did you know that a Gecko can’t blink so cleans its eyes by licking them with its long tongue?

Young children don’t acquire concepts from books but through a variety of experiences; these playful board books will help concept development but most important, they’re fun to share.

Have Fun With Boardbooks

Splish, Splash!
Sophie Ledesma and Isobel Otter
Little Tiger
What will Little Fish discover as it swims around beneath the ocean? By manipulating the various sliding mechanisms little ones will discover sea creatures large and small before bidding goodnight to the sleepy Little Fish that has splashed its way right through to the penultimate spread where there’s a convenient place to hide itself behind. ZZZZZ … 

On the final spread all the other creatures that were encountered on the previous pages are labelled. Huge fun and great for developing fine motor skills. Sophie Ledesma’s playful illustrations are full of patterns that add to the visual impact throughout this ‘slide and seek’ book.

Ladybird Ladybird What Can You See?
Little Tiger
This is the latest addition to Pintachan’s brightly illustrated lift-the-flap series wherein Amelia Hepworth introduces positional words – in, behind, inside and under during the game with Ladybird and Ant wherein various other partially hidden minibeasts depicted on the flaps are revealed by lifting the flaps. Ant too is revealed saying in turn ‘It’s Butterfly!’, ‘It’s Spider!’, ‘It’s Bee!’ ‘It’s Worm!’ while the final spread has a mirror hidden under its flap. 

With its simple, repeat refrain rhyming text this is huge fun to share with the very young as well as for beginning readers to read to their younger brothers or sisters. Ant has a different fruit or portion of one on each spread so this offers lots of talk potential – what is it? Who will eat it etc.

Where’s My Puppy?
Becky Davies, illustrated by Kate McLelland
Little Tiger
The mischievous looking puppy shown on the cover of this book has almost disappeared by the first spread and little ones can enjoy following the colourful footprints through the rest of the spreads to discover his whereabouts on the final page. Before that though they encounter in turn Guinea Pig, Kitten, and Pony each of which shares a feature in common with the pup. Guinea Pig has soft fur, Kitten a fluffy tail and Pony’s tongue is rough giving youngsters a variety of tactile experiences as they join in the game to find Puppy. 

With a repeat question on each spread this offers a joining in opportunity too.

Go Go Apple
Claire Philip and Steven Wood
Sunbird Books
I’ve never really considered what happens to apple cores collected in food waste as I always throw mine into a bin that’s emptied straight onto our own compost heap. So, it was interesting to see this title in the ‘My first recycling series’ and be able to follow the journey of one core from collection by a truck to the recycling plant and thence into a large machine where it’s mixed with leaves and other waste food and shredded. Some then goes off to become compost, the rest being liquified for farm manure or made into a gas that can be used for the heat and electricity of homes and cars.

With plenty of accompanying onomatopoeic sounds to join in with, a simple narrative description and fun illustrations, this is an interactive book to share with the very young be that at home or in an early years setting.

Peekaboo Sun
Camilla Reid and Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
Babies and toddlers love to play peekaboo especially when there’s a mirror involved so they’ll thoroughly enjoy this addition to the sliders series with its fishes, sunshine, ice cream boat, crab and other things with a seaside theme. Rhyming couplets introduce the items in Ingela P Arrhenius’s jolly, patterned illustrations.

Great fun and an opportunity for little ones to develop their fine motor skills.

For Your Toddler Bookshelf

I’m thinking of a Jungle Animal
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Lucia Gaggiotti
Nosy Crow

Each of the the four wide-eyed child participants in the ‘I’m thinking of …’ game has a different jungle animal in mind. What do these creatures look like? What do they eat? What sound do they make? Little humans are invited to think about the simple clues, have a guess based on the information provided, search for the animal hiding in Lucia Gaggiotti’s colourful jungle scene and finally, pull the slider to discover the answer to the rhyming clues. Fun learning for the very young.

100 First Words: City
illustrated by Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

Edward Underwood features city life in this second large format, super-stylish board book, devoting a double spread to in turn, the street, a railway station, the zoo, a supermarket. a museum, a (swimming) pool and a restaurant. Using a grid format and bright, colourful illustrations like the previous book, Underwood introduces a variety of nouns: for instance in the supermarket toddlers will see such items as tomato, trolley, toilet paper, broccoli, cashier, till, boxes and there are two sturdy, shaped flaps to look under. On this spread there’s a tin inside which are fish, and boxes that reveal an assistant.

This book is likely to prove invaluable in helping to build vocabulary at that vital stage when toddlers are learning to talk. One hopes adults will use this as stimulus for speech by asking questions like ‘what shall we put in the trolley?’ as they share the book with a little one.

Home Is Where the Heart Is
Emma Dodd
Templar Books

We all have things that make our particular home feel special and so it is with Emma Dodd’s thoughtful big cat and a playful little kitten. For the feline twosome, home’s a place to spend time playing and resting; a warm safe haven from stormy weather, as well as somewhere special no matter if its residents are there together or for some reason, apart.

Emma’s distinctive golden touches embellish her adorable feline illustrations on alternate spreads and her rhyming narrative told from the adult cat’s viewpoint.

A Celebration of Dads

My Dad
Susan Quinn and Marina Ruiz
Words & Pictures

A small child celebrates their dad, and the everyday activities – real and imaginary – that make him and the days they share together so special.

In Susan Quinn’s first person rhyming narrative the child presents such things as baking, growing vegetables, grocery shopping, going for picnics and bathing, moving through the different seasons and kinds of weather: ‘If it rains, we splash through puddles, / stomp through leaves of gold and red. / And gaze at a colourful rainbow, / big above my head.’

Marina Ruiz’s illustrations are suffused with the love shared between Dad and child, while her colour palette alters to reflect the changing seasons.

No matter the particular home situation of the young reader/listener and Dad this sensitively written book is one to enjoy together.

What is Daddy Going To Do?
Carly Madden and Juliana Perdomo
Words & Pictures

This is a fun lift the flap book for toddlers to enjoy, especially with a dad. It features diverse dads, one portrayed holding or wearing an item on the flap of each recto, while opposite the text says for instance, ‘Daddy has a stopwatch. / What is Daddy going to do?’ Having had a guess, little ones lift the large, sturdy flap to reveal the answer. (‘Start the family sports day!’)

In all there are six fun activities that Daddy does with his child or children – Fly to the moon, play in the forest, build a pirate ship, play in a band and make some noise, and read a bedtime story.

Little ones will want to join in with the repeat question and the (hidden) sounds, as well as lifting the flap (great for developing fine motor skills) and they’ll certainly enjoy exploring Juliana Perdomo’s bright, gently humorous illustrations and making predictions about the hidden activities.

Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books

The adorable one-haired baby is back to introduce Daddy. Said male parent is ‘so big and strong’, his ‘legs are so, so long.’ The infant then enjoys a playful time with Daddy – riding piggyback, trying to touch the sky, feeling his unshaven scratchy face, fleeing from a pretend monster, singing, wrestling till they need a rest.
At other times Dad is busy so baby helps him cook and clean and much more.

Our baby narrator also introduces several other dads pointing out that each one is different be that ‘Dressy … Messy … Bald … Hairy … Tall or Short’ before pointing out the ideal nature of ‘My Daddy’.

With its rhyming text and warm, lively scenes of baby and Daddy, this is a delight for the very youngest.

On a Building Site / How it Works: Rocket / Dinosaur Snap! The Spinosaurus

What Can You See? On a Building Site
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

The building site herein is destined to become a brand new primary school. Youngsters (hard hats donned) can follow the action from the demolition of an old building to the school’s near completion. There are lots of vehicles visiting and working on site including lorries, a digger, a bulldozer, a crane and a cement mixer. It’s good to see both men and women hard at work carrying out their various roles, building, operating machinery (including a woman in a scissor lift, bricklaying, trench digging, tiling, fitting windows and solar panels and more.

In addition to the narrative describing the entire process there are questions to encourage little ones to hone their observation skills by searching for a little mouse, a white cat and other items. With die-cuts and lots of details in the illustrations this will keep your little one’s ears and eyes engaged as you share the book.

The same is true of

How It Works: Rocket
Amelia Hepworth and David Semple
Little Tiger

Get ready to zoom off into space as you read this with your toddler. It starts by explaining briefly what a rocket is and how astronauts use a service tower to get inside. David Semple’s spreads show the release of some of the rocket parts no longer required; an astronaut floating in space beside a command module; the same astronaut walking on the moon’s surface and another flying the rocket. Then come preparations for the return to earth including the ejection of everything no longer needed and finally, splashdown and the collection of the rocket and astronauts by a ship.

Simple language and illustrations to which a touch of playfulness courtesy of a tiny mouse passenger are added, provide a first introduction to the popular topic of space.

Dinosaur Snap! The Spinosaurus
Macmillan Children’s Books

A spinosaurus takes centres stage in this rhyming story inspired by the Strickland’s hugely popular Dinosaur Roar book. Said to be the scariest beast ever it lies in wait for other dinos. such as the young stegosaurus that accidentally gives it a whack with its tail. Its next encounter is with a wily oviraptor that induces an attack of dizziness in Snap before making a dash for it.
Now pretty peckish, Snap sets its sights on the compsognathus aka Dinosaur Squeak luring the little creature down to the water’s edge where a very big surprise awaits …

Created in association with the Natural History Museum this amusing sequence of events ends with a spread giving some basic information about Spinosaurus’s features and also sends young listeners back to the start of the book in a game of seek and find. Look out for further stories in the World of Dinosaur Roar.

Colours, Pretend Play, Nursery Fun and an Angry Bear

Tim Hopgood
Oxford Children’s Books

Here’s a lovely introduction to the wonderful world of colour for the very young. After presenting the primary colours with gorgeous images of the natural world, Tim Hopgood next shows the result of mixing first red and yellow, then yellow and blue, folllowed by blue and red. He then goes on to say that some things change colour during the year: a rose that’s pink in spring might fade to white in the summer, while summer’s green leaves often turn brown when autumn comes. Whereas ripening tomatoes change from green to red as the sun helps them ripen and yellow bananas, if left eventually blacken.
Best of all however is the final gatefold, opening to reveal a glorious … rainbow.

Let’s Pretend: Animal Hospital
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott
Little Tiger

An animal hospital is the backdrop for young children’s role-play in this new title in the My World series. Thomas Elliott’s illustrations are a fusion of photograph and digital imagery showing the children giving a check-up to a dog, sharing the contents of a vet’s medical kit, showing the range of animals they treat and the variety of tasks they perform on pets large and small. Nicola’s narrative gives voice to the young children imagining what it might be like to be part of the team whose job is to care for the animals that visit their hospital.
This shaped-book would make a lovely addition to a role-play area in a nursery or other early years setting.

Bear & Mouse Go to Nursery
Nicola Edwards and Maria Neradova
Little Tiger

Best friends Mouse and Bear return and now they’ve started going to nursery. It’s there little humans can enjoy spending the day with them as they experiment with paint, have fun outside in the playground, share their snacks, take a nap and participate in a noisy music making session. With flaps to lift and sliders to move, this is another book of interactive fun delightfully illustrated by Maria Neradova who includes just the right amount of detail in each of her colourful spreads.

Angry Bear
Dr Naira Wilson and David Creighton-Pester
Little Tiger

Very young children, babies even, enjoy tactile books such as this one from the publisher’s Touch & Feelings series. Herein we’re introduced to Bear who on this particular morning is feeling grouchy, particularly round his middle.
perhaps keeping to his normal routine that includes some sweet tasting honey might help improve his mood unless … oops, you drop it. GRRRRR – that’s the best way to vent your anger; after which hopefully, you’ll be back to your normal calm, contented self: breathing deeply helps.
As though speaking directly to her protagonist, clinical psychologist specialising in childhood mental health, Dr Naira Wilson writes in a chatty style and the book is illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, whose pictures of the bear show the character’s range of feelings with gentle humour.

Make Tracks: Building Site / Go Go Tin

Make Tracks: Building Site
Johnny Dryander
Nosy Crow

In one of a new interactive series, Johnny Dryander illustrates five vehicles often found on a building site – those that small children are fascinated by when they see them for real.

Each one – concrete mixer,

dump truck, excavator, bulldozer and front loader – is presented on the verso in a clearly labelled picture along with a brief introductory paragraph giving some information about its key features and what it is used for. There’s also a question for little ones to consider.

On the opposite page, with additional prompts for opening up discussion, is a scene showing people and machines at work on the site. This contains a track around which little fingers can manipulate a counter depicting the vehicle illustrated on the facing page in response to the ‘Can you drive this … “ challenge. (This feature is also part of the front cover.)

With lots of potential for fun learning be that of related language or fine motor skill development, this will be particularly popular with young enthusiasts of large building site machines.

Go Go Tin
Claire Philip and Steven Wood
Sunbird Books

This sturdy board book explains in simple words and bright cheery pictures what happens to a tin can from the time it’s tossed into a kitchen recycling bin until it becomes part of one of the shiny new tins produced at a factory.

With its onomatopoeic sounds aplenty to join in with, little ones will enjoy following the sequence of events from lorry to recycling plant, through a crushing machine, into a furnace to melt and be formed into new blocks, ready for stamping, stretching and further shaping.

A Celebration of Board Books

Here’s a handful of recent Little Tiger Board Books – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

First Nature: Ladybird
Harriet Evans and Bryony Clarkson

Following on from Caterpillar in this ‘first nature’ flap-book series is the equally playful Ladybird. Very young children will love Bryony Clarkson’s bright alluring, textured art and Harriet’s brief, sometimes alliterative rhyming text as Ladybird scuttles and scurries, hastens and hurries across the cleverly cut-away pages, slowing to feed, feel fear, fall and fly to the nest, finally ready to hibernate.

Elephant Elephant What Can You See?

Accompanied by a questioning chirpy bird friend, Elephant takes a wander in this lift-the-flap book, and the two play a kind of hide-and-seek game with the animals that are tucked away in turn, beneath the lily pad, in the tall grass, under water and behind a tree. Then, on the final spread, when the final flap is lifted, there’s a surprise mirror so tinies will come face to face with their own image.
With Pintachan’s simple, bright images and the repeat patterned rhyming narrative, this is likely to be a winner with little ones.

Beep Beep! Builders
Becky Davies and Gareth Lucas

Be ready for a noisy time when you share this with your little one. Set on a building site, we meet the boss Little B and his five co-workers. There’s Digger, Mixer, Crane, all of which are somewhat over-enthusiastic, as well as a roller and a tip-up truck. Having dug, mixed, built and lifted all day long, come sundown the boss praises their teamwork and suggests it’s time for play.
Tinies will love pressing the squishy bodies of the jolly diggers as they follow their actions and join in the rumbling, tooting, whirring and other sounds.

For a slightly older audience is

Your Body
Harriet Evans and Lirios Bou

Another of the cleverly designed ‘switch-a-picture’ books with Harriet’s rhyming presentation of in turn, the skeleton, breathing, eating, thinking and the circulatory system accompanied by Lirios Bou’s subtly coloured images of children’s bodies, first clad and then, when the central tab on each page edge is pulled, the related internal working are revealed along with additional relevant information.

A to Z: An Alphabet of Animals
illustrated by Linda Tordoff

Published under the Caterpillar Books imprint this lift-the-flap board book presents animals large and small; but where are they? They’re all hiding, just waiting to be discovered by eager fingers opening their respective initial letter flaps. Little ones can meet creatures feathered, furry, scaly and smooth all stylishly illustrated in subtle colours.

Stop That Dinosaur! / Mamasaurus

Stop That Dinosaur!
Alex English and Ben Cort
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

‘I was in my Granny’s kitchen eating extra-special cake / when the walls began to tremble / and the room began to SHAKE. / The window panes all rattled / and there was a MIGHTY ROAR!’

Granny responds to the knocking at her door, opens it up and lets out a mighty scream as a brontosaurus grabs her by her sweater and runs away on its very fast feet.

Hot on the trail comes the little girl narrator on her scooter, whizzing along the road to the playground, throughout the high street and out into the countryside showing no signs of slowing whatsoever. Through fields of corn, uphill and down go pursuer and pursued until the girl finally loses sight of the beast in the depths of the dark wood.

Is that the end of Granny? Will the girl ever see her again?

Alex’s brilliantly paced rhyming text really builds up the tension and sense of anticipation as the story races along; combined with Ben Cort’s splendidly dramatic illustrations with their plethora of amusing details (love those scattering rabbits), this is terrific read aloud book and I suspect it will fast become a rip roaring favourite with foundation stage listeners (not to mention their grans).

In board book format for younger dino, enthusiasts is

Stephan Lomp
Chronicle Books

Babysaurus loves to ride atop his Mamasaurus’s back from where he can nibble at the juicy leaves. One day though, he slips right down to the very tip of her tail and ‘Wheeeeeee!’ Having extricated himself from the leaves, he cannot see his mama at all – where can she be?

Off he goes wandering through the wild landscape, searching and each time he encounters another creature he asks, (just like the baby bird in P.D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother? “Have you seen my mama?”

Little humans will love joining in the repeat question and enjoy the stand-out images, set against black, used throughout the sweet story.

Bees, Trees and Planet Earth


illustrated by Carmen Saldaña
Please Help Planet Earth!
illustrated by Paulina Morgan
Ladybird Books

It’s never too soon to introduce young children to the environment protection cause and these sturdy books offer a good starting point.

Devoting each of its six spreads to a different aspect of Bees, young children are introduced to the vital role these little insects play in keeping the planet healthy; explains the role of bees in pollination; takes readers inside a honeybee hive; looks at honey and beekeepers; explains why the number of bees is in decline and finally suggests some ways in which everyone can help save these important little creatures.

Trees is similar in structure. First is an explanation if their importance to all life on earth. Second is a simple look at the various parts of a tree and their interconnectedness. There’s a spread on seasonal changes; another presenting some of the thousands of different kinds of tree and deforestation and its consequences is briefly discussed while the final spread is again ‘How can you help?’. Carmen Saldana’s illustrations are child-friendly and in both books there are flaps to explore on every page.

In Paulina Morgan’s diverse, alluring scenes Planet Earth itself takes the narrative role in the third book, issuing an earnest plea for help to protect its various ecosystems and their flora and fauna by making small but crucial changes to the way we live.

In keeping with their ‘protecting our planet!’ theme, all three books are made from recycled board and printed with plant-based inks.