Astro Girl / Where’s Mr Astronaut?

Astro Girl
Ken Wilson-Max
Otter-Barry Books

Space and stars enthusiast Astrid wants to become an astronaut, so she tells Jake her best pal as they lie stargazing.

She goes on to tell the same to her papa over breakfast.

He challenges her assertion with comments about orbiting the Earth in a spaceship, dining on food from tubes and packets, becoming used to zero gravity, conducting scientific experiments …

and sleeping alone among the stars: he seems pretty knowledgeable about life in space. Astrid assures her Papa that she can manage all those things even the solo sleeping.

The day comes for the two of them to go and collect Mama in the car.

It’s then that we discover the possible reason for Astrid’s enthusiasm about space and her Papa’s knowledge.

A joyful reunion takes place and thereafter the little girl starts reading avidly to learn as much as she can about how to achieve her ambition, and about some of those trailblazing astronauts who went before, several of whom were women.

Simply and beautifully told, Ken keeps readers interested in the theme by showing us space related items such as Astrid’s t-shirt, her breakfast cereal, Papa’s T-shirts, the cookie shapes they bake together, pictures, a toy – all of which help in the build-up to the grand finale.

A smashing book for young space enthusiasts and perhaps to share on Father’s Day.

For a younger audience is:


Where’s Mr Astronaut?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Vibrant, immediately appealing illustrations characterise Ingela P.Arrhenius’ latest title for the ‘flaps and mirror’ series in an amusing introduction to space exploration for the very youngest.

The space travellers hidden herein are a delightful mix of human, canine and alien. There’s Mrs Engineer, Mr Space Dog, Mrs Alien,

Mr Astronaut and finally, whoever happens to be looking in the mirror tucked beneath the felt moon flap.

This one’s sure to add to the deserved popularity of the hide-and-seek series.

Animal Families: Forest, Animal Families: Safari / If I Were a Bear

Animal Families: Forest
Animal Families: Safari

Jane Ormes
Nosy Crow

Little ones can discover the parental names of a variety of animals in two different habitats.

Forest presents for example a ‘mummy fox’ or vixen, a dog (daddy) fox and then if you lift the flap on the recto, you discover some baby foxes or kits.

Interestingly both a female deer and a female rabbit are called does whereas a male deer is a stag and a male rabbit is a buck; their offspring are fawns (baby deer) and like foxes, baby rabbits are called kits.

A boar (male bear) and a sow (female) produce bear cubs.

The pattern is the same throughout with the little ones being discovered by lifting the flaps on each recto.

The final spread has gatefolds opening to showcase the collective nouns for each of the animal families included.

Safari is slightly different in that each of the parent animals (leopards, zebras, lions and rhinos) are referred to as ‘daddy’ or ‘mummy’ and beneath the flaps are hidden ‘baby’ leopards, ‘baby’ zebras and so on while the final spread asks tinies to point out various items such as a pink sun’ or ‘little yellow huts’.

The real strength of both books is Jane Ormes’ striking, screen-printed patterned animal images that all have a textured look about them providing further opportunities for language development.

If I Were a Bear
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot

Through Shelley Gill’s informative rhyming text and Erik Brooks’ splendid, realistic painterly illustrations, the very young are introduced to several kinds of bears, their habits and habitats.

They may be surprised to learn that not only are there black, brown and polar bears, but also rare blue bears and black bears born white, also known as Kermode bears.

Read to Your Baby Every Day / Hickory Dickory Dock

Read to Your Baby Every Day
edited by Rachel Williams, illustrated by Chloe Giordano
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Editor Rachel Williams has chosen thirty classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes, favourite nursery songs along with the occasional action rhyme for this collection for adult carers to share with babies.

Chloe Giordana has crafted beautiful, intricately detailed sewn accompaniments to the words using a mix of stitching and fabrics that are hand-dyed.

It’s never and I mean never, too soon to introduce babies to rhymes and songs; there’s absolutely no better way not only to bond with a little one, but it’s proven that exposure to the world around through spoken words, rhymes and songs gives young children a head start in education, and not only with respect to language learning and communication skills.

This lovely collection will introduce tinies to the likes of Hey, Diddle Diddle, Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, Humpty Dumpty

and Little Miss Muffet along with Row, Row Row Your Boat, Hush Little Baby and I’m a Little Teapot,

and even both in English and French Are you sleeping?

A lovely gift to give a new parent.

Hickory Dickory Dock
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

A favourite rhyme with all the nursery classes I ever taught is this one that’s now given the ‘Sing along with me!’ format characterised by sturdy sliders and peep-holes. However in addition to singing the song, little ones will love watching the escapades of the mice as the clock strikes one, then two, then three

and finally four, and discovering that by four o’clock there’s not just one but four mice tucked up in cosy beds ready for some shut-eye, having escaped the clutches of the moggy character that has been eyeing them during the past three hours.

Yu-hsuan Huang’s illustrations are a delight with plenty to interest child and adult as they share the book or perhaps listen to the recording from the scanned QR code.

Choo-Choo Peekaboo / Marvel Alpha Block / Where Do Pants Go?

Choo-Choo Peekaboo
Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

Artistically minded Zebra sets out one fine morning eager to spend a day engaged in his favourite pastime, painting. Seemingly however, his animal friends and acquaintances have other ideas.

Chaos ensues wherever poor Zebra stops and begins his artistic endeavours, be it city,

riverside, by a lake, deep in the countryside,

even atop a mountain he finds no peace. Surely nothing can disturb his nocturnal attempt though? Errrm!

It looks as though there is only one way to please everyone … BEEP BEEP! TOOT TOOT! And off they go …

With paint-daubing primates, a loop-the-looping porcine, roller-skating rabbits, cable-car riding cows, a space-ship sortie by sheep even; all of which are revealed from behind the gate-fold flaps, this interactive book will delight tinies, especially those with a penchant for noisy vehicles, madcap animals and surprises – that covers pretty much all of them.

Add to the mix, laugh-out loud scenarios, speech bubbles and a highly satisfying finale, I’d say Gareth Lucas has a hit on his hands with this sturdy board book.

And adults will enjoy the visual references to famous artists along the way.

Marvel Alpha Block
Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

Bristol based illustration/design partnership Peskimo have chosen scenes and characters from the Marvel Cinematic
Universe for their latest Block Book. As usual it’s a chunky board book with flaps and splendid action scenes, that feature herein everything from Ant Man to Falcon,

and Pepper Potts to Xandar, Yondu and Zuri, before the entire cast assembles in alphabetical order on a grand finale fold-out.

Amazingly, each superhero represents a letter of the alphabet – a large cut-out capital letter that leaps up from the centre of the spread and beneath which lurks the superhero in an action scene (along with other characters who may or may not share the same initial letter).

Watch out for punch packing potential should more than one little would-be superhero get their hands on this simultaneously. With its super art, it surely is a winning alphabet book that I suspect, adults will enjoy almost as much as their young ones.

Where Do Pants Go?
Rebecca Van Slyke and Chris Robertson
Sterling

A fun interactive book about getting dressed takes toddlers through the routine dressing ritual. To avoid confusion, adult sharers not in the US should be forewarned that “underwear’ is used for pants and pants herein refers to trousers, so readers aloud will probably want to make some adjustments as they read the question and answer narrative with tinies.

Said tinies will doubtless delight in the cumulative, predictable text with its repeated final ‘and underwear on your bottom!’

and giggle over the silly placements of the various items of clothing in this book that reminded me somewhat of Shigeo Watanabe and Yasuo Ohtomo’s How Do I Put It On? that features a muddled little bear.

A satisfying finale sees all the fully dressed little ones enjoying some outdoor play together.

The Colour of Happy / Some Days / A Thank You Walk

The Colour of Happy
Laura Baker and Angie Rozelaar
Hodder Children’s Books

This sweet, simple rhyming story of a boy finding a dandelion seed head and what happens thereafter is the means for an exploration of feelings for young children around the age of the child narrator, using a rainbow of emotions and the fluffy seed head.

The child, out walking with a pup, spies a dandelion clock: ’Yellow is for happy when I spot a special thing,’ he tells us and having picked it, hops and skips along. But when a gust of wind whisks his treasure away, the boy is engulfed in dark blue sadness.

His emotions then run through the colour spectrum: red for anger as he watches it sail away;

green for feelings of envy when he sees a girl with the seed head; grey when he cannot believe things will be okay; gold for the kindly response from a little girl, and the return of hope as they play together chasing the dandelion clock while it sails off again;

purple for the proud feeling when the boy again holds his treasure safe and bids his friend farewell; orange for the mounting excitement as he heads home and finally, pink as he reaches the front door with his somewhat depleted, love-filled offering …

Little ones will certainly relate to Laura Baker’s lovely story, which offers a great starting point for becoming mindful about their own responses to situations. With a foundation stage class, I envisage children talking about the book, their own feelings with regard to a particular happening; and then perhaps responding with paints or whatever medium they feel right, in music or a dance with coloured scarves perhaps.

Some Days
Karen Kaufman Orloff and Ziyue Chen
Sterling Children’s Books

We all experience different feelings at different times and so it is with young children and this book, with Karen Kaufman’s lively rhyming text and Ziyue Chen’s warmly hued illustrations, conveys that huge gamut of emotions through the course of a year.

Through two young children, we share in their everyday highlights such as ‘chocolate pudding pie day’s’, ‘Kites up in the sky days. Jumping super high days’; the joys of swimming and sunbathing;

as well as the downs – a nasty cut knee for instance.

Some days are extra special like that for ‘picking out a pup’ or winning a cup. Then come fussy mum days

and days when raincoats just won’t do, and there are  too wet to play football days with glum stay indoors faces; better though are snow angel making days and watching a warm fire days.

The author acknowledges those bad days when everything feels wrong

and those when it’s best to be alone.

Finally comes ‘Learning to be me days’ which is really the essence of the whole, a book that celebrates the positive but doesn’t gloss over the negative feelings. It’s a good starting point for discussion in an early years setting, or after a one-to-one sharing at home, perhaps about how best to respond to and deal with negative emotions. After all, being mindful of, and being able to talk about, our emotions and feelings helps us best deal with them.

Helping to develop mindfulness in even younger children is:

A Thank You Walk
Nancy Loewen and Hazel Quintanilla
Words & Pictures

Nancy Loewen’s brief story of a mother and little girl walking their dog, Duke, is one of the Bright Start series aimed at developing emotional intelligence in the very young.

Simply expressed it tells how as they stroll hand in hand mother and child interact with the animals they encounter. The barking sounds of Duke, the chirping of birds eating seeds, a neighing pony fed carrots, an overturned beetle that they rescue, which flies off with a buzz-buzz,

are, the child is told, the creatures’ ways of saying thank you.

Cutely and expressively illustrated in black and white with orange pops, by Hazel Quintanilla the book demonstrates the importance of showing appreciation and thankfulness. It’s never too soon to start saying thank you and as an introduction to being mindful about expressing gratitude it offers a useful starter for a circle time session with a nursery group, or for individual sharing at home.

Board Book Gathering: Jump! / Hello House / Hello Garage / Meeko and the Big Red Potty

Jump!
Tatsuhide Matsuoka
Gecko Press

This is such a cool board book; it made me want to go out, find the nearest toddler, share the book and do some joyful, very noisy celebratory jumping about together.

The idea is so simple yet SO effective: a patterned text accompanies a statement going over two vertically opening spreads, starting with ‘A frog jumps. // Boing!’
It then proceeds to introduce other agile jumping creatures – a kitten, a dog, a grasshopper …

a rabbit, a snail – although that one just cannot get airborn,

a mother hen and chick, a fish and finally the small girl narrator of Tatsuhide Matsuoka’s cracking little book.

Ready to jump? Everybody ready? 1, 2, 3 … BOING!

Hello House
Hello Garage

Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

In Hello House little Ludo is out and about in search of some friends to play with. He calls first at the home of Milly and Dylan who are busy cooking in their kitchen. Next stop is at the rabbits’ residence where he invites the bunnies to join him. Ludo and entourage then proceed to Ruby and Ned’s house and ask the pups to leave the TV and play outside.

Their final port of call is Bruno Bear’s and there they discover a sleeping friend who needs a spot of nose tickling to wake him from his slumbers. Then with all the friends assembled it’s time for some fun …

Little fingers will enjoy lifting the house-shaped flaps to assist Ludo as he rounds up his pals.

Equally enjoyable is Hello Garage and again Ludo is on the hunt for playmates only now his search takes him to the garage where he looks in various vehicles in the hope that he’ll find some not too busy animals with time to play.

With Leo, Mabel, Olaf, Daisy, George, and finally (after a tummy tickling rousing) Lucy duly invited, let playtime begin on the ‘soft, green grass’

Toddler fun through a pleasing repeat pattern text, and bright illustrations with plenty of detail to peruse and discuss.

Meeko and the Big Red Potty
Camilla Reid and Nicola Slater
Nosy Crow

Little ones just at the potty training stage will love that you can orchestrate Camilla Reid’s story by means of the strategically placed sound buttons as they hear how now a big bear, Meeko recently has graduated from nappies to big bear pants. However there are still times like this one when he just can’t manage to hold it and so does a wee, soaking his pants and the floor.
Happily next time though he remembers he needs to run to his red potty before it’s too late

and the simple story ends with a proud Meeko and equally proud parents and animal friends. Splendidly expressive illustrations from Nicola Slater make this down-to-earth board book a winner.

Kindness Rules! / Hide-and-Sleep

Kindness Rules!
Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters (aka Hello! Lucky), offer, courtesy of an elephant and friends, a lesson, or rather several lessons, in good manners. (Elephants are apparently ace when it comes to faultless etiquette.)

First though our magic manners advocate dons respectacles, positive pants and cape of kindness. Polite greetings, sharing, inclusivity, saying please, good listening and explaining one’s feelings, respecting the property of others, not invading another’s personal space; good table manners and knowing when to apologise are all presented as desirable and elephant ends with a summarising golden rule: ‘Treat others the way you want them to treat you!’,

Delivered mostly in rhyme, and through alluring, lively illustrations these lessons will prove invaluable when little ones start playgroup or nursery.

Hide-and-Sleep
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

With her characteristic whimsy, Lizi Boyd has created another winner for little ones. Right from the start they’re urged to join in the play, look closely and carefully and try to discover the answer to the question, ‘Who is hiding?’ in the meadow and forest scenes.

Alternate pages of this tall book are split a little more than halfway down, which encourages readers to participate in the game and search for creatures among the flowers, trees, beside the pond and as day turns to night, on the moonlit hills, among the tree branches and up in the sky.

Every turn of the page reveals more creatures – blinking fish, a sneaking racoon, a resting turtle, a leaping frog, a dashing fox,

a sitting squirrel, a swooping owl and more. Deft fingers can create three alternative double spreads from two as they enjoy the captions that engage and move the game forward in response to the “Who is hiding?’ question it the bottom corner of each recto.

Just before the animals all, or rather almost all, bed down for some shut-eye, the answer to this persistent question is revealed.

Gentle, playful and thoroughly engaging: Lizi Boyd’s richly patterned, stylised images in jewel-like colours provide delight at every turn of the page; but as for the titular ‘sleep’, well, forget it until the final pages; this is full-on energetic frolicking.