Lulu’s First Day / Butterflies on the First Day of School

Lulu’s First Day
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Max

Lulu is starting pre-school and she’s already been well prepared. There have been lots of story time sessions at the library, a visit to the school, and special gifts from Nana and Tayo that she’ll use regularly for school.

She’s even chosen her clothes for the next day and packed extras in her new bag – just in case.

The big day dawns, everybody is up early and with a pause for a quick photo, off she goes with her mum.

There’s a warm welcome from her teacher and Lulu is soon enjoying all that nursery has to offer.

Almost before you can say, ‘circle time’, there she is on the carpet with all her friends and the grown-ups are waiting outside eager to hear of those new experiences.

Yes, its’ been a tiring day, but Lulu can’t wait for tomorrow …

With all the reassurance that little ones need, Anna McQuinn and Ros. Beardshaw present the pitch perfect book for those who, like Lulu, are about to take those next steps into pre-school.

Butterflies on the First Day of School
Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen
Sterling Children’s Books

An enchanting fanciful take on a well-known figure of speech is presented in this story of first day nerves.

Rosie has been eagerly anticipating starting school for a whole month but on the night before her big day, doubts creep in and next morning she announces that she doesn’t feel well.

Her mum tells her it’s just butterflies in her tummy and when she sits chatting rather nervously on the school bus to another new girl, butterflies (seen only by Rosie) flutter from her mouth. Now she understands her mum’s puzzling comment.

More butterflies are released, also seen only by Rosie, every time she opens her mouth in the classroom during that first session,

until by playtime her tummy is less rumbly and she can barely feel any more butterflies.

Out go the children to play, Rosie feeling pretty confident now. Then she notices another little girl standing alone under a tree, hands on her tummy. Rosie introduces herself and when the forlorn-looking girl speaks, a cloud of butterflies come fluttering from her mouth.

With its bold bright butterfly images this is a lovely warm story that will reassure little ones who like Rosie are starting school imminently, along with adults who may well share that first day feeling.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett
Orchard Books

Storyteller extraordinaire Geraldine McCaughrean retells the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale as only she can, making it a real joy to read aloud.

Delphine the youngest of six mermaid sisters hears from her siblings of the wonders of the world above the sea’s surface and can hardly wait for her special coming of age birthday when she too will be allowed to venture up.

When the great day arrives it’s a joyful Delphine who swims to the surface and begins to sing in her wonderful voice.
As she does so another celebration is taking place aboard a great ship anchored close by. The sight of the prince’s face sends her heart spinning but suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, there comes a huge storm engulfing the ship entirely beneath the waves.

Delphine manages to rescue the prince taking him to a safe place on land not far from what she thinks must be his palace home, and there she leaves him knowing she must never be seen by human eyes.

As her songs grow ever sadder fuelled by her nightly swims to the cove near the palace, it becomes clear to her sisters that she has fallen in love with the prince.

Determined to become his wife, Delphine visits the sea witch and a deal is struck – a potion to render her human in exchange for her beautiful voice.

But that is just part of the enormous price Delphine has to pay. It’s not she who marries the prince but another beauty.

The tragedy doesn’t end there, as those familiar with the original will know

and others must learn from this utterly enchanting rendition that is made all the more magical by Laura Barrett’s silhouette style illustrations.

Assuredly a book for lovers of fairy tales, young and not so young; buy it to keep and buy it to give; buy it for home and buy it for school.

Don’t Mess with a Princess!

Don’t Mess with a Princess!
Rachel Valentine and Rebecca Bagley
Puffin Books

Far away in a beautiful and usually very happy kingdom atop a hill lives King Juno. Also residing in the palace are his three granddaughters Princess Thea, Princess Leaf and Princess Juno.

Now these three aren’t the type of princess who sits around waiting for a handsome prince to show up and sweep them off their feet, far from it.

So when having heard news of a mayhem creating Ogre, the King warns them to remain in their tower and absolutely not, on any account to mess with the Ogre, they quickly conceive a plan.

The sisters are thoroughly resourceful females and it isn’t long before they’re off towards the forest – an enchanted forest. But, unlike the knights sent to capture the Ogre, the three princesses know just how to get themselves safely through the angry trees and come out with, as Juno says, ‘fabulous hair’.

But can they cope with the webbed pit alive with large squirming spiders?

Fortunately Theo knows how to deal with the creatures and then all they need to do is cross the ravine with the broken bridge.

This time it’s Leaf who comes up trumps with some deft knots.

The important thing about all three princesses is that while not totally fearless, they’re always up for a challenge.

Once across and in Neatville they’re greeted with the sight of the Ogre charging off to trash yet another village. Off go the princesses in hot pursuit and finally they have the Ogre trussed up.

It’s then that they discover the reason their captive has been causing so much devastation; and being kind-hearted as well as clever, Thea, Leaf and Juno are ready and able to assist the Ogre in his search for his lost item.

If, like me you enjoy neo fairy tales then you’re certain to relish Rachel Valentine’s action-packed story of using your talents and not allowing others to make decisions for you.

Debut picture book illustrator Rebecca Valentine’s droll scenes of the three creative adventurers highlight the contrast between them and the supposedly brave knights of the kingdom. Make sure you spend time enjoying all the wonderful details on every spread.

Button & Popper

Button & Popper
Oili Tanninen
Thames & Hudson

This is a retro charmer from the 1960s created by award wining Finish author and illustrator Oili Tanninen.

It tells of a family of pixies, a mother and father and their twelve children, who with winter fast approaching, decide that their apple tree home isn’t suitable accommodation for the cold and rain. It’s a worrying, sad time as they consume the pie made from the last apples that evening. Two of the children, twins Button and Popper resolve that the following morning they will go and find a new home.

Out they sneak, very early towards town making inquiries, but all those they ask say the same thing ”Twelve children” and kindly explain there’s nowhere large enough for so many people.

The twins feel more than a little dispirited, but then by mistake the only person in the market they haven’t asked, an absent minded fellow named Professor Prilli, accidentally picks up the basket they’d climbed into, mistaking it for his own and takes it back, leaving it in his cellar.

Realising they’ve left their father’s umbrella at the market the two pixies manage to escape. They retrieve the umbrella and the professor’s own basket and take it back to him.

The thankful professor asks the pixies what they were doing in the market and when he learns their reason, he offers them temporary use of his home till he returns from his South Pole research trip the following spring.

There’s great jubilation all round when the twins give the exciting news to the rest of their family back at the apple tree.

With its orange, yellow and black illustrations adorned with lines and geometric shapes, this delightful tale of serendipity will appeal especially to those who enjoy a touch of whimsy in their stories.

Hope

Hope
Corrinne Averiss and Sébastien Pelon
Words & Pictures

Finn is a small boy with a very large dog called Comet. The two are best friends and do pretty much everything together.

One morning Comet isn’t his usual lively self: “He’s poorly,” Mum says, “he needs to go to the vet’s.”

Off go Dad, Finn and the dog in the car. The vet is uncertain about Comet’s recovery but promises to do his best.

Alone in his den on their return, Ben lets his tears flow.

Dad comes into the boy’s room with a torch offering advice. “All we can do is hope, … Hope is keeping a little light on however dark things seem,’ he tells the boy.

That night Finn lies in bed, torch on for Comet and unable to sleep.

Suddenly he notices another light: it’s the bright moon shining right into his room as if it too is hoping.

Eventually Finn does fall asleep and outside the sky is alight with hopes – big and small, old and new, some shining right down on the vet’s.

Next morning it’s an anxious boy who rushes downstairs just in time for a wonderful surprise …

A powerful, positive message shines forth both from Corrinne’s appropriately direct telling and Sébastien Pelon’s illustrations. His effective use of dark, light and shadow serves to intensify the emotional power of the story showing little ones that even in dark times, you should never give up hope.

Kites

Kites
Simon Mole and Oamul Lu
Frances Lincoln First Editions

Young David has just moved to Fivehills and the very first thing that he notices is the abundance of kites in the sky: seemingly he’s the only person without one.

Using bits and pieces from things he already has, the boy fashions a kite and cannot wait to launch it from the hill whereon the others are flying theirs.

Then one by one, well-intentioned girls and a boy alter David’s own design.

By the time they’ve finished the kite is totally different and certainly doesn’t feel right. Moreover when it comes to ‘breeze-busting’ and ‘gale-sailing’ the thing is a total flop.

Back in his bedroom David takes hold of Grandpa’s lucky feather and remembers his words, “Let’s see what we’ve already got. More often than not, we’ll find the answer inside.” And then he knows.

Back to the kite he goes and once again makes it his own.  Will it fly this time?

David though, has learned about more than just kite-making that day: he’s made an important discovery concerning himself.

Simon Mole’s reflective narrative is poetic which isn’t surprising as he’s a performance poet. In this, his first picture book he captures so well those feelings of displacement and desperately wanting to belong that children especially experience when moving to a new community: feelings that Oamul Lu mirrors in his distinctive eloquent digital paintings.

Through the Eyes of Us / In Every House, on Every Street

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding
Graffeg

This is the second book written by the father of a child on the autism spectrum.

Herein as well as Kya from Through the Eyes of Me, we meet her best friend Martha.

Kya, now at school, talks about her experiences there, sometimes contrasting her thoughts, behaviour and preferences with Martha’s.

I know from experience of children I’ve taught that school can be a very confusing place for neurodiverse children, but both girls have their own ways of navigating through lessons, playtimes and lunchtimes, all of which are illustrated in colourful, detailed, sometimes funny scenes.

Kya also describes how she and Martha enjoy different tactile experiences,

and activities in their free time; and their routines are also different.

Martha knows when she feels tired, unlike our narrator whose energy seems boundless; although once asleep after a soothing bath and massage, she sleeps soundly.

Enlivened by Hannah Rounding’s expressive illustrations, this is a smashing celebration of every child’s uniqueness as well as providing an insightful picture of the world of an autistic child.

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

Put Through the Eyes of Us in your class collection and whether or not you have children on the autism spectrum therein, read it together, talk about it and lend it to individuals for home sharing too.

In Every House, on Every Street
Jess Hitchman and Lili La Baleine
Little Tiger

The girl narrator of this book invites readers into her house to see what goes on in its various rooms.

What we discover is a happy family engaging in seemingly ordinary everyday activities, but nothing they do is dull or mundane.

The cake baking in the kitchen becomes an opportunity for the family to dance and sing together.

The dining room might be the place for eating a meal, but that meal can turn into a fun piratical party,

while the living room is a great spot for rest and relaxation but also for dancing and singing, mulling things over and talking about feelings.

Yes the bathroom is for getting clean but there are opportunities for some artistic endeavours too.

And the bedroom? Yes sleep happens therein, but so too does play.

Full of warmth, this is a lovely demonstration of what makes a house a home delivered through Jess Hitchman’s upbeat rhyming narrative and Lili La Baleine’s views of the everyday incidents of family life that make it special but different for everyone in the street, as the final fold out spread reveals.