This Girl Can Be A Bit Shy / I Just Ate My Friend

This Girl Can Be A Bit Shy
Stephanie Stansbie and Hazel Quintanilla
Little Tiger

Narrated by little Ruby, ‘I am brilliant. I’m also a little bit shy.’ we learn of her different days: some when she feels brave, bouncy and full of chat, and others when she wants to go it alone, not playing with anybody, not talking to others just hiding herself away in one of her favourite hiding places where no-one can look at her and she doesn’t have to join in with things her friends are doing.

Her Dad understands exactly and wisely suggests, “Tell people kindly if you’re feeling shy.’

No matter what though, there is one thing Ruby is never too shy to say: can you guess what that is?

This is the second book wherein we meet the delightful Ruby as main protagonist and it’s a pleasure to be back in her company, empowering others with her thoughts, energy and actions now that she’s turning six, as we see in some of Hazel Quintanilla’s enchanting illustrations.

I Just Ate My Friend
Heidi McKinnon
Allen & Unwin

Darkly humorous is this tale of a monster that eats its friend and spends almost the rest of the book searching for a new one – to no avail. Those asked, ‘Hello! Would you be my friend?’ find the impulsive protagonist in turn, too big, too small, too scary, too slow

and then there’s just a flat refusal sans reason. Just when it seems he’ll remain lonely evermore, what should come along but another potential candidate for friendship with alluring eyes and a beguiling smile …

This simple story with its patterned text is perfect for those in the early stages of learning to read and they will likely delight in the unexpected twist with which the story ends.

My Brother George

My Brother George
Kelly & Zoe Allen and Tara O’Brien
uclan publishing

The creators of My Momma Zo, LGBTQ+ parents Kelly and Zoey Allen and illustrator Tara O’Brien, have collaborated on a new picture book about having the courage to be different.

Molly acts as the narrator and tells how her slightly older brother, whom she dearly loves, has long hair that confuses some people; they think he’s a girl and thus her sister.

Molly now feels sufficiently confident to stick up for George, pointing out that he’s her brother. This receives mixed results and one woman’s comment about him being ‘too pretty to be a boy’ angers Molly, who for once is unable to find the right words to respond.

Hurrah for George though: he replies thus, “I think you should get to know someone before finding out their gender.” and ever since her brother has gained more confidence. He plays with dolls, borrows his sister’s clothes, enjoys baking and is a fan of zombies; he also is an expert at nail adornment.

Despite still getting called a girl and being the source of amusement at times, he knows everything he does is just part of being true to himself and so he endeavours to help others understand, often under the watchful eye of Molly who is always there for him should she be needed.

Stylishly illustrated in bright colours by Tara O’Brien and frankly told in a heartfelt manner by Kelly and Zoe Allen, this is another empowering story that encourages everyone to be who they truly are, and to feel confident and comfortable in themselves. With too many adults quick to be judgemental about those they perceive to be different, we need this book and more similar ones in primary classrooms, libraries and homes.

Luna and the Treasure of Tlaloc

Luna and the Treasure of Tlaloc
Joe Todd-Stanton
Flying Eye Books

At the start of this, the fifth of the Brownstone Mythical Collection series, Professor Brownstone introduces readers to Luna Brownstone, the most cunning of all the Brownstones. Daughter of renowned and respected adventurers known for their selfless acts, Luna decides after her parents were robbed and left abandoned while on a mission, that she would look after nobody but herself. This is just what she did: running away from home as soon as she was old enough, Luna began stealing priceless treasures from all over the world.

On the hunt for her next treasure, she goes to Aztec America and there learns of a young girl, Atzi, who has volunteered to undertake a journey, taking an offering, to the Aztec rain god Tlaloc and imploring him to save her village from drought. Luna decides on a cunning plan: she’ll befriend the girl, take her map and find the rain god on her own.

Their journey to his home beneath a sacred mountain is full of hazards including strange creatures

and they have to solve a riddle to discover the entrance to the palace. Luna realises that she must work with Atzi to navigate powerful waterfalls and evade hungry creatures, avoid dangerous ice shards and much more. Suddenly as they near their destination, Atzi is in peril of her life. Luna finds herself unable to let her die, though she doesn’t abandon her plan to steal the gold offering.

But is there something else that matters more than treasure and self- interest: Luna is soon faced with a crucial decision: does she have within her the power to change?

Luna is a rather different protagonist from others in the picture book cum graphic novel series – an anti-hero – and as always, Joe Todd-Stanton’s richly coloured illustrations for this thought-provoking story are full of wonderful details to pore over.

The Goat and the Stoat and the Boat

The Goat and the Stoat and the Boat
Em Lynas and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow

Sit back, sail along and enjoy the rhyming fun from the team who gave us The Cat and the Rat and the Hat; the text for this one is every bit as funny and lively and Matt Hunt’s highly energetic scenes of what turns out to be a fair bit of rocking and rolling, which inevitably leads to some pretty catastrophic consequences, are just superb.

It all begins with Stoat floating merrily along in his favourite boat when along comes Goat. Goat too wants to float in that same boat so on he leaps.

The problem is that although Stoat is well aware of the way to keep safe therein, Goat most certainly is not. All he wants is to have fun too. Pretty soon however, things start to turn nasty. Stoat seizes a pencil and lays claim to the boat, which develops into a pencil power dual.

That is when, in addition to the rocking and rolling, the boat starts wibbling and wobbling, tilting and tipping and it’s not long before there’s a big splash in the moat. You’ll quickly guess the cause of that. Now the thing is that Goat in that colourful coat is able to stay afloat; not so however, Stoat. Is it time for a truce?

Adult readers aloud will need to take care their tongues don’t get into a twist when they share this cleverly constructed tale. Young listeners will delight in the cumulative chaos that the animals cause; Matt Hunt’s expressive illustrations portray this with panache..

Ingenious Edie Master Inventor of Tiny Town

Ingenious Edie Master Inventor of Tiny Town
Patrick Corrigan
Flying Eye Books

Meet young inventor Edie, one of the tiny inhabitants of Tiny Town. She loves nothing better than to create new contraptions and her aim is that each new one is even better than any of her previous inventions. She always keeps what she’s working on top secret – no help from anybody else, ever.

However that is until the arrival of Magpie; he with a particular penchant for all things shiny and a plethora of disguises. Edie decides this marauding meanie has to be stopped so she sets to work inventing clever Magpie traps but none is successful in doing the job. 

The girl is distraught especially after needing to call for assistance from her friends to extricate herself from entanglement engineered by Magpie. 

As she sits sobbing at her failures, first Ladybird and then others of her pals suggests that this is an occasion when they should all work together if they want to trap the thief.

The following day there appears on Tiny Town’s street something ‘new and mysterious’. Surely an irresistible attraction for any creature on the lookout for shiny objects. Could this be a case of community action winning the day?

That the power of the imagination and creativity play a vital role in scientific, technological and engineering discoveries and advances is demonstrated so well in Patrick Corrigan’s illustrations of Edie’s inventions. I love the miniature world created in this story, the demonstration of the importance of community action and wholeheartedly recommend sharing it with young children at home and in the classroom.

Did You Do This Poo?

Did You Do This Poo?
Lucy Rowland and Gareth Conway
Scholastic

A little unicorn turns detective when walking in the forest one morning, on account of a strange aroma that on further investigation turns out to be a rather large, slimy poo. He asks readers to join him in a search for the poo perpetrator.

First to be questioned is Rabbit who happens to hop by, but responding to the interrogation thus, “My poos aren’t so slimy. They don’t have that smell. In fact, they’re so nice that I eat them as well!”, it’s obvious that Rabbit is innocent. So too is Wise Owl – a splat clears that creature. Then Badger appears and on being asked like the others, ‘did YOU do this poo?’ does turn a tad pink but is quick to point out that he uses a special latrine in which to drop his excretory matter. Bear, Bat and Deer’s poos don’t match the pongy turd either.

It appears that somebody is not being truthful, but who could it be?

Suddenly Badger advances and explains that earlier that morning, he’d gone to his latrine, found it engaged and unable to hold on, did a dump elsewhere – the very one that they’ve spent so long trying to identify.

Now with the culprit having owned up, the animals – now poo experts – turn their attention to examining what was left in Badger’s pit. Will they solve that case? Have you?

Let’s just say this poo leaver has no option but to own it with pride.

With her combination of unicorn protagonist and poo, rhyming expert extraordinaire, Lucy Rowland, is surely on to a winner with young children, even more so with Gareth Conway’s hilarious scenes of the animals’ search for the pooing culprit. A smashing whodunit for story time sharing; you might want to have some air freshener at the ready.

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day
Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald
Scholastic

Separated by several hills, best friends Rita and Ralph live quite some distance apart but they have established a daily routine, a ritual really. They both go ‘down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, and up the hill’ to meet under the apple tree between their houses. There they ‘high-five, pinkie-shake, do a cha-cha-cha, play zombie tag, and make daisy chains.’
One day though, they decide to play a new game, Sticks and Stones. Ralph accidentally knocks Rita who ends up with a very sore bump on her head and they both run off back home, Rita angry, Ralph sorry for hurting his best pal.


He wants to apologise so he makes the entire journey to Rita’s house. What a walk! ‘down the hill and up the hill … ‘He arrives feeling a tad grumpy and his apology doesn’t come across as very genuine so Rita’s door remains closed. Off storms Ralph back home leaving Rita feeling the need to say sorry. Off she runs – you know how it goes –

but her thoughts en route anger her and she also leaves without apologising. Now the two children are both mad and sad. What a rotten day and it’s followed by a sleepless night.
A new day begins and Rita and Ralph head out to their usual meeting place. Can peace resume? Of course it can for ‘best friends always find a way… ‘

Thoroughly engaging and what fun this will be in a story time session with all that upping and downing of hills, high fiving, pinkie shaking, cha-cha-cha’ing. The author provides a note showing how to play the ‘Mr Wiggle and Mr Waggle’ hand game after the story, a story which shows how anger can sometimes cause ridiculous behaviour and saying sorry to a treasured friend is a vital, often up and down, process. Pete Oswald’s digitally worked gouache illustrations skilfully uses the format, showing the hilly landscape, the contrasting homes of Rita and Ralph, not to mention occasional guest appearances of Ralph’s cat and Rita’s dog, and humorously depicting the feelings of both children in their constantly changing expressions and body language.

Rory’s Room of Rectangles

Rory’s Room of Rectangles
Ian Eagleton and Jessica Knight
Owlet Press

With Father’s Day coming up Rory’s class are making cards but he is feeling conflicted. His Dad no longer lives with him and his Mum, who has a live in new boyfriend Tony. Rory sees his Dad at weekends; the rest of the time is spent at home with Mum and Tony, whom he likes a lot, but inevitably he misses Dad very much.

So who should he send his card to? Anger takes over and at home time the boy tears his card in two and puts it in his coat pocket.

On Father’s Day as he sits with his Mum and Tony, Rory remembers that card still stashed away in his coat. Is Dad feeling lonely, he wonders as the rain falls. Tony is a perceptive man; he notices Rory’s change of mood and suggests the two of them go outside together saying, “I’ve been saving up some money for a rainy day.”

Off the two of them go together, and make their way to an art gallery with wonderful paintings of all kinds. They stop and sit in a room full of rectangles of different colours where Rory feels as though his clashing feelings are being reflected back to him. As the colours wield their power, the boy finds his eyes filling with tears.

The empathetic Tony responds with these words, “ I guess life is like an art gallery … sometimes it’s full of happiness and joy, sometimes it’s scary, and sometimes it’s sad But that’s OK. Whatever you feel is OK.”

Outside once more, as the sun sets, Tony has one more surprise for Rory … As the day ends Rory realises, on their walk back beneath a beautiful sky, that there is no need for him to feel torn.

Inspired by author, Ian Eagleton’s own experiences of being a new adoptive father, this powerful heartfelt tale of a blended family is sensitively illustrated by debut book illustrator Jessica Knight, whose portrayal of Rory’s roller coaster of emotions and his supportive adults is in perfect harmony with the telling.

A Bed of Stars

A Bed of Stars
Jessica Love
Walker Books

This beautiful demonstration of how powerful knowledge can be, begins with the child narrator telling readers that the immensity of the whole universe makes him feel so small as to be insignificant. This thought would keep him awake at night, but then one morning over breakfast his father announces, “We’re going camping you and me.”

The two pack up what they need and set out for the desert in the old family truck. The smell changes from ‘rubber and french fries’ as they leave the city and head into the mountains where it smells sweet and smoky. Dad talks of the flowers they pass and when they reach their destination, he points out the tiny beetle footprints in the sand. The two then jump in the dunes,

lie back and observe and name the birds and set up camp together. They build a fire, sing songs and watch the sunset.

Come bedtime, as they lie gazing skywards, the boy reiterates his fear of going to sleep because of the vastness of the universe. ( I love how beautifully this is mirrored in the blanket.) Dad knows just what to say and explains in his calm, thoughtful manner that stars are made of energy, “Same as you. Same as the beetles and crows and coyotes. We’re all friends and family in this universe. Maybe if you learned their names, they wouldn’t feel so much like strangers.” Then snuggled up together, the two give distinctive names to every star they can see and with fear transformed, the child drops off to sleep.

The next day, after hot chocolate and a greeting to the desert flora, the two are ready to return, The child repeats en route, the names of “all the new friends I’ve met… beetles, cacti, coyotes, stars,” At home Mum shares a surprise of her own making. Now at last, the child feels ‘at home in the universe.’

This tender, reassuring story with its scattering of small word pictures, shows just how a parent’s empathy and undivided attention allows his child to gain a different perspective on the universe. Jessica Love’s delicate watercolour, gouache and ink illustrations convey both intimacy and vastness making this contemplative story perfect for bedtime sharing (or any time), especially for anyone experiencing a lack of confidence similar to that of the child narrator.

My Bollywood Dream

My Bollywood Dream
Avani Dwivedi
Walker Books

Friday nights are special for the little girl narrator and her family, who set off through the hectic city streets of Mumbai, destination the cinema. En route in their car, the girl uses her camera to capture the sights and sounds of the city and in so doing imagines a movie evolving all around her, with action,

dance sequences and songs. Seemingly she has aspirations of becoming a movie director.

Once at the cinema, she immediately feels the excitement building in the audience until a hush descends and the film begins. It’s a typical Bollywood love story with lots of Hindi songs and dancing but it’s not just the actors that dance. Caught up in the music, up leap members of the audience and start moving in time to the beat, united briefly, by the hypnotic rhythms.

Our narrator concludes in upbeat mood, saying, “Bollywood movies are filled with many dreams and adventures that I haven’t yet had. … but one day I know I can create my own.”

Author/illustrator Avani Dwivedi has based her debut picture book on her own experiences of growing up in Mumbai and she really captures the vibrancy of Mumbai streets although I found it rather more chaotic on my most recent visit than her portrayal here. She captures too the magic of those movies, as they were, as they are and probably always will be, hopefully though with more women directors

Lola Saves the Show

Lola Saves the Show
Katherine Halligan and Guilherme Karsten
Walker Books

Created in association with The National Theatre, this fun adventure set on opening night, has most of the action taking place behind the scenes.

With the play soon to begin, best friends Lola and Oliver wait backstage and with necessary business done, Lola is about to enter stage left. But disaster strikes when she notices that a vital prop is not among those assembled on the table.
The only way to save the show is for Lola to find the Very Important Handkerchief. Off she dashes with Big Ed (her minder) and Oliver in hot pursuit, stopping to create mild chaos in various departments.

Lola is unstoppable even scaling the heights of the theatre when suddenly she remembers something and knows she must retrace her steps at top speed.

Back where she began, Lola finally finds that which she seeks and with not a single moment to spare, she makes her entrance before the waiting crowd. What a shining star she proves to be, but after her performance, something is lacking which makes the show’s saviour very sad. Happily however, Oliver knows just what is needed and all ends happily.

Guilherme Karsten’s funny, vibrant artwork is suitably dramatic and the fact that Lola is not a human is shown, but never mentioned in Katherine Halligan’s text makes the book all the more amusing. I love the names of the places Lola visits in her search for that missing article. (Further information about theatrical terms is given after the story)

More Peas Please!

More Peas Please!
Tom McLaughlin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

One supper time – on a Tuesday to be precise – Milo and Molly are sitting having their supper of lasagne and peas. Having wolfed down his lasagne Milo jumps up with a shout of “Finished!” His sister tells him otherwise and a conversation ensues, with Milo giving all manner of reasons why he can’t possibly eat the tiny roly objects, relating to their greenness, shininess and bounciness, as well as their sheer number.

Molly listens carefully and then gives her side, speaking of their strength-giving properties, as well as their ability to make Milo taller and super-smart. 

She then seizes her brother’s plate but can she manage to persuade him to return to the table and polish off those peas? He certainly appears to be having a change of heart about them …

With Milo’s fanciful food notions about harmless little spherical seeds and a surprise twist, this amusing story, hilariously illustrated by the author, is one to share with young picky eaters especially, though it will more than likely please the palates of other young children too. I especially love the way Tom McLaughlin brings Milo’s imaginings to the page. 

Broccoli anyone?

Daddy Do My Hair: Deji’s Haircut

Daddy Do My Hair: Deji’s Haircut
Tolá Okogwu and Chanté Timothy
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Author and hair-care educator, Tolá Okogwu, celebrates Afro hair again in her rhyming story, this time focusing on the relationship between a father and son.

The tale begins on the morning of Nana’s wedding and she declares that both father (who is giving the bride away) and son (who will act as page boy) are in need of haircuts and right away.

We follow Daddy and Deji as they race against time to find a barber’s shop that is open when they discover their usual one is closed. Daddy calls relations and friends for advice, all the while remaining upbeat about getting to the wedding on time.

Eventually they find one that offers haircuts accompanied music, and with pets allowed. Dad is done first and looks the business but then a moggy takes a leap causing the barber’s hand to slip.

The page-boy to be is distraught but his dad offers to fix his haircut and at home gets working with the clippers; but will they make it to the wedding on time?

After the story, Tolá talks about her desire to create ‘mirrors and windows’ that give children an opportunity to read books that reflect their lives and cultures; she does exactly that in Deji’s Haircut, although the rhyme creaks slightly a couple of times. Echoing the author’s desire, Chanté Timothy’s vibrant illustrations are stylishly cool.

Also included are haircare tips for Afro hair from the author.

Big Cat / Winston and The Indoor Cat

Big Cat
Jess Racklyeft
Allen & Unwin

Meet seven year old Catherine, an adventurer and investigator who likes everything to be ‘just so’ : her papers are organised by colour, her trainers always at the ready and her compass close at hand.

When she learns of Big Cats prowling near the city, she’s intrigued and next morning she wakes with a Big Cat hunt already in her mind. So, with essentials in her backpack, she sallies forth leaving ‘lures in the wildest place she knew.’ When her search yields no success, she sits alone to finish her snack and suddenly finds she’s face to face with a large, satisfied feline. This creature is totally unlike Catherine – lawless and chaotic

– but nonetheless the two bond, discovering they both love adventures. Catherine tells her new friend of her discoveries and Big Cat helps her make exciting new ones. The story ends on a wonderful note with Big Cat carrying ‘a little bit of Catherine in her pocket’ and Catherine keeping ‘a big piece of Big Cat in her heart.’ I love that.

Jess Racklyeft created this lovely story during lockdown in Melbourne where as she says in an introductory note, “ I discovered new places close to home … took new paths, looked for magic in the mundane” – and found it with the increased sharpness of cat-like eyes.

The book, with Jess’s detailed watercolour illustrations, pays tribute to small adventures, making new discoveries and appreciating what is around you. I think these are things a great many of us found close to home during those lockdown times. It also shows how spending time in the company of someone very different from yourself is often beneficial to both parties.

It is certainly true for the characters in this story


Winston and The Indoor Cat
Leila Rudge
Walker Books

Friendship and individuality are explored in this tale of Winston the outdoor one and the Indoor Cat, very different moggies indeed that form an unlikely friendship.

Winston’s outdoor existence suits him perfectly with its opportunities to explore freely and have exhilarating experiences. Then one morning he is surprised to encounter The Indoor Cat, albeit behind glass and decides to free the pristine, leisure loving creature. Winston goes on to show The Indoor Cat all the great things about outdoor life and his new friend has to agree, it is thrilling

but not really what he wants.

Back home he goes, inviting Winston back for lunch, after which he shows him all the wonderful things about life indoors. Yes, it’s a life of leisure and luxury, Winston agrees but not the life for him, most of the time anyhow.

This simple tale of respecting differences, staying true to yourself and being open to new experiences is told with a simple, straightforward text and gently humorous watercolour and pencil illustrations. Ideal for sharing with very young listeners.

Zeki Goes To The Park / Grandads Are the Greatest

Zeki Goes To The Park
Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
Alanna Max

Another wonderfully loving little book starring the adorable Zeki. It’s a hot, sunny day and we join him and his Mummy as they set off for the park. There they meet up with some friends, Yu, her mummy and little baby sibling.

Zeki and Yu do the usual things that toddlers do in such situations such as use the swings (with parental help of course), build sandcastles

and bury themselves in the sand before sitting down with the others for a yummy picnic under the trees. Come sundown, they bid farewell to one another and set off home with their respective parents.

Anna McQuinn’s use of joyful, sometimes exuberant language as befits Zeki and Yu’s rides on the springy horses and their splashing in the cool water is a delight to read aloud and every one of Ruth Hearson’s illustrations radiates the wholehearted playfulness and focussed concentration of small children when engaged in activities they enjoy.

Perfect for sharing with toddlers around the age of Zeki and sufficiently robustly constructed to stand up to all the re-readings the book will surely have.

Grandads Are the Greatest
Ben Faulks and Nia Tudor
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It’s the day of a special picnic – Grandads’ Summer Picnic – and it’s being held in a large field full of wild flowers and trees; an idyllic spot for each child to introduce his or her own very special grandad. This they do through Ben Faulks’ jaunty rhyming text and Nia Tudor’s wonderfully warm, inclusive illustrations, each with a wealth of details and an evident abundance of joy being able to share that special intergenerational love.

One grandad is a baker, famed for his yummy cakes, another is a retired builder; there’s an explorer,

an inventor, a barber, a fisherman who likes to tell salty tales, a magician who appreciates help from his young apprentice, a hang-gliding enthusiast, and a grandad who spends lots of time sharing books and singing songs with his young grand-daughter, someone who’s always there when a bit of extra comfort is required. Every one of them is different but all show an abundance of love to his grandchild.

Ideal for sharing with a grandparent on their special day in early October, but equally one to read with young children on Father’s Day coming up in June. (in the UK)

The Frog’s Kiss

The Frog’s Kiss
James Mathew and Toto
Scholastic

I was knocked out by the beauty of Toto’s misty illustrations for this LGBTQ+ retelling of the frog prince story: it’s such a wonderful debut as a picture book team James and Toto.

The book begins with a frog sitting atop a lily pad when suddenly something falls into the pond. Frog investigates and discovers a book; a book that shows a frog very similar to himself being kissed by a princess. The image of the kiss stirs his froggy heart and he decides to search for a special somebody too.

His quest eventually takes him to a castle surrounded by gorgeous gardens wherein there is a pond with a fountain just like that of the book he’d found.

Having washed off the dust from his travels, frog sits and waits and waits. As the moon rises, three princesses appear, come for the summer ball. Unbeknown to frog, one, so the king and queen hope, will become the bride for their son.

Devastated by what the three princesses say when it’s suggested they might kiss a frog, our frog sits once more on a lily pad feeling stupid. All of a sudden who should approach but a prince who addresses him and having received consent, tenderly picks up the frog and kisses him. And the rest, of course leads to a happily ever after fairy tale ending. After all, everyone deserves that.

It’s no exaggeration to say James and Toto have done the Grimm tale proud. This is a stunner.

Welcome, Rain!

Welcome, Rain!
Sheryl McFarlane and Christine Wei
Greystone Kids

Directly addressing the rain, a little girl pays tribute to its wonders – the fresh, happy smell, the muddy puddles it makes for splashing in, and the water it provides for seeds and plants to grow.

Moving indoors she says thank you for the tap water for baths, cooking in and washing up, and for making tea. Having paid tribute, the child then moves on deciding as she watches while hugging her dog reassuringly, that, ‘maybe that’s enough for now, Rain. The creeks and lakes are full and the birds are huddled in our trees …’

As is nature’s way, the rain does stop eventually and fun outdoor activities restart, until that is the hot weather becomes too much to bear. Then again comes a change of tone: ‘We miss you, Rain, … and the trees and flowers that drink you up miss you more than we do.’

Coming full circle, the rain returns and I love how the young narrator curled up in bed says, ‘Good night, Rain. You are a bedtime pitter-patter lullaby playing on the roof. … a drip-drop song of raindrops singing in the trees.’

Christine Wei’s beautifully patterned images and her dense hues bring her landscapes to life in Sheryl McFarlane’s upbeat poetic celebration of what is for many of us, an increasingly unpredictable facet of our lives, the rain.

Rubbish? Don’t Throw It Away!

Rubbish? Don’t Throw It Away!
Linda Newbery and Katie Rewse
Otter-Barry Books

Members of Dragonfly Class are having an upcycling day and they’re all excited. Lucy found lots of pine cones in her grandad’s garden and she and her friends decide to turn them into owls. 

Yasmin’s mum has donated lots of old coat-hangers – just the thing to use for making mobiles and paper plates are ideal for masks.
Ali’s dads have brought along a large sink and this makes a splendid pond; 

others have brought a leaf collection; this becomes a collage; Mohammed’s enormous box is perfect for a fort ; a length of fabric is fashioned into lots of different items. 

Christmas wrapping paper becomes all manner of funky hats 

and the parents and care-givers involve themselves in creating a mosaic for the garden; the garden is also where old tyres become planters while back indoors odd socks are super puppet bases and there are lots of clever ways to put other old items to use again too.

Not only have these children had terrific fun, they are never going to look upon ‘old rubbish’ without thinking, what can this be turned into?

This inclusive community of adults and children are a great demonstration of working together for the good of our precious environment. After sharing author and environmental campaigner, Linda Newbury, and illustrator Katie Rewse’s story, why not hold a similar event in your early years setting.
(Simple instructions for each activity are provided at the end of the book as almost all of them will need adult assistance.)

Monster Support Group: The Werewolf’s Tale

Monster Support Group: The Werewolf’s Tale
Laura Suarez
Flying Eye Books

Being true to yourself and celebrating difference are key themes in this the first of the new Monster Support Group series.

The book begins with Lowell entering an underground room where a meeting is being held. He sits down and begins his story.
We hear that he has recently moved to the village with his family and is struggling to fit in at his new school. He is rather different and has become the target for the bullies, Cassius Steel and his cronies. Then the changes started. Initially Lowell thought these were just ordinary, growing-up kind of changes: becoming hairier, moodier and smellier but then came the stranger changes that despite his best efforts, cannot be hidden.

After a particularly bad day at school he shut himself in his bedroom but his twin sister, Lys appeared on the scene, just as Lowell was morphing into a werewolf. This it transpires is on account of an ancient family curse. The following morning the twins visit the library to do some research about werewolves 

and come upon several books containing legends about them including the one his father had mentioned the previous night; each one mentions possible cures for the curse. 

These he tries but despite apparently having beaten the curse, the very next month on full moon night, it’s evident that the cures haven’t worked.

Back to the library go Lowell and Lys where they discover the Monster Support Group. Lowell joins the group and shares that story. Can anybody there help him with his ‘furry’ problem? Or is he happier being his unique self?

Drawing on mythology, this is a vibrantly illustrated, enjoyable story with a vital message about being yourself and that works for anyone; but those who see the werewolf trope as a metaphor for a boy’s transition from puberty through adolescence, into maturity, will find it somewhat strange that although the blurb says Lowell is twelve, he is portrayed as several years younger.

Holey Moley

Holey Moley
Bethan Clarke and Anders Frang
Little Tiger

Gus the Goat must surely be in the majority when, on encountering a mole who introduces herself as Mavis, he guesses that she lives in a hole. ‘A mole in a hole. / A moley in a holey / A holey moley!’ Not so however; and there follows a hilarious exchange between the two characters with Gus suggesting various other places where Mavis must live and the mole naysaying each one. It’s certainly not on a pole, nor in a sausage roll, 

or any of the increasingly outlandish places he puts forward.

Mavis remains cool, calm and collected as Gus gets carried away with his anarchic silliness, eventually showing the goat her home. 

That’s not quite the end of the story though but to see how the story concludes you will have to get yourself a copy of this super book.

Deadpan humour abounds in Anders Fang’s illustrations, several of which include other silent bit-part players enjoying the duo’s conversation. I absolutely love the hole-arious rhyming narrative from debut author Bethan Clarke who really has done herself proud here with her guess obsessed, rhyme obsessed Gus and long-suffering Mavis. And what a gift she offers KS1 teachers who will not only have their children laughing aloud from the outset, but also wanting to join in with Gus’s rhyming guessing, relishing the tale’s final twist and perhaps adding some of their own ideas – once the story is finished. Anyone who wants to get across the ‘language is fun’ message to young children needs to share this, though I anticipate cries of ‘Read it again’ when you do.

I’m Not Scared: A Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Adventure

I’m Not Scared: A Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Adventure
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel

When Little Hedgehog wakes one morning early, Big Hedgehog is nowhere in sight. “Big Hedgehog, where are you?” comes the cry. No answer: of course Little Hedgehog is not at all scared as it sets off to search. Could that noise coming from the basement be that of Big Hedgehog? Yes it is and with a picnic basket packed ready for an adventure for two.

The adventurers set out into the forest, Big Hedgehog whistling cheerfully to keep their spirits up but strangely the whistling continues even after Big Hedgehog stops the song. Now both Hedgehogs feel a little bit scared,

but not once the other whistlers become visible.

After a while there comes a powerful smell: it’s a fox. The two curl themselves into spiky balls and roll away down the hill and Little Hedgehog tries to convince Big Hedgehog all is fine – no fears at all. They play in the meadows then discover that the picnic basket is still in the forest. Oh those hunger pangs!

As dusk begins to fall and the two wend their way home there’s another scary moment as they cross the path of a moving car, only to realise that they’ve gone the wrong way.

When their friend Black Cat appears out of the fog, they recount their adventures and then accept the offer of a ride home. I wonder what Little hedgehog had to say on the way …

A lovely demonstration of navigating childhood fears that will help little ones understand that, be they big or small, everyone feels scared from time to time and it’s better to share how you feel than keep it to yourself.

From a rather gloomy basement to a misty meadow and a dark, shadowy landscape. Britta’s beautiful, richly textured illustrations created from different perspectives, are full of atmosphere and detail. The book has a longish text but it’s not one to be hurried through: this artwork needs to be savoured.

Between Night and Day

Between Night and Day
Sean Julian
Oxford Children’s Books

Pongo is an orangutan of the ‘safe-in-the-day’ kind. One day when picking a mango for breakfast, she comes upon Bulu a tiny bat – a ‘safe-at-night’ sort of bat. Narrowly missing becoming a passing eagle’s next meal as it swoops through the forest, Bulu tells his new friend of his dislike of the daytime. His fear is palpable as we see in Sean Julian’s illustration and Pongo senses the bat’s panic right away, deciding to take the tiny creature back home to his dark cave.

En route the orangutan shows her companion some of the things she loves about the forest but all the while Bulu is afraid.

Even more so when they stop for a drink at the pool and he’s confronted with a face staring out at him. His fear turns to pleasure however, and as the two proceed, both of them are enjoying themselves.

At Bulu’s dark cave, it’s Pongo that becomes fearful but he accepts his friend’s invitation to view his home. Now Pongo’s imagination runs wild and it’s Bulu’s turn to allay his companion’s fears

and continue inwards till they reach the bat’s favourite place.

Eventually it’s time for the two to part company but every sunset Pongo fondly recalls their meeting. Is there a way the friends can be together again?

Sean’s tale of friendship and seeing things from another’s viewpoint is beautifully illustrated with scenes that powerfully evoke its steamy tropical rainforest setting and the feelings of the two animals.

My Dad is a Tree

My Dad Is a Tree
Jon Agee
Scallywag Press

When Dad, busy sweeping up leaves, notices his small daughter, Madeleine standing arms outstretched he wants to know what’s she’s doing and why. ‘Because a tree gets to stay outside all day long’ comes her reply. The wily lass then urges her dad to emulate a tree too; he does so ‘But only for a minute!’

Dad however proves to be a very realistic tree. To begin with a baby owl falls asleep on his shoulder, then a robin builds a nest in his hair and he has also attracted insects, 

an arachnid and a squirrel. Moreover he gets hit by a kite, drenched by a sudden shower and is still standing arms outstretched when darkness descends. No matter what he says, Madeleine assures her dad that trees don’t mind; they aren’t afraid of the dark.

Eventually though Dad has had enough; apparently the little owl feels the same and returns to its parent. His daughter has the final words though: ‘We definitely are not trees. But that’s OK We got to stay outside all day long!’ And tomorrow – that’s another day.

The lengths some children will go to to get what they want and the way some dads will go over and above the call of duty for their little ones: told and illustrated in a dead pan style, Jon Agee’s small drama is sure to resonate with fathers and small daughters especially.

Penguins Don’t Wear Pink / Missing Violet

Penguins Don’t Wear Pink
Jeffrey Turner
Beaming Books

Henry the penguin has a passion for pink things but best of all is his pink peaked cap, which he wears to school every day. The other animals’ teasing causes him to do some thinking 

and he decides to wear a hat of a different colour. Nobody comments on his green hat the following day, nor the blue one or the orange one on the next two days. Henry has another think and decides that no matter what his fellow students might say, he’ll wear the pink hat again on the fourth day. Will the response be any different this time? What do you think?

Brightly illustrated this is a sweet story about having the confidence to be yourself, able to wear any colour you choose, no matter who you are or what others think.

A helpful book to start a discussion with young children.

Missing Violet
Kelly Swemba and Fabian Faiallo
Beaming Books

The young narrator of this story talks of her best friend Violet, as ‘an expert at spreading sunshine. Her healing hugs made falls hurt less.’ So when Violet becomes very sick and then dies unexpectedly, the narrator experiences ‘a swirl of feelings all at once’. 

We share her emotions ‘My heart pinched. My insides ached’ first through a rainbow of swirling colours 

and then when she visits a counsellor, through separate colours: orange for bewilderment, red for anger, blue for deep sadness.

When she turns to her mum for further help, the two of them paint pictures of the two girls together and decorate a special box in which to keep them. Still the tears come so she tries talking to her classmates and discovers that they too miss Violet. They decide to say goodbye to their friend by writing notes to Violet and blowing bubbles in the school playground in a gentle farewell ritual. 

With its hopeful ending, this story of loss and grief is pitched just at the right level for young children.

One Button Benny and the Dinosaur Dilemma

Thank you to Little Door Books for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for the new Benny story; please check out the other participants’ posts.

One Button Benny and the Dinosaur Dilemma
Alan Windram and Chloe Holwill-Hunter
Little Door Books

It’s great to see robot Benny back for a third adventure and what an eventful one it is despite the fact that it’s set on a Friday, which should be more relaxed as it’s when he and his fellow robots get together for their weekly dance party. Moreover, during the last week Benny hasn’t needed to press that large red emergency button on his tummy even once.

Having spent the party morning working on their dance moves, the robots decide they need a bit more practice so off they go to the park. There they hone their boogieing, 

then take a super-high jump, landing simultaneously. This causes a massive THUMP and the ground opens under their feet causing them all to cascade down, down into a deep dark hole.

Time to press that red button, decides Benny; the result being they narrowly escape being smashed to smithereens.
Seemingly however, that is just the start of their troubles for, from the surrounding blackness comes first a grumbling sound 

and then a tremendous ROARRRR. You can probably guess what was making those sounds.

Can Benny’s emergency button save them once again? And can they get back from whence they came in time for that funky Friday night dance party?

Chloe Holwill-Hunter’s engaging illustrations really do turn the robots, especially Benny, into real characters able to dance the night away and to empathise with anyone in need..

Who’s for apple pie?

The Selfish Crab

The Selfish Crab
Anya Glazer
Oxford Children’s Books

Claude is a hermit crab and he’s exceedingly proud of his shell, justifiably so as it’s the most beautiful of all the hermit crab shells on the beach where he lives. However, hermit crabs don’t keep their shells forever; when they outgrow them, they have to search the seashore for empty replacements. What this particular group of hermit crabs do is that when a suitable one is found, the crabs all come together, line themselves up in order of size and one by one move along and into the next biggest shell. 

However, Claude decides he’s not going to participate in the exchange line up and flatly refuses so to do. 

His fellow crabs muddle along but life remains peachy for inconsiderate Claude with that special shell of his although it does start to feel a tad on the tight side, whereas Alphonso, a tiny crab has to put up with a shell that is way too large.
But then as the two chat about things, Claude mentions birds 

and before you can say, beware! the two crabs are seized and find themselves in circumstances they wouldn’t wish on any fellow crustacean, let alone a supposed friend. Could this perhaps be an opportunity for Claude to let go of his selfish ways and start thinking of the other hermit crabs?

This story is based on real hermit crab behaviour (details on the final spread). Anya Glazer uses speech bubbles to add further humour to her telling and the illustrations, which are a mix of the naturalistic and comical, will induce lots of giggles from children.

Marvellous Margot / Nila’s Perfect Coat

Marvellous Margot
Lou Peacock and Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Margot has a big heart and is always ready to lend a helping paw to her friends; she’s also aware that cake and kindness are the ideal combination. With that in mind, one sunny morning she bakes a special cake for her pal Oscar, places it in her little wagon and sets out through the city to Oscar’s home. 

On the way though she encounters several other friends each of which is either upset, cross or frustrated. Now Margot has a fix-it attitude and stops to assist each one, also offering them a slice of Oscar’s cake once their problems are solved. 

You’ve probably guessed what has happened to the cake by the time she arrives at Oscar’s but he greets her with a big hug, kind words and a surprise.

Lou Peacock’s wonderfully warm story with themes of friendship and kindness and the repeat refrains for joining in with, is charmingly illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius with sufficient detail and bright colours to keep youngsters engaged.
Share with little ones at home or in a foundation stage setting. Teachers, there’s lots of potential if you read it in the classroom.

Also with themes of kindness and friendship is

Nila’s Perfect Coat
Norene Paulson and Maria Mola
Beaming Books

Nila enjoys ‘treasure hunting’ in charity shops and one day when out shopping with her Mum, a coat catches her eye. It’s warm and a perfect fit but her mum tells her that she doesn’t need another one. However she is willing to let her buy it using birthday money given to her by her Dad, if he agrees. Meanwhile it must go back on the stand. Dashing out to catch the bus the following morning, Nila forgets her coat, only to find there’s another girl, Lily also sans coat. This means both girls have to stay inside at playtime as it’s cold. Nila’s invitation to Lily to join her in a game is turned down: in fact Lily seems distant and the mention of a coat by their teacher at hometime upsets her.

Having spent the weekend with her Dad and getting the go ahead for the purchase of the coat, they go back to the charity shop and Nila makes the purchase. As they walk past Lily’s home, she notices a For Sale sign outside and Dad says “Her family is going through a hard time,”.

Back with her Mum, Nila contemplates her new coat 

and says that there is somebody who needs it much more than she does. Her decision about what she should do means that nobody has to stay inside during playtime on Monday.

This gentle lesson showing the difference between needing and wanting something, and the role of charity shops in reducing waste, is told in a non-preachy, sensitive way, and equally warm are Maria Mola’s illustrations

A Child Like You / People Power: Peaceful Protests that Changed the World

A Child Like You
Na’ima B. Robert and Nadine Kaadan
Otter-Barry Books

Beautifully illustrated and presented, speaking directly in a sensitive, heartfelt manner to young readers, author Na’ima and illustrator Nadine celebrate the four children featured, whose actions will surely act as a rallying cry for all children, showing that no matter what, there is always hope.

Inspired by young campaigners and activists, Greta Thunberg, Yusra Maardini, Marley Dias 

and Iqbal Masih, the book highlights the issues of climate change, the refugee crisis, the under representation of black girls in children’s stories, child labour and enforced slavery. 

These four youngsters show the way that other children too – children like them – can also be the change, make the change happen and inspire others to make changes, to speak out strongly on behalf of the dispossessed and the oppressed – to stand up for human rights and make our world a better place for everyone.

A book for all KS1 classrooms.

People Power: Peaceful Protests that Changed the World
Rebecca June, illustrated by Ximo Abadia
Prestel

Rebecca June and Ximo Abadia provide readers with a close up look at thirteen revolutionary movements that protested peacefully in various parts of the world, allocating two spreads to each one.

It’s amazing to think that in the UK women have had the vote for less than a century; ‘Votes for Women’ was the battle cry of the women’s suffrage movement on a march through the streets of London one rainy, wintry day in 1907 in what became known as the Mud March; but it took more than twenty years of protesting to achieve their goal.

It was women too, who campaigned peacefully by surrounding the US airbase in the English countryside where nuclear cruise missiles were stored. Their actions were an inspiration to anti-nuclear movements throughout the world.

There are examples of people power from other continents such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott where in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white woman and the boycott, which lasted a year, forced the city to change its rules on racial segregation on its buses. Sadly racial discrimination is still with us, both in the USA and throughout the world; hence the necessity for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations prompted by the unlawful killing of the African American, George Floyd by a police officer.

Environmental activists too have a place in this book with Greta Thunberg and her Fridays For Future movement involving young people; but new to me are the ‘Defenders of Pureora Forest’ whose protests against deforestation of this New Zealand tropical rainforest, an important site in Maori culture, saved the forest and led to the ending of felling by the New Zealand Government of all native forests owned by the state.

These and the other movements featured are described in Rebecca June’s straightforward, engaging but never preachy text, and Ximo Abadia’s stylised, often arresting illustrations, both of which convey the message that peaceful protest can effect change, every single voice matters and nobody is too young to start getting involved to make the future better for all of us; what’s needed is optimism, determination and a strong sense of hope.

An important book for primary classrooms everywhere.

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have
Edward van de Vendel and Anton Van Hertbruggen
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

In a woodland landscape, lives a boy named Nino. Nino has a dog – but he doesn’t – or only in his imagination. His mum can’t see the creature, nonetheless the boy, whose dad, – a pilot – is away much of the time – knows said dog listens to his dad’s long distance calls. When Nino goes into the woods, the dog copies the actions of the squirrels, it jumps on to great-gran’s lap when they go to visit her, likes the taste of salty tears

and dives into the lake when the boy goes boating.

Then one day that dog disappears and a different one with other interests takes its place; a soft, sweet pooch everybody can see.

Things feel rather different for Nino now, but nonetheless the presence of a real dog doesn’t stop him imagining a whole host of other animals and even several additional dogs.

Nino is highly imaginative – using his imagination to fill the void his father leaves during his absences and to navigate change; he’s also resilient and loves the outdoors.

This unusual, contemplative story is strange and gently powerful; the detailed illustrations predominantly in green and brown hues, brilliantly evoke a time in the recent past when children were able to play safely in the countryside without adult supervision.

A thought-provoking demonstration of the power of the imagination to help and perhaps heal in difficult times.

Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes / Simon the Hugger

These are recent publications from Beaming Books – thanks to Suzy Senior and the publisher for sending them for review.

Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes
Candy Wellins and Jess Rose

Many children find themselves facing a situation similar to that of Mabel the protagonist in this story. Her parents are separated and as a consequence she has to move back and forth between her mother’s and her father’s homes. With different layouts and different routines she finds this rather difficult to cope with.
When it’s Mabel’s turn to care for the class pet iguana for the weekend, having read the accompanying diary, she cannot help but compare her existence with that of a creature that is passed between many different homes and also has lots of fun adventures. In so doing she realises just how much fun she’s had and how having two homes has its advantages as well as downsides.

The book ends on an upbeat note, ‘… two houses means double the fun.’

With the diverse cast of characters shown in Jess Rose’s vibrant, expressive illustrations, the story provides children with a safe space within which to think about some of the unsettling feelings – positives and negatives – their own parents’ separation causes.

A useful book to have among class resources for a topic on families or homes.

Simon the Hugger
Stacy B. Davids and Ana Sebastián

Simon the sloth loves to hug: he hugs pretty much anything and anyone from his friends and family to flowers and rocks, he even hugs himself.

But then one day his friend Elsa the jaguar doesn’t want his farewell hug at the end of their game, Trixy the owl turns down his congratulatory hug for her art prowess and when he tries hugging the baby Tamarin, Bingo, she too says “NO!”

Confused and upset, Simon makes himself a sign asking others to hug him. Along comes Ricky porcupine to do just that but as he advances, Simon realises that for the very first time he doesn’t want to be hugged. Ricky however is happy to offer an alternative way of showing friendship. That, and a cry of hurt from Elsa, help Simon realise that not everyone is in hugging mood at exactly the same time and the other person must always give their consent prior to a hug.

Cartoon style illustrations and a simple, straightforward text convey the important message about invading another’s personal space without their permission.

In the back matter, the author offers a guided discussion and questions that teachers and caregivers could use to discuss the topic with young children.

Ning and the Night Spirits

Ning and the Night Spirits
Adriena Fong
Flying Eye Books

Ning, a quiet boy, lives in a little town in a lush valley at the edge of a forest. Each evening he helps his parents light lanterns to ward off the night spirits. Ning wants to know if the spirits really are scary but he’s unable to ask the other children as he finds making friends as scary, or more so, than any spirit he could imagine.

Bothered by his parents’ reaction to his lack of friends, Ning creeps out of the back door one night and into the forest 

where he finds himself face to face with a night spirit, a creature that looks anything but scary. Indeed Ning realises it’s the creature that is scared of him. The two quickly become friends and the cute little creature shows him the wonderful forest animals and the secret world of the night spirits. Ning discovers that rather than being scary, the spirits are scared, scared of the bright flames of the townsfolks’ lanterns that hurt their eyes, causing them to take refuge in the forest.

The boy knows that he must try and help his new spirit friends, but to do so he needs to find the courage to speak to the other children and enlist their help. Can he do that? Back home he works on a plan …

Adrian Fong has created a magical world in a far eastern setting for her debut picture book that tells a story about friendship, gaining the confidence to confront your fears and not making prejudgements about others. When you share the book with young children at home or in school, take time to look closely at the illustrations of the inside of Ning’s home and the parade through the town, they’re rich in cultural detail.

Unicorn Not Wanted

Unicorn Not Wanted
Fred Blunt
Happy Yak

Acknowledging that there is already a plethora of unicorn picture books on the market, Fred Blunt offers something rather different: a cowboy story set of course, in the Wild West – or does he?

Unfortunately, despite the author having declared this book a unicorn-free zone, a one horned ungulate – a female one – and a pug in disguise have managed to sneak themselves in and once there make it their mission to find acceptance in the narrative, no matter what.

Little by little they wheedle themselves more and more into the limelight with stunts involving aerobatics,

wrestling and superhero-ing until the storyteller resorts to a costume cover-up.

But is it a success? Umm …

The main characters are an absolute hoot, their body language and facial expressions are superbly silly and brilliantly done, while the banter between the two and the narrator is highly entertaining.

All in all so much better that a run-of-the-mill unicorn story that will be enjoyed by young unicorn lovers, NOT unicorn lovers, and adult sharers, who can have enormous fun reading this aloud. This one certainly did. YEE HAW!

A Damsel Not in Distress

A Damsel Not in Distress
Bethan Stevens
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books First Editions

Regular readers of this blog may already know that I’m a fractured fairytales enthusiast and Bethan Stevens has chosen to turn the traditional Rapunzel story inside out, throwing the stereotypical helpless princess trope right out of the window. Our damsel states from the outset – or tries to – that she certainly is not distressed, nor is she trapped in her tower by a curse. Indeed she lives with her grandma and the castle moat is full not of horrific monsters, but ducks and frogs. In fact she seems pretty satisfied with her lot, except for the fact that her story is being spoiled at every turn of the page.

When her peaceful yoga session is interrupted, 

she cleverly predicts the fate of the first gallant knight that comes to rescue her from the massive dragon that has appeared. The brave Prince Charming is equally unhelpful but who’s this? A gnome with acrophobia supposed to scramble up the brambles to the top of a tall tower – really?

Our protagonist has had enough and is determined to turn the story around so its finale is to her liking? Can she do so and how? Hot chocolate anyone?

This is huge fun with Bethan’s text and illustrations working really well together, and the expressions on the faces of the characters are hilarious be they human or animal.

Small Stanley’s Big List of Scary Stuff

Small Stanley’s Big List of Scary Stuff
Angie Morgan
Otter-Barry Books

We all worry from time to time but I doubt many people have lists of worrying things as long as Stanley’s. Though this small boy’s world feels bursting with horrors, he longs to be brave like the superheroes he reads of. Instead however, he compiles a ginormous list that never stops growing, for wherever he goes, whatever he does, Stanley thinks of another item to add to his list

– even not having his list with him. It’s no surprise then that he stops playing with his pals – it’s just too difficult; but eventually things get totally out of hand.

Off goes Stanley to consult his Grandad who suggests a walk in the fresh air. In itself this is a good remedy for worries; but no sooner had they ventured out than a wind gets up. Another scary thing and one that snatches the list right out of Stanley’s hand, up and away.

Needless to say the wind pays no heed to the boy’s cries but as they walk back home, he feels strangely lighter and decidedly playful. He even goes so far as to accept his friend’s invitation to play. Hurrah! And now playing with friends has replaced list making, though very occasionally Stanley does wonder what happened to that tally of terrifying items.

The book concludes with Stanley’s short list of helpful hints about feeling scared, for those who read his story.

Angie Morgan’s mixed media illustrations are full of amusing details that both children and adults will appreciate though the former may need help reading the tiny writing on some of Stanley’s lists. Her vibrant artwork really brings to life Stanley’s emotions; and the interconnectedness of the words and pictures works splendidly.

Grandpa and the Kingfisher

Grandpa and the Kingfisher
Anna Wilson and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

This is such a gorgeous book, lyrically and lovingly written by Anna Wilson in memory of her father whose favourite bird was the kingfisher.

It begins one spring with a young child, Grandpa and their dog sitting together beside the river when suddenly there’s a flash of blue and a kingfisher darts past: ‘Its beak long and sharp. / Its wings shining like jewels. / It’s breast golden-red, like a sunset.’ Arrowlike it dives down beneath the water and when it surfaces, there’s a fish in its beak.

As spring gives way to summer the child narrator tells how on another visit to the river, they notice there are now two kingfishers – the original male and a female.

They watch the birds create a nest and eventually have a brood of chicks.

All the while, Grandpa has become more and more tired and frail looking. He tells the child, “No one lives forever … There wouldn’t be enough room for us all! …. Only nature goes on forever.” Adult readers can sense what is coming. even as the child says, “I’ll look after you, Grandpa.”

By December the adult birds have died and Grandpa reminds the child, “No one lives forever.”

Next spring Grandpa too has died and the child narrator tells us how much he is missed. In this gentle way one young child has experienced some of the wonders of nature and learned about the cycle of all life.

Now on my walks beside a stream near to where I live, not only will I be watching out for the kingfishers I know to inhabit its banks, I will be thinking about this story with Sarah Cassini’s beautiful, superbly well-observed illustrations of the natural world and Anna’s touching text.

A must for family and classroom sharing.

There’s No Such Thing As Dragons

There’s No Such Thing As Dragons
Lucy Rowland and Katy Halford
Scholastic

Prompted by the titular remark of his grandfather during a story-sharing session, a young child embarks on a mission: to find out whether or not dragons exist. Before leaving he packs the items he needs in his backpack and asks the readers to assist in the search. 

Then having checked his own abode the lad heads off up the hills, climbs a mountain, 

and then enters a forest, takes flight in a hot air balloon, tries the museum and several other places but with no success. He does find the occasional knight in the castle though, before heading to the final location on his list of possibilities: the rocky seashore below the castle.

As he sits checking his dragon book beside the entrance to a cave who should appear but his grandpa who has been searching for him all the time. Reluctantly the boy concedes “There’s no such thing as dragons” 

as the two watch the shadows dancing in the moonlight. Suddenly as they are about to depart, they hear a sound and there’s a distinct rise in the temperature … Then comes a surprise revelation: what could it be?

Lucy’s spirited rhyming text scans well, so it’s a good one to read aloud to a class or group; and individuals will enjoy scanning Katy Halford’s illustrations that underscore the whimsical humour of the story as they too search for the dragon hiding in plain sight.

Monsters in Trucks / Tiny T.Rex and the Grand Ta-Da!

Monsters in Trucks
Laura Baker and Nina Dzyvulska
Happy Yak

Put together two subjects popular with young children – monsters and trucks – and you’re surely on to a winner.

That’s what we have in this picture book that takes us to a world populated by truck-driving monsters. They come in all shapes and sizes, some happy, others downright grumpy; there are more than forty kinds in all, many in one way or another engaged in the construction of a monster city. Some however, appear to have other things in mind such as partying and there’s one among their number that’s a thief on the loose; he needs to be apprehended and fast.

Can little humans pick a favourite: it might be grump monster (so busy being grumpy that he drives right into a big hole), roar monster, prickly monster, tickle monster, or perhaps jiggly monster who is in the queue for the loo.

I loved the snuggle and cuddle monsters.

Laura Baker’s rhyming romp of a text and Nina Dzyvulska’s vividly coloured scenes work well together, the fun details of the latter offer plenty to talk about. Further fun comes in the form of a ladybird that lurks in every scene.

A sharing of this book in an early years setting may well result in an outbreak of monster creativity.

Tiny T.Rex and the Grand Ta-Da!
Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck
Chronicle Books

Tiny R.Rex and Pointy, the delightful dinos. are back and having seen a poster for the school talent show, have decided to enter. Tiny is fairly confident but Pointy is more than a tad apprehensive. Then inspiration comes in the form of their hero the Amazing Presto whose book they turn to. ‘Magic is meant to be shared’ they read: that means their joint skills could carry them through.

First though they need to train, so they don top hats, wield wands, appoint an assistant – Bob the teddybear – and choose their special magic word.

Magic though, especially a disappearing trick, doesn’t just happen; mistakes are part of the learning process

and their confidence starts to wane. Time to go back to the drawing board. Then after some very careful planning and a creative boost, the two are ready to step forward and face the audience – well almost. Suddenly Pointy is overwhelmed by nerves: can he summon his inner courage and make an appearance after all?

Patience, perseverance and supporting one another are key in this latest outing for Tiny and Pointy, with the former taking centre stage in terms of the narration. There’s food for thought at the show’s finale.

As always this dino. duo are charmers and are likely to win new human friends after a sharing of the vibrantly illustrated story.

Captain Looroll

Captain Looroll
Matt Carr
Farshore

She’s ready for anything, so Captain Looroll declares on the day of her birth but she probably hadn’t anticipated a mundane existence such as the one she finds herself faced with, stuck on a holder hanging on the wall in the toilet under the stairs, of all boring places.

Equally bored are her close chums Ray the spray and Barbara Bogbrush. Victoria Sponge however remains more upbeat, frequently stating that ‘something’s bound to happen.’ and happen it does in the form of ToiletTROLL from the upstairs bathroom.

Word of a mission comes from above via the downpipe and after something of a struggle the downstairs buddies make it up to the scene of the chaotic bathroom where something green and cylindrical, aka TT, is creating complete havoc. Indeed he’s fast turning the entire house into a powerfully pooey, gooey viridescent residence.

As things unroll at a rapid rate, it’s evident that one of the two rolls is so much more than mere tissue; as well as heart and soul, she’s quick-thinking and super-resourceful.

Can she and her crew see off that dastardly supervillain once and for all: you bet! However there’s still a considerable amount of wiping that requires doing.

Replete with bum-clenchingly excruciating puns this is a hilarious read aloud that will have children wriggling on their bottoms in delight as they cheer for the hero and her gang and giggle at Matt Carr’s vibrant, action-packed scenes. Bathroom visits will never seem the same once you’ve met the cast of this crazy book: this is toilet humour of the first order. Roll on the next adventure.

The Fastest Tortoise in Town

The Fastest Tortoise in Town
Howard Calvert and Karen Obuhanych
Walker Books

Barbara Hendricks, narrator of this story and describing herself as ‘just a regular leopard tortoise’, is troubled. The reason is that in just a week she is to participate in a running race. Now although the entrant has no self confidence at all, her owner and best friend, Lorraine, is optimistic about the outcome of the fun run and sets up a daily training schedule for her pet. However this only serves to make the shelled creature all the more downcast at her prospects. They’re overtaken by, in turn, an absentminded worm a newly toddling human, a great-granda’, a remote controlled toy and an out-of-control vacuum cleaner – enough to dampen any contestant’s spirits.

Not so Lorraine’s who encourages her pet saying, “Just run your own race.” Nevertheless come race day the tortoise is a bundle of nerves. Surely all that training isn’t going to be for nothing: Barbara will never find out if she stays in her shell so off they go to the stadium.

Children (and adults) will have a good giggle at the sight of the other contestants at the starting line – ‘the fastest animals I’ve ever seen’, the narrator tells us.

Off they all go with Barbara employing her ‘put one foot in front of the other’ strategy over and over again until … And the winner is? Who do you think?

Then, with a nod to a certain Aesop’s fable, Calvert delivers a wonderful surprise ending.

Full of pathos, Karen Obuhanych’s mixed media illustrations are a hoot and will surely have youngsters rooting for Barbara from the outset.

Certainly a winner in my book, this.

The King’s Runaway Crown

The King’s Runaway Crown
Rosalind Spark and Ian Smith
Oxford Children’s Books

It’s the morning of the new King’s coronation and preparations are well underway until suddenly Colin, the King’s dog snatches the crown from right under the nose of the royal butler who is busily polishing the ceremonial symbols. Off dashes the pooch hotly pursued by said butler, the palace guards, the coach driver (plus horses Ruby and Diamond), a proliferation of pigeons and a fast growing crowd that had gathered to watch the big event, through the streets of London

and along the riverside.

At Tower Bridge stands little Violet and her parents. She sees what is happening and steps forward commanding in a loud voice, “STOP!” The pursuers and the pursued halt right then and there.

Violet picks up Colin, cuddles him and a communication takes place between them. She passes Colin’s fearful feelings on to the crowd.

Meanwhile back at the palace, a royal someone is feeling equally beset by nerves when he notices a particularly peculiar parade passing through the gates. Out runs the King, Violet hands over the crown and they all listen to his highness before he takes his place on the throne for the crowning ceremony.

This right royal romp, with its wealth of alliteration and its crying out to be joined in with, repeat refrain, “Catch Colin! Save the crown!’ is told with aplomb by Rosalind Spark and energetically illustrated by Ian Smith whose scenes of the chaos one little dog causes, are comic delights.

Little People, Big Dreams: Vanessa Nakate / The Flying Man

Little People, Big Dreams: Vanessa Nakate
Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Olivia Amos
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

In this addition to the excellent series we meet a young and outstanding activist. As a child growing up, Vanessa lived with her parents in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. Her parents always encouraged her to speak out for what she thought was right, but in the countryside where she attended school, climate change seemed a world away.

At university however she began noticing how, despite being the least responsible, Africans were suffering most by climate change. Thus she became an activist and persuaded her friends and relations to do likewise. She spoke out against the destruction of the Congolian rainforests and its consequences and one day she, one of few from the African continent, was invited to join other young climate activists in New York where they hoped to make world leaders take action against global warming.

When she returned home Vanessa continued her fight and after a setback at a protest in Switzerland, her work has been recognised
and now she is an inspiration to fellow young Africans and indeed the entire world. A vital topic and with its focus on Africa, this is an excellent book to inspire KS1 readers to use their own voices and indeed actions, to support the on-going fight to save the planet.

The Flying Man
Mike Downs and David Hohn
Astra Young Readers

In this picture book biography Mike Downs pays tribute to a relatively unknown German aviator, Otto Lilienthal, whose pioneering spirit led him to create the first flying machine.

Perseverance was key as despite considerable skepticism from others around, he and his younger brother, Gustav worked away observing, experimenting, testing and improving their designs until in 1891 Otto was successful in making a hang glider that travelled through the air . Eventually in 1896 in a more sophisticated (albeit still flimsy) glider he soared above admiring crowds with, so the illustrator shows, a euphoric expression on his face.

Following this a photograph dubbed him ‘The Flying Man’ but sadly a week later, Otto died from injuries that were the result of a crash. (This information the author places in an afterword) Nonetheless his work inspired many other fliers, including the Wright brothers who cited Otto as their greatest inspiration.

It’s evident from his writing that author of this book Mike Downs, found Otto Lithenthal inspirational too.

Ava Loves Rescuing Animals / Pedro Loves Saving the Planet

Ava Loves Rescuing Animals
Pedro Loves Saving the Planet

Jess French and Duncan Beedie
Happy Yak

These are additions to the Nature Heroes series where the focus is on a group of friends who love nature and being outdoors: essentially each one is a fact-filled picture book story.

In the first we meet Ava who lives with her grandparents They run an animal rescue centre that provides a temporary home for all kinds of animals, be they pets or wild creatures, large or small.
Accompanied by a tiny white mouse, Ava takes a walk around the centre and its environs as they head to the pet shop to buy hay for the animals soon to be cared for by her grandparents. On the way Ava stops at a pond containing frogs and lots of frogspawn and gives readers information on a frog’s life cycle and introduces some other amphibians.
We follow Ava on her ‘adventure’ during which she meets Pedro, the narrator of the next book,

and a lizard that narrowly escapes being run over by his cycle wheels. The entire walk turns into a fascinating learning journey for readers as they are introduced to various mammals – some of them record breakers, and find out about basic animal groups, ecosystems, habitats and more. Ava also meets another friend, Billy, who narrated Billy Loves Birds. Finally we discover the identity of the creatures that have just arrived at the rescue centre during their absence.

Pedro is an eco-warrior and in Pedro Loves Saving the Planet he and his older brother spend a day in the eco club’s new cabin. They choose to walk to their destination and encounter others who are using planet-friendly means of transport. Then once inside the cabin Pedro talks about renewable and non-renewable energy,

ways of saving water, points out that the cabin is built from sustainable materials, which leads on to a presentation of the 7 Rs (things that everyone should always keep in mind)) and other vital topics such as how to grow your own food, composting, the importance of trees, how to save energy at home, and the joys of being outside in green places.

Both books are illustrated by Duncan Beedie whose amusing art work underscores naturalist/vet Jess French’s informative, enjoyable texts. It’s never too early for young children to start learning about the importance of environmental care and the impact their actions have, both now and for the future. These books are spot on for foundation stage and KS1 class collections.

Scotty Plants a Seed

A big thank you to Little Door Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Scotty Plants a Seed
Conn Iggulden and Lizzy Duncan
Little Door Books

Scotty is a small black dog living on the island of Mull with a fisherman, having been blown in by a storm. One day, deciding the pup needs a collar, the fisherman takes down the one that had once belonged to Scotty’s mother and places it around the pup’s neck. Hanging from it is a tag that neither of them can read but it certainly has an effect on Scotty. Off he races to see his friend Owl and show off his brand new collar.

Owl declares that the writing on the tag is old, which impresses Scotty but he then pees against Owl’s tree displeasing his friend who is further upset at Scotty calling his home ‘a sort of a stick, but well, bigger instead.’

As Owl proceeds to talk of the wonderful trees he has seen – the shady banyan and the enormous Caoba – he notices Scotty’s collar begin to glow

and suddenly the pup disappears. Seemingly his collar fob acts as some kind of transportation device taking him first to India

and then to Brazil. There Scotty sees the two trees Owl spoke of, but manages to displease first a group of children and then a monkey by peeing.

When Owl catches up he’s both exhausted and without much of his plumage:Scotty though is eager to visit the plains of Africa. There a ranger points out an area of reforestation. ‘Just one little voice – just one seed in the ground, / One voice that can wake the whole world with its sound!’ he says to Scotty.

Eventually the two friends return to Owl’s tree, Owl almost completely sans feathers and guess what Scotty does. You can probably guess too what they both do the following morning …

Told through a rhyming narrative and bold, dramatic illustrations that capture the grandeur of the trees and contrasting desolation of a felled forest, this environmental adventure is an unusual way of presenting the alarming fact that trees all over the world are in danger. However it’s also one of hope, encouraging the vital importance of planting trees and caring for those we already have. Nobody is too small to make a difference.

Don’t forget to search for the hidden seed on every spread.

Love, The Earth

Love, The Earth
Frances Stickley and Tim Hopgood
Walker Books

Barely a day goes by when there isn’t something in the media about the climate crisis or the numerous ways in which people are still damaging our precious environment; but time is running out so it’s never too early to issue the rallying cry to young children.

This cleverly titled collaboration between author Frances Stickley and artist Tom Hopgood does just that in a truly captivating way.

It’s from Earth’s point of view that the rhyming narrative comes; the voice is gentle and friendly while also expressing a plea to be shown the kindness and fairness it needs for all its wonders to survive. With that plea comes a promise, given to the tiny newborn child we see at the start and follow through the book.

Earth’s riches are shown in Tim’s glorious mixed media illustrations as he transports us to wonderful woodlands,

gorgeous gardens, shows star-filled skies and sunny days, icy landscapes and the marvels of the deep.

Pitch perfect for little ones in every way and what a truly exquisite gift it would make to a recently born little one like the child shown at the start of the book.

The Crown

The Crown
Emily Kapff
Walker Books

Wearing a crown and speaking from the future, a girl addresses readers. She explains that she is no princess, her crown is made from rubbish that has been left behind by previous generations. So too is the hill upon which she stands; that is made of landfill. 

In this landfill however the child discovers a book; a book full of pictures showing what is the past for her, but is our world as it now is. She becomes filled with joy as, beside her equine companion, she peruses the pages showing the wonderful seas, infinite sky, the land all with a wealth of wonderful flora and fauna.

In contrast to her world, this one is beautiful to behold; this earth that belongs to all of us. It’s within our power to pass down those wonders so that the girl can wear a different crown, one not made of rubbish but alive with the flora and fauna we are fortunate still to see around us.

The message that comes through loud and clear is a positive one: it’s within the power of us all to pass down a different kind of crown.

Yes we still have the power – just – but do we have the will? Surely it’s incumbent upon us all to do our bit to help and the final page has some starting points for everyone.

Powerful too with her lyrical text and show-stopping illustrations is Emily Kapff’s debut picture book. The contrast between the ugliness of the grubby world of our throwaway society and the beauty of nature’s wonders really drives the message home to readers. Let’s hope it’s shared widely and acted upon before it’s too late.

Too Much

Too Much
Anne Booth and Maria Christania
Tiny Owl

It’s spring so why won’t Bear come out of his cave and play with the friends that are waiting for him? Rabbit wants him to enjoy some hill rolling, Squirrel wants him to climb trees but what is keeping their ursine friend rolled up in his blanket?

Off go Squirrel and Rabbit to consult Fox. Fox has been busily packing a picnic basket and has an idea that just might be the way to treat Bear’s “too much of everything” fears about the world beyond his cave.

First they gather some sweet smelling flowers and arrange them around the cave entrance; then they sit down close by making comments they hope might entice their friend from his extended hibernation to partake of both the delights of spring and the tasty treats that await.

Bear’s friends are an empathetic trio understanding that no matter how much they miss him, after a long period away from company and the open air, he is perhaps going to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of re-emerging, so they allow him to do so in his own time, when he feels ready.

Anne Booth’s gentle tale contains an important message for us all: however much you might want a person to do something, put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective, encourage but don’t force them. I know this is true of several friends and a fair number of children who have found coming out of lockdown hugely challenging. I love Maria Christania’s portrayal of the characters and the sheer exuberance spring brings upon them (and most of us) in her mixed media illustrations.

Silver Linings

Silver Linings
Fiona Woodcock
Harper 360

Close neighbours Pip and Parker are best friends, so in tune with one another that sometimes they don’t need to speak.
However, when Pip feels down Parker always manages to find just the right words, like the time when her crayon broke: “It’s okay, Pip … Now we can both use yellow,” he says.

When they can’t find their toy boat to sail in the park, Parker suggests making paper ones instead.

Then when Parker’s boat is swept away by the wind, he suggests playing with kites and when an approaching storm makes the sky cloudy upsetting Pip, Parker sees it as a chance to look for shapes in the clouds. Parker has a gift for seeing the bright side—the silver lining – in any situation. How better to deal with rain than to splash in the puddles.

Then their need for a snack sends them back inside. Now it’s Parker who is responsible for a mishap – a very messy one that spoils their work of art.

What will Pip do? With such a good role model, she knows to make the most of the situation – to find that silver lining – and not a single word is necessary.

The story ends on such a sweet note that it’s bound to bring a big smile to the faces of readers, young and not so young.

Softly coloured, Fiona’s patterned, mixed media illustrations are full of charming details and her portrayal of the best friends is a delight; in fact the entire book from cover to cover is delightful.

This lovely lesson about the rewards of optimism and having a good friend is one to add to foundation stage and KS1 class collections and to family bookshelves.

Wanna See A Penguin? / The Lost Leopard

Wanna See A Penguin?
Simon Philip and Ian Smith
Oxford Children’s Books

A self-declared penguin expert and friend search the city for penguins; they see all kinds of black and white creatures striped ones, furry ones,

animals with fins, horned ones, ones with hooves, four-legged animals and others but none of the eight fit all the penguin criteria. Is there actually a penguin anywhere around?

Yes indeed and that is what makes this book such fun. Hiding in plain sight in every scene is the animal the friends seek. Young listeners will love searching the pages to find its whereabouts as well as guessing the identity of the partially shown animal on each spread and laughing at the misidentifications of the so called penguin pundit.

The author’s manner of telling is gently humorous – the ending a hoot – and Ian Smith’s delightfully droll illustrations include lots of amusing details.
There’s a fact file after the story presenting a paragraph each on the zebra, puffin, duck-billed platypus, monkey, orca, goat and dog that appear in the story.,

The Lost Leopard
Jonny Marx and Xuan Le
Little Tiger

We join Flora and Fauna (dubbed the ‘world’s greatest explorers) and their baby, Bud, on their search for the elusive clouded leopard.

Their journey takes them to various habitats along a river,

over foothills and up the Himalayan mountains, through forests and jungles and a rainforest; even down into caves. Needless to say there’s an awful lot of mud and not everywhere is accessible by road so their quest involves a lot of walking; walking through rain and snow, strong swirly winds and scorching heat until they finally arrive at a tropical forest location.

During their travels they encounter a wealth of amazing wildlife including yaks, langur monkeys, Bengal tigers,Indian elephants,

a King cobra, all labelled. Truly an epic journey but do they find what they have been searching for? Baby Bud has certainly learned a lot and so will youngsters who explore this exciting book.

Xuan Le’s vibrant detailed illustrations, which include lift the flap sections, cutaway pages, die cut surprises and a gate fold, extend Jonny Marx’s engaging, informative text making this a book that is probably best shared with an individual child or small group as there is so much to explore on every spread. Individual, more confident young solo readers will also love embarking on the adventure with Flora, Fauna and little Bud.

Wally the World’s Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat

Wally the World’s Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat
Ratha Tep and Camilla Pintonato
Princeton Architectural Press

Making music at every opportunity, Wally is, so he thinks, the world’s greatest piano-playing wombat; but then he encounters Wylie Wombat and then he isn’t. So he adds another element to his musical performance and so begins an intense rivalry: the two musical wombats, become increasingly competitive as they vie to be best musical wombat in the world. Tap dancing – while playing the piano – tick! Twirling a ball on snout—while tap dancing and playing the piano – tick! With that Wally loses it crying “ENOUGH!” He covers his piano and takes refuge in his burrow. No more piano playing for him; instead his life becomes a quiet one of reading, knitting and pet keeping. But does he find that satisfying? No. Wally greatly misses his music making, the thing he most loves.

One night, Wally hears a noise outside his burrow. What is his rival doing there? What Wylie is in fact doing in offering an olive branch in the form of chocolate chip cookies carefully laid out on a blanket.

Playing solo, he tells Wally, is far less enjoyable.

Picnic over, the two move to Wally’s piano and play a duet. Wow! This is such fun; so fuelled by chocolate chip cookies, they practise and practise until together they become the world’s best piano-playing wombats ever.

But then, they aren’t.

So which is preferable: being best at something or doing it because it brings you joy? That’s the question Ratha Tep poses for young audiences, who will be entranced by watching Wally’s emotion-filled learning journey in Camilla Pintonato’s scenes, which are in turn passionate and pricelessly silly.

A fun fable that takes a look at the world of competition, wombat style.

Our Beach / Walter the Wonder Snail

Our Beach
Rebecca Smith and Zoe Waring
Harper Collins Children’s Books

It’s wonderful what a collection of bits and pieces can lead to and that’s what we discover in this story of a little girl and her granddad who spend the day together.

As the book opens we see the two hand in hand, grandad carrying a large bag, making their way towards the sea shore.

They enjoy exploring rock pools, collecting seashells and pebbles and most important each other’s company.

Then comes a sudden change and a spread shows what is really happening before the flights of fancy recommence, and with them, the resurfacing of precious memories. It’s Gran’s “Time for our tea!” announcement that brings the two back to reality,

somewhat reluctantly perhaps as they eek out their imaginative experience for as long as they can before sitting down to share the tasty meal set out on the table.
A delightful celebration of the power of the imagination and a special intergenerational bond.

Walter the Wonder Snail
Neil Clark
Happy Yak

Tired of the tedium of leaves, Walter the Snail believes there must be more to life; he longs to escape the confines of his leafy existence and discover what the wider world offers. With hat atop his horns and shell packed, off he slides into the great unknown.

Our intrepid traveller faces challenges aplenty on his journey, but there are plenty of other creatures ready and willing to offer encouragement and help.

Nonetheless Walter is also able to adapt to a variety of terrains and weather conditions,

and to think outside the box, especially when it comes to making his way back home.

On his return Walter imparts some wise words to his fellow snails: “I know that anyone can do anything they put their mind to.You’ve just got to think big!” That’s a vital life lesson for young humans too and one they’ll learn subconsciously through Neil Clark’s wise words and his diverting, richly coloured, scenes of Walter’s travels. I love the variety of viewpoints and page layouts.

Rich in classroom potential but above all, a thoroughly enjoyable story.