No More Babies!

No More Babies!
Madeleine Cook and Erika Meza
Oxford Children’s Books

Sofia finds her baby brother exceedingly annoying. On this particular day he smashes down her amazing brick construction, starts a food fight, makes a terrible din on a drum and just when mum and dad are ready to read her a story, he diverts their attention by needing a nappy change.

After all this, her parents’ news that she’s going to be a big sister again, doesn’t go down at all well. “No more babies!” she yells at her bemused mum and dad who now offer a sympathetic ear. Sofia’s account of the morning follows and then cuddles and lots of special attention for the little girl.

Suddenly Arlo surprises his sister and after that she begins to feel much more positive about him. Despite his continuing messiness, smelliness and slobbering, Sofia decides she loves him very much, telling her parents at bedtime, “Okay, you can have one more baby,” …

There’s a throwaway line surprise finale that will surely make both adults and young listeners laugh when they read this funny book.

With Erika Mesa’s wonderfully expressive illustrations it’s one for families to share when a new sibling is on the way, as well as a good foundation stage storytime read aloud especially if somebody in the group is in a situation similar to Sofia’s; or as part of a family theme.

Fergal Meets Fern / Elmer and the Lost Treasure

It’s lovely to see favourite characters returning in these two recent books from Andersen Press

Fergal Meets Fern
Robert Starling

New sibling unsettlement quickly arises when Fergal’s Mum and Dad bring home ‘the egg’. From this emerges a new baby sister for the little dragon and with its arrival, funny feelings start within Fergal. Even nan’s gift of flying show tickets lift his mood only briefly because Fern’s actions really stoke up Fergal’s inner fire.
Then to make matters worse, comes the news that the flying show excursion is off: Dad has to get medicine for Fern who’s become sick.

Inevitably Fergal’s fiery feeling grows even stronger, so much so that he does something to make him the centre of attention, which it does, once Dad discovers his whereabouts.

After a frank Father and Fergal discussion on feelings, Dad shows his son something by way of explanation.

Later on as the two do some yoga side by side, the feelings discussion continues

and eventually Fergal understands that something in him needs to change. Being a big brother is an important role and perhaps it’s one he can undertake successfully and lovingly.

As with previous Fergal stories, Robert Starling conveys this one with sensitivity, humour and considerable charm.

Share with little ones at any time but it’s especially apt if you’re a family with young child and a new arrival.

Elmer and the Lost Treasure
David McKee

The adorable elephant, Elmer stars in what is almost unbelievably, his twenty eighth picture book adventure.

He, along with cousin Wilbur and three other elephants set out on ‘a long, exploring walk’ through the jungle and after a while find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

After a roll down a steep slope with Elmer in the lead – naturally – they discover an entrance to an old forgotten palace and start exploring within, or rather Elmer and Wilbur do. The others meanwhile have their own agenda. What can they be doing?

The palace is incredible with huge domed halls in shades of blue, amazing mosaics, tiles and carvings. But who will find that Lost Treasure? And what is it?

Another absolutely smashing story of everyone’s favourite patchwork pachyderm and his pals, told and illustrated with David McKee’s usual sense of humour and fun, warmth and heart, that is also reflected in his main character.

Sona Sharma Very Best Big Sister / Agents of the Wild: Operation Icebeak

Here are two terrific young fiction titles from Walker Books

Sona Sharma Very Best Big Sister
Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Jen Khatun

Young Sona Sharma lives with her family in the Tamil Nadu city of Chennai.

As the story opens, she’s getting increasingly agitated about the forthcoming birth of a new baby sibling, an event about which the rest of her household and extended family seems obsessed. (It’s also one that children in a similar situation to Sona might find difficult adapting to).

Sona most definitely needs the sympathetic listening ear of Elephant, her best friend and constant companion (except at school). Everybody seems set on Amma having a baby boy and when talk of the naming ceremony comes up, Sona resolves to help her Appa find the perfect girl’s name (her Amma is ‘looking for boy names’ he tells her.) Nobody in the family is allowed to know if it’s a boy or girl until after the birth.

Even with this important task, sharing is still a big issue for young Sona: can it be resolved before the baby arrives?

Can Sona become the very best big sister and live up to that family motto ‘Iyavadhu Karavel’? (Always help as best you can.)

I totally fell in love with Sona and the rest of her family and community (how great to have a woman auto driver). Through Chitra’s absolutely gorgeous story of welcoming a new arrival into the hearts and home of a loving community, told from Sona’s perspective and beautiful line drawings by Jen Khatun, readers/listeners will encounter some of the traditions

and rituals – cultural and familial – of this large Indian Hindu family which may well be new to them.
I can almost smell the jasmine and feel the steamy heat as I’m transported to one of my most favourite parts of the world – one I can’t wait to revisit once this terrible pandemic allows. Till then I have this warm-hearted tale to re-read over and over (until I can bear to pass it on). More please.

Agents of the Wild: Operation Icebeak
Jennifer Bell and Alice Lickens

Now permanent SPEARS field agents, Agnes and her partner Attie receive an emergency call and before you can say ‘penguins’ the two of them are disappearing down a speed funnel, destination Antarctica. It’s from there, sent by the team at the marine outpost, that the distress call came.

What is causing the seismic tremors being felt within and around the vicinity of the treatment centre, outpost 22? Why are all the Adelie penguins behaving in such an odd fashion? And, what on earth is the celebrity presenter and rare bird expert Cynthia Steelsharp, (one of Attie’s heroes) doing in a tent in the middle of the ice fields?

Moreover, why is she so interested in the little shrew’s trinoculars (that he’d needed to pass a two weeks training before being allowed to use in the field)?
Looks as though it’s a case of ‘operation species rescue’ for the SPEARS partnership (even though it may also mean an operation rescue of one of the pair).

Once again, team Jennifer (author) and Alice (illustrator) successfully interweave ecology and biology into an exciting and very funny story making it both enormously entertaining and educative (not a hint of preachiness at all).

Established Agnes and Attie enthusiasts (and I know a fair number) will devour this, likely in a single sitting; but you don’t really need to have read the first book to love this one, though if you’ve missed it I’d recommend getting hold of book Operation Honeyhunt and then move on to Operation Icebeak.

If you’re a teacher of 7s to 9s and would like to encourage your children to become eco-warriors, either book makes an enormously enjoyable class read aloud. (Back-matter includes information about the fragility of the Antarctic ecosystem and how readers can help reduce global warming.)

A word of warning – two actually: first -never say the word ‘onesie’ to your partner, let alone one clad in a watertight thermal body suit with SPEARS emblazoned across it; second – it doesn’t always pay to trust little lizards with the ability to change their colour.