It’s Board Book Time!

Disney Block
Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

Before they’re ready to watch Disney’s classic animated films, thanks to this chunky board book, babies and toddlers can meet the much-loved characters from way back in the 1930s and 40s with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi …

right through to Frozen 2 (2019), much adored by pretty much every little girl I know and countless others I don’t.

As always husband and wife illustration/design team, Peskimo, have done an absolutely brilliant job with this latest in the Block Book series that includes their characteristic die-cut pages and in this volume, a memorable quote from each film featured helps to lift the characters from the pages.

Every spread has a magic of its own be it through the waving of her wand by Cinderella’s fairy godmother, (1950); the superb togetherness shown in this Jungle Book scene …

or the loving encounter depicted between John and Pocahontas (1995).

As you share and re-share this you are certain to relive many of these unforgettable moments, making this an absolutely wonderful book for tinies and adults too.

Over the years there have been plenty of Disney board books but none of them can touch this beauty.

Clap Hands for Key Workers
illustrated by Kat Uno
Pat-A-Cake

This touch-and-feel board book gives the very youngest toddlers an opportunity to say thank you to key workers.

There’s doctor Harriet applying a bandage to a small boy’s leg; shop worker Jay with those shiny apples strategically placed near the till to tempt shoppers; Ruby the post worker

and bus driver Logan, stopping to pick up passengers on his route.

Each of those has their two pages with a touchy-feely feature, but the final double spread shows seven other key workers, all of whom deserve our thanks, especially during the continuing pandemic.

Share with little ones and celebrate these workers together as you enjoy Kat Uno’s bright jolly scenes and give each worker a round of applause.

Touch Think Learn: Build!
Xavier Deneux
Chronicle Handprint Books

A host of learning possibilities are contained within the covers of this largish, sturdily built board book for toddlers, who do so much discovering about their world by looking and touching.

There are bright colours and a variety of shapes and patterns to explore as they follow the house-building process from the time two building site workers don their hard hats right through to the completion of their family home.

There’s a wealth of new vocabulary as various vehicles are introduced along with the work they carry out – a bulldozer for digging/shovelling; a flatbed truck for carrying supplies;

a crane for lifting such things as joists and roof parts. What fantastic conversation sparking opportunities here.

And by manipulating the removable parts and fitting them into die-cut openings, the small user becomes a participant in the entire narrative ensuring maximum engagement throughout.

Clearly, so much careful thought by Xavier Deneux has gone into the creation of this one.

Make Time for a Board Book

Where’s My Llama?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger

Capitalising on the current vogue for all things llama, Becky Davies has written a board book. Herein a llama has gone missing and it’s up to little ones to follow the trail of brightly coloured footprints to track her down.

Along the way tiny detectives will encounter a long-necked Giraffe, a cute tailed fox

and a long-eared rabbit, all of which have similar characteristics to the llama.
But where is the errant ungulate? Rest assured her fluffy tail will finally give the game away.

With its final flap reveal, Kate McLelland’s alluring scenes – each with a touch and feel animal body part – on softly patterned pastel backgrounds, simple descriptive text with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my llama?’ to chant, there’s plenty to keep the attention of tinies throughout this touch and feel, search and find book.

Maisy’s Science
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Toddlers’ favourite mouse Maisy is in investigative mode in this STEAM First Words tabbed book.

Out and about, she encounters some very windy weather that is perfect for kite flying; seasonal snow as she feeds the birds; enjoys a relaxing break from vegetable gathering to enjoy watching the minibeasts close by. Then it’s time for a bit of seed watering – perhaps she’s planted sunflower seeds – followed by observing some seasonal changes.

The arrival of her friends gives an opportunity to look at various parts of their bodies and hers and once she’s alone again, she and cuddly Panda can investigate a variety of textures; make some rather noisy musical sound with her percussion; don her painting apron and experiment with her paints, perhaps trying colour mixing and after all that activity it’s time to sit and read a book (or choose from one of the other learning tools shown on the opposite page).

Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!
Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter
Abrams Appleseed

This is a fun, rhyming tale of an energetic would-be little ninja whom we first meet looking terrified of the rather large family dog.

Creeping away, he comes upon his younger brother happily playing with a balloon. Not for long though. With a deft ‘chop’ Ninja  removes the balloon from little bro., then proceeds to snatch his chocolate-chip cookie and with a further chop – delivered with his foot this time – destroys his block-built castle leaving the long-suffering toddler howling.

A change of heart caused by an unseen force calling ‘Ninja, Ninja, would you stop?’ sees our Ninja then pause and help to reconstruct the building before whizzing off once more into the great outdoors.

It’s there that he receives his comeuppance, discovering – much to his surprise – that little brother is actually a highly observant pupil. Time to join forces it seems, for two Ninjas may well be better than one, certainly when it comes to scheming.

There’s a slight retro feel to Tad Carpenter’s bold, bright scenes from which the black-clad Ninja leaps out – literally! I can see little ones joining in, enthusiastically chanting along with adult readers aloud of debut author, Todd Tuell’s staccato text, as they turn the pages.

Go Get ‘Em, Tiger! / As Big as the Sky

Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

Believe in yourself, is the message that grins, growls, giggles and positively shines out from the Moyle sisters’ latest offering.

Throughout Sabrina’s rhythmic, rhyming text that switches between the distinctly upbeat – No matter who you choose/ to be, you’ll be/ TERRR-IFIC./ Wait and see!’ – softer spoken exhortations – ‘ be humble’ and gentle warning – ‘You’ll make mistakes./ Things will go wrong./ And when they do,/ you’ll carry on.’

The emphasis is on resilience, finding your inner strength, and focussing on the possible; on kindness, ( You will see creatures who are stuck, / feeling lost, down on their luck. / To these new friends, you’ll lend a hand … ), consideration (‘use your strength to shine a light / on what is wrong and what is RIGHT ) and thoughtfulness.

Optimism rules.
The same is true in Eunice’s bright (with fluorescent touches), exuberant scenes of little Tiger and its community: they’re expressive and an effective complement to the words.

Perhaps the characters in the next book were inspired by the advice to that Tiger

As Big as the Sky
Carolyn Rose and Elizabeth Zunon
Sterling Children’s Books

Inspired by a real life meeting of the author and Caleb’s parents and sister, this story is of two at one time inseparable siblings, Prisca and her big brother Caleb.

He carries a bucket of water when the load is too heavy for her; and when Caleb gets malaria she brings sweet tea and nsima (a Malawian cornmeal dish) to his sick bed, and makes him laugh by chastising the mosquitos. But Caleb has set his sights on a better education than the village school can provide, so he goes to live with Grandma in Chimwe, a considerable distance away.

Eager to see him but lacking the wherewithal to pay the transport fares, she begins some entrepreneurial endeavours,

creating various items that the kindly peddler, Tewa Tewa, tries to sell on her behalf but without any luck. Still though, the man always receives a warm welcome from the child. The rains come putting paid to her creations,; again there’s no chance to get to Chimwe. But then one bright, dry day Tewa Tewa returns with nothing to sell on his bike.

Prisca asks him if he could possibly carry both her mother and herself all the way to Chimwe. After a little consideration on his part, all three set off on the long bumpy road

and finally, after many hours and absolutely exhausted, the wonderful man manages to reach their destination. There a joyful sibling reunion takes place.

Carolyn Rose’s uplifting story pays homage to the resourcefulness of children who have little in the way of money, but are full of love, kindness and ingenuity. It’s also a window into some of the hardships village-living families face in parts of Africa including Malawi.

Board Books and a Squidgy One

Baby’s Very First Faces
illustrated by Jo Lodge
Campbell Books

With its mirror, crinkly pages and high contrast images and patterns, this hand-washable book is just the thing to share with a new baby. It features in turn a daddy, a mummy, and a baby. In case you are reluctant to take it out of your home, there is a Velcro strap that can be attached to a buggy while you’re out and about.

Where’s Baby Chick?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Spring’s well and truly in the air: the ideal time to introduce toddlers to some new life with this latest hide-and-seek book. Tucked away behind the felt flaps on the brightly coloured, patterned spreads are Baby Bunny, Baby Lamb, Baby Kitten and Baby Chick. The final spread contains a mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
Simple interactive delight to share with your little one.

Bake a Rainbow Cake!
Amirah Kassem
Abrams Appleseed
A veritable explosion of colour is the outcome of artistic baker Amirah Kassem’s board book extravaganza.

She gives the essential step-by-step two word instructions at the top of each page, beneath which is a jazzy illustration with either a tab to pull, a wheel to turn or a flap to lift as you ‘Pour it!/ Mix it!/ Colour it! / Bake it!’ and so on until, once the frosting has been applied, it’s time to lavish on the sprinkles and wish. Then turn the page to the final …

Short and VERY sweet! Irresistibly so in fact. Mmm! Yum, yum. Yummy! Second helpings please, will come the cry from the little ones you share this tasty board book with.

Old Macdonald’s Things That Go
Jane Clarke and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a whole lot more sounds than moos and baas down on Old MacDonald’s farm: the farmer has a passion for noisy vehicles, by all accounts.
His car vrooms; his tractor chugga-chugga chugs; the combine goes rattle-swish everywhere. He even has a bus that beep-beeps its way around full of jolly animals.

Seemingly he has extensive farmland for there’s a swoosh-swooshing motor boat and it appears he’s fortunate in having a fire truck on hand to deal with accidents of the incendiary kind, ‘nee-nawing’ into action when things get a bit over-heated.

But there’s even more; I’ll let you work out what choo-choos across the fields and what zoom-zoom’s into the air.

Each of Migy Blanco’s jolly digital spreads shows the farmer and his animals joyfully dashing around in one or more of the vehicles, before the two penultimate tongue-twisting spreads, before the 50’s-looking vehicles whizz towards the finish line. If you can actually slow down though, there’s plenty to pore over in every scene.

Jane Clarke’s rowdy spin off from the classic nursery song will surely have little ones giggling as well as singing along. One wonders what else Old Macdonald might have down on that farm of his; or maybe he could take a holiday and experience all manner of seaside sounds.

Early Years Christmas Books

Maisy’s Christmas Letters
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Maisy is throwing a Christmas party and she’s been busy writing invitations to all her friends. It’s not long before the replies start coming in, along with other surprise items for Maisy such as a calendar(Eddie), a recipe (Cyril), a tiny joke book (Charley) and a special letter.
Interactive fun for little ones and just right to share in the run-up to Christmas. I suspect Maisy will acquire a host of new human friends with this book.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise
Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing

Thanks to a surprise gift from her mother on the first of December, and her own thoughtfulness, Marigold Mouse is able to bring Christmas happiness to her best friend Marvin.
Mark Carthew’s lively rhyming narrative and Simon Prescott’s expressive illustrations together make for a warm-hearted seasonal story in the Marvin and Marigold series reminding us all that Christmas is for sharing with others.

Winnie the Pooh: The Long Winter Sleep
Jane Riordan, Eleanor Taylor and Mikki Butterley
Egmont

Who or what is making those Scritch! Scratch! Crunch! sounds as Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood bed down for their long winter sleep, shutting out the cold wind blowing through the Forest? One after another the animals venture out into the darkness in the hopes of discovering the source of the weird noises. What they find comes as a wonderful surprise that warms them both outside and inside.

Jane Riordan succeeds in capturing the essence of Milne’s characters in this charming tale while the illustrators give a slightly carton feel to the artwork.
Also in the same series but in a mini edition:

A Pudding for Christmas
The friends all gather to make a Christmas pudding, “A gigantic delicious pudding as big as Pooh,” announces Christopher Robin. Each in turn adds an ingredient to the mix and then one by one they stir the pudding and make a wish until Kanga realises that Roo is missing. Is he or is he not somewhere in the pudding? It’s probably a good idea to defer cooking it – just in case …
Another enchanting episode for tinies, this pocket sized book would make a good stocking filler.

Vegetables in Holiday Underwear
Jared Chapman
Abrams Appleseed

The eagerly anticipated season of holiday underwear has arrived and there’s seasonal excitement in veggie land. So says the green pea announcer at the start of the latest in Jared Chapman’s zany series.

Readers are then treated to a pants extravaganza that displays underwear of the cosy and scratchy kinds, that to wear inside and outside; to accommodate the Christmas meal there are stretchy pants as well as the inevitable tight pair. Some pants are similar while others are utterly unique. And because it’s Christmas even Santa is suitably ‘panted. Festive silliness for sure.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

It’s MY Sausage! / The Cutest Thing Ever

It’s MY Sausage!
Alex Willmore
Maverick Publishing

One fat juicy sausage, five cats all with designs on it. The mustard coloured moggy lays claim, having so we hear ‘seen it first’ but has decided to delay gratification.

A dramatic comedy then unfolds as the others endeavour to procure the desired item by means of a rod and line, a ball of wool …

and some acrobatics.

Deceptively simple and hugely expressive illustrations of the rival felines tell much of the story along with a brief discourse provided by mustard moggy and punctuated with descriptive onomatopoeic sound effects and exclamations by the competing cats.

Who actually gets to eat the tempting morsel though? That would be telling wouldn’t it …

A hugely entertaining romp of a picture book.

The Cutest Thing Ever
Amy Ignatow and Hsinping Pan
Abrams Appleseed

A small purple bat narrator poses the question ‘Want to see the cutest thing ever?’

We turn the page to find a cuddly looking monster. Our bat friend then goes on to present an assortment of alternative possibilities adding kittens, hats and a unicorn to ride on. Not satisfied he continues with ‘A parade of koala bears’ – musical making ones, dancing bunnies, and then the whole show goes crazy with …

These astronauts eventually surround the rest of the competing crew before the bat, now appearing absolutely desperate to please, proffers one last suggestion … could that reveal the cutest ever possibility.

Little ones will certainly enjoy the finale. Silly nonsense but I imagine cries of ‘again’!

Flaps, Frights and Fun for Little Ones

Where’s Mrs Bear?
Where’s Mrs Witch?

Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

The two new additions to the deservedly popular hide-and-seek series that uses a simple repeat question and answer pattern are terrific fun. Using shaped felt flaps and a final mirror, tinies can enjoy discovering the whereabouts of several woodland animals in the former before being confronted, thanks to the hidden mirror, by their own image beneath the flap on the final spread.
The second title has a distinct Halloween theme with a skeleton, a spider, a vampire and Mrs Witch to find as well as enjoying a spot of self-revelation beneath the ghost.
Engaging, spot on interactive entertainment and unobtrusive learning for the very youngest.
Talking of Halloween …

 

Monsters Come Out Tonight!
Frederick Glasser and Edward Miller
Abrams Appleseed

There surely are all manner of ghastlies and ghoulies lurking behind the flaps in this jaunty rhyming, mock scary book. There are witches combing their locks, Frankenstein showing off his new sporty trainer boots, Dracula brushing his fangs and ghosties sporting bow ties and top hats. What is the purpose of all this titivating, you might be wondering. The final fold out spread reveals all.

Little human monsters can enjoy some monstrously shivery, door-opening fun herein.

Farmblock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

The latest of the popular block series takes us down on the farm where little ones can follow the two children through a day’s work as well as the seasonal activities that take place.
The cock crows, the children do their round, collecting eggs from the hens, carrying compost and then bathing the dog after a stinky roll in the muck, help with the milking and feeding the pigs. It’s harvest time so they stop for a lunchtime picnic in the field before picking baskets of rosy apples for pie-making .
There are pumpkins to carve, and later on a celebratory thanksgiving feast.
Winter brings the frost and snow; Mum chops wood and they make sure the animals and birds have enough to eat before heading home for toasted marshmallows by the fire.
At last it’s spring and with it come baby lambs and seed planting.
When summer arrives there’s grass cutting and baling, berry picking, and jam making ready for the farmers’ market.

As is characteristic of the series, this one has gatefolds, die-cut pages and plenty to enjoy in team Peskimo’s attractive illustrations.

Yum Yummy Yuck
Cree Lane and Amanda Jane Jones
Prestel

Here’s a very simply illustrated board book that offers a fun way to show toddlers what is fine to consume and what definitely isn’t.

Using the titular patterned text followed by a ‘don’t put in your mouth’ item that is explained simply, such as ‘If you try to eat sand … you’ll immediately regret it’;’ or ‘Coins don’t go in your tummy, they go in your piggy bank!’ accompanied by simple stylised images of such items as ice-cream, fruit, vegetables as well as crayons, bogies, soap and toothpaste.

Having shared this, adults might collect items from around the kitchen and play a ‘yum’ ‘yucky’ game with their tinies using a thumbs up/thumbs down action to reinforce the idea.

A Forest’s Seasons / Apple / Who’s Hiding on Safari? & Who’s Hiding in the Jungle?

A Forest’s Seasons
Ingela P. Arrhenius
Chronicle Books

This tiny, chunky board book comprises just six pages, each differently shaped, showing the seasonal changes in a forest. ‘Spring brings babies and blooms’ we read, whereas summer is alive with different greens; in autumn we see fungi and a predominance of orange and browns while in winter the landscape is blanketed in white.

A delight for small hands and a lovely introduction to the idea that nature is cyclic.

Apple
Nikki McClure
Abrams Appleseed

Essentially what is the life cycle of an apple but interspersed with human interaction is presented in just fourteen words, – a single one per spread – opposite one of McClure’s signature style black and white cut outs. The apple being the only red, in each composition makes it stand out.

In autumn an apple falls from the tree; it’s collected and put into a sack with others.

Back at home, a little girl watches her mother cutting the apples and seizing her chance takes one (SNEAK) and pops it into the school bag and off she goes to school. Intending to consume it later she begins playing and the apple lies forgotten.

Eventually it rots, is composted and finally in spring we see it’s sprouting into a new tree.

There’s a final explanatory page reminding readers that ‘apple seeds rarely grow into trees that make tasty apples.’ Nonetheless this book is an effective and simple lesson and one whose outstanding art offers much to enjoy and discuss with little ones.

Who’s Hiding on Safari?
Who’s Hiding in the Jungle?

Katharine McEwen
Nosy Crow

By means of her alluring colourful collage spreads, Katherine McEwen takes little ones to two locations to spend a day playing animal hide and seek either in Africa or the South American rainforest.

On Safari, from early morning the grasslands are an exciting place to watch wild animals be they nesting, napping, digging, playing, having a cooling afternoon swim in the river or basking in the warm sun. Come evening you can spot hungry giraffes grazing on the trees and perhaps spy a monkey or two nibbling; and when it’s dark it’s the turn of the bats and foxes to appear while their fellow creatures sleep.

There are also lots of lively animals around Hiding in the Jungle amidst the lush flora and in the overhead canopy.

Little ones can also search for others hiding along the steamy riverbank, beneath the surface of the river and, in the cool of the evening, look among the foliage for creeping, crawling creatures.

Night brings sleep for most, but lifting the flaps will reveal some surprises.

Both books contain simple factual snippets and every spread has several flaps to investigate, where there is information about the hidden animals.

Deep in the Ocean / The Big Sticker Book of Birds

Deep in the Ocean
Lucie Brunellière
Abrams Appleseed

In this large format board book, readers follow Oceanos, a shiny silver submarine, as it takes an exploratory voyage into the depths of the oceans.
From the first opening, we’re immersed in the ocean’s waters along with the submarine’s scientific crew

but as their craft dives deep and travels through a deep abyss, a fierce storm blows up, whisking the little shiny submarine right off its intended course.

Instead, eddying whirlpools cause it to journey to the polar waters of the Arctic; then it’s pulled by a blue whale towards tropical waters of a coral reef, travelling on until one imagines, it resurfaces, with the crew having collected a wealth of information.

There is a free accompanying 10-minute, atmospheric sound track available to download, though to get the most out of the dual experience, you need to synchronise the track timings with page turns.

It’s easy to get lost in the colourful ecosystems with their standout bright flora and fauna depicted in Brunellière’s multi-layered, finely detailed spreads that do a splendid job of capturing the awe and immensity of our ocean ecosystems.

Dive in and be amazed at the riches therein.

The Big Sticker Book of Birds
Yuval Zommer
Thames & Hudson

Following Yuval’s wonderful The Big Book of Birds comes an activity book on the same theme.

Readers are in the company of Polly the Pigeon. She guides us through as we’re told, ‘the feathery world of birds’ and all that’s needed for the journey is a pencil, some colouring pens and ‘a flighty imagination’. Some of the latter might be used in deciding how to adorn the pages with the 200+ stickers provided at the end of the book.

There’s a wealth of fascinating facts embedded within the spreads that are allocated either to specific kinds of birds such as albatrosses or puffins, or to avian topics including feathers, nesting, and migration.

Children might accept Yuval’s invitation to complete a maze,

design a feather for a new bird species, spot the difference, design a bird box, imagine and draw what a dozen magpies might have picked up in their beaks and more. Or what about playing a game of Blackbird bingo or adding foliage to a tree for wild birds to hide among?

I love the way all Yuval’s creatures be they birds or other, have a slightly mischievous look in their eyes, which adds to the allure of the already engaging pages.

Immersive and fun while unobtrusively educating the user(s).

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

Choo-Choo Peekaboo
Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

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

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

riverside, by a lake, deep in the countryside,

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

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

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

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

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

Marvel Alpha Block
Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindness Rules! / Hide-and-Sleep

Kindness Rules!
Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

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

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

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

Hide-and-Sleep
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Tree and Me

My Tree and Me
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

This latest title in team Witek and Roussey’s In My Heart series presents the seasons through the eyes of the little girl narrator as she introduces her tall, more than 100 year old friend with ‘birds in his hair’ that she calls My Tree.

It’s with this understanding, non-judgemental tree that she shares the ups and downs of her life as well as using him as a partner for singing and dancing.

We learn of how the different seasons affect how she feels and what she does in relation to her friend; ‘With My Tree, I feel like I can fly’ she says of spring …

In summer said tree is a place under which to picnic, becoming a big house for all her animal friends as well as a static participant in a game of hide-and-seek.

Bare-branched and all a-tremble in winter, My Tree is kept warm by the child’s scarf and her fast jumping upon his ‘frozen feet’ – (strangely out of seasonal sequence this).

Said tree also has magical transformational powers, bestowing some on our narrator as she mixes a potion of earthworms, mouldy chestnuts and decaying leaves.

Come autumn My Tree’s branches with their colour changing leaves, provide umbrella-like protection from the sun’s rays.

No matter the season, My Tree, we’re told, smells good: in summer it’s with fruit and honey; moss and mushrooms signify autumn, peppermint is winter’s smell and fresh lime is his springtime one.

For My Tree, it’s easy to stay rooted to the spot but when the little girl tries a yoga tree pose, she finds balancing without wobbling something of a challenge …

both of the friends though, exhibit seasonal growth.

Like previous titles in the series, this has thick die cut pages; and Christine Roussey’s characteristic adorable ink-drawn narrator as well as inky aspects of My Tree, the rest of which is portrayed in colours appropriate to the season.

Celebrating the wonders of the natural world, this is another winning combination of words and pictures from the series’ collaborators.

Pip and Posy The Christmas Tree / All Aboard for Christmas

Pip and Posy The Christmas Tree
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow Books

Pip and Posy are a duo much loved by countless under fives and now they star in a lovely new tale that’s a great seasonal treat.
It’s Christmas Eve and the best friends bring home a Christmas tree. Once installed in a large pot, they set to work decorating it.

First off they bake some festive biscuits to hang on it. Then Posy goes to get the candy canes but when she comes back, one of the biscuits has mysteriously vanished.

The same thing keeps happening: each time she turns her back to find more goodies to add to the tree, there’s one less decoration when she returns. Hmm!

Young children will of course relish seeing what Posy doesn’t. Nor does she realise what’s been going on until she finds Pip flat out on the sofa with a rather bulging tum and saying he’s feeling sick.

Posy keeps quiet and allows Pip time to confess and then the two work together towards a satisfying solution to their lack of tree ornaments

and for listeners especially, there’s a lovely, even more satisfying finale come Christmas morning.
An enormously appealing festive addition to this ever-popular series of Axel’s.

All Aboard for Christmas
Andrew Kolb and Nichole Mara
Abrams Appleseed

There’s a train full of seasonal fun just waiting at the station – it’s Santa’s Christmas train with a gingerbread driver. Inside (lift the flaps to see within) it’s packed full of brightly coloured things to look for and to discuss, questions to answer and most important, lots to enjoy. There are elves and reindeer, penguins, pies and plenty of other good things to eat, toys and other treats.

Once extended, the train is over a metre long and you can reverse the extended carriages to see the frozen, snowy landscape through which Santa journeys, all the while searching the carriages for his missing boot..

With its die-cut windows, there’s plenty to engage little ones who take the ride on Christmas Eve.

Early Years Christmas Miscellany

Christmas
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

What a gorgeous introduction to the festive season for a little babe is the latest in Lisa and Edward’s Baby’s First Cloth Book series.

Baby Boo, suitably clad is taken outdoors into the snow where, to the song of a bird, Daddy and infant build a snowman. Back inside the fire gives a warm glow, the Christmas tree lights sparkle and soon Santa will come with a special gift for Baby Boo.

With its crinkly pages and buggy handle, this book in a box would make a lovely gift for a new parent this Christmas.

Decked Out for Christmas
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed

The mouse elves are all prepared; it’s time to start decorating. Out come the lights, the garland, the baubles, and the star.
But why sunglasses and hot chocolate and surely a map and air freshener aren’t needed to adorn a tree?

Eventually in a fun twist, Ethan Long reveals all. It’s a turbo-charged sleigh those elves have been busily decorating: now who might that belong to? …

Just right to share as you and your toddler set about decorating your tree.

Make & Play Christmas
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

Unlike other titles in this series where you can make an entire scene, the press-out pieces from this festive book slot together or are used separately to make twenty seasonal decorations – Santa, a reindeer, an angel, snowflakes and a star, bells and baubles, candy canes and a Christmas tree to hang on your tree.
There are also pages with instructions for making paper chains and wrapping paper, recipes for gingerbread biscuits and snowball truffles, the words of the ever popular Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas and those little ones who like messier things can use their hands and feet to print a reindeer’s head: (if done on thick paper or card these might be turned into Christmas cards).

Helpfully the decorations can be dismantled and popped back into the book to keep them safe until next year.

Construction Site on Christmas Night
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Ag Ford
Chronicle Books

Christmas is almost here but the construction vehicle team has one final job to complete: they’re building a very special house and they really must get it done.

Into action roars Bulldozer first and for his trouble he receives a special thank you gift.

So it is with Excavator, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck and Crane: each one gets a special ‘thank you’ surprise at the end of the day.

Then across the snow comes the fleet of fire-trucks, bells a-ringing. What awaits this merry ‘fire crew’ as they come to a halt for the night? …

Full of the seasonal spirit of friendship and kindness, the rhyming narrative with its repeat refrain “Merry Christmas! … Goodnight.” together with richly coloured spreads of the construction vehicles against a snowy townscape make for a truck-lovers delight.

A Hug is for Holding Me / Mummy Time

A Hug is for Holding Me
Lisa Wheeler and Lisk Feng
Abrams Appleseed

As a father and child stroll together, the former invites the little girl to become a nature observer. ’Look around and you will see / all the things a hug can be.’

The adult likens what they see to aspects of the natural springtime world and the child then responds. They notice a nest of speckled eggs, cocoons:
‘Cocoons are strong / yet gentle hugs, / and then, / surprisingly … // the air is filled with wondrous wings! / Your hug amazes me.’

… flower buds and seashells

during their meander that is lyrically described by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Lisa Feng in attractive stylised spreads of the two humans enjoying one another’s company among the flora and fauna.

Embrace nature, embrace one another, that is the essence of this book to share between parent and child.

In complete contrast is the outing shared by parent and infant in this story where engagement between adult and child appears non-existent :

Mummy Time
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This ironic tale of a mother totally absorbed in a conversation on her mobile while in the park with her toddler is something of a departure for the amazing Judith Kerr.

It certainly isn’t the gentle mummy time story one might anticipate from the cover picture and opening page – far from it.

Almost the entire verbal narrative takes the form of mum’s mobile conversation with a friend as she leaves the house for the park with her little boy for some ‘mummy time’.

Ensconced on a bench, she chats away about a recent party, the people who were there, the food, the changing fortunes for the better of her hosts and the ill-fortune that seems to dog her own life.

Meanwhile, as the pictures show, the toddler is engaged in a real life encounter with a large dog,

a spot of pigeon and duck food sampling, an unplanned dip in the pond, a ride on a swan, a treetop tumble,

a close encounter with a minibeast and a comforting cuddle from that dog again.

Strangely these parallel worlds of mum and toddler collide for mum’s conversation becomes a commentary on the pictorial action so beautifully portrayed by Judith Kerr.

An altogether intriguing book and a side-swipe at the human obsession with mobile phones. ‘Mummy Time’ seems to be just that, not time for mummy and toddler together.

Early Years Assortment: Where’s Mr Penguin? / Monsters Go Night-Night / Balance the Birds

Where’s Mr Penguin?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Just right for sharing with the very youngest is this new addition to the Nosy Crow felt flaps series splendidly illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius.

Infants will be immediately attracted by her colourful art and be enchanted to join in the game of hide-and-seek to find the missing animals – Mrs Seal, Mr Seagull, Mrs Whale and Mr Penguin that have tucked themselves neatly behind the bright, shaped felt flaps before seeing themselves in the final spread.

Monsters Go Night-Night
Aaron Zenz
Abrams

As you might expect, the bedtime routine for little monsters isn’t quite the same as that of little humans. Yes they do have an evening snack, bath, don their night attire, find something to snuggle up with, clean their teeth, use the potty (yes they’re like little humans in this respect) and they do love their ‘night-night kisses; but bedtime feasting after they’ve cleaned those teeth, now that is not such a good idea.

The seven little monsters certainly do have a lot of fun in this participatory guessing game story. Let’s hope it doesn’t put ridiculous ideas into the heads of little humans though. Sleep inducing, it definitely is not.

Balance the Birds
Susie Ghahremani
Abrams Appleseed

Following her Stack the Cats, Susie Ghahremani presents youngsters with another mathematical observing/thinking game.
To get the most from it I’d suggest having read the title and the opening page, that the adult pauses to give children time to do their own thinking before turning the page to reveal how the birds settle.

Their equilibrium however is soon upset by a pesky squirrel that sends half of the feathered creatures flying, leaving the branches unbalanced unless they rearrange themselves.

Another squirrel sighting then causes the hasty departure of three of the four remaining birds. Along comes an owl: now what? Certainly it’s much too heavy to balance the single remaining little blue bird.

With the advent of each new intruder, the balance becomes far more of a challenge to young humans who will likely enjoy observing the chain of events in all its colourful glory without becoming too bogged down in the mathematical concepts.

A simple balance, some small toys of equal weights and a larger one, will clarify things.

Caring and Sharing: A Prayer for the Animals / My Little Gifts: A Book of Sharing

A Prayer for the Animals
Daniel Kirk
Abrams

Writing in a meditative manner, Daniel Kirk wishes peace to all the animal inhabitants of our planet: to those of the earth, the sea and the sky.

He asks readers to understand that like we humans, those creatures too have needs. They need to be safe, to rest,

to have sufficient food and companionship.
‘May our hearts be open to caring for the animals of this world,’ he says.
Would that it were that simple.

It’s a start though and the book does have a powerful feel both through the lush looking, pencil drawn, digitally coloured illustrations that will attract young children, (his skies are stunning) and the carefully honed words.

If it encourages readers to do their bit against the destruction of precious habitats, to stand against the predatory actions of humans for their own selfish purposes then this book, with its final author’s note about World Animal Day on 4th October, will have succeeded beyond being merely a bedtime blessing.

My Little Gifts: A Book of Sharing
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

The small girl narrator shares a special holiday celebration with readers, telling of the importance, not only of receiving shiny gift-wrapped packages, but more important, of saying thank you; of sharing our things, our friendship, our time, our talents (including making items such as friendship bracelets or cakes for others);

our knowledge (Lili has learned about bees and pollination in school), our kind words our love, our imagination.

With all manner of differently shaped flaps (some with several folds) to explore (one at every turn of the page), Christine Roussey’s crayon illustrations are enticing and full of child appeal.

The sturdy pages should ensure that this gift of a book – the latest in the ‘Growing Hearts’ series – will last from one holiday to the next. No matter the holiday, this is a story that demonstrates the value of both giving and receiving.

Super Pooper and Whizz Kid Potty Power / CREATURE vs. TEACHER

Super Pooper and Whizz Kid Potty Power
Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

My partner and I spluttered our way through breakfast reading this, so much so that we almost wet ourselves laughing; it’s an absolutely priceless potty training board book.

Parents needn’t worry about that potty training regime; expert help is at hand courtesy of the Moyle sisters’ team Super Pooper (female) and Whizz Kid (male).

They’ve got the whole thing absolutely sorted; from # secret codes for pee and poo, bumble rumble or sprinkle tinkle alerts, the potty dash and pants clearance …

through waiting time (can be tedious),

to the final result. Phew! What relief!

Adult pleasing superheroes pretty much guaranteed and the reward – ‘BIG BOY AND BIG GIRL UNDERPANTS!
Then all that’s left is that vitally important hygiene routine …

If this doesn’t get your little ones weeing and pooping in the right place then I’ll eat my errr? – hat!

CREATURE vs. TEACHER
T.Nat Fuller and Alex Eben Meyer
Abrams Appleseed

Creature (of large friendly Frankenstein appearance) and teacher (a white-coated boffin-looking kind of person) are in totally different moods. Creature feels playful while teacher’s head is full of equations, formulae and is often completely immersed in a book.

The challenge is, can creature ‘s loopy kite flying,

dance moves, spin turns

and bum wiggling efforts have the desired effect of getting teacher to lighten up and join the fun.

Fuller’s paired rhyming words accompanied by Meyer’s outstandingly bright comic-strip graphics make for a great groovy fun book that’s bound to engage and delight .

Jane Foster’s Summertime / Whose Boat? / Who?

Jane Foster’s Summertime
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing

What things spring to mind when someone says the word summertime?
Delicious, lip-smacking ice cream? Sunglasses and a floppy hat? Cool juice and some fruit? Flip-flops? Swimming? Sunflowers?

All of those sprang into mine before I opened this delicious slice of the summer season from designer/illustrator Jane Foster. And lo and behold, there they all were plus several others each one being stylishly presented in the artist’s pattern rich style, one per spread,

while the final opening reveals all eleven of the summery icons together.

Her chosen, uplifting colour palette absolutely sings out the joys of the summer season in this cracker of a board book that will delight adult sharers as much as toddlers.

Whose Boat?
Toni Buzzeo and Tom Froese
Abrams Appleseed

This board book is essentially a boat-centric guessing game featuring half a dozen workers and their respective craft.

There’s a patrol boat controlled by the harbourmaster, a tugboat with its pilot,

a car ferry and captain, a fishing boat with a ‘lobsterperson’ (that wording is a little clumsy, I think), a lifeboat and coxswain, a fire boat and firefighter.

An image of each boat with clear labels of parts, is placed on the outside of a gatefold which opens to show the answer to the question, ‘Whose boat is that? Do you know?’’

There’s a fair bit of detail, perhaps more than one might expect for the usual board book audience, but for the vehicle curious young child that’s a plus; for those not ready for all those labels, Tom Froese’s bright, stylised nautical scenes are a good starting point from which little ones can absorb whatever they’re ready for.

A good bet for either home or an early years setting.

For even younger infants is:

Who?
Robie Harris and Natascha Rosenberg
Abrams Appleseed
Diversity is key in this engaging look at babies – ten in all – and the relationships they form.

Babies themselves will enjoy the rhythm of Harris’ playful, repetitive question and answer text, and slightly older infants can participate in the guessing game, joining in with, and responding to, the ‘Who? / Who’s that? ‘ as they become familiar with the various relations – Dada, Mama, Gramma,

and Grampa, as well as the animals and inanimate item.

Natascha Rosennberg’s endearing, but not sickly sweet, portrayals of the loving twos should captivate infants while pleasing adult sharers.

A playful board book that is  likely to be used over and over.

Dinosaurs Don’t Draw / Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!

Dinosaurs Don’t Draw
Elli Woodward and Steven Lenton
Macmillan Children’s Books

‘Of course they don’t’, children will be thinking in response to hearing the title of this book, but they’re in for a surprise thanks to Picassaur and his strange find. Said find is a white object and it’s not long before the young dinosaur has transformed his surroundings.

His mother is less than impressed: “We’re fighters and biters, as fierce as can be!” is what she tells her dino. infant.

Far from being put off, Picassaur continues with his creative endeavours, in glorious technicolour this time, but his father’s reaction is the same as his mother’s.

Despite his amazing third artistic effort, Picassaur’s cousins too respond negatively, telling him to forget his drawing and do battle instead.

Then all of a sudden they get the surprise of their lives …

Is that the end for all the little dinosaurs?

It certainly seems likely they’ll be the next meal for that T-rex; but something even scarier than himself meets his eye when he turns around …

Whoever thought pictures could be that powerful … Three cheers for peaceful solutions rather than conflict and another three for Picassaur who dared to be different.

Elli Woodward’s zippy rhyming text flows nicely inviting audience participation and in tandem with Steven Lenton’s spirited scenes of dinosaurs and the artistic outpourings of one of their number, makes for a fun story-time read aloud.

A rather different dino. character stars in:

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Zachariah OHora
Abrams Appleseed

We all know that tyrannosaurs are renowned for their destructive ways and so it is for young Tyrannosaurus rex here. This young terror is not intentionally bad but his lack of awareness and over-exuberance results in a pre-school setting of angry-faced characters whose creative activities are ruined,

and whose quiet endeavours are disturbed.

Eventually thoroughly infuriated by all this wrecking, his classmates have had enough. “Tyrannosaurus – go!” comes the cry.

This causes contrition on the part of the antihero but even then his attempts to make amends flounder due to his ungainliness, at which point his fellow dinos. muck in, overseeing and facilitating the reparation.

However, just when harmony seems about to be restored we see that the little Tyro.dino. isn’t the only one capable of precipitating a disaster …

Zachariah OHora’s stand-out bright scenes of the classroom will attract pre-school humans but also include the occasional visual joke such as the Styracosaurus writing ‘climate change’ over and over on the chalk board to amuse adult readers aloud.
With its fun rhythm and rhyme, this stomping romp invites noisy audience participation.

Hero vs. Villain / Monty + Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes

Hero vs. Villain
T. Nat Fuller and Alex Eben Meyer
Abrams Appleseed

Using comic-book style images, the creators of this little board book manage to provide an engaging storyline while at the same time demonstrating opposites – hero/villain, smile/frown, up/down, build/destroy, truth/ lie

and enemies/friends – in just eight spreads.
Toddler super-hero enthusiasts will love the female sporting cloak and mask and laugh over the mock-scary, tooth-snapping, top-hat wearing crocodile villain and delight in the surprise finale. As a tool of conciliation, the cupcake rules!
Conflict resolution for tinies and a satisfying adventure is pretty good going in so brief a book.

For slightly older superhero fans:

Monty + Sylvester: A Tale of Everyday Super Heroes
Carly Gledhill
Orchard Books

Meet best pals Monty (mouse) and Sylvester (bear), new super heroes on the block. They’ve already got the gear, read the manual and followed the training regime and now they’re ready for operation ‘Save the World’.
RING! RING! It’s a call for help and off they go for their very first emergency.

Now this looks tricky but suddenly Mouse has a light-bulb moment and using their faithful vacuum cleaner, mission one is soon successfully completed.
Word of their skills spreads and everything is going swimmingly until …

This rascally rat mounts a counter-attack that really tests the abilities of the friends and makes them wonder if they’ll ever see the light of day again.
Rest assured though, thanks to a deft flick of this …

they do and gain a few extra helpers too.
With its delicious characters, (love the hatching on Sylvester) this is a book to appeal to young listeners especially would-be superheroes. Carly Geldhill’s illustrations are sprinkled with splendidly silly, giggle-inducing details both visual and verbal.

Plantopedia / Summer

Plantopedia
Adrienne Barman
Wide Eyed Editions

Barman follows up her Creaturepedia with a celebration of more than 600 plants that includes trees, fruits, flowers – wild and cultivated, vegetables, herbs, weeds, healing plants and more from all over the world.

Somewhat strangely for this reviewer at least, we start indoors with ‘The air fresheners’ – plants to grow indoors that clean the air. This section is followed by ‘The all-blacks’ and then ’The aquatics’ ‘The big eaters’ and another colour section – ‘The blues and purples’. I’m not sure whether the author had a plan in mind when she arranged the spreads but to me the section sequencing seems quirky and perhaps random which creates something of a surprise element.I particularly liked The Stars pages.

Having said that the whole book is packed with learning possibilities in various curriculum areas such as science, geography, history, art perhaps (although it’s better to use real plants I suggest) and almost every topic could be an inspiration for further investigation.

In contrast to the rest of the book, the appendix devoted to three aspects of leaves – shape, arrangement and edges/veins – is straightforward botany.

The illustrations are bright, engaging and gently humorous – look out for animals popping up on lots of spreads, and the odd human from time to time.

One for budding botanists, the family bookshelf or school library.

For younger readers, with plants also taking centre stage is:

Summer
David A. Carter
Abrams Appleseed

Just in time for summer comes David A. Carter’s fourth and final pop-up in his seasons series. Carter has created six plant pop-ups –one of which he places at the centre of each spread,

and in and around them are to be found various animals including birds, butterflies and other minibeasts, small mammals, a snake, a turtle and a fish.

A brief accompanying text invites children to get involved by asking such questions as ‘Who eats the flowers?’ or ‘Who swims in the creek?’

Fun and captivating, this is an American publication so some of the named items will be unfamiliar but that offers a good talking point for readers in parts of the world other than the USA.

I Want My Dad! / With My Daddy / I Love You Dino-Daddy

I Want My Dad!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Tony Ross’s latest slice of humour, Little Princess style, has the heroine considering her dad the King, making comparisons with other dads and finding him wanting in many respects. He’s much shorter that they are, is useless at baking, gets wheezy in the presence of any animal large or small, is totally inept in the water

and unlike the Gardener who takes his offspring on forest walks, gets lost in his own castle.

I wish my dad was as much fun as other dads!” she cries to the Maid. … He’s useless.

Her response is to teach the young complainer. First it’s pony riding, then baking, followed by swimming and walking in the woods, none of which are a resounding success. Our Little Princess is left feeling cold, decidedly damp, with hurting teeth and head, and exceedingly hungry.

In short, she feels absolutely useless.

As she heads for home who should happen along but his royal highness out walking and when he hears about her failures, just like all dads, he knows just what to say to put everything right.

With My Daddy
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

In this sturdily built book, a little girl talks about how she feels when she’s with her dad.
He arouses the whole gamut of emotions: a hug makes her feel like ‘a little bird in a warm, comfy nest, … safe.’

He can also make her feel unafraid, ‘brave’ in fact, ‘daring’, ‘confident’ because he inspires self-belief,

being ‘adventurous’ particularly when it comes to swimming, ‘playful’ on the most ordinary of days, ‘calm’, and ‘excited’ especially when he plays at being a monster. Sometimes though he invokes anger but it’s a storm that quickly passes thanks to Dad’s gentle calming hands on the narrator’s back.
Interestingly we never see the complete dad, or even indeed his face. Rather it’s only huge hands, or feet and legs on the final page, that are ever visible. In this way, Christine Roussey emphasises the huge amount of love he bestows upon the small narrator and the scope of his influencing power upon her feelings and emotions.

I Love You Dino-Daddy
Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

According to his offspring, Dino-Dad is a pretty cool guy with all manner of useful attributes. He’s full of fun on trips to the park, , ace at building with blocks, great at playing monsters, pretend wrestling, giving pony rides and doing magic tricks (especially where cake is concerned) ; he’s even great to play with – albeit unknowingly – while taking a nap.

As described in Mark Sperring’s jolly rhyming text and portrayed, with his dapper blue shoes and striped scarf, in Sam Lloyd’s exuberant illustrations, this Dad is a doted-on dino. who is sure to charm your little ones; and this is a lovely fun-filled, love-filled book for dino-littles to give to a dad on his special day be that Father’s Day, a birthday or for that matter, any other day they want to bring a Daddy smile.

A Handful of Board Books

Clap Hands
Say Goodnight

Helen Oxenbury
Walker Books

Can it really be thirty years since the original editions of these ‘A First Book for Babies’ titles appeared? They’ve lost none of their charm and those babes, whether they’re dancing, eating, making a noise, waving, swinging, riding or sleeping are just as adorable as ever.
As first books for babies, with their brief jaunty texts and superbly observed illustrations,

they’d still be one of my first picks to give a new mum.

Pop-Up Ocean
Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Books

In this chunky little board book fifteen ocean-related things (one per spread) are stylishly illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius.
Toddlers will delight in seeing sea creatures large – whale, seal, stingray and not so large– crab, fish, octopus, seagull, coral and seahorse, along with a fishing boat, lighthouse, shell, submarine, swimmer, surfer all of which literally pop out of the pages.
A fun way to introduce vocabulary associated with the sea, it’s full of opportunities for language development at every opening.

Spot’s Puzzle Fun!
Eric Hill
Puffin Books

Toddlers will enjoy joining in with the ‘Brmm-brmm. Whoosh!’ of Helen’s bright red car; the ‘Bumpety-bump!’ of Steve’s shiny green tractor’ the ‘Rumble-rumble, beep-beep!’ of Tom’s big yellow digger and finally, the ‘Choo-choo, clickety-clack’ of Spot’s blue train as one by one they drive their vehicles into view, offering “Does anyone else want a turn?” to the other animals.

There are sturdy press-out pieces (animal and vehicle) on each spread that can also act as puzzle pieces and can be fitted together in various combinations – great for developing manipulative skills as well as fun.

Star Wars Block
Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

Using die-cut shapes, the husband and wife design team that is Peskimo take readers on an epic celebratory journey that showcases iconic characters, spacecraft, combat vehicles, locations and creatures from various Star Wars films, from the very first to Rogue One.
Subtitled ‘Over 100 Words Every Fan Should Know,’ with its easily manipulated pages, this latest addition to the block book titles, will be welcomed by small fans of the epic space adventures, and I suspect, enthusiastic adults with whom they share this chunky offering.

Out and About: Mama is it Summer yet? / What on Earth? Trees / Caterpillar to Butterfly

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?
Nikki McClure
Abrams Appleseed

In this board book, a small boy looking through the window asks “Mama, is it summer yet?

His mother’s response explains that it is imminent for the leaf buds are swelling, the animals building nests and the earth is soft and ready for planting, swallows are singing, baby animals have hatched

and trees are blossoming. Very soon, when the berries have ripened in the warm sun – then summer will be well and truly with them.

How fortunate is the infant to have a loving parent who take time to explain all this rather than merely giving a single word reply to her child’s repeated question.

Beautifully designed and with wonderful paper-cut illustrations, predominantly black and white set against a cream background, but with a single contrasting colour on each spread, both visuals and words capture the natural changes while also showing the close bond between mother and child.

What On Earth? Trees
Kevin Warwick and Pau Morgan
QED

Environmental scientist and tree expert Kevin Warwick joins forces with illustrator Pau Morgan in this new addition to the What on Earth? series and as with previous titles it successfully adopts a cross curricular approach with a mix of information spreads, poetry, a plethora of things to do both scientific and arty; there’s even a story about how the Douglas fir came to look the way it does.

In short, this is a great way to encourage children to go outside and connect with nature, invitingly illustrated by Pau Morgan.

Caterpillar to Butterfly
Francis Barry
Walker Books

An attractive fold out, and find out about the life cycle of the swallowtail butterfly is told in a rhyming narrative and illustrated with brightly coloured, circular pages. These unfold to reveal each stage from tiny hatching caterpillar, through to ‘amazing butterfly’. We see the caterpillar munching, growing, shedding its skin, growing some more, then spinning a thread, forming a chrysalis and then after weeks of internal change, emerging as a stunningly beautiful adult.

The design, a big hit with small children, follows the same format as Barry’s Big Yellow Sunflower and Little Green Frogs.

Foundation stage teachers, this is one to add to your minibeast topic box.

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where? / Autumn

Little Adventurers: What Bear? Where?
Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick
Walker Books
Peanut, Floss, her little brother, Sprat and Finnegan, the four little adventurers who hold weekly club meetings in their very own shed HQ are back. Now they’re on the trail of animals in the garden where they head with collecting jars, magnifying glass and binoculars at the ready.
Inevitably, there are misidentifications: Peanut’s snake turns out to be a hosepipe …

and Peanut’s giant egg is in fact Sprat’s long-lost ball; and Peanut forgets that things look much bigger when viewed through a magnifying glass.
The creepy crawlies search however is more fruitful with several minibeasts being found;

but the most important find of all is that of a furry animal – a very special one indeed. In fact that’s the only one that doesn’t get released back into the wild at the end of the day.
As well as the entertaining story, there is a whole lot to see and enjoy by way of visual detail: posters, signs, speech bubbles and occasional font changes, all of which are embedded within Elissa Elwick’s zany illustrations.
Another Little Adventurers story that will, one hopes, spark the imaginations of curious adventurers around the ages of Peanut et al.
More of the natural world in:

Autumn
David A.Carter
Abrams Appleseed
This is the third of the author’s seasonal pop-up books and as always Carter’s paper-engineering is amazing.
We start at ground level with a variety of squashes bursting forth from the centre-fold surrounded by a scattering of other flora and fauna and there’s ‘a chill in the air’.
Turn over and clever cutting allows you to make some of the leaves appear to be falling from the oak tree …

behind which wild turkeys roam and a river winds, providing a home for some otters. On winds the river through fields, ‘full of life’ widening out to a place where beavers have built a dam and lodge.
Next stop is a wheat field, ripe and ready for cutting for, as the final spread informs, ‘Winter is coming: it’s time to harvest.’
Full of mellow fruitfulness this lovely book certainly is, albeit USA style, but that can be an interesting talking point as well as an opportunity for widening horizons.

Stardust / In My Room

Stardust
Jeanne Willis and Briony May-Smith
Nosy Crow

For the little girl narrator of the story, it’s deeply upsetting being the sister of someone who always seems to be the star of the show where family members are concerned, other than Grandad, that is.
Then one night after losing the Fancy Dress Competition to her big sister,

Grandad finds our narrator outside gazing up at the starlit sky. Her wish to be a star prompts him to tell her a story: the story of how the universe came into being.

A story that explains the connectedness of everything and everyone: “Everything and everyone is made of stardust,” he tells her. “… Your sister isn’t the only star in the universe… you all shine in different ways.
And, inspired by his words, shine she does – in the most amazing way.

Such wise words; words that the little girl never forgets but equally, words that every child needs telling, sometimes over and over.
Briony May-Smith’s stunningly beautiful illustrations really do celebrate connectedness, diversity and individuality; they’re every bit as empowering as Jeanne Willis’ text.
Strongly recommended for families and early years settings to share and discuss.

In My Room
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

The fifth of the ‘Growing Hearts’ series of novelty books starring a little girl protagonist is essentially a celebration of creativity and imaginative play.
The thick pages are cut so that when the book is turned through 90 degrees, they form together a variegated pencil crayon with which the girl conjures up a series of playful scenarios.
All I need is paper, crayons, chalk … and my imagination!” she tells readers.
First she’s an explorer, then a dancing princess; she becomes a speed racer, a teacher, a writer,

a sailor, a swimmer, a bride, a vet and finally, a funky rock star; all without leaving her room other than in her head

and courtesy of her art materials. Not a sign of any technology anywhere – hurrah!
Yes, there are already plenty of picture books that celebrate the power of the imagination; what makes this one different is the format.
Long live creativity!

I’ve signed the charter  

Clumpety Bump / Barnyard Boogie!

Clumpety Bump
Phil Alcock and Richard Watson
Maverick Arts Publishing
Wally Wobblebottom is a kind-hearted soul; he has a horse named Clumpety Bump, a very lazy animal indeed. So lazy that when Wally sets out to deliver goodies to his various friends and neighbours, the horse’s response to his master’s words of encouragement on each occasion is “I can’t be bothered!” which leaves Wally more than a little frustrated, especially as the items he intends to deliver all go to waste.

By Thursday Wally has had enough; he decides to use his tractor when he goes, bearing flowers, to visit his lady-friend. However it seems machines can be just as unreliable as horses …

and in the end it’s Clumpety that takes Wally, at full speed this time, all the way to Ann Kacheef’s house. There disaster strikes … but all ends happily for everyone.
With its playful phrases and refrains to join in with, this story, with its themes of thankfulness and friendship, is one to encourage audience participation and promote the message that language can be fun.

More playful language in:

Barnyard Boogie!
Tim McCanna and Allison Black
Abrams Appleseed
Be prepared for a noisy storytime if you share this one: it’s a riotous read aloud thanks to the musicians of the Barnyard Animal Band.
All the animals have their instruments poised: Horse has a tuba, Goat plays a sax, Cat fiddles, Pig is a pianist, Sheep blows a trumpet and Dog bangs the drums. But what can Cow do? …

The crowd’s assembled ready to hear the performance; but how will the show start and who will lead the band?

Crazy rhyming onomatopoeic instrumental sounds, and a repeat refrain that young children will love to join in with, are part and parcel of the brief text that scans beautifully. Put together with bright, zany illustrations, the whole thing makes for a fun session with young children actively involved both vocally and physically.

It’s Time for Bed

A Bear Hug at Bedtime
Jana Novotny Hunter and Kay Widdowson
Child’s Play
Imaginative play rules in this enchanting pre-bedtime romp: snuggle up and prepare for a bedtime hug or two.
A small child meets a variety of animals, large and small as bedtime approaches or does she? Look again and we see that in fact something entirely different is happening as she imagines various members of her family as animals: Gran morphs into a stripy tiger, Mum becomes a monkey,

her little brothers a lizard and a lobster. And Dad? He’s a huge hairy bear just waiting to leap out and engulf his daughter with a wonderfully warm, goodnight hug. Gorgeous!
Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated and SO full of heart, it’s perfect for bedtime sharing.

Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
Lisa Wheeler and Carolina Búzio
Abrams Appleseed
There’s a distinct retro look and pleasing pattern to this languorous rhyming look at sleeping places. ‘Bats take a nap in a cave upside down. / Hay is a bed for a mare. // Wolves cuddle up in a den ‘neath the ground./ But babies can sleep anywhere.’
This three animals followed by one human infant pattern is used throughout the book until the final spread. This shows an array of sleeping human babes all looking totally blissful.

It’s good to see a mix of well-known and less familiar animals included, as well as the variety of human families on the final pages. Carolina Búzio’s bold colour palette is gorgeous.

I See the Moon
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
For this delightful bedtime sharing book, Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated sixteen popular rhymes, lullabies and poems (mostly anonymous but with poems by J.M.Westrup, Thomas Hood and Robert Louis Stevenson).
Populating her moonlit world with adorable children, foxes, squirrels, mice and other small creatures set in scenes generously embellished with silver and gold,

Beardshaw makes each spread sparkles with colour, light and nocturnal enchantment.

Ice Boy / Stack the Cats

Ice Boy
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
Meet Ice Boy, the hero of Stein’s latest book. Rather than being restrained by his freezer existence and frequent “Never go outside” parental warnings, the young ice-cube leaves the safe enclosed environment and ventures down to the ocean’s edge and thence discovers a whole new world of exciting adventures is to be had.
His first incarnation is ‘Water Boy …

and thereafter Vapour Boy; after which, having tap-danced upon a thunderstorm and freezing …

a tiny pellet of summer hail.
In solid form once again, he hurtles off a roof-top and ‘BLOOP’ –is reunited with his parents who just happen to be chilling someone’s drink.

Suddenly it looks as though extermination is to be the outcome for all three cubes but fortunately, the thirsty human’s first taste is of the little lad who, after all his adventures has become a taste-bud disaster; and Ice Boy and parents are summarily tossed from the tumbler onto the grass.
Then, with an infusion of worldly knowledge, Ice Boy leads the trio off on a new water-cycle adventure …
This clever tale of risk-taking, transformation and re-incarnation is such a fun way to introduce a sclence lesson on the water-cycle. Stein’s mixed media, largely blue and grey illustrations are littered throughout with witty speech bubbles (‘Oh, Ice Boy! You’re a sight for sore ice.‘ Or, ‘Am I dense or did I just become a liquid again?‘and peppered with POPs, PUFFs, BLOOPs and other appropriate noises off.

Stack the Cats
Susie Ghahremani
Abrams Appleseed
Much more than a mere counting activity, this playful picture book offers opportunities for youngsters to expand their mathematical thinking to embrace simple division and multiplication; and a spot of height comparison. We start with ‘One cat sleeps.’ // Two cats play. // Three cats?/ STACK!’ Followed by …

After which the pattern alters thus:

Clearly the six have found this process a little wearying so ‘Seven cats nap.’
Then, the revived felines plus another try their paws at a spot to towering , which rapidly turns to a tumble. It’s as well cat nine is there to even things out and for the first and only time, numerals make their appearance …

What happens thereafter is that Ghahremi decides that ten cats are ‘just too many’, dispersing the gathering to hide, sleep, climb and generally have a playful time (a subtraction discussion opportunity) and finishing with an open-ended, ‘How will you stack the cats?’
The eye-catching cats are given the opportunity to show their playful personalities while youngsters are offered a plethora of mathematical possibilities. A purrfect prelude to some mathematical activities: fun and educative and also, great for beginning readers.

I’ve signed the charter  

Quality From The Start

Park
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
It’s never too soon to introduce babies to books: this ‘Tiny Little Story’ is a delight. We accompany Mum and Baby Boo on a walk in the park where they see a dog, a squirrel – squeeze the page and the leaves rustle – and a snail.

It rains, they feed the ducks and then the infant bids farewell to a bird and the park. That’s it; but with its squidgy fabric pages, simple, bright, attractive illustrations and brief text, it’s perfect for a first book. The whole thing comes in a presentation box and there’s a velcro strap to attach the book to a buggy.
With its soft pages, this would make a super present for a mum and new baby.

So Many Feet
Nichole Mara and Alexander Vidal
Abrams Appleseed
HIGH FEET, SLOW FEET; FAST FEET: SNOW FEET; DANCING FEET, HANGING FEET – these are just some of the many different kinds to be found in this largish board book that introduces toddlers to the diverse forms and functions of animal feet be they toed, clawed, webbed, sticky, hoofed, padded or other. Each animal’s feet are adapted for its life style whether it’s  mountain climbing, slow plodding, jumping, swimming, digging,

or perhaps, wall scaling.
Interesting, informative and alluringly illustrated, and with its final spread, which concludes with a parting question, ‘What can YOUR FEET do?’ an open invitation for youngsters to try some experimental movements with their own feet. In fact, nursery practitioners might make it the starting point for some playful group movement activities.

123
ABC

Nosy Crow
Nosy Crow has embarked on a new collaboration with The British Museum and these two board books are some of the first of a new joint non-fiction list.
Each one contains photographic images of objects found in the museum and thus give very young learners an opportunity to see and celebrate some of the wonderfully rich cultural collections while at the same time re-enforcing alphabetic and numerical concepts.
I randomly opened 123 at the first spread and was surprised to see a pair of what look like almost identical Indian shoes to a pair I have that I bought in Rajasthan, India a few years back, and where there are a fair number of makers/sellers of these jooties or mojaris as they are called. Those illustrated here are given in the index as ‘shoes: date unknown’ so I have no idea how old they might be, but it just shows how certain things remain almost unchanged over time.
In fact the whole book starting with 1 llama (a gold figure from Peru); and ending with 20 coins, is full of fascinating objects to look at and talk about.

There is a mix of photos of illustrations (paintings, etching, drawing) and 3D objects including drums, bowls, kites, beads, bags and spoons from the collection.
A similar mix of illustration and 3D items graces the pages of ABC. This spread shows a Japanese woodblock print of a snail, a porcelain teapot from the UK and an ivory figure from Sri Lanka.

Think of the rich vocabulary you might help your child develop by focussing on any of the objects shown: there’s certainly no talking down to toddlers here.
In addition to the index each book has, there is a QR code that if scanned on a smart phone supplies further information about the objects depicted. So, share these exciting little books and then if possible pay a visit to the British Museum and try to find the objects on display there.

I’ve signed the charter  

I Lost My Sock! / Fruits in Suits

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I Lost My Sock!
P.J.Roberts and Elio
Abrams Appleseed
Subtitled ‘A Matching Mystery’ this begins with Fox’s declaration, “I lost my sock!” Ox, despite the fact his pal is sporting its pair, asks what it’s like. The dopey-seeming Ox then goes on to produce several unmatching sockish articles of a variety of patterns and sizes for the increasingly frustrated Fox.

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A parcel and a rock are then proffered and rejected before a totally undaunted Ox comes up with a lorry load of socks, tips the entire contents out and proceeds to hunt for the match, without success.
Eventually Ox gives up and is about to depart when BINGO! Fox spots the sock …

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There then ensues a dispute over the ownership of the blue-dotted article. Ox maintains it’s his brand new, perfectly fitting hat with a special handy place to keep his supply of oranges; oranges he cannot keep in his pocket because he doesn’t have one on account of not wearing any pants (trousers). PARDON!

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Ox’s crazy response educes a crazily considerate response from Fox who generously hands over his one remaining sock/hat: but that is not quite the end of this wonderfully foolish tale.
Crazy as it may be, this tale of misunderstanding and mismatching offers much to learn about friendship, and also about pattern, shape, size and colour, comparison and contrast. Elio’s exuberant, cartoon-like illustrations, with their geometric shapes, are terrific fun and Roberts’ equally amusing text, all in dialogue, is hugely enjoyable to read aloud. (The exchanges reminded me somewhat of Mo Willems’ heroes, Elephant and Piggie). It’s also ideal for those in the early stages of reading to try for themselves; share it first though.

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Fruits in Suits
Jared Chapman
Abrams Appleseed
It’s time for a swim, fruit style. First changed into appropriate gear is Strawberry, the narrator, in snazzy polka dot trunks, who then endeavours to persuade the business suited Grapefruit that what he’s wearing – suit though it may be – is totally inappropriate for taking a dip in the pool. Other fruits duly dress suitably – pardon the pun – in one- or two-piece bathing attire (although the word swimsuit’ is never mentioned). After a ridiculous exchange culminating in “BUT I’M WEARING A SUIT!” the near-exasperated Strawberry eventually produces a pair of large trunks and finally …

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whereupon the infant Pomegranate throws caution to the wind and takes a leap in the buff …
This final action caused a giggle on behalf of my young reader who also enjoyed the whole nonsensical scenario.

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Superbat / A Good Day for a Hat

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Superbat
Matt Carr
Scholastic Children’s Books
There’s a new superhero on the block – or should that be a would-be one? Meet Pat the bat. Sleepless and bored with inverted hanging, one day, he longs to be special like those superheroes in his comics. Suddenly ‘POW!’ Light bulb moment; straightway it’s out with Mum’s sewing machine and he sets to work …

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Hours later, Pat is ready to hit the high spots, but persuading his fellow bats of his super powers is going to take some doing. After all, super-hearing, flying and echolocation don’t count: all bats have those capacities; and he certainly can’t lift cars or shoot laserbeams from his eyes.

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Pat is disheartened. “I’m just a normal bat in a silly outfit,” he says holding back his tears. Is he though? Suddenly, his super ears pick up a distant cry …

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Could this be his big chance?
Matt Carr’s debut picture book is slightly crazy –or rather, batty – and none the worse for that. I suspect Pat the Bat, with his stitched-on-star suit, will win the hearts of young human would-be superheroes. The yesteryear colour palette is perfect for portraying his antics be they by day or by night.

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A Good Day for a Hat
T. Nat Fuller and Rob Hodgson
Abrams Appleseed
Donning a smart titfa, Mr Brown is ready to sally forth and he has a destination in mind. Try as he might though, he just can’t get beyond his own front path. First it’s the weather, then all kinds of unexpected, unlikely events unfold: a band marches by, magical bunnies are leaping all over his lawn,

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a rodeo gallops along; there’s even a huge fire-breathing dragon …

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and that is followed by a pirate ship. But, with no time for further dallying Mr Brown steps out again and this time, he’s well prepared.

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Will he ever make it to Miss Plum’s house though? And what is the purpose of his visit?
Oodles of fun, with clever use of repetition, making its patterned text easy to read, and a super surprise ending, this jolly picture book is a treat for sharing and individual reading.
Early years teachers, think of all the hatty fun you could have with this playful book.

Animal Allsorts

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Hello, Mr Dodo
Nicholas John Firth
Alison Green Books
I absolutely loved Nicholas John Firth’s debut Hector and the Hummingbird, so was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this, his second offering. It also has an avian theme and once again, is a delight through and through.
Martha is an avid bird lover and twitcher spending much of her time in the woods with her binoculars; there isn’t a bird she can’t identify until that is, the day she comes upon an extremely large specimen she doesn’t recognise

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and it bears a very close resemblance to a supposedly extinct creature.
Before long a secret friendship has developed between Martha and her discovery, who shares with her, a particular penchant for doughnuts …

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Then one afternoon Martha accidentally lets slip her secret and the following day she’s besieged by a crowd at her front door. Time for some quick thinking: the dodo has to disappear.

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Is that to be the end of a beautiful friendship?
The wonderfully retro look of the book (there’s a slight touch of Roger Duvoisin about it) comes from the artist’s choice of colour palette, yet this is a thoroughly modern and enchanting tale.

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One Very Big Bear
Alice Brière-Haquet, Olivier Philipponneau & Raphaële Enjary
Abrams Appleseed
Mightily impressed by his own stature, a bear make an announcement: “I’m very big! … I’m almost a giant!” This claim is quickly countered by a whole host of other polar creatures that turn up in turn: two walrus, three foxes, four sea lions, five penguins and six sardines, the latter have the cheek to call him ‘foolish

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But who gets the last word …
Minimalist artwork, an easy to read text, mathematical opportunities aplenty and a giggle-inducing finale make for a fun book to share and discuss.

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I Need a Hug
Aaron Blabey
Scholastic Childrens’s Books
We all need a hug from time to time but when you’re covered in spikes it makes things just a little tricky and so it is with the prickly creature in this tale.
When a porcupine declares he needs a hug, unsurprisingly he doesn’t get any offers.

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Then something happens to change his luck but it’s not quite what he was expecting …

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With themes of looking for friendship and embracing difference, this brief rhyming tale offers food for thought and discussion with early years groups or individuals.

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Superchimp
Giles Paley-Phillips and Karl Newson
QED
Sporting his red underwear and feasting on fleas, a young chimp spends his days whizzing around in the jungle coming to the aid of troubled animals,

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zooming through the trees in his super-cool chimpmobile or occasionally, relaxing in his secret cave. Known as Superchimp, he’s loved by all the rainforest inhabitants; in fact he’s nothing short of their hero …

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Come nightfall though, from afar there comes another booming voice; but it’s not a voice asking for assistance this time. Now Superchimp doesn’t look quite such a hero and it’s not just his underpants that are a dazzling shade of red.
Rhyming text from Paley-Phillips and vibrant rainforest scenes from Newson combine to make a fun read for young would-be superheroes.

Four Silly Skeletons / Boo! Haiku

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Four Silly Skeletons
Mark Sperring and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Meet the silly skeleton quartet: there’s Fred, Sid, Belle an Bill, residents of a hill-top house, while down below at the foot of the same hill lives their sweet-natured Auntie June with Skellybones, her cat. The four young’uns get up to all manner of shenanigans and it’s down to their aunt to set their wrongs to right.
One dark night when the sky is full of stars and the young skellies full of energy, off they shimmy down the hill,

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only to be halted in their tracks by Auntie June clutching a large bag full of lamps and other lights and warning of the darkness on the hill. But do those four sillies pay heed to her concerns? Oh dearie me, no: what’s the need for extra light when the moon’s big and bright, they say. But that’s before they come upon this …

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which results in a hurtling, spinning, screaming drop that ends in bone-scattering disaster. So it’s just as well that Auntie June has heard their wails and come to their aid, and just happens to have a large pot of sticky stuff with her; sticky stuff that is just the thing for some hasty repairs.

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Now let that be a lesson to those full-moon frolickers.
Told in rowdy, bone rattling rhyme and illuminated by Sue Hendra’s super skeleton scenes of mischief and mayhem, this is just the thing for a Hallowe’en romp.

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Boo! Haiku
Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
Abrams Appleseed
In this follow up to the Guess Who, Haiku are a host of mock-scary frights to delight! Starting with ‘broom across the moon/ pointed hat at the window/ hair-raising cackle’ children are asked to guess who. There’s a small visual clue below the text in addition to the haiku and the answer is revealed when the page is turned.

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The subject then presents another haiku to listeners and so on through traditional Hallowe’en-associated items – a bat, a skeleton, a pumpkin (jack-o’lantern), a ghost and so on and finally –

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The last page provides information about the haiku form and syllabification; and I particularly like the reference to ‘an element of play’.
This cries out for audience participation and is great to share with preschool children who will be honing their listening skills while having fun.

The Road Home / Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!

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The Road Home
Katie Cotton and Sarah Jacoby
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
What a beauty this is: Katie Cotton’s gentle cadences combine with picture book artist Sarah Jacoby’s atmospherically beautiful illustrations to create a memorable evocation of the approach of winter.
Fly with me to far away, / where sun still warms the ground. / For winter’s in the dying light/ and in that windswept sound.’ the mother bird says to her young one as they prepare to leave the safety of their nest and undertake a long, arduous flight together.

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It’s a flight that will take them and readers on a meditative journey as a mouse builds a nest for her little one and rabbits flee from wolves hunting their prey.

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Yes, nature is hard, brutal at times, and this is no cosy picture woven here from words and pictures; rather it’s a powerfully gripping contemplation of the contrasting harshness and stark beauty of life in the wild ‘This road is hard, this road is long.’ we’re told over and over, but at the same time it’s a reassuring one: ‘ … we are not alone. / For you are here, and I’m with you … / and so this road is home.
The impact of this book is slow-burning: it’s an impact that grows with each re-reading, with the words and landscapes lingering in the mind long after the covers have been closed.

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Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gal
Abrams Appleseed
The same partnership that brought us the lovely Abracadabra It’s Spring! has moved the focus to the autumn, as it’s called in the UK. It’s the time when the long summer days are already getting shorter, the temperature starts to drop, the leaves are just beginning to get those tinges of orange and gold and school opens once more. Everywhere are signs of change: seed pods burst scattering an abundance of feathery ‘clouds’…

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birds get ready to fly to warmer climes and the trees are glowing in a multitude of glorious colours.
In a short time, ‘Chilly gusts/ toss leaves around. / Shazam!‘ And a carpet of leaves covers the ground just waiting for children to frolic and kick them skywards. What joy!

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This is the season for squirrels to start laying away food for their winter store, there’s an abundance of delicious fruit to be picked and cooked …

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or hollowed and made into pumpkin faces. Some animals curl up in their burrows for a long sleep and we humans dig out our warmer clothes and delight in all the season brings…
All of this is celebrated in pictures verbal and visual. Eleven gate-folds open up to reveal Gal’s glorious extended scenes to delight the eye and complement O’Brien’s exciting rhyming text.

Monster Night-Nights & A Noisy Baby

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Monsters Go Night-Night
Aaron Zenz
Abrams Appleseed
Bedtime for infant humans usually involves bathing, tooth brushing, donning pjs or onesie and a bedtime story, followed by hugs and kisses. Monsters’ bedtimes are somewhat different. Monsters snack (on umbrellas can you believe?) And yes, they do bath although with chocolate puddings – no need for soap then; they can just lick themselves clean. Their night attire is of the disposable kind …

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and there are snuggles, albeit with something pretty ‘unsnuggleable’ – which of these do you think it is? (One of my listeners thought it was a super place to hide)

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They have assistance with tooth brushing – hint, from something pink and many-legged.

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You may be surprised after all that monstrous behaviour that young monsters are not generally nappy-poopers; they do know how to use a potty …

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and they absolutely delight in ‘night-night‘ kisses – lots of them.
There’s one final part of their routine that I’d better keep under wraps though just in case it shocks you. (You might want to avoid that last page when you share this fun book with your youngster(s), just in case it gives them ideas …
This extended guessing game is bound to delight very young ‘monsters’ with its predictable patterned text, printed in a large typeface and populated by a host of endearing, brightly coloured little monsters.
All of the above makes it ideal for beginning readers too (preferably once someone has shared it with them); and infinitely more enjoyable than a dull phonic reading scheme book.

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Lulu and the Noisy Baby
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
When preschooler Lulu notices that her mum’s tummy is increasing in size, it’s time to tell her that she’s to become a big sis. and she’s thrilled to see the ultrasound scan of the baby.

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Inevitably Mummy gets tired and her rest time provides an opportunity for Lulu and Daddy to make something for the new arrival.

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A few weeks later granny comes to stay and Daddy drives Mummy to the hospital. Granny and Lulu have great fun together and the next day, there’s a howling babe and smiling parents at the door; and Lulu meets brother Freddy for the very first time.

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She’s thrilled with her new sibling and is soon excitedly helping to change him. Now Mummy is often busy with Freddy and so Lulu and her dad get on with jobs like cooking, though that doesn’t mean there’s no quality time together for Lulu and her mum. But now Lulu has an important new role – that of BIG sister.
Lulu, as described by Camilla Reid and depicted by Ailie Busby, is a cute, already popular character with the very young and as such is a good one to demonstrate the role of a new big sister to the very young, although perhaps, in addition to the odd bit of quarrelling, it would have been good to see some of those feelings of jealousy that are bound to be part and parcel of the new arrival scenario. With a plethora of flaps to open, this is assuredly a book to engage tinies and keep them involved throughout the story. Its sturdy binding will mean that it should stand up to the numerous re-reads it’s likely to get at home or in early years settings.

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Toddler Delights

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City Block
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
In this exploration of city life, through clever use of alternating shaped and whole pages we are shown city life from subway to high rise level and everything between. The book is divided into three parts: ways of getting around, places of interest …

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and finally, things to eat. The die cut shape on the first spread suggests its fuller context when the page is turned (or opened) and this pattern is used throughout and in all, two dozen aspects of city life are featured in a whacking 96 pages. Perfectly sized for small hands, we are treated to a series of linked illustrations of what makes a city: its transport systems …

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the multitude of places to visit, food to sample …

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and all – if you really go for it – in a day …

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Goodnight, City!

I really like the way we are gradually shown smaller aspects of this sprawling metropolis – the very different places that all contribute to its fascination and excitement. What are you waiting for, go exploring …

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Hey Diddle Diddle
Happy Birthday
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
Littles will delight in moving the sliders and bringing to life the favourite songs in these two chunky ‘Sing Along With Me’ board books. In the first, the illustrator uses a fairground setting adding a whole cast of characters to those from the rhyme and there is plenty to talk about in the jolly scenes.

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The cow jumped over the moon.

In the second book, it’s a little rabbit that shares his birthday celebration with readers and of course, his party guests.
Because of the repetition and simple rhyming pattern, reading familiar songs (in addition to singing them) is a very good way to teach beginning reading; and the young child gradually starts to match the words on the page with those in his or her head. By scanning the QR code on the inside cover of each book, users can download an audio version to keep and sing/read along with. (Instructions are provided,)

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Eek! A Mouse Seek-and-Peek
Anne-Sophie Baumann and Anne-Kathrin Behl
Twirl Books
Talk about flap extravaganza – this surely is it – as we join a mischief of mice as they rummage, room after room, through a house, seeking paraphernalia for a party. Starting in the basement they search containers large and small. Next stop is the bedroom – ooh! some secrets here –

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then the kitchen, the bathroom, the attic and …

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What a well-organised household these mice have found. And what fun to explore it with them, opening all those boxes, cans, cabinets, tins and cases listening to their comments as they collect all manner of exciting items and have a few surprises and the odd tasty morsel too.
Comic scenes abound and this is certain to get a lot of enthusiastic handling, not to mention squeals of delight: I only hope it can stand up to the multiple readings I envisage.

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I Can Read It: That’s (Not) Mine & What’s An Apple?

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That’s (Not) Mine
Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant
Hodder Children’s Books
The Anna Kang/Christopher Weyant partnership take the two characters – one large and one small – from their wonderful You Are (Not) Small and feature them in this equally hilarious incident from childhood.
The ownership of a big comfy chair is in dispute as the two furry creatures both claim it as theirs. Big, with needles a-clicking – is occupying said chair at the start of the book when in bursts Small. The squabble starts to escalate (parents and early years teachers will immediately recognise the scenario) with the knitter refusing resolutely to budge …

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But then in comes Small wheeling a deliciously squeaky, revolving office chair: guess who wants a go …

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and is more than happy to leave his previous perch, hurl himself onto the inviting-looking alternative and ZOOM wildly … oops! – till there comes the inevitable – tee hee! Argument over: err, no: it looks as though it’s starting all over again …

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Will those two ever sort things out?

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Well yes –but … there’s a lovely final twist to this delicious cracker of a tale. A brilliant lesson in sharing and taking turns but equally it’s a perfect book for beginner readers. The dialogue is punchy, the humour spot on and the illustrations wonderfully expressive. It’s a universal experience – emotionally intense – that deserves a universal readership.

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What’s An Apple?
Marilyn Singer and Greg Pizzoli
Abrams Appleseed
If you’ve never thought beyond the title question, your immediate response will probably be, ‘It’s the fruit of an apple tree.’ So it is; but this little book takes a look beyond the obvious, although it does start there. ‘You can pick it.’ we are told on the first page but thereafter the imagination starts to take over, as a girl and boy explore all manner of possible uses for apples alongside the conventional ones. You can, so we’re told, kick it, toss it and use it to play skittles with …

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or even baseball perhaps. Or why not try a spot of juggling, although you’ll need rather more than one for this

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as you would if you follow some of the other suggestions. Apple sauce requires a fair few of the fruit, as does making juice or even apple bobbing. You can give an apple a wash – always advisable especially if you intend using it for a smile …

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you might even give it a bit of a cuddle. My favourite suggestion though is this one …

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although I’m totally in favour of this ‘You can eat it anyplace.’ sentiment too.
The quirky rhyming text is easy to read, making the book a good one for early reading and Greg Pizzoli’s illustrations are sure to bring on a smile, or many.
As a beginner reader wouldn’t you much rather read something fun like this that a dull scheme book?

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Once Upon a Wish & Thank You!

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Once Upon a Wish
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox
Deep in the forest, in a giant oak tree, lives a magical wishgiving boy, as you’ll soon see …
By night, as the wishes drift his way, he spends his time concocting and conjuring up wish magic for girls and boys,

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then delivering it right to them …

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Despite their delight at receiving their heart’s desire, these children quickly forget the wish giver who also has a wish of his own, for it’s a lonely life he leads in that secret lair of his. The lad wishes for a pet or a friend to keep him company but try as he might, his own wish is unfulfilled …

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Then one night this wish wafts his way “I wish I could fly” and immediately our lad is up and doing, sprinkling, stirring and filling a bottle of potion, before sailing off to deliver same to the waiting wisher. This particular recipient however, is rather different. Yes, she’s absolutely over the moon at being able to take her maiden flight, but it’s what she does next …

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that makes all the difference, though not right away. Her kind words take a little while for their own particular brand of magic to do its work …

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Amy Sparkes’ brilliant to read aloud rhyming verses mixed with Sara Ogilvie’s sparklingly gorgeous, richly and humorously detailed, glowing illustrations make for a magic mix all of their own: sheer delight from cover to cover.
If you’ve ever forgotten to thank, or overlooked saying, thank you to anybody, I urge you to get hold of a copy of this one and send it to them forthwith; actually buy a copy no matter what; you’ll surely find someone or many, to share its enchantments.

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Thank You!
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed
A variety of animals, small and large, a toddler and an adult demonstrate ways of showing thankfulness in this delightfully playful board book. There’s an additional way of showing gratitude too herein: paying it forward. Cat proffers Dog a ball, then dog in turn gives a flower to hummingbird;

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hummingbird then offers panda a bamboo shoot ; panda extends his paw with peanut to elephant and so on. Each act of kindness receives a characteristic thankful response – “Growl growl!”,Toot toot!” and so on until we come full circle to the cat, now the recipient of a ball of wool.
Next, we see each of the recipients enjoying their gift and a small child watching and wondering. And then comes a final human sharing time with adult and child rounding things off neatly.

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Long constructs this whole concatenation cleverly with each animal stretching out of its border and across the gutter with its offering.
If you’re endeavouring to teach your young infant to respond appropriately when given something, this is the perfect book; just make sure you don’t end up with a confused child barking, humming, growling, tooting, eeking, oinking or meowing. Actually though, those speech bubbles are great for joining in with, and a slightly older sibling would likely enjoy reading the book to a very young brother or sister.

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Puzzling Pictures, Puzzling Words

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
Near, Far
Silvia Borando
Walker Books
Two more brilliantly playful titles in the minibombo series:
In the first we start with a line up of animals, large and small –

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after which two at a time they disappear into the coloured background leaving just their eyes and a tiny clue visible. Then comes the fun of trying to work out which ones are the ‘vanishers’ each time. The good news is, the animals don’t swap places so if you’ve a good visual memory, you’re pretty much ahead of the game until the final …

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no cheating now!
Near, Far is all about zooming in and zooming out. Seven animals are featured and each has three double spreads, the final one revealing the whole creature and I have to admit I only got two right the first time around. What would you say, this is?

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Or this?

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The amount of language these two unassuming little gems can generate is amazing; they’re ideal for sharing in early years settings or one to one with a child, especially those who need a bit of encouragement to talk.

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Guess Who, Haiku
Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
Abrams Appleseed
An outdoor setting with a concatenation of riddles for young readers/listeners to solve is offered in this lovely, cleverly constructed introduction to haiku beginning with :
   new day on the farm
muffled mooing announces
   a fresh pail of milk.
Can you guess who from this haiku?
This question then recurs throughout the book for the other nine animal portraits …

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each animal posing another haiku …

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thus continuing the chain: riddling haiku, guess who? and turn the page discovery.
Bob Shea offers visual clues too – one for each riddle, and these as much as the verbal posers are likely to have youngsters delightedly calling out their guesses ahead of the vibrant pictorial revelations on the following page.
A final page gives a brief introduction to the haiku form – its structure and intentions.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile addition to the poetry bookshelf.

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Welcome Spring

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Spring
David A. Carter
Abrams Appleseed
Spring quite simply explodes into life in this small, vibrantly coloured pop-up book.
As the rain falls pitter-pat rippling the surface of the pond, tadpoles emerge to take their chance as the koi carp swim around and a dragonfly hovers.

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Away from the pond a cherry tree bursts into bloom and tree frogs croak to acknowledge the rain as it waters the blossoms that give food for the bees.

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The flowers are alive with visitors and an adult bird feeds its young.
Half a dozen spreads, each one a visual treat, with a brief accompanying text and lots of labels, some of which are indicative of the book’s US origins, there’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with young children herein.

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Abracadabra, It’s Spring
Anne Sibley O’Brien and Susan Gai
Abrams Appleseed
‘Sun warms a patch of snow.
Hocus-pocus!
Where did it go?’

Thus begins a simply gorgeous evocation of the arrival of spring as we watch bulbs popping up …

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and opening …

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pussy willows bursting out, leaves unfurling, birds arriving and nesting, eggs …

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hatching,

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butterflies emerging and blossoms opening to adorn the trees. It’s time to shed those heavy winter boots and embrace all that’s bright and new now that winter’s gone.
Both words and pictures are uplifting. The text is a mix of the gentle poetic and contrasting lively effervescent magical invocation orchestrating the change: take for instance:
Grey cocoons/hide a surprise. Abba zaba!/ (open gatefold)/Butterflies!

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There is so much to see in the illustrations each of which has a gatefold opening. Every spread unfolds to reveal an aspect of spring’s new life in dazzling layered collages alive with colour and creatures.
In addition to being a delight to share, this will surely inspire children to get creating themselves.

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Winter/A Bird Like Himself

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Winter
David A. Carter
Abrams & Chronicle
This small pop-up is full of wintry delights. As the sun goes down and snow begins to fall one chilly day, we see a white-tailed deer and follow deer tracks across the white covering and there’s a cardinal perching in a pine tree. Turn the page and make the snowflakes dance in the air, the snow geese too, take to the air while from behind a fir tree peeps a bear…

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yes there’s something to see at every level on each spread thereafter.
Turn over once again: holly berries deck the tree, a stoat stands stark with its tail aloft, a snowshoe hare hops by and mice are snuggling together to keep warm.
Next we see long-eared owls perching on an oak, long-tailed weasels as they are herein named, face us looking startled and red foxes are huddling from the cold (look behind the sandstone).

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Look on the next moonlit spread and find Orion above, a bobcat, snowberries glowing and creatures peeking and finally …

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Everything is still, everything is waiting under the milky way …

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One year old Jenson investigating the delights of WINTER

Some of the creatures are American but this adds interest for non-US readers rather than detracting from the charm of the book.

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A Bird Like Himself
Anahita Teymorian
Tiny Owl Publishing
When a chick emerges from a seemingly parentless egg, the animals living around take on the role of carers.

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They do their very best and if nothing else they give their new infant plenty of love.

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With such a variety of carers though, it’s not surprising that Baby – so called because he became everyone’s baby – has something of an identity crisis.
But with the winter fast approaching, it’s time for birds like Baby to be flying south to warmer climes and try as they might, none of the animals is able to demonstrate the techniques of flying …

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So what will be the fate of Baby who as yet isn’t really like those other birds? Can he finally spread those wings of his and take flight? Perhaps, with the help of a special friend …

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With its inherent themes of acceptance, parenting and caring, friendship and finding a place to fit in, this lovely book will resonate with adults as well as the many children I hope it will be shared with especially  with refugees from Syria being made to feel welcome in the UK as I write.
Author/illustrator Anahita Teymorian’s densely daubed illustrations are sheer delight. I absolutely love the final double spread whereon is revealed the significance of the chequer board design that appears on every spread – brilliant!

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In My Heart

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In My Heart
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
I received this book on the day we heard the terrible news about the second terrorist attack on Paris. So today (and yesterday) are days on which, as the small girl narrator says, “my heart feels heavy as an elephant. There’s a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain. This is when my heart is sad.

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Indeed it could be said that one feels that way whenever there’s a news item about those seeking sanctuary from the crisis in Syria, and in other parts of the world.
However, right from its rainbow die-cut layered heart shown on the cover (its depth decreases as the pages are turned), this is  largely a book of hope and joy, wonder and positivity; as the child narrator tells readers, “My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside.”

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Every turn of the page reveals a new feeling or emotion be it bravery or fear, happiness or sadness, anger or calm; it might be a heart that feels hurt – broken and in need of healing with extra kisses, or one that is hopeful and “grows tall, like a plant reaching toward the sky.”

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How beautifully the author selects similes that help young audiences better appreciate each feeling: “Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.” – that’s happy; or when calm, “I bob along gently like a balloon on a string. My heart feels lazy and slow and quiet as snowfall.” This is mirrored by the choice of colour the artist employs for the symbol on the recto of each double spread.
As the heart-size diminishes with each turn of the page, we have a heart full of giggles (silly), a small treasure to hide away – a shy heart …

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and eventually, a garden full of hearts and a final question “How does your heart feel?” to ponder.
Elegantly and appealingly designed, gorgeously and sensitively illustrated and so full of heart, this is a must have book for all early years settings and families with young (and not so young) children.
As I said, I came to this with a heavy heart: I left it with one full once again, of hope … it’s the only way to be.

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Talking Points

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Animal Rescue
Patrick George
Creators of books for young children use a variety of ways to engage their audience. A particularly effective one – acetate overlays – is employed by Patrick George. A double-sided printed acetate page is sandwiched between two ordinary brightly printed wordless pages and when flipped, this allows the child to change the story completely.
This one however, has an added dimension in the form of an environmental message in that it draws attention to the difference between each animal in its natural habitat or being cared for/and in captivity or being mistreated for human purposes such as entertainment:
Thus we have an elephant roaming free …

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Flip the acetate sheet to the right and you have …

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Fashion purposes – exotic skins,

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factory farming – chickens, trophy hunting and abandoned pets are some of the topics included.
Virtually wordless apart from the final question, this delightful book is rich in potential for talk and storying as well as offering those opportunities for discussing issues of animal welfare.
50p from sales of each book goes to the Born Free Foundation.
Conversation creator – assuredly: Conservation/animal welfare promoter – one truly hopes so.

Equally playful and similar basic design, but without the serious underlying message, is

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Opposites
Patrick George
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along with Sun/Rain, Hit/Miss, Land/Sea, Boy/Girl. The latter are rather more questionable in terms of mere ‘opposites’, but will certainly engender a lot of interactive talk and creative thought and learning. Eye-catching art in vibrant colours with single word labels complete the ingredients of this one.

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Colours
Susan Steggall
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Tractors, tippers, trucks, rollers, mixers, vans and cars are among those featured in the twenty different types of vehicle, (two for each of the ten colours) presented in the bright collage style,

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captioned illustrations of this book for very young lovers of all things mechanical. The final spread shows all the vehicles.

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There’s lots of potential for talk and I envisage ‘littles’ with their own collections of toy cars getting them out and lining them up along with those presented herein. And there’s a wheel attached to the back cover which when turned, makes the vehicles change colour –

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more talk potential!

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Whose Truck?
Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz
Abrams Appleseed
Featuring half a dozen different trucks and their operators, this cleverly designed board book is bound to appeal to all young machine lovers. Readers are invited in Toni Buzzeo’s rhyming text, to guess: Whose truck is this? in relation to a utilities truck, a fire-engine, a snow-plough, an ambulance, a crane, an outside broadcast vehicle.
Thus we have …

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Open the gate-fold to reveal …

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The end pages showcase all the vehicles and a surprise finale unfolds …

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Full of potential for interaction and playful learning – with the book and beyond.

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Being a Hero/Being Brave

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Monty the Hero
Steve Smallman
QED Publishing
Inspired by his favourite bedtime story, Monty Mole makes a big decision: he’s going to be a (super) hero. He cannot wait so off he goes tunneling up and up until he reaches the magical setting of his storybook where he immediately encounters Herbert Hedgehog. Donning a conker shell for protection against monsters, Monty invites Herbert to become a hero too.
All too soon though, the two have their first MONSTER encounter but thanks to Monty’s mushroom morphing and Herbert’s prickly bottom, the ‘monster’ is soon beating a hasty retreat.

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But, pride comes before a fall it’s said and certainly that’s the case here for as they banter over Monty’s heroic – or not – qualities, Herbert finds himself in a bit of a fix.

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A spot of hasty tunneling from Monty soon does the trick and then two heroes set off in search of a wish fulfilling magic wand. Having found same, they just need to give it a shake but …
That’s not quite the end though: all ends happily for both heroes and Monty’s mum hears the magical story (with just one omission) as they walk off home together.

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A gentle, amusing story with some atmospheric nocturnal scenes to enjoy around bedtime or to share at any time in an early years setting. I love the fact that Monty’s adventure was sparked by that bedtime tale his mum read to him.

More lessons about being a hero to be learned in:

 

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Be Careful Barney!
Lucy Barnard
QED Publishing
Herein Barney’s attempts at being a superhero land him in big trouble when he ignores his teacher’s ‘stay away from the river’ instructions when the class goes on a school trip.

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Brave As Can Be
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
A now not so little, self-assured girl shares her erstwhile fears and how she managed to overcome each one, be it her fear of the dark, a neighbour’s barking dog, a scary dream, a thunderstorm, creepy crawlies even, or her angry teacher (not so frightening when imagined with feathers) …

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On Hallowe’en however, with a cackly laugh and pointy hat, it’s her turn to be scary.

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Being scared can be fun though, especially when it’s listening to one of Dad’s spooky stories.

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Cleverly conceived and executed with all kinds of cutaway shapes strategically placed, this is a real charmer as is the narrator herself.
Deliciously humorous and unsentimental, this sturdily constructed book , subtitled a ”A Book of Courage’ is bound to delight and may well help children find their own fear-facing coping strategies.
It’s brilliant for sharing with children in an early years setting and a great starting point for talking about personal fears and how they might deal with them. With its board pages the book is built to stand up to the numerous readings I suspect it will have.

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The Ride-by-Nights / Tickle Monster

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The Ride-by-Nights
Walter de la Mare and Carolina Rabei
Faber & Faber Children’s Books
‘Up on their brooms the Witches stream,/ Crooked and black in the crescent’s gleam:/ One foot high, and one foot low, / Bearded, cloaked and cowled, they go.’

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Thus begins this poem I remember learning by heart as a child and later it became an oft’ requested favourite from my copy of the author’s collection, Peacock Pie with some of the first infant classes I taught many years ago.
Now Carolina Rabei has worked her own illustrative magic on it, re-interpreting the verses and it’s great to have this picture book version of the timeless poem to share with new audiences of listeners and readers especially around Hallowe’en.
‘With a whoop and a flutter/ they swing and sway, / And surge pell-mell/ down the Milky Way.’ 

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How splendidly Rabei weaves a modern tale of a family ‘s encounter with those ‘Ride-by-Nights’ as they head out on their trick or treat evening of playfulness and are drawn into some tricks, thrills and near spills …

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courtesy of those ancient enchantresses.
The limited colour palette is well chosen for creating maximum atmosphere and I particularly like the way some spreads cleverly draws the reader’s eyes towards the starry skies while at the same time allowing them to watch the action unfolding below.

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From the just slightly sparkling cover to the star map endpapers,

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thrills are to be found at every turn of the page and I hope this spellbinding book will serve to send listeners to seek out other poems by Walter de la Mare, starting perhaps with the illustrator’s pictorial rendering of Snow.

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Tickle Monster
Édouard Manceau
Abrams Appleseed
Take a simple idea – tickle the monster part by part …

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thus deconstructing him and use his parts to create a more friendly scene – and you’ve got a real winner.

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Certainly that is so, if you are the artist who used bold bright, simple shapes to design the character in this amusing story.
I shared it with a group of four to six year olds who absolutely loved the whole idea; three immediately re-read it themselves, two taking on reading the text and one doing the tickling. They then worked together to create their own version of the Tickle Monster from recycled card and colored paper They too played around, re-arranging the disparate parts to create a new picture (not saved as they decided the monster should come knocking again). Here he is in monster form.

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With its patterned, repetitive text this book is perfect for beginning readers as well as for sharing with a group or class.
I’ve often read Ed Emberley’s somewhat similar Go Away Big Green Monster with young children and I can see myself doing the same with this one.

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