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.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery / Princesses Save the World

Winnie and Wilbur:The Monster Mystery
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

In the latest Winnie and Wilbur adventure we find the witch regretting not having trimmed back some of the forest of trees that now surrounds her house, and pondering upon the maker of a trail of footprints across her garden.
Wilbur is reluctant to investigate fearing it’s a monster but even so they both sally forth.
Trip hazards lead the pair to mount the broomstick but that only ends with Wilbur crash-landing upon, so he thinks, ‘a big hairy monster’. Suddenly he’s surrounded by green hairy beasties that, having removed the debris from his fur,

turn out to be friendly; not the footprint makers then, decides the moggy.

Winnie meanwhile is hunting for her cat and soon resorts to her wand with which she magics a maze-like path

that eventually leads her to the object of her search.

Time to head home but that still leaves the question of the forest surrounding their house with darkness.

Tada! Winnie has an idea: if you can’t move the forest, maybe there’s another way; and out comes her magic wand once more …
As for the foot-print maker: well, we’d better ask Wilbur.

Winnie and Wilbur’s escapades never fail to delight and so it is with this one, which has a rather greener look about it than most of Valerie and Korky’s books in this series.

Princesses Save the World
Savannah Guthrie, Allison Oppenheim and Eva Byrne
Abrams

The pants-wearing princesses have a mission. When Princess Penelope Pineapple learns that Princess Sabrina Strawberry is in trouble on account of a lack of bees she knows she must help. The crops have failed and so there’ll be no fruit at all.

Fortunately however, Penny has plenty of bees that she cares for and so summoning her princess pals she promises to return.

The task in hand is one requiring co-operative teamwork and a conference is called and it seems that others too have had a bad fruit yield.

They gather supplies, construct new hives to house Penelope’s bees and then all that’s needed is the little insects themselves.

To get them buzzing into the hives the princesses create a deliciously aromatic scent that soon gets them swarming.

Thereafter it’s action stations and off they go back to Strawberry Shores where the bees are released and …

As the author reminds her readers on the final page, Sabrina Strawberry’s bee crisis is now one that due in large part to harmful pesticide use and environmental changes, has become all too common and honeybee numbers are on the decline. If Savannah and Allison’s story inspires young readers (who will doubtless delight in the jazzy outfits Eva Byrne has dressed the princesses in) to get involved in the cause of these crucial little creatures, then in addition to providing an enjoyable tale its creators will have done their bit to raise awareness of the bee crisis.

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.

The Princess and the Pitstop / Cleopatra Bones and the Golden Chimpanzee

The Princess and the Pit Stop
Tom Angleberger and Dan Santat
Abrams

A princess racing car driver – Yeah! We first meet her as she makes a pit stop with one lap of the race left and is told by her Fairy Godmother that she’s in last place. ‘She might as well give up!’ is the suggestion from our narrator.
This particular princess is not however, a quitter: she’s one determined young woman and so it’s time to hit that accelerator – HARD!

Off she zooms, outstripping various opponents so the cleverly punning commentator tells us, leaving a trail of rainbow coloured exhaust in her wake.

Before long she’s whizzed past scores of nursery rhyme characters, and pretty much every fairy tale character you can think of, (‘She spun out Rumpelstiltskin and butted in front of the The Three Billy Goats Gruff!’ we hear) as well as Beatrix Potter’s Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Rabbit (what happened to Cottontail one wonders), until the only cars still in front are those belonging to the two ugly stepsisters ( I guess Cinderella’s elsewhere engaged) and after a lot of bumping and blocking on the sisters’ part, whoppee! – our princess, who isn’t at all alarmed by a bit of biffing and bashing, is declared the winner.

That however isn’t quite the end of the tale: there’s another competition still to be won and that involves taking a partner.
I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have had her perform solo again, but still, this telling, coupled with Dan Santat’s computer game animation style art work will surely give you an adrenalin rush.
Reading the break-neck speed narration of royalty and racing aloud left this adult reviewer more than a little breathless.
Long live girl power!
There’s another race in:

Cleopatra Bones and the Golden Chimpanzee
Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves
Oxford University Press

When news of the location of a priceless statue, The Golden Chimpanzee breaks, the race is on to get to the spot in the Jungle of Junoo on the shore of Lake Lazoo and secure the treasure.
Can canine explorer Cleopatra Bones, finder of the treasure map showing exactly where the statue is to be found, beat the opposition, in particular the dastardly driver of an armoured aqua-car, Al McNasty, and discover the hidden gold?

Cleo. spies something interesting, a monkey statue assuredly but it’s not a golden one and then suddenly Al McNasty skids to a halt at the base of the statue. He’s convinced the place to look is underground.
Al however isn’t prepared to pick up a spade and dig down deep in the hope of booty: instead he has another plan up his sleeve, one that entails creating a blast.

But when his ruse backfires in no uncertain terms, he inadvertently precipitates a rather exciting waterfall …

A fun, fast moving, rollicking rhyme from Jonathan Emmett accompanied by Ed Eaves’ detailed scenes of zany vehicles that travel over land, through water and air, driven by an array of funky animals is just the thing to keep youngsters on the edge of their seats as they root for Cleopatra and her pals, all of whom, along with the evil-intentioned reptile are catalogued inside the front and back covers.

Alfie / Wakey, Wakey Elephant

Alfie
Thyra Heder
Abrams
‘There are two sides to every story’ is an oft-used statement and so it is in this picture book. First we hear from six year old narrator Nia who receives a new pet, turtle Alfie on her birthday. She’s thrilled with the creature, introducing him to friends, making him presents, telling him stories and dancing and writing songs for him, all without anything by way of a response from Alfie. As time passes, Nia’s enthusiasm has waned considerably.
Come her seventh birthday; Alfie is conspicuous by his absence. Where has he gone?

Here the story turns and we hear from Alfie. He has after all appreciated her love and attention and wants to show Mia, by finding a present that will make her equally happy on their joint birthday.
Alfie’s quest for the perfect gift takes him outside for the first time in his life where he receives help first from dog, Toby, then from a snail and finally, after a long nap, from a fish.

It’s in the pond that Alfie eventually finds just the right thing and by the end of the book, there are two very happy celebrators of a birthday, albeit not the one Alfie thinks they’re celebrating.
Expressive watercolour scenes, punctuated by a single impactful, minimal black and white spread, combined with a spare, straightforward text, document this lovely story of appreciation and friendship.

Wakey, Wakey, Elephant!
Linda Ravin Lodding and Michael Robertson
Sterling

What do you do when your elephant friend simply refuses to wake from his slumbers no matter what you do? That’s the problem facing young Edgar.
He’s tried the usual shouting and tickling neither of which caused so much as an eyelid twitch. A flock of roosters fails to rouse him, ditto a band marching right through his bedroom and a cha-cha chicken dance on the bed is similarly ineffective as are popping balloons and a particularly itchy party hat. (Young listeners will by now have guessed the reason Edgar is so eager to wake his pachyderm pal.) Even all these things done simultaneously  does not cause so much as a stirring from the slumberer.

Could a few softly spoken words in Elephant’s ear perhaps do the trick?

With its themes of friendship and perseverance, and its satisfying finale, this lively romp coupled with Robertson’s illustrations of exuberant activities taking place around the blissfully slumbering elephant, will illicit giggles from young listeners.

That Bear Can’t Babysit / Brobot Bedtime

That Bear Can’t Babysit
Ruth Quayle and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow
Little did Mr and Mrs Burrow know when they had to resort to hiring Bear as babysitter for their night out, leaving their seven bunny offspring in his charge while they went off to a party, what those young rabbits or indeed Bear, might get up to.
The junior Burrows certainly seem to have Bear wrapped around their little paws from the start – or some of them do at least. They choose inappropriate reading material; cause chaos, and worse when it comes to supper;

create mayhem with the hosepipe and then embark on a moonlit adventure with Bear at the helm.

Finally our ursine child-minder seems to have the upper paw, all the more so when out comes the perfect bedtime storybook.

Which is just as well because before you can say ‘goodnight little bunnies’ back come Mr and Mrs B to find a scene of serenity and shut-eye; accompanied by some rather surprising words from their babysitter. Shame that counting isn’t one of his better skills.
Author, Ruth Quayle’s debut picture book is a charmer through and through. It’s full of lively, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, scattered throughout with join-in-able repeat phrases, not the least of which is the title of this book, and there’s a lovely final twist in its tail.
Alison Friend’s scenes fizzle with fun. Her portrayal of frolicsome mischief, furry friend style, is full of amusing detail and her characters are adorably impish.

Brobot Bedtime
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Scott Campbell
Abrams
The only words of this pre bedtime story are speech bubbles – one colour per character – and encased within outlines that approximately correspond with different shapes of the speakers’ heads. The dialogue, which is liberally sprinkled with wordplay, opens with the mother robot sending her three offspring to bed. A seemingly straightforward “time to enter sleep mode” instruction however, is anything but that. Beep can’t possibly sleep; he has “the flick-ups” and needs help. His brothers Crash and Buzz offer assistance in the form of a “nice cup of oil”,

to no avail. Then Buzz leaps into action with a spot of diverting impersonation …

And so it goes on with all manner of supposedly helpful shenanigans until, with Beep on the point of insomniac self-destruction, mum robot calls out, expressing extreme displeasure demanding to know “Why are there still gears turning up there?” and threatening “a hard reboot”.
A plan is hatched but will those little bots ever settle down and drop off to sleep? Well, um yes – and no!
The crazy, occasionally slightly confusing, visuals of the romp, in tandem with those colour-coded speech bubbles, offer a wonderful opportunity for readers aloud (and young listeners), to engage in robot-speak. A word of warning though: if you share this as a bedtime book, it might well lead to rather too much child-robot talk and as a result, insufficient infant wind-down.

I’ve signed the charter  

Tufty/The Grumpy Pets

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Tufty
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Subtitled ‘The Little Lost Duck who Found Love’ this story starts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace where we meet a family of ducks and in particular the youngest, Tufty who we are told ‘always struggled to keep up.’

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The Royal residents of the palace – the Royal Duck and Duckess – (looking decidedly like the feathered residents) feed the duck family when they take their lakeside perambulations and keep them entertained with grand parties in the palace ballroom.

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With winter fast approaching, it’s time for the ducks to fly south to warmer climes Father Duck announces, and very soon, they’re on their way. Unable to keep up, Tufty is left behind and flies down to a subway on a traffic island where he discovers a kindly homeless man. The man takes Tufty back to his makeshift shelter in a hollow tree and there he looks after him …

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right through the long winter months.
Come spring, Tufty is much bigger and stronger and one day he sees his family overhead flying back to their lake in the palace grounds. Tufty joins them and as the number of ducks on the palace lake increases day by day, he notices one particular little duck that takes his fancy. Soon after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods where the kindly man warmly welcomes them.

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Foreman’s glowing watercolours are unfailingly wonderful, particularly in their portrayal of the contrasting scenes of the lush green palace grounds and the high-rise blocks of the city skyline; and the rainy urban roundabout and the peaceful hollow chestnut tree abode of the man beside the small lake.
Readers and listeners will warm to the plight of left-behind Tufty and the kindness of the man who gives him shelter and food, despite having very little of his own.

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The Grumpy Pets
Kristine A. Lombardi
Abrams
When a mother takes Billy and big sister Sara to Perfect Pets, the animal rescue shelter, it’s in the hope that it will give her somewhat disagreeable son something to smile about. Seemingly everyone else, including Sara, has managed to find their ideal pet …

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but young Billy remains decidedly sombre.

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Off he goes to look around the place, a place that seems full of happy animals, not his thing at all. But then he hears ’BARK!’, ‘GROWL!’, ‘Hisssss!’ which leads him to …

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and in particular one that’s ready to give as good as it gets and more …

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resulting in an “I’ll take him!” from Billy who knows when he’s met his match. Thus begins, one suspects, as we see boy and dog heading home, a wonderful friendship that will bring a whole lot more smiles where Billy is concerned.
Populated by endearing characters human and animal, this is a warm-hearted story of mutual rescue that is most likely to appeal to pooch lovers and those who sympathise with small, sometimes grouchy boys.

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