Zeki gets a Checkup / My First Day

Zeki Gets a Checkup
Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
Alanna Books

Lulu’s little brother is now a playful toddler drinking from his own cup and feeding himself. It’s the day he’s going for a health check and having helped pack his bag, Daddy and the infant are ready to visit the clinic.

Once there they have to wait their turn so Zeki is glad he’s got his favourite Mister Seahorse to play with but it’s not too long before it’s their turn.

Zeki is happy to show what he can do; he’s weighed and measured, has his eyes, ears and heart checked

and is given a jab to help him stay healthy. He leaves with a well-deserved sticker, a new book and a cheery farewell wave from the health practitioner.

Full of warmth, reassuring, and as with all the books in this series, inclusive and beautifully portrayed.
Definitely one to add to the bookshelves of those with toddlers be that at home or in a nursery setting.

My First Day
Amber Stewart and Layn Marlow
Oxford University Press

This is one of the newly packaged My First Milestones series and features little duckling, Puddle who, along with his two friends is about to start nursery school. Having eagerly anticipated the big day since he was ‘barely more than an egg’, when it finally arrives the little duckling is more than a tad nervous.

His Mummy Duck however, has taken steps to ensure things go smoothly. She offers words of reassurance and packs into his school bag things that will remind him that she’s never far off: one of her soft feathers, his favourite nibbles, some biscuits to share with his friends

and his Cuddly for afternoon rest time.

Creative activities fill the rest of the day and before you can say, ‘going-home time’ there waiting is Puddle’s very own Mummy Duck with a warm hug.

It’s not nerves but excitement that causes the duckling’s heart to go pitter-patter that night as he anticipates his next day at duckling school.

A sweet story, told in a direct manner that expresses so well Puddle’s feelings, beautifully illustrated with scenes of the riverside in spring, this is just right for sharing with children about to have their own first day at nursery.

I’ve signed the charter  

Barkus / Lulu Gets a Cat

Barkus
Patricia Maclachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Meet large brown dog, Barkus, “Smartest dog in the whole world.” So says globetrotting Uncle Everton when he arrives on the doorstep one day with what he calls “a present” for the young narrator, his niece Nicky. Nicky is reassured to learn that Barkus doesn’t bite and thus begins a beautiful friendship.
Over the next four short chapters we learn how Barkus follows Nicky to school and is adopted as the class dog; celebrates his birthday in a very noisy manner;

discovers a kitten and is allowed to keep it, naming it Baby; and finally, camps out for the night and enjoys an autobiographical story by torchlight.

The five amusing episodes are linked but the separate events provide suitable stopping points for readers just embarking on early chapter books.
Marc Boutavant provides appropriately cheery, retro style illustrations that range from full page to vignette.
All in all an upbeat, engaging read about family, friendship and the benefits of having a winningly positive attitude to life and its possibilities.

Lulu Gets a Cat
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
In her latest story Lulu wants a cat and sets about showing her mum that she’s ready to have one by doing some research on their care and putting in some practice on her cat toy. Eventually Mum is persuaded and off they go together to the cat shelter.

There, Lulu doesn’t so much choose a cat, but is chosen by one of those she’s shown.
Cat shelter worker, Jeremy provides some helpful advice; they go home and make preparations; and return next day to collect the new pet. Lulu gives her cat the beautiful name, of Makeda, which means African Queen and after a period of adjustment, it’s not long before Makeda is well and truly settled into her new home.

Lulu never fails to delight: this new story, endorsed by the National Cats Adoption Centre, ticks all the boxes for showing the very young that becoming a pet owner involves considerable responsibility, as well as introducing the basics of adopting a cat.

I’ve signed the charter  

Seeds of Friendship, Flowers of Love

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The Seeds of Friendship
Michael Foreman
Walker Books
Adam, new to high-rise city life, certainly does sow the seeds of friendship in more ways than one in this uplifting modern fable. Adam however, has come from a distant part of the world and his parents helped him keep his memories alive by sharing stories that he responded to by making pictures of the fauna and flora of his old home country.
Outside meanwhile, everything looks grey and cold and his shyness prevents him from leaving his tower block and making approaches to the children he sometimes sees below. But then one morning his view outside is completely blocked by frosty patterns on his window. He does what most children find irresistible– draws pictures on the windows, not only his own but every one available; pictures of animals that live in the frozen forest ‘canvas’ nature has already created for him.

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That night snow falls and next morning Adam ventures out into a wonderful world of white where other children are making a snowman. Brrr!

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But Adam builds something completely different and surprising to the others, who are soon drawn into a co-creative enterprise on a very large scale.

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A few days later when Adam starts his new school, he discovers some of his new-found friends and he finds something else equally important and exciting – a garden. Not a large one, but one from which his teacher gives Adam some seeds to take home: seeds that grow and multiply so that after a few months, Adam is able to invite his friends home where they all help him create a glorious roof garden. And we all know what seeds have a tendency to do – SPREAD – which is just what happens here. Thanks to teamwork, Adam and his friends transform the whole locality into a gloriously glowing city of gardens

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whose colours will be different every season –that and those seeds of hope and friendship which can go on for ever …
Just perfect – what more needs to be said.

For a younger audience is:

 

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Lulu Loves Flowers
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
The adorable Lulu is back with a book-inspired activity: this time she wants to be like Mary Mary in her favourite poem from the garden poems anthology.

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So, armed with library books on gardening, and help from her Mummy with the buying and planting of seeds, her garden is under way. Though of course those flowers won’t grow up overnight, so in the meantime Lulu decides to make her own flower book, string some shells and beads and make a little Mary Mary character of her own. Then one warm, sunny day, joy of joys, her flowers have opened to greet the sun.

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Time to hang up those shiny bells, Lulu, before your friends come round to see that special garden and to share some of the produce.
Absolutely charming – both words and pictures are full of warmth; and as always Lulu is such a good advocate for books and libraries. Would that every young child had parents like her ready to encourage and support all those activities that are so important for young children – reading, writing, growing things and developing their creativity.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Family Friendly Books

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Freddy and the Pig
Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers
Red Squirrel Books
School is anything but Freddy’s favourite place; he’d far rather be at home playing games on his Xbox. So he devises a clever plan, one involving a porcine substitute. This allows young Fred to stay lounging at home, racking up his levels on Total Death War, all the while growing more and more rotund. Pig meantime grows to love school and is even sticking up his trotter in class;

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he’s helpful around the house too. Soon it is hard for Mum to distinguish boy from pig so massive is Freddy

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and so grunt-like his utterances. Eventually she sells her son to a local farm and sends the pig to university though that’s not quite the end of the story.
This amusing cautionary tale is one of the latest additions to the Red Squirrel dyslexia-friendly books, the hallmarks of which are good stories, well illustrated and presented in a clear type face set against a plain, uncluttered background so that all parents can share them with their children.
Buy from Amazon
In the same series is:

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Wolf Man
Michael Rosen and Chris Mould
Red Squirrel Books
Just what or who are all the terrified local residents running from? It’s Wolfman and he’s escaped from his cage and is rampaging through the town, tearing up paving stones and consuming lamp-posts.

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Even the army is too terrified to do anything: but where is Wolfman heading to? It’s certainly not the park, nor the swimming pool. Wait a minute, that’s the house of the Chief of Police our hairy horror is making for, where, behind firmly closed doors cowers the jittering policeman.
So exactly what has compelled Wolfman to come here leaving a trail of havoc in his wake?

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Suffice it to say it is connected to a weak bladder and an urgent need.
Typical Michael Rosen madness – slightly over the top and deliciously subversive; just the thing to make less than confident readers want to keep turning the pages, especially when his well chosen words are combined with Chris Mould’s wickedly wacky images.
Assuredly one to help families ‘Grow a Love of Reading’ which is what this series aims to do.
Buy from Amazon

Where better place to start growing that love than:

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Zeki Loves Baby Club
Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
Alanna Books pbk
We join Zeki and his mum at home before they set off for their regular Wednesday Baby Club session at the local library. There they meet lots of other babies and parents, and the club leader who has brought all manner of exciting instruments, some props and her repertoire of suitable toddler songs and rhymes. This week, after greeting one another,

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they sing the happy song with actions, play peek-a-boo (with translucent scarves to peep through) and join in the ‘stretchy’ and ‘rolly’ songs. Then it’s time for some noisy  fun with cuddly animals,

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more action rhymes and a final cuddle-up story before bidding farewell and ‘see you next time’ to all those friends.
At the end of the narrative, are the words of all the songs and rhymes mentioned plus some useful presentation tips and other information for adults.
All in all, this charmingly illustrated, sturdy book is a lovely opportunity to enjoy a simple story with the very youngest and to have a wonderful sing-along session too.
A great choice to give to new parents.
Buy from Amazon
Buy from your local bookshop:

http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

 

Picture Book Allsorts

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Wanda and the Alien to the Rescue
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Rabbit Wanda and her alien friend discover a small, lost creature in the woods one day. After an abortive search for his mummy, they take him home, wash him, feed him and eventually succeed in getting him to bed. Next morning after breakfasting on a custard concoction, the little creature is starting to make more mischief when his mummy arrives on the scene.

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Reunited again, parent and child depart leaving the friends to relax together peacefully at home. O- oh! Who is that knocking on their door? …
Fans of Wanda and her Alien pal will be delighted to know that they are soon to star in a TV series; meanwhile, they can enjoy this, their third, slightly crazy, adventure in book form with its sparkling cover and gentle humour. Just right for an early years story time.
In my experience these stories spark off children’s own creative ideas in the way of picture and model making and message writing. Perhaps this one might result in some music making and you might want to have a few packets of custard powder and bowls ready after sharing the story.
Buy from Amazon

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Meet the Parents
Peter Bently and Sarah Ogilvie
Simon and Schuster pbk
Parents are not there merely to boss their offspring about: they have many much more useful roles too. They make handy mending machines, large handwarmers, building foundations, horses and donkeys. They are great targets for hoses and ketchup, toy hunters, twirlers, tree trunks and much more.

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They are great muddle and mess sorters, have wonderful memories, and are super storytellers, apologisers and comforters. Watch out though, their fingers just love to … TICKLE!
Lively, bright, jocund elaborations of Bently’s engaging rhyming text,
Sara Ogilvie’s hilarious portrayals of family life cannot fail to delight both youngsters and their parents.
Buy from Amazon

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Crayon
Simon Rickerty
Simon and Schuster pbk
In Simon Rickery’s latest witty offering he entertains young (and not so young) readers with some crazy crayons capers. Two blobby characters, a red one with a blue crayon and a blue one with a red crayon wield their implements in turn, keeping to their own territories. But then Red crosses the gully with his mark making. This transgression leads to a verbal battle and worse. The friends cross crayons and before long Red’s blue is snapped in two. Blue makes a peace offering in the form of his red crayon but Red misuses it and turns his friend purple. Enter a purple blobby character. Purple wields the power with purple, yellow, pink, orange, brown and green crayons which, leaving Red all alone, he and Blue use to co-create building blocks. Soon all that’s missing is a roof and what colour is needed for that?

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Time for a friendship to be repaired …
With minimal text and simple forms, Rickerty has fashioned a perfect parable of how a childish dispute develops, flares up and is resolved.
Buy from Amazon

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I totally don’t want to play
Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty
Oxford University Press
The bird/hippo friendship of Bella and Hugo is threatened by a third party. Hugo is not happy; his invitation to go skating has been turned down by his best pal, Bella. Bella has found a new companion, Cressida and is off to the playground with her instead. Bella grudgingly invites Hugo to tag along but as he quickly finds out, the real fun does not appear to include him.

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Before long though, it’s Bella’s turn to feel left out. “I’m going home,” she announces huffily. Just in time, Cressida suggests a game that is absolutely perfect for three friends together.
Ann Bonwill’s manner of telling (she uses dialogue throughout) works particularly well for this, the third Hugo and Bella story. Simon Rickerty’s delightful illustrations, executed with simple shapes, black blotchy outlines and bright dayglo colours bring occasional hilarity to the scenes; I particularly like the images of the diminutive Bella endeavouring to push Cressida on the swing. Triangular friendships are often tricky but this author/artist partnership has created a story which demonstrates that with a bit of give and take, it can work.
Buy from Amazon

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Dinosaur Rescue!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow
Prepare yourself for some noisy story sessions with the latest adventure of Penny Dale’s dinosaur troop. Here , they race to the rescue in aid of a large truck stuck across a railway crossing. As the train dashes down the line, along they come in fire engine, ambulance, police car, helicopter and on foot making a glorious cacophony. Then Screech! Screech! Screech! The steam train grinds to a halt just in time and it’s rescue dinosaur teamwork in action to ensure the safety of everything and everyone.

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With crashed truck hitched to Dinotow, team members drive back to base ready for some thoroughly deserved rest and play, and of course, a hearty meal.
Once again, Penny Dale provides a winning formula – dinosaurs and large vehicles this time. A perfect opportunity for chuffing, calling, Nee Naa-ing wooing, choppa chopping, brake screeching and more.
This one would be brilliant to act out either with small world dinosaurs and vehicles or with children themselves, some acting as dinosaurs, others a chuffing train, rushing rescue trucks, racing police car, hovering, swooping helicopter or lifting, brrming tow truck.. And, as well as vocal accompaniment, audiences could suggest percussion instruments or other items to create the various sounds.
If all that isn’t enough, or you just want to quieten things down a little, then turn to the end papers for some visual delight: at the front is the dinosaur rescue team at the ready, wonderfully portrayed in bright colours and at the back are the rescue vehicles.
The text bursts with energy, not to mention onomatopoeia. Yes we adults might argue with the actions of the dinosaurs staying right by their crashed truck as the train charges ever closer, but I’m sure it will be another resounding hit with its target audience of under fives.
Buy from Amazon

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Who’s in the Tree that Shouldn’t Be?
Craig Shuttlewood
Templar Publishing
To discover the answer to the title question follow the instruction on the first page and then lift the flap opposite to reveal a perplexed-looking penguin on a branch. In the tree too are more animals that also have something so say and add to the rhyme.
Readers can find the identity of a whole host of other out-of-place creatures – in the long grass, in the air, in the desert, in the ocean, in the ice and snow, in space even;

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then, turn to the final spread and see who is out of place there.
Quirky creatures, their somewhat offbeat comments and mixed media, slightly crazy illustrations by artist Craig Shuttlewood are the key ingredients of this interactive book. It’s a quality production too.
Buy from Amazon

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What are you playing at?
Marie-Sabine Roger and Anne Sol
Alanna Books
I love the provocative style of this picture book that challenges gender stereotypes and powerfully advocates a ‘You can be anything/do anything’ mode of thinking and being. The use of photographs of children, for example a girl engaged in domestic play, opposite such thought-provoking assertions as ‘boys don’t play kitchens’ written large on a page that folds out to reveal a male chef, acts as a superb counter to the gender biased statements. Other flaps reveal men dancing, feeding a baby, skipping and crying and women playing soccer,

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driving cars, working as boat builders and flying rockets.
Share this with a group of infants; it will assuredly get them thinking and arguing.
Buy from Amazon
Find and buy from your local bookseller: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Finally, here is a handful of books I’ve previously reviewed which are now out in paperback:

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How amazing that Mike Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s brilliant We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Walker Books) is celebrating its 25th anniversary – congratulations!
Assuredly it’s a book that should be in every young child’s library. How about buying a copy to give on International Book Giving Day which is coming up soon.

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