I Like Trains / Phoebe Dupree is Coming To Tea!

These are two recent picture books from Walker Books – thank you to the publishers for sending them for review

I Like Trains
Daisy Hirst

The young canine narrator of this story has a particular liking for trains – playing with toy ones, reading about his passion,

and travelling in the real kind, especially to pay a visit to Granny’s. That’s when she can hear all about the exciting journey, is treated to a picture of the ride, and then she and the puppy have great fun playing in a park sandpit that has a train theme.

With her art taking centre stage, this is a briefer, less sophisticated tale than many of Daisy Hirst’s previous books, but equally delightful, It’s perfectly pitched for very young listeners and beginning readers particularly those who share the puppy’s enthusiasm.

Phoebe Dupree is Coming To Tea!
Linda Ashman and Alea Marley

Abby, narrator of this rhyming story has invited her friend for tea, hoping that all will be as perfect as the guest herself. To that end, she prepares carefully for the three o’clock rendezvous, instructing dog Louie to be on his best behaviour and arranging a tray with delicious confections, flowers, and a china tea set, as well as lining up the other guests – three toys.

Then DING-DONG! The eagerly anticipated guest arrives and ‘oh-so-politely’ sits herself down in her seat while her hostess goes to fetch the tray. But on her return with the tray (it’s really heavy), she has a Mrs Wobble moment and trips sending the contents of said tray every which way. This results in further chaos as Phoebe leaps up onto her chair and in so doing sends the entire table over causing such a mess. Will Phoebe contemplate returning ever again?

Now comes the time when Phoebe surprises readers and her friend too … After all, who wants perfection when it’s at the expense of fun?

Linda Ashman’s narrative reads aloud well with both page breaks and Alea Marley’s detailed illustrations highlighting the drama and suspense splendidly. With its subtly empowering message, this is a delightful story to share with youngsters.

The Stuff between the Stars / Get Up, Elizabeth!

The Stuff Between the Stars
Sandra Nickel and Aimée Sicuro
Abrams Books for Young Readers

This is an inspiring picture book biography of brilliant astrophysicist Vera Rubin, from the time when she was a star-gazing eleven year old who, despite opposition and ridicule

and being ignored during much of her lifetime, became, thanks to her dedication and an opportunity at the Carnegie Institution, a recognised and leading light in the field of astronomy. For it was while working at one of the Institution’s observatories that Rubin made her seminal discovery that “dark matter” explains the phenomenon that stars on the edges of the galaxy move as quickly as those at the centre—and that this dark matter makes up 80 per cent of the matter in the universe.

I love the Rubin quote at the end of the story,: ‘Each one of you can change the world, / for you are made of star stuff, / and you are connected to the universe.’

If the main body of this hugely engaging book hasn’t inspired youngsters, those words surely will. So too will Aimée Sicuro’s gorgeous watercolour, ink and charcoal illustrations that cleverly reflect Rubin’s spiralling ideas in this well researched, enormously engaging account.

An author’s note on Vera, a timeline of her life and a select bibliography conclude the book. It’s one I’d strongly recommend for primary age readers.

Get Up, Elizabeth!
Shirin Yim Bridges and Alea Marley
Cameron Books

The Elizabeth of this rhyming narrative is in fact, the child who later became Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.
It’s her morning routine we share as we hear her being roused from her slumbers. She’s then ordered by the rather impatient-sounding lady-in-waiting to submit to donning her smock, having her stockings laced, her face scrubbed and her teeth rubbed (with soot no less!). All this she tolerates with a degree of meekness but then having been laced into a petticoat,

and acquiesced to sleeve pinning, the young miss attempts to assert herself by stashing a mouse in her skirt. It’s no go though; and with her ruff duly stitched in place, there’s still that mop of unruly hair to be tackled.
Finally, she’s set to go and we watch as she stands, still seemingly meekly, before a throng of waiting subjects.

Shirin Yim Bridges’ rhyming narrative falters slightly on occasion during this chivvying regime and in this small slice of history, it’s Alea Marley’s visuals of the shock-headed miss with her radiant tresses that are the real show stoppers.

There’s a final page giving some extra details on Elizabethan fashion and routine ablutions, as well as a cheeky message from that mouse asking ‘Did you find me on all the pages?’ which adds a search-and-find element to the book. It certainly takes a bit of finding on one or two spreads.

Not My Hats! / The Great Big Book of Friends

Not My Hats!
Tracy Gunaratnam and Alea Marley
Maverick Arts Publishing

Polar Bear Hettie has an absolute passion for hats, no matter their shape or size Hettie loves to wear them.

Imagine her reaction then as she sits fishing one day when Puffin happens along desirous of a hat. “I’ll share my lollies, my dollies, my books and my brollies, my flippers and my slippers and I’ll even share my kippers … but I’ll never, ever share my HATS,” she tells him in no uncertain terms.

On account of sudden hunger pangs, Puffin settles for the kippers and disappears.

She repeats this litany again when Puffin reappears and this time fobs him off with slippers on account of his chilly tootsies.

Before long Hettie has dozed off dreaming of hat heaven when who should wake her but a certain black and white bird.

On this occasion Puffin suggests swapsies proffering items from his backpack, each of which is resoundingly refused until he suggests a scarf.

Now there’s a possibility: perhaps Hettie could spare the odd titfa after all.

With its plethora of outrageous headwear, this delightfully daft tale that moves in and out of rhyme, demonstrates that language is fun, sharing is best and friendship better than standoffishness.

Friendship is also explored in this non-fiction book:

The Great Big Book of Friends
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Friendship is the theme of the fifth book in Hoffman and Asquith’s Great Big Book series. Herein the book’s creators explore many aspects of the topic starting by asking ‘What is a friend?’ They then go on to look at best friends, friendship groups, what might be shared, difference, pen friends, imaginary friends, objects that can act as friends such as a favourite toy or comforter,

More difficult ideas including falling out, and losing a friend, are also included, as is ‘How many friends?’
Each sub topic is given a double spread and is amusingly illustrated with Ros Asquith’s signature cartoon-style artwork.
With its chatty style and inclusive illustrations, this is a good book to explore with a class or group as part of a PSHE theme.