The Great Paint

The Great Paint
Alex Willmore
Tate Publishing

Meet Frog, he’s an artist and hence tends to see things somewhat differently. He finds his own swamp dull and uninspiring, and so decides to seek some stimuli elsewhere. With materials amassed,

he sets out, first stop Bear’s cave.

Out come those brushes and colours and he sets to work. The trouble is, not everyone wants their place of residence adorned by a Banksy style work of art; certainly not Bear. Far from loving it, he’s horrified and sends Frog packing.

Next on the receiving end of Frog’s creativity is Snake – literally – and he is not impressed.

Undaunted, Frog continues his journey using his talent at every opportunity, his excitement mounting at each new piece of art.

However one animal’s ‘wonderful’ is the other animals’ ‘real mess’ as Moose informs him in no uncertain terms.

Feeling totally misunderstood Frog beats a grumpy retreat but then on pausing for a spot of thinking, he suddenly comes up with another terrific idea.

Could this be his most creative yet? Moreover will his friends appreciate his efforts this time? …

I absolutely love the playfulness in Alex Willmore’s illustrations: how she manages to get so much personality into that froggy character when he looks little more than a finger print, is amazing. The eyes say it all with every one of the cast in this hugely enjoyable tale of misplaced creativity.

I Love You more than Christmas / The Snowiest Christmas Ever / Can You Find Santa’s Pants

Here are 3 seasonal picture books from Little Tiger kindly sent for review

I Love You more than Christmas
Ellie Hattie and Tim Warnes

Little Bear love, love, loves pretty much everything about Christmas but what is it that he -and indeed his mother and father- love even more than Christmas? We’ll discover the answer – eventually – but adults will probably guess it from the outset. Every attempt one of them makes to reveal that one better thing is interrupted by something or someone that is part and parcel of the exciting build-up to the big day.

First it’s the mail delivery (Mrs Postman with a sackful of cards), then it’s Daddy Bear bursting through the door dragging an enormous tree to decorate, after which it’s Mummy who’s been hunting for the decorations in the loft; but that’s just the start.

It takes until bedtime before Little Bear is finally able to share that all important message.

Tim Warnes’ wonderfully warm illustrations are an ideal complement to Ellie Hattie’s homely tale of togetherness and celebration.

The Snowiest Christmas Ever
Jane Chapman

In the run up to Christmas things are pretty nearly perfect in the bear family’s cabin but there’s one thing lacking, so says young Button Bear cub, and that is snow. Her brother is equally eager for the fluffy stuff to be ready for Santa’s sleigh to land in. Then come bedtime, lo and behold what should the cubs spy as they peep through the curtains but swirling, whirling snowflakes. As the bears fall asleep snug inside, the snow continues falling all night getting ever deeper outside.

The following morning though, things on the snow front seem to have got rather excessive and it looks as though the entire family is stuck indoors. Was that wish of Button’s a mistake? Will Santa be able to make his delivery to the cabin?

Perhaps the cubs can turn the situation around so they all have a truly memorable Christmas …
This is definitely a cuddle up and share picture book that focuses on the anticipation and excitement of the days leading up to Christmas.

Can You Find Santa’s Pants?
Becky Davies and Alex Willmore

Here’s a new take on the ever-popular subject of pants and on Christmas, that I suspect many youngsters will find irresistible. Just imagine the sight of a bare-bottomed Santa sitting atop his sleigh; but that is a decided possibility when on Christmas Eve he discovers, horror of horrors, that his pants have gone awol. Hang on though; what about all the spare pairs hanging on the washing line? Oh dear me, now they too are playing hard to get as they detach themselves from the line and take flight.

The hunt is on but if Santa can’t locate any of the errant underwear, can he find a suitable alternative so he doesn’t have to expose his rear end to the elements on his chilly delivery round.

An emergency is declared and all his friends – elven and animal – rally round to join the hunt. Will they or won’t they avert a chuddie crisis: it’s a case of …

Told through Becky Davies’ jaunty rhyming text and absolutely hilarious illustrations presented by Alex Willmore (of pea fame), this will be one of the year’s festive favourite for sure.

The Runaway Pea Washed Away

The Runaway Pea Washed Away
Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

The small green spherical runaway vegetable has already achieved VIPea status so far as this reviewer is concerned thanks to his cracking first outing in The Runaway Pea. Now he returns in a second delicious escapade starring himself but equally for me, his co-adventurer, the little spider that he encounters and proceeds to rescue having met same after being washed down the plug-hole and into the drain along with all the slime and mess. This, surprisingly, doesn’t spoil his fun; indeed, pea positively relishes his surroundings. It’s when he’s so doing that he comes upon the spider all of a panic that’s doing anything but enjoy the lack of a spot on which to stand its eight legs.


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However, the rescue effort quickly turns into an exciting experience – for one of the two anyhow – when they emerge into a stream. As they drift along, optimistic pea wants to take the opportunity to make some new friends; spider on the other hand, proffers several pieces of sage advice that do nothing to dampen pea’s spirits.

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Will the two ever see dry land and safety again?

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Actually it’s a case of yes and no, for the tale, rather like that water down the plug-hole, twists around perfectly to a wonderful conclusion that leaves things wide open for yet more adventures.


Bring it on say I and so will countless young listeners who will doubtless be delighted by pea’s unsquashable joie de vivre. Author Kjartan Poskitt and illustrator Alex Willmore have dished up another cracking rhyming tale with wonderful characters so cleverly given real personalities despite comprising mere spheres and (in the arachnid’s case) the odd few single lines. HapPEA reading.

Superhero Baby!

Superhero Baby!
Patricia Hegarty and Alex Willmore
Little Tiger

Here’s a fun story that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level.

In the dead of night, long past bedtime for little ones, there’s one of their number who’s still wide awake and ready to launch herself into action; and so she does when there’s a burst pipe in town.

With job duly done she’s back in her cot alongside her twin brother’s long before mum wakes her next morning.

She then spends the day putting her ‘baby power’ to good use as she performs one heroic act after another never pausing to take a nap.

There’s somebody though, who is far from happy about all the attention this diminutive superhero is receiving as she whizzes around with her seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, testing her powers to their limits.

Would-be superhero little ones will surely delight at watching the drama unfold through Patricia Hegarty’s rhyming romp that has an unexpected twist in its tail, and Alex Willmore’s instantly appealing, telling pictures where one pair of eyes in particular speak volumes.

The Big Trip

The Big Trip
Alex Willmore
Tate Publishing

In these days of physical distancing, self important Bear would most definitely be in serious trouble from the powers that be.

Said creature was anything but a respecter of personal space,  showing no concern for other animals as he perambulated around the forest barging and trampling his way wherever he chose to go.

One day while out strutting his stuff as usual he encounters Moose blocking his path. Unlike the smaller creatures, Moose stands his ground

forcing the arrogant Bear to divert from his chosen way and causing him to take an extremely uncomfortable downhill tumble … YEOUCH! … and land unceremoniously in stinky subterranean surroundings.

Pride most definitely came before a fall in Bear’s case.

Talk about humiliation: the other animals are hugely amused but then Moose speaks out.

Perhaps it’s time for every one to pull together, but will that self-aggrandising Bear finally come to see the error of his ways and start to become a bit more community minded?

Alex’s modern cautionary tale is a timely reminder of the power of co-operation especially now when it seems to be the only way forward.

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’!

The Runaway Pea

The Runaway Pea
Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore
Simon & Schuster

We’ve all heard of the runaway gingerbread man and the runaway pancake but now they’ve got some opposition in the exciting escapade stakes – from a fleeing pea no less.
Said little green seed decides to up and leave the plate before tea-time and so he does, despite taunts from fellow veggies over a minor mishap with a splodge of sauce.

Although the little pea might have escaped from becoming tea for a human there are still plenty of hazards to contend with: the dog’s drinking bowl,

a goldfish tank, a mousetrap, a toaster, a tumble dryer and an iron to be precise.
Having managed to avoid the dog’s mouth, been squirted unceremoniously from Adele’s tank, catapulted onto a shelf, blown into a toaster and pinged out again,

buffeted round inside a revolving drum and almost squished flat ‘neath a steam iron, our pea finds himself rolling under a fridge.

Exhausted, in this dark spot he comes upon several shrivelled shapes, which he hears, were also runaways,

They advise the newcomer against remaining to get wrinkly and stinky like them as well as telling him that there’s no point returning to his original plate, leaving the little fellow to fall fast asleep.

And that’s when something amazing happens to him that might just be the start of something truly eye-poppingly astonishing …

Poskitt’s zany narrative rolls merrily along in faultless rhyme and makes for a smashing read aloud, all the more so thanks to Alex Willmore’s dramatic, action-packed art. His scenes of near disaster will likely have your little ones rolling around in laughter at the pea’s plight and clapping in delight at the hapPEA ending.

This is Frog / Let’s Find the Tiger

This is Frog
Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee
Caterpillar Books

Rainforest dwelling Frog (a tree frog) needs help with everyday life and little ones can help him by following the author’s suggestions throughout the story.
Occasionally though the outcome is somewhat unexpected as when having followed him up the page, we discover Frog now upside down, but happily he can use those sticky feet to stay attached to the branch.
When he has a brief attack of forgetfulness as a swarm of yummy-looking flies are blown in his direction, he needs readers to show him how to use his tongue, and then to stop all but the one he’s savouring from buzzing away.

If Frog’s not careful he’ll be the next meal of a toucan who most definitely hasn’t come along for a friendly visit – a loud croak will warn our Frog though, along with a deft hand movement.

There’s more to do however, when monsoon rains come splashing down, especially as our Frog friend, being a tree frog isn’t enthusiastic about swimming, so help is needed to ensure that he ends the day’s adventure safe and sound on his branch to recover for his next round of froggy fun.

With a spattering of playful language throughout and a plethora of interactive opportunities for little ones to perform, Harriet Evans’ narrative should keep them interested throughout.

With occasional cutaway pages, Jacqui Lee’s amusing illustrations of Frog in his lush habitat make for a fun book to share with the very young, and along the way they might absorb a few Tree froggy facts.

Let’s Find the Tiger
illustrated by Alex Willmore
Caterpillar Books

In this seek-and-find, peep through, felt flap board book, little ones are invited to find Tiger. The playful creature has hidden away somewhere in the jungle wherein live lots of other creatures some of which when almost completely hidden away behind the flora or even in the water, might at first glance be the animal they’re looking for.

But the supposed long stripy tail, sparkly white teeth, curly whiskers,

and striped curvy objects are not Tiger.

Could the dark, tucked away location be its hideaway?

With an engaging question and answer, repeat refrain narrative and Alex WIllmore’s colourful jungle scenes to explore, this is both fun and gently educative.

AdoraBULL

AdoraBULL
Alison Donald and Alex Willmore
Maverick Arts Publishing

Alison Donald and Alex Willmore have created a lovely book based on a misunderstanding by one of the main characters.

Tom and Alfred are the best of friends sharing everything and totally inseparable until Tom starts school, leaving Alfred with little to do but remain at home and wait for his pal’s return.

One day though Tom comes home announcing to his parents that he needs a pet – a cute, snuggly one and it has to be totally adorable.

Poor Alfred is worried: what on earth does the word mean, he wonders, and determined not to lose his place in Tom’s affections, sets about finding out.

Having done so he gets to work to make himself fit the bill.
Action plan A is anything but a success so Alfred decides it’s time for plan B – a make-over …

His new look is met with amusement not only by the barn animals, but also by Tom.

Plan C only serves to infuriate Tom: it seems as though being adorable just isn’t a bull thing. Alfred is miserable and in need of some time alone.

But that evening Tom appears carrying a large box, and what a wonderfully heart-winning and unexpected surprise peeps out at its recipient.

The outcome is, no more lonely days for Alfred.

Alison Donald’s funny, warm-hearted tale of friendship is beautifully illustrated by Alex Willmore whose scenes of Alfred and his antics are superbly expressive and like the book’s title, absolutely A-DOR-A-BLE!

The New Libearian / Goldilocks and The Three Bears

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The New Libearian
Alison Donald and Alex Willmore
Maverick Arts Publishing
It’s storytime at the library; all the children are ready but somebody is missing: Miss Merryweather isn’t there. The children search – they follow the footprints or rather, the tracks …

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and come upon some rather unsettling clues that take them to …

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Several of the children are wary but when the new ursine librarian agrees to read them a story and a scary one at that, they are well and truly won over …
But then who should appear on the scene but Miss Merryweather herself and her story is an old favourite, Goldilocks and the Three Bears; the only trouble is there seems to be a character missing.

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Now where might Baby Bear have got to?
Well of course, we all know the answer to that one, but it’s not quite the end of the story … I won’t spoil that though. Get yourself a copy of this Three Bears-inspired tale of mischief and the magic of story sharing, that is also a celebration of our wonderful libraries and those who work therein.
Alex Willmore’s illustrations are enchanting and that growling, stomping, roaring bear is guaranteed to be a winner with both listeners and readers aloud alike.

On the subject of Goldilocks and the Three Bears it’s great to see Andersen Press have brought out a 40th anniversary celebratory edition of this wonderful rendition by master illustrator, Tony Ross:

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Just look at his unforgettable portrayal of Goldilocks sampling porridge from ‘the largest bowl’ …

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If this super book isn’t in your collection, get it now.

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