Little Owl’s Bedtime / Put Your Botty on the Potty!

Here are two fun books for your toddler bookshelves:

Little Owl’s Bedtime
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It’s lovely to see Little Owl starring in another episode. It’s ‘late o’clock’ and bedtime. Mummy Owl has shared with him a bedtime story and now it’s shut eye time. However, like many little ones, this young owl starts delaying tactics. First he requests another story and his mummy agrees on condition that it will be the last.

Story duly read and ‘sweet dreams’ wished, Little Owl is still finding reasons why he cannot go to sleep.

Patient Mummy Owl explains the reasons why dark is necessary,

even going to the trouble of providing a very tiny night lamp.

Nothing doing: the lumpy pillow persists and then cuddly, ‘Hedge’ has gone missing. Happily though she’s found pretty soon and now surely sleep will come. Not it seems quite yet though: how long before Mummy Owl’s patience is tested to its limit, one wonders.

Still the complaints come: too hot, hungry and now Little Owl needs a wee.

Then he’s excited about what tomorrow has in store. If he doesn’t drop off soon, it will be tomorrow anyway; but his Mummy ‘s promise looks as though it might finally do the trick …
Sweet dreams Little Owl, sweet dreams Hedge, sweet dreams Baby Owl and happy bath-time Mummy owl – you’ve certainly earned it.

What a gorgeous way to end the day if you have a little one; make sure you lay down the ground rules first though, just in case s/he tries the Little Owl tactics.

Debi’s warm text and Alison’s equally warm illustrations work in perfect harmony: who wouldn’t want to snuggle down after sharing this one?

Put Your Botty on the Potty!
Sam Lloyd
Pavilion Books

Courtesy of Little Moo, here’s a fun look at potty training, monster style.

When we meet Moo, she’s nappy clad and far from happy so to be, partly one suspects because there’s new baby sister in the Monster family wearing, guess what – a nappy. Time for Moo to grow up, shed the nappy and bare the botty.

Needless to say, Mummy instructs Moo to call a halt on the monster messes that ensue. It appears though that Mummy has a clever plan, for next morning a gift-wrapped surprise arrives at the door.

Moo’s bot is a perfect fit for a sit and that’s exactly what he does … for a protracted period until eventually … (success!)

There’s more to learn though as Mummy monster talks of botty wiping, then demonstrates hand washing and drying. The monsters then head into town for some ‘grown-up’ pants purchasing; and finally smartypants Moo is ready for a celebration.

With its bold, zany art, jaunty rhyming text and flaps to explore, little ones and their adults can enjoy some fun times with the former doing some important learning.

Little Owl’s First Day / This is the Way We Go to School

Little Owl’s First Day
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Leaving a parent to begin school or nursery for the very first time, particularly when a younger sibling is still at home, can be a bit bothersome for little ones and so it is for Little Owl.

We first met the delightful character when a new sibling arrived and now he’s facing his first day at school.

When he wakes up on the big day, he isn’t feeling full of excitement as his Mummy Owl anticipates; instead the little fellow doesn’t even want to get out of bed. “I want a small day. I want to stay at home with you and Baby Owl,” he tells her.

After a lot of cajoling, they’re all ready to sally forth but then Little Owl is reluctant to pick up his new owlbag. Eventually, with Little Owl calling the tune, he sets off pushing his baby in the pram while Mummy carries his bag.

At the school door Miss Oopik is ready with a welcoming greeting; and reassuring farewell’s over, Little Owl is gently encouraged to try his wing at painting.

His picture is Mummy and Baby Owl moonbound in a rocket, and they seem to occupy his every thought for a considerable part of the morning until snack time is announced. And then it looks as though Little Owl might just have found a friend as he and Tiny Owl share the contents of their owlbags with one another.

The rest of the session seems to pass in a flash before Miss Oopik calls them all together for a story.

Soon, who should be waiting outside but Mummy and Baby Owl; but Little Owl is much too sleepy to tell them all about how he spent his time.

Debi Gliori’s gently humorous tale is a real situation soother that will embrace a first timer like a warm comfort blanket, especially since it’s woven together with Alison Brown’s scenes of adorable strigine characters small and not so small.

This is the Way We Go to School
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

Ideal for little ones about to start, or already at nursery or playschool, is this board book version of a favourite song, complete with sliders. With these your child can help the little tigers in the early morning to get out of bed; eat their breakfast, brush their teeth

and walk to school, where they smilingly wave a farewell to their parents before rushing inside to join their friends.
In addition to the sliders that facilitate getting up, teeth brushing and waving, there’s a wheel to turn that brings into view a host of other animals all hurrying schoolwards.

Both the tigers’ home, and the journey to school spreads have plenty of interesting details for little humans to spot and discuss.

Inside the front cover, is a QR code to scan onto a phone or tablet and download that provides a sing along version of the song.

Fox in the Night / Snow Penguin

Fox in the Night
Martin Jenkins and Richard Smythe
Walker Books

Billed as ‘A science storybook about light and dark’, this is a narrative non-fiction picture book with a sprinkling of additional facts.
We join Fox as she wakes, sees it’s still daylight outside and so goes back to sleep for a while. Later, at sundown, she leaves the safety of her den and, guided by the moon and street lights, sallies forth across the park towards the town in search of food.

A mouse eludes her so she keeps looking; perhaps something static will be easier prey.
A bumped nose and a near miss from a car later, she’s still searching. Then, turning down an alley, her nose leads her towards something more promising – a barbecue in progress – and it’s here that she’s finally rewarded with a tasty treat to take back to her den.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a good starting point for a topic on light and dark with early years children. I’d suggest reading the story first and then returning to discuss the additional, smaller print, possibly using it as pointers to get youngsters thinking for themselves about why for instance, Fox bumps her nose on the shop window.

Snow Penguin
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Far away in the icy Antarctic, a curious little penguin is restless: he wants to find out more about the chilly sea and the snow. Off he goes alone to explore, unaware that the ice on which he’s standing as he gazes seawards has become detached from the mainland.
On his trip afloat on his little ice floe he sees blue whales, orcas,

an elephant seal and a sea lion with her cub. Suddenly he feels alone and scared adrift on the darkening waters. How will he find his way back to where he most wants to be, back with his family and friends?

Mitton’s assured rhyming couplets in combination with Alison Brown’s engaging depictions of the frozen Arctic seascapes and landscapes make for a gentle cuddle-up adventure for the very young.

Little Owl’s Egg

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Little Owl’s Egg
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Baby Owl’s response to Mummy Owl’s announcement that the egg she’s just laid will become a new baby owl is anything but positive. “I’m your baby owl. You don’t need a new one,” he insists.
As they take a walk together wise Mummy Owl plays a ‘suppose that’ game with Little Owl, suggesting the egg might hatch into a worm,

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a penguin, a crocodile even; or could it perhaps be made of chocolate.

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Little Owl ponders all these possibilities rejecting each: he, although definitely not his  mother – is more in favour of a dragon egg.

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In fact though, it seems he’s becoming rather fond of the egg; something special must be inside he decides, something like a baby “Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl.” – something that will need a very strange diet.
On the other hand it might after all be better, if what emerged from that egg of theirs should turn out to be a brand new Little Owl, because that would make the present one something even more special – a new Big Owl and that could never change, no matter what.
Tenderly told, this gently humorous story goes to the heart of what many young children fear when a new sibling is on the horizon: that their mother’s love will be transferred away from them to the new arrival. Mummy Owl and Little Owl as portrayed by Alison Brown are totally endearing characters and she captures the inherent humour of Debi Gliori’s narrative beautifully in every scene.
This is just the thing to have on hand when a new sibling is imminent but it’s too much fun to restrict just to such an occasion. I’d share it with a nursery group or class no matter what.

Small Matters

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I’ll Never Let You Go
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
An inexhaustible supply of love no matter what, is something everyone needs, particularly in those early years when everything is new and exciting; when you’re finding out about the world around and testing those boundaries …

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when things don’t go just right and you get in a tizz…

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When you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or ready for sleep. Then again when it’s time for an adventure or you need to feel that little bit more brave …

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An understanding adult is on hand to share those moments with his or her unique brand of unconditional love as Smriti Prasadam-Hall’s gentle rhyming text tells. Alison Brown’s scenes beautifully capture the highs and lows these little ones experience in this celebration of love and life as shared between adult and toddler animal style.

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Hug Time
Patrick McDonnell
Orion Children’s Books
Meet Jules, an endearing kitten with an enormous globe-trotting mission. What’s behind this tiny feline’s massive adventure you might be wondering? The clue’s in the picture (and the title of course). ‘He wanted to give the whole world a hug.’
And to ensure that he fulfils his intentions, the little fellow’s first job is a ‘Hug To-Do List’.

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Thereafter it’s a case of starting with those closest to him then off he goes over land,

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and sea …

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First port of call is Africa with its elephants, chimps, giraffes, hippos, baobab trees even.
India is the next destination where stillness and determination finally bring rewards but there’s no time to waste with wombats and wallabies still to be hugged. Then comes the North Pole, a lonely place …

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but just in time there’s a polar bear offering – guess what. And then it’s time to head home to bestow a special hug to Doozy, the one he loves best of all.
Delivered in rhyming couplets and through a series of wonderful illustrations (the book’s real strength), this story of universal kindness and unconditional love really does demonstrate how one simple act can make a massive impact. How splendidly McDonnell portrays each animal’s reaction to Jules, be it benevolence, surprise, delight, or downright indifference, in those small watercolour pictures.
Right now in these troubled times, there’s no need to undertake a globe trotting journey such as Jules’; but we certainly need to embrace his sentiments to all those, who for one reason or another, are in desperate need of some warmth and kindness.

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Hush-a-Bye Bunny
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
It’s almost little Bunny’s bedtime. First though there’s milk and supper to be eaten, followed by ‘a ‘Rub-a-dub, scrub-a-dub, /Down to your toes.’; then a game of peekaboo and into those pyjamas for a snuggleup with Teddy. Best of all though are those magical moments with a storybook

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and off with the light.
So what can possibly be troubling that baby bun who doesn’t want to let go of Mummy?
No matter what comes, her reassuring words are ready to help,
Hush-a-bye bunny,
Now tell me your fears.
I can hug away worries
And kiss away tears.”
And of course, she does just that before finally putting her loved one back into bed and turning down the light.
Tender moments shared through suitably soft watercolour illustrations and a lilting lullaby. It’s perfect just before bedtime reading to share with your tiny or tinies, particularly when there might be moments of separation anxiety before lights out and a bit of extra comfort is required.

For even younger ones:

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Goodnight Baby!
illustrated by Sarah Ward
Little Tiger Press
One of the ‘To Baby, With Love series’, this one bids goodnight to all manner of soft toys as they prepare for sleep: there’s Bunny and Lion, Penguin and Mouse,

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Giraffe and Bear, not forgetting little Pup. They’re all ready in their pyjamas for a snuggly bedtime story with Elephant before everyone is tucked up ready for “zzzzzzzzzz”. Shh! Don’t wake them till morning when they’ll all be up and ready for a game of:

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Peekaboo Baby!
There are plenty of things to hide under, behind and maybe inside, or even have a little nibble on, which is fine so long as you don’t get caught in the act. OOPS!

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With a flap on every double spread and a surprise ending this companion board book is just the thing for a playful session with your baby.

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Snowstorm Sorties

 

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Snow Bear
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From my first view of the cover, I fell for Snow Bear in a big way; he’s adorable but this is no sentimental story and Snow Bear is one determined character. He’s seeking a home, somewhere warm where he can snuggle up away from the raging icy blizzard. His forest wanderings take him to a fox’s den,

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and an owl’s nest up in a tree …

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but both are fully occupied, so lonely and shivering, Snow Bear trudges onwards till finally he comes upon somewhere that looks more promising – a small farmhouse.

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‘A chilly breeze ruffles the fur on his cheek,/ so Bear tiptoes in as the door gives a creak. / Inside it is warm, for the fire burns bright./ and Snow Bear can see by its flickering light.’
In sneaks Bear and there he comes upon a small girl, equally alone and in need of someone to hug. Having shared same, they snuggle up for a story, a fireside snooze …

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and eventually, head upstairs, for a ‘midwinter nap’ – friends together.
Tony Mitton’s rhyming tale has just the right degree of pathos and reads aloud well; and Alison Brown’s illustrations rendered in acrylics and I think, pencil, are sheer delight. Shaggy cushion-like Bear (thumb-sucking in the final spread), in particular, but also Fox with that pointy nose that to me, resembles the front of a jet plane, and startled-looking ‘tufty gruff Owl’ are splendid.
With the contrasting themes of loneliness and friendship at its heart, this tender, timeless story is just the thing to bring a warm glow to a chilly winter’s day or night.

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One Snowy Rescue
M Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Little Tiger Press
Little Hedgehog has a whole series of stories all his own, his friends are there too of course. Here he stars in another snow-filled adventure – more and deeper snow in fact than our prickly pal has ever seen before. So much that a snowdrift surrounds his house and he has to dig himself out. Exhausted having done so, the kind-hearted creature’s first thoughts are of his friend Mouse and off he goes to see how she’s faring. But despite his careful tread, he soon finds himself tumbling …

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into a huge snowdrift.
It’s fortunate for him then that Little Hedgehog happens to be wearing his floppy red hat –

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just the thing for a rescue-wanted signal. And equally fortunately, who should happen along at just the right moment but Rabbit who heaves him out …

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and the two continue together but get lost. Fox comes to the rescue this time, but even that is not the end of the story for soon, another rescue is needed. Badger joins the team having been alerted by that trusty red hat again and finally, led by Badger, the object of their search – Mouse and offspring – together with the friendly entourage, head home for supper in the silvery moonlight. How versatile that hat is …

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A warm-hearted tale about putting the needs of others first, with the spiky hero, bold and resourceful as ever heading the cast of characters in a finely paced, festive foray that is delightfully depicted in Tina Mcnaughton’s bold, bright snowscapes.
Also from Little Tiger Press, newly in paperback and reviewed last year is:
The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Here is Emmanuelle lost in the wonderful magic of a determined penguin, Wellington, and his snowy garden.

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Beasts and Baskets

Picnic
John Burningham
Jonathan Cape
There are echoes of the wonderful Mr Gumpy’s Outing in Burningham’s latest book. Boy and girl invite sheep, pig and duck to join them for a picnic. Their search for a picnic place proves protracted. They are chased by bull and have to hide in the woods, the wind whisks sheep’s hat away, pig drops his ball and duck loses his scarf. When all the items are retrieved they share the picnic basket spread and after fun and games the tired picnickers return to boy and girl’s house on the hill and bed.
Burningham’s peerless pictures in crayon, ink and watercolour and his spare, clear short sentences with engaging questions are in perfect balance within the empty spaces of each page.
Buy from Amazon

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Big Book of Beasts
Emily Gravett
Macmillan
Emily Gravett has a co-creator for her latest offering; it’s Little Mouse (from a Big Book of Fears). Said rodent proceeds to edit her efforts throughout, daubing, nibbling, scribbling and generally interfering with every spread. As the author attempts to present ten animals pictorially with accompanying verse, Little Mouse offers his own take on each one. So, he proceeds to silence the lion’s roar, placing mittens over its claws, swat the worrying wasps with a specially pressed newspaper, and put dainty high-heeled shoes on the feet of the rampaging rhinoceros; but can he avoid being swallowed by the crushing Boa-Constrictor? Seemingly so, for after one final confrontation, what do we find fleeing across the final end-papers but a small, white, paint-spattered mouse?
Purists may be left aghast at mouse’s defacement but the rest of us will revel in this ingenious, truly interactive creation with its mini book of origami, wasp-swatting newspaper, healthy teeth guide, flaps to open and holes throughout.
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The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train
Peter Bently and Steve Cox
Hodder Children’s Books
This adventure starts when a mouse – a skitter-scattery one – living in the stationmaster’s house, steals a piece of cheese and is seen by Carruthers the cat. The mouse is trapped, escapes and is hotly pursued by Carruthers but as he crosses the track, the cat takes a tumble getting his tail stuck in the rails. The minutes tick by and a large red steam train is speeding ever closer, Carruthers promising to chase him no more, begs the mouse to stop the train. Can that tiny creature get back and warn the stationmaster before the train makes mincemeat of his much-loved moggy? Suffice it to say that by the end of the day there is a third resident in the stationmaster’s house, and now he’s entirely welcome.
This rhyming tale, like the train positively races along and one can almost hear the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the track echoing when reading the book aloud. There’s some delicious alliteration too and the tension builds as the stopwatch counts the minutes to ten o’clock when the train is due.
Full of humour and pathos, Steve Cox’s bold bright illustrations mirror the gathering pace and tension of the text. For additional fun, spot Cat and Mouse among the cogwheels, clocks and pipes of the endpapers.
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The Lion and the Mouse
Nahta Noj
Templar Publishing
Cleverly interactive die-cuts really make this version of one of the most retold of Aesop’s fables distinctive.
Standing out against the flat colour backgrounds, composite, collage-style cut-outs help build up the bold images which are truly striking. Jenny Broom’s retelling too is noteworthy and further enlivened by variations in the font size, and weight with lines of print sometimes following the outlines of the illustrations.

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A great book for the primary classroom or for individual sharing.
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Little Evie in the Wild Wood
Jackie Morris and Catherine Hyde
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
One afternoon, wearing red and carrying a basket, Little Evie sets off alone into woods. Following the path ever deeper, her senses alert, she emerges into a clearing and there encounters a great black she wolf. Shades of Red Riding Hood; but, Evie has been sent by her Grandma to find the wolf and share with her seven blood-red jam tarts. After their meal, as the sun sets, the wolf carries Evie on her back to the edge of the wood where she can see the cottage and her waiting mama.
It’s not so much the story, but the manner of the telling that is so striking. Its lyrical, powerfully atmospheric, eerie haunting quality draws you right in from the start creating an air of wonder and mystery.
Visually wonderful too, Catherine Hyde has used acrylics to conjure soft-focus woodland scenes suffused with glowing sunlight, which intensify the air of mystery.
Truly, a book to enchant young and old alike.
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The Day the Crayons Quit
Oliver Jeffers and Drew Daywalt
Harper Collins
Have you ever thought about the crayons you give children to use; did you know for example that they have feelings? No? Well, this hilarious book/story by the brilliant Jeffers (no prizes for guessing which medium he has used) and debut author, Daywalt might make you think again.
Duncan wants to do some colouring but when he goes to use his crayons, he discovers a bundle of twelve letters all of which contain strong words of admonition for the would-be artist.
Red complains that he is even has to work on holidays, Purple is upset that Duncan won’t keep his colour within the lines, Beige is fed up with playing second fiddle to Brown, Grey is demanding a break from colouring large animals, White feels empty and Black doesn’t want to be limited to outlines, Green is happy with his use but wants Duncan to settle a dispute between Yellow and Orange over which is the rightful colour of the Sun, Blue is bothered that he is almost completely used up and Pink thinks she is being discriminated against because Duncan is a boy. And finally, Peach doesn’t want to leave the crayon box because Duncan has peeled his label off leaving him naked.
Needless to say, this wonderfully wacky, creative picture book has plenty of colour particularly after Duncan takes on board all the crayons concerns. I’m not convinced that Beige will be entirely happy though.
Don’t miss this one.
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Eddie and Dog
Alison Brown
Little Tiger Press
Eddie lives close to an airport; he spends time watching the planes and dreaming of adventures in faraway places. One day he spies a small dog in a basket on the luggage carousel and invites him to play. The two briefly enjoy some adventures together but on their return home, Eddie’s mum sends his new playmate to a more suitable home. Next day however, dog is back and despite further attempts to send him packing, Eddie’s determined canine pal returns. Moreover he has a plan: a clever one involving a rooftop space whereon he and Eddie construct a garden compete with lawn, topiary, a tree-house and more.
I like the fact that imagination, determination and perseverance win the day in this story for which Alison Brown’s illustrative style creates the illusion that the characters and objects have been created with a modeling medium.
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