Mr Brown’s Bad Day / Bunnies on the Bus

Mr Brown’s Bad Day
Lou Peacock and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow

Mr Brown is a Very Important Businessman with a Very  Important Briefcase that he takes to his Very Important Office where he spends his time signing Very Important Letters and attending Very Important Meetings.

Every lunchtime clutching his Very Important Briefcase he leaves his office to eat his lunch in the park.

One Tuesday however, a baby elephant snatches the briefcase while Mr B is busy thinking important thoughts.

There follows a frantic chase on foot and by tricycle as said briefcase is passed relay style onto the back of an ice-cream trolley and then in the possession of a group of children, onto the fairground’s big wheel, and the bus back through the town to school.

Mr Brown finally catches up with it when the bus stops to disgorge the passengers.

Eventually with darkness falling it’s a very weary tiger that heads home clutching his briefcase. Once there he checks to make sure the contents are safe before heading up to bed for a well-earned rest and some more ‘Very Important Business’ …

But what was inside that briefcase? Now that would be telling and I’m no story spoiler.

Great fun with a wonderful final surprise revelation. Alison Friend’s illustrations are a treat too with plenty of detail and action to engage your little ones as they listen to Lou Peacock’s tongue-in-cheek tale.

Bunnies on the Bus
Philip Ardagh and Ben Mantle
Walker Books

TOOT! TOOT HONK! HONK! Madness and mayhem abound as the bunnies take to the bus one summer’s day in Sunny Town, so the rest of us drivers and pedestrians had better steer well clear as the bunny driver has clearly gone rogue, careering past the bus stops narrowly avoiding the other animals going about their daily business.

The bunnies meanwhile are having a ball aboard FLUFF 1, cavorting down the aisle; there’s even one up on the roof.
Where is this vehicle bound for you may well be wondering as it suddenly leaves the road completely.

No matter, for at the next stop, those bunny passengers instantly set their sights on another mode of transport as they make their exit and err … where one journey ends another begins so to speak …

Anarchic fun for your bouncy little ones created by the terrific Ardagh/ Mantle team whose combination of energetic rhyme (Philip) and cracking illustrations jam-packed with gigglesome details (Ben) is perfect cheering up material.

Two Sides / Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise

Two Sides
Polly Ho-Yen and Binny Talib
Stripes Publishing
Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise
Swapna Haddow and Alison Friend

To help bridge the gap between picture books and assured fluent reading of chapter books Stripes Publishing are creating a short fiction series with a colour illustration at every page turn; these are the first two titles. Both are beautifully designed and illustrated.

Two Sides explores a friendship between total opposites, Lenka and Lula. Born on the same day, the former is neat and tidy, a cat lover and enjoys drawing; her best friend is a dog enthusiast, messy and something of a chatterbox.
A perfect twosome it seems and so it is until the fateful morning when Lula oversleeps after which everything goes terribly wrong.

Lenka’s forgotten pencil case containing the coloured pencils she needs to complete a competition entry, but now lying on Lula’s bed and a rejected present made by Lulu for Lenka lead to a fierce row and by the time their bus reaches school, a special friendship has fractured.

School feels a totally different place; the two girls sit far apart in the classroom but then their teacher allows the class a play stop en route for the library.

An opportunity for the rift to be healed perhaps …

The author acknowledges that even the very best, closest of friendships can have their ups and downs; and words said in the heat of the moment can really hurt. This is something young readers will definitely acknowledge as they lap up Polly Ho-Yen’s story with Binny Talib’s expressive scenes of the girls.

Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise opens with a bored Little Rabbit whose Mama, siblings and friends are all too busy to play with her. But then her grandfather invites her to become his assistant for the day and the young rabbit is in for surprise.

Instead of merely spending all his time with his friends, Big Rabbit devotes himself to altruistic activities, the first of which concerns Mole’s dark tunnel and Little Mole’s imminent birthday party.

Next comes a visit to Granny Hedgehog who is suffering from a bad case of the snuffles.

Dormouse too is in need of help: his little ones are hungry and their nest isn’t big enough to accommodate them all.
And then there’s Squirrel. She’s injured her paw and so can’t forage for food for her children.

It’s all in a day’s work for Big Rabbit but by the next morning it seems that Little Rabbit’s been infected by her grandfather’s enthusiasm for helping others and her friends too are willing to lend a hand.

Celebrating kindness, Swapna’s gentle telling in combination with Alison’s adorable woodland watercolour illustrations make for a delightful read alone, or a read aloud to younger children.
Readers will close the covers of both books with a boost of confidence having enjoyed a longer story: thoroughly recommended for home reading and for classroom libraries in KS1 and early KS2.

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  

My Hand to Hold / How Do I Love You?

My Hand to Hold
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Friend
Hodder Children’s Books
Love shines through no matter what, is the message in this sweet rhyming book.
Through the seasons and through the highs and lows of everyday life, we follow an adult and infant as they interact with each other;

with the natural world they inhabit and occasionally, with others …

Smriti’s heartfelt verbal evocation of unconditional love is made all the more enchanting by Alison Friend’s pastel and watercolour illustrations.

I think this is their first picture book collaboration; it’s certainly a harmonious one.

How Do I Love You?
Marion Dane Bauer and Caroline Jayne Church
Hodder Children’s Books
Using the well-known line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a starting point, Bauer uses comparisons with aspects of the natural world to show that parental love is ever present. ‘I love you as the thirsty duck loves a sudden shower.

Or, ‘I love you as the waking bear loves the smell of spring.
The small girl, the only human shown throughout, is clearly the centre of a parent’s world; this also suggests an ‘at oneness’ of child and nature no matter the landscape she happens to be in.

Caroline Church’s mixed media style collages have a pleasing texture: the duck’s wings bear a floral pattern, the bear’s fur has a hatched appearance not unlike parquet flooring; the cat’s fur is gently brushed with a darker shade contrasting beautifully with the child’s madly wavy tangled tresses.
The final spread fuses present and future with ‘And as our friendly Earth/ loves to spin around. / I love you as the moon / loves each shining star. // I love all that you will be / and everything you are.’ So be it.
An enchanting interplay of words and pictures for adult and child to savour together.

I’ve signed the charter