Tag Archives: Andersen Press

I Want a Bunny!

I Want a Bunny!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

The awesome Tony Ross’s series of stories about a certain young royal goes ever on.

The latest on the list of the Little Princess’s demands is a bunny. This is on account of her recent visit to her ‘awful’ friend Petronella who has a really cute one.

As usual everyone rallies round to see what can be done. The Gardener gives Little Princess a stick insect, nothing surely could be less trouble than Sticky; but the princess manages to lose it almost immediately.

She finds the Admiral’s goldfish boring and that too disappears.

The kitchen cat disappears rather than be pampered by the Princess and that leaves her young highness thoroughly fed up.

Finally the Queen agrees to her wish for a bunny  so long as the Little Princess cares for it properly, and they go and buy ‘Chalky’ from the pet shop.

Initially things go well but then the Little Princess decides to invite Petronella over to see her new acquisition. The outcome is a forgotten royal rabbit

and a new demand from you know who.

Fortunately as always, the King knows just how to deal with matters … well, almost!

Another winner for fans of the Little Princess and with her new tale she’ll likely win a host of new enthusiasts too.

Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue!

Boom! Bang! Royal Meringue!
Sally Doran and Rachael Saunders
Andersen Press

So proud are they of their daughter Princess Hannah, on account of her impeccable manners, that King Monty and Queen Alice decide she should receive the very best birthday present ever. And what could be better than a huge pudding-making machine?

Come the evening and her birthday ball, the princess soon has delicious cakes and puddings issuing from her fantastic birthday gift. The machine however has a most unwelcome upshot where the birthday girl is concerned, for it exposes the fact that she’s never before been asked to share.

This is something the Queen is ready to acknowledge.

Fortunately though, her young guests are quick to deal with the issue and while the princess is throwing a tantrum, they start pressing the buttons. Then before you can say “blackbird pie” everyone is happily playing together, turning cogwheels and pressing knobs, concocting the most delectable sweetie treats, not least of which is a massive meringue nigh on 20 feet tall.

All is most definitely well that ends well on that particular night as the guests depart thoroughly impressed with young Hannah; and as for the meringue, well that certainly took some eating.

Told in delicious unfaltering rhyme – how debut author Sally Doran managed to sustain it so well throughout is amazing – this is a totally yummy confection. Perhaps it’s down to her penchant for meringues.

A right royal romp for sure made all the more scrumptious by Rachael Saunders’ effervescent scenes of partying and puddingy treats. I’m still drooling.

#Goldilocks

#Goldilocks
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press

This series of Jeanne and Tony’s on Internet safety for children goes from strength to strength; #Goldilocks is number three and it’s absolutely brilliant.

Subtitled ‘A Hashtag Cautionary Tale’ it is exactly that with Jeanne delivering her vital message in the jaunty manner of a 21st century Belloc.

Like so many children these days, Goldilocks has a smartphone and is active on social media. Anxious to gain more likes for her posts, the young miss starts posting photos of her family and much more.

After a while though her followers’ enthusiasm wanes and she becomes desperate: something shocking is required to revive interest.

Off she skips to a certain cottage in the woods and takes a selfie as she breaks in;

another #PipingHot and a third breaking a chair #Fun!

And she doesn’t stop at that.

Inevitably it all ends in disaster for Goldilocks who receives a stint of community service at a certain bears’ residence; but worse than that, those photos she so recklessly posted of her thievery and destruction live on for all to see. And that takes us to the final moral words of caution: ‘ … think twice before you send!’

Absolutely hilarious both verbally and visually – the two work so superbly well together – this story is written from an understanding of the attraction for children of social media and is ideal for sharing and discussion at home or in school.

Above all though, it’s a smashing book.

I’ll Love You …

I’ll Love You …
Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten
Andersen Press

I doubt little ones these days are familiar with the phrase used on the opening page of this rhyming book, ‘I’ll love you till the cows come home’ but they’ll love the silliness of the whole thing. There are already countless books whose theme is the love a parent has for a child but this one is altogether zanier, without the saccharine sweetness that many of the sub’ Guess How Much I Love You’ kind have.

The nine verses each tell the reader they’ll be loved until … with each of the scenarios becoming increasingly outlandish. ‘I will love you till the frogs ride past / on big-wheeled bikes going superfast … // in a circus for seahorses, shrimp and bass. / I will love you till the frogs ride past.’

Or ‘till ‘ the deer dance by’ (sporting dapper top hats); till ‘ the geese flap down’ (with gourmet marshmallows);

till ‘the ants march in’ and then some, for there’s no end to this love.

The litany concludes as all good just before bed tales do, in a sequence of perfect bedtime scenes.

The catchy rhythm of Kathryn Cristaldi’s telling combined with Krystyna Litten’s portrayal of the animals’ exuberant activities make this a wonderfully silly way to assure your child they’re forever loved.

Alternatively, with Valentine’s Day coming up you might also consider it as an altogether different way of telling that special someone, ‘I’ll love you forever.’

When Sadness Comes To Call

When Sadness Comes To Call
Eva Eland
Andersen Press

Sadness can come at any time, right out of the blue and no matter how hard you try to avoid it or want to hide it away; it can become so overwhelming that you feel as though it has completely taken you over, mind and body.

In this, Eva Eland’s debut picture book she portrays Sadness as an amorphous physical entity, somewhat resembling a Babapapa, that comes a-knocking at the front door of a child.

Better than shutting it away and letting it frighten you, is to acknowledge it by giving it a name, then just let it be for a while. Perhaps there are things you can enjoy doing together – drawing, listening to music or drinking hot chocolate, or venturing outside for a walk.

Changing your response to this feeling is what’s required, rather than trying to change the feeling itself: be mindful of the sadness for things will get better.

Children’s mental well-being has become head-line news of late with more and more children, even young ones having problems with mental health. There are plenty of picture books about anger and how to cope with it, but far fewer on the topic of sadness or melancholy so this book is especially welcome. It’s sensitively written, empathetic and ultimately uplifting.

Eva’s hand-drawn illustrations for which she uses a three colour palette effectively portray the child’s changing emotions.

Her endpapers too show two different responses: in the front ones people are ignoring their sadness and look depressed, while the back endpapers show the same characters interacting with sadness and feeling better.

A book to share and discuss at home or in school. Armed with the knowledge offered therein young children have a tool to use with their own sadness next time it comes visiting.

I Was Made For You

I Was Made For You
David Lucas
Andersen Press

As soon as a woman finishes knitting a soft toy cat, “Why was I made” asks the creature. “It’s a surprise,” comes the response.
The woman gift-wraps the cat with a “no peeping” instruction. The woolly animal remains curious as he’s placed under the Christmas tree.

All is darkness and quiet. Cat peeps out of his wrapping and discovers a gift tag bearing the name DAISY. He’s puzzled for that is not his name and once more asks as he looks out at the darkness, “Why was I made?’

Surprisingly DARKNESS responds telling him to wait until morning. Cat isn’t willing to and having freed himself entirely, wanders through the door and out into the night in search of a satisfactory answer. Unbeknown to the answer seeker though, he catches a thread on a nail protruding from the floor.

He continues asking the same question to steps (down which he skids); the whirling snow, rock, stars, wind, and trees.

Thoughtful responses come from each one, until day dawns and then in the morning light, Cat realises that he’s growing shorter; he’s barely half of what he was.

Sun is the recipient of his final existential “Why was I born?” From the ensuing dialogue, Cat deduces that he’s intended as a gift for Daisy.

By now though, all that remains of our answer seeker is a long, loose woollen thread.

Meanwhile back in the house, presents are being opened, but there’s no present for Daisy. There are clues though which mother and child follow through the snowy landscape with Mummy winding the strand into a large ball.

This she uses to make Cat ‘good as new’.

David Lucas combines a folklore style narrative with folk art style illustrations, many beautifully bordered as in A Letter for Bear to fashion an unusual, seemingly simple tale that is likely to generate philosophical musings on behalf of young listeners and readers.

This would make a gorgeous offering for a thoughtful child this Christmas season.

Santa Claus vs The Easter Bunny

Santa Claus vs The Easter Bunny
Fred Blunt
Andersen Press

When you see the name Fred Blunt you know you’re in for some deliciously silly nonsense and so it is in this holiday themed picture book.

How on earth have the Easter Bunny and Santa managed to get themselves into the same book was my immediate reaction to this one especially as neither of them seem particularly pleased to see one another.

Oddly enough though, the two are neighbours: Santa is inclined to jolliness, the Easter Bunny to the grumps. Grumps brought on by the fact that the Easter Bunny does the entire Easter egg job totally alone from chocolate making to delivering the eggs.
Moreover, nobody gives him so much as a thank you for his mammoth efforts. Can you blame the guy for feeling down?

In contrast Santa has a huge army of elf helpers in his toy factory and all those reindeer to whizz him around the globe when it comes to delivery time. And then there are all those wonderful gifts left for him by grateful children the world over. Fairness just doesn’t come into it.

Time for some strategic planning thinks Bunny and after a while into his furry head comes a spendid Santa-sabotaging plot.

Having set the plan in motion, our long-eared pal cannot wait for Christmas to come and on the all-important eve his head is awash with eager anticipation.

Next morning, yes, there’s some truly shocking news on the TV;

but what of the children’s reactions? And furthermore how will Santa respond?

It’s all yummily satisfying, not only for the characters concerned, but equally for readers who will relish this smashing story no matter the season.

Guaranteed giggles at every turn of the page with Fred’s crackingly comical illustrations.

Stubby: A True Story of Friendship

Stubby: A True Story of Friendship
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press

Here’s a book that leaves you with a warm glow tinged with sadness. Published in time for the centenary of the armistice of the First World War, Michael Foreman presents in his own unique style, the true story of Sergeant Stubby, the dog who served in WW1 and became the most decorated dog of the war.

His story is told by Corporal Robert Conroy, an American soldier who adopts Stubby during training in Connecticut, and with a little help of his friends, manages to smuggle the dog aboard the troop ship and all the way to the front line in France.

It’s a tale that brings home to readers the terrible dangers faced by, and amazing bravery of, those who fought in WW1.

Stubby is badly injured

but manages to survive thanks to the care he received alongside the wounded troops and he’s back in action on the day peace is declared.

It’s an enthralling read, with a happy ending. Sadly though, that wasn’t the case for so many of the brave soldiers who lost their lives in that a brutal war. It’s so important that we continue to remember these men, particularly now as there are so few war veterans remaining alive. It’s through such superbly told and illustrated books as this that one hopes we will never forget.

Thanks to Foreman’s wonderful scenes, Stubby and his soldier friends will linger in our minds long after this treasure of a book has been set aside.

Share it widely, pause to remember, and give thanks for the contribution those who served in both World Wars made to our all too fragile peace

An Anty-War Story

An Anty-War Story
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Of all the residents of Antworld, there’s only one little ant with a name. Meet the new born Douglas. Douglas watches the other ants carrying food and longs to fit in and be part of that ‘beautiful line’. But that isn’t the role the Chief Ant has in mind for him; Douglas’s destiny lies elsewhere. He too will march in line but instead of food, he will carry a rifle. Douglas is to be a uniform wearing soldier charged with defending Antworld and making it a safer place for all the little ants.

Douglas is proud of his uniform and his assigned role, as well as the banner-bearing band that marches behind the ‘rifle carrying ants’. But then war does come.

It comes in human form: shells WHIZZ and with a BANG Antworld is completely obliterated.

Ross shows this in a devastating shift from the colourful pageantry as the explosion spread is followed by a gloomy grey view of advancing WW1 soldiers with mustard gas swirling across the landscape and below a smudge of red in one corner, the words “The end.’

Then follows an equally sombre monument to the fallen.

That only serves to bring home the awful reality of how war can change lives in a single instant – one flash and it’s all over for some, or many.

Sobering and intensely powerful, a reading of this allegorical tale is certain to bring on discussion about war wherever it’s shared.

How To Make Friends With a Ghost

How to Make Friends with a Ghost
Rebecca Green
Andersen Press

Written in the style of a guide book, this is a fun story to have at Halloween or any other time – perhaps not bedtime though, if you have an impressionable small child.
Herein we learn how to identify a ghost – very important if you want to make friends with one. Those depicted are of the especially endearing, somewhat whimsical kind.

Divided into parts, we look first at ‘Ghost Basics’, starting with, not to flee from a ghost should one choose to greet you – that’s on account of their sensitivity. Instead appear friendly and bestow upon the apparition a beautific smile.
Then, should it decide to follow you home, welcome it in, if needs be helped by a gentle blow (of the breathy variety I hasten to add). And, it’s especially important to keep your hands clear just in case you accidentally put one of them right through and cause the thing a stomach ache.
“Ghost Care’ describes feeding – preferably plenty of its favourite treats – cooking together …

and recommended ghost-tempting fare. Think I’d pass on sharing any of that.

Recommended activities come next. Apparently ghosts have a special liking for collecting items such as worms, leaves and acorns; reading scary stories is another favourite pastime,

and of course, joke telling – particularly of the ‘knock knock sort.

The more obvious Halloween activities are included, naturally. So too are bedtime considerations (eerie hums and wails make great lullabies); places to hide your visitor should someone come calling; hazards – avoid using your ghost as a nose wiper; banning ghost help with the washing and most crucially, ‘Do not let your ghost get eaten! (in mistake for whipped cream or marshmallows perhaps)

Part Three comprises ideas for life together as you both age for, as we hear, a ghost friend is a forever friend. And to end with a quote from Dr Phantoneous Spookel: “If you’ve been lucky enough to be found / by a ghost that calls you its ‘friend’, / Then your friendship will last / for it knows no bounds – / you’ll be friends even after the end.”

Now that’s a spooky, albeit tenderly poignant ending, if ever.

With somewhat sophisticated gouache, ink and pencil illustrations, executed in an appropriately subtle colour palette, even down to the endpapers and some of the printed text, the whole ghostie experience, imbued as it is with a sense of mischief, is enormous fun.

With a debut picture book this good, I look forward to seeing what will follow.

Hungry Babies

Hungry Babies
Fearne Cotton and Sheena Dempsey
Andersen Press

The adorable babes and their associated adults who entertained readers with their yoga activities now share mealtimes with us and they’re a very hungry group of little ones.

Going through the day, we start with Honey enthusiastically devouring her breakfast while big brother Rex gets dog Bingo to help him finish his toast.

The next visit is to Emily who unfortunately isn’t up to eating anything at all on account of her ‘poorly tum’.

Then comes Prakash, out with his granny at the market where most of their purchases go in the basket, but one creates a mango juice design on the little boy’s T-shirt.

We take a look at lunch time both indoors (with Kit) and outside with Sophie and her mum;
then move on to Maya’s birthday celebrations at the café where things get just a tad out of hand before order is eventually restored.

Teatime too looks full of fun if what we see at George’s and Winnie’s homes are anything to go by;

so also does Maya’s birthday tea in the garden when all the friends gather together.

Evening brings a bedtime snuggle up together, milk and story: what better way to end the day for Hungry Babies.

An altogether irresistible rhyming treat from Fearne Cotton with equally engaging Sheena Dempsey scenes to share with your young ones.

Sorrell and the Sleepover

Sorrell and the Sleepover
Corrinne Averiss and Susan Varley
Andersen Press

Have you ever kept something about yourself or family a secret from a best friend so as not to feel inferior? That’s what one  of the main characters in this lovely story decides to do.

It revolves around best friends Sage and Sorrel (squirrels). Pretty much everything about the two is the same: they like the same games, sing the same songs and say the same things at the same time. Even their tails have identical stripes.

Sorrel is thrilled when Sage invites her to stay at her house for a sleepover; rather than feeling nervous about her first night away from home, Sorrel is excited as she packs her overnight nutshell.

Sage’s home is impressive, a huge branching conifer that includes nests for her aunties and her cousins as well as Sage’s immediate family. But as the two friends snuggle up for the night, Sage’s comment about looking forward to a reciprocal visit causes Sorrel to worry so much about the difference between the two homes that she decides not to invite her friend back. Best friends don’t have differences, she tells herself.

Sage however is persistent and so Sorrel invents a series of excuses: a poorly mum, a burst pipe; the painting of their home resulting in the newly pink leaves being too wet for visitors to stay.

It’s this pinkness however that finally puts paid to further inventive excuses on Sorrel’s part. It also results in the truth being revealed about her home.

Sage, being a true and empathetic friend, isn’t at all concerned about their difference; to her it’s a cause for celebration.

Telling it with tenderness and understanding, Corrinne Averiss has created a story of two trees and two squirrels that will particularly resonate with under confident children who have done the same as Sorrel, but it’s a book that needs to be shared and discussed widely in schools and early years settings.

Susan Varley echoes the warmth of the telling in her beautiful illustrations. I’ve been a huge fan of her work ever since Badger’s Parting Gifts: her art never fails to delight and so it is here: delicate, detailed and utterly enchanting, every spread.

The Station Mouse

The Station Mouse
Meg McLaren
Andersen Press

Maurice is a Station Mouse bound by the rules in the Station Mouse Handbook. The first rule states ‘A Station Mouse must remain unseen.’ The second is, ‘A Station Mouse must never go out in the daytime.’ Rule number three says, ‘A Station Mouse must never approach passengers.’
Clearly these rules are there for the benefit of humans, particularly that large majority who DO NOT like mice.

Now Maurice being a rule-abiding, recent employee of the railway spends his days (after sleeping late) hiding away and, it’s a pretty solitary life that gives him opportunities to contemplate such things as why nobody ever comes back to enquire about their lost things.

His nights in contrast, when nobody is about, are busy times when the mouse is occupied collecting all the items that have been left behind during the day.

One day Maurice spots a small child dropping a comforter; but what about that third and most important rule? Perhaps, if he values his life it would be safer to remain out of sight like the handbook says.

What about though, if you are absolutely sure that the lost thing IS a wanted thing? Maybe after all, it’s right to break the rule just occasionally whatever the consequences …

Seems there’s a price to pay for so doing which makes Maurice decide to keep to himself henceforward.

But then we are met with rule number four:’ If the bell rings, pull the alarm and return to your duties.’ That’s because a station mouse must not under any circumstances answer the bell – or should this rule too be ignored for it appears that the business about passengers not liking mice might just have some exceptions.

Time for a new rule and perhaps a different modus operandi …

Make sure you peruse both endpapers; they’re an important part of this cracking book. Its story really resonated with me as someone, who as an educator, is frequently accused of being a rule breaker or subverter. Good on Maurice for following his heart rather than sticking to the rule book.
Knowing when so to do is a vital lesson for children and one I believe they need to start thinking about right from their early days in nursery or even before.

Meg McLaren just keeps on getting better and better; this is my favourite of her stories so far. There are quirky little jokes, both visual and verbal wherever you look – even on the back cover. As well as creating superb characters, there’s an impressive sensitivity about everything she draws and she has an amazing eye for detail.

Belinda Brown

Belinda Brown
David McKee
Andersen Press

Belinda Brown is fanatical about bananas, insisting on dining upon them at every meal and in-between times too, even going to the lengths of keeping a spare in her sock should she feel peckish. None of her family or friends shares her ultra-enthusiasm for the fruit; in fact her friendship with best pal, Felicity Jones is terminated thanks to the curvy fruit.

So convinced are her parents that the child is merely going through a faddy phase that they aren’t troubled by this over-indulgence:

it’s left to her Grandma to worry about Belinda’s obsession.
She becomes increasingly troubled until eventually on a walk together, she begs her granddaughter to cut down on the bananas for fear her body should start to mimic the form of same.

Belinda has no wish for her back-bone to take on a banana-shape and so, rather than give up what she loves so much, the girl tries her own method of offsetting any possible curvature that might occur.

The results however, are not quite what she’s hoping for …

Rhyming nonsense from McKee to tickle the taste buds and bring on the giggles. Belinda’s a totally zany character but you’ll also love her small brother Bryan, the balletic, skinny Aunt Sally and the banana-sharing toddler twins, all portrayed in McKee’s signature style.

I Want My Dad! / With My Daddy / I Love You Dino-Daddy

I Want My Dad!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

Tony Ross’s latest slice of humour, Little Princess style, has the heroine considering her dad the King, making comparisons with other dads and finding him wanting in many respects. He’s much shorter that they are, is useless at baking, gets wheezy in the presence of any animal large or small, is totally inept in the water

and unlike the Gardener who takes his offspring on forest walks, gets lost in his own castle.

I wish my dad was as much fun as other dads!” she cries to the Maid. … He’s useless.

Her response is to teach the young complainer. First it’s pony riding, then baking, followed by swimming and walking in the woods, none of which are a resounding success. Our Little Princess is left feeling cold, decidedly damp, with hurting teeth and head, and exceedingly hungry.

In short, she feels absolutely useless.

As she heads for home who should happen along but his royal highness out walking and when he hears about her failures, just like all dads, he knows just what to say to put everything right.

With My Daddy
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

In this sturdily built book, a little girl talks about how she feels when she’s with her dad.
He arouses the whole gamut of emotions: a hug makes her feel like ‘a little bird in a warm, comfy nest, … safe.’

He can also make her feel unafraid, ‘brave’ in fact, ‘daring’, ‘confident’ because he inspires self-belief,

being ‘adventurous’ particularly when it comes to swimming, ‘playful’ on the most ordinary of days, ‘calm’, and ‘excited’ especially when he plays at being a monster. Sometimes though he invokes anger but it’s a storm that quickly passes thanks to Dad’s gentle calming hands on the narrator’s back.
Interestingly we never see the complete dad, or even indeed his face. Rather it’s only huge hands, or feet and legs on the final page, that are ever visible. In this way, Christine Roussey emphasises the huge amount of love he bestows upon the small narrator and the scope of his influencing power upon her feelings and emotions.

I Love You Dino-Daddy
Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

According to his offspring, Dino-Dad is a pretty cool guy with all manner of useful attributes. He’s full of fun on trips to the park, , ace at building with blocks, great at playing monsters, pretend wrestling, giving pony rides and doing magic tricks (especially where cake is concerned) ; he’s even great to play with – albeit unknowingly – while taking a nap.

As described in Mark Sperring’s jolly rhyming text and portrayed, with his dapper blue shoes and striped scarf, in Sam Lloyd’s exuberant illustrations, this Dad is a doted-on dino. who is sure to charm your little ones; and this is a lovely fun-filled, love-filled book for dino-littles to give to a dad on his special day be that Father’s Day, a birthday or for that matter, any other day they want to bring a Daddy smile.

Testing Friendships – Fox & Chick: The Party and other stories / Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury

Fox & Chick: The Party
Sergio Ruzzier
Chronicle Books

Let me introduce Chick and Fox. Fox is an equable character who enjoys reading, cooking and painting; Chick, in contrast, is totally irrepressible – a bit of a pain to say the least. Surprisingly these two are friends. They star in three comic style episodes aimed at those just taking off as readers.

The first story (which gives the book its title) is I think the funniest. Chick calls on Fox, gains entry asking to use the bathroom and then proceeds to throw a party for his pals therein.

In the second story, Good Soup, Chick gives Fox a hard time about his vegetarian predilection wondering why he eschews frogs, small furry creatures, grasshoppers and er, little birds as ingredients for his soup.

Finally, Sit Still focuses on Chick’s total inability to do just that , leaping up every few minutes for a cushion, food and a drink while Fox endeavours to paint his portrait.

How long-suffering Fox puts up with Chick is anybody’s guess: – shades of Lobel’s Frog and Toad here – but their interactions are highly amusing, the text very readable and the illustrations rendered in pen, ink and watercolour are wonderfully expressive and enormously engaging.

Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury
Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
Andersen Press

I’ve been a huge admirer of Stewart and Riddell’s Rabbit and Hedgehog since A Little Bit of Winter (one of the four tales included here) was published about twenty years ago. If you’ve not met these two enchanting characters then this book of four stories is a great opportunity to get to know these two and the challenging nature of their friendship: one is awake all day and the other all night.

In the first neither of the best friends knows the date of his own birthday let alone each other’s. To be on the safe side they decide to celebrate the very next day and each goes about finding a very special gift to give the other.

Rabbit’s Wish is the second story but when he wishes that hedgehog will stay awake so they can spend a whole day together, the outcome is not quite what was anticipated.

In the third episode a remembering game tests the friendship between the two protagonists but an accident serves to remind them of the strength of their bond.

The final A Little Bit of Winter sees the friends facing another challenge. As Hedgehog prepares to hibernate he carves a message on the bark of an oak tree asking the somewhat forgetful Rabbit to save him a little bit of winter so he can find out what the season he’ll sleep through is really like.

Despite the chilly nature of the season, it’s a truly heart-warming story and like the others, beautifully and sensitively illustrated.

Looking After William

Looking After William
Eve Coy
Andersen Press

Brilliantly observed and full of humour is Eve Coy’s debut picture book.

It’s narrated by the small child through whose eyes we see what happens when she takes it upon herself to ‘be mummy’ for a day to her dad, William.

How efficiently she adopts the parental role while of course, carrying on with all the other important jobs that mothers have – drawing and colouring, organising a tea party for the toys in her life, or block building.

She’s so matter of fact: ‘William is full of energy and needs lots of exercise. … He needs so much attention …

Sometimes he just needs a little rest.’

How perceptively and enchantingly portrayed is their entire day in those gorgeous inky scenes of love and affection, every one of which is sheer adorableness in every way.

Assuredly this is a book that will appeal to both children and their parents, the latter will particularly appreciate how the ‘mummy’ is able to see potential career opportunities for her beloved and ‘very clever’ William …

Young children love to play at being ‘mum’ either with their toys or siblings, but this is a whole different take on the subject.
I can’t wait to see what comes next from this wonderfully insightful artist; meanwhile I intend to share this one widely.

Not Just a Book / A Couch for Llama

Not Just a Book
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press

A book is for reading, yes certainly, but according to Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross’s latest offering, books can sometimes be so much more.
On occasion they might serve as hats, or make a tent for a cat, prevent a table from wobbling. A book makes a good tunnel for your toy train, can become an extra block for building with,

even perhaps a flower press.
This multi-purpose object is the perfect fly-swatter …

or protector of your drink from marauding wasps.

More important though than any of these additional uses, and that’s the real message herein, books have the power to affect how you feel;

to help you go to sleep, to educate; the best are never forgotten and best of all, a book is something to read and love …

Silly? Yes, Fun? Yes.

Jeanne Willis’s brief rhyming text and Tony Ross’s wonderful illustrations – look out for the mischievous cat on every page – make for an enjoyable and playful message about the importance of books.

A Couch for Llama
Leah Gilbert
Sterling

The Lago family absolutely love their old couch: it’s been the site of many good together times but now a new one is much needed. Off they go in the car to the furniture shop where they find the perfect replacement.

On the way home however, something happens that results in their new item of furniture ending up in Llama’s field. Llama is by nature a curious creature and so he starts to investigate this new arrival. He sniffs it, greets it and even tries sharing his lunch with it but none of these moves elicits any response. Llama tries lunching on the couch instead but it tastes awful and it’s too heavy to move.
The couch is useless, is his conclusion so Llama decides to ignore the object.
This unsurprisingly becomes exceedingly boring and so the exasperated animal leaps onto it and suddenly comes understanding …

By this time the owners of his new lounger have returned to claim their lost item but Llama refuses to budge. There’s only one option that will work for one and all: now what might that be? …
In her debut picture book Leah Gilbert mixes the realistic and the ridiculous with just the right degree of each for the story to work, but the real strength is in her visuals: in particular the scenes of Llama and his couch encounters are hilarious.

After The Fall

After The Fall
Dan Santat
Andersen Press

Most young children and adults are familiar with the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and now author/illustrator Dan Santat has created a story telling what happened after that great fall of Humpty’s.

No he didn’t remain a splatted mess unable to be repaired.
Instead, in this self-narrated tale, the famous egg relates how he undergoes a long process of healing and recovery that begins once those king’s men have done their best with glue and bandages.

Physical recovery is one thing, but Humpty is suffering from acute vertigo, so much so that he now sleeps on the floor beside his bunk bed and his favourite breakfast cereals stored on the top shelf of the supermarket are out of reach.

Worst of all though is that Humpty is an avid ornithologist and absolutely loved that erstwhile seat of his atop the wall from where he used to watch his feathered friends.

Eventually however he settles for a ground-level view and it’s while looking upwards one day that he spies in the sky something that gives him an idea.

After considerable trials and tribulations,

Humpty eventually fashions the perfect flier of a paper plane; not quite the same as being up in the sky with the birds but ‘close enough’ he tells us. But then the plane lands up on top of a wall. ‘Accidents happen. They always do.’ says our narrator.

Absolutely terrified but full of determination, slowly but surely Humpty climbs the wall.

As someone who is terrified of heights, I really felt for him as he faced his fear, finally making it to the very top of that ladder. Once there he says triumphantly ‘I was no longer afraid.

That though is not quite how the story ends for then comes a final twist. Now the narrator has undergone an inner change that enables him to release himself once and for all; after all’s said and done, an egg doesn’t remain trapped in a shell for ever more: a right of passage must occur for something even better awaits …
This is so much more than just a ‘what comes next’ episode of a Mother Goose favourite.
Santal presents themes of fearfulness, anxiety, determination and ultimately, transcendence and transformation through the combination of his spare first person narrative and his powerful scenes, made so affecting through the changing perspectives and use of shadow.

Read the Book, Lemmings!

Read the Book, Lemmings!
Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora
Andersen Press

Having seen it in the catalogue, I eagerly awaited the arrival of a copy of this latest comedic offering from Dyckman and OHora, creators of the wonderful Wolfie the Bunny and Horrible Bear! It more than lives up to its promise.

The book features three lemmings of the particularly impressionable kind, a whale that doubles up as a container ship, S.S.Cliff , its polar bear captain, PB by name, and first mate Foxy.
The story actually starts on the front endpaper where a sign floating on an iceberg informs, ‘ lemmings: small fuzzy, illiterate rodents who share the icy North with arctic foxes and polar bears. People used to think lemmings jumped off cliffs. Now we know they don’t.’

Close to the iceberg is a cliff and guess what: a lemming jumps proclaiming at the same time “Wonder what that says.” “Me too,” replies a second lemming. “Ditto!” says a third.
The trio lands up aboard S.S. Cliff whereon Foxy has just settled down with his book entitled ‘Everything About Lemmings’. “Huh!” he announces, “Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.” The lemmings hear just a single word: a four-lettered one beginning with j and …

Foxy requests the use of PB’s bucket and fishes the creatures out, bestowing upon them hats and names – Jumper, Me Too and Ditto, and urging them to “Read the book,” before settling down once more with said text.

A few further foolhardy leaps follow, each one increasingly reckless … “Sinking! Sinking fast!” / “Me too!” / “Glub!

until Foxy’s “WHY didn’t you read the book, lemmings?!” finally gets to the crux of the matter: the lemmings can’t read.

Time for some reading lessons …

After which, er that’s for you to discover when you ‘Read the book!’ (And, be sure to check out the final endpapers.)

Ame Dykman’s brilliantly mischievous text is an absolute treat for readers aloud and listeners alike; and the deadpan humour of OHora’s illustrations with their fun details and supremely expressive faces and body language, is the perfect counterpart for this madcap romp. I love the colour palette.

If this isn’t a superb demonstration of the importance and delights of reading, then one reviewer at least will jump off the nearest cliff.

Ten Fat Sausages

Ten Fat Sausages
Michelle Robinson and Tor Freeman
Andersen Press

Come into the kitchen. There a delicious drama is about to unfold.

Atop the cooker, sizzling in a frying pan sit the ten fat sausages of the title.

All of a sudden one explodes with a ‘POP’ and another, alarmed at the event vows not to meet the same fate, and hops out and across the worktop. At first all is ticketty boo but then disaster strikes …

On goes the rhyming tale with the total of sausages rapidly diminishing two by two thanks to some reckless testing of a liquidiser switch, a flying leap onto a ceiling fan, an encounter with the resident moggy who proves to be in hungry mood,

and some foolhardy cavorting that leads the final succulent pair, (with high hopes of their escape plan,)

into a hiding place within “a squishy thing.”

Michelle Robinson’s yummy story based on the much-loved counting down rhyme is sure to become a firm favourite with early years listeners. The irresistible join-in-ability of the text with its oft repeated “HANG on a minute! … Well, I won’t go BANG and I won’t go POP.” and ‘And Sausage Number Two, (Four,Six or Eight) went hop. hop, hop.’ will ensure a supremely noisy story session wherever this is shared with young audiences.

Tor Freeman’s visuals of the whole sorry saga are a visual treat: how she managed to impart such deliciously gigglesome expressions on those bangers is a wonder in itself: every spread is a flavourful slice of comedy.

It certainly had me in fits of giggles; but then, I’m a vegetarian.

The Weaver

The Weaver
Qian Shi
Andersen Press

The creator of this lovely debut picture book got her inspiration from a spider’s web she discovered with a piece of leaf caught in the middle.

Stanley spider is a weaver of webs; he’s a collector too. The things he collects – seeds, leaves, twigs and other ephemera are carefully woven into his webs.

Then disaster strikes in the form of a downpour that washes away both Stanley’s home and his precious collection, save for a single leaf.

Stanley attempts to secure this leaf but the wind whisks it away leaving Stanley with nothing.
Throughout the night he labours and come morning he’s fashioned something beautiful …

Yes, the web traces the memories, but with those treasures etched in his heart, it’s time for Stanley to move on …

Simply and beautifully told, but it’s the illustrations which embroider and add nuance to the text, furnishing the rich details of Stanley’s journey and his creativity.

A book that’s rich in potential in a nursery or classroom setting too where children might look first at real spider’s webs (a fine water spray will make the details of a web more visible) and then become web weavers like Stanley, adding their own special objects to their creations.

The Bad Mood and The Stick

The Bad Mood and the Stick
Lemony Snicket and Matt Forsythe
Andersen Press

We all succumb to a bad mood from time to time and most of us know how contagious that can be.
So it is here with young Curly who chooses to take her storminess out on her younger brother, Napoleon, by poking him with a stick. That cheers her up but the bad mood is transferred to her mother and thence to carpenter Lou, who ends up in a dry cleaner’s shop.; but, Mrs Durham, the shop’s boss, confronted by the sight of Lou sans dungarees finds herself singularly unaffected by the bad mood

which in fact, sails right out the window and off around the world.
And the stick? It too has a contagious effect; but it is cheer that is slowly spread by the spiky object and, once colourfully clad, it takes pride of place for a while in the twisting narrative,

gaining ultimately, a life of its own and also, bringing into the tale, Bert, proprietor of the ice-cream parlour.
Snicket’s off-beat tale twists and turns in wonderful ways as it reveals a chain of surprises: there’s even a wedding attended by the entire cast of characters, human, animals and even – look carefully – a certain coloured blob …

Despite the prominent Bad Mood character, there’s a great sense of community about the whole thing, visually documented in Forsythe’s deliciously hued, retro-style illustrations of events large and not so large.
If you want a cure for a case of bad moodiness, this is absolutely perfect and even if you don’t, it’s a terrific read aloud for a wide range of audiences.

Singing in the Rain / I Want Snow!

Singing in the Rain
illustrated by Tim Hopgood
Oxford University Press

A few years back I was in Udaipur, Rajasthan when the first monsoon rains of the season started to fall. Almost instantly, everyone around, the children certainly, all dashed outside and began celebrating – jumping for joy and playing in the rapidly forming, large puddles that soon became rushing torrents in the streets.
Tim Hopgood’s exuberant illustrations that accompany the words based on Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown’s song too, make rain a joyful experience.

Most adults in the UK certainly, especially teachers, find rainy days a nuisance at best, as they usually mean wet playtimes. Early years teachers though, like the children herein, embrace it as an opportunity to experience puddle jumping and splashing, and have a thoroughly good time – so long as everyone is suitably clad in waterproofs and wellies, that is.
Included with this uplifting book is a CD with the song performed by Doris Day followed by the story with page-turn signals.
So, as the book’s illustrator urges, no matter where you are, be it city or tropical rainforest,

Next time it rains, step outside, feel the rain on your face and give the clouds up above your biggest smile!

Just like the children here in Tim Hopgood’s bright alluring scenes.

I Want Snow!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press

The Little Princess is well known for making demands.
In this, her latest story, prompted by a postcard from her mum in the South Pole, and in spite of it being summer, it’s snow she wants.
But what the Little Princess wants, she usually gets and so it is here – eventually.
First though she has everyone in the palace doing their best, building snowmen out of stones and sand and indulging her with mudball fights.

Is the little madam satisfied? Of course not; even the cook’s proffered glass snow globe fails to please and off she stomps to bed. Endless bed – or almost …

until finally she has something to lift her spirits.
I wonder what she thinks about the long-awaited, chilly precipitation.
The Little Princess does look slightly less little here but her charm shows no signs of wearing thin, and I’m sure she’s especially pleased to have a sparkly cover to her latest book.

Luna Loves Library Day

Luna Loves Library Day
Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers
Andersen Press

As a young child, Saturdays were always my favourite days; they were the days my Dad would take me to the local library to choose a bagful of books that we’d share together during the week. Much has changed since then; there certainly weren’t comfy chairs to relax in, nor were books checked in and out electronically; but libraries were still exciting places to visit and it’s thanks in no small way to those visits, that I have become a life-long reader.

Poet Joseph Coehlo has penned a wonderful picture book text – his first – extolling the virtues of libraries; magical places that he has described as ‘gateways into reading, into writing, into discovering a world beyond that in which we find ourselves.’
For Luna, library day is special; it’s the day she spends with her dad sharing in the delights their library offers. There are books of all kinds – mysteries,

magic, minibeasts and history …

several of which find their way into Luna’s book bag.
There’s one very special book though, one that seems as though it’s been written just for Luna and her Dad.

This is a fairytale for children whose parents, like Luna’s, have divorced or separated. It’s inherent message is that although family situations change, the parents’ love for their child remains the same.
Fiona Lumbers too has done a terrific job. Right from the cover picture, you’re drawn into Luna’s world and Luna herself is a delight. So too are the other characters who frequent the library, not least the little girl who pops into several spreads – peering round bookshelves or sprawling slantwise across an armchair.

Fiona’s illustrations really do complement the text and every spread is a joy with much to make you smile: you know just how the characters are feeling as you turn the pages.

Emmanuelle immersed in the story

From cover to cover, a winsome enterprise. Don’t miss the end-papers!

Friends Return: Oskar and Mo / Alfie in the Woods / Elmer and the Tune

Oskar and Mo
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel
In his first book Oskar the raven loved a whole lot of things; now he’s back with more love. This time it’s directed at his best friend Mo and we discover what the two of them love to do together. After all, unless you’re a solitary individual most things are better if you have a friend to share them with.
They share a favourite place where they go to share secrets. A shared love of stories means that Mo loves Oscar to read to her – good on you Oskar;

they love playing together, whether it’s block building or hide and seek but like all friends they do have the occasional tiff. But it never lasts long because they’re there for each other whatever the weather, night or day, happy or sad, be they close by or far away.
Full of heart, this is a winningly simple portrayal of friendship and a great starting point for discussion with pre-schoolers.

Alfie in the Woods
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Little rabbit, Alfie returns for his third story and he’s out walking in the woods with his dad. It’s autumn and the young rabbit is collecting seasonal treasures.
He spies his friends and together they play hide-and-seek among the trees.
The mischievous little creature then starts using the available autumnal litter to transform himself into various other forest creatures: he becomes an owl gliding from tree to tree; a busy, buzzy bee, a hedgehog,

a dozy bear and even a tree.
All this imaginary play is pretty tiring though, so it’s a sleeping Alfie who is carried safely home by his dad after his crazy adventure.
Alfie has become a firm favourite with pre-schoolers and his latest story, with Debi Gliori’s captivating illustrations, is bound to be another winner.

Elmer and the Tune
David McKee
Andersen Press
How annoying it is when you get a tune stuck in your mind and the words just keep on going around and around no matter what you do. That’s almost what happens to Elmer when he’s out walking with his friend, Rose one day. First the tune gets stuck in her head and then Elmer too catches it and can’t stop humming the wretched thing.
So infectious is it that pretty soon all the jungle animals are humming that self same tune of Rose’s over and over. What are they to do?
Time to call upon Elmer. Can he come up with a solution to their problem?

Seemingly he can and it works for all his friends; but what about Elmer?
This is David McKee’s 24th Elmer story and his escapades continue to win him new fans as well as pleasing established ones; the latter, like elephants, never forget.

Yoga Babies

Yoga Babies
Fearne Cotton and Sheena Dempsey
Andersen Press

Yoga with babies isn’t about getting into poses properly; rather it’s about having fun and starting out on what could, one hopes (says the yoga teacher in me) become a lifelong practice that has enormous benefits for both health and wellbeing.
Yoga is part and parcel of the everyday lives of the babies herein, and it looks as though they all enjoy giving it a go.

We see Maya making a bridge, which her brother then pushes his car under, a down dog,

child’s pose herein called ‘dormouse’ pose, watch Sophie’s mum eagerly unrolling the mats after a trying day; and Prakash and his granny having a wonderful stretch – all indoors.

But of course, it’s great to practice yoga outdoors too. There are sure to be lots of opportunities even if you don’t have your yoga mat with you …

And where better to try being a tree than in the back garden, which is just the place for some cat stretches too.

Invitingly written by TV presenter and mum to two young children, Fearne Cotton, and delightfully illustrated by Sheena Dempsey whose scenes of adorable yoga babies are full of fun, this little book really does show that yoga is for everyone.

I’ve signed the charter 

Fergal is Fuming!

Fergal is Fuming!
Robert Starling
Andersen Press

Fergal the dragon is a pleasant, friendly enough little fellow when he’s getting his own way, but he’s a hot-tempered creature when things aren’t quite to his liking. That’s when his fieriness gets the upper hand; like the occasion when he’s told by dad to eat all his veggies or forego his pudding. Guess who stays hungry that teatime …

Then there’s the time on the soccer field when he’s asked to play in goal: another fiery situation.

In fact, Fergal’s blazing temper seems to get him into bothersome situations wherever he goes; and before long, his friends are having no more to do with him.
Time for the little dragon to start learning some anger management techniques it appears.
We all get fiery,” his mum tells him “but we find a way to cool down.” Counting to ten is her trick and that’s what Fergus does the following day when he feels that inner fire starting to get the better of him.
Other animals employ different calming down methods and pretty soon, Fergal has a range of techniques at his disposal.

A really good stretch

This turns out to be a pretty good thing, not least because he can expend his energy on exciting pastimes with his friends.
In addition to being sheer fun, Robert Starling’s debut picture book offers youngsters a host of possibilities for taking the heat out of potentially tricky situations.
I take myself off somewhere quiet, sit still and do some deep breathing or a bit of yoga if I feel myself getting over-heated. What about you?

I’ve signed the charter  

I Dare You

I Dare You
Reece Wykes
Andersen Press

This book is certainly not for the faint hearted. It’s Reece Wykes’ debut picture book and assuredly, he has a very wicked sense of humour.
The story – a extremely short one – revolves around two bored gorillas lounging languidly in the forest.

They dare one another in turn to consume something that happens to be in close proximity.
With each dare the item to be swallowed gets larger – a bug, a bird,

a huge rock;

but how long can the crazy game continue before one or other of the contestants disgorges the entire contents of its stomach?
Actually that’s not what happens: it’s something entirely other and totally unexpected, certainly for one of the participants involved in this dog eat dog contest.
With every spread, Wykes offers at least one laugh-out-loud moment (the expressions and body language of the gorillas are priceless), although the penultimate one stops you dead in your tracks.
Deliciously, anarchically ridiculous, but choose your audience with care …

I’ve signed the charter  

Swish & Squeak’s Noisy Day / Take Ted Instead

Swish & Squeak’s Noisy Day
Birgitta Sif
Andersen Press
Swish is a mouse with super-efficient ears that she puts into action from those first waking moments of the cacophonous day described in Birgitta’s Sif’s sweet tale.
The CRUNCH CRUNCH sounds she hears coming from downstairs aren’t as she first thinks, a crocodile consuming the kitchen table; rather it’s Squeak, her younger sibling, enthusiastically munching breakfast cereal. And so it goes on with some gentle noises of preparations for school and some not so gentle …

The walk to school and lessons therein are equally full of eeeeks, munches, squeaks, toots, pump ums and bah bas – it’s small wonder Swish’s head is in a spin …

but those ears really come into their own in the melee of the playground at home time.
All this invitingly join-in-able onomatopoeia (great for developing sound/symbol relationships) and more, forms an integral part of Sif’s captivatingly whimsical scenes of sibling affection executed in predominantly soft pinks, rose, purple and teal hues.
A lovely celebration of the sibling bond and incidentally …

of the peace and quiet of libraries.

Take Ted Instead
Cassandra Webb and Amanda Francey
New Frontier Publishing
The 3Rs of reading – rhyme, rhythm and repetition – rule in this tale of a mother trying to coax her reluctant toddler up to bed. The little lad tries putting forward a host of alternatives: the dog, the baby his cat, his older brother, a toy robot, a neighbour and even his goldfish (each has a name rhyming with ‘sleepy head’) …

but Mum is having none of it. In fact she uses Ted and a spot of reverse psychology to get the resister where she wants him.
A fun read aloud for adult and child to share at bedtime. Equally, with the key ingredients for beginning reading integral to the story, and playful illustrations that work with the text, this is an ideal book for children just starting out as readers to try for themselves.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sir Ned and the Nasties

Sir Ned and the Nasties
Brett and David McKee
Andersen Press
Who or what are the Nasties? Their screeching, howling sounds emanating from the deep dark wood are driving the King in his castle crazy and making the village houses shake. The King sends for the bravest of his knights, one Sir Ned the Noble who sets off into the woods in search of whatever it is that’s making his highness ill and scaring the daylights out of the villagers. Before long he encounters a troll who offers to act as his guide; so the two proceed together.
Encounter number two happens soon after …

The witch too offers her assistance in the search for those Nasties. They cross a bridge and come upon Wolf. Now there are four in the search and Wolf leads the way … towards a cleverly concealed cave entrance. “Enter here, if you be brave!” says the sign.
Then Sir Ned gets a nasty surprise for the Nasties are none other than …

But luckily for him, Ned has a song in his head and a plan up his sleeve: a plan that will change the lives of all concerned; and for the better …

That though, is not quite the end of this rhyming tale penned by Brett, the illustrator’s son …
That Ned is completely oblivious to the dangers posed by his fellow seekers is sure to have your audience wriggling with anticipatory delight. David McKee’s mock-scary Nasties are deliciously funny: who can take seriously that hairy, trainer-wearing troll with his pink braces and striped cut-offs or a wolf sporting cravat and purple pants?

I’ve signed the charter  

The Tickle Test / Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit

The Tickle Test
Kathryn White and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press
Tickling has been the topic of picture books on previous occasions but there’s never been one wherein a tiny mouse is being tested for a job in the ‘Tickle Squad’. The little animal is charged with test tickling all kinds of creatures, great and small, while established members of the squad look on and comment on each and every ticklish encounter.

Did I say ‘creatures great and small?’ Maybe I should add here that each one is a pretty formidable proposition be it the jiggling, wriggling bear; the stinky gorilla, the parping pachyderm,

or even the sniggering snake.
I’d rather he than me when it comes to tackling the jaggy-toothed croc. and I’d beat a hasty retreat when it comes to the final challenge – that’s if you aren’t partial to a spot of tickling particularly from an enthusiastic mouse anyhow.
Kathryn White’s rhyming narrative in combination with Adrian Reynolds’ rib-tickling visuals make for a fun read aloud. Love the endpapers too!

Beware though of finger-fidgets on behalf of your listeners as they try hard to resist testing their own tickling skill on those around them during the story.

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit
Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer
Five Quills
Sky Private Eye has another case to solve when she answers the call of the Little Old Man who reports anxiously, “Our Gingerbread Boy is missing!” Before you can say ‘biscuit’, Sky and her trusty companion, Snuffle are off on the scooter to the source of the call. There they learn that gingerbread lover, Foxy Loxy is in the vicinity and are given permission to search the Boy’s bedroom. It’s there Snuffle discovers a crucial clue concerning new running shoes, which Sky immediately links to the forthcoming Fairytale Olympics.
The race is on: can they track down Gingerbread Boy before Foxy Loxy gets to him?

Furthermore will the sudden shower of rain reduce the runner in training to a soggy heap?
The recipe is akin to the previous case: cupcake baking, a deft move on Sky’s part …

and a thoroughly satisfying finale. Whether or not you met Sky in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma, then do so now. The chief ingredients: Jane Clarke’s toothsome telling and Loretta Schauer’s appetising artwork, wield their magic again.

I’ve signed the charter  

Our Kid

Our Kid
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
What an intolerant teacher ‘Our Kid’ has, responding to his lateness by sending him to the ‘Naughty Corner.’ (I have strong feelings about naughty corners/steps but won’t pursue the topic here). The Kid has an enormously fertile imagination and so, following his dad’s “Go straightly to school, Our Kid. Don’t be late again.” he tells how he took the shortcut along the beach, which led to hoof dunkling,

an encounter with a dinosaur pirate-chasing submarine driven by fish …

which resulted in the loss of his homework-containing schoolbag and trousers; followed by a rendezvous with an enormously helpful elephant who eventually dropped him at the school before he ‘kerlumped’ off: hence the kid’s tardy arrival.
However, just as the errant pupil has finished his tale and been admonished for his making up of “total and utter nonsense” the classroom tenor takes a sudden unexpected turn. The school, after a considerable degree of turbulence, is invaded by three creatures asking for “Our Kid” and proffering some objects …

To relate what ensues thereafter would spoil this fantastic story so let’s just say, the teacher has something of a change of heart, which leaves our protagonist bounding home joyfully after a thoroughly uneventful day at school. Did I say at the start Our Kid has an enormously fertile imagination? Actually, I may have been just a teensy bit wrong on that score.
This cracking tale put me in mind somewhat, of Cali and Chaud’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School but its manner of telling is completely different. Ross’s off-beat use of language is both inspired and playful: I absolutely loved ‘shoffled’ ‘bumpeeded’ ‘felumpingly’, ‘boomdered’ and ‘glumbtious’ to mention just some of the wonderful words he sprinkles throughout the kid’s saga. Equally brilliant are each and every one of his watercolours. The expression of utter joie-de-vivre the narrator shows as he dunkles his hooves in the seawater; the way he clambers up the elephant’s trunk to reach the howdah on its back;

and the nonchalance of the teacher as he hands back Our Kid’s unread homework are beyond brilliant; which in fact, applies to the whole book.

I’ve signed the charter  

There’s a Walrus in My Bed!

There’s a Walrus in My Bed!
Ciara Flood
Andersen Press
Flynn is thrilled at the prospect of sleeping in his new bed, but come bedtime, it appears that his much-anticipated sleeping space has been invaded. Neither Mum, nor Dad believe his “there’s a walrus in my bed,” assertions so he’s forced to try and fit himself alongside an enormous intruder. Things aren’t straightforward even then: could the creature be hungry perhaps? Or suffering some malaise …

Blankets and a drink of soothing milk seem to exacerbate the problem, the latter sending the walrus to the bathroom for a wee.
Perhaps a lullaby might be sufficiently soothing to induce slumbers on the walrus’s part. It certainly doesn’t seem to please Flynn’s parents. What IS the lad to do?

There aren’t any monsters lurking and finally Flynn resorts to an embrace …

which appears to do the trick but there’s still the issue of fitting Flynn and the slumbering sea creature into the same space: it just isn’t big enough.
Flynn has one more trick up his pyjama sleeve: “Mum, Dad, can Walrus sleep in your bed tonight?” he requests. Their affirmative reply leaves their son able to snuggle into his soft warm bed at last; but he’s the only human likely to get a good night’s sleep thereafter …
Rich, warm hues make the invader and the place he invades, full of geniality; and Ciara Flood’s characterisation is superb. Mum’s and Dad’s expressions at Flynn’s increasingly demanding and disturbing activities speak volumes.
Another winner from rising star, Ciara Flood: I’d avoid sharing it just before bed though: you just never know – new bed or not …

I’ve signed the charter 

Pigeon P.I.

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Pigeon P.I.
Meg McLaren
Andersen Press
Murray is a private investigator of the pigeon kind. Of late, since the departure of his fellow operative, Stanley, Murray has been taking life rather easy. Then out of the blue – or rather, the rain – who should show up but the Kid, aka Vee, with a mission: to locate her missing friends.

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Intrigued, but not yet ready to take on another case, our narrator Murray asks her to come back the following day. She doesn’t show up and, with the police busy on a ‘big case’, he realises this will have to be a ‘do it yourself’ crime investigation.

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Seemingly there’s a feather thief at large in the town. Who or what is responsible for the dastardly scene that meets his eyes once inside the Red Herring Bar and Grill;

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and why does the voice emanating from the depths of the place sound oddly familiar? Even more importantly, is Investigator Murray ‘s goose well and truly cooked; or will the town’s streets again become safe for his fellow avians of every hue, once and for all?
Meg McLaren’s (Life is Magic) winning piece of detective fiction is bound to make you cackle. Take a look at those end papers for starters, especially if you want to do a spot of detecting yourself. Full of visual and verbal puns, witty details, speech bubbles and delivered in the manner of the best crime writers, this will appeal particularly, to anyone with a passion for setting things to rights. For sure, it’s a case of the more you look, the more you discover …

Jamal’s Journey

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Jamal’s Journey
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Young camel, Jamal does little else but walk, walk, walk across the desert following his mama and baba, the boy and other riders; he watches the falcons too sometimes, as he plods along. Then one day a sandstorm blows up – roaring, whooshing and whirling sand into Jamal’s mouth and eyes. When it’s passed, the little camel finds himself alone looking up at a star-filled, moonlit sky …

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The sand has been completely smoothed: of his Mama or Bapa’s footprints there is no sign, let alone their riders.
As dawn breaks Jamal discovers that other animals are close by – a jerboa, a spiky monitor lizard and a brown hare;

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but Jamal’s request for help goes unheeded: the animals are too busy fleeing. What can have frightened them?
Looking skywards, Jamal spies a tiny dot – a falcon is spiralling towards him. Jamal though isn’t scared and he follows the falcon’s looping flight across the sand, up the hills towards the distant dunes and the shining sea before which stands a huge city. Then coming towards him out of the dust cloud, there emerges a wonderfully welcoming sight: his Mama, Baba and, joy of joys, his friend, the boy.

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After the reunion, it’s time to explore the city …

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and one day perhaps, even more.
Michael Foreman created this book after a visit to Dubai and in his introductory note writes, ‘When you are in Dubai, among its glistening towers, it is easy to forget that this city was built in a desert and its roots are firmly in the Bedouin culture. Central to that culture … the camel.’ Everything about this tender tale of friendship, determination and adventure evokes, and pays tribute to, the desert and to that Bedouin culture: one can almost feel the shimmering heat and respond to an urge to cover eyes and ears as the sandstorm approaches
Little Jamal’s feelings – panic, fear, hope, surprise, delight, and finally, joy, are all shown through Foreman’s superbly expressive camel eyes. The word ‘jamaal’ in Arabic means beauty and some people think there is a link between its J-M-L root structure and ‘jamal’ meaning camel (which has the same root). True or not, Foreman certainly, in this book, has created something beautiful.

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Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade / The Opposite

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Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade
Greg Gormley and Steve Lenton
Orchard Books
This was eagerly seized upon by one of my readers who had enjoyed Fairytale Frankie and the Tricky Witch. This time, fairytale lover Frankie encounters a mermaid at the seaside, a mermaid who is reluctant to join her for a swim on account of the BIG sea monster. Frankie reassures her and the two frolic in the shallows until the coastguard issues a warning.

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Frankie suggests a strength in numbers approach and after encounters with a surfing prince and a beardie pirate, both of whom are fearful of said sea monster, the young girl and her fellow monster anticipators watch as the sea starts to stir …

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“I’m a little bit frightened of this story now, ” one of my listeners said and was clearly empathising with Frankie and the mermaid as everyone else takes evasive action…

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leaving Frankie endeavouring to protect her mermaid friend.
Are the two of them, not to mention those who’ve temporarily disappeared from the scene, about to become the next meal of a BIG, MASSIVE, seriously HUGE, GIGANTIC sea monster? Let’s just say that what emerges from the deep isn’t quite what they’ve all been anticipating.
With its larger than life characters superbly portrayed by Steve Lenton, excitement throughout the tale, and a fun finale, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser where young audiences are concerned.

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The Opposite
Tom MacRae and Elena Odriozola
Andersen Press
This was MacRae’s picture book debut around ten years back and if you missed it then, this paperback is definitely worth getting hold of especially if you like quirky humour and a story with a twist or two in its tail.
Our first encounter with ‘The Opposite’ is hanging upside down from Nat’s bedroom ceiling ignoring the lad’s “Get down!” instruction. A disconcerting sight if ever there was one especially as it’s clad in a kind of onesie that matches the wallpaper. “Dad! There’s an Opposite on my ceiling!” Nate cries but ‘The Opposite had already happened, and it wasn’t there any more.’
The thing reappears on the kitchen worktop during breakfast …

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sabotaging Nate’s milk pouring efforts, sending the liquid upwards to the ceiling and then down onto the tablecloth, which of course, displeases his Mum.
There’s more Opposite trouble at school where paint ends up everywhere but on Nate’s paper.

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Then it’s time for Nate to begin thinking in ‘Opposite’ ways …
Elena Odriozola’s pen and watercolour illustrations, although brighter, have a hint of Edward Gorey about them and the characters’ flatness gives them a touch of spookiness: altogether an ideal complement for MacRae’s text.
Satisfying and slightly enigmatic both.

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I’m BIG Now!

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I’m Big Now!
Anthea Simmons and Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
Being a big sister can be tough especially when a certain baby brother seems to be getting more than his fair share of adult attention. Here, a big sister tells what happens when she attempts to regain the limelight by playing ‘the baby big girl game’.

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After several attempts at different aspects of ‘baby biggirliness’, our young narrator comes to an important realisation: being a big girl and doing what big girls do, brings her far more satisfaction – even if it involves a fair bit of new learning.

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Moreover, it’s certainly a whole lot more fun …

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and sometimes you can get the best of both worlds …

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The combination of Anthea Simmons’ gently humorous rhyming words and Georgie Birkett’s adorable scenes of family life big-sis style, is a total delight.
This is the perfect book for family sharing when a new sibling arrives although it can most certainly be enjoyed with early years audiences at any time.

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Where’s the Baboon?

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Where’s the Baboon?
Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo
Andersen Press
Is it a book or is it a game? Actually the mouse on the cover hits it on the nail ‘It’s a Super Bookgame!’ he asserts and it might be time to get out those plastic letters for a visit to the crazy animal school herein, as we respond to this invitation … ‘Let’s search for hidden words!

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Question one is ‘Who is the headmaster?’, the answer being … got it? Next comes ‘Who brought the apple?’ That’s it: the red letters highlight the answers, each one being an animal of some kind, the tricky creature itself appearing in part …

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or wholly somewhere on the scene, while the mischievous mouse trio makes an appearance on every spread.

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These little creatures seem about to launch a glue missile at two unsuspecting readers in one of the scenes.
The final birthday surprise bursts – literally – onto the scene proclaiming as he makes his presence felt in no uncertain terms …

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Exploding with fun – and not just from the penultimate spread – this is absolutely perfect for sharing and for having a good giggle over the crazy shenanigans of the pupils, before trying to invent some animal capers of your own; or even re-making those featured with coloured letter shapes. Totally engaging in every respect. Teachers, don’t miss this one: it’s packed with potential such as ‘Think of an appropriate sentence, write it and then create a scene around it.’ Of course the spelling will need checking though.

The Listzs

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The Liszts
Kyo Maclear and Júlia Sardà
Andersen Press
Are you a list maker? There’s something satisfying about lists, especially lists of things to do, and in particular, the crossing off part. That was the part my favourite literary list-maker, Toad in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together liked most too. In fact he couldn’t function properly without his ‘list of things to do today’.
A whole family of list makers populates this wryly whimsical book and they’re called, unsurprisingly, the Listzs. There’s Mum and Dad who make lists all year round, Sundays excluded; on such days they’re um, listless. Youngest child Frederick is a ‘list of fun things to do’ maker whereas big sister Winifred’s lists feature top tens and middle child Edward is a nocturnal list maker. Not wishing to be left out, Grandpa too makes lists – ‘his greatest admirers and most fearsome enemies’; even the cat’s a list maker.
Then one day a visitor arrives; nobody wants to engage with him – he’s not on their lists –

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until he comes upon Edward. He has a list of questions and what’s more, he’s the one who’d left the door open and is ready to admit it too. “The door was open,” says the visitor. “I know. I left it open. …” comes the reply. “For me?” – that’s the visitor. Edward thinks so. The two exchange questions, which leads to more exciting outcomes …

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Hurray for spontaneity and the possibility of something unexpected turning up.
With a quirky gothic feel to it, this near nonsensical tale is likely to appeal to adults as much as children. Visual humour abounds in the suitably dreary-hued illustrations: look at this scene with the family spending a restful Sunday.

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This is illustrator Júlia Saradà’s debut picture book: her illustrations herein reminded me very much of the work of Edward Gorey’s witty style. I look forward with interest to seeing what comes next.

Samson the Mighty Flea

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Samson the Mighty Flea
Angela McAllister and Nathan Reed
Andersen Press
Samson the Mighty Flea is top of the bill at Fleabag’s Circus, which is no surprise: he can lift a match, a pea and, the lovely Amelie – all at once. Despite this, he’s not satisfied; Samson longs for the big time so he bids farewell to fellow Fleabag performers and off he goes determined to be “the biggest star in the world“.

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But the world is a very big place and he’s such a small flea: “Go back where you belong,” a bug tells him. There’s no going back for Samson though, not until he’s performed before a huge audience. That does eventually happen …

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but so does something else: Samson realises that however much he’d longed for fame, it’s worth nothing without his old friends and one in particular.
Meanwhile back at Fleabag’s that particular friend is about to give the performance of her life too …

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Thought provoking and funny, this circus romp moves in and out of rhyme and so requires careful perusal by an adult reader aloud before public performance. I loved the offbeat nature of the whole thing: its unlikely characters are portrayed with finesse by Nathan Reed, who provides visual delight at every turn of the page.

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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I YAM A DONKEY!

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I Yam A Donkey!
Cece Bell
Andersen Press
I read this book aloud to my partner straight after unwrapping it, and before long we were both reduced to fits of helpless giggles; it’s a real gem.
I Yam a donkey!” declares the googly-eyed donkey on the title page and is immediately challenged by a yam: “What did you say? ‘I yam a donkey?’ The proper way to say that is ‘I am a donkey.’ ” Thus begins a crazy, escalating sequence of misunderstandings, as grammar and pronunciation pedant, yam, endeavours to correct each and every utterance of the thick-headed, bumbling donkey whose bewilderment increases in tandem with yam’s frustration.

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It’s all very funny, made even more so by the appearance of a carrot, a turnip and three green beans …

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who provide yam with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the conjugation of the verb ‘to be’ …

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Here’s the singular part …

Donkey, all the more confused by this, sees something else entirely – a tasty meal …

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Such a splendid, darkly comic, turn, hereafter!
What a wonderful celebration of living language is this crazy tale of Cece Bell’s: Pedantic grammarians beware – you might end up as a donkey’s dinner! And then what the heck – no grammar, good or bad – is going to save your skin.
The bold, energetic illustrations rendered in bright colours and thickly outlined in black, are a real hoot; and the mix of double spreads,

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single pages, frames and panels add to the fun, and give the appearance of being effortlessly executed.
Primary school teachers, you REALLY NEED a copy of this book.

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The Young Performing Horse

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The Young Performing Horse
Quentin Blake & John Yeoman
Andersen Press
First published almost forty years ago, the Young Performing Horse – should he now be called the Middle Aged Performing Horse? – is back to delight a new generation.
Poor farm children, brother and sister Bertie and Vicky buy a horse at an auction – the only one remaining – and he’s a rarity, a Young Performing Horse, so the auctioneer claims. Certainly he’s unusual with his ‘big eyes, long eyelashes, baggy skin, thick legs and shiny black hooves.’ and the twins fall in love with him straightaway. The adult Priddys had intended that the creature should carry their children to school instead of them having to trudge the long distance every day but he’s not big enough. He does however, accompany the twins to said school, trotting alongside them and even participating in lessons.

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When the family face hard times, the twins persuade their parents not to sell the horse, but to let them take him with them to London where they’ll seek their fortune.
Eventually they reach the big city …

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and find the location of Mr Crumbles’ theatre (an address given them by their teacher who happens to be Mr Crumbles’ friend.) and happily for them, there they spot a large sign saying “YOUNG ACTORS REQUIRED’. Having seen what their horse can do, Mr Crumble allows him to perform alongside the twins and the show is a great success …

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So much so that the company is summoned to Buckingham Palace to give a Royal Command Performance in front of her majesty.

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Suitably impressed, the Queen expresses a wish that all her subjects might have the opportunity to see a Young Performing Horse at Christmas. This gives Bertie a brilliant idea: could this be the origins of the pantomime horse? Whether or not it is, the Christmas shows all over the country make a fortune for Mr Crumble and his company and all ends happily for everyone concerned.
The partnership between John Yeoman with his wonderfully imaginative text and Quentin Blake with his sparklingly witty illustrations, results in a magical tale with a Dickensian feel to it. It’s a magic that will still hold audiences in its thrall even after all this time.
Was this cracking book ever made into a Christmas TV entertainment for children? If not, it should be …

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Wolfie the Bunny

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Wolfie The Bunny
Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora
Andersen Press
As the story opens we find the Bunny family outside their apartment where they discover a wolf cub on the front door step. The Bunny parents are delighted: “He’s going to eat is all up!” warns daughter Dot.
The following morning while Mama feeds it a breakfast of carrots, Papa is busy photographing the newcomer; but young Dot sticks to her assertion about them being his preferred repast, and when her friends come to visit they are of the same opinion.

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Dot decides to go and play at her friend’s house leaving Wolfie, who unbeknown to her, cries. On her return, while the parents continue drooling over the rapidly growing, carrot-scoffing Wolfie, he shadows her every move, even to the shops …

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At this point it does begin to look as though young Dot might after all be correct in her assertion; but it’s not her that Wolfie has his eyes on. There’s something very large there and his dinner of choice is not Dot but Wolfie himself.
Time to make a hasty escape Dot? Errm actually, not. Instead the young miss stands up for, and fiercely defends her (adopted) family member,

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showing the large bear that she really does mean business of the consuming kind and off he dashes but then …

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Is that the end after all ??
Actually, fortunately for Dot, this is a totally tongue-in-cheek kind of tale where all ends, let’s say, rather satisfactorily. OHora’s illustrations rendered in bold acrylics in a fairly restricted range of colours (grey, reds, green and gold) heighten the dramatic impact of the deliciously droll telling.
I love the way readers are kept wondering right up to the very last page; love the ever-scowling Dot and the immediately endearing Wolfie, love the whole thing in fact. It’s a cracking good read aloud whether you choose to share it with a class, a group or one to one; and definitely, a fresh take on a new sibling.

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Elmer and the Race

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Elmer and the Race
David McKee
Andersen Press
The young elephants have become racing enthusiasts so Elmer and Wilbur decide to organise a special race and give the youngsters a week to practise. On race day everyone gathers to watch the nine contestants, each of which is decorated a different colour …

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and all listen to Elmer’s reminder: “Remember it’s not just who is fastest or slowest, but how you run the race” issued before the off.
Elmer and Wilbur then head off to the first vantage point to view the proceedings as Brown takes the lead. An eventful race ensues with monkey tricks sending some contestants off course; cheating leading to an injury …

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a disqualification and finally a winner – that’s Blue. He’s not the only medal recipient however: there’s an award for second place, fastest starter, bravest, kindest, unluckiest contestant as well as two for funniest and finally one for sorriest (also the naughtiest) so every one is happy – one way or another.
I had to read this one three times to a group of 4s to 9s, one of whom said she knew the story already but quickly realised she didn’t; it was the original Elmer book she was familiar with. Clearly Elmer still wields his magic after more than a quarter of a century. Long live Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

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Nara and the Island & Squish Squash Squeeze

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Nara and the Island
Dan Ungureanu
Andersen Press
The small girl narrator of this story lives with her dad on a tiny island, ‘so small, you can’t lose anything’ is what he tells her. Across the water some way away is another island and sometimes the child sits looking at it from her special secret hiding place. As she sits staring she imagines getting across …

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but then one day her dad discovers her hiding place and with repaired boat, the two embark on an adventure. Dad’s quest is to find the legendary Big Fish, his daughter’s mission to explore the shores of the other island.

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Once ashore though, the girl feels overwhelmed by the strange sights and sounds around her but then she meets a boy, Aran.

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The two compare their respective homes – hers so small and quiet, his so wild and noisy – and find they share the need for a hideaway of their own. Aran then offers to share his with his new friend.
The lightened colours of Ungureanu’s scenes have a subtle other-worldly quality that add a touch of magic to the whole undertaking and the final “I think I’d like that.” comment of the girl narrator

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opens the way for readers’ imaginations to take over.

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Squish Squash Squeeze
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When Mouse arrives at his new home it looks nigh on perfect for his needs, there’s even a piano. But suddenly there appears a large and very growly bear who is not at all keen on sharing the space, indeed claiming …”there’s NO ROOM HERE, not even for a mouse!” Undaunted, Mouse continues unpacking his belongings and inviting the bear to help. Off he goes, skipping upstairs, only to find himself confronting another enormous creature occupying the bathroom …

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But he’s not the final surprise: as Mouse continues finding places for his belongings, another animal makes an appearance.
Seemingly there is only one thing to do and that’s share a cuppa …

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albeit with a bit of a wiggling and jiggling. But then from under the floorboards, there comes a RUMBLE-THRUMBLE-THUMP! followed shortly by a tumble, tumble BUMP! (that’s Mouse) and a satisfying surprise that seemingly solves everyone’s space problem once and for all.
With a repeat refrain for listeners to join in with and some opportunities for roaring and snapping too, there’s plenty to entertain early years audiences, not least the satisfying fold-out finale, though every one of Jane Chapman’s spreads provides plenty of gigglesome details.

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Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

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Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is assuredly a head-turner but not a particularly pleasant character – far from it in fact. She feels duty bound to issue fault- correcting instructions to those she calls her friends, thus …

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and even resorts on occasion to actual ‘enhancement’ procedures …

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It isn’t only fellow pupils who come in for her improvement instructions though: ‘No one was safe from Lucinda’s advice./ “Grandpa!” she said. “Your moustache isn’t nice./ Sit down and don’t fidget, I’ll give it a trim./ Grandma, you’re next when I’ve finished with him.” Her teacher too gets the treatment …

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All is perfectly peachy for Miss LBMMcC until she happens upon a Monster in the woods one day – a hideous beast if ever there was one. Do you think the young miss stood terrified before this creature?

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No way! Out come the beautifying instruments (she went nowhere without those of course)

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and very soon the monster’s hair has been washed, trimmed and blown dry and he’s had a thorough make over to boot. Let the beautiful friendship now commence … errrm, not quite. Seems that makeover was only skin deep …
Willis and Ross have together concocted a cracking cautionary tale of the truly hilarious kind. Jeanne Willis’ rhyming narrative is a gift to the reader aloud (though I suggest you have a dress rehearsal first) and I guarantee you’ll have your audience in fits, not only over the words: every single one of Ross’s illustrations is an absolute beaut.
FAB-U-LOUS!

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The Hole Story

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The Hole Story
Paul Bright and Bruce Ingman
Andersen Press
There are even holes through the front cover of this stylish, albeit brilliantly bonkers book.
Holes are not usually well-received: who wants to discover a hole has appeared in the toe of a sock, a bag, a pair of knickers, a bicycle tyre or a boat? But after reading the story of Hamish and Hermione Hole as so wonderfully documented by Bright, you might just start to look more favourably on them. The whole fabulous tale begins with our two holes residing in a chunk of Swiss cheese – royal Swiss cheese no less. But then along comes a family of mice that proceed to eat the two Hs out of house and home, so to speak. Off go Hamish and Hermione is search of a new home wherein they can usefully dwell. Now this is no easy task: the King certainly doesn’t want his hairy leg made visible through a hole in his sock; and a hole in knickers belonging to the Queen, well it’s quite unthinkable.

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In fact, try as they might, the two holes just can’t find anywhere good for holes to be. They compare notes, or rather hole opportunities …

 

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and then decide to seek a dark spot to sleep.
Next morning the royal carpenter comes upon our holey pair on the very piece of wood whereon they’d slept and that’s when everything starts to look a (w)hole lot better …

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With its palace setting and royal cast of characters, there is something of a neo-fairy tale feel about this super story. I’ve shared it with several groups of children all of whom have been enormously enthusiastic and one reading led to a long list of possible places wherein the two holes might find a welcome.
Ingman’s blobby finger-paint Hamish and Hermione look set to win lots of friends: I particularly loved the sight of them regaling their home-finding efforts to one another on the slatted wooden seat … DSCN7358 (800x600)

 

And the endpapers – well they’re a another story – or several …

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All Aboard …

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All Aboard for the Bobo Road
Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr
Andersen Press
A riot of colour and pattern abounds in this travelling tale of a minibus as it leaves the Banfora bus station bound for Bobo station with Big Ali at the wheel and Fatima and Galo, his children aboard for the ride …

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First stop is Lake Tengréla where as hippos wallow in the water, passengers board and luggage is loaded and secured; then it’s BEEP, BEEP! and off they go again bound for Karfiguéla Falls. More passengers get on, oil and rice are loaded …

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and the journey continues towards the Domes of Fabedougou. Here, in the shadows of the old rocky domes additional travellers join them and produce is loaded. The final stop before the big city is in the forest and here livestock is added to the ever-increasing load and then at last their destination is in sight. Then comes operation unload …

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the passengers go off to do their business and, as the sun sets, it’s time for a well earned rest for Big Ali, Fatima and Galo, not to mention a tasty meal of fried fish, beans and rice.

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Before reading this picture book, I knew very little about Burkina Faso save that it is one of West Africa’s poorest countries. Thanks to its author Stephen Davies who has lived and worked there, I just had to find out more. And, thanks to Christopher Corr’s bold naïve style gouache scenes, one really gets a feeling of travelling through a vibrant cultural landscape as we board the minibus along with Big Ali’s passengers.
A lovely book to help expand the horizons of young listeners and readers of all ages.

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The Royal Baby’s Big Red Bus Tour of London
Martha Mumford and Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The Royal Family are relaxing in the palace garden when there’s a ‘BEEEEEP’ trumpeting the arrival of the Big Red Bus and the driver announces “All aboard for the … Tour of London!” After a whole lot of scurrying around, everything is finally ready and ‘DING-A-LING-LING!’ off they go. First stop is The Natural History Museum where the young prince revels in being a T.Rex alarming little sis with his fearsome roars.

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From there they go on to London Zoo and thence for a picnic lunch in Regent’s Park. Then, having visited The British Museum the bus makes its way down to the Thames where the family boards a water taxi down to Greenwich …

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and then back to take a turn on the London Eye.
As the trip has to cater for all, including aunties, the next stop is the popular stores including – just for the Royal Babies – a visit to Hamleys.
On the subject of toys, however, come teatime back at the palace, a certain young Prince suddenly bursts into tears; his toy dinosaur hasn’t returned from the outing.
Off zooms the Duchess on her trusty vehicle to save the day, or rather, the night …

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Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this latest instalment in the Royal Baby series and if you’re heading for London with very young children this might well be a good pre-visit starting point. Ada Grey’s scenes provide plenty to smile over and as always, those Royal corgis are very much in evidence.

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