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
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.


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.


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.


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;


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


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 …


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;


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.


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


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.



Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade / The Opposite


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.


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 …


“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…


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.


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 …


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.


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.


I’m BIG Now!


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’.


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.


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


and sometimes you can get the best of both worlds …


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.


Where’s the Baboon?


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!

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 …


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


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 …


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


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 –


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 …


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.


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


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“.


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 …


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 …


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


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 …


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


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.


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:


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


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




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.


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


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


Here’s the singular part …

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


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,


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


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.


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 …


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 …


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


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


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.


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 …


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,


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


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


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 …


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 …


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


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 …


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


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 …


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?


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


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.

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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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Tufty/The Grumpy Pets

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Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Subtitled ‘The Little Lost Duck who Found Love’ this story starts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace where we meet a family of ducks and in particular the youngest, Tufty who we are told ‘always struggled to keep up.’

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The Royal residents of the palace – the Royal Duck and Duckess – (looking decidedly like the feathered residents) feed the duck family when they take their lakeside perambulations and keep them entertained with grand parties in the palace ballroom.

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With winter fast approaching, it’s time for the ducks to fly south to warmer climes Father Duck announces, and very soon, they’re on their way. Unable to keep up, Tufty is left behind and flies down to a subway on a traffic island where he discovers a kindly homeless man. The man takes Tufty back to his makeshift shelter in a hollow tree and there he looks after him …

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right through the long winter months.
Come spring, Tufty is much bigger and stronger and one day he sees his family overhead flying back to their lake in the palace grounds. Tufty joins them and as the number of ducks on the palace lake increases day by day, he notices one particular little duck that takes his fancy. Soon after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods where the kindly man warmly welcomes them.

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Foreman’s glowing watercolours are unfailingly wonderful, particularly in their portrayal of the contrasting scenes of the lush green palace grounds and the high-rise blocks of the city skyline; and the rainy urban roundabout and the peaceful hollow chestnut tree abode of the man beside the small lake.
Readers and listeners will warm to the plight of left-behind Tufty and the kindness of the man who gives him shelter and food, despite having very little of his own.

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The Grumpy Pets
Kristine A. Lombardi
When a mother takes Billy and big sister Sara to Perfect Pets, the animal rescue shelter, it’s in the hope that it will give her somewhat disagreeable son something to smile about. Seemingly everyone else, including Sara, has managed to find their ideal pet …

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but young Billy remains decidedly sombre.

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Off he goes to look around the place, a place that seems full of happy animals, not his thing at all. But then he hears ’BARK!’, ‘GROWL!’, ‘Hisssss!’ which leads him to …

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and in particular one that’s ready to give as good as it gets and more …

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resulting in an “I’ll take him!” from Billy who knows when he’s met his match. Thus begins, one suspects, as we see boy and dog heading home, a wonderful friendship that will bring a whole lot more smiles where Billy is concerned.
Populated by endearing characters human and animal, this is a warm-hearted story of mutual rescue that is most likely to appeal to pooch lovers and those who sympathise with small, sometimes grouchy boys.

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Life is Magic

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Life is Magic
Meg McClaren
Andersen Press
Meg McClaren and her bunny band weave a very special form of magic in this utterly enchanting book. Right from the start we’re in the hands of not one but two magicians, Meg and Monsieur Lapin. The latter is in need of a new assistant and to this end holds an audition, which in itself is something of a challenge. But then onto the stage steps Houdini and it seems the master magician has found the assistant of his dreams. This particular rabbit is ace at making his fellow bunnies feel part of the team …

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looking after their interests both before and after the show; nothing can possibly go wrong

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or can it? …

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Having taken up the wand so to speak, Houdini gets, shall we say, just a little carried away by his show stealing trick and pretty soon he’s become lord of misrule and mayhem. No matter, the crowds love him and come pouring in; the trickiness of the tricks escalates …

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and it seems Houdini is unstoppable.
But then the magic begins to fade so far as our star bun. is concerned: time to pull out all the stops for a final show-stopping trick to beat all tricks and …

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Let’s leave our brilliant cast of friends here with this wonderful life-affirming announcement …

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This magical show will hold readers spellbound throughout the amazingly accomplished performance. You really do need to get your hands on a copy to discover just how truly terrific this is: even the dust jacket is part and parcel of the magnificent production;

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Portion of the ‘Make your own Thaumatrope’ poster

and throughout the entire book are scattered wonderful posters and other theatrical ephemera. Chock full of captivating creatures of the rabbit kind, the whole thing exudes charm, wit and utter brilliance. For Meg McLaren, this will surely be a hard act to follow.

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Where My Feet Go & Lucky Ducky

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Where My Feet Go
Birgitta Sif
Andersen Press
Where do your feet go? Probably nowhere near such exciting places as those belonging to the young panda narrator of this delightfully offbeat book. Panda’s feet, once they’re duly clad in socks – one green, the other purple – and inserted into moon boots, take him to wonderful places – one way

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or another …

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And that’s just in the morning.
Next comes a spot of foot resting and dinosaur feeding …

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After which the tootsies take to the skies, do a vanishing act – temporarily …

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and tramp through the desert.
Come night time and there’s underwater exploration, a couple of space sorties, and probably, more magical destinations are in the offing too …
Fuelled by that rich imagination of his, Panda, like many young children, makes everything an adventure and who better to visually document those adventures than Birgitta Sif.
Every one of her scenes is a gem. I love the overall quirkiness of her illustrations. I love the somewhat subdued colour palette and the glorious mismatch between what is said and what is shown. I love the way Panda’s internal imaginings are, on several occasions, allowed to wander expansively across an entire double spread. If only all young children, like this young panda were allowed such space/time to give free rein to their imaginations, rather than being made to do pointless tasks to ‘further their learning’; if only … there I go like Panda imagining …

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Lucky Ducky
Doreen Mulryan
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Ducky is one of those characters for whom nothing seems to go right …

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so, determined to change things for himself, he sets off to the park in search of a four-leaf clover. But his search is soon interrupted, first by Pup offering a game of Frisbee, then by Piggy who invites him for a swim. No sooner has he restarted his hunt however, than he spies Bunny suggesting a picnic. By the time the sun is starting to go down, Ducky still hasn’t found that lucky 4-leaf clover but he does now appreciate just how lucky he really is. He’s discovered something much more important: the true value of good friends to share experiences with, no matter what …

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Suitably spirited, comic style illustrations document Ducky’s transition from unlucky to lucky Ducky.

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Odd Socks

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Odd Socks
Michelle Robinson and Rebecca Ashdown
Andersen Press
Meet Suki and Sosh as unlikely a pair of storybook characters as you can imagine, new socks, perfectly matched and totally besotted with one another. They love their life too as they fit into jellies, wellies, the washing machine of course and naturally they just love hanging out together.

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Perhaps best of all though is when, at the end of a day, they’re snuggled up together in the dark drawer and that’s when Suki might be heard to utter, “Just you and me, darling, we never will part. Your threads are entwined in my warm, woolly heart.” Ahhh!

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Life continues in this blissful fashion until the dreadful day when their whole togetherness is threatened by Sosh’s discovery of a tiny hole in Suki’s big toe. And we all know what happens to a small sock hole – it just gets bigger and bigger …
You’re done for … bound for the bin,” asserts the bullying Big Bob, a moany character if ever there was one but Sosh is having none of it. “Chuck a super sock? They wouldn’t dare.” he reassures her.

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Come evening however, Sosh is without his partner in that drawer they shared and so begins a desperate search for his sole mate and he’s prepared to risk heel and toe to find her.

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So is that the end for the devoted pair?
Well, not quite; seems they’ve both undergone a reincarnation and have a new home to boot …

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This crazy rhyming tale is jauntily told in an appropriately melodramatic manner by Michelle Robinson who seems to have found the perfect illustrative partner in Rebecca Ashdown. Those woolly warmers of hers are certainly ones that make you want to snuggle into them. Great fun for a chilly, wintery day.

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Friends Return: Old Bear & The Beast

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Old Bear’s Bedtime Stories
Jane Hissey
I’ve long been a fan of Jane Hissey’s soft toy stories whose characters are based on toys belonging to her family and friends, so I was thrilled to see this new collection of some twenty short stories featuring Old Bear and his pals, Duck, Rabbit, Bramwell Brown,

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Barnaby, Jolly Tall and Ruff, to name just a few of the cast of characters herein, some of whom I’m meeting for the first time.
With autumnal stories including one about Freddie Teddy’s attempts at collecting blackberries, and another wherein Peter Bear makes the ‘most unfrightening’ pumpkin face ever’,

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Christmas tales, a seaside story, a rainy day one and a summery finale in which Old Bear, Little Bear, Bramwell and Jolly, not to mention Duck, Ruff, Rabbit and Zebra enact their very own version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

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For me these warm-hearted stories are the children’s picture book equivalent of comfort food – something to snuggle up with and share on a chilly day. Delicious!

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The Snow Beast
Chris Judge
Andersen Press
The Beast returns for a third adventure and it has a decidedly chilly feel to it. Snow has fallen in the village and the Beast is set to help the villagers with a celebratory festival. But, there’s a distinct lack of tools: every single one has been stolen and chief suspect is none other than the abominable Snow Beast. Off sets the Beast to track down the thief and retrieve the tools.
Following some rather large, beastly footprints he goes deeper into the snow only to find he’s in it up to his nose and completely stuck. There’s only one solution – to dig himself out and that he does only to find himself face to face with …

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and the tool-thief is certainly not going to stop and pass the time of day.
Enlisting assistance from re-enforcements of the human variety, there’s only one way to catch up with the robber but suddenly the Beast finds himself up to his nose in snow once again. Help comes from a most unlikely source and one good turn leads to another …
But even then our hero just doesn’t know when to take things slowly and his re-entry into the village is something of a crash landing …

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There’s a vibrancy about Chris Judge’s illustrations that will bring a warming cheer to wintry reading of this amusing story about determination and finding friends in unlikely situations.


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Brilliant event: Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition, Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


Monster Encounters

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The Bath Monster
Colin Boyd and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Have a bath or the Bath Monster will come and get you –a monster that lurks beneath the bath slurping up the mucky water – his second favourite food – through a special bendy straw: surely that’s nonsense isn’t it? It’s certainly what Jackson’s mother tells him to get him into the tub every night.
Until one day Jackson decides he’s outgrown his belief in said Monster and he’s covered from top to toe in thick mud. “Go and have a bath now or the Bath Monster will come and get you” warns his mother. But, Jackson is having none of it.

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So what will that Bath Monster have to satisfy his hunger instead? His number one favourite food, of course and seemingly Jackson is about to find out what that is …
Tony Ross’s Bath Monster is a magnificently mucky being and as readers ultimately discover, a creature after Jackson’s own heart. Every one of the illustrations for Colin Boyd’s unlikely tale brims over with delicious humour and I suspect adult readers aloud are going to get as much enjoyment from this one as the young children they share it with. The sight of that small (temporarily clean) boy being dangled unceremoniously above the bath on the first page sets the tone for the whole story

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and the picture of Jackson sitting in the tub in his protective gear is superb.

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Assuredly another Tony Ross triumph and a promising debut story for Colin Boyd.
Before we read the story I asked my audience to imagine a bath monster of their own; here are some of their ideas:

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There’s a Monster in my Fridge
Caryl Hart and Deborah Allwright
Simon & Schuster
‘What’s that hiding behind the door? It’s feet have squelched across the floor …’
so begins this split-page mock-scary visit to a monster-filled house on a hill.
Those who dare defy the KEEP OUT sign will encounter among others, the jelly-eating monster of the title, a glittery witch, a startled vampire …

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twin skeletons in the bathtub and an itchy werewolf …

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With such visual jokes as dancing toothpaste tubes, hairbrushes …

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and alarm clocks, and a surprise finale, this one is definitely a whole lot more fun than fright but worth a read around Hallowe’en nonetheless.
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Love Monster & the Scary Something
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unable to sleep one dark shadowy night, Little Monster lets his imagination run riot when he hears a rustling sound in the garden,

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a sound that seems to belong to something that’s found its way inside his very own house and is pitter-pat …. pittery patting around on its terrible hairy feet with terrible twisterly toenails and scuffling and bumping its way up the stairs.

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And it surely has enormous teeth for crunching …
Suddenly Love Monster decides there’s only one thing to do: be brave and confront the hungry creature, so it’s on with the torch and … What could that be looming in the doorway?

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Turns out it’s just another insomniac seeking someone to share the lonely darkness with – and a very tiny one too.
A lovely funny story about facing your worst fears, especially those relating to the dark with just the right degree of scariness for a bedtime read and great fun for Halloween sharing.

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Exciting  Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


The Prince and the Porker

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The Prince and the Porker
Peter Bently and David Roberts
Andersen Press
Pignatius was passing the palace one day
when he saw ten fresh buns left to cool on a tray.’
So begins another tasty Bently/Roberts collaboration of the highest order.
As you can guess, the young Pignatius cannot resist sampling said buns and where one goes, the rest must surely – or where the young pig is concerned, -must definitely, follow. But even then he ‘s not replete so into the palace he goes, where he soon finds himself having to bolt from cook.
Up the stairs he charges and into a fine bedroom where he happens upon a “dressing-up chest.” and in no time has transformed himself into a dashing young thing. Which is just as well and pretty much saves his bacon so to speak, for in burst the palace staff wielding all manner of weapons, only to stop dead in their tracks and pay due respects when they discover the presence in the room…

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And what does the cheeky chap do then? He takes advantage of their misidentification and orders himself a slap-up tea.

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That demolished, it’s time to carry out his princely duties, which he does with mischievous gusto. But all good things must come to an end – or must they? It certainly looks that way when Pignatius finds himself face to face with the real prince and de-wigged into the bargain.

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So is it to be sausages, gammon and bacon in the royal household?

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Well, perhaps having an alter ego might just prove advantageous to a young prince …
Bently’s hilarious romp is an absolute gift to the reader aloud, and an out and out winner with young audiences. David Roberts’ visuals are finely detailed and at times, utterly priceless. Take for instance his rendering of the palace staff paying their respects to ‘His Highness’ or the blowing up of the pumpkin…

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Pirates Ahoy!

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Are You the Pirate Captain?
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
The ship’s a-ready, the deck swabbed, even the crew’s had a wash but there’s still something stopping those pirates setting sail: what ever can it be? Even the best pirate ship is no good without a pirate captain – a giant squid consumed the previous one – so, the search is well and truly on. First Mate Hugh, with his trusty telescope, is on the lookout for a worthy successor:
               A buccaneer
           Who will strike fear
         In every sailor’s heart.
Several misidentifications later – a coat-hanger for a hook,

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a brolly for a parrot …

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a shopping list for a treasure map, but surely the chap sporting pirate gear must be the one.

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Not quite but he does help the crew find a solution to their leadership dilemma and then it’s a case of brains to the fore …
    ‘He diddle-he and a hey diddle-hey,
     Weigh the anchor, we sail today!
     Hey diddle hey and a he diddle-ho,
       Hoist the flag … and off we go!’
With its jaunty rhyming telling and gigglesome visuals, this swashbuckling tale, complete with sea shanty is likely to appeal to would-be young sea dogs especially those who enjoy a book where things are not quite as they seem.

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Dolci absorbed in the piratical doings

Pirates in Pyjamas
Caroline Crowe and Tom Knight
Little Tiger Press
There seems to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present and now here’s first time author Caroline Crowe answering the question ‘Do pirates wear pyjamas when it’s time to say goodnight?/ Do they have a skull and crossbones, are they stripy, black and white? that two small children are pondering.
The answer is seemingly, where pirates and pyjamas are concerned, pretty much anything goes

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as we see when we join Captain Grotbeard and his crew aboard the Leaky Parrot as they perform their ablutions, then step into their night attire. Before retiring for the night however there’ll probably be the obligatory pyjama party, not to mention the odd spot of pillow fighting.
All this action calls for a nightcap though …

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And finally, it’s time to bed down for some shut-eye wherever you are.

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Tom Knight illustrates the nocturnal frolics illuminating the rhyming text with verve and humour, adding chucklesome details here and there.

Finally, a reissue of a classic piratical tale from over fifty years ago is:

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Captain Pugwash
John Ryan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
This is the very first of what became a popular series of picture books featuring Pugwash the pirate captain, his arch enemy Cut-throat Jake and Tom, the cabin boy: the latter being the only person able to do the important jobs aboard The Black Pig – sailing the ship, working the compass and making tea.
In this adventure we discover what happens when Pugwash attempts to seize the treasure stashed aboard the ship belonging to Cut-throat Jake and is taken prisoner and made to walk the plank by Jake and his crew.
As becomes the norm in subsequent stories, it’s really down to trusty young Tom to save the day and the Captain. …


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Great stuff.

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Lovely Old Lion

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Lovely Old Lion
Julia Jarman and Susan Varley
Andersen Press
What a gorgeous book but one would expect no less: its illustrator, Susan Varley is the creator of the classic Badger’s Parting Gifts. Here, she’s worked in partnership with Julia Jarman and the result is an equally sensitive picture book, on the tricky topic of dementia.
As with most grandchildren and their grandparents, there is a very special bond between young Lenny lion and his grandpa, King Lion. But lately Lenny has noticed changes coming upon his beloved Grandpa: he forgets the rules of games,

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what objects are used for and even, on occasion, Lenny’s name.
Gradually King Lion becomes more and more confused but young Lenny is determined to continue bringing light and life into his Grandpa’s days. First he chastises the other animals in no uncertain terms when they laugh at King Lion and then he enlists kindly Hippo’s help to ensure that for the remainder of his life, those neighbours and friends keep grandfather provided with objects that help trigger memories of his earlier years when for instance, he was able to outplay or trick his pals,

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or come to their rescue on occasion.

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Every illustration is suffused with tenderness; the details are gently humorous and enormously appealing to the young (and not so young).
Compassionate as the telling surely is, the essentials of the condition such as bad temper are dealt with in an honest straightforward manner. And, the final part of the story in particular serves as a reminder that no matter what our age, the whole of life is an inevitable cycle of growth, change, ageing and eventual loss.

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Adults can choose to fill in specific family details if relevant or, as one would hope, share the story with all young children and let listeners ask their own questions.
This one deserves a place on every family bookshelf and should be in every primary school library and early years setting.

For much older readers is:

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Mike Revell
Moving home and starting at a new school, bullying, dementia and the power of stories and storytelling are some of the themes of this book. It centres on the eleven year old narrator Liam, who has moved with his sister Jess and mum, in order to be closer to his Gran who has dementia and now lives in a care home.
Exploring the locality of his new home one day, Liam comes across an ancient-looking stone gargoyle in the crypt of an old church. It’s this gargoyle, Stonebird, and a symbolic marble egg shaped stone his new teacher uses with his class during storytelling circle time sessions, that together play an ultimately transforming part in Liam’s life as he gradually comes to comes to terms with, and begins to cope with the changes he has to face in his new life.
Written by debut author Mike Revell, this powerfully affecting and convincing story is a haunting and ultimately, uplifting read.

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Tickles, Troubles, Rewards and Rides

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Silly Dizzy Dinosaur!
Jack Tickle
Little Tiger Press pbk
Aptly named, Dizzy is a fun-loving young dinosaur that loves tickles – so long as they aren’t too tickly. Find out what happens when he receives an enormous tickling that is all a bit TOO much in this action-packed romp that is chock full of opportunities for shouting, shaking, hiccupping, and of course, tickling. The up-close scenes zoom readers right in to the main action

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but at the same time there are small part actors in the form of minibeasts and fish to add to the fun and frenzy.

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Go To Sleep, Monty!
Kim Geyer
Andersen Press
Max has looked after his toy dog, Snuffly Poo since he was a baby but now he’s a ‘big boy’ his parents have agreed to him having a real puppy. Little does he realize what he’s taking on though when he chooses his pup; Monty needs a fair bit of training to say the very least.

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But when bedtime comes, things prove even more tricky: despite Max’s very best efforts, Monty just will not go to sleep.

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Indeed, he pees all over the kitchen floor. Then Max has a brainwave; he offers Monty Snuggly Poo as a sleep mate. Bad move, Max.
Just what will it take for the boy and his lively pup to get a night’s sleep?
Kim Geyer has created some endearing characters – human and otherwise for her debut picture book, presenting the action very much from Max and Monty’s perspective using a subdued palette for the larger than life scenes. It’s a story that will go down well with under fives at bedtime or any time, particularly those who have a lively pup to look after.

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Babies Don’t Walk They Ride!
Kathy Henderson and Lauren Tobia
Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar)
Delectable infants grace the pages of this lovely book as they are pushed, shoulder ride, glide, stroll (in their buggies of course), roll in trolleys (and other things), go bumping in buses,


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charge charioteer-like and even fly sometimes;


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all courtesy of their parents, carers, siblings and very likely, grandparents and other willing movers and shakers, all of whom huggle and cuddle, and sing to their charges. And those babes if only they could, would join in the chorus of “Babies don’t walk they ride!
What a joyful time is had by all – readers, listeners and of course, those infants and those who care for them in this gorgeously illustrated, rhyming parade of perambulations.

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A great partnership and a ‘read over-and over’-production for the very young and all their adult minders. One (or more) to give and one to keep, I’d say.

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The Fairiest Fairy
Anne Booth and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
When young, Betty starts Fairy School her teacher despairs of her. Although she does her very best Betty just cannot manage to make dewdrops sparkle in the sun, nor wake the flowers up in the morning


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or even paint rainbows like the other pupils. She does have a very kind heart though as we see when she attends to a rabbit’s foot, helps a baby bird learn to fly and rescues a butterfly tangled up in a flower.

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When it’s time for the annual Fairy Ball, a tearful Betty is convinced she won’t be chosen by the Fairy King and Queen. How could such a messy, muddle-making fairy, be the Fairiest Fairy in all the land?
Endearing infant fairies cavort and sometimes, stumble across the rainbow hued pages of this enchanting rhyming take on the joys and tribulations of starting nursery or school for the first time which is at the same time, a demonstration of the importance of showing kindness and consideration to all.

Other recent or reissued titles on first experiences at nursery/school are:

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Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes
Eric Litwin and James Dean
Harper Collins pbk
Groovy Pete dons his funky new school shoes and heads off to school. There he discovers the joys of the library, painting, eating his packed lunch and the slide in the playground. He also tries his paws at writing and basic maths and decides school rocks.
Upbeat and offbeat fun; and a song to sing-along with.
Going to Nursery
Catherine and Lawrence Anholt
Orchard Books pbk
A reissue of the beautifully reassuring story of Anna’s first forays into nursery wherein she meets the lovely teacher, Mrs Sams and the rest of her exuberant charges and samples the delights of the exciting range of activities on offer.

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The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army!

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The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army!
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
One rainy day when newspaper boy Joey hears from The Little Bookshop’s owner

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of the mayor’s plans to demolish the bookshop and replace it with a superstore he immediately takes action calling upon his erstwhile Super Hero ally, Origami Girl; and instantly she is there. She and Joey, with the help of the bookseller, set about transforming pages from favourite children’s titles

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into an Origami Army of best-loved children’s characters.
Then, off they all fly towards Parliament forming as they go a huge rainbow of fairytale, myth and legend, before descending and charging right into the Great Hall of Government to discover a room full of sleeping ministers.
The disillusioned troops hastily return to the bookshop only to be confronted by the Mayor, surveyors and a whole lot of destructive machinery. Undaunted, Origami Girl heads off to the obvious place to recruit reinforcements – the Public Library – and soon an enlarged army is ready to do battle. The Mayor’s derisory “They are only made of paper … ” is countered by army members’ responses of “We are made of IDEAS!” together with, “And IMAGINATION… We are made of things you can never destroy!” and more.

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But it’s not until the builders begin to recognize the likes of Elmer, Peter Pan, Alice, the Walrus and the Carpenter and The Little Princess that things really start to turn in favour of the bookshop protectors.
Does the Origami Army finally defeat the Mayor and his dastardly plan? Well, I’ll leave that to your imagination and just say that thanks to the builders, there’s a rainbow-hued ending.
Unequivocally a fine testament to the power of books, bookshops, reading and of course, ideas and the imagination: and with Foreman’s masterful watercolours what else could one ask – an army of readers to save all threatened bookshops perhaps? Bring them on, say I.

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A Groovy World and A Fishy One

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It’s A Groovy World, Alfredo!
Sean Taylor and Chris Garbutt
Walker Books
Alfredo (frog) is not into groovy dancing so when he receives an invitation to Rick’s birthday party where such dancing is scheduled under disco lights, he is less than enthusiastic. Marty promises to teach him all the moves and arrives at Alfredo’s house ready to demonstrate COOL BOOGIE STYLE. Alfredo’s efforts are far from the knees bend, shimmy-shammy shuffle demonstrated by his winged friend; indeed they are a total flop.

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So too is his rendering of the SPEEDY HEEBIE-JEEBIES which is totally unlike Marty’s …


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But worst of all is the SILKY-SMOOTH MOVING AND GROOVING as done by our pal Alfredo. It’s his jump, jump, jumping that wrecks it every time. Nonetheless, Marty is eager to take his friend along to that party so off they go …

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where assuredly, rhythm does take control of Marty but our jumping Alfredo? That’s altogether a different story; and procrastination not withstanding …

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Could it now be that a fourth way of grooving has been added to the approved party dance agenda?
Prolific author Sean Taylor has joined forces with animation artist, Garbutt and it’s an entirely appropriate collaboration for this exuberant and funky foray into disco dancing fly- and frog-style. Upbeat, outgoing Marty is the ideal foil to self-conscious, floppy-footed, Alfredo.

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Children’s mixed media responses to Fish’s world view of what Frog saw.


Fish is Fish
Leo Lionni
Andersen Press pbk
Another classic Leo Lionni story is reissued and it’s still as powerful as ever with today’s children (and adults who may well have heard it the first time around). At the heart of this multi-layered tale is the notion that we all look at the world through different lenses: our world-view depends on our life experience and that limits the way in which we think about and understand others and their cultures.
In the story we watch what happens when close friends, a minnow and a tadpole, having begun to talk philosophically, start to grow apart as they develop; and in particular tadpole, changes. As frog, he climbs out of the pond and goes off to explore the wider world returning weeks later full of excited accounts of what he has seen.
His friend imagines the birds, cows and humans he hears of with fishy characteristics

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and as the days pass, the curious minnow resolves to see such amazing creatures for himself. His foray onto land however is a near disaster and it’s only thanks to his amphibious friend, that the fish is safely returned to his watery home – ‘the most beautiful of all worlds’ – for fish anyhow.
A wonderfully dramatic story and a thoughtful look at what constitutes truth and how we construct reality: postmodernism for primary children. It’s a great jumping off point too for further philosophical discussion and exploration of ideas relating to being true to oneself, enduring friendship and much more, depending on the age and stage of the audience.

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Spotty Friends, Mischievous Meerkats

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Spotty Lottie and Me
Richard Byrne
Andersen Press
Joey is a small boy with a big imagination; he also has chicken pox and that combination is the cause of his problem. His mum tells him he is still infectious but can play with a friend so long as s/he’s a spotty one; so after a bit of thinking, off goes Joey to find a poxy pal. However, his playful overtures are spurned by spotty being

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after spotty being …

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and it’s a very tearful Joey who returns home. He’s not sad for long though… knock knock: someone’s at his door. It’s Lottie and joy of joys – she too has chicken pox. And what dotty, spotty fun the two have for the next few days

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until they’re declared spotless and able to mix freely.
So why are all those, now friendly animals still wary of Joey’s face?
The author/artist clearly has a playful sense of humour that manifests itself particularly strongly through his visuals. I love the way for instance that the games Joey and Lottie play are all strategically placed in the very first spread, and the finale is a real hoot.

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A joy to share with young listeners whether or not they are spotty: those who happen to be suffering like Joey will be especially appreciative. So too will learner readers who, amused at the antics herein, are tempted to tackle this story for themselves. The shortish, witty text is such that those near the beginning of their reading journey will be able to read the words after an initial sharing with an adult.

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That Naughty Meerkat!
Ian Whybrow and Gary Parsons
Harper Collins
Meet a family of meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert. There’s Mimi, Skeema and Little Dream (they’re the young kits) and their Uncle Fearless. Then there’s Radiant (in the nursery) with her new babies, Bundle, Zora, Quickpaws and Trouble (watch that one). You can imagine how happy an exhausted mother Radiant feels when Uncle Fearless offers to take care of her babies for the day and that’s despite warnings of how mischievous those little ones are.
So off goes Radiant for a dig and off march Uncle Fearless – “proud chief … stern and wise!”, closely followed (in response to his ‘follow me’ order) by the four babes. And that’s the first and last order they all comply with. From then on not only Trouble

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but all the others start showing their true natures.

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It’s fortunate for Uncle Fearless that those three young kits show up offering some help just then and even more so that they stick around despite Uncle Fearless’s assurances that he can manage just fine on his own. And they certainly demonstrate their understanding of what babies like to do very effectively – play …

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leaving Uncle Fearless keeping guard. But that’s not quite the end of the story – I won’t spoil that but let’s just say that teamwork is the order of the day, or should that be, evening?
Anticipating the antics of those mischievous baby meers is part and parcel of the enjoyment of this entertaining tale. Gary Parson’s light-hearted portrayals of the high-spirited infant meerkats and that sudden dramatic change of mood (enough said) is the ideal complement to Ian Whybrow’s chucklesome, tongue-in-cheek text.

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Dinosaurs, Numbers and a Picnic

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Ten Little Dinosaurs
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
Whether or not there were snails, frogs, bats, spiders, crayfish, crabs, hedgehogs, bees and the like in the time dinosaurs roamed the earth matters not: Simon Rickerty has chosen to scatter them liberally throughout the landscapes of this rhyming romp. Essentially it’s a countdown from when there are ‘Ten little dinosaurs, hatching from their eggs,/Blinking in the sunshine, stretching out their legs.’ These ten newly hatched creatures decide to take advantage of the fact their mother is fast asleep and off they go, in single file, to explore the wide world. Did I say ten? Stomp! That was Diplodocus stepping on one of their number. And so the adventure continues as they take in the surrounding aromas – Slurrrp!; – another gone; peep into a cavern, wander across the volcanic plains, take a dip in the bubbling springs, do a bit of scrumping ,

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polish up their poo-avoiding plodding, try their hand or rather paws, at mountain climbing –  and then they’re down to just one.

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Seemingly he’s about to meet his doom too. But…
PHEW! It’s neither a raptor, nor a T-Rex, not even a monster. No! It’s their very own mother who’s come in search of her missing offspring and hip-hooray!!, she now has them all together once more safe and sound within her sight – more or less anyway.

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Another winning Brownlow/Rickerty combo: a rollicking-good read, an ever-popular topic and an enjoyable countdown littered with tiny creatures to spot and count in the vividly coloured, comical scenes A certain winner for early years listeners (and counters).

For younger mathematicians is:


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Lulu Loves Numbers
Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is a small board book that features Lulu who, in this story, is with her mum visiting a farm. There they encounter lots of animals and Lulu learns to count from one all the way to …

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With doors to open or a flap to lift on every spread, this is an enjoyable interactive experience for the very youngest who can join in with the animal noises and practice their counting skills along with Lulu in this delightful little book.

Not a counting book as such but packed full of opportunities for mathematical exploration is

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Teddy Picnic
Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
The toys from Teddy Bedtime return for a picnic expedition and we join them as they make their final preparations before setting off. They walk and skip into the woods where they have fun bubble blowing, hiding and dancing

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before settling down on their rug for some tasty lunch
Then, tummies full, the friends play while hungry birds make the most of the remains of the lunch; but all that rushing around is tiring so it’s a train ride home. Tired but happy the ‘teddies’ settle down for a cosy story-time session on the sofa before bed.

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With its gentle rhyming text, super-cute characters, and fun-filled scenes to focus on, this is ideal for sharing with the very young

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Pets Lost, Pets Found

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My Pet Book
Bob Staake
Andersen Press pbk
Imagine having a book as a pet – not possible? Well then you need to get hold of
Staake’s wonderfully crazy tribute to books and young bibliophiles.
The young boy protagonist in this story wants a pet, but not one like a dog or cat; he doesn’t care for the former, the latter make him sneezy (me too).
A book would make the perfect pet!” his mother advises so off he goes to the Smartytown local bookshop where he discovers just the thing: a small ‘frisky red hardcover!’

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Oh joy! It never makes any demands on our hero – no eating, drinking, pooping (naturally) no fleas, no bathing, easy to take walking,

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doesn’t make a sound and best of all it’s full of wonderful tales to inhabit. The two are practically inseparable.
But then oh woe! The boy comes back from school one day to discover the book has gone – given to a charity shop by the well-meaning maid. Off dash maid and boy hoping to retrieve the book but, where is it? Certainly not where it should have been – on the bookshelves, or even with the coats, lamps or bears. Tears ensue but then the maid has a brainwave: the hiding place is discovered,

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the book retrieved (none the worse for its experience) and, boy and book reunited, back home they all go.
Bonkers? Yes assuredly, but Staake so cleverly demonstrates in his crazy rhyming caper with those mega-bright, digitally manipulated illustrations packed with daft details and ebullient extras, what Clyde Watson’s poem ‘A book is a place’ says ‘Just open a book and step in.’ With this one, you’ll be glad you did.

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Farewell Floppy
Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
This story concerns abandonment or rather, a boy’s attempts at same.
The young boy narrator introduces his pet rabbit, Floppy and then proceeds to explain why he can no longer keep him as a best friend “I’m not a baby.” he tells us. “So I had to let him go.” Has he been reading Hansel and Gretel one wonders as we hear of his intentions “to take him far enough into the woods that he couldn’t find his way back all alone.”
Floppy however, is his usual procrastinatory self and progress is very slow. Eventually, deep in the forest, the boy finds a tree in a clearing and it’s there that a now somewhat reluctant parting takes place; but that’s only after some determined action on the boy’s part:

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He ties his rabbit to a tree with a length of unravelled sweater wool

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and beats a hasty retreat.
Before long though, struck by anxiety and remorse, back goes the narrator only to discover nothing but a length of wool tied around the tree. Tension mounts as he dashes through the forest sending crows flying as he follows a trail that leads him …

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… eventually to a small cabin.
Therein – joy of joys – he discovers his beloved pet ably cared for by a little girl. (The same girl he’d spied earlier during his losing Floppy attempts.)

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Reunited, somewhat shamed, and with some new knowledge, boy and bunny take the route back home – together.
Poignant and perverse, thought provoking and infused with a playful humour, this longish narrative might alarm some pet lovers but only if they misunderstand the tale as a whole.

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(The five to sevens I’ve shared it with certainly have enthused about it.) Chaud’s warmth and mischievousness permeate his gorgeous illustrations, perfectly illuminating the boy’s changing feelings; Floppy though appears totally unmoved by the entire adventure.

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The First Slodge, Bully & Swimmy

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The First Slodge
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond
Little Tiger Press
Learning to share is at the centre of this book that begins beautifully thus:
‘Once upon a slime, there was a Slodge.’ Now this Slodge is the first of her kind, the only one of her kind – so she thinks – and thus she’s entitled to claim ownership of everything she sees – the sunrise and sunset, day and night, the first star and the first moon, the first thunder and lightning, even the first flower and fruit.

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It is with this fruit that her problem begins for when she goes to take a second bite (having set it aside for the night after her first), she discovers that somebody, or something, has got there first. Shock horror.

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A fight ensues – the first – during which the fruit rolls away and down the hill into the sea, closely followed by the First Slodge who finds herself face to face with the First Snawk and this creature’s thoughts are on supper.
Slodge number two, meanwhile – he too has a problem with ownership – plunges into the ocean, rescues the First Slodge, and a beautiful friendship is forged. A friendship that proves prolific and fruitful …

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Almost a kind of creation story; it’s beautifully and simply expressed verbally and beautifully portrayed visually and, one to share as widely as possible.

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Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Andersen Press pbk
Meet Bully: doesn’t your heart immediately go out to him as he’s shunned by an angry-looking bigger bull (parent?) even before the title page? Down, but not out, off he goes, now knowing how to hurt others, on a bullying cycle that has thus begun. When asked by some farmyard animals if he’d like to play, the young bovine assumes the bully role. “No!” he retorts then proceeds to insult (merely by telling the truth) and see off, a rabbit, a chick, a turtle, a pig,

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a bee and a snunk. All the while, with each insult hurled, the little bull grows larger – puffed up by self-importance until a little goat stands up to him, speaking the truth in no uncertain terms. …

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Bully?” repeats the bull and as the truth begins to dawn, the protagonist‘s gradual deflation causes him to whirligig around the farmyard as all that hot air slowly dissipates. Then, back to his normal size once again, a tearful little chap makes apologetic advances to his would-be friends and all is finally well.
Bold, stylised illustrations on a textured background (very effective for the farmyard setting) and minimal words make for a powerful message: peaceful actions are preferable; there is NO place for bullying.
Excellent stuff.

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Leo Leonni
Andersen Press pbk
Deep in the ocean lives a school of happy little fish – red fish, all except one that is: Swimmy is black and he’s the fastest swimmer among them. One day however, a huge, hungry tuna fish gobbles up all Swimmy’s friends leaving him scared, lonely and sad. Not for long though: Swimmy soon discovers many wonderful creatures living in the ocean world,

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including, joy of joys, a school of tiny fish just like those lost friends of his. But these fish are too scared to leave their shadowy hide-away on account of the huge hungry fish whose next meal they might become.
Swimmy muses on the problem and then comes up with a clever collaborative solution: “We are going to swim all together like the biggest fish in the sea! ” he tells them and proceeds to teach them to swim as one, before taking his own place as the eye.

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I still have a much loved and much read copy of this beautiful book from way back before I became a teacher.Those print-style illustrations of Leo Lionni – one of my all time favourite picture book creators – have inspired many a piece of art work from the countless children with whom I’ve shared this wonderful book over many years.

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I’m thrilled to see this back in print: a must buy for anyone who wants children to be lovers of books and art.

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Love Always Everywhere …

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Love Always Everywhere
Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow pbk
In a follow up to her gorgeous Books Always Everywhere, Sarah Massini brings us another visual treat, with an amorous theme this time. Small children engage in all manner of loving activities including hugging pets, sharing a book,

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making music, dancing, playing together on the beach and in the park as they snuggle, dance, build sandcastles, eat ice-creams, bounce on space-hoppers and much more all to the accompaniment of a brief rhyming text.

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Totally lovable – what more can one say?

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Frog in Love
Max Velthuijs
Andersen Press pbk
Hurray! Andersen Press has reissued the very first of Max Velthuijs’ brilliant Frog titles just in time for Valentine’s Day. Herein Frog learns from Hare (courtesy of his large book) that the reason for his feeling out of sorts is that he’s in love. He sets about painting a picture of his beloved Duck and goes off to deliver it anonymously. The next day he leaves flowers. Duck is puzzled about the identity of the sender who meanwhile is getting desperate and has resolved to win Duck’s love by performing a reckless attempt at the world high jump record. During this feat however, disaster strikes and Frog crash lands right at the feet of the very one he wants to impress.
All ends happily despite the disaster

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and since then, (that’s about twenty five years in book time) the green frog and the white duck have loved each other dearly for as the author rightly says, ‘Love knows no boundaries.’

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If you didn’t get hold of a copy the first time around do so now, it’s just great.

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Guess How Much I Love You
Anita Jeram
Walker Books
It’s over twenty years since the first edition of this neo-classic picture book. Now, in time for that special day, Walker Books offer a lovely mini fold-out edition in a slip case. Perfect as a special gift for a special person.

I don’t often feature teen fiction but I couldn’t resist this one:

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Love Hurts
Malorie Blackman
Corgi pbk
Within the covers is a splendid collection of over twenty short stories and extracts from young adult writers, compiled by the wonderful Malorie Blackman. Young love in its many forms is contained herein and all are favourites of the compiler who has herself also written a new story for the book. As one would expect from Malorie, there’s not a dud among them: and the judiciously selected extracts offer great starting points for readers to meet authors they may not yet have tried.

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Over Indulgence with The Little Princess & Dave

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Dolci and Ellena enjoying The Little Princess’s antics

I Feel Sick!
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Most adults and many children will be familiar with the stunt the Little Princess pulls in her latest story and it’s one wherein she really gets her comeuppance.
Despite feeling as fit as a fiddle, the little madam feigns sickness when asked to do something she doesn’t want to. The thought of school seems to bring on the worst attacks although the Queen takes some convincing and the doctor certainly isn’t fooled.

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Having played the sickness card on several occasions, the Little Princess is in the throes of a very bad attack of nausea when through the door comes a party invitation. An instant cure of course. Off she goes to Molly’s party where she over indulges in party food, then after games and a lot of dancing …
Serves you right, Little Princess.
As always the expressions – both child and adult – are spot on and there’s a guaranteed laugh or rather two, at every turn of the page.
A certain winner.

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Dave’s Breakfast Blast Off!
Sue Hendra and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Herein we have a feline character who, rather than being a doer, is done to.
When an empty breakfast bowl confronts marmalade tom Dave, notorious for his large appetite and erupting rear, something has to be done. It’s fortunate then that Bug just happens along and suggests, ‘Let’s go out for breakfast!
With assistance from Squirrel, Hedgehog, Mouse and Bird, Dave is finally over the fence and into the property next door. There he finds all manner of breakfasts intended for Budgie, Hamster, Rabbit

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and many more, all of which Dave samples. But the combination of fish food, seeds, carrots, flies, leaves and smelly socks has a rather disturbing effect on Dave’s tum. So, when confronted by an angry canine whose breakfast is latterly weighing rather heavy in said stomach, Dave can do nothing to stop the rear-end eruption: an eruption that blasts him into the air

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and back to his own territory just in the nick of time for his lunch.
This, the second story to feature Dave has a new illustrator in Lee Wildish who brings a fresh vibrancy with a variety of perspectives and provides hilarious scenes with lots of deliciously witty details.
For those who love toilet humour – and that’s most young children – this one will be a resounding success.
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Don’t forget February 14th isibgdposterlarge

Pet Problems – Sparky & Rex

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Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans
Orion Children’s Books
What the endearing girl narrator of this wonderfully quirky book wants more than anything in the world is a pet. Her mother finally consents but her stipulation “as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” presents quite a challenge for our determined narrator. She turns to the school librarian for assistance and is given the S volume of the Animal Encyclopedia

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wherein she discovers the perfect minimal maintenance thing – a SLOTH.
The girl duly mail-orders one and when it arrives she names him Sparky, taking him straight outside to his very own tree. Observations of the pet begin but for two days he just sleeps; time for some games thinks the little girl but statues is the only one that works for the pet and her friend Mary Potts is far from impressed. A ‘Sloth Extravaganza’ is advertised,

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and a training regime is implemented but sleepy Sparky just doesn’t respond to commands to learn tricks and there’s no way he’ll wow his audience at the performance. Playing Dead isn’t exactly a showstopper after all.
Despite everything though, Sparky and the little girl remain close: she accepts his slothfulness and loves him for it.
‘ “You’re it, Sparky,” I said. And for a long, long time he was.’

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Beautifully told with an understated humour that is perfectly mirrored in Chris Appelhans’ watercolour illustrations. Executed in shades of brown and teal with the occasional splash of red, pink, green or yellow, every one is a delight.
This is one of those slow burning treasures that one returns to over and over with increasing pleasure at each reading. That sloth is SO adorable. Perfect for sharing or individual readers.


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The Pet Person
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press pbk
Almost twenty years after its first publication, we have the opportunity once more to join Rex the dog in this hilarious tale wherein the human/pet relationship is turned on its head.
Dog, Rex really wants a pet person for his birthday but his parents are against such a furniture spoiling, greedy, smelly addition to the household and his other canine relations are equally unenthusiastic. What’s a poor human-loving canine to do?
Off he goes to sulk in the park and there Rex discovers Ginger: the perfect answer to his pet-longing perhaps?

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Or perhaps not …

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At the end of the day, a disillusioned, rather wiser Rex returns home to discover his birthday present waiting for him and it’s certainly not “a tennis ball.”

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Brilliant: Great dialogue (the interplay between words and pictures is spot on), superb characterization

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and wonderfully imagined scenarios to tickle the fancy of children and adults alike.

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I’d forgotten just how good this book is.

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Snowy Worlds

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The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When penguin, Wellington, sees a beautiful garden in a picture book he shares with friend, Rosemary, he determines to grow one like it. His friends are skeptical: “… flowers can’t grow in the snow,” they tell him but then Wellington has an inspiration: instead of growing a garden, he can make one. And he does, with Rosemary’s help, a shiny blue biscuit wrapper and all manner of bits and pieces. Soon the garden is in full bloom: now his friends are impressed but then comes a storm that whirls Wellington’s garden right away. Is that the end of his beautiful creations? No – thanks to Rosemary, that blue biscuit wrapper, all Wellington’s friends, and most important, Wellington’s creativity and resolve, a wonderful new snow-sparkling garden comes into being, one that everyone wants to see.

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You never know what you can do until you try!” Ivor tells Wellington and he’s absolutely right.
Long live determination and divergent thinking.
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Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson
Scholastic pbk
Newly arrived from her city home, a little girl Mia arrives to live at her Grandma’s deep in a forest. Inevitably she finds her gran’s wooden house surrounded by whispering trees strange and her days become a series of one new experience after another. There’s her first ever winter coat and hat,

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feeding the hens with Grandma and the strange silvery shadows of the forest on her way to see her soon to be new school.

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But then comes a fall of snow making things feel magical and Mia too feels touched by the magic: “Every snowflake is different, every snowflake is perfect” she tells herself realizing that she too is perfect. From then on Mia is able to start to come to terms with her new life , to embrace the changes and begin to make new friends.

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This reassuring story with its important theme, that every child is special and unique, is sensitively told by C Beebies presenter, Cerrie Burnell and beautifully illustrated to bring out both Mia’s changing feelings and the atmosphere of her new home.
Showing, not telling is very much the way in this inclusive book. That much is left unsaid allows children to bring their own experience, interpretations and ideas to the story; ideas concerning why Mia had to go and live with Grandma Mitzi whom she hardly knew, why she’d never before worn a coat and only heard of forests in storybooks for instance.
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Finally a couple of wintry books previously reviewed but now out in paperback and too good to miss are:
Max Velthuijs’ Frog in Winter an old favourite from over 20 years ago newly reissued by Andersen Press wherein Frog finds it impossible to embrace the joys of the newly fallen snow.

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And Layn Marlow’s gorgeous book from last year about a small child making a snowman, You Make Me Smile (Oxford University Press); I’m sure it will make you smile too.





Circles, Shapes & Time with Esther,Moose & Wilfred

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Esther’s Rainbow
Kim Kane and Sara Acton
Allen & Unwin
As she sits eating her lunch one Sunday, Esther spies a rainbow tip poking out from under her stool – soft, warm and smelling like honey.
But as Esther slides her fingers over the rainbow it vanishes and thus begins a wonderful multi-sensory exploration for Esther and readers alike as she spends the rest of the week searching for it. On Monday she finds violet – in a bruise on her shin, in the velvety-feeling a couch

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and in the taste of Granny’s chocolate creams.
On Tuesday she finds indigo in ‘a wonky hat’, in shiny, hard nail polish and in the smell of the cool midnight sky. Wednesday’s visit to the swimming baths reveals blue in her brother’s ‘swim-cold lips’ and the echoing pool. On Thursday there is green of fishpond slime

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and in the mint smell as she crushes its leaves. Friday is yellow day, with sticky egg yolk and warm tasting pears and Saturday brings orange – a duck’s beak, tea stains and the feel of clay.


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Then it’s back to Sunday once more and there’s red in the ruby-seeds of pomegranate, in the warm bricks of the garden wall and in the smell of her Gran’s roses but still no rainbow.
Monday comes again bringing a rain shower, breakfast pancakes, a honey-hum and at the edge of the mirror– joys of joys as the hum grows louder and light is refracted by her mum’s ring – her very own special ‘rainbow to sing her own.’
There is something awesome about a rainbow to both children and adults – those shimmering hues and almost magical the way it appears. The author and artist have captured this magic in both text and pictures. Kim Kane has chosen her words so well to encourage young listeners to engage all their senses to explore the world around – to see the colours, but also to smell them, feel them and taste them.
Sara Acton’s gentle watercolours are the perfect accompaniment adding further feeling and depth to the story: a story that skillfully and unobtrusively weaves in the days of the week as well as the colours of the rainbow and reads aloud beautifully. And what a delicious ending:

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Esther’s rainbow ends not in a pot of gold, but a pile of sweet-smelling honeyed pancakes. It’s pitch perfect, this one.

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Circle, Square, Moose
Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky
Andersen Press pbk
Having recovered from his near wrecking of an alphabet book, Moose is back on the attack; this time it’s a book about basic shapes he’s invading. Everything starts well with the introduction of a circle.

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Turn the page though and here we go …
that mischievous moose is already making his presence felt. The unseen narrator tries to keep cool: gently ticking off the intruder and moving on to the next shape – triangles. Guess who’s there (plus feline friend) to complete the didactive rhyme: “A TRIANGLE is A Wedge of Cheese/A piece of pie

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Both are told to leave but does Moose do as he’s asked – no chance; he’s even started wielding that paint brush to make his presence felt more strongly.
Enter stage right: an arbitrator, Zebra (also from the alphabet book). He’ll sort things out – err maybe.
Not before a riotous chase wherein Zebra gets entwined in ribbons, and almost frazzled. Then it’s time for Moose to step in and save the day, or try to, with one of the shapes –

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This involves the pair of them exiting through a kind of black hole thus saving the book and further forging their friendship with the help of yet another shape –

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Zebra’s favourite and, what’s more, Moose offers a rhyming finale specially for his pal …
Madcap frolics, endearing characters, all manner of fonts, speech bubbles and riotous illustrations and a few simple shapes, (yes one might argue that some of the examples such as the triangles aren’t, strictly speaking, mathematically accurate.) But hey! This book is about having fun, not learning maths, after all – what more can anyone want?

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What’s the Time, Wilfred Wolf?
Jessica Barrah and Steve Smallman
QED Publishing
Wilfred Wolf has a little problem: he cannot tell the time. So, when he receives Ella’s party invitation he has a problem – how will he know when 3 o’clock comes? He certainly doesn’t want to miss the fun. His pal Boris lends him a cuckoo clock – that should do the trick – 3 cuckoos means 3 o’clock. However the clock doesn’t survive until then, nor does the digital watch Amelia lends him. Perhaps Oscar Owl’s offer of three hoots down the chimney will work.
William dresses up for the party and waits … he hears three hoots and off he goes to Ella’s house.

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Oh dear, Wilfred; don’t you know that owls are nocturnal creatures? Back home he goes and sleeps soundly well into the afternoon. Does he ever get to the party?

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Let’s just say, he has some thoughtful and enterprising friends willing to play that well known children’s game to help him on his way.

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Fussy Animals – Rita’s Rhino and Alfie’s Yak

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Rita’s Rhino
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Young Rita decides to take things into her own hands when the pets she is offered by relations prove a big let down. Off she goes to the zoo and there offers a home to a rhinoceros no less. Having suitably disguised said animal, the pair depart

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for Rita’s residence. However it’s pretty tricky hiding a large animal in a small flat especially an upstairs one and the creature proves to be a very fussy eater – no toast, only very expensive African grass will do for him.
It’s not just his sheer size or his diet that present problems for Rita; his piles of poo are pretty tricky to hide too.

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Neither side is satisfied seemingly – lifts are not the rhino’s thing and he misses his comfy bed.
And then, Rita takes her pet to school, securing him belly up by the horn in the playground and informing the teacher that he’s a bouncy castle not a rhinoceros.
Imagine the children’s reaction; out they dash for a spot of bouncing

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and that is the beginning of the end. Off back to the zoo goes the rhino leaving a sad Rita who, from then on, has to be content with annual seaside visits with her erstwhile house pet.

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The perfect combination of understated text and brilliantly comic, droll illustrations work in absolute harmony in Ross’s wry take on pet ownership.
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While on the subject of picky animals there’s another one in this story:

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YUCK! Said the Yack
Alex English and Emma Levey
Maverick Arts Publishing
The young host in this amusing book also offers his visitor toast (with jam not marmalade though) and receives an unequivocal YUCK! Poor long-suffering Alfie gets the same answer in response to his offers of freshly picked apples,

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eggs, peas, cheese and even strawberry jelly and chocolate ice-cream. So he tries his hand at baking a delicious-looking cake but this meets with an even stronger reaction.

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Poor Alfie is beside himself “I GIVE UP!” he yells and then his visitor explains… “yaks like grass!” and offers Alfie a taste of this yummy fare. No prizes for guessing what Alfie replies …
Young audiences relish the opportunity to shout YUCK at almost every turn of the page of this short, enjoyable story and be amused by Emma Levey’s hilarious, wonderfully expressive portrayal of the fussy eater and his despairing host.
With its easy to read, rhyming text printed in large type, this is a book learner readers can enjoy for themselves after an initial read aloud from an adult.
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