The Gingerbread Man/ Let’s Play, Daddy Bear!/ Manju’s Magic Muddle / Fizzy and the Party / A Hundred and One Daffodils

These are new additions to the Bloomsbury Education Young Readers series (one per band Turquoise, Purple, Gold, White, Lime) which aims to help children towards becoming independent readers. Thanks to the publishers for sending them for review:

The Gingerbread Man
Kandace Chimbiri, illustrated by Richy Sánchez Ayala
Let’s Play, Daddy Bear!
Dawn McNiff, illustrated by Andy Rowland
Manju’s Magic Muddle
Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Verónica Montoya
Fizzy and the Party
Sarah Crossan, illustrated by Nicola Colton
A Hundred and One Daffodils
Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Denise Hughes

In The Gingerbread Man, Kandace Chimbiri gives her lively telling a Caribbean flavour with this wonderfully aromatic character being chased by its old lady baker, an old man, a clutch of chickens, a horse, and a scary looking dog to the river’s edge. There however, it’s a monkey that beguiles the little fellow into accepting a lift across the water and ever closer to his mouth, but will the runaway end up being consumed?
Look closely at Richy Sánchez Ayala’s illustration showing what the baker of the runaway is holding.

Let’s Play, Daddy Bear! is a warm-hearted story with equally warm illustrations of a young bear that spends weekends at her father’s home where they play fun games like Monster Chase and Daddy-is-a-Big-Climbing Frame. But on this particular weekend Daddy Bear is so busy using his computer that his daughter becomes thoroughly bored with waiting for him to finish his work; and her ‘take notice of me’ tactics only serve to slow him down even more. Will he ever get to the end of his keyboard tap tapping and go outside to play with Little Bear?

There’s more boredom in Chitra’s second story featuring this little girl, Manju’s Magic Muddle. Again her protagonist again makes use of that lamp in her Grandmother’s wardrobe. Now when she summons the genie she learns that he is suffering from a terrible cold that’s having an adverse effect on his ability to grant people’s wishes correctly. Moggy, Cumin is against calling on said genie at the outset and although less than impressed at what he hears in this story feels sorry for the genie and his plight. Especially when it’s revealed that any more errors and the genie will be forever struck off the Genie Register. Can the two of them help sort things out when another call comes in on the Genie-O-Summoner? The genie is in no fit state to go it alone … With its theme of kindness, this is such a fun story with amusing genie mishearing outcomes to entertain youngsters along the way.

Slightly longer is Fizzy and the Party: Fizzy is certainly an apt name for the protagonist herein for she simply fizzes with energy even or perhaps especially at bedtime, which is when Mrs Crumbleboom is having her party.Despite Mum’s words to the contrary, young Fizzy dons her glitzy fairy gear and against Mum’s better judgement heads next door to her neighbour’s garden. Will she be allowed to stay and participate in the fun though? A good many young readers will recognise the bedtime delaying of persuasive Fizzy who provides not only a great rationale for being allowed to attend but continues to sway the situation her way throughout the story.

There are no humans in Malachi Doyle’s A Hundred and One Daffodils; rather it’s an enchanting story of Dusty the fox cub and her search for the appropriate number of daffodil flowers that will enable her and her friends that help her hunt, to enjoy a celebratory party for the first day of spring, just like Dad fox did year after year until he was a grown-up fox. Friendship and determination are key in this one.

All in all these short lively chapter books, with their carefully chosen words by popular authors, and attractive illustrations at every page turn, are certainly going to help a great many children on their way to solo reading. For adults guiding children on their reading journey, there’s a ‘Tips for Grown Ups’ inside the front cover and a ‘Fun Time’ for children at the end.

Ancient World Magnified

Ancient World Magnified
David Long and Andy Rowland
Wide Eyed Editions

New in the interactive ‘Magnified’ series, this is one of those books where you think, ‘I’ll just spend a few minutes reading this’ and hours later you’re still totally immersed, using the magnifying glass provided inside the front cover.

Starting with Mesopotamia in what is today parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, author, David Long and illustrator Andy Rowland take readers time travelling to visit sixteen ancient civilisations, providing a taster of what life was probably like in each one. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that here where civilisation is thought to have begun, men and woman were mostly treated as equals.

From there we move to (c. 4000-1500 BC), a large area now in India and Pakistan, the Indus Valley Civilisation, in which I have a particular interest having once visited not Harappa or Mohenjo-daro featured here, but another more southern site, Lothal.

I have to admit though I’d never heard of Olmec, central America’s first civilisation in what is Mexico today, nor the Kingdom of Aksum (120BC – 850 AD), one of Africa’s greatest empires much of which is in modern Ethiopia and we learn, among the first of the great civilisations to convert to Christianity. 

Also new to me is the Xiongnu Empire in what took up large parts of today’s northern China, Siberia and Mongolia, formed when several tribes of nomadic peoples came together under a ruler named Modu, controlling an area almost as big as Europe. 

Each of these fascinating civilisations is allocated a double spread most of which is taken up with a riveting, highly detailed illustration by Andy Rowland. There are also two or three paragraphs giving information about location, daily life, buildings, what made it prosper etc. and there are ’10 things to spot’ on every spread. Not easy in several cases but should you wish to look, the answers are supplied at the back of the book, along with a famous figures gallery, almost 60 more things to find in the busy scenes, a timeline and glossary.

Recommended especially for young history enthusiasts, as well as those who love search-and-find books.