Leaping Lola

Leaping Lola
Tracey Hawkins and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

Young Lola the Jersey cow has a penchant for dancing and is energetically practising her steps for the ball to be held that evening in the barn. But then comes information from her mother that entirely deflates Lola: ‘It’s the Black and White Ball’ so a brown cow such as she won’t be welcome.

Having heard her tale of woe, Pearl the pig offers to disguise her friend.

Suitably attired that evening, Lola is admitted to the ball and she’s immediately swept along by the beat of the music as she swoops and slides across the floor, then kicking up her heels she wows the crowd by ‘swirling and twirling her large derrière.’

Then disaster strikes as Lola mistimes her landing and slithers on her stomach through the Friesians

and straight into a tower of milk churns. Chaos ensues as she’s washed clean of her muddy disguise and cries of ‘imposter’ issue from the frightened onlookers. Is that the end for Lola?

Happily not for then up steps the prize-winning bull who urges her to dance no matter what.

And so she does. Led by Lola in a joyful romping, stomping line, all the cows dance the night away.

With plenty of drama, Tracey Hawkins’ lively rhyming text complemented by Anil Tortop’s splendidly expressive illustrations make for a smashing read aloud to share with youngsters who will delight in the spirited mooover, Lola.

The book has much to say about the importance of inclusivity and might well be a starting point for a discussion on the topic of insiders and outsiders.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! / Scaredy Cat

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo!
Mark Carthew and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

An unusual and unexpected silence greets zoo-keepers Jess and Jack when they open the zoo gates one morning. But where, oh where are all the animals?

The observant young keepers spot all sorts of evidence of their recent presence and realise that the animals have left a trail of feathers, footprints and ‘scats’ (poo).

They decide to split up and Jess’s parting words to Jack as he starts scooping up the poops are to ‘keep an eye out for that rascally rat.’ That’s a wonderful ‘Look – he’s behind you’ opportunity for listeners.

As the sun starts to sink, Jess is still searching when she hears drifting on the breeze, all kinds of musical sounds.

Then comes a FLASH in the sky as a flare goes off, (She’s also instructed Jack to send up a flare should he find himself in trouble – so is he?)

Jess follows the floating feathers towards the light, which as she draws near, she sees is coming from a forest up ahead.

Suddenly from the bushes, Jack emerges and he leads her to where sitting around a fire making music are all the missing animals. They’re having a whale of a time hopping, bopping, tooting, hooting, whistling, and kangaroo plays a didgeridoo – what a hullabaloo. (Wonderful language play in the form of onomatopoeia and alliteration is dropped into the rhyming text here)
What’s it all in aid of though?

Drawing in closer, they see, curled up cosily in a zookeeper’s shoe is a baby roo: – ‘Softly she slept in the warm furry bed, / flamingo feathers tucked under her head.’

Right up beside her however is a coiled snake holding aloft a celebratory offering. Time to waken the sleeper from her slumbers …

Then all that’s left to do is sing a special song before wending their way home by the light of the moon.

With a wonderful assortment of creatures and musical instruments portrayed by Anil Tortop in his effervescent scenes of the animals’ antics absolutely bursting with sound, (that rat manages to get itself into many of them) and Mark Carthew’s splendid read aloud text, the book is a superb amalgam of the visual and verbal. A gift for listeners and readers aloud too: get out those instruments, bring on the HULLABALOO!

More inspired Anil Tortop illustrations can be found in:

Scaredy Cat
Heather Gallagher and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

A little girl has lost her pet: ‘Have you seen my Scaredy Cat? /He’s afraid of this and afraid of that!’ she tells us as she searches high and low.
Bees, towering trees, Granny’s sneeze – a super duper kind – noises, certain toys, climbing, sprawling, brawling boys, hoses, noses, muck, ducks and garbage trucks,

all these things and more have him running scared: but where has he chosen to hide?

Could it be among the books or hooks? His owner can deal with those (love her attitude)

as well as the crooks, so where has he gone, this hissing, erm … moggie, that object of her affections?
The combination of Heather Gallagher’s frolicsome, bouncy rhyme and Tortop’s funny scenes (love all the varying viewpoints) is a delightfully entertaining romp of friendship and tease.

The Wondrous Dinosaurium / My Perfect Pup

The Wondrous Dinosaurium
John Condon and Steve Brown
Maverick Arts Publishing

Danny is thrilled when his mum finally agrees to let him have a pet and he knows what he wants. Not a common or garden cat or dog but something much more exciting – something prehistoric no less. And he knows exactly the place to go: an establishment belonging to Mr Ree.

His first choice, a Diplodocus requiring vast amounts of vegetation every day quickly proves too much, so it’s back to the shop for something slightly smaller.

In fact Danny returns to Mr Ree’s Wondrous Dinosaurium quite a few times, trying out a range of possibilities …

until finally he comes upon a box in a dark corner of the shop.

His mum thinks he’s brought home a tortoise but she’s in for a surprise when the creature comes out of its shell.

John Condon’s amusing tale about the pitfalls of not doing any research before choosing a pet will hit the spot with both dinosaur lovers and pet people.
Steve Brown’s illustrations of the dinosaur menagerie are at once droll and yet recognisably authentic dinosaur species: avid dinosaur fans may well be able to put names to all Mr Ree’s stock of creatures, one of which was new to this reviewer.

My Perfect Pup
Sue Walker and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

Siblings Max and Millie have definite ideas about what they’re looking for as they head for the Perfect Petshop, very different ideas. However they both fall for the same beguiling little pup.

Inevitably though, Tiny, as they decide to call him, doesn’t remain so for very long; nor does he live up to Millie’s ‘pretty’ requirement. In fact he’s so far from perfect by both siblings’ standards …

that one day they return him to the pet shop.

Tiny himself has ideas about the perfect owner and when Joe Barnaby arrives on the scene it looks as though he might just be the one.

Joe and his family live on a farm with sheep, and Joe loves to play, to run and sometimes to take a ride on the dog, now named Horse. What better place for a sheepdog?

Expectations, acceptance and being patient are key themes in Sue Walker’s enjoyable story for which Anil Tortop’s spirited illustrations really bring out Tiny/Horse’s personality.

The Leaky Story / The Pirate Craft Book

The Leaky Story
Devon Sillett and Anil Tortop
EK Books
On a shelf sits a row of books; books waiting to be read, not left untouched gathering dust and feeling unloved. One particular book though has a mind of its own. So powerful is its longing to attract attention that it starts to swell,

and drip. The drips become a trickle, then a series of plops until it spills down into wonderfully sploshy puddles on J.J’s living room floor. And thus begins an amazing adventure populated by J.J., his sceptical parents,

sea creatures and a dastardly pirate crew. The battle, both verbal and physical, between the Blossoms and the pirates is wonderfully funny; and, when a kraken appears, woefully waterlogged and a tad uproarious.
Finally though, the whole crazy episode appears to have run its course: the creatures shrink and the water begins to recede.

As J.J.’s world becomes increasingly saturated with salty brine, Anil Tortop’s scenes offer all manner of highly colourful perspectives on Sillett’s surreal story.
What a wonderful way to engender an enthusiasm for books in young listeners, as well as to further the development of their imagination.

On the topic of pirates is:

The Pirate Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Books
Subtitled ’15 things a pirate can’t do without’, this contains piratical projects aplenty for would-be sea dogs. There are clothes – the full gear including eye-patch and hat complete with monogram, buccaneer boots based on a pair of old wellies, a waistcoat, (best worn with stripy T-shirt) and a belt and cutlass to make.
All self-respecting pirates have a parrot on their shoulder, so there are step-by-step instructions to make a felt one, either stitching it together by hand or by machine. A chest in which to stash all the treasure is another requirement and the one herein is made using an old shoe-box; and to find the treasure, a map is most likely needed; so here we have instructions to make one from felt.
Once you’ve got all these things, a pirate party might be fun so there’s a page of ideas for that, and another giving a recipe for a yummy chocolate treasure chest cake. Basic templates for many of the items are provided on the final three pages. None of the projects is particularly difficult, though many would require supervision. Avast me’arties: what are you waiting for?

I’ve signed the charter