First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
Christopher Corr
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

I was wowed by Christopher Corr’s Deep in the Woods and now he’s turned his amazing artistry to another folktale, the Chinese story of how the years were named.
It’s a fuller version than any I’ve seen and used in schools over the years and is in my view set to become the ‘go to’ book for celebrating Chinese New Year from now on. (16th February this year).
For those who don’t know the folktale it’s set in an ancient China when there was no way of knowing how much time had passed and consequently the Jade Emperor having no idea how old he was, decided it was about time he knew.
He called together all the animals of his kingdom and announced that on the next day a Great Race was to be held and the first twelve creatures to cross the river would each have a year named after them. Needless to say, all the animals were eager to win.
Two in particular were good friends and planned to become joint winners so long as the rat could wake his cat friend from sleep, that is.
Next day however, the rat did his utmost to rouse his slumbering pal but was forced to leave him to dream and head towards the river.
En route he met an ox and they team up – the rat as passenger and thankful singer on the ox’s back. The double-dealing rat though, jumped forwards at the last stroke to land first at the emperor’s feet and thus claim the first year, which henceforth became The Year of the Rat, with Ox giving his name to the second year.
Tiger …

and Rabbit claim the next two years and then in fifth place, comes a dazzling dragon with a tale to tell of how he assisted the rabbit on his journey.
Horse arrives to claim the next place and he too has a passenger – wily snake who sneakily claims sixth position instead.
In contrast, goat, monkey and rooster employ teamwork …

and the Emperor rewards them by assigning the next three years to Goat, Monkey and Rooster respectively.
Both dog and pig …

have  wasted time during the swim and thus are allocated the eleventh and twelfth years. Then it’s time to celebrate.
Suddenly though, a small cat makes his presence felt in no uncertain terms as he emerges from the water and proceeds to shout in fury at Rat for failing to wake him, causing the little creature to flee for his life, then and for ever on …
This finale adds a pourquoi element to the whole tale.
Everything, from the tactile cover is splendid. Steeped in folk art tradition, Corr’s beautifully patterned illustrations are truly captivating and offer a powerful stimulus for children’s own artistic creations.
His telling too is terrific, focusing on the animal characters themselves – some sneaky, some helpful and others co-operative.

This Zoo is Not for You

This Zoo is Not for You
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow

A misunderstanding is at the heart of Ross Collins’ latest picture book.
It stars a bus-driving platypus who arrives at the zoo on a day when interviews for new admissions are in progress.
He’s duly made to put up with a series of scrutinies by some very self-important residents.
First off is panda, Chi Chi an enormous creature propped up by a large heap of self-promotional items, who disdainfully utters, ‘To get me here / was quite a coup. But you don’t even / eat bamboo. I think this zoo / is not for you.

All the other animals are in agreement. The flamingos liken him to a ‘worn-out shoe’; the monkeys bombard him with poo;

his lack of colour displeases the chameleons and elephant instantly fails him on account of his diminutive stature.
Off goes platypus; the interviewers confer and eventually a monkey actually bothers to open and read platypus’s dropped communication.

Is it too late to make amends?
This playful tale, told in jaunty rhyming couplets accompanied by splendidly eloquent illustrations is a delight to read aloud and destined to become a storytime favourite. With its inherent themes of difference, understanding and acceptance, there is so much food for thought and discussion.


Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger Press

Gorgeous collage style moonlit scenes grace every spread of Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘peek-through the pages’ book wherein we travel the globe following the moon through one complete cycle.

As it waxes, we visit a woodland, a desert landscape, a snowy puffin rookery; sea birds using the moon to migrate to warmer climes, and a tropical jungle.

The full moon shines upon a southern beach where turtles have arrived to lay their eggs.

Under the waning moon, field mice hunt for food and ‘The ocean ‘sparkles, bluey- green, / Lit up by a magical scene,‘ – an ocean whose waves are influenced by the lunar cycle.

Bears standing on a mountainside; giraffes and elephants resting in the cool nocturnal grasslands; penguins huddling together for extra warmth beneath a snowy sky …

and finally, a row of houses, complete the waning moon landscapes.

Patricia Hegarty’s lilting rhyming couplets provide a gently soporific, textual accompaniment to Teckentrup’s nocturnal homage to the natural world.

Lois Looks for Bob: At Home / At the Park & Better Together

Lois Looks for Bob at Home
Lois Looks for Bob at the Park

Gerry Turley
Nosy Crow
In an exciting new series, two amusing, sturdily build board books involve toddlers in a game of hide and seek to find a missing bird.
Lois is a black cat; Bob her unlikely, feathered friend.
In the first book, Bob has disappeared somewhere indoors but has left a trail of yellow feathers to help Lois in her search. The canny feline hunts high and low and in the process introduces readers to a host of other resident animals with unlikely names, before locating her friend (sans a few feathers).
I’m not sure what Bob was doing in the park but it’s the location for Lois’ second search.
There are many possible hiding places as well as a hilariously named set of park residents to discover (Derek and Susan ducks, Roger the squirrel, Cynthia snail …

and Frank the peacock) before her feathered pal is finally found.
The simple question and answer text involves young listeners from the outset and will keep them amused throughout Lois’ investigations during which they’ll be encountering a range of positional prepositions.

Better Together
Barbara Joosse, Anneke Lisberg and Jared Andrew Schorr
Abrams Appleseed
Die-cut gatefold pages turn single animals – a nervous zebra, a hungry bat,

a curious crow, a frisky meerkat, a brave prairie dog and a little rat into members of their respective communities as each is comforted, fed, or otherwise nurtured by its fellows.
The penultimate spread has an infant with its human family who have all gatherered together to celebrate its first birthday.

Observant readers will notice that along with the humans, each animal has also found its way into the birthday party.
There’s a final ‘Fun Things to Know’ spread that provides some brief facts about some ways the featured animals help each other.
Satisfying rhyming or alliterative phrases such as ‘flicky ticky’, ‘rumbly tumbly’ and ‘doodle daddle’ enliven the brief text and Schorr’s densely coloured collage illustrations offer attractive animal environments.

I’ve signed the charter  

Paws Off My Book

Paws Off My Book
Fabi Santiago
Giraffe, Olaf is something of a bibliophile and so is delighted to discover a new book. Enter Wilbur, (who appears to be a Rockhopper penguin,) all of a bluster and determined to demonstrate the ‘right’ way to read.

He however, is not the only one who thinks they have the monopoly on the right way to read; for he’s closely followed by first, Matilda, then Vincent – he knows ‘ALL about reading’ – really?
Then come Felicia flamingo,, and finally, banana- wielding Eduardo. His demonstration results in a resounding …

After which, the long suffering Olaf has had enough and trots off for a spot of reading alone … “Do not follow me. Do not even think about it.” he warns his would-be teachers.
Before long though, apologies have been made, and accepted and Olaf has a splendid idea concerning the best way to read.
Now if you’ve looked at the title page of this wonderful book, you might guess the nature of the punch line that is concealed beneath the flap in the right hand corner here …

We all have our favourite places to read and favourite ways of being when we read; comfort being an essential element and of course, a book worth reading. What Fabi Santiago so amusingly shows is that there is no one right way: what feels right for a giraffe will not feel right for say, a kangaroo or a crocodile or a monkey, let alone a flamingo. They all bring different things to the reading experience and each is so busy being right that the importance of the book itself is lost. And so it is with humans..
I come to this book with particularly strong feelings about the way in which children are now being taught to read with a narrow, one size fits all approach from the outset. And what they are being offered by way of early reading material quite frankly appals me. Consequently this is the message I’m finding in Fabi’s hilarious, luminously coloured tale. Other readers will likely make something completely different from it. However I’m sure everybody will agree that the final scene showing the enjoyment of a shared reading experience, with or without its final throwaway line, is what we should all be striving for.

I’ve signed the charter  

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? / My Dad is a Bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle
Puffin Books
With a CD read by Eric Carle, this is a 50th anniversary edition of a truly golden picture book. Yes, as it says on the blurb, it can ‘teach children about colours’ but it does so much more. It’s an iconic ‘learning to read’ book and one I included in a Signal publication I wrote early in my teaching career when I talked about the importance of using visual context cues. This is now something that most teachers who use phonics as the basis of the way they teach beginning readers insist children should not do. How ridiculous! Any book worth offering to learner readers and I stress ‘worth’ has pictures and words working hand in hand, as does this simple, singsong question and answer book wherein you have to read ahead ie turn the page,

in order to get the visual context cue offered by the bright tissue-paper collage picture of each animal being questioned.
A classic; and one all children should encounter in the early stages of becoming a reader.

Also good for beginning readers is:

My Dad is a Bear
Nicola Connelly and Annie White
New Frontier Publishing
What is ‘tall and round like a bear; soft and furry like a bear’; can climb trees and gather in a bear-like manner?

And what has big paws and enjoys a spot of back scratching, not to mention possessing an enormous growl, having a penchant for fishing and a very bear-like way of sleeping?

Why a bear of course. And what is it about young Charlie’s dad that brings the most pleasure of all? What do you think? …
Using ursine characteristics to point up the numerous ways in which a dad is special, debut picture book author, Nicola Connelly paints a pen portrait of a much-loved character.
What an engaging book this is with its lovable characters, two bears plus bit part players, blue bird and rabbit. All are so adorably portrayed in Annie White’s uncluttered paintings that beautifully orchestrate the simple storyline making every page turn a fresh delight. Beautifully simple and full of warmth, it’s just right for sharing with a pre-schooler or with an early years group.

I’ve signed the charter  

This is the Kiss / I Love You, Baby


This is the Kiss
Claire Harcup and Gabriel Alborozo
Walker Books
We join an adult bear and a little one at the end of a day filled with snowy fun and games, but now after a paw-waving signal from the adult, it’s time to wend their way paw-in-paw, back to the cave for a night’s sleep. First though, comes a gentle hand squeeze,


a loving pat on the head, a benevolent smile, a spot of tickle play,


a goodnight hug and finally that kiss.
Sweet dreams little one. Gabriel Alborozo takes Claire Harcup brief rhythmic text and adds utterly enchanting visuals (including gorgeous end papers) making the whole thing a thoroughly heart-warming, just before bed read, for adults to share with very young children..
I suspect it’s one that will be asked for over and over. And, such is the simplicity of the writing that those in the early stages of becoming a reader can try it for themselves – make sure you share it first though.

More loving moments between adult and offspring are celebrated in a book coming in March:


I Love You, Baby
Claire Freedman and Judi Abbot
Simon & Schuster
Various baby animals from penguin chicks to puppies and snakelets …


to elephant calves are on the receiving end of parental love in this joyous litany wherein adoring adult animals show and tell their offspring how precious they are. Tenderness and gentle humour are key in this one. Although the eponymous I is portrayed as a different animal for each utterance,


this is an affectionate book for a human parent to share with a very young child.


A Visit to City Farm


A Visit to City Farm
Verna Wilkins and Karin Littlewood
Firetree books
This is the first book from a new publisher whose aim is to produce ‘books with engaging, enjoyable and exciting stories that celebrate our interconnected and culturally-diverse world, putting all children in the picture’ and this story of a school visit certainly does just that.
From the list of children’s names in the front of the book, it seems that the role of Chalkhill Primary School (the book’s co-publishers) is similar to that of the schools I’d always taught in before moving out of London a few years ago. The lack of this rich diversity was one of the huge culture shocks I’ve had to cope with since, and that diversity is something I still miss enormously: this book is, in part a celebration of that richness.
The story tells of a class visit to a city farm. Now I know from experience that children absolutely delight in being featured in their own books – albeit school published ones (it’s an empowering part of seeing themselves as writers) – so I can imagine how thrilled those Chalkhill Primary children must have been to become characters (more accurately almost recognisable versions of themselves) in , and co-writers of, a real book.
We join Rainbow Class as they prepare for the off, with their teacher, Miss Jama checking they know the safety code, watch the group as they walk to the station, travel on the tube and finally, arrive at City Farm.
Of course, the highlight of the visit is seeing  all the different animals …


maybe not all the animals for all the children though …


Verna Wilkins’ prose (written in collaboration with Y5 pupils) and the children’s rhyming descriptions of the animals are seamlessly woven together into a single narrative that also gives voice to individual children’s thoughts as they move around the farm. And, there’s so much to look at, enjoy and talk about in Karin Littlewood’s lovely pen, crayon and watercolour illustrations.


All in all this is a wonderful celebration of our interconnectedness and I look forward to seeing more from Firetree books.



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.



Ben Newman
Flying Eye Books
No one is as brave as me and nothing scares me … you’ll see!” That’s the claim of the tiny stick-wielding character on the first spread of Ben Newman’s latest offering. (If you’re familiar with the awesome Professor Astro Cat books you’ll recognise him as their illustrator.)


Turn the page and you’ll immediately see this is far from true …


and then it’s a case of a series of claims to be the wearer of the ‘bravest’ mantle as an owl, a mischievous monkey, a toothsome, jaw -snapping croc, a leaping tiger …


and finally, a stampeding elephant all BOO! the previous pretender clean off the page.
Abolutely no one is as brave as me and nothing scares me!” asserts the latter super-confidently. Make no mistake about it; he does NOT have the final word …
Such a satisfying circularity herein and part of the fun is in the anticipation of the next BOO and the hooting, giggling, growling, snorting opportunities presented as each animal introduces itself. Oh, and that ‘nothing scares me … you’ll see!’ is repeated by each claimant, making it ideal for beginning readers to join in with on subsequent sharings of which, I foresee, there will be many.
Stylish and oodles of fun!

Animals, One Cheetah One Cherry & Flip Flap Pets


Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Studio
This over-sized picture book by Swedish illustrator/designer Arrhenius is sure to have youngsters poring over its gigantic retro-style pages. It features thirty two animals large and small from grasshopper …


to gorilla, and hippo to frog …


Every one of the pages would make a lovely poster and it’s hard to choose a favourite animal: I love the muted, matt colours used and the careful placing of pattern; and the lettering fonts and colours seem to reflect the essence of each animal portrayed.


If you’re looking for something impressive to generate language in youngsters, try putting this book on the floor in your book area and see what happens.
It might also be put to good use in an art lesson for older children.


One Cheetah, One Cherry
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
Absolutely stunning paintings of wild animals grace the pages of this stylish, smallish counting book. We start with ‘One cherry, one cheetah’ showing a graceful beast with a luscious-looking cherry between its paws and continue, encountering two dogs, three bears, four foxes …


five elephants, six tigers, seven pandas, eight otters, nine mice, ten cherries – all carefully poised, thus :


which takes us back (numberwise) to None. The cheetah has feasted on those ten delicious cherries and looks mighty pleased about it.
What a wonderful array of animals and activities. The language too is so carefully chosen: alliteration abounds as here: ’Four fine foxes/ sharing strawberries.’
or, try getting your tongue around this one: ‘Seven giant pandas, with pretty painted parasols.’


Such delicate patterning on those parasols and lantern. Indeed pattern is part and parcel of every painting, so too is gold-leaf; but that’s not all. The end papers are equally gorgeous, the front being a dance of numerals, orchestrated by the cheetah and the back shows the number symbols in order with animals/cherries alongside.


Flip Flap Pets
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Axel Scheffler offers a multitude of opportunities to create quirky creatures in his latest Flip Flap rhyming extravaganza. Youngsters can turn the basic ten or so popular pets into a whole host of crazy combinations of feather, fur, scale, shell and more. What happens for instance when you cross a stick insect with a budgerigar? You get a STICKERIGAR of course …


Try crossing a goldfish with a tortoise – that results in a GOLDFOISE:


and a snake crossed with a cat gives something pretty irresistible – a cake!
It’s possible to make – so that butterfly on the back cover of this bonkers book informs us – 121 combinations. What are you waiting for? If my experience of previous titles in this series is anything to go by, this new addition to the series is likely to inspire children to set about making their own flip flap books.


Midnight At The Zoo


Midnight at the Zoo
Faye Hanson
Templar Publishing
We join Max and Mia on a school trip to the zoo; but this is no ordinary zoo for seemingly there are no animals there at all. So where are the lemurs, flamingos, pandas and salamanders, the lions, meerkats and monkeys? There’s not a single one in sight … they hunt but eventually it’s time to go. Everyone boards the bus; everyone except Max and Mia who manage to get themselves left behind …


Midnight strikes and that’s when the magic begins. With a new friend as guide …


there are fabulous fountains, flouncing flamingos, mischievous monkeys, prancing pandas …


and many more marvels to be seen before eventually, replete with wondrous sights, the two children fall fast asleep


and don’t wake up until morning light when there’s another warm embrace awaiting them – from their Mum this time. Will she believe what they have to tell her? Would you?
Everything about this wondrous whimsical book is dreamy delight. Faye Hanson’s artistic skill is truly awesome: Her intense rich colour palette glows with near incandescence; every line, every brush-stroke, every tiny detail builds up to an exquisite resplendent whole scene at every turn of the page.
Go back and look again at the early vignettes and you’ll notice that Max and Mia might not see any of the animals they’ve come for, but they do what small children tend to do, they stop and pay close attention to detail …


finding things of interest where less observant others have passed by unaware.
Faye Hanson’s The Wonder was truly that; this one is even more brilliant; even the endpapers are amazing.


One Is Not A Pair & Who’s Hungry?


One Is Not A Pair
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
This is the third of Britta Teckentrup’s ‘spotting’ series that encourage and develop visual perception in a playful way that children (and many adults) delight in. Here she takes fourteen objects and presents them in spreads where everyone has a pair except one – the odd one out. All interests are catered for: there’s food  – yummy-looking ice-cream cones, sweet shiny cherries –


machines are represented by huffing puffing tractors and a ‘squadron of planes’, wild life has strutting magpies, spotted toadstools upon which spotty ladybirds crawl; there are birds in bird houses and in trees: ‘Each tree has a pair/ where matching birds call, / but one has a guest/ that is no bird at all.’ Can you find it?’


There are wonderfully coloured autumn leaves upon which insects crawl. We visit a toy shop with a host of cuddly bears …


and there are wooden blocks, built into towers and houses, a cacophony of yowling black cats, a richly hued pack of colouring pencils and last but definitely no least, washing lines of socks …


And the final spread is a mix of all the things to pair up and find the odd one.
Characteristically stylish, bold bright graphics grace every page and Britta’s rhyming text trips off the tongue nicely.
Look, look and keep looking: it’s such fun.
There’s also a set of Where’s The Pair? spotting postcards from Britta:


every one a diverting visual charmer and like the book, beautifully patterned in Britta’s inimitable style.


Who’s Hungry!
Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Walker Books
The split page format is cleverly used to put young readers in control of feeding some hungry animals. By turning the half pages they can bring the food right to the animal’s mouth each time. The book starts with the straightforward, all-important ‘Time to eat. Who’s hungry?’ to which seven animals respond in the affirmative, starting with a rabbit who declares, “I am! I’m hungry.” A quick flip of the flap delivers a crunchy carrot almost straight into Bunny’s mouth. This is followed by ‘Glad you like it, Bunny. Who else is hungry?’ And thus the refrain is repeated and responded to, next by Seal who hastily slurps up a fish leaving only the bones behind.


Monkey unsurprisingly, snatches up a banana, dropping the peel; Horse chomps through a pile of hay, Squirrel consumes a large acorn, Panda some scrummy bamboo shoots, and lastly Mouse politely requests and nibbles on a chunk of cheese.
The off-screen narrator is always on hand to make certain each animal is duly satisfied: ‘There’s plenty more, Panda!’ he says …


And, the final spread offers a plate to the reader – I’d certainly relish the vegetables particularly that broccoli.
The eyes of each animal have that ‘come on’ appeal that seems to be directed straight at the reader (or listener) who will take great delight in responding by delivering the food to each member of this alluring-looking menagerie.
In addition to providing opportunities to discuss healthy eating, asking and receiving politely, caring for animals, and animal habitats with the very young, this is a great ‘have a go yourself’ book for those in the early stages of becoming a reader. All in all, it’s cleverly conceived, all-involving enjoyment for children and adults.

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Oi Dog!


Oi Dog!
Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
My delight on opening the parcel containing this was indescribable: could it possibly be as side-splittingly good as its predecessor Oi Frog! though? That was the burning question in my mind as I began reading and it certainly gets off to a good start – for the dog that is. He has a squishy, squashy PLURPPPPPPPPPPP-producing cushion beneath his rear end: the frog of course is far from happy. The cat is quick to remind them of the rules: “Cats sit on mats, frogs sit on logs, and dogs sit on FROGS!” Whereupon the frog announces a rule change (can you blame him?) “From now on dogs sit on logs not frogs!” he asserts and thus he starts off a hilarious concatenation beginning thus …


of assigning sit-upons in response to dog’s seemingly endless questions, for in turn, bears (that’s stairs); slugs – errm: “Slugs will sit on plugs (not on mine they won’t!), … “Slugs will sit on plugs, flies will sit on pies, crickets will sit on tickets and moths will sit on cloths.” (watch out for eggs then!)


Next come leopards – I’ll leave you to guess that one on the frog’s behalf and pass on to cheetahs – tuck in everyone – unless like me you’re a veggie …


At this stage the dog somewhat condescendingly announces “You’re really getting the hang of this,” giving the frog fresh impetus to pronounce on pigs, gnus, boars (a terrific Jim Field boating scene); then whales – brilliant dialogue here: “Whales will sit on nails,” said the frog. “I’m not sure the whales will like that,” said the dog. “They don’t have to like it,” said the frog, “they just have to do it.”
The dog then enquires about dragons and off the frog goes again … (there’s a tasty bit of word play on the vehicle upon which they must sit).


Clearly he’s on a roll as there follow pronouncements on mice, kittens and puppies. Whereupon the dog wants to know about crabs and here we go again, this time with a glorious musical seat being assigned to hornets which after more banter leads to,
and elephants will sit on smelly pants!” and the dog’s instant gasping rejoinder, “Elephants aren’t going to sit on smelly pants!” at which the frog merely smiles and states, ”They are now.”
That seems to bring the discourse to a halt momentarily; and then the cat comes in reciting the whole litany of seating arrangements only to be brought to a halt by the dog’s question …


And the frog’s answer? That’s yours to work out (hint: it doesn’t rhyme with frog); or better still, get your own copy of this cracking book and discover what he says. Suffice it to say that frog really does have the last laugh (and the best seat!).
STU-PEN-DOUS! I think perhaps the Gray/Field team have, between them, managed to out-dog Oi Frog with Oi Dog! It’s absolutely un-missable and another splendiferous send up of the prevailing phonics obsession in infant classrooms; or looked at another way: a brilliant lesson in rhyme.

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There’s a Tiger in the Garden

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There’s a Tiger in the Garden
Lizzy Stewart
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
What would your reaction be if somebody told you there was a tiger in the garden? Dismissive – pretty much the same as young Nora’s, I expect.
When Nora complains of boredom on a visit to her Grandma’s house, her Gran. suggests she go and play in the garden: “I thought I saw a tiger there earlier.” she tells her … “And dragonflies the size of birds and plants that can …” Reluctantly, accompanied by her pal Jeff the Giraffe, off goes Nora outside muttering to herself when Whoosh! something whizzes right past her nose …

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Slightly impressed by what she discovers but still dismissive of the whole nonsensical suggestion of cannibalistic plants, polar bears and tigers, our young heroine urges Jeff to go home but seemingly one of the plants has designs on a Jeff snack …

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Having duly rescued Jeff, Nora remains unconvinced about the polar bear and tiger until that is, she hears a rather gruff voice and sees …

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Nora’s grumpiness is by now almost equal to the polar bear’s (she’s had to accept him too of course) as she asserts “there is absolutely, definitely one hundred per cent no …

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That is only a part of this terrific tale; for the rest you’ll need to get hold of a copy of your own: it’s a delight from cover to cover. The dialogue is absolutely spot on: “Um … Tigers don’t live in gardens,” says Nora. “Are you real?” “I don’t know,” says the tiger. “Are you?” …

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I have an idea,” says the tiger. ”If you believe in me, then maybe I’ll be real.” “And if you believe in me,” says Nora, “then maybe I’ll be real too!” … helping to make this a wonderful read aloud. And, it’s also a great book for those teachers who use ‘Community of Enquiry’ approaches in their primary classrooms.
I love the way the lush vegetation of Grandma’s garden takes on an increasingly jungly appearance the more Nora forays among the plants – seemingly Nora’s imagination is taking over despite her scepticism; and the animals in those gorgeous paintings would surely convince the most ardent of disbelievers. Oh! And there’s a delicious final twist in the tale too.
With a debut picture book as good as this one, I can’t wait to see what Lizzy Stewart does next.

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Alphabets Are Amazing Animals

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Alphabets Are Amazing Animals
Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper
Tara Books pbk
I don’t subscribe to the current obsessive view of phonics as the best way to teach early reading – far from it; however I am a big fan of alliteration and it certainly helps in giving children an awareness of initial sound/symbol associations/phonemic awareness. Alliteration is also, when done well, poetic. Even when it’s not, that repetition of the first consonant or vowel (more tricky) can be enormous fun for children learning language or learning to read. This book of carefully constructed, playful sentences written by Anushka Ravishankar is a great boon. More than that though it’s clever and a delight to share with  individuals, a group or a class. They will relish the twenty six silly sentences each of which features a different animal (sometimes more than one per letter) …

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boldy rendered in Christiane Piper’s delightful pen-and-ink illustrations: A –has Anteaters, B, Buffaloes…

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and so on, and will be painlessly absorbing lessons about sentence structure in so doing ((subject, verb, object, adverb, adjective are all there in those sentences).
I particularly like those Mice:

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The gum gobbling geese gives one giggles …

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the sight of those Uakaris is … utterly unsettling to say the least.

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And it’s great to see that X has a real animal too – a type of gull.

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This one is sure to result in young listeners and readers relishing the opportunities it furnishes to rush off and create their own silly sounding super sentences.

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George’s illustration for his sentence: “Fierce Fox Fanning Fire”

In addition, this book could be a great one for speech therapists working with individuals who have difficulties producing particular sounds.

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