The Colour Monster Goes to School / Beautiful Bananas

The Colour Monster Goes to School
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing

It’s the day Colour Monster starts school and he’s rather confused about what to expect as he anticipates what this new place might be like.

His friend Nuna is there to reassure him about what to put in his bag as well as to introduce him to his teacher and new classmates and to accompany him as he discovers the activities on offer that day.

First comes Nuna’s favourite, music, in which Colour Monster is let’s say, an enthusiastic participant though he seems even more enthusiastic about stories …

There are lessons to learn about turn taking, appropriate use of the toilet facilities

and how to eat lunch.
The afternoon comprises some gymnastics – with an additional piece of equipment; followed by a creative session with Colour Monster as the subject.

Come home time, it’s clear that the newbie has had a fun-filled day; but poor Nuna is completely worn out.

If you’ve not come across the Colour Monster in his previous escapades, then this is a great place to start especially if you have little ones starting school or nursery next term.

With her wonderful mixed media illustrations, Anna Llenas’ funny story of the risk-taking protagonist is a delight, reassuring with plenty to giggle over, as the big day draws close.

Beautiful Bananas
Elizabeth Laird and Liz Pichon
Oxford University Press

There are gentle echoes of Handa’s Surprise in this African setting tale of Beatrice, who sets out through the jungle with a bunch of beautiful bananas for her granddad.

That’s her intention, but along the way a giraffe flicks his tail accidentally displacing the bananas and sending them into a stream.

This sets off a concatenation of animal-related mishaps involving a swarm of bees, then some mischievous monkeys,

a lion, a parrot and finally an elephant each of which apologises and provides a replacement gift, with the story coming full circle with the elephant’s offering. It’s a delighted Beatrice who then heads to her Grandad’s home, assuring herself that after all, “Bananas are best.”

There’s plenty to spot in Liz Pichon’s vibrant scenes, not least the tiny jungle creatures

and the pairs of eyes peeping out from among the foliage as youngsters listen to Elizabeth Laird’s amusing story that is still a winner with me 15 years after its first publication.

Little Mole is a Whirlwind

Little Mole is a Whirlwind
Anna Llenas
Templar Books

I’ve had a Little Mole in some of the classes I’ve taught over the years: ADHD, whether or not it’s so labelled, is challenging for all involved but underneath the child who is at times making you feel deskilled is usually a youngster who is desperately trying to reach out for reassurance and help. It’s certainly the case in this new story from Anna Llenas.

With his bounding, bouncing and bellowing, Little Mole exhausts his parents.

At school he finds it almost impossible to concentrate and is constantly distracted, fiddling, fidgeting and forgetting so it’s no surprise that his classmates shun him. Sadly the little creature has all sorts of labels assigned to him.

His teacher is at the end of her tether; try as she might, she just can’t help Little Mole to focus.

A note goes home asking for a parental conference but almost simultaneously a newspaper is delivered advertising the services of ‘Serena the Forest Bunny’ offering ‘creative learning for wonderful children’. Could this be the answer?

Little Mole’s parents take him to meet Serena who thinks she might be able to help.

The following day Little Mole tells her about his worries regarding his end-of-year project, about his inability to stay focussed and his lack of friends.

In response Serena takes him to a room filled with creative materials and gives Little Mole free rein. At first he’s over-excited and soon chaos reigns.

Serena remains calm and supportive both then and on subsequent visits as they play, cook …

and even stargaze. Most importantly though, they talk, and gradually over the course of several months his concentration span increases.
Serena helps her pupil discover what he really likes to do and with her reassurance that he’s wonderful just the way he is, Little Mole is ready to work on that end-of-year project.

Come the last day of term his teacher has a wonderful surprise when it comes to project showing time. Little Mole has finally found his passion and his outlook on the world is completely changed.

Anna Llenas understands all this so well and her story, with her trademark collage style illustrations, portrays Little Mole as a thoroughly likeable character deserving of the tolerance and understanding shown by Serena.

I Love You (nearly always)

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I Love You (nearly always)
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing
Roly is a woodlouse – the king of camouflage, Rita, a super-cool firefly. Surprisingly, or maybe not if you believe the ‘opposites attract’ idea, they like one another. That’s at the beginning however.
One day Rita becomes critical of Roly’s tough skin, his controlling manner and his habit of hiding away quietly. Roly too has issues: they’re logged in his black book: Rita’s light’s too bright, she’s noisy and too fast a flier; in fact she’s downright annoying.

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Can they overcome their differences? Seemingly it’s worth a try.
Roly takes measures to soften his suit, just a little …

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Rita attempts to slow her flight somewhat …

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A bond of trust begins to form … And then it’s a case of vive la différence: love conquers all.
What an absolutely brilliant way of demonstrating the importance of friendship and that we should acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Roly and Rita are such endearing characters, so adorably portrayed in Anna Llenas’ mixed media illustrations. Every spread made me smile and the plethora of pop-ups, wheels, flaps and sliders ensures visual delight, not to mention ‘wow’!s from young children, at every page turn.
I’m keeping close tabs on my copy for fear it gets booknapped by an enthusiastic child.

Colourful Considerations

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What’s Your Favourite Colour, Pascal?
Magali Le Huche
Twirl Books
Spring has arrived and Pascal Platypus wants to bring some seasonal cheer to his nautical themed room with a fresh coat of paint and when he enlists the help of his friends in choosing a colour, every one of them is ready to help.
Cardigan suggests orange: “Trust me, it will be delicious!” he states but once the colour has been applied, Fancy the Turtle announces that the room looks like a giant carrot.

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He thinks green would be a whole lot better and off they go again but once more, on completion, there’s a dissenter. It’s Zelda Frog and pink is her suggestion but now Ringo Dog isn’t happy. “All the colours!” is his idea and there follows a SPLOOSH! SPLAT! colour-splatter battle …

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and now Pascal has had enough. It’s not new paint he needs but a whole new home and off he goes to create one. No prizes for guessing what colour predominates …

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Deliciously detailed and full of droll humour. Children will enjoy opening the multitude of flaps to peep inside the various cupboards, drawers, the bathtub and even the pictures adorning Pascal’s walls. They’ll also have fun watching the antics of those other residents of Pascal’s home – the tiny mice.

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The Colour Monster
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing
Meet the monster of the title and the little girl who helps him sort himself out, or his mixed up feelings at least …

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Her means of so doing is separation – into glass jars: each emotion being linked to a colour. Happiness is yellow ‘You feel bright and light. You laugh, you jump, you dance. You want to share that feeling with everyone.’

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Blue represents sadness ‘gentle like a blue rainy day.’ Anger is red – no surprises there- it’s ablaze like fire, making you want to stomp and …

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Fear is black, lurking among shadows: you feel alone, diminished.
In stark contrast, calm is green ‘quiet like the trees and soft like their leaves.’ It’s slow, deep breaths … I love this near yogic saravasana …

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And that’s pretty much it – fait accompli.
Hold on though, there’s been a change of hue in Colour Monster himself: he now looks like this …

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maybe this particular emotion just cannot be contained.
What a monstrously good way to introduce ideas about feelings and emotions to young children: the whole thing is a delight.
The child-like collage illustrations built up from cut out card and paper, painted, scribbled or daubed are immediately engaging and the characters instantly endearing.

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