Zoom: Ocean Adventure & Zoom: Space Adventure / Where’s My Peacock?

Zoom: Ocean Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Sam Rennocks
Zoom: Space Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Susanna Rumiz
What on Earth Books

These are two titles in a new board-book non-fiction series for curious toddlers.

In the first we meet Noah and join him and his turtle on an ocean adventure as he takes his boat out to sea, dons his diving gear and plunges into the water.

His first location is a coral reef, a good place for a game of hide-and-seek with some fish. Next stop is a seagrass meadow with its seahorses, dugongs and a wealth of other creatures, some of which emerge from the kelp.

Danger suddenly looms in the shape of a hungry great white shark from which Noah must make a hasty escape by climbing into his submarine and diving down to the darkest depths.

There’s also a sunken pirate ship with treasure and more to discover as Noah heads for the Antarctic and an iceberg with penguins atop, made all the more dramatic by its large die-cut shape,

Indeed die-cuts are a feature of every spread and with their clever placing each one offers a different view depending on whether the page is turned forwards or back.

The Space Adventure is Ada’s and begins with her (and her cat) boarding her rocket ship and awaiting the countdown which is delivered through wordless die-cut illustrated pages shaped as the numbers 5 through to 1.

Then the rocket blasts off skywards towards the moon, docking at the International Space Station to make a delivery and for Ada to perform some urgent repairs before making a lunar landing to collect scientific samples.

Thereafter, the rocket explores the Solar System viewing all the different planets before heading home once more.

Characteristic of both, rather longer than average board books are: the surprise pop-up on the penultimate spread, the wealth of visual details in Sam Rennocks and Susanna Rumiz’s vibrant illustrations, the die-cut pages, the relatively short narrative and the fact that both Noah and Ada actually experience their journeys through their imagination.

Sturdily built, these are well worth putting into a nursery collection or adding to your toddler’s bookshelf.

Where’s My Peacock?
Becky Davies and Kate McLelland
Little Tiger

In their latest touchy-feely, hide-and-seek board book, thanks to Becky Davies’ simple repeat patterned and Kate McLelland’s alluring patterned art, toddlers can follow the trail of footprints and discover a long tailed lemur, a feathery owl and a brightly hued toucan before locating the dazzling tailed peacock that has almost, but not entirely, hidden himself away.

Tactile fun for tinies and the possibility of learning some new vocabulary.

Little Turtle and the Sea

Little Turtle and the Sea
Becky Davies and Jennie Poh
Litte Tiger

In this story we follow Little Turtle as she emerges from a nest on the sandy shore and heads to the safety of the sea, right through to maturity.

The turtle grows to love the ocean as she herself grows larger and one day she reaches the other side of the world where she lives for many years foraging and feeding.

Then comes a time for her to make the long journey back to the beach from whence she came .

Now however, it’s different. Things are not right: the colours of the reef are fading and instead of familiar friends, all manner of weird-looking new creatures (plastic bags) float everywhere.

The strangeness increases and ‘The ocean no longer felt like a friend.’

Little Turtle is alone and entangled in a drifting net of detritus.
Fortunately just when she fears her journey is over forever, two divers appear and set her free, going on to clean up the rubbish.

Once more the bubbling ocean is a beautiful place to live.

Becky Davies keeps her narrative lyrical and gentle as she describes the changing sea shown in Jennie Poh’s beautiful mixed media illustrations, saving the starker factual information about the terrible effects of pollution on our oceans to the two final ‘note from the author’ double spreads after the story.

Make Time for a Board Book

Where’s My Llama?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger

Capitalising on the current vogue for all things llama, Becky Davies has written a board book. Herein a llama has gone missing and it’s up to little ones to follow the trail of brightly coloured footprints to track her down.

Along the way tiny detectives will encounter a long-necked Giraffe, a cute tailed fox

and a long-eared rabbit, all of which have similar characteristics to the llama.
But where is the errant ungulate? Rest assured her fluffy tail will finally give the game away.

With its final flap reveal, Kate McLelland’s alluring scenes – each with a touch and feel animal body part – on softly patterned pastel backgrounds, simple descriptive text with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my llama?’ to chant, there’s plenty to keep the attention of tinies throughout this touch and feel, search and find book.

Maisy’s Science
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Toddlers’ favourite mouse Maisy is in investigative mode in this STEAM First Words tabbed book.

Out and about, she encounters some very windy weather that is perfect for kite flying; seasonal snow as she feeds the birds; enjoys a relaxing break from vegetable gathering to enjoy watching the minibeasts close by. Then it’s time for a bit of seed watering – perhaps she’s planted sunflower seeds – followed by observing some seasonal changes.

The arrival of her friends gives an opportunity to look at various parts of their bodies and hers and once she’s alone again, she and cuddly Panda can investigate a variety of textures; make some rather noisy musical sound with her percussion; don her painting apron and experiment with her paints, perhaps trying colour mixing and after all that activity it’s time to sit and read a book (or choose from one of the other learning tools shown on the opposite page).

Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!
Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter
Abrams Appleseed

This is a fun, rhyming tale of an energetic would-be little ninja whom we first meet looking terrified of the rather large family dog.

Creeping away, he comes upon his younger brother happily playing with a balloon. Not for long though. With a deft ‘chop’ Ninja  removes the balloon from little bro., then proceeds to snatch his chocolate-chip cookie and with a further chop – delivered with his foot this time – destroys his block-built castle leaving the long-suffering toddler howling.

A change of heart caused by an unseen force calling ‘Ninja, Ninja, would you stop?’ sees our Ninja then pause and help to reconstruct the building before whizzing off once more into the great outdoors.

It’s there that he receives his comeuppance, discovering – much to his surprise – that little brother is actually a highly observant pupil. Time to join forces it seems, for two Ninjas may well be better than one, certainly when it comes to scheming.

There’s a slight retro feel to Tad Carpenter’s bold, bright scenes from which the black-clad Ninja leaps out – literally! I can see little ones joining in, enthusiastically chanting along with adult readers aloud of debut author, Todd Tuell’s staccato text, as they turn the pages.

Don’t Mess With Duck! / The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom

Here are two treats from Little Tiger


Don’t Mess With Duck!
Becky Davies and Emma Levey
Little Tiger

Duck is an exceedingly grumpy creature, the grumpiest in his particular pond. Rather than leaving him to enjoy some peace and quiet the other residents create a terrible row and splash infuriatingly. Consequently, case in wing, Duck ups and leaves seeking somewhere quiet.

His search yields several promising ponds but each proves unsatisfactory in one way or anther so he goes to the city where he’s equally unsuccessful,

so too is the cave.

Finally though, he comes upon just what he’s looking for, except that all of a sudden he hears another voice and finds himself face to face with a grumpy frog that’s as cross about seeing Duck as Duck is to discover another occupant. “Clear off!’ they both order.

A brief argument ensues followed by a truce when each agrees to keep out of the other’s way. Peace at last.

But then after a few days a loud cry disturbs this peace.
Are Duck and Frog now ready to accept that perhaps friendship is more important that seclusion? …

Themes of acceptance, inclusion and friendship are at the heart of Becky Davies’ funny tale of self-exploration and compromise. Plenty to think about there, for sure and with Emma Levey’s superbly expressive animal illustrations (I certainly wouldn’t dream of messing with that duck), this is a smashing book to share and discuss with youngsters either in school or at home.

The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom
Steve Smallman and Nick Schon
Little Tiger

Just when we, certainly I, am feeling in need of a bit of brightness in what feels like especially grey times, this book with its brand new dazzling, celebratory ‘becoming a teenager’ cover arrives in my post.

It’s a neo pourquoi tale delivered in jaunty rhyme that certainly packs a punch. It tells how long ago a monkey, inspired by the rainbow colours of the birds, takes up the paintbox he happens upon beside the stream, along with a couple of brushes, and feeling an upsurge in his creative juices, sets to work to make his world a brighter place.

Waiting until the animals are having their early afternoon snooze, he gets busy daubing some reptiles and then decides to give the leopard a bright yellow coat. In so doing however, he causes it to stir. Monkey dashes up a tree and splodges of black paint rain down upon the creature.

Impressed with what he sees, Monkey lets his artistry loose upon a giraffe, a zebra, a lemur and a skunk. Bear receives a pair of white specs. but he’s roused from his slumbers and demands to know what Monkey is up to.

Then instead of venting his wrath upon the fearful primate, Bear takes up the paintbrush and it’s payback time … and the rest as you know is natural history …

I’m certain author Steve and artist Nick Schon had as much fun creating this book as Monkey did creating all those animal designs. It’s terrific fun, reads aloud superbly and will have young audiences laughing their heads off as well as wriggling on their ‘not blue’ bottoms in glee.

Board Books Matter

Board books form the bedrock of children’s reading – or rather one hopes they do; but not all new parents appreciate their potential and their importance. Thanks to Little Tiger, here are some new titles. The first is already published the others will be early in February.

Where’s My Unicorn?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger
Right from a very young age, there seems to be a magnetic attraction between young children, (girls mostly) and unicorns, so I’m sure this textured book will please.

Its first spread shows the rear end of a hoofed animal that has left a trail of footprints as clues to follow through the pages until the missing unicorn is found on the final spread hiding in plain sight.

On the way little ones encounter a mermaid with a colourful tail, a flamingo with soft fluffy plumage and a narwhal with a magical horn.

Tactile hide-and-seek fun for tinies who can enjoy the search as well as joining in with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my unicorn?’ Becky Davies provides the words, giving a sentence about each creature; Kate McLelland has created the alluring visuals.

What Can You See: On the Farm?
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

As well as providing an introduction to what might be seen on a farm, and something to count on each spread, this, the first of a new ‘spot and count’ series provides plenty to interest little ones in Maria Perera’s jolly scenes of farm life.

First we visit the farm shop where different kinds of delicious-looking vegetables are on sale. Lunchtime is an opportunity to watch the sheep being fed; the pigs too need feeding and fruit trees near their sty supply a wealth of apples when they’re ready for eating.

The farm also has a duck pond alongside which is a weeping willow; there are several different kinds of birds to see in that scene.

Later in the year, the combine harvester gathers the wheat from a field where lots of small creatures have made their homes; and finally it’s teatime and the farmer collects eggs from the barn where there are hens, cows while other animals scamper along the rafters.

Toddlers can by means of the die-cut visuals, acquire some facts, do some counting and develop their observation skills, using Kate Ware’s words as guidance.

I Can Do It!
Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir
Caterpillar Books

Try teaching preschool and reception age children and you’d be amazed how many 4/5 year olds start school unable to dress themselves properly. I know parents find it easier when they’re rushed in the mornings to dress their youngsters but essentially this is deskilling children. Much better to set time aside to help them learn in a playful manner to cope with zips, buttons, poppers, laces and Velcro type fastenings themselves.

This robust board book with Patricia’s text and Hilli Kushnir’s enticing illustrations will be a boon in this respect.

Using five little children as models, the narrative provides an introduction to each fastening with instructions on how to work it, and asks each time ‘Can you fasten the …? alongside a bold, bright illustration of a child wearing the item needing to be done up.

One boy fastens shirt buttons, a little girl zips up her hoodie,

another boy does up the hooks and loops fastening on his coat; a child closes the popper on a backpack and finally a little girl has lace-up shoes to tie up on her trainers.

Fun, instructive and I assure you, early years teachers will be truly thankful if your child can manage all the five fastenings.

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat / Happily Ever After: Little Red Riding Hood

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat
Becky Davies and Caroline Attia
Little Tiger Press
Move over Big Bad Wolf, you have a rival. A favourite traditional tale is given a contemporary spin with the pigs being replaced by pugs and the big bad wolf by a much less threatening creature, unless of course you are a member of the canine species; in which case it’s your arch enemy, a Big Bad Cat.
The young pugs go by the names of Bubbles, Bandit and Beauty and when the space in the kennel they share with Mother Pug becomes a tad inadequate, they’re dispatched into the big wide world and there to build homes of their own. Their mother fills their rucksacks with snacks, warns them to watch out for the rampaging cat; ensure their houses are sufficiently strong to withstand any moggy onslaughts; and off they go.
It’s not long before Bubbles has stopped, built a flimsy straw house and had it whirred and whooshed to the ground by a certain feline character.
Bandit too builds an insubstantial house: his stick construction soon meets a fate similar to that of his brother. This time however, the weapon of house destruction is, wait for it … a leaf blower.
That leaves Beauty, who has the sense to engage a team to assist in her house construction …

and it’s completed just as her brothers appear warning of the imminent arrival of the fearsome Big Bad Cat.
Unperturbed, Beauty decides it’s time to put plan B into action …
What happens thereafter sees the frustrated house destroyer finally gain entry to Beauty’s brick house …

only to have her victory turn sour in more ways than one. It’s great to see female Pug, Beauty with the brains to be the saviour of her brothers despite her silly pink attire.
Caroline Attia sprinkles her mixed media scenes with much that will make readers smile: photographed pugs digitally adorned with bows, bags, bandanas and blouses populate an animation world of mischief and mayhem.

Happily Ever After: Little Red Riding Hood
Celeste Hulme
New Frontier Publishing
Illustrator Celeste Hulme gives the classic fairy tale a modern twist in her rendition of a favourite tale. Herein Little Red Riding Hood cycles to the shops with her mother and wears her little red coat to school to keep her warm: a coat that she’s been sent as a birthday present by her Grandma. The little girl doesn’t ride her bike through the woods to visit her sick grandma though; she walks alone, meets the wolf and willingly reveals to him her destination. The wolf duly runs to Grandma’s, gains entry, pushes the old lady into a cupboard …

and takes her place in bed.
The traditional exchange about big eyes, big ears and big teeth takes place with the addition of ‘what big arms’ and ‘what big legs you have’ and it’s with those that the wolf leaps from his sick bed intending to dig his claws into the child. Red Riding Hood however is too quick for the beast; she crawls under the bed, dashes to the cupboard and releases her grandmother. In so doing she releases so we’re told, ‘the avalanche’.

This particular lupine creature is something of a coward for he howls, turns tail and beats a hasty retreat, never to be seen again.
If this sounds totally un-scary – there’s certainly no gobbling of gran, nor the need for a woodcutter – some of the illustrations show the wolf as a huge menacing beast, particularly this one of his shadow looming threateningly as he enters Grandma’s house…

In fact lupine shadows are used to great effect in several scenes; there’s one in the woods where Red Riding Hood is completely overshadowed by the beast.
Certainly a book to add to a Red Riding Hood collection in the primary school, as well as one to share at home.

I’ve signed the charter