Tad

Tad
Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books

As a huge Benji Davies enthusiast I was eagerly awaiting Tad and it’s another winner.

Let me introduce Tad; she’s the tiniest, almost a frog, tadpole in the entire pond who can only keep up with her tad siblings by wiggling her tail at double the speed they do.

These little creatures share a problem though, for there’s another resident of their pond; Big Blub is its name and it’s said this great big nasty ancient fish lives in the darkest, murkiest part of the pond and lies in wait to gobble up unsuspecting little wrigglers like her.

Tad resolves not to believe in such a beastie, confining her swimming to the shallow water and hiding behind the plants at sundown – just in case.

Gradually as tadpoles do, Tad and her siblings’ grow legs and lose their tails,

finding large leaves on which to spend the nights. But there seem to be fewer of them about

and then there are just two remaining – oops! One brother gone!

Make that just Tad with her determination to escape the mouth of Big Blub.

It’s no good pretending the predator doesn’t exist any longer; there’s just one way to save herself …

Could her leap into the unknown perhaps herald not only a startling reunion but also the start of a new and exciting, rather different way of life?

This is perfect springtime reading; dramatic illustrations to feast your eyes on and a perfectly paced telling with just sufficient suspense to send small frissons of fear running through your little ones, as they listen to Benji’s delicious tad-tale.

Tooth / Big Kid Bed, Bizzy Bear Knights’ Castle, Mix & Match Farm Animals

Tooth
Big Kid Bed

Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books

Baby, the star of several previous board books including Toot returns in two further amusing and appealing episodes.

Tooth begins with the star of the show exhibiting some distress about a strange feeling in the mouth. Before long we discover that Baby is getting a tooth, shiny, white, hard and sharp. Not just a single tooth though, there’s another and then two more follow.
Having shown those shiny gnashers, Baby demonstrates some things good and not so good that can be done with the teeth.

Very important too is taking care of teeth and we see how even one so small is conscientious about dental hygiene.

Brushing twice a day and flossing (with Daddy and Mummy’s help) are part of the little one’s daily routine.

Patricelli’s straightforward first person text combined with scenes of the adorable Baby is irresistible.

The same is true in Big Kid Bed. Here the toddler tells of bedtime preparations for a sleep on ‘my new big kid bed!’ How exciting; but the bed is so big and the toddler so small it’s as well that Mummy and Daddy are on hand to make things easier, piling up pillows around the bed in case of a fall and bringing in Baby’s stuffed animals to snuggle up with.

Comfortable as Baby might be, there’s the possibility of getting out of bed again to investigate what other members of the household are doing during the night, until finally, YAWN; sleepiness takes over and it’s time to return to the warmth and cosiness of that new bed for a good night’s sleep.

Who could ask for more from a bedtime book for the very youngest?

Bizzy Bear Knights’ Castle
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow

In this adventure Bizzy Bear finds out what life as a knight is like when (with a bit of help from small fingers that slide the helmet visor up and down) he dons a perfectly fitting suit of armour and visits a castle.
Once kitted out and inside, Bizzy tries his paw at brandishing a sword

and then on the next spread, at jousting before finally sitting down to participate in a delicious-looking banquet.

As with other titles in the series, the engaging simple rhyming text, brightly coloured illustrations with just the right amount of detail (look out for the dragon) and those interactive features – sliders and tabs that are easy to use, make this well-constructed book ideal for toddlers.,

Mix & Match Farm Animals
Rachael Saunders
Walker Books

With the same innovative design as previous titles in this mix & match series (a tiny board book within a small one) young children are invited to match the larger surrounding page with its ‘Who says …?’ question to the appropriate smaller inset animal spread showing the animal that makes the sound.

The animals featured in the smaller book are all adult while on the surrounding pages young animals are depicted, as well as other appropriate clues, for instance there’s a calf, a bull, a barn and a bucket of milk on the ‘cow’ spread.
On the final ‘sheep’ spread we meet a farmer and sheepdog in Rachel Saunders’ illustration.

A clever format, and a playful and enjoyable way to introduce or re-enforce farm animal sounds to the very youngest

Grandma Bird

Grandma Bird
Benji Davies
Simon & Schuster

As an avid fan of Benji Davies’ world of Noi books, I was eagerly anticipating this new one and it certainly lives up to expectations.

Noi is off to spend the summer with his Grandma whose home is on a windswept rock across the water. He’s less than enthusiastic at the prospect of this solitary place and the idea of Grandma’s seaweed soup. Worse, he discovers they have to sleep head to toe in her small bed where Grandma snores loudly and the blankets itch; and during the day she’s so busy she has no time to play with her grandson.

The boy decides to explore the seashore alone. Suddenly he spies something shining in the distance and discovers a large hole-filled rock – the perfect place for some imaginary play.

The wind lashes outside, the sea beats against the rocks and suddenly out of the storm a little bird drops at Noi’s feet.

Knowing it needs help, Noi tries to make his way back across the rocks towards Grandma’s home and as he battles against the lashing storm he sees the bright red sail of a little boat.

Grandma has come to his rescue and once safely aboard her boat, boy and Gran gather up more bedraggled birds which they take back to dry out indoors.

Eventually the storm abates and the birds depart, all except one. Could it be that Grandma feels lonely sometimes in her solitary existence, Noi wonders.

Then for the remainder of the summer two humans, one young, one old and a feathered companion spend their days exploring the tiny island together.

Despite the remoteness and bleakness of the setting this is a story full of warmth and tenderness. Gran’s apparent absorption with her daily routine doesn’t prevent her from keeping a watchful eye on Noi from a distance and she’s quick to act when the storm blows up, while the notion that his Gran might be lonely occurs to the boy as the rescued birds depart.

Such is Benji Davies’ way with words that they alone paint wonderful images in the mind, while every one of his illustrations, large or small merits close attention. I love Grandma’s upturned boat of a cottage and its cosy interior complete with’ One Hundred and One Uses for Seaweed’ book, not to mention her skill at stone balancing and yoga; all of which can be relished during the course of this tender tale.

Halloween is Coming: The Right One / Monster School / Bizzy Bear Spooky House

The Right One
Violeta Noy
Templar Books

New Spanish author/illustrator Violeta Roy presents in bold graphics, a cute story about daring to be different ghost-style: it’s perfect for Halloween, especially for those who don’t like to be scared.

Roderic is the smallest ghost in a very large, ancient family. They all look pretty much alike on account of wearing sheets although Roderic’s is the tiniest.

This diminutive ghost is the last of a long line and he feels more than a little insignificant. None of his family seems to notice his presence. Roderic decides to do something about this. His name is fixed, ditto his family but he can change his appearance. Both a hat, and a scarf prove problematic.

Next morning, deciding a more radical approach is required, our little ghost experiments until finally he’s ready to sport his new gear.

However the reception he receives isn’t quite what he’d hoped, so off he goes to strut his stuff among the city folks. Once again though, nobody notices him at all: poor little thing is now feeling even more invisible than ever.

Back home again he’s given a fresh white sheet but it makes him anything but happy. His frustration causes things to start flying around, one of which just happens to land upon the little ghost and yippee! It feels absolutely right.

What’s more, it looks absolutely right and now nobody is going to stop him from wearing it.
And maybe, just maybe, his new appearance might have some influence on other members of Roderic’s family.

For older readers:

Monster School
Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin
Chronicle Books

A school it may be, but despite its fairly typical activities – homework for example, there’s a class pet and a regular weekly menu on offer at the cafeteria – Monster School’s pupils are anything but your usual boys and girls; the staff are pretty weird too.

Let’s meet some of them. There’s Stevie the Loser, who manages to lose pretty much anything and everything from backpack, book and homework, to his eyeball, kneecap and arm; what a zombie! He may not be able to find said homework but keen-eyed readers will surely spot it still attached to that missing arm of his.
There’s also ‘a ‘multicultural’ miss – whose family tree comprises giants, witches, trolls and other ghoulies.

Computer Wizard has tech skills aplenty: app creator, program writer extraordinaire, with a mouse that dines on virtual crackers and cheese and a ram that consumes virtual grass; seemingly this guy can do anything so long as it’s not a word problem.
I should also mention she of the amazing hair; it’s entirely reptilian with an abundance of adders, vipers and other venomous twisters and twiners.

Katie Coombs imaginative verses employ a variety of forms that will send tingles down the spines of primary age readers while Lee Gatlin’s creepy illustrations home in on the grim and gruesome with plenty of details of the shivery kind.

For the youngest:

Bizzy Bear Spooky House
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow

In his latest adventure, Bizzy Bear dons his starry costume and accompanied by his pal, ventures into a spooky house. Therein are plenty of things to make him shiver as he enters the spiders’ web festooned hall, climbs the creaky stairs and discovers a surprise party at the very top of the house.
Benji Davies’ scenes have plenty to amuse and explore and with a slider or tab to manipulate on every spread, this is mock scary Halloween fun for toddlers.

The Grotlyn

The Grotlyn
Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books

What or who on earth is a Grotlyn?
Well,  it’s certainly the subject of the organ grinder’s song in this story set in a murky Victorian town; and it’s something that keeps young Rubi from sleep as she lies alone in her room one night – the song in her head, and the possibility there’s one around. Or was that scuttling sound merely a mouse?

Others too are not yet slumbering. There’s Sam, perched high among the rooftops, tucking into his supper: he’s disturbed by a rustling sound as something is taken.

Policeman Vickers too is wide awake and in the process of hanging out his washing when …

We have clues now as to the identity of the mysterious Grotlyn; but it’s way too fast for the policeman as it vanishes once more into the shadows with its haul – an odd assortment of bits and pieces. What on earth or in sky could all those things be for?
With its strange noises in the night, Benji Davies compelling rhyming narrative is full of suspense and imbued with a gentle humour and his illustrations are absolutely stupendous. No matter where Davies takes us, be it Sudden Hill, Grandpa’s Island or onto a beach with Noi, we’re always right there with his characters, totally immersed in the story, living each and every moment of the action too; and so it is here, one hundred per cent.

Board Book Shelf

Hidden Animals
Find the Wolf

Agnese Baruzzi
Templar Publishing
Here are two wonderfully playful board books from Italian artist, Agnese Baruzzi.
In the former, the peep-through die-cut pages beguile readers with a series of different coloured shapes which, when the page is turned become transformed into in turn, a bird, a fox, a bug, a cat,

a dog, a jellyfish and a lion.
Part of the fun, once children have worked out what is happening, is to guess the animal from the coloured background on the left-hand side before the page is turned. I was wrong on a couple of occasions.
Find the Wolf takes readers on a hunt for a ”WANTED’ wolf . As we walk through the woods we see for instance, two pointy ears or a set of grey paws. Or are they?
Here Baruzzi uses two die-cut circles on each right hand page and by asking such questions as ‘Are those his eyes?’

leads us to believe’ that behind them the missing lupine lurks. But on turning over we see something completely different.

The elusive creature (or traces of same) is actually lurking somewhere on every recto which further adds to the delicious hide and seek element.

Up and Down
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This lovely board book, published in partnership with the National Trust is Rosalind Beardshaw’s latest addition to her A Walk in the Countryside series.
Winter has well and truly arrived; so the two small friends don warm clothes and boots before setting off into the great snowy outdoors.
Then it’s Up hill and Down on their sledges, followed by on foot encounters with a variety of creatures both feathered and furry

as they spend a wonderful day together savouring the delights of their rural romp.
There’s plenty to enjoy and discuss with toddlers in addition to the inbuilt ‘opposites’ the minimal text offers.

Bizzy Bear Ambulance Rescue
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in making the ‘nee-naw’ ambulance sounds and manipulating the moving parts in the new Bizzy Bear board book.
Bizzy Bear assumes the role of paramedic in his latest episode and he’s responding to an emergency call out. A little cat has had a cycling accident and Bizzy rushes to the scene where he helps lift the patient into the ambulance

which then rushes the injured kitty to hospital where he’s treated for what looks like a broken leg. Short and sweet!

Also an Octopus

%0a

Also an Octopus
Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies
Walker Books
This collaboration between debut author, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and award-winning illustrator, Benji Davies (The Storm Whale, The Storm Whale in Winter and Grandad’s Island) is essentially a witty metanarrative about how to write a story. It’s littered with wonderfully whimsical characters – obviously characters are one of the must haves for a successful storyteller: herein we have a main character in the form of a ukulele-playing octopus.
But lets go right back to the author’s opening line, ‘every story starts the same way … with nothing.‘ Now anybody who writes or indeed works on the writing process with children, knows the truth of that. Back to our octopus.; ‘… in order for it to be a story and not just an octopus, that octopus needs to want something.’ What about a ‘totally awesome shining purple spaceship capable of intergalactic travel’? Now that does sound exciting. But of course such things cannot be easily got hold of, they have to be earned; or, put another way, built from drinks cans, string, glitter, glue, umbrellas and err, waffles.

%0a

No easy task: enter another character in the form of a truly adorable bunny – certainly no rocket scientist, so maybe that rocket isn’t about to become airborne any time soon. Did I hear the word “DESPONDENT” – surely not.

%0a

Time for a spot of music perhaps …
It might prove just the thing to start a resolution (note that ‘r’ word, would-be story writers) forming in the mind …

dscn9589

Tokuda-Hall’s deadpan humour, wherein she demonstrates the ups and downs of the writing process with the interplay between her cast of characters and the narrator), is superbly orchestrated by Davies’ fantastic images that appear to simply pop onto the pages as if at the author’s behest. Illustrators know that simply isn’t true, which makes Benji Davies’ seemingly effortless digital visuals all the more brilliant. And I love the circularity of the whole thing.
A must have for anyone working on developing the process of writing with children. It will surely get their imaginative juices flowing.

localbookshops_nameimage-2

The Storm Whale in Winter

DSCN8406 (2)

The Storm Whale in Winter
Benji Davies
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Some friendships are forever, no matter the distance between the two friends. Such is the case with young Noi who, in The Storm Whale, formed a strong bond with a young whale washed ashore on the beach near his home and later returned to the sea by the boy and his dad. Now with the coming of winter, Noi’s father sets out on one last trip in his fishing boat, but his failure to return by nightfall alarms his son as he waits and watches from his window.

%0A

Seeing something far out at sea, Noi knows he has to leave the safety of his bedroom and braving the snowstorm raging outside, he goes, as fast as the icy shore will allow, towards the water’s edge. Frozen sea prevents him launching his boat and so Noi continues on foot and is soon lost, or so he thinks. Suddenly he spies in the flickering lamplight, a strange shape:

%0A

it’s his dad’s boat, stuck in the ice but there’s nobody aboard. Nobody aboard, but Noi is not alone: all around the boat is the entire whale family including his friend, the storm whale.

DSCN8743

Another storm has brought the friends together once more. But that’s not the only re-union to take place that freezing night …

%0A

However, it’s certainly one that father and son will talk about often.
Once again, Benji Davies has created a truly heart-warming tale, a tale that celebrates the power of love and friendship and the courage it can engender in the face of adversity. What superbly atmospheric scenes of swirling snow and icy seas grace the pages of this long-awaited wintry sequel.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

The Shrew That Flew/ The Dragon & the Nibblesome Knight

%0A

The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight
Elli Woollard and Benji Davies
Macmillan Children’s Books
Told through faultless rhyme – no easy matter despite Elli making it appear so – (with plenty of repetition, and sprinklings of onomatopoeia (FLASHes SPLASHes, FLAPs and CLAPs etc.) and awesome visuals – but one expects no less from Benji Davies – this is a stupendous offering. But, it’s the interaction of text and illustrations that makes the whole thing such a bobby dazzler of a book.
The tale revolves around Dram (love that name), an infant dragon, ejected from the Dragons of Dread family nest to search for ‘dribblesome, nibblesome, knobble-kneed knights.’

%0A

In other words what he has to do is stand on his own feet, or rather fly with his own wings, and get his teeth and claws into a nibblesome knight. However that’s not quite what happens due to a prevailing wind – a looping, curling gale no less – that whisks young Dram ‘away to the End of the World’ depositing him unceremoniously into a lake beside which sits a diminutive knight. Said knight, James, takes the “duckie” under his wing …

%0A

tending to his wounds and generally ministering to his injuries and sore parts,

%0A

not to mention supplying nourishment for both Dram’s body and mind …

%0A

The infant dragon however hasn’t forgotten his nibblesome knight procurement mission, so what will transpire when finally the dreadful realization dawns – that his new best friend is in fact, nothing less than a knight?

%0A

Yes, there are faint echoes of Donaldson’s Zog here, but that is not to detract from its brilliance: if you want to do your bit to make children into life-long book lovers, there’s no doubt this is a MUST have book.

%0A

Another Red Reading Hub favourite creative partnership is responsible for :

DSCN7815 (1)

The Shrew that Flew
Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo
Faber & Faber
This is the third wonderful ‘Harry & Lil Story’ and they just seem to get better and better. In this adventure, Candy Stripe Lil and Harry the Hog (along with the other creatures on Piggyback Hill) having received this invitation …

%0A

are busy preparing for Badger’s do. It’s already 2pm; Harry has donned his spotty, dotty, pointy, flat titfa’ and Lil’s is still drying out on the washing line. Until that is, along comes a sudden gust of wind that whisks the object right up onto the roof.

%0A

Disaster! There follows an amazing sequence of hat-retrieving attempts involving a brolly,

DSCN7818 (1)

a portable fan and all manner of other discarded ephemera retrieved from the shed.

DSCN7819 (1)

But can they manage to get the thing down and onto Lil’s head in time for the party? It’s certainly not a simple task, but however formidable it might be, Lil is the eternal optimist (Oh Lil we need you NOW!). “NEVER SAY NEVERis her maxim and with a bit of timely assistance from another of the party goers …

%0A

it looks as though, they might, just might, be successful …

%0A

Glorious, totally uplifting, a wonderful celebration of friendship and perseverance; Harry & Lil are eternally endearing. Eunyoung Seo’s delectable scenes, coupled with Julia Copus’ tongue-tingling rhyming text – here’s a sample
Lil gripped very tight; the umbrella bent
   and trembled,
         then tugged,
               then – whoosh! – up she went!
And floated off – past the sycamore stump …
are guaranteed to bring joy to listeners and readers aloud, at every turn of the page. Spectacular!

DSCN7793 (1)

Use your local bookshop

localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Bounty of Board Books

DSCN7675

Clive and his Art/Clive and his Babies
Jessica Spanyol
Child’s Play
Preschooler Clive, as portrayed by Jessica Spanyol, is a total delight. In the first book he shares his love of being creative, something that takes many forms including printing, drawing, constructing and collage making. He also loves looking at other people’s art and sharing his own, especially with his cat, Moshi.

DSCN7609

Clive has a particular penchant for googly eyes (don’t most youngsters of his age) and loves to adorn his works with all things glittery and sparkly (ditto).
In the second book we meet Clive with his two ‘babies’. These certainly do get the full range of experiences: play …

DSCN7611

feeding, potty training, baths (with the help of friend Asif) rides, stories – very important, hugs and plenty of TLC.

DSCN7612

I love the slightly oblique, almost child-like views of Clive that Jessica often gives us. Her straightforward present tense narrative is such that beginning readers can also enjoy Clive and his world when they share these enchanting books with their younger siblings.

DSCN7419 (1)

Littleland Around the World
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
The animal friends from Littleland pack their bags and set off to explore the world. First stop is London and they finish up in New York City – in Central Park to be precise. There are five other European destinations, then they head to Egypt and the pyramids followed by a safari in Kenya (that’s Africa taken care of). Next port of call is India and the Taj Mahal in Agra – a very hot place indeed so we are told, not always so in my experience though. From there it’s to China for a dragon festival , Tokyo at night …

DSCN7421 (1)

Australia to visit the outback and sunny Brazil for a spot of beach fun and games.
Running below every spread is a “Can you see …?‘ strip with nine labeled items (the national flag, animals, foods and more) for lap-tourists to spot. Yes there is the odd bit of mild stereotyping: ‘In Italy, people often eat pizza for their lunch.’ but the illustrations are cute, there’s so much to discuss, and toddlers will love to play I-Spy on this whistle-stop global tour.

DSCN7619

My First Book of Opposites
Alain Grée
Button Books
Ten spreads playfully illustrate basic opposites such as big/small, short/tall, up/down, fast/slow
Most of the concepts are either mathematical or scientific – hot/cold, day/night with the exception of one relating to feelings – happy/sad. We know that children acquire concepts through life experiences but books such as this board book can help in the reinforcement of same, and provide a talking point for adult and child together.

DSCN7416 (1)

Bizzy Bear DIY Day
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Bizzy Bear is having a DIY day. He’s busy measuring, sawing, drilling; but what are he and his pals making?

DSCN7418 (1)

TADAAH! Somewhere they can all have fun together …
Toddlers can enjoy the surprise ending and hone their fine motor skills as they push and slide the tabs to assist Bizzy as he wields his tools.
Bizzy Bear already has many fans among the very youngest; this one could win him even more.

DSCN7677

Animal Babies in the River/Animal Babies on the Mountain
Julia Groves
Child’s Play
Adult animals and their offspring from two different habitats – the river and mountains – are presented in life-like, collage style illustrations. The half dozen river animals portrayed are swan/cygnets, crocodile/hatchlings …

DSCN7606

otter and her pups, frog/tadpoles, salmon/fry and duck/ducklings.
The mountain dwellers include the alpaca/cria, lynx/kittens, eagle/eaglets and wolf/cubs.

DSCN7603

Julia Groves really does capture the essence of each species in her portrayals; her graphic style certainly doesn’t dumb down her illustrations: she clearly believes that the very youngest children deserve quality artwork and this is what she provides here.

Use your local bookshop  localbookshops_NameImage-2

WNDB_Button

 

Terrific Twosomes

DSCN6347 (800x600)

I Love You Already
Jory John and Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Goodnight Already duo(s) are back with another rip-roaring winner.
We start with Duck seemingly planning a morning stroll with his best pal and Bear extolling the virtues of lazy weekends at home …

DSCN6348 (800x600)

Before long though Bear’s peace is shattered by a knock at his door and this little buddy isn’t taking no for an answer.
Maybe that walk isn’t quite such a good idea after all though …

DSCN6352 (800x600)

and it seems Bear likes “quiet time by himself’ as much or maybe even more than he likes his chatty neighbour, and is determined to have some quality time to himself no matter what, or where.
Not very much however, for very soon he hears …

DSCN6353 (800x600)

And sees …

DSCN6354 (800x600)

Guess who is starting to feel a little bit of remorse now and then even more when he hears “You don’t even like me, do you, Bear? ” to which he responds, “Nonsense. You’re basically my family. I love you already, Duck.”
Maybe not the best thing you could have said, Bear because …

DSCN6355 (800x600)

That irrepressible, fun loving Duck is the perfect complement to his ursine neighbour who loves nothing better than a quiet day to himself with plenty of books and the odd cuppa.
Super stuff.

On the subject of perfect partnerships, bears, and a rabbit this time, an unmissable book for newly independent and emerging readers is:

DSCN6288 (800x600)

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits
Julian Gough & Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
I absolutely adored Jim Field’s wonderful Oi Frog! so I couldn’t wait to read this and wow! did I love it. I’ve always thought Frog and Toad were the unbeatable pairing when it comes to perfectly balanced contrasting characters but now along come the all-knowing Rabbit and laid-back Bear; and if this first book is anything to go by, they are about to give those amphibian guys a run for their money.
This side-splitting woodland romp is the setting for a tale of snowballs, snowman building,

DSCN6358 (800x600)

almost-avalanches, cracking ice, a breath-taking escape, a bit of stealing, poo eating – did I just say poo eating? (apparently, in this instance it’s called coprophagia) – not to mention the odd soggy carrot, oh! and there’s this other character I almost forgot to mention too.

DSCN6357 (800x600)

And of course, there’s friendship – who could ask for anything more? Well, other than – next instalment very soon please Mr G and Mr F.
Such a brilliantly seamless amalgam of words and pictures. Roll on The Pest in the Nest say I.

Use your local bookshop

localbookshops_NameImage-2

Toddler Christmas Books

DSCN5932 (800x600)

Santa’s Reindeer
Tom Duxbury, Matilda Tristram and Nick Sharratt
Walker Books
Over-peppering of his pre-delivery supper soup by Santa causes extreme nasal irritation of Reindeer and …

DSCN5933 (800x600)

ATCHOOO!

But can they retrieve it in time to deliver the presents when Polar Bear wants it to button up his his onesie, Robin thinks it might be a tree decoration, Seal needs it to practice tricks for the Christmas show, sending it flying into Arctic Fox’s stocking

DSCN5934 (800x600)

and when he empties it out, the nose vanishes. Hold on though, what’s that in Penguin’s fruit salad?

DSCN5935 (800x600)

Could it possibly be …
A fun idea, hilariously captured in Nick Sharratt’s suitably silly seasonal scenes, complete with a squeaky nose. What better novelty for a Christmas Eve romp?

DSCN5936 (800x600)

Is It Christmas Yet?
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
This is a lovely, squashy-covered board book version of Jane Chapman’s jolly tale.
Young Ted is beside himself with excitement charging round the house yelling.
Is it Christmas yet?” he repeatedly asks Big Bear who is getting to the end of his tether at the frequent question.

DSCN5937 (800x600)

However, the preparations continue at a pace – a slow one – as they work together wrapping presents, search for a suitable tree – easier said than done resulting in a very tearful Ted.

DSCN5939 (800x600)

But happily, team work fixes the problem and finally Big Bear carries his exhausted little one up to bed as it is at last very, very nearly CHRISTMAS!
With a decidedly upbeat text full of delicious words (HEAVED, HUFFED, PULLED, PUFFED and “TOO SPIKY…” “TOO THIN…“)

DSCN5940 (800x600)

and sounds (zzzzzzzzzzzzpft! SNAP!, NOOOOOOO!) to join in and perhaps act out), this is perfect for sharing with over-excited toddlers, (especially those who keep asking the same question as Ted) as Christmas draws ever closer. Adults will surely recognize the feelings portrayed by Big Bear in the deliciously humorous illustrations; and it’s good to see a single Dad coping so well with the high spirits of Ted.

DSCN5910 (800x600)

Bizzy Bear Christmas Helper
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
A seasonal board book offering featuring the popular Bizzy Bear who herein, has been enlisted to aid and abet Father Christmas, First he has to help in the workshop, then there’s the sleigh to be packed, after which it’s ‘up and away!’ delivering toys to all the sleeping animals.

DSCN5911 (800x600)

With the usual ingredients: brief rhyming text, jolly pictures and sliders to push and pull plus the added festive fun, this is just the thing to share with the very youngest during the run up to Christmas.

DSCN6006

Jingle Bells
James Lord Pierpont and Pauline Seiwert
Walker Books
This is a sturdily built rendition of the seasonal favourite song with teddies riding the sleigh pulled by a pony, with rabbits bounding along beside, badgers greeting them as they slow down; and a whole host of other woodland creatures joining them as they sing and sleigh slowly towards the candle-lit Christmas tree where they look skywards and see another sleigh pulled by reindeers …

DSCN6009

If that’s not enough to captivate the very young, then there’s a button to press and they can sing along with the music.

DSCN5948 (800x600)

This Little Piggy Went Singing
Margaret Wild and Deborah Niland
Allen & Unwin
In their follow-up to the delightful This Little Piggy Went Dancing, the highly regarded Australian picture book creators Wild and Niland come up with a Christmas sequel. Herein, the super-cute five little piggies are busy with their seasonal preparations. They sing and make music, shop, create …

DSCN5949 (800x600)

and post cards and party.
There are candy canes …

DSCN5951 (800x600)

and cakes (of the fishy variety), baubles and bedtime stories, not to mention plum pudding, and pineapple, gingerbread and more …
In ten verses Margaret Wild offers musical alternatives to the ‘wee-wee-wee’ with more upbeat ‘vroom vrooms’, ‘plink, plonk, plunks, ratta-tat-tats, jingle-jingle-jingles’ … and a final

DSCN5952 (800x600)

… all the way home.
Do join those porcine frolics so cleverly rotated so that a different piggy has none each time, in Deborah Niland’s lively, playful , action-packed pictures. And look out for that mouse friend who makes his presence well and truly felt in every spread.
Seasonal enchantment for the very young (and those who read or sing it aloud to them).

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Exploring Big Ideas: Grandad’s Island & Alive Again

DSCN4819 (800x600)

Grandad’s Island
Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books pbk
Sometimes along comes a book that moves me to tears; this is such a one. It really tugs at the heartstrings as it tells how young Syd accompanies his beloved Grandad on a final journey. With Grandad at the helm,

DSCN4820 (800x600)

the two of them set forth on a tall ship across the ocean and its rolling waves to a far distant island. Abandoning his stick, Grandad leads Syd into the thick jungle where they come upon an old shack.

DSCN4821 (800x600)

Having made everything ‘shipshape’, the two of them sally forth to explore and come upon a perfect resting spot.

DSCN4822 (800x600)

It’s there that Grandad breaks the news to Syd that he is going to remain on the island, assuring him that he won’t feel lonely.
So, after a loving farewell, Syd returns home alone. It’s a lonesome journey and a long one and when Syd returns to Grandad’s house, there’s nobody there. But then he hears a tapping at the window and there, sent by special mail is …

DSCN4818 (800x600)

Poignantly beautiful both visually and verbally: Benji Davies has done it again.

 

DSCN4828 (800x600)

Alive Again
Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Nahid Kazemi
Tiny Owl
The well-regarded Iranian poet Ahmadi is the author of this seemingly simple, thought-provoking tale.
One by one, things that a boy loves disappear from his life: are they gone forever, he wonders. Can blossom, rain and wheat come back?

DSCN4831 (800x600)

They can and will, but each in its own good time.
The author’s spare prose allows children to create their own interpretations and fill the gaps left in the telling. Ahmadi gives the impression of being close to young children and the kinds of ideas that preoccupy them from time to time. Themes of change, loss, death, rebirth and renewal, and the cycles of nature

DSCN4833 (800x600)

are all possible ideas to explore having shared the reassuring book with young listeners.
As with all the Tiny Owl titles, the production is excellent and the illustrations superb. The collage style illustrator Nahid Kazemi used here has a child-like quality about it and is likely to inspire children’s own creative endeavours.

 

DSCN4832 (800x600)

A box of interesting fabrics, some decent backing paper, fine-line pens and glue is all that’s required.
A wonderful book for primary teachers looking to further children’s spiritual and imaginative development.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

Giants, Gold-Spinning and a Growing Nose

DSCN4462 (800x600)

Dolci was a little bit alarmed at the giant’s child-eating threats

 

The Giant of Jum
Elli Woollard and Benji Davies
Macmillan Children’s Books
Inspired by the traditional tale told to him by his brother, about a boy called Jack, the Giant of Jum – a bad-tempered chap – sets out in search of some children for a tasty teatime snack. The children he discovers though, far from fearing the giant, enlist his help in reaching their ball.

DSCN4393 (800x600)

He obliges promising to be back to fulfill his own purposes, then goes on his way again. Before long another group of children beg for his assistance

DSCN4394 (800x600)

and once again our giant obliges and promises to return. His search is now for Jack … and sure enough – soon enough, there at his feet is a very small boy pleading for a ride. I’m sure you can guess the name of this little fellow and he’s thoroughly beguiled by the giant.
But … “Fee!” he said, and “Fi!” he said and “Little Jack snack, is that right?” and a whole lot worse. (This bit really had some children on the very edge of their seats.)

DSCN4395 (800x600)

But he hadn’t bargained for the children’s rapid intervention, and their bargaining powers …
It’s a happy ending for all – kindness begets kindness – and the giant discovers that some things actually taste better than children.

DSCN4396 (800x600)

Enormous fun; and what potential for inspiring creative work from young children. Elli Woollard’s rhyming text bounces along jauntily and is brilliant fun to read aloud: Benji Davies has created a wonderful character in the giant: I love that funky head attire and those peep-toed boots are just superb. With all manner of interesting perspectives (and some darker scenes)

DSCN4397 (800x600)

every page is packed with small details to relish and chuckle over. The illustrative style seems something of a new development for Benji Davies; this new partnership with Elli Woollard is one to be celebrated if their debut book is anything to go by. Maybe that Giant of Jum could even make a return …

DSCN4386 (800x600)

Jack and the Beanstalk
illustrated by Ed Bryan
Nosy Crow
This is I think, the fourth in the series of fairy tales created from Bryan’s award- winning Nosy Crow apps. It’s a lively rendition of a favourite story that includes a mouse, a frog

DSCN4388 (800x600)

and a baby dragon in the cast of characters. The latter enlists Jack’s help to release him from a dungeon cell and in return he tells Jack the whereabouts of the giant’s golden harp. This harp however, is a trickster and once Jack has it in his clutches, calls out, “Master Giant, wakey wakey! This boy Jack is trying to take me!” Nevertheless Jack does manage to escape from the castle hotly pursued by the giant, grab his trusty axe and bring the beanstalk crashing down. We never learn the fate of the giant but at least he never troubles Jack and his mother ever again.
The setting has something of a modern feel: Jack’s mum, despite her poverty, wears a stylish dress albeit with jazzy patches, and long boots;

DSCN4387 (800x600)

and Jack carries a rucksack. The story itself reads aloud well and as the goose on the back cover says, ‘is all about being kind and helpful’. May be not ‘all ’ but no one would argue with that as a worthwhile message.

DSCN4353 (800x600)

Rumpelstiltskin
Mara Alperin and Loretta Schauer
Little Tiger Press
This is a lively rendition of a favourite fairy tale with some fairly lavish verbal, and hence visual, embellishments such as the miller’s pre gold-spinning boast about his daughter: “Tulips start to bloom when my daughter sings,” and “When Isabel catches raindrops, they turn into butterflies.” for instance. Young Isabel is duly thrust into the highest tower by the king once he’s heard of her ability to spin straw into gold and ordered to do just that. There follows her encounter with the little man who offers help, makes a bargain and in her desperation, Isobel has promised him his “pick of treasure” once she’s rich. Having spun as promised (‘coins and crowns, and trinkets and trophies’), he vanishes leaving Isabel to reap the rewards from the king. (His visits are cut to one here) and the king introduces her to his kind son, Prince Herbert. Before long wedding bells ring forth and, in due course, the couple is blessed with a baby boy.

DSCN4354 (800x600)

The little man is completely forgotten until one stormy night that is. Then POOF! There he is cackling and demanding his dues. Nothing short of the baby will do unless Isabel can guess his name within three nights.

DSCN4355 (800x600)

However, it’s not Isabel who takes the initiative – not sure I approve of that – but her husband, Herbert. He tracks down the little man, discovers his name and informs his wife who then ‘guesses correctly’ on her final chance and with a howl and a growl, a stomp and a stamp, Rumpelstiltskin vanishes through the floor, never to be seen again in the kingdom, leaving baby Hugo to grow up safe and sound with his loving parents.
With smatterings of word play and bright, jolly, richly patterned illustrations, this version has a modern feel to it. It’s certainly one young audiences will be attracted to visually and they will enjoy the tension of the guessing game and its outcome in particular.
For me nothing can beat an oral telling I once heard Sara Corrin perform (based on the text in her Stories for Seven Year Olds collection) but this one is an enjoyable read aloud if that’s what you want.

Not a traditional tale but a classic one that seems to be ever popular is:

DSCN4398 (600x800)

The Patua Pinocchio
Carlo Collodi and Swarna Chitrakar
Tara Books
The artist, Swarna Chitrakar, a West Bengali scroll painter has given the tale a wholly new visual interpretation, totally unlike the westernized, often Disneyfied one where Pinocchio, the mischievous Italian marionette wears a yellow hat and a kind of romper suit. Here, in keeping with clothing styles from her own tradition, Pinocchio is clad in a dhoti/ loincloth, is adorned with jewellery (anklets and armlets and a neck adornment),

DSCN4399 (600x800)

and has a rich brown skin and beatific smile reminding one – and this is the author’s conception too – of the Hindu deity, Krishna whom she refers to in her afterword as ‘a lovable yet godly trickster figure … who looks composed and serene at all times.’
Geppetto in contrast has a mustard-coloured skin and wears a dhoti.
Visually striking, with its stylized Patua folk art images, this book will  particularly appeal to those fascinated by traditional art forms, and anyone interested in exploring the universality of stories.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Ursine Antics by Night and Day

 

DSCN3974 (800x600)

Goodnight Already!
Jory John and Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Parallel but opposing viewpoints quickly come head to head in what must surely be to many adults at least, a familiar scenario – the pull and push between two characters whose body clocks have entirely opposing rhythms. Herein it’s an exceedingly sleepy-looking Bear and his neighbour and supposed friend,

DSCN3970 (800x600)

Duck who is full of (caffeine-induced?) energy and has “never been so awake.”
I can’t wait to sleep. Here we go … yes…” yawns Bear as he pulls up his covers.
Uugh oh! There in the moonlight stands his feathered pal demanding entrance.
Having barged his way in Duck is determined to get Bear to “hang out” and suggests all manner of fun-filled activities. “Want to play cards? … Watch a movie? … Start a band? … Make smoothies?” … (What is this guy thinking of?) “Talk all night? … “Read books to each other?” (Now there’s a thought.) Each of these suggestions meets with a resounding “No.” from Bear and Duck eventually gets the message and departs. So, does our ursine friend finally get his well-earned shut eye? Errm …

DSCN3971 (800x600)

This time Duck is after cooking ingredients “… some sugar?” – “No.” Butter? “No.” … Is there to be no end to Duck’s requests? New neighbours will have to be the order of the day, or rather night, an increasingly grouchy Bear decides, returning to the safety of his quilt. Did I say safety? Oops!

DSCN3972 (800x600)

But safety it certainly is not, for Duck at least.

DSCN3973 (800x600)

Finally losing it altogether, Bear sends Duck packing and heads off back to get that well earned slumber. Well, not quite …
My audience groaned at the final ironic comic twist but it was clearly a groan of satisfaction and hastily followed by demands to ‘read it again’, then ‘one more time’. Of course I obliged, eager as they to let that superb tension be played out over and over in this wonderful book, at the heart of which is perfect textual comic timing, pace and counterbalance, the latter being so beautifully portrayed by Benji Davies. His visuals, which alternate between the vivid yellow of the occasional scene at Duck’s residence, and the somnolent shades of Bear’s surroundings, and brilliantly mirror John Jory’s shifts in pace and energy, are equally good. The combination of the two is an amalgam that’s pretty near perfect in my book.
Here are a couple of pictures of Duck from five year olds who loved the story –

 

DSCN3989 (800x600)

they obviously saw him as a very colourful character.

DSCN3977 (800x600)

Big and Small
Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press pbk
Friendships can be formed between the most unlikely, completely different characters A large bear – Big, and a tiny white mouse – Small, are best friends and decide to spend a day adventuring in the great outdoors. During the course of their play Small seeks help from his friend on several occasions – a stubbed toe OUCH!, some tricky stepping stones,

DSCN3976 (800x600)

a troublesome bee at lunch time and a hole that interrupts his roll; and each time Big is happy to oblige. After a fun-filled day, the friends head for home and snuggle into their cosy beds. Then however, comes a spot of role reversal: “A little help, please!” calls Big who cannot sleep.

DSCN3975 (800x600)

The idea that friendship can involve a responsibility of care is embedded within this story told through a combination of jaunty rhyming text and bold, bright visuals.
I like the fact that both author and artist engender a zest for life and enjoyment of nature – the endpapers featuring insects that appear during the course of the story help in the latter.
Share with those just starting out on forming friendships.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Books to Play With

DSCN3724 (800x600)

Bizzy Bear Dinosaur Safari
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will enjoy accompanying Bizzy Bear on safari. Having parked his jeep, he’s ready for his dino day. Off he goes with friend rabbit to spot all manner of dinosaurs along the trail, some large, others hungry and one baby just hatching out. Then it’s time to head to the diner for a spot of refreshment: watch out though BB – what’s that with big sharp teeth behind the diner, ready to pop out? A sturdy board book with a brief rhyming text and sliders to pull, push or turn to reveal those prehistoric creatures in their brightly coloured jungly landscape.

DSCN3726 (800x600)

There’s an abundance of flora and fauna for young eyes to find in addition to the dinosaurs; and what can have made those enormous footprints?

DSCN3727 (800x600)

Snip-Snap
illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska
Caterpillar Books
Five small animals in turn invite toddlers to guess the identity of five larger ones lurking in various places in the African landscape. The latter are revealed by lifting the flaps, thus allowing the animals to pop out from their respective hiding places.
Young listeners can absorb the simple concepts (‘high amongst the leaves’ or ‘beside the jungle path’ for instance)

DSCN3728 (800x600)

as they discover in turn, the roaring lion, chittering-chattering monkey, the elephant splashing,

DSCN3729 (800x600)

the giraffe stretching her neck and the snippy-snappy crocodile lurking in the swamp as they listen to the accompanying playful rhyming text.

A companion title with a farmyard setting is Cheep Cheep

DSCN3758 (800x600)

Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case
Miriam Moss and Deborah Allwright
Walker Books
Young Molly loves to dress up and has decided to be a doctor. She dons her doctor’s outfit (lifting the flap reveals the transformation) then finds her magical medicine case. Therein are all the things required to make her patients feel better. Molly is prepared

DSCN3759 (800x600)

and soon there’s a knock at her door. It’s Polar Bear with a bad case of the sneezles and shivers; seemingly he’s caught cold playing in the snow. A reassuring Dr Molly opens her case and takes out a thermometer and hot water bottle – just what’s needed to make Mr B. feel much better. (Children will love to open Molly’s bag, remove the items, tuck the hot water bottle into Polar Bear’s arms and take his temperature).
Dr Molly also successfully treats Crocodile (whose tail is injured as a result of a skateboarding accident) and Pelican (suffering from a sore throat caused by the consumption of too many bony fish)

DSCN3762 (800x600)

so why have all her patients returned? It’s a case of rumbly tums so it’s just as well that, in her magic case, Dr Molly has everything required for a cure. And a very tasty one it looks too.

DSCN3761 (800x600)

Picnic time everyone.
A fun, interactive treatment for the very young when they are suffering from a bout of ‘I- need-a-storyitis’.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Friendships Tested

DSCN2856 (640x507)

Olive and the Embarrassing Hat
Tor Freeman
Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar) pbk
I think this has to be my very favourite of the Olive series. If you’ve ever been given a present you feel a fool wearing then this one is definitely for you.
Olive is given a hat that is anything but stylish by her best pal Joe and he sports one to match – almost. When the two walk out together their other, so called friends, make fun of their offbeat headwear until eventually Olive can take no more and she dumps her offending article in the rubbish bin.

DSCN2859 (640x513)

Her drastic action however, is seen by Joe, who now feels affronted and off he goes. Time to make amends thinks Olive, but how?
Our ever resourceful feline quickly puts her signwriting skills into action and steps out ready to sock it to the world

DSCN2861 (640x267)

and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, well only Joe and there he comes…
No more will Olive be the butt of anyone’s jokes.

DSCN2862 (640x480)

What a triumph.
Both words and pictures brilliantly explore the boundaries of friendship in this hilarious story; the hat disposal sequence is absolutely priceless.

DSCN2858 (640x186)

Another winning shot from Olive and her creator, Tor Freeman.

DSCN2893 (640x581)

On Sudden Hill
Linda Sarah and Benji Davies
Simon & Schuster pbk
Best friends Etho and Birt spend countless hours in each other’s company, much of it on Sudden Hill where they entertain all manner of flights of fancy as they sit inside their respective cardboard boxes. No matter whether they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts or pirates they are always ‘Big’ friends with a two-by-two rhythm. Then one Monday along comes Shu; he too has a box and wants to join their play.

DSCN2895 (640x277)

Etho agrees; Birt keeps quiet. The three play but Birt is not happy and one night he trashes his box. No more visits to Sudden Hill for him despite invitations from the other two; instead he sits at home drawing, missing his best friend and their play together.
Then one day there’s a knock on Birt’s door and Shu calls him to come and see what they’ve made for him. Imagine his delight at what is waiting outside– an amazing “Monster Creature Box Thing”, Mr Climbfierce by name. And where better to take it than up Sudden Hill; moreover, it’s just perfect for three – Birt, Etho and Stu.

DSCN2897 (640x560)

Now Birt loves their three-by-three rhythm.
A tender, insightful look at the challenges and rewards of accommodating a third person into a best friends scenario. The spare, straightforward manner of Linda Sarah’s telling is a perfect fit with Benji Davies’ expressive paintings. Their muted colours echo the reflective nature of the story and capture so well the joys and small tribulations of childhood.

red reading hub 013 (480x640)

Mine!
Jerome Keane & Susana De Dios
Orchard Books
Anyone who has ever spent time with young children will recognize this:
Horse and Fox, both bored, both notice, seemingly simultaneously, an egg shaped object and both claim ownership – no surprises there. … “But I saw it first,” said Horse. “No mine,” said Fox. “I saw it first.” “Didn’t,” said Horse. “Did,” said Fox. “You really didn’t,” said Horse. “Really did,” said Fox. (Such a familiar scenario and so well observed.)
Impasse – something’s gotta give guys.

red reading hub 014 (640x480)

A realization dawns – “KIND OF SHARING?” Great idea; but then …

red reading hub 015 (640x480)

DISASTER!
Perhaps not after all –

red reading hub 016 (640x480)

Wonderful characterization, the dialogue is spot-on, stylish, and very funny, superbly expressive illustrations complete the package.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:

http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch