Tag Archives: Big Picture Press

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Aleksandra Artymowska
Big Picture Press

Graphic designer and illustrator Aleksandra Artymowska has taken Jules Verne’s novel and created an absorbing picture book puzzler.

At the invitation of Captain Nemo, readers are invited to set sail seeking adventure and a treasure beyond price. All they have to do is to enter the hatch of the Nautilus and descend, then search the seven seas for seven locks with which to open his secret sea chest.

Easy enough surely? Not quite, especially as there’s a giant squid lurking somewhere ‘neath those seas.
Those who embark on the treasure hunt will however be participants in a unique sub-aquatic experience taking them deep, deep down under the sea..

First of all there’s the correct button to find that will get the submarine started and of course, the steering wheel, to make sure you stay on your chosen course.

With a variety of challenges including hidden symbols and keys to detect, mazes to navigate, art works to locate, corals and shells to compare,

a reef to steer through, weird and wonderful creatures aplenty to surprise and perhaps alarm, all of which are part and parcel of the host of strange seascapes and labyrinthine mazes explorers encounter. Surreal sights abound.

Dive down in Nautilus and you’ll more than likely remain submerged for several hours, before you surface, with or without having spotted the compass hidden in plain sight in each and every scene. And just in case you haven’t solved all the posers, the author/artist has provided the answers at the back of the book. Happy exploring.

Birds and their Feathers / A World of Birds

Birds and their Feathers
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel

Following on from The Egg, Britta Teckentrup has created another bird book with a difference, approaching the subject via plumology – bird feather science.
Its ninety or so pages are packed with fascinating feathery facts.

Each double spread is devoted to a particular aspect including feather development, structure, types of feather, colour – did you know flamingos are pink thanks to the carotenoid pigment in the crustacea they eat?

She also looks at wing types, flying strategies, heat regulation and many more topics relating to form and function,

with the final pages devoted to how humans have been inspired by, and exploited, feathers in creating myths, dreams of human flight, for decoration and warmth, a feather was even taken to the moon.

The subject allows full reign to Britta’s amazing artistic talent and her beautiful paintings are a delight to peruse and gaze upon in wonder.

A book for the family bookshelf, for bird lovers, art lovers and school collections.

Taking a more conventional approach but also well worth getting hold of is

A World of Birds
Vicky Woodgate
Big Picture Press

In her follow up to Urban Jungle wildlife enthusiast Vicky Woodgate starts with some general ornithological information giving facts about classification, anatomy, flight and eggs.

She then takes readers on a whistle stop tour of seven locations around the world – North America, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica – wherein we learn about different bird species, some resident, others migratory. Every one of the 75 birds selected is representative of its wider family, the author explains.
Each geographical section begins with a map of the location along with a brief description of the climate, habitats and conservation issues.

The first location is North America, which, with habitats as varied as tropical rainforest, hot deserts and frozen plains has a huge number of different species, partly because it encompasses four major migration routes.

All the other sections too have both resident and migratory species, though Antarctica, has the most challenging conditions for its wildlife and thus fewer avian species.

Central and South America in contrast has an enormous variety of birds and new species are still being discovered although sadly, due to human action, some of the most beautiful such as the Macaws are now on the endangered species list.

The same is true of some of those featured in the African section the continent of Africa being home to some of the world’s largest and most colourful birds.

Europe is home to many species that have adapted to urban environments; Asia, with its varied climates and habitats has, despite the fact that many Asian cultures revere birds, a big problem with the pet trade and hence a fair number of threatened species, whereas the biggest threat in Oceania is that from introduced and invasive bird species – an issue conservationists are earnestly tackling.

Beautifully illustrated and packed with fascinating information, this is a book pore over, to immerse yourself in and enjoy.

Meet the Ancient Romans

Meet the … Ancient Romans
James Davies
Big Picture Press

This is one of a new history series. It’s an engaging look at the Ancient Romans, presented with an exuberance that young readers will find both highly entertaining and illuminating.

Small chunks of information are delivered with a gentle wit, on almost thirty topics. These range from The Birth of the Roman Empire (a comic strip rendering of the Romulus and Remus myth), through emperors …

writing and number systems, home life, clothing, inventions, food and farming, bathing, theatre, building (the Romans were superb builders and engineers) …

medicine (herbs and healing baths were prescribed for most illnesses);

entertainment, (the Romans pitted animals against animals as well as humans; and entry to the Colosseum was free, sometimes even the food came gratis), and ending with the fall of the empire, and a spread on Rome Today.

Throughout, the emphasis is on the visuals: Davies has an off-beat style, uses limited colour to great effect and peppers his illustrations with amusing speech bubbles.

All in all a great introduction for a younger audience, to a fascinating ancient civilisation, the legacy of which is still evident today.

Check out the companion volume ‘Meet the Ancient Egyptians’ too.

Dinosaurium

Dinosaurium
Chris Wormell and Lily Murray
Big Picture Press

Dinosaur books seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. This one is the latest in the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series that includes Botanicum and Animalium, and, illustrated by Chris Wormell, it’s truly awesome: serious stuff in fact.
Like others in the series, the whole thing is presented as a museum, the author and illustrator being billed as its curators and the chapters, after the ‘Entrance’ that houses an extremely useful dinosaur evolutionary tree, as a series of galleries, six in all with a final index, some information about the book’s curators and a list of further sources should readers want to learn more.
Gallery 1 is Sauropodomorpha. Don’t worry, the meaning of this is explained at the outset. Every spread has a large full-colour plate, which even has a numbered key in addition to the informative paragraphs relating to what is shown in the plate. I should mention here that these are splendid digital engravings, each illustration being in predominantly earthy tones.

The galleries proceed through Theropoda, Ornithopoda, Thyreophora, (these include the well-known to children, Stegosauria and Ankylosauria);

then on to Marginocephalia and to the final ‘Non-Dinosaurs’, which includes petrosaurs, marine repliles, Mesozoic mammals and lastly, survivors; (those that escaped the catastrophe that wiped out the ‘non-bird dinosaurs’).
Going back to Maginocephalia, take a look at this stunning plate of Diabloceratops eatoni (yes the full scientific name is given).

This creature from the late cretaceous era is thought to have been a primitive ancestor of Triceratops and would, so we’re told, have used its beaked mouth to feed on low-growing plants in areas covered by lakes, floodplains and rivers.
In addition to the amazing exhibits of the galleries, each gallery is prefaced with a beautiful botanical plate featuring an original wood-cut of typical plants from the age of the dinosaurs featured.
A short review doesn’t really do justice to this outstanding book: it’s perhaps not, despite the ‘Admit All’ on the front cover ticket, for the very youngest dinosaur discoverers; although once any child has been inside, it’s likely to be a place that they’ll want to return to over and over, gradually taking in more of Lily Murray’s detailed text,  from each visit, perhaps early on, sharing their ticket with an adult who, I’m sure, will be more than willing to act as a guide.

Explanatorium of Nature / Urban Jungle

Explanatorium of Nature
DK

This definitely isn’t a book to carry around in your school bag unless you want to do a bit of weight training; it’s an extremely heavy tome (more than 2Kg) with over 350 pages including contents, glossary and index.
Its conventional structure takes readers through ten sections starting with The Basics of Life, followed by a journey through living things from Microorganisms and Fungi right through to Mammals and taking in, by turn, Plants, Invertebrates, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and finally, Habitats.
As you might expect, The Basics of Life covers the origins of life, reproduction, cells and how they work, DNA, evolution and classification, each being allocated a double spread.
Thereafter, each section is further broken down into one or two double page spreads per topic, ‘Algae’ for example or ‘How chemical defences work’, and includes a main photographic illustration and information surrounded by smaller pictures, labels and additional facts.
The photography is amazing and the book is packed with a great deal of fascinating information presented in a manner that makes the whole thing feel inviting without being overwhelming.

There’s even a superb die-cut cover.
It works well as a book to browse through or to seek specific information from, and would be great to give a budding young biologist.
One for the family bookshelf or school library.

Urban Jungle
Vicky Woodgate
Big Picture Press

My goodness, this is a large volume but it’s one animal lovers in particular will enjoy spending time exploring, along with author/illustrator, Vicky Woodgate, who is passionate about wildlife and travel. Herein she takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of 38 cities on six continents exploring the plethora of animals to be found there.
Each of the enticing city maps depicts fauna large and small, some commonly seen, others seldom sighted. Barcelona for instance has a wealth of birds – peregrine falcons in the bell tower of the Sagrada Familia for instance – something I’ve not appreciated in my numerous visits to the city and its environs.

I was however aware of the presence of leopards in Mumbai, another city I’ve visited on many occasions, although I’ve never seen a leopard roaming. I have though seen the three-striped palm squirrels whizzing around, and the beautiful purple-rumped sunbirds.

Most familiar to me is the rich variety of birds and animals in London and the suburbs that it’s all too easy to take for granted wandering through say, Richmond Park with its herds of deer and those pesky parakeets; or the red foxes that roam the streets looking for rodents, or rubbish bins to rummage. Then there are those majestic swans one frequently sees on the Thames; but I’ve never seen, or was even aware of there being a short-snouted seahorse living in its waters.
I found myself getting drawn into this stylish book, turning first to the 8 maps of the cities I’ve spend time in, and then going on to explore other urban jungles. I’m sure children will love browsing its expansive pages, enjoying the portraits of the animal residents of each city, as well as discovering the fascinating facts about them. An expert from each location has fact-checked the information to ensure that this walk on the wild side of the world’s busiest cities is accurate as well as exciting.

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission / Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase / Animazes

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission
Sophie Guerrive
Wide Eyed Editions
In his plane, which looks more like an inflatable toy than anything capable of carrying a dinosaur, famous Dinosaur Detective sets forth on a mission: to find five missing items as requested by the likes of a dog, a princess, a teacher and a distraught wife, hidden somewhere in eleven different locations including what looks like a Medieval European village, an underground cave network, atop a mountain,

a funfair, a forest, a completely crazy-looking outer space neighbourhood and a city.

It’s difficult to know where to start each search as your eyes keep getting drawn to features of interest – mine did anyway – and some of the spreads are so densely packed, it’s mindboggling, and easy to get absorbed in the surreal nature of the whole thing rather than the task in hand. It’s just as well there’s an answer spread at the end.
Dinosaur Detective’s plane transforms into a kind of tank (to find the missing toad) and a flying saucer – another fun feature.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase
Lomp
Little Tiger Press
Herein we meet natural history explorers Wilfred and Olbert and follow them on a quest to discover a new animal and thus win the coveted Nature Discovery Prize. And when an unidentified butterfly just happens to float through the window, they decide their chance has come. Off they go in hot pursuit but who will be the one to claim the prize?
Their journey has them dashing through forests, diving into oceans, crossing deserts, and wild grasslands,

scaling mountains and delving into tropical jungles …

as they battle to reach the butterfly first.
In the end teamwork wins out and mission complete, they claim their trophy.
The whole adventure is perilous and it’s something of a task to keep track of the two competitors and their antics en route – almost being the next meal of a lion, or being engulfed by ice, for instance – but the whole crazy drama is totally engaging, full of funny moments, things to search for, and of course, wild animals.
Wild too are Lomp’s hilarious, cartoon-like illustrations, full of daft doings and silly speech bubbles making every spread a treat to linger over.
Action-packed they surely are!

Animazes
illustrated by Melissa Castrillión
Big Picture Press
This unusual book of mazes follows the journeys of fourteen animal migrants from Antarctic krill and Monarch butterflies to Humpback whales and Mali elephants.
For some of these creatures such as reindeer, finding food is the reason for their journey; for others, such as Rockhopper Penguins, it’s to seek a suitable environment for the survival of the next generation.
In tracing their journeys, the aim is to discover the one safe path for each animal and in so doing, readers will discover a host of fascinating facts about the creature. Did you know for instance that Mali elephants all pass through one narrow passage, The Porte des Éléphants on their migratory travels? Or that Wildebeest participate in the largest mass migration of mammals on earth?

It’s Katie Howarth who provides these and the other interesting snippets of information that support Melissa Castrillión’s intricately detailed illustrations through which the mazes are woven.
Absorbing, fun and educational.

Look, Look and Look Again

Where’s the Baby?
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
Baby animals are the objects of the search in Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘spotting’ book, which, once again is intended to develop visual perception in the very young.
A rhyming text accompanies each digitally composed spread and the challenge is satisfyingly demanding for youngsters: I had to search for a while to locate the gosling on the pond.
With their matt colours and wallpaper style patterns, the artist’s visuals really demand that you look closely savouring the pleasing design of each one be it the vibrant parrots,

the farmyard hens, the kangaroos, the zebras or the seahorses to name just some of the fourteen creatures featured.
The final challenge in the book is different asking, ‘can you see the mother/ whose babies are TWINS?’
Alluring, absorbing and enjoyable.

Have You Seen My Lunch Box?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Morning chaos reigns as a small boy gets ready for school: the clock is ticking but he wants help locating all the things he needs: his socks, his pencil case, a crayon, his book,

a ball, marbles and particularly important, his lunch box. Mum and Dad are on hand to hunt but essentially it’s down to the reader to save the day and ensure he boards the bus on time.
The text, delivered as a first person narrative, appears on each verso, set against the same colour as the missing item to be located on the recto among the plethora of items inked in detail against a predominantly white background. This pattern continues throughout until the last object is safely in the hands of its owner. The final page shows all eight things.
Essentially this is a game for adult and toddler to play together: there’s plenty to talk about in addition to those misplaced items, and that’s in the hands of the adult sharer; in fact every spread is a possible starting point for some adult/child storying.

Double Take!
Susan Hood and Jay Fleck,
Walker Books
We’re in the company of a little boy, his cat and a friendly elephant being asked not to take things at first sight. Assuredly, we’re told, some opposites – in/out, asleep/ awake for instance, are pretty straightforward, albeit orchestrated herein; but others are totally dependent on one’s frame of reference.

Subtitled ‘A New Look at Opposites’ and published under the imprint Walker Studio, this rhyming invitation certainly demands that readers think about opposites with regard to perspective.

I’ve signed the charter  

Botanicum Activity Book/ Under Earth Activity Book & Under Water Activity Book

Botanicum Activity Book
Katie Scott and Kathy Willis
Big Picture Press
If you loved Botanicum and who wouldn’t, then this from the same team, is definitely for you: it’s an activity book par excellence and is billed as 5+. However, as an early years teacher, I’ve seen 4 year olds do amazingly detailed observational drawings of plants, so I’d bring this down to 4+.
This one took me right back to my ‘gap year’ working as an assistant in the herbarium at Kew where I was awed by the work of the, then resident artist.
Back to this book, which has equally stunning illustrations and is probably best used alongside its ‘parent’ volume. There are pages of flowers and plants to colour; and those who would rather draw have several opportunities: there’s a cycad tree with step-by-step visual instructions, ditto a pineapple fruit. Those who require a little guidance can complete algae patterns,

draw mirror images of a buttercup half, three half leaves, add stem and foliage to four bulbs, for instance. For more confident drawing enthusiasts there are opportunities to create a cactus; complete a Carboniferous forest; add details to some leaves and create your own leaf , to name just some of the more open ended drawing activities.
Spot-the-difference enthusiasts will also be satisfied with the four pages each with ten differences allocated to that activity: this one’s truly beautiful. (You can always cheat by looking at the reverse side if you can’t find them all.)

Should you want to test your botanical knowledge there are pages for that too including .. .

There’s even a maze, which looks quite forbidding, but I managed to do it – eventually – without cheating.
With over 35 activities in all, this superb book offers hours of gently educational pleasure.
Also inspiring are:

Under Earth Activity Book
Under Water Activity Book

Aleksandra Mizielińska & Daniel Mizieliński
Big Picture Press
These two are based on the Mizielińskas’ awesome Under Earth, Under Water and 70 activities can be found in each book. Their design is clever with a wide range of activities on each recto and, in the Earth book, a superbly detailed, underground creature to colour on the verso;

each page being easily detached from the binding. You can find activities as diverse as following instructions for growing your own tubers (potatoes herein)

and completing the drawing of an Aztec stone.
Under Water is similarly presented but with underwater creatures to colour.
Activities herein range from designing a deep-sea diver’s costume, to spotting and drawing 16 pieces of rubbish that have found their way into a lake scene.

Fun learning and creativity bound together and absolutely ideal for holidays, rainy days and times when children (or you) want some relaxing no-screen time, these beauties take activity books to a whole new level of excellence.

I’ve signed the charter  

Lots

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Lots
Marc Martin
Big Picture Press
Prepare for a visual tour that takes in places as different as Delhi and Antarctica, Alice Springs and the Amazon rainforest,

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Tokyo and the Galapagos Islands and the wonderful and exciting things to be found at each destination. There’s a plethora of people to meet, amazing and common or garden animals to encounter – the inevitable abundance of dogs in Paris, and the elephant shrews of Cape Town. Tokyo seems almost over-run with vending machines and Kawaii (cute things), whereas cats are curiously common in Cairo;

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and Delhi is replete with rickshaws of various kinds; and chai wallahs are always on hand to provide you with a cuppa.

chai wallhas at work

All this and much more, is contained within Marc Martin’s vibrant, jam-packed illustrations printed on beautifully matt spreads – one per location.
There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to his choice or arrangement of destinations: Ulaanbaatar with its ubiquity of yaks and Reykjavik, home to lots of Annas and Jóns clearly interested him so there we are.
Amusing snippets of information are scattered over the large pages, some such as Lenin almost ‘accidentally’ being an honorary member of the Beatles are funny, or that New York is sometimes called ‘The City that Never Sleeps’ (probably on account of the coffee!) Martin suggests.
So, if you want to be an ‘armchair traveller’, this is for you; better still, get hold of the book, be inspired by one of the destinations herein and then pay it a visit, to learn more about its people, wildlife, buildings, food, transport and landmarks for real.

Secrets of the Sea


Secrets of the Sea
Eleanor Taylor and Kate Baker
Big Picture Press

It is in the oceans that all life on Earth began, yet they are one of the least explored and least understood places on the planet.’ So writes Kate Baker in her introduction to this stunningly beautiful book that takes us from ‘In the Shallows’, through the ‘Forests of the Sea’and the ‘Coral Gardens’, into ‘The Wide, Wide Blue’ and down ‘Into the Deep’.
Venture beneath the waves and there’s an amazing variety of plant and animal life from single celled organisms such as ‘Sea sparkle’ …

to the Giant pacific octopus an enormous cephalopod that resides in the depth of the ocean and has an armspan of up to 4 metres. Not all octopus species are deep sea dwellers though: Coconut octopus is to be found in the shallows of tropical waters. This amazing creature is able, we’re told, to hide itself not only by changing its colour, texture and form to blend in with its surroundings, but also it can pick up an empty coconut shell, crawl inside and hide. Unsurprisingly it is considered the ‘master-mind’ of invertebrates.
Dive down to the kelp forests and discover minute algae and other fascinating creatures like this Hooded nudibranch:

The coal reefs are home to almost 25% of marine life much of which is brightly coloured such as these Pygmy seahorses …

It’s in the open oceans where such as the Sea angel can be found. This graceful dancer is a predatory sea slug, another deadly hunter …

Dive deeper and at depths of about 2000 metres are thriving communities of squat lobsters, white crabs, mussels, snake-like fish, anemones and these giant tube worms …

This is a book that opens the eyes to the staggering beauty of marine life in all its forms. Every illustration is a celebration of the wonders of the oceans and focuses on the intricate shapes, structures, patterns and colours that are revealed when the marine flora and fauna are examined in extreme close-up. Kate Baker’s accompanying text provides a broader picture describing habits and habitat of each organism and some basic facts including Latin name, size and other fascinating snippets of information.

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Botanicum & Destination: Space – Awesome Information Books

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Botanicum
Katie Scott and Kathy Willis
Big Picture Press
I was fortunate to spend a year working in the Kew Herbarium in a kind of gap year after science A-levels and have retained an interest in Botany ever since. It was like being in another world and so I was especially interested to receive a copy of this large, lavishly produced book for review.
Published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it is essentially, a guide to the world’s flora, illustrated by Katie Scott (who also illustrated Animalium) with text from co-curator, Professor Kathy Willis (Kew’s Director of Science).
Before entering the seven galleries we’re given a wonderful introductory spread of the different types of plants that sets the scene for the whole thing …

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Gallery 1 contains the most primitive plants in habitants of the Carboniferous Forests: from single celled diatoms

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Algae

to ferns.
Trees (and shrubs) comprise gallery 2 and from there we move to Palms and Cycads, Herbaceous Plants,

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Wild Flowers

then Grasses, Cattails, Sedges and Rushes; followed by Orchids and Bromeliads in Gallery 6 and the final section looks at Adapting to Environments.
The detailed illustrations are superb – look at these pitcher plants …

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and the variety of page layout adds extra visual interest as the thick pages are turned and we gaze transfixed at some hundred colour spreads that provide a veritable visual feast.

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Each entry is numbered and factual snippets are provided in a key. I’m pleased to see the Latin names are used – I often find these coming to mind more easily than the common ones, but I guess that’s my botanical background.

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There’s something to interest everyone from primary school browser and information seeker to adult reader as the text ranges between chatty – in reference to the giant sequoia ‘it takes sixteen adults holding hands to reach around one‘ to the more challenging (of lichens): ‘They are a collaboration between a fungal element and photosynthesising algae.’ Having said that, I know that children at least, are able to absorb challenging vocabulary in context.
A terrific collaboration and a fine volume to accompany Animalium.

Information-hungry youngsters should find much to interest in:

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Destination: Space
Dr Christoph Englert and Tom Clohosy Cole
Wide Eyed Editions
Herein readers can join five astronauts and embark on a journey of discovery through our Solar System to galaxies beyond. During the course of the mind-boggling journey, they can find out about such topics as ‘Stars’,’Earth’s Cycles‘ …

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‘Black Holes’, ‘The Solar System’ and ‘Earth and its Magnetic Field’ . They can read about telescopes ancient and modern …

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Unmanned Space Exploration’ that uses probes and contemplate ‘Life on Other Planets’. Each of these (and other fascinating subjects) is given a large, mostly visual double spread illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole onto which is superimposed an introductory paragraph and other snippets of information from lecturer in astronomy and physics, Dr Christoph Englert.
The grand finale is a fold-out page that when open becomes a large, double-sided poster.
Just the thing for a topic on space in the primary school or for interested individuals.

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A Pandemonium of Parrots & An Acorn

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A Pandemonium of Parrots and other animals
illustrated by Hui Skipp
Big Picture Press
Essentially what we have here in this super book is a series of spreads featuring collective nouns for a dozen or so animals large and small, each one playfully and alluringly illustrated by a talent new to me, Hui Skipp; and embedded within each illustration is a descriptive quatrain (presumably written by Kate Baker), such as this:
With nimble legs and pinching claws,
     they run across the forest floor.
Their gleaming armour shimmers bright,
    while fragile wings prepare for flight.
… as well as questions to answer by exploring what’s depicted on the spread.

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Representing the feathered ones are the parrots of the title, flamingos (a flamboyance), penguins in a huddle and these Hummingbird dazzlers …

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There are tigers – an ambush, a Lounge of Lizards basking in the sunshine …

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       Casually they lie around
slouched on rocks or on the ground.
       Suddenly one spots its prey
       and in a flash it darts away.

and on the river banks ‘An Army’ of frogs – croaking, singing wonders every one. The mammals are represented by a Sloth of Bears, An Ambush of Tigers, A Troop of Monkeys, A Conspiracy of Lemurs …

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and A Caravan of Camels – beauties all.
The final two spreads are a “Did You See?’ array of all the animals with questions, followed by a concluding Who’s Who that gives snippets of information about each animal included.
Altogether this book is a treat for the eyes, an opportunity to learn some collective nouns and a chance to discover a few facts about thirteen fascinating groups of creatures. One for the primary classroom or family bookshelf.

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Because of an Acorn
Lola M.Schaefer, Adam Schaefer and Frann Preston-Gannon
Chronicle Books
This is a simple, but wonderfully effective look at a forest habitat and the interconnectedness of the flora and fauna that are a part of the ecosystem.
Because of an acorn, a tree grows; this in turn provides a nesting place for a bird, an insect-eating one that happens to aid seed dispersal.

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The seed in turn grows, producing a flower that fruits, providing a chipmunk food. A snake with its beady eye upon the chipmunk …

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is in turn seized in a hawk’s talons and when the hawk lands on the branch of, yes, an oak, down comes an ripe acorn and more until ultimately, there’s …

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a forest

Circles and cycles of life are evident in this cleverly conceived, unassuming little book that packs a powerful punch.
In addition to being a super little book to share with a class or group of young children, the fact that the text is simple, patterned, and perfectly matched to the pictures on each page, beginning readers can try reading it for themselves and feel empowered having done so.
There’s so much to see and to discuss in Frann Preston-Gannon’s lush foresty illustrations. UK readers will find some of the animals less familiar and the oak species is different from the British ones but this could be a good talking point.

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The World-Famous Magical Numbers & Peekaboo Wild

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The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers
Sarah Goodreau
Big Picture Press
Wow! This is a bobby-dazzler. Superbly designed in a gloriously retro, vintage style, it’s a truly magical presentation of numbers (0 to 0), with opportunities for counting aplenty, rendered in bold, bright colours and a myriad of patterns, by 1 master magician …

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(and, of course, Sarah Goodreau) You’ll be astounded for sure!
There’s excitement on every page: prestidigitation abounds as we see sleights of hand, grand illusions and out-of-this world wizardry all done through ingenious paper-engineering that employs flaps …

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tab-pulls, pop-ups …

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and a truly splendiferous grand finale …

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which is followed by a farewell from our magician extraordinaire. – when he makes an appearance that is …

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It’s as well this whole performance is sturdily constructed to stand up to the enthusiastic handling and countless re-reads it’s absolutely bound to receive: oh yes – youngsters may well improve their counting skills too, thanks to this show-stopping treat of a book.

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Peekaboo WILD
Walker Entertainment
The very young can delight in a playful Peekaboo game (based on The Peekaboo Wild app.) First stop is the jungle, where we’re asked who lives therein and by lifting the flap we discover two of the inhabitants. The question and answer format continues with ‘Who else lives there?’ and two more animals hide beneath the flaps.
The second destination is the bush wherein kangaroos, a platypus, an emu and a koala have hidden themselves among the foliage. We move on to the sunny savannah, which has two spreads and herein are lions, a giraffe and a zebra …

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Jagged ice peaks greet us in the Arctic, home to all these beauties …

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Then it’s on to a bamboo forest home to two species of panda: the black and white one and a red panda as well as a tiger and a pangolin.
The two final spreads show first, a pictorial world map setting the animals in their continents and on the second, each habitat has a flap under which its respective inhabitants are hidden.
Through an enjoyable shared experience babies can learn so much about the animals in this board book; but even more important is the ‘books are fun’ message this will convey. In addition older siblings just starting to read can demonstrate their developing skill by reading it to a baby brother or sister.

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One Is Not A Pair & Who’s Hungry?

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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 –

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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?’

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

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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 …

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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:

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

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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.

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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 …

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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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Under Earth Under Water

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Under Earth Under Water
Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizielińska
Big Picture Press
First from this duo there was Maps and now back they’ve come three years later with another wonderful non-fiction offering, an exploration of what lies beneath the ground, or – if you turn this massively fascinating book around and begin at the other end – what lurks beneath the surface of the oceans. Even the contents pages are ingenious journey maps.
Let’s start with going under the earth where pretty much everything from bacteria, beetle larvae, burrowing animals, storage roots and the like …

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natural gas …

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cables and pipes, sewers, to metro lines are delved into.
Flip the book over and readers are plunged into lakes, the oceans, and richly coloured coral reefs. Topics such as underwater pressure, diving, submarines, oil platforms and deep-sea fish …

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are covered. The whole thing is a veritable treasure trove chock full of delights scientific …

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geographical, cultural and historical …

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to fascinate and be pored over.
Totally engrossing, lavishly produced, brilliantly designed, visually staggering, this is a volume to be dipped into, enjoyed, cherished: what an amazing journey to the centre of the earth no matter from which end you begin.
It’s beyond brilliant and a must for family bookshelves and class libraries no matter what the age or stage.

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Historium

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Historium
Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson
Big Picture Press
This handsome, outsized volume offers a virtual museum experience within hard covers. The opening pages – the ‘Entrance’ provide a brief rationale for what is included, ‘ only a selection of the civilisations that have ever existed, but we hope it will inspire future exploration.’ and a short explanation of archaeology. Next comes a timeline that illustrates the objects featured in the six galleries: Africa, America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East and Oceania.
Gallery 1 includes Southern Africa, Western Africa …

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and Ancient Egypt with each culture being given a short overview followed by a key to the artefacts that includes description, cultural context and anthropological significance.
In Gallery 2, America, five civilisations feature: The Olmec, The Maya,

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The Aztecs, The Hopewell (I hate to admit my ignorance about this one), and the Pueblo.
Enter Gallery 3 and you’re taken to Ancient Asia – India (the ancient culture I’m most familiar with),

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China, Japan and Korea.
Gallery 4, Europe encompasses The Celts, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome …

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and The Vikings.
The Middle East is the location for Gallery 5 and here Jo Nelson offers readers five Mesopotamian objects, another five from The Ancient Levant, a frieze from Ancient Persia; and Early Islam has fragments of a woven tapestry, wall painting fragments and an earthenware bowl.

 

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The 6th Gallery, Oceania includes items from the Indigenous Australians,

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Melanesia, Polynesia and The Maori.
Wilkinson’s digital illustrations are not photos though they have a considerable degree of photorealism in the detail and some truly stand out from the page.

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Moving from early Stone Age (a hand axe) right through to the 19th century (a Polynesian head of a staff god) is indeed an ambitious enterprise and of course, it can never take the place of a real museum visit; but you would need to visit a great many to see everything Historium presents. There is a final index citing the museums (with locations) of the artefacts displayed in the whole fascinating enterprise. It certainly does give the next best thing: a basic introduction to a number of ancient cultures (mostly no longer in existence) and an exciting visual experience that will one hopes, inspire readers to go (coining a phrase from Bruner), ‘beyond the information given’

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A Bounty of Board Books

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Walter’s Wonderful Web
Tim Hopgood
Macmillan Children’s Books
Walter is a spider with a mission: he wants to spin a perfect web, not a wibbly- wobbly one that is whisked away whenever the wind blows.
His first effort – a triangular one is destroyed by the first puff of wind so he tries another – a rectangle, but with no more success.

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The diamond meets a similar fate but what about his circular-looking one, could that be the answer?
But three wooshes and Walter plus web hit the ground. Nearing despair, Walter stops to think before making one last attempt and by nightfall it looks as if he’s got it the design just right –

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WOW! Walter, you certainly deserved to succeed – top marks for perseverance and a wonderfully intricate web.
This delightful story for the very youngest provides a great opportunity to introduce ideas about not giving up when things get tough and of course, built into the narrative are those six basic 2D shapes.

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The Butterfly Garden
Laura Weston
Big Picture Press
Twenty words and a sequence of half a dozen super-stylish, beautifully patterned black and white illustrations: nothing much to get excited about – right? Wrong: look closely at the first of those black and white spreads.

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How many caterpillars can you spot? Look again at the silhouetted leaves and blooms and you notice there are flaps to lift. Open the top left-hand flap to reveal …

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And then the other four flaps and you’ll see a whole lot going on in vibrant colours …

 

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The subsequent spreads show the life cycle and life journey of the Monarch butterfly. (In North America, the Monarch migrates en masse to Mexico during the course of its life.)

 

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Essentially that’s it and every spread is beautifully designed and arresting first in black and white and then with its flashes of flamboyant colour.
Although the Monarch isn’t a breeding British butterfly, this book is a striking visual account of a butterfly’s life cycle.

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The Tiger Prowls
Seb Braun
Simon & Schuster
It’s hard to choose a favourite from the five animals that pop out from the pages of this seemingly simple yet impressive book. I love the shape and feel of the whole thing – its arresting cover, the way it whizzes through the various habitats the colour palette used and the clever paper engineering. Then there’s the elegant prose of the sentences used to describe each of the iconic creatures that grace the spreads.
First off is that tiger from the cover described thus:
‘The tiger prowls, stalking the jungle. Paw after heavy paw crunches on the forest floor. And so he does emerging from a gentle hint of vegetation straddling that first spread across which slides a muted snake.
Turn over and meet a graceful whale with its cleverly upturned tail and snout;

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the brown bear padding slow through the forest, the mighty elephant taking a shower in the hot sun (If I’m fussy I’d like to have seen an upturned trunk and slightly sharper tusks here ) and finally …

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Gentle, elegant, treetop nibbling, cloud-high grazer giraffe ‘pitching his way across the savannah, like a ship adrift on the open plain.’ (love those bird silhouettes)
Aimed at the very young but I can also envisage older children who get hold of this being inspired to try their hand at making their own pop-up animals.

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Dinoblock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams & Chronicle
MEET THE DINOSAURS says the sign across the museum doors and on opening them readers (and the two child investigators) find two key questions ‘Who are the dinosaurs?’ and ‘Where are the dinosaurs?’
From then on the book’s clever design really comes into play with a formula that is used to great effect for the next ninety or so pages using a mix of cleverly crafted cutaway pages and a series of similes likening each of the twenty three dinosaurs introduced to something a young child is likely to be familiar with, followed by another spread showing the particular dinosaur in its natural habitat and a sentence giving the dinosaur’s name with its phonetic pronunciation. Thus we have for instance, ‘I have a neck like a goose …

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turn over to ‘I am a Coelophysis (SEE-low-FYE-sis)’…
Or this one:

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The grand finale comprises a spread of drawn-to-scale dinosaurs on a gate-fold that opens out into a farewell display of skeletons of all the dinosaurs featured.

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Of those a fair number are relatively uncommon in books for young children and indeed a few such as Micropachycephalosaurus and Edmontosaurus) were new names to me.
Assuredly a block-buster for the very young but also a book that offers a great opportunity for them to see and think about a favourite topic in an exciting and imaginative new way. And, a jumping off point for further investigation and children’s own creativity.

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Look, Talk, Do …

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One Thousand Things
Anna Kövecses
Wide Eyed Editions
There is a synergy of contemporary and retro feel about this vocabulary-developing book. Little Mouse has helpfully divided it into seven sections and invites participant toddlers to spot her in every scene of the thematic organization that begins with First Things to Learn. This includes spreads of shapes, colours, numerals and counters to 10, some opposites and times of the day. In Things in nature there’s a spread of tasty-looking fruit,

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another of equally mouth-watering vegetables, three of animals in different habitats and one of extinct creatures. Things you can do includes both outdoor and indoor activities and some to aspire to, desirable everyday ones

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and the two final sections look at objects inside your house – everyday things in different rooms and lastly, Things outside your house such as vehicles, buildings and natural features.
The final spread asks us to imagine, and shows pictorially, 1,000.
Absorbing and fun for the very young to share with an adult or older child: I like everything about this one including its smell and feel.

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Stephen Biesty’s To the Rescue
Rod Green and Stephen Biesty
Templar Publishing
Biesty has selected eight vehicles from different parts of the world that carry out rescue operations by land, sea and air to be the subjects of his latest info-graphic picture book. Given the close-up treatment herein are a Hi-Tech Police Car, a Fire Truck,

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a Flying Firefighter, a Submarine Rescue vehicle (part of a NATO Submarine Rescue System), a Giant Fireboat, the Agusta Westland AW139 Air Ambulance, a 27 Tamar lifeboat and an ambulance.
As with the earlier, Giant Vehicles, a plethora of facts written by Rod Green surround each of Biesty’s amazingly detailed pen/ink and watercolour washed illustrations, and there are numerous flaps (engineered by Andy Mansfield) under which more information is to be found.
It’s a good job that this book is sturdily built: I envisage it being read to destruction having provided countless hours of fascination to child (and perhaps adult) readers. Assuredly, a great way to interest young readers in applied science/ technology: My only quibble is an almost total absence of female personel; I know many girls who aspire to such roles as piloting a plane or driving a fire truck.

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The Odd One Out
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
This is actually a cardboard wallet containing fifteen gorgeous animal postcards of artwork that featured in the book of the same name by one of my favourite contemporary-style artists. Spot the surprise on every page – some are easier to find than others – have fun.
I would find it almost impossible to part with any of the postcards, which presumably are intended for sending.

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Zip It
Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway
Little Tiger Kids
Subtitled ‘A fancy book of fastenings’ this largish board book is indeed that. Herein we have a frog with a zip mouth to open and shut, a pig with a button nose, a duck with a Velcro fastened down wing that lifts to reveal a small duckling hidden beneath, Kitty with a popper collar to ‘Pop’ and ‘snap’ and finally two squeaking mice whose tails are tied in a bow. In addition to developing their fine motor skills small children can enjoy listening to the simple rhyming text with its carefully chosen words including animal sounds and action words.

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Close Encounters

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First Words and Pictures
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Frances Lincoln pbk
From the opening spread, this whole book is an irresistible invitation to join the lovable Chimp and Zee on a joyous extravaganza of language learning and fun.

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We see the chimps as they explore the contents of the dressing-up basket, have something to eat, visit Jungletown – look carefully and you’ll see what they are up to there, try all manner of vehicles, explore the possibilities of a pet, wield paintbrushes dipped in brightly coloured paints,

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introduce different kinds of weather, fill each and every day with alliterative activities, learn to count to ten, romp about in the bathtub and finally snuggle up with a book at bedtime –

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what better way to end a day?
All this is presented through amusing rhymes, with the final sentence on each double spread being a child-involving question, and wonderfully detailed, witty and often, action packed illustrations large and small. Guaranteed hours and hours of pleasure for toddler and adult together lie within (even on) the covers of this one.
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The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000
Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Big Picture Press
Printed on sturdy card pages to withstand the heavy handling this is likely to receive, is this unusual picture book that puts the reader in charge of the direction of the story; indeed they become one with its inhabitants.

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A large cast of characters participate in the seven futuristic scenes, indoors and out, which include a rock concert, a rocket race and naturalistic locations such as a water park. The identities of the various characters are developed as one follows each from the apartments scene in the first spread to the various busy settings in the city and its environs.

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It is enormous fun to visit this multi-hued civilization, so cleverly crafted and portrayed by the Mizielinska/Mizielinski partnership. For those who like full-on visuals from which to create their own dramatisations,, this is a must-have book.
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Mi and Museum City
Linda Sarah
Phoenix Yard Books pbk
Meet Mi; he resides in a tiny blue hut in the middle of the River Weary in the middle of Museum City. All the buildings save Mi’s home are museums. The place is dull to put it mildly and Mi is very lonely; but two things save him from utter depair – his pebble collection and the sounds made when they fall onto different surfaces, and STARLIGHT.
Then one day when out hunting for additions to his collection, Mi hears a different kind of sound, one that fills him with happiness. He follows it to its source and discovers a Big, Tall Thing playing on an enormous single stringed instrument, the most wonderful music he’s ever heard. Thereafter things change, not only for Mi but also for Yu, for that is the musician’s name and also later, thanks to Yu’s wonderful music, for the Mayor of Museum City

 

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and ultimately for the whole city. All manner of marvellous museums begin to spring up all over the place; there’s the Museum of Donkeys that Roar, the Museum of Rain (that houses three billion raindrops), the Utterly Irrevelant Museum of Creatures that do not Exist and have Never Existed, the Museum of the White Bits on Waves and many, many more, each one created by a quirky resident of the city.

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All this of course, results in a whole new wonderful way of seeing the world, or rather life, for Mi who becomes, at the end of each and every day, a visitor to the very best place of all: the Museum of Starlit Benches Arranged at Different Heights for Pebble-Dropping and other Fun Things and guess who sits there beside him? Yu of course. Amen to that!
What a wonderfully uplifting and crazy experience it is to visit Museum City along with Mi, not forgetting Yu too. It’s absolutely brimming over, well actually perfectly contained within the covers of this joyous book. Moreover, there is a large fold-out map of Museums from A to Z attached to the inside back cover – another fine feature. If you are fascinated by the minutiae of life then lose yourself within the pages of this one; you’ll feel different when you emerge.
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