Meet the Planets

Meet the Planets
Caryl Hart and Bethan Woollvin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Caryl Hart gives voice to the individual planets as we join a little girl aboard a rocket and zoom off on a space adventure around the solar system.

Our first encounter is with The Sun, ‘the biggest thing up in the sky. /I’m friendly but don’t get too close now / or I’ll frizzle you up to a fry.’ it warns, going on in rhyming speak to inform about its role as daytime warmth provider and light supplier for growing plants before concluding “But be careful, I’m really a /
Great ball of fire – / the HOTTEST and FIERCEST / you’ve seen!”

As the journey progresses little ones will love to join in with the rhymes and  spy all the staring-eyed planets – zippily speeding Mercury, deceptively named Venus that boasts of FIERCE spitting volcanoes, our own friendly Earth with its silvery Moon, mighty windswept Mars with its rust-coloured dust.

Then come giant gaseous ball Jupiter – the planet king; sparkly, shimmering Saturn that can’t resist drawing attention her beauty;

the windy ice ball Uranus; ‘Ice Giant’ blue-looking Neptune

and finally, relatively small Pluto accompanied by Charon.

Youngsters will undoubtedly have a total blast as they whizz through the sky, relishing every planet they meet, and even manage to rendezvous with earth once more, just in time for bed. Bethan’s illustrations are, as ever, totally out-of-this-world strikingly brilliant and such a superb complement for Caryl’s cleverly constructed rhyming text.

Splendid stuff this, for bedtimes and all other times too.

Little Owl’s Bedtime / Put Your Botty on the Potty!

Here are two fun books for your toddler bookshelves:

Little Owl’s Bedtime
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It’s lovely to see Little Owl starring in another episode. It’s ‘late o’clock’ and bedtime. Mummy Owl has shared with him a bedtime story and now it’s shut eye time. However, like many little ones, this young owl starts delaying tactics. First he requests another story and his mummy agrees on condition that it will be the last.

Story duly read and ‘sweet dreams’ wished, Little Owl is still finding reasons why he cannot go to sleep.

Patient Mummy Owl explains the reasons why dark is necessary,

even going to the trouble of providing a very tiny night lamp.

Nothing doing: the lumpy pillow persists and then cuddly, ‘Hedge’ has gone missing. Happily though she’s found pretty soon and now surely sleep will come. Not it seems quite yet though: how long before Mummy Owl’s patience is tested to its limit, one wonders.

Still the complaints come: too hot, hungry and now Little Owl needs a wee.

Then he’s excited about what tomorrow has in store. If he doesn’t drop off soon, it will be tomorrow anyway; but his Mummy ‘s promise looks as though it might finally do the trick …
Sweet dreams Little Owl, sweet dreams Hedge, sweet dreams Baby Owl and happy bath-time Mummy owl – you’ve certainly earned it.

What a gorgeous way to end the day if you have a little one; make sure you lay down the ground rules first though, just in case s/he tries the Little Owl tactics.

Debi’s warm text and Alison’s equally warm illustrations work in perfect harmony: who wouldn’t want to snuggle down after sharing this one?

Put Your Botty on the Potty!
Sam Lloyd
Pavilion Books

Courtesy of Little Moo, here’s a fun look at potty training, monster style.

When we meet Moo, she’s nappy clad and far from happy so to be, partly one suspects because there’s new baby sister in the Monster family wearing, guess what – a nappy. Time for Moo to grow up, shed the nappy and bare the botty.

Needless to say, Mummy instructs Moo to call a halt on the monster messes that ensue. It appears though that Mummy has a clever plan, for next morning a gift-wrapped surprise arrives at the door.

Moo’s bot is a perfect fit for a sit and that’s exactly what he does … for a protracted period until eventually … (success!)

There’s more to learn though as Mummy monster talks of botty wiping, then demonstrates hand washing and drying. The monsters then head into town for some ‘grown-up’ pants purchasing; and finally smartypants Moo is ready for a celebration.

With its bold, zany art, jaunty rhyming text and flaps to explore, little ones and their adults can enjoy some fun times with the former doing some important learning.

We Catch the Bus

We Catch the Bus
Katie Abey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

If you have a little one with a penchant for all things vehicular, then they’ll surely love this book. What it lacks in story, it certainly more than makes up for in the bright, busy, vehicle-packed illustrations that are full of giggle-making details.

Every spread takes a different theme be it buses, planes, trucks, trains, diggers, cars, bikes,

boats, emergency vehicles, tractors or rockets; and children can make up their own stories inspired by what’s happening on any of the pages; there’s certainly plenty of action on each one.

‘We catch the Bus / Which bus would you catch?’ is the lead-in to the first spread whereon we find 10 different buses, all being driven by jolly-looking animal characters and there are plenty of other zany animal characters to spot too. One waiting at a bus stop asks “How many footballs can you count?” while the driver of the book bus inquires “What’s your favourite story?”

Every other spread has a similar relevant lead-in and an abundance of ways to involve youngsters. They could look for the fish on the airport spread or perhaps play spot the fairy tale characters/items; maybe they’ll discover that a certain big bad wolf keeps putting in an appearance.

This book surely guarantees hours of enjoyable immersion.

Supercats v Maximus Fang / Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of ZOMBIES

It’s great to see these two popular fiction series going from strength to strength:

Supercats v Maximus Fang
Gwyneth Rees, illustrated by Becka Moor
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is the second of Gwyneth Rees’ Supercats series that will delight animal lovers, especially those who enjoy tales with a bit of a zesty bite. They’ll certainly get that with Tagg, a recent recruit to a team of crime-fighting supercats. (think feline MI6). Tagg’s personal superpower is camouflage, a tremendously useful skill for any secret agent.

In this story Tagg and another member of the team, Sugarfoot have their first mission. They need to infiltrate the dastardly Killer Cats crew that includes just back in town, Gory Gus, and thwart his plans to break his partner in crime Maximus Fang out of prison.

The prison break has to be stopped but are the newbie supercats up to the task?

Assuredly they’ll need to employ both their superpowers and all their feline wits or else they’ll end being fish-sliced in the paws of the Hit Cats. Moreover, Gory’s superpower is telekinesis and Maximus’s power is weather control. ‘Think tsunamis! Think tornadoes and hurricanes!’ Hmm!

Can Tagg and Sugarfoot succeed in their mission? Perhaps with the help of ‘the Weapon’ …

There’s plenty of tension, especially when having persuaded the Killer Cats to let them join their crew, Tagg and Sugarfoot discover what that entails …

Add plenty of fun to the mix, with additional lashings thanks to Becka Moor’s illustrations, and what you have is a highly satisfying moggy adventure.

Sam Wu is NOT afraid of ZOMBIES
Katie and Kevin Tsang, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Egmont

Sam Wu is still trying to prove he’s not afraid of anything in this his fifth fear conquering challenge. He’s already succeeded in becoming unafraid where ghosts, sharks, the dark and spiders are concerned – well almost!

So what about zombies? Surely such thoughts won’t send frissons of fear running through the lad will they? Err, maybe not, except … supposing his arch nemesis Ralph Zinkerman the Third, lets it be known that there are zombie werewolves living in his basement.

Is this really something Sam wants to tackle, especially when Ralph has just told tales on him in class? But, Sam has loyalties to Ralph’s sister Regina so maybe he should summon up all his courage, accept the invitation to visit the Zinkerman residence and (along with some friends) see what is going on in that basement of theirs, despite strict orders from Mr and Mrs Z that said basement with its locked door was ‘strictly off limits’.

Could this perhaps be Sam’s scariest fear-confrontation yet?

Splendidly funny through and through with a great finale, and terrific Nathan Reed illustrations scattered throughout that highlight the hilarious situations, this series just keeps on getting better.

Red Red Red / Ravi’s Roar

Here are two picture books about young children and their anger

Red Red Red
Polly Dunbar
Walker Books

It’s tantrum time for the toddler in Polly Dunbar’s new picture book. A tantrum that’s precipitated when the infant attempts to extricate a biscuit from the jar up on the high shelf, bringing both jar and child hurtling to the floor.

A sympathetic mum is quickly on the scene but her attempts to placate her little one only make things worse until she suggests a calming, counting strategy that gradually transforms the toddler,

allowing all that fury to dissipate.

Polly’s scenes of anger and its management – of biscuits,

bumps and breathing – are sheer delight. The cathartic counting sequence in particular is absolutely brilliant.

Just the thing to share post-tantrum with little ones – make sure  they’ve completely calmed down first of course.

Ravi’s Roar
Tom Percival
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Meet Ravi; he’s the youngest and smallest member of his family. This is perfectly fine most of the time but there are days when everything goes wrong.
The day of the family picnic was one of those.

First of all he’s squished into a train seat between a grown-up and a farty dog; then the game of hide-and-seek is a dismal disaster.

Ravi’s lack of stature puts paid to his enjoyment of the adventure playground but then his Dad steps in with a suggestion intended to help diffuse the lad’s rising anger.
That too goes badly wrong causing Ravi to lose it completely.

He’s suddenly transformed into a furious roaring tiger, which does seem to result in some short-term advantages.

But then the tiger overdoes his wildness, so much so that nobody else wants anything to do with him.

All alone, sadness starts to take the place of Ravi’s fury: what was it that had caused his anger anyway? The reason eludes him but he knows that an apology is called for.

After that the rest of his tigerishness seeps out leaving a calm child once again. PHEW!

In case you’re wondering, that was the last time Ravi ever became a tiger although he does still emit the occasional moderated growl …

Once again Tom Percival demonstrates his empathetic understanding of young children and his skill at exploring a subject that is very much part and parcel of their emotional make-up.

Add this enormously engaging book to your family collection or classroom shelves.

Baby’s First Jailbreak

Baby’s First Jailbreak
Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The Bank Heist baby Frank is back for another rollicking rhyming adventure, but he’s not the only baby that features in this follow up story. There’s also baby Bruce – more of him shortly.

In case you don’t already know, baby Frank has turned his home into a zoo so that his debts can be paid off for the bank raid he was involved in. This zoo was doing very well for itself but gradually the crowds have dropped off until one morning nobody at all was waiting to pay to enter Frank’s Zoo.

While out for a walk with his parents they come upon the reason for this loss of custom: baby Bruce, of rich parentage,

has opened a zoo too (on his parents private polo pitch) and is now coining it in by showing tutu clad tigers, dancing chimps, bicycling elephants, not to mention penguins wandering around giving out free ice creams. Hmmm! And to make matters worse, the place is festooned with flags bearing Bruce’s face.
Pretty soon, Frank’s Mum has seen enough and Dad is ready to give up in the face of unbeatable competition.

That evening however, Frank is visited by an escaped penguin who tells of the terrible treatment he and his fellow animals at Bruce’s establishment receive, and begs his help.

Needless to say, Frank is on the case immediately, planning a ‘daring prison break’ and by 2am he, together with a few animal friends, head to Bruce’s zoo.

Scaling the high wall isn’t too much of a challenge and neither is picking the lock on the door of the penguin enclosure.
Before long not only the penguins but also the tortoises, hyena and every other creature from the zoo has been liberated and is on the way to the safety of Frank’s home.

The infant zoo-breaker will have a bit of explaining to do next morning when his parents confront the lad about the sudden increase in animal numbers residing with them but before he can do so, there’s a knock at the door.

Baby Bruce and his mother have come calling and are making accusations.

Now what? Can Frank and the animals convince the visitors that they belong right where they are?

The answer is both yes and no, though what happens finally, you’ll have to discover by getting your flippers, trunks or other appropriate appendages on a copy of this corker of a read aloud. That way you can also relish Stephen Collins’ superbly droll illustrations each of which is packed with wonderful chuckleworthy details.

I Don’t Want To Be Small

I Don’t Want To Be Small
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The little boy narrator of this rhyming tale rues his lack of stature; “It’s not fair,” he says. Frequently overlooked, he’s the smallest among his friends and big bro’s castoffs are way too large.

In a fit of pique the lad tosses his Teddy Bear skywards only to get it stuck in a tree out of reach.
Nothing he tries succeeds in getting Ted down;

superfast consumption of green veggies merely serve to give him wind and attempting to become flower-like is let’s say, a damp squib.

His “I JUST WANT MY BEAR” shout causes a tall girl to come and offer her assistance; but not even she can reach Teddy.

Light bulb moment: teamwork might just do it suggests our narrator, and … hurrah! Success; but much more important, is what  ensues.

Laura’s spirited illustrations abound with humour and pathos, and her seemingly simple, funny story with its powerful messages about self-acceptance and the importance of co-operation, will resonate with all those who feel inferior for whatever reason.