Billie Swift Takes Flight

Billie Swift Takes Flight
Iszi Lawrence
Bloomsbury Education

This story is set in 1942 and yes World War 2 is a period fairly often used in children’s fiction. but this is something altogether different.

Twelve-year old Billie Swift would much rather spend time in the company of her mum’s chickens than with other humans. She finds school boring, though she’s bright and a quick learner with an avid interest in planes.

One day when out cycling with her favourite chicken Susan, Billie suddenly sees a Spitfire crash in a field. Knowing better than to go close up and investigate in case of fire, she dashes home thinking to herself, “That is the second time you’ve murdered someone” and she’s not proud of herself. However she remains concerned about the fate of the pilot as well as her brother’s bike (which she needs to retrieve); but when she returns to the site, there’s no sign of the plane.

Before long she’s managed – not entirely honestly – to become a member of the ATA cadets, meeting lots of pilots – men and women – who against the odds, fly planes from factories to the front lines; and she too learns to fly. At the airfield she meets all kinds of people including the person she thinks was piloting the ‘crashed’ spitfire whom she begins to suspect is a Nazi spy.

On a mission to find out the truth and to clear her friend Nancy’s name,(accused of smuggling)) Billie finds herself in increasing danger and towards the end of the story there are some very frightening moments that left me with my heart in my mouth.

Truly inspiring, full of the spirit of the time and with so many real life people who were the inspiration for Iszi Lawrence’s characters, this is a book that brilliantly evokes a part of history where relatively little of the fictional focus has been on women. It helps to bring their contribution to the notice of today’s readers, many of whom won’t be much younger than Billie herself.

Definitely a book I recommend for anyone learning about WW2 at school, either as a class read aloud or a solo read; and for home reading by children who love an exciting tale.

New in the Bloomsbury Readers Series

Scratch and Sniff
Margaret Ryan, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Wings of Icarus
Jenny Oldfield, illustrated by Bee Wiley
Sindhu and Jeet’s Detective Agency
Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Amberin Huq
Maggie and the Moonbird
Katya Balen, illustrated by Pham Quang Phuc
Bamba Beach
Pratima Mitchell, illustrated by David Dean
Ping and the Missing Ring
Emma Shevah, illustrated by Izzy Evans
Bloomsbury Education

These are additions to the Bloomsbury Readers series: banded book stories that aim to foster independent reading at KS2, all written by award-winning authors and illustrated in black and white and definitely worth offering to children for home or school reading.

The titular Scratch and Sniff are dogs belonging to PC Penny Penrose. Said constable frequently gets given the boring tasks and this is so on the day we meet her counting traffic cones outside the police station while her colleague Sergeant Snide is off investigating a burglary at the furniture store. However when her two faithful pooches learn of this, they decide it’s time for the ‘doggy Secret Service’ to get to work and they too head off to the scene of the crime. There, they decide to look around outside leaving the sergeant to do his detecting inside and that’s when they’re party to something highly suspicious in the form of two men struggling to carry a heavy sofa, something with a very valuable cushion, that they put into a van belonging to the department store and drive off. Time to use those cones and to alert Penny …
With plenty of funny drawings this is assuredly, a fun cops and robbers tale for those readers just beginning to fly solo.

Wings of Icarus is Jenny Oldfield retelling of the classic Greek myth about the daring boy Icarus, imprisoned with his dad Daedulus on the island of Crete by King Minos, but determined to make their escape – one way or another. When the sea proves too much for their first plan, Daedulus decides that while their captor might be Lord of Earth and Sea, he certainly isn’t ruler of the skies. Hence their only chance is to take to the air … While Icarus sleeps his father builds wings from feathers collected and next morning after warnings from his father, the boy is so excited he takes off alone … Compellingly told and enticingly illustrated.

As Sindhu and Jeet (along with Sindhu’s parents) leave Chennai bound for London the best friends have different agendas for the holiday. The pair have formed Sindhu and Jeet’s Detective Agency but all Jeet wants to do is relax and be a tourist whereas Sindhu has brought along her young detectives’ handbook – just in case. Before they’ve even boarded the plane Sindhu spots something she thinks is suspicious behaviour. Almost the next minute the two friends find themselves trapped between a wall and two baggage burglars. Time to try some of their Kabadi skills … Will the plane wait even if they can extricate themselves from this and the next very tricky situation?
Happily yes, but that’s only the start of their adventures: next stop the sights of London, first off The Tower of London itself. So begins another exciting investigation where again the friends’ ace powers of observation and a liberal sprinkling of imagination, along with determination are called into play.
Even then they’re not quite finished with detecting. After a day of rest, they visit the Natural History Museum where Mum has a special interest in the conch collection and one conch in particular. However when they get to the cabinet where it’s supposed to be, there’s a label saying the item has been ‘temporarily removed’.When next they look, there’s a conch back in the cabinet, but is it the right one? Mum doesn’t think so … This holiday is turning out to be anything but boring after all decides Sindhu. There are plenty of thrills and tension to keep readers turning the pages in this one.

Pratima Mitchell’s contemporary story Bamba Beach immediately transported me to some of the many wonderful holidays I’ve spend in Arpora, Goa just off the coast. The setting is a fishing village where young Hari lives with his family. Times are hard with almost no fish left in the bay on account of the tsunami and to catch those further out, the family needs a boat with a flat bottom and an outboard motor rather than their old dilapidated one made from coconut wood. Hari knows full well they can’t afford it but the good-hearted lad is desperate to do something to raise money for his family. He’s not a boy to give up even in the face of village superstitions and family feuds; and when he’s offered a bi-weekly job washing local headteacher, Brother Angelo’s car, it’s at least a start. From small beginnings … though even with several more customers Hari reckons it will take fifteen years to make the capital needed to set up a shop. What else can he do?
Seemingly plenty, for it’s not long before unexpected help comes from somebody Hari has helped. A highly engaging and interesting look at a culture most young readers will not be familiar with.

In the same reading band is Katya Balen’s magical moonlight adventure Maggie and the Moonbird featuring a girl who instead of going bird-watching with her dad as she really wants, has to visit the zoo with her aunt and two annoying little cousins. There she sees a bird that despite its information label, doesn’t match her own knowledge or the description of the Silverfinch in her bird book. Nonetheless she picks up one if its feathers and takes it home. That’s where, after she’s in bed with the feather tucked under her pillow, the magic takes flight … Altogether an enchanting and timeless fantasy read that will surely get readers’ imaginations soaring.

The most challenging story is another contemporary one, Ping and the Missing Ring. Ping the protagonist and her family are Thai and live in Bath. The custom is that Thai people are calm, composed and polite, which Ping sometimes finds tricky to maintain.
So when she’s invited to stay with her cousins in West London in a house full of traditional Thai furniture and crafts, she promises her mum to be on her best behaviour; definitely no adventures or mystery solving. But, after a visit from Isabelle who has money troubles and a sick husband, Aunty Lek’s engagement ring is missing. She thinks Isabelle has taken it but Ping thinks otherwise: she can’t stop herself going into detective mode. Exciting and with lots of interesting details about the traditional Thai way of life, this like all the others, is an engaging read though herein the illustrations act as chapter breaks, as do those in Bamba Beach.

Yapping Away

Yapping Away
Joshua Seigal, illustrated by Sarah Horne
Bloomsbury Education

There are playful poems aplenty in 2020 winner of the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards, Joshua Seigal’s latest poetry collection; it’s wonderfully witty and cleverly creative to boot. As ever, he uses the 3Rs crucial to making children readers, and assuredly they have that same effect when it comes to making them poetry enthusiasts as well.

I absolutely love the surprise element in many of Joshua’s poems: there’s the sudden change of heart in New Baby wherein the older sibling moves from ‘You grumble and gripe / and you grizzle all day. / I hate you, new baby / so please go away.’ in the first verse to the final ‘I know Mummy loves you / and Daddy does too. / I love you, new baby! / You’re lovely! It’s true!

Then there’s the passionate Did I Ever Tell You … wherein the author pours his heart out as he continues ‘ … how much I love you? // I love you more / that the yawn / of the morning sun. ‘ … There are more verses in similar vein until the final ‘You / are / my // – – – – – !’ Can you guess the object of the love?

There are also some smashing shape poems: here’s one 

and others with terrific word play, Shapes being one.

However not everything is playful: anything but is the decidedly pensive Drawing My Grandma. I love too, the thought-provoking Inside with its circularity; Sad in which the speaker is unaccountably so feeling, is another, it conveys an emotion that strikes us all from time to time.

As does that summed up in The Grouchy Song: I’m reminded of that one whenever I listen to the news these days. And if the suggestions proffered therein don’t work sufficiently then I’ll quickly turn to Magic! for an antidote. 

I could go on and mention pretty much every single one of the almost 50 poems in this smashing book but better I leave you with Joshua’s words to embark on The Reading Journey something you’ll do if you get hold of a copy of your own and ‘Embark in the dark / on a sparkling adventure. / Glide on the tide / to the rhythm of words. ‘ …

I must mention too, Sarah Horne’s drawings that are appropriately quirky and a delight in themselves.

There’s no doubt that youngsters will feel inspired to take up Joshua’s “Let’s Get Writing!’ invitation that comes after the poems; he gives some helpful poetry starters there, though there are plenty offered by his poems themselves – that’s so long as said children have turned down this Invitation:

If you want children to find delight in language, poetry in particular., this book is a MUST.

Jack and the Beanstalk & Cinderella / Vocabulary Ninja Workbooks

Jack and the Beanstalk
Cinderella

Stephen Tucker and Nick Sharratt
Macmillan Children’s Books

When I was a KS1 class teacher these lift-the-flap fairy tales were very popular with children just taking off as readers. The fact that youngsters were in the main already familiar with the stories, their rhyming texts, and Nick’s trademark cartoon bright, bold humorous illustrations made them ideal choices for confidence building as well as entertainment and getting across the vital reading is fun message.

Now with new editions that include a QR code to scan to access audio versions read by actor Anna Chancellor, the playful, witty tellings will be sure fire winners with a new generation of learner readers and listeners in school or at home.

Vocabulary Ninja Workbooks
Andrew Jennings
Bloomsbury Education

This series of six vocabulary books is intended to support home learning. There is one for each year group from Y1 through to Y6 ie covering both KS1 and KS2 and providing the vocabulary likely to be needed in the National Curriculum topics such as geography, history and science.

With most children missing a lot of school over the past eighteen months these books are likely to be a boon for parents struggling to help their youngsters and not knowing where to turn.

Aiming to extend vocabulary and literacy skills in general in a fun, imaginative way, the activities on the pages of each book are grouped into levels: grasshopper, shin obi, warrior, samurai, assassin and grand master. In his introduction, the author (a teacher) suggests that a child should attempt to do the first two levels as independently as possible while from level three and beyond, he recommends some adult support to ensure full understanding. However those of us who are teachers or work in education will know that a great deal of differentiation may be required within a class, so parents will have to be guided by their own judgement and assuredly children will enjoy some adult interaction.

With their colourful graphics, straightforward instructions and activities that never overwhelm,

these books offer engaging and much-needed support and empowerment for learning at home, especially at present.

The Gingerbread Man/ Let’s Play, Daddy Bear!/ Manju’s Magic Muddle / Fizzy and the Party / A Hundred and One Daffodils

These are new additions to the Bloomsbury Education Young Readers series (one per band Turquoise, Purple, Gold, White, Lime) which aims to help children towards becoming independent readers. Thanks to the publishers for sending them for review:

The Gingerbread Man
Kandace Chimbiri, illustrated by Richy Sánchez Ayala
Let’s Play, Daddy Bear!
Dawn McNiff, illustrated by Andy Rowland
Manju’s Magic Muddle
Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Verónica Montoya
Fizzy and the Party
Sarah Crossan, illustrated by Nicola Colton
A Hundred and One Daffodils
Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Denise Hughes

In The Gingerbread Man, Kandace Chimbiri gives her lively telling a Caribbean flavour with this wonderfully aromatic character being chased by its old lady baker, an old man, a clutch of chickens, a horse, and a scary looking dog to the river’s edge. There however, it’s a monkey that beguiles the little fellow into accepting a lift across the water and ever closer to his mouth, but will the runaway end up being consumed?
Look closely at Richy Sánchez Ayala’s illustration showing what the baker of the runaway is holding.

Let’s Play, Daddy Bear! is a warm-hearted story with equally warm illustrations of a young bear that spends weekends at her father’s home where they play fun games like Monster Chase and Daddy-is-a-Big-Climbing Frame. But on this particular weekend Daddy Bear is so busy using his computer that his daughter becomes thoroughly bored with waiting for him to finish his work; and her ‘take notice of me’ tactics only serve to slow him down even more. Will he ever get to the end of his keyboard tap tapping and go outside to play with Little Bear?

There’s more boredom in Chitra’s second story featuring this little girl, Manju’s Magic Muddle. Again her protagonist again makes use of that lamp in her Grandmother’s wardrobe. Now when she summons the genie she learns that he is suffering from a terrible cold that’s having an adverse effect on his ability to grant people’s wishes correctly. Moggy, Cumin is against calling on said genie at the outset and although less than impressed at what he hears in this story feels sorry for the genie and his plight. Especially when it’s revealed that any more errors and the genie will be forever struck off the Genie Register. Can the two of them help sort things out when another call comes in on the Genie-O-Summoner? The genie is in no fit state to go it alone … With its theme of kindness, this is such a fun story with amusing genie mishearing outcomes to entertain youngsters along the way.

Slightly longer is Fizzy and the Party: Fizzy is certainly an apt name for the protagonist herein for she simply fizzes with energy even or perhaps especially at bedtime, which is when Mrs Crumbleboom is having her party.Despite Mum’s words to the contrary, young Fizzy dons her glitzy fairy gear and against Mum’s better judgement heads next door to her neighbour’s garden. Will she be allowed to stay and participate in the fun though? A good many young readers will recognise the bedtime delaying of persuasive Fizzy who provides not only a great rationale for being allowed to attend but continues to sway the situation her way throughout the story.

There are no humans in Malachi Doyle’s A Hundred and One Daffodils; rather it’s an enchanting story of Dusty the fox cub and her search for the appropriate number of daffodil flowers that will enable her and her friends that help her hunt, to enjoy a celebratory party for the first day of spring, just like Dad fox did year after year until he was a grown-up fox. Friendship and determination are key in this one.

All in all these short lively chapter books, with their carefully chosen words by popular authors, and attractive illustrations at every page turn, are certainly going to help a great many children on their way to solo reading. For adults guiding children on their reading journey, there’s a ‘Tips for Grown Ups’ inside the front cover and a ‘Fun Time’ for children at the end.

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble
chosen by Paul Cookson, illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon
Bloomsbury Education

Poet, Paul Cookson has brewed up an anthological crucible that’s brimming over with magical poems, over seventy in all. He’s spread his web wide gathering a rich and varied mix of ingredients that includes classics such as Shakespeare’s Over Hill, Over Dale; from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tennyson’s The Kraken and Lewis Carroll’s Dreamland, as well as a host of contemporary poets, established and rising.

I really enjoyed every single one and it’s impossible to select favourites, as it depends on mood as much as anything; but on the day I received my review copy I’d spent at least two hours screaming at my new Macbook which had supposedly had everything migrated from the previous one, but there were lots of things unexpectedly going wrong.

I was greatly amused to find the book opened itself at Stan Cullimore’s Song of the Witches (when their Internet Wasn’t Working) with its opening lines ‘Double, double, click that bubble / We have got computer trouble’. Shame I couldn’t fix it with the poet’s final line ‘Just had to switch it off and on again’ that works so often with computer woes. I suspect Paul himself was using a bit of his ‘Telepathically Magical’ power to cause me to start on that particular page, and no, my answer was not … 3 and I’m still struggling – three days later. A-hah! That’s it!

I know many youngsters who will take great delight in James Carter’s How To Turn Your Teacher Purple! – ‘Heebie Geebie, Hurple Burple / Time To Turn My Teacher … PURPLE!’
I just hope none of them test it out on me though. I definitely wouldn’t countenance being fed with ‘beetroot every hour’ – can’t stand the stuff.

I will certainly avoid doing what the filling of Graham Denton’s four liner did too …

And I’m going to share Matt Goodfellow’s An Example of my Amazing Ability to Make People (Namely my Older Sister) Spontaneously Combust Without Even Touching Them with 5 year old Samuel. It goes like this:
‘I pour away her perfume / scribble in her books / dribble on her mobile phone / and give her dirty looks // pull down all her posters / trample on her clothes / then leg it to my bedroom / and hey presto // she explodes.’
I suspect however that he’s too good natured to try it, but you never know.

Rather than waxing lyrical about the rest of the elements of this marvellous mix, let me just say that Paul serves up a terrific repast here and it’s one to relish whatever the season. Spellbinding it certainly is and I totally love the addition of Eilidh Muldoon’s visual garnishing.

The Chocolate Unicorn / Crumbs!

Here are two recent releases in Bloomsbury Education’s series Bloomsbury Young Readers

The Chocolate Unicorn
Jenny McLachlan, illustrated by Sarah Lawrence

Olive Brown worries a lot, so much so that she misses out on all kinds of wonderful opportunities.

Then one day her Grandpa gives her a present containing chocolates of different shapes. Wanting to make them last as long as possible, she eats one each day until only her favourite is left. It’s the chocolate unicorn with fudge hooves and a glittery horn and it seems too magical even to nibble. The unicorn remains in the box and Olive looks at it every morning and evening until the day it’s no longer there.

Following a trail of footprints, she discovers its hiding place and so begins a series of learning experiences through which the unicorn shows Olive how to be, first a little bit brave and then more so,

until she’s no longer holding herself back at all.

A while later, Olive, her mum and the unicorn visit the seaside where she meets a little boy. Could it be that it’s time for the unicorn to start working his magic on somebody else who needs to find some courage?

With gently humorous illustrations by Sarah Lawrence, this is a charming story for children who are growing in confidence towards becoming independent readers,

Crumbs!
Ben Bailey Smith, illustrated by Sav Akyüz

Ben Bailey Smith, actor and rapper has written this story of Farmer Dan’s missing lunch in rhyme.

When the farmer discovers the sandwich he’s been so eagerly anticipating is no longer in his lunch box his wife – a much brighter character – suggests an animal is responsible. But which one? Is it Harry the horse, Bridget the chicken

or perhaps, Bill the pig?

Dan is absolutely determined to track down the culprit that’s gobbled up his favourite egg mayonnaise sandwich and left him with a few crumbs.

A funny tale with spirited illustrations by Sav Akyüz, that should go down well with young readers whether or not they share Farmer Dan’s penchant for egg mayonnaise sandwiches.

It’s OK to Cry / The Happy Book

It’s OK to Cry
Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings
Featherstone (Bloomsbury Education)

Molly Potter’s latest book that offers both parents and teachers a starting point for developing emotional intelligence/ emotional literacy with youngsters is written particularly with boys in mind.

How many times in my teaching career have I heard a parent say to his/her young boy words such as “Stop all the fuss, boys don’t cry like that.”? Way too many; and if children are subjected to such comments from a very young age they soon internalise what they’ve been told and become afraid to show their feelings. Instead, from the outset we all need to encourage children to feel safe to talk about and show how they feel.

The author starts by presenting some commonplace scenarios to explore why it is that boys have a tendency to keep their emotions under wraps.

She then goes on to look at where some of the messages about ‘acting tough’ might come from, and to explore the importance of being able to articulate how you really feel.

This is followed by a look at a variety of different feelings, some positive, others negative. In each case the text is straightforward and easy to grasp, and offers starting points for opening up discussion, and is accompanied by Sarah Jennings bright, friendly illustrations.

There’s also a ‘park full of feelings’ that is a great discussion jumping off point, as well as some suggestions to help cope with ‘uncomfortable feelings’.

The final pages are directly aimed at parents and carers again with the emphasis on boys.  Included is the stark reminder that ‘poor male emotional literacy is reflected in the fact that in the UK suicide is the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45.’

With a down to earth approach such as the one Molly Potter offers herein, let’s hope all children will develop coping strategies to deal with feelings and emotions.

The Happy Book
Alex Allan and Anne Wilson
Welbeck Publishing

Developed in collaboration with child, psychotherapist Sarah Davis, this accessible book explores with a young audience in mind, five emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear and worry.

The author’s tone is warm as she encourages readers to consider carefully so they can identify their feelings and possible causes, as well as the reactions they might cause.

Occasional questions add to the interactive nature of the text and for each emotion, there is a paragraph (or several) explaining the science of what happens in both the brain and the body: ‘When you are happy, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine that helps you to learn, remember and helps you sleep well.’

There are also ‘top tips’ as well as a host of other suggestions to encourage positive feelings.

Anne Wilson varies her colour palette according to each emotion so for example red reflects an angry mood

and blue-black, sadness in her amusing illustrations. I particularly like the green vegetable characters and I’m sure they will appeal to youngsters.

This book provides an ideal starting point for parents and educators wanting to develop emotional intelligence in young children.

The Miracle of Hanukkah

The Miracle of Hanukkah
Malachy Doyle and Christopher Corr
Bloomsbury Education

The Jewish ‘festival of lights’, Hanukkah is celebrated over eight days and in 2019 begins of the night of December 22nd continuing until the 30th of the month.

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means ‘dedication’ and in this picture book Malachy Doyle retells the story of the reclamation and rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees and their followers succeeded in driving the Greek army of King Antiochus back to their homeland.
Unable to find the golden menorah in the temple, Judah Maccabee and his men created a simple oil burner and managed to find only sufficient oil to last a single night.

Amazingly though, when they lit the burner it stayed alight for eight days and nights.

The story of the ‘Miracle of the Oil’ has since been passed down from one generation to the next and this is the festival that is commemorated at Hanukkah.

In Jewish homes a special menorah called a Hanukkiyah is brought out. The menorah holds nine candles, one of which is the Shamash (servant), which is used to light the other eight candles. On the first night, just one candle is lit. On the second night, an additional flame is lit and so on until by the eighth night all eight lights and the Shamash are burning.

Christopher Corr shows all this in his characteristic vibrant illustrations as well as the traditional sharing of fried latkes, and sufganiyot (sweet, jam-filled doughnuts), and the dreidel game that children play.

This is an ideal picture book to share with primary age children to introduce them to the Hanukkah story and associated traditions, either in RE or for an assembly.

Cavegirl / It’s Too Scary / Manju’s Magic Wishes

Cavegirl
Abie Longstaff and Shane Crampton
It’s Too Scary!
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Sharon Davey
Manju’s Magic Wishes
Chitra Soundar and Verónica Montoya
Bloomsbury Education

These are three recent additions to Bloomsbury Education’s Young Readers series, which aims to help children take that important step into independent reading.

Each book has been written by a popular author, has short chapters providing suitable stopping points and full colour illustrations that make each book look inviting.

Cavegirl Aggie is an independent, creative little girl with a warm heart and a mission: to get a very special birthday present for her mum. She learns that one of the villagers, Gron, has found a piece of amber that glows like the sun and is certain it’s the right gift. She sets about her task, making several trades and finally she has something she thinks Gron will trade for the amber. Gron agrees but then on the way home disaster strikes in the shape of a boar and the amber disappears before her eyes. But Abbie isn’t one to give up and the satisfying story ends happily.

It’s Too Scary! is the story of a visit to the fair. Mum takes Jun and his sister Lin but while she’s eager to try all the rides, Jun who’s first visit to a fair this is, is fearful and wants to avoid anything scary. Can Lin, help her little brother overcome his fear of those ‘big rides’ so that he too can enjoy all the fun of the fair and make his experience one he’ll want to repeat?

Chitra’s Manju’s Magic Wishes is slightly longer in terms of words and like Cavegirl, has a little girl who is eager to give her mum a wonderful birthday gift. The story has plenty of action and excitement and of course magic – there’s a magic lamp, a genie and seven wishes, and an enormously tasty finale. Manju and her cat, Cumin discuss mum’s birthday present and Cumin suddenly becomes excited, rushing into Grandma’s room. It’s there that they accidentally discover Grandma’s magic lamp and by recalling Gran’s instructions Manju is able to call up a genie. He grants them seven wishes – more than Manju is expecting. Those will surely be sufficient to conjure up something very special. However the task isn’t quite as simple as they anticipate; indeed Manju almost runs out of wishes before that ‘just right’ gift is ready and waiting.

For adults sharing them with children, the inside covers of all three books have helpful tips, discussion points and creative ideas to extend the stories.

Time to Eat, Time to Tidy Up, Time to Share, Time to make Friends

Time to Eat, Time to Tidy Up, Time to Share, Time to make Friends
Penny Tassoni and Mel Four
Bloomsbury Education

Written by education consultant Penny Tassoni whose roots are in early years teaching, is the Time to series of which these are the first titles.

Aimed at pre-schoolers, the language is simple and engaging, encouraging little ones to interact by for example in Time to Eat, focussing on the different shapes and sizes of the fruit and vegetables shown …

This book also looks at colours of foods and their textures; and talks about why we need food. It also introduces the idea of likes and dislikes.
There’s a wordless spread of different foods that should encourage plenty of food-related talk and a final spread of notes for parents and carers. These include guidance on what to observe, how to assess what is seen and ideas for supporting a child’s next steps. (all good early years practice)

Time to Tidy Up explains why tidying up is important, looks at storage places and to encourage little ones to get involved, suggests ways of making it fun by singing, dancing, or taking on a particular role – even superheroes tidy up!

We all need to share and it’s never too soon to learn how is beautifully demonstrated by the small children using the dough in this spread of Time to Share

Sharing is caring, a means to make friends, and makes things more fun. That might be in the playground, at the swimming pool, or at nursery where you might need to share sand, toys and other resources. There too you’ll need to take turns – a form of sharing but some negotiation might be needed.
As important as sharing is, there are certain things that are not for sharing: this too is covered.

Of course, sharing is very much part and parcel of making friends the theme of Time to Make Friends which looks at the ups and downs of friendship and introduces the concept of kindness as well as togetherness.

Mel Four’s bold, bright illustrations of the young children are appealing and work really well with the text making for a handy and helpful resource for early years practitioners, parents and carers.

Bloomsbury Young Readers

A Tiger for Breakfast
Narinder Dhami, illustrated by Christopher Corr
The Ugly Little Swan
James Riordan, illustrated by Brendan Kearney
Jack and the Jungle
Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly
Happy Birthday, Sausage!
Michaela Morgan, illustrated by Felicity Sheldon
Bloomsbury Education

These are four newly illustrated stories published in Bloomsbury Young Readers series for children who, as well as reading picture books, want to extend their range. These stories still have colour illustrations breaking up the text on every page but have short chapters.
Those who are familiar with my background will probably be aware that I am no fan of reading schemes, controlled vocabularies or book bands and these stories are ‘levelled’. They are however, the work of established children’s book authors and illustrators and I’d happily include them in a classroom collection as books worth reading in their own right.

A Tiger for Breakfast has a folk tale feel to it and tells how farmer Ram’s wife, Reeta, tricks the hungry tiger intent on making a meal of the entire family. Christopher Corr’s richly coloured folk art style illustrations are an ideal complement to Narinder’s punchy text.

Turning the Hans Andersen classic tail up is James Riordan’s The Ugly Little Swan wherein one of a Mother swan’s hatchlings is ostracised by the others for being different. Herein, illustrator Brendan Kearney’s blend of humour and pathos speaks volumes.

Jack and the Jungle, tells what happens when young Jack kicks his ball over the wall of his new garden into Abbie’s next door. Could there really be snakes, a wolf and tigers living among all that vegetation, as she would have him believe?Young readers will enjoy the extended joke delivered through Malachy Doyle’s text and Paddy Donnelly’s equally lively pictures.

Happy Birthday, Sausage!, Michaela Morgan’s story extends over 48 rather than 32 pages. Herein poor dachshund, Sausage eagerly anticipates the ‘birthday’ party Elly, Jack and their gran are planning for him unaware that arrogant cats that share his home are intent on sabotaging it. Will their plot be discovered in time? This fun tale of subterfuge and assumptions will please readers, as will Felicity Sheldon’s scenes with their amusing details; her portrayal of the plotting felines and canine characters in particular is splendidly expressive.

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy / Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
Susan Verde and Peter H.Reynolds
Abrams Books

The team who gave us I am Yoga and I am Peace now explore what it means to be human.

Humans have a playful side and find joy in relationships, we hear; but on the negative side sadness brings a heavy heart. This though, is countered by a reminder that part of being human is the ability to make choices.
Positive actions – such as compassion and helping others, being fair and treating all people equally, bring a feeling of connectedness with fellow humans.

In keeping with the child narrator’s mood, Reynolds changes his colour palette from bright to a dull bluish grey as the actions switch from positive to negative.

Yes, we’re all flawed human beings who make mistakes but Susan Verde and Peter Reynold’s little book of empathy is perfect for starting a discussion with young children about making good choices. To this end, there’s also a loving-kindness meditation to share.

Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Featherstone (Bloomsbury)

Most young children will bring up the subject of death either at home or in school, or both, and many adults are unsure of how to engage in a discussion about it. This book, written in child-friendly language by a teacher, will for those adults especially, prove extremely helpful.

Each double spread – there are a thirteen in all – takes a different aspect and almost all start with a question such as ‘Are there different words for death?’; ‘What might you feel when someone dies?’ …

‘What do people believe happens after death?’ and, the only one that isn’t prefaced by a question, “To remember a person who has died, you could …’.
There’s a brief ‘It’s important to know’ paragraph at the end of most sections and Sarah Jennings has provided bright, appealing illustrations (often including speech bubbles).

The tone of the entire book – both verbal and visual – is spot on for the primary audience and is suitable for those of all faiths or none.

Rama and Sita

Rama and Sita
Malachy Doyle and Christopher Corr
Bloomsbury Education

Every autumn term countless teachers in primary schools share the story of Diwali with their classes. This retelling with Christopher Corr’s vibrant folk art style illustrations and Malachy Doyle’s straightforward narrative is an ideal introduction that really brings to life the ancient Hindu tale of the victory of light over dark.

It recounts how living in exile Rama and his wife Sita are tricked by the demon king Ravanna who wants Sita for himself. He sends a deer into the forest and Rama follows it at his wife’s request leaving Sita alone.

In his absence, Ravanna kidnaps Sita and takes her away to his island kingdom.

When Rama realises he’s been duped, he resolves to rescue his beloved wife and as luck would have it Hanuman the monkey king comes to his assistance.

With the help of Hanuman and his monkey army, who build a bridge across from the mainland, Rama rescues Sita from the island whereon Ravanna is holding her prisoner. First though, a terrible battle is fought on that island between the monkey army and the wicked demon army until finally an arrow from Rama’s bow pierces the chest of the ten-headed demon Ravanna who falls down dead.

With Sita safe once more, the fighting is called to a halt and the reunited couple return to a huge welcome in their homeland

where divas are lit everywhere in honour of their homecoming.

During my time as a teacher I’ve collected several beautiful picture book tellings of the Diwali story that are now sadly out of print, so it’s great to see this new one.