Animal Magic, Cuddly Cow, Portly Pig, Baby Elephant & Baby Reindeer

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Animal Magic
Phil Allcock and Gina Maldonado
Maverick Arts Publishing
Delightfully playful is Phil Allcock’s nonsense rhyme featuring what starts out as a hedgehog – a funny one – and morphs into eight other animals – small and smaller. There’s a hopping one, a wiggler…

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a strutting clucker, a quacking swimmer, a jogger, a hopper (furry this time) and slimy slitherer and finally …

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Toddlers will have enormous fun guessing what each new disguise will be before the page is turned to reveal it in one of Gina Maldonado’s enchanting dayglow spreads.

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Cuddly Cow/ Portly Pig
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Another two lovable animals star in the latest ‘Sound Button’ farmyard stories from the inimitable Axel Scheffler. The first features a very dozy Cuddly Cow intent on finding a quiet peaceful spot for some shut-eye. Her own meadow’s no good because the other cows make too much of a din: surely there’s somewhere else though, after all it is past sundown.
The chicken shed’s full of clucking hens, the horse is inhospitable, there’s a right old row in the pig pen – thank you ducks – but what about the sheep field? Maybe a spot of counting might help …

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Portly Pig’s troubled on account of his clean, pinkness. He’s against green grass, yucky flowers and trees as he describes them, and sets off in search of a mucky place. Soon he discovers just the thing: a cool, muddy pool; and a delightful day of splashing and sploshing follows. Until that is, the sky changes colour …

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Pig, like most young children is a real mud lover but unlike them, he can keep on getting muddy, letting the rain wash him off and immediately getting mucky all over again – in an instant. Youngsters will delight in Portly’s mucky, messy coat and might well be tempted to emulate his actions – adults beware!

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Baby Elephant / Baby Reindeer
illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books
In the first of two new offerings in the ‘Finger Puppet’ series we discover how Baby Elephant greets her Mama, finds food, keeps cool and communicates with fellow baby elephants.
Baby Reindeer lives in a contrastingly cold tundra climate and to find food, has to use his hooves to dig in the snow and uncover tasty lichen. Like Baby Elephant, he too swims in a river – albeit a very icy feeling one and snuggles against Mama Reindeer for warmth at the end of the day.
Both board books provide a lovely way for human adult and baby to interact with a book.

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Playful Books for Little Ones

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Peek-a-Boo You!
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
A frisky cat plays peek-a-boo with a small girl and her ted as it frolics through the peep holes in the pages of this delightful rhyming book. Kitty delights in activities such as jumping into a shoebox

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and overturning a beaker, although perhaps she isn’t quite so delighted by this …

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However, the playful puss has a surprise for the little girl …

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and there’s a surprise finale for readers too.
Great fun to share with the very young. Equally, with its predictable patterned text, this book is ideal for beginning readers and so much more fun that dull reading scheme fodder.

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One Lonely Fish
Andy Mansfield and Thomas Flintham
Templar Publishing
‘A counting book with bite!’ announces the cover of this playful book as we begin with one very tiny fish swimming through the sea watched only, or so it seems, by a couple of crabs from the ocean floor.
Flip the fin-like page and a second fish is revealed now swimming behind the first.

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Continue in similar fashion until nine fish of increasing size swim one behind the other, still watched by that pair of crabs that are now looking decidedly alarmed and turning over one more time will reveal the reason why.

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What follows is a satisfying finale? – Err, that all depends on your viewpoint.
Great fun and full of mathematical potential within and beyond the pages of the book.

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Brown Bear Colour Book
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
This charming concept book is also an invitation to play hide and seek with Brown Bear – he peeps through the increasingly large die-cut circle on every colour spread. The three primary colours plus orange, green and purple each have a double spread which follows the same form: text on the left-hand side; seven small pictures, plus bear peeping through, on the right. The text too, keeps to a repeating pattern: here is Red …

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In fact pattern is key to the whole thing. The individual objects are beautifully patterned

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and often set against a patterned background in a shade of the featured colour.
As the pages are turned the previous colours are visible through the increasingly large hole on the left hand die-cut circle until the surprise grand finale …

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Those of us who have taught young children /and or/ are parents, will know that the very young do not generally acquire colour concepts from books, rather they develop them through experiences of the real world and interactions with adults. However, this book will certainly help to reinforce ideas relating to colour and is a delight in itself. There is so much to talk about on every spread; and the predictable, repeating pattern of the whole thing makes it a book that beginning readers can enjoy trying for themselves.

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Gobbly Goat
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
It’s lunchtime and Gobbly Goat has a rumbly tum. He wanders around the farmyard in search of something tasty to munch. Ugh! That straw hat tastes pretty disgusting, the rosy apples are way too high and Horse isn’t keen on sharing his hay so what can Gobbly gobble? …

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Told with a rhyming text and with deliciously funny farmyard scenes, this is a tasty treat for toddlers who will delight in pressing that sound button and making Gobbly bleat.

In similarly delightful Scheffler style and also in boardbook format is

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Higgly Hen
Nosy Crow
Here, although Higgly is hungry as the story begins, food is not the main object of her search. No sooner has she begun her food finding walk than her eggs hatch – six in all –

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and it’s those she wanders around the farm in search of. Silly hen; it’s a good thing that the cat, horse, pigs and other farmyard animals are on hand to help with her hunt.

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Treats for Toddlers

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this rabbit, that rabbit
Jane Porter
Walker Books
This lovely board book is the latest addition to the Walker Baby series and is called a ‘shiny touch’ book. The shine is provided by two rabbit characters, male and female, one grey, one orangey coloured. The latter wears a blue bead necklace, also shiny. This engaging pair interact playfully with one another, their antics being documented with appropriate two word rhyming phrases such as fat rabbit/flat rabbit, bendy rabbit/trendy rabbit and a guest makes an appearance on the final spread.

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Great fun for small hands.
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Colour with Splosh!
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
Splosh is an endearing duck character created by the author of the popular Hugless Douglas series. He makes his second appearance in this board book as he plays a game of hide-and-seek with his ducky friends. Splosh searches high and low, encountering various colour items, as he waddles though a gate, beneath the trees, along a wall, across the grass, around some leaves, past butterflies, looking among the flowers before spotting five white bottoms protruding from the blue pond. When the owners of these rear ends emerge from the water, we see each one is sporting coloured arm-bands and matching hat – a veritable rainbow of fun.
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Dig Dig Digging
Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe
Orchard Books
In this board book version of the popular original we meet scooping diggers, lorries of all shapes and sizes, gobbling crunching rubbish trucks, tractors ploughing, rumbling tumbling dump trucks and busy bulldozers.
Each one has its own tabbed double spread and is boldly illustrated in a cut paper collage scene with accompanying engaging, rhythmic description – perfect for developing a love of language and sounds in the very youngest children.
Just the thing for young machine lovers.
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With the same format is:

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Giraffes Can’t Dance Number-Rumba
Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books
Meet Gerald giraffe and his jungle friends, the leaping leopards, the high kicking hyenas, the rocking rhinos, the flamenco dancing flamingos, the tangoing lions, (straight from STRICTLY), the smooth, zippy zebras, the groovy baboons and the waltzing, jiving monkeys all practicing their moves for a place in the final dance spread of ten happy animals.
To facilitate page turning for small hands, there is a semi-circular tab for each spread with a face of the animal dancing on that particular page.
Although very young children do not actually learn to count from books, they will assuredly get a great deal of visual enjoyment,

some lovely playful language and opportunities to emulate the dancing animals in this counting board book which also serves as a great introduction to the original and deservedly popular Giraffes Can’t Dance, the progenitor of this rhyming board book.
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Snip & Snap Rain or Shine
Diane and Christyan Fox
Orchard Books
Not quite a board book but with thick sturdy pages, flaps and a final fold-out double-spread, this should certainly stand up to the heavy handling this Snip and Snap title is likely to receive. Here, the two crocodile friends have planned a sunny picnic but the changeable weather seems to be doing everything it can to hold up the proceedings as poor Snip is forced to go back and change his outfit five times before the friends finally get outside into the sunshine.
With rhyming text, door-shaped flaps that serve to move the story forward

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and funny, bold bright illustrations this is a book preschoolers choose for themselves and enjoy reading over and over with an adult.
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