Hello Friend! / Bunny Braves the Day

Hello Friend!
Rebecca Cobb
Macmillan Children’s Books

It’s the mismatch between what is said by the small girl narrator and what is shown in Rebecca Cobb’s enchanting, warm illustrations that make this book such a winner.

From the start the girl enthusiastically shares everything during playtime both indoors and out, at lunchtime, during quiet times and noisy ones.

What is evident though is that the boy on whom she focuses all this sharing attention is going to take much longer to feel ready to share in the well-intentioned advances of the little girl.
However, a friendship does develop …

and it’s one where both parties are equally enthusiastic about their togetherness.

This is a gorgeous story to share with youngsters especially those starting school; it offers plenty to reflect on and talk about, both at home and in the classroom.

Bunny Braves the Day
Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press

It’s Bunny’s first day of school but he wants nothing of it: he doesn’t know anybody, supposes nobody likes him; his socks are too short, his shorts too long and he can’t tie his shoes. Oh woe!

Big sister cajoles him with plenty of empathy and ideas,

but with a hurting tummy, it’s decided … ‘I’d better not go … Because I don’t even know how to read!’

After more loving comments, ‘Sometimes you just feel like crying before you feel like trying. You’ll find a friend. Not all shoes use laces. And teachers love to teach reading…’ and listing things little bro. CAN do, he’s almost ready to surrender but not before one last try, ‘Mom will miss me.’ (Said parent has uttered not a word in all this, though she does take a photo).

Finally, it’s time to face up to the inevitable and once more it’s down to big sis. to deliver the final upbeat reassurance at the classroom entrance.

The entire text takes the form of the dialogue between the bunny siblings –blue for the new boy and red for older sister; while Suzanne Bloom’s watercolour and pencil illustrations highlight the feelings of the two characters beautifully.

Just right to share with little ones, especially in families where there’s likely to be starting school nerves; or with children in a nursery setting.

Animal vs Animal Who’s the Strongest? / Like a Lizard

Animal vs Animal Who’s the Strongest?
Kirsty Holmes

Welcome to the ‘Great and Small Games’. Essentially this show (it’s one of a series) comprises three strength events: The Tree Trunk Lift; Strong Bug Circus and Tug of War, each of which is refereed by a flag-waving racoon.

The participants are, for the bug event, dung beetle and leafcutter ant; silverback gorilla and grizzly Bear are the tree lifters;

while in the third round, an African elephant and a musk ox tug it out.

Two spreads are devoted to each pair of contenders and as the animals are introduced and perform, snippets of factual information surrounds them on banners or in bubbles,

but it’s never overwhelming thanks to the design of the pages.

A fun way to learn some animal facts, this book should pack a powerful punch with younger readers.

Like a Lizard
April Pulley Sayre and Stephanie Laberis
Boyds Mills Press

Let’s get physical and in so doing, through Sayre’s playful rhythmic text and Laberis’ expressive digital art, learn about more than 25 different lizards and some of the things they do.

So, for instance, ‘Could you drape like a lizard? / Gape like a lizard? / Do a push-up like a lizard? Scale sticks? / Curl in like a lizard?’

Each of the lizards featured is labelled with its common name and described after the main text, in a paragraph below the named behaviour illustrated in the narrative. Every paragraph provides factual information – Latin name, where in the world it’s usually found, length and other interesting details specific to the creature.

So, after an initial read aloud, can your little ones behave like lizards as you share this engaging book? They’ll certainly have fun trying and learn some herpetological facts in so doing. I wonder what they might do in response to this  …

Where’s My Jumper? / You Nest Here With Me / Let’s Count Vehicles / ABC Town

Where’s My Jumper?
Nicola Slater
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Meet Rudy: he’s lost his jumper – a pink one and a tad on the short side, but his favourite nonetheless.
The adorable little creature has searched everywhere, upstairs and downstairs, indoors and outdoors and round about. He’s looked in the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, even underground. Where can it be? In his search he encounters a host of quirky creatures – tumbling cats, jiving llamas, prima pigerinas, ski-dogs, soapy blackbirds, jibber-jabbering sea creatures, muttering mice, three crocs,

and passing foxes but of his missing garment there is no sign.

Will your little ones find Rudy’s jumper before the end of the story.

With its die-cuts pages, flaps and lots of funky animals to count, it’s terrific fun and delivered through an enormously engaging text and equally frolicsome, bright, bold illustrations.

Hours of pleasure guaranteed with this sturdy board book that is bound to be read over and over …

You Nest Here With Me
Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple and Melissa Sweet
Boyds Mills Press

Making use of real scientific facts in the form of a narrative rhyming text, a mother and daughter team, Jane and Heidi, have written a delightful board book to share with your little ones at bedtime.

A human mother nestles her sleepy little daughter in for the night and then goes on to share with her the many ways birds bed down to sleep.
‘ … Terns all nest in colonies / Upon high cliffs, above rough seas. // But you nest here with me. // Some owls nest on oak tree boles, / Some down in abandoned holes, … ‘

Lilting and loving, the mother’s words are very easy on the ear, informing gently while helping to induce a safe soporific effect for the listener through the repeated use of ‘But you nest here with me.’

Working beautifully in tandem with the text are Melissa Sweet’s mixed media, gouache and watercolour illustrations executed predominantly in soft hues of green and blue.

As it originated in the USA, the names of some birds will be unfamiliar to UK readers but I’d still recommend this to share with the very young both at bedtime and as an introduction to birds and their nests and other elements of the natural world, at any time – perhaps before a nap or a snuggle together.

Let’s Count Vehicles
illustrated by Josh Cleland
ABC Town
illustrated by Tamara Petrosino

There’s plenty to interest pre-schoolers in these two ‘Hidden Pictures’ titles both of which have gatefold flaps beneath which are large busy illustrations of scenes within which spotters have to locate the items pictured on the outsides of the flaps as well as those mentioned in the question, for example ‘Can you find 9 trains and 10 cars?’

The various locations, which include in the counting book, a funfair in the park; urban sights, a building site and a harbour, are populated by anthropomorphic animals.

So too are the town scenes in the ABC, which depict shops of all kinds – including I’m happy to say, a bookshop; a hospital, garden centre and fire station. A library and museum and a karate centre dominate a double spread; there’s an urban park square complete with bathing pool; and a railway line traverses another spread.

Engaging, fun and educative too, both these sturdy board books are great for developing vocabulary and visual skills in addition to the mathematical and alphabetic elements of the titles.

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves / Dolphins

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves
Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty
Little Tiger

In her latest non-fiction, die-cut peep-through picture book, in a series of wondrous scenes Britta Teckentrup plunges us beneath the ocean waves, way, way down to view the wonders of the deep.

Amid the corals and seaweed fronds we see small fish, sponges, tiny graceful sea horses; a baby dolphin and its mother chirping and clicking in communication, a Lionfish with its poison spines ready to use should it be attacked.

Suddenly there’s a feeling of fear: the fish sense danger as a great white shark casts its shadow. The other sea creatures though, employ their defence mechanisms while the tropical fish swim in formation and all is well.

Night comes and the ocean is a-glow with light;

his song echoing far the humpback whale sings for all to hear, the manatee glides through sea grasses and the corals provide safe spaces for small ocean creatures.

Patricia Hegarty’s lyrical text ends with a plea to protect ocean life by keeping the oceans clean and free from rubbish.

Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson
Boyds Mills Press

Pringle immediately grabs readers’ attention with his introductory ‘If you were a young dolphin, your mother would keep you close, feed you milk and teach you’ that could almost be referring to a human mother. The remainder of the paragraph however negates that with its ‘Soon you would learn to swim fast and catch fish to eat. And sometimes you would leap from the water, high into the air!’ while his final statement on the first page “People would be very curious about the secrets of your life beneath the surface’ sets the scene for the remainder of this fascinating book.

It covers many aspects of the thirty or so dolphin species including classification, morphology and physiology. There’s a fascinating account of dolphins’ use of echolocation;

another of feeding – dolphins are predators, consuming huge amounts of food daily –

and communication. I learned that in addition to sounds, dolphins send messages with their bodies, sometimes by rubbing skins, at others, by touching flippers.

All this and more is related in the author’s highly readable prose that is superbly illustrated by Meryl Hendersen in watercolour and pencil.

Although it’s likely that this will be read by individuals, this book also works really well if read aloud – a testament to the quality of the author’s writing.

Alone Together / A Number Slumber / The Bus For Us

Alone Together
A Number Slumber
The Bus For Us
Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press

Suzanne Bloom knows just what works for beginning readers; but much more important she knows what will help foster a love of books and reading in young children as these three books demonstrate.

Of the three my favourite is Alone Together, a Bear, Fox and Goose story wherein Bear endeavours to have some solitude.
Fox however doesn’t seem to appreciate what this means as he bounces up to bear demanding to know, ‘Why are you all by yourself, bear? /Are you sad? / Are you mad? ? Are you lonely?’

The humour mounts when, following Bear’s ‘Occasionally, I like some quiet time.’ response, Fox agrees and proceeds to Hmmmmmm repeatedly, twirl and whoosh! around an increasingly agitated Bear who looks as though he’s about to tear his fur out.

But covered ears and eyes and other signs of his ursine friend’s increasing agitation have no effect on Fox, so Bear has to spell it out explaining that hush means ‘No noise! Quiet! Please.’

It now appears as though Fox might have worn himself out as open-mouthed, he topples back into Bear’s snuggly fur just before Goose reappears. With a seeming truce between Bear and Fox now in place, Goose demands to know if Bear has had sufficient alone time.
Perhaps that truce was a little short-lived after all …

A smashing piece of picture book comic theatre, this delightful tale unravels rather like a silent movie.

A Number Slumber is a lovely count down to bedtime animal style that begins by asking readers, ‘What do you do to get ready for bed?’

It goes on to posit a series of likely pre-bed activities – tooth brushing, listening to a story and more before turning the focus to other sleepyhead creatures.
There follows a series of lovely alliterative examples as ‘Ten terribly tired tigers tiptoe to their beds. Nine normally nimble newts rest their sleepy heads.’ And so on …

until ‘One really weary wombat yawns …’ and the final page shows a sleeping bundle … ‘just like you.’ Now who might that be?

Readers will have to turn back to the title page to confirm if their guess is correct.

You can count on this soporific delight to help send your little humans off into slumberland, thanks to Suzanne Bloom’s soft focus scenes rendered in gorgeous dreamy colours that accompany her rhyming text.

For vehicle enthusiasts especially is The Bus For Us that introduces a variety of vehicles. By means of a question and answer text and accompanying sightings of the traffic that passes the bus-stop at which a brother Gus, and his questioning sister Tess wait. (Watch that bus-stop as you turn the pages).

There’s much more to it than that though: plenty of action, involving both humans and animals, takes place as the queue for the bus increases …

until at last a yellow school bus arrives to pick up all the waiting passengers.