Action and Reaction: Fish / Yawn

Fish
Brendan Kearney
Dorling Kindersley Penguin Random House

Softly spoken yes, but, inspired by personal experience, Brendan Kearney’s picture book about the perils of polluting the ocean with plastic, and how we can all help to improve the situation for the endangered fish and other marine flora and fauna is clear and to the point.

Finn and his dog Skip set out one morning in their little boat, hoping to catch a tasty fish or two for their supper.

After a while when not a single fish has given so much as a tug at Finn’s line, Skip spies something in the waves. Down to the depths he swims and the sight that meets his eyes is horrifying.

Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. Back to show Finn with some evidence he goes.

Equally concerned, the man goes on fishing for a while but before long all he has on board is a collection of weird objects.

Fortunately, once back on dry land the two encounter a group of young beach cleaners who are equally alarmed at the load of rubbish brought out of the sea.

Finn explains how he came by it and about the complete lack of fish. What follows are a number of pertinent comments from the young eco-warriors and the following day Finn heeds their words – re-use and recycle – and goes on to join the beach cleaners.

With his engaging narrative, visual and verbal – Brendan Kearney focuses on the crucial environmental issues in the hope – his, mine and countless others – that young children will become part of the movement to clean up our polluted oceans and beaches and of course, it’s never to soon to teach them about the importance of recycling.

Yawn
Patricia Hegarty and Teresa Bellón
Little Tiger

A yawn can be highly infectious as this fun story shows.
Starting with a single feeling from deep inside the little boy narrator, a single yawn quickly becomes unstoppable, passing from the boy to all – every neighbourhood inhabitant, human and animal, until the entire street have gaping mouths.

From here it moves to the countryside and eventually all over the world, not content until every single person and every single creature has the yawns. It even heads off out into space

– it’s ‘gone viral ‘we read. Does that remind you of anything?

Fortunately though, on this occasion the outcome is that when bedtime comes, so does a great big YAAAAAAWN! to send us off into the land of slumbers.
Happy dreams.

It’s is definitely a book to share at bedtime unless that is you want to induce sleepiness at some other time in your home or classroom. Patricia’s rhyming narrative has that soporific feel to it, and if you happen to pause just a little too long on any of Teresa Bellon’s spreads (love those cutaway pages) to enjoy all the funky details, you might just find yourself the next recipient of that repeat refrain ‘YAAAAAAWN! Pass it on!’ Snore …

Musical Mac / Just So Willow

Musical Mac
Brendan Kearney
Sterling

Here we have a solo offering from the illustrative half of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series.

Millipede Mac loves to play music but the thought of competing solo in the Soggy Bog Talent Show fills him with fear.

To get round this he decides to join a band, so packing up his numerous instruments he sets out in search of a suitable one.

He tries his luck with several rehearsing groups – a tiny antennae orchestra, a band of alleycats, he plays guitar with frogs and drums with dogs but despite his talents none of the bands will take him on.

After a too close for comfort encounter with a bird choir, Mac is so thoroughly frightened that he dashes right on to the stage of the talent show – all alone.

Can he – with a bit of encouragement from the other bands he’s met on his way – summon up the courage to give it a go? He certainly has plenty of instruments …

Full of zany detail. Brendan Kearney’s illustrations provide plenty to pore over and the scattering of alliterative phrases adds interest to the text.

Just So Willow
Sara F. Shacter and Stephanie Laberis
Sterling

Bear cub, Willow, is fanatically finicky even ironing her underwear and unscrambling her spaghetti.

When a snowstorm covers her backyard one morning, Willow is delighted at its perfection and is determined to keep it just so. But then a stray snowball tossed by one of the children playing close by is deemed to be the start of her perfect space being turned into a ‘lumpy, bumpy mess’ Willow just has to stop them. But how?

Shouting doesn’t work as she can’t get close enough despite some athletic efforts, but the little bear just keeps on trying.

Eventually she accidentally toboggans into the centre of the group of frolickers creating a perfect ‘crisp white ribbon around the yard.

Then it’s time to discover the possibilities of different kinds of perfect and a whole lot of fun with friends too perhaps …

It’s evident that author Sara Shacter understands children like Willow (I love all the playful language) and illustrator Stephanie Laberis goes to town with the characters’ expressions especially those of Willow in her comical scenes.

A fun story about stepping outside your comfort zone and risk taking.

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.

Mission Defrostable

Mission Defrostable
Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
Sterling

As their third adventure begins Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are concerned about the extreme frostiness of their fridge domain threatening their subjects.

Suddenly out of the shadows steps one, Agent Asparagus wielding his ID and asking for their help to track down the dastardly villain responsible for the deadly freeze.

However, just as they set out on their mission, Agent Asparagus is mysteriously kidnapped. This leaves Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast with no other option than to ask old arch enemy Baron von Waffle to come to their aid.

But who is double-crossing whom? For the next thing that happens is that Pancake and Toast find themselves captured and shackled in curly fry chains and brought face to face with the real culprit. Is this doom for the daring duo?

Thankfully not: the plot takes another turn for this is a tale of feeling isolated, forging friendships and forgiving.

Action packed, fast paced and rhyming with panache, Josh Funke’s twisting turning telling is splendid. Equally splendid are Brendan Kearney’s busy giggle- inducing scenes of the crazy cast whose expressions he portrays so well as they play out the high drama unfolding inside the fridge.

Despite its chilliness, this is a tale to melt your heart as we see that the desperate lengths characters go to are on account of feeling excluded or friendless.

A Cat’s Guide to the Night Sky

A Cat’s Guide to the Night Sky
Stuart Atkinson and Brendan Kearney
Laurence King Publishing

I love this idea: an introduction to astronomy courtesy of Felicity the cat. With those alluring eyes, it’s hard to resist the offer of a guided tour around the universe from this enthusiastic stargazer who acts as our nocturnal companion.
Suitably prepared with essential stargazing gear, under her expert guidance, readers will receive a terrific introduction to the wonders of our solar system and much more.

The book is absolutely packed with information presented in such a manner that the reader never feels overwhelmed. Stuart Atkinson’s enthusiasm for his subject shines out from every page, his explanations are clear and lucid and he imparts an amazing amount of information almost without you noticing through the down-to-earth voice of the feline Felicity.

I’ve never been able to grasp the concept of star constellations – those pattern in the sky –

but thanks to Felicity’s descriptions and Brendan’s silvery outlines of the likes of Cygnus: the swan,

Sagittarius: the archer and Aquila: the eagle superimposed on the star patterns, I can’t wait for the next dark cloudless night for a spot of stargazing.

They’ll be all the more easy to spot now I know about the seasonal differences in the night sky.

A super book for your little, and not so little, stargazers.

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need / The Case of the Stinky Stench

Mr Tweed and the Band in Need
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Prepare for a musical magical mystery tour.
The dapper dog with the super tall top hat returns to carry out further public-spirited acts. Now it’s the members of a band – the very one Mr T. has come to the zoo to hear perform – that have, so their leader Wollo walrus informs him, dispersed around the gardens.
The two begin their search with Pinky Jackson, the guitar playing flamingo; not an easy task on account to the large number of the species; but that of course is where readers come in. Once he’s been located, Pinky …

is more than willing to join the hunt and has an idea where trumpet player, toucan Jimmy Toots might be.

He in turn suggests a possible location for sax. player Mary Lou Lemur; so off they go to the Lost Forest. And so it goes on until Otis O’Rangutan trombonist, iguana, Cool Jules drummer and only reptile (he’s pretty tricky to spot), banjo strummer Jellyfish Jack and four other musicians have been found – just in time for the show. The location of the final missing performer happens conveniently, to be in the busy gift shop, which is also the space wherein the stage is set for the concert.
There the entire ensemble comes together to entertain the crowd and thereafter to bid Mr Tweed a rousing farewell.
There’s an interesting mix of human and animal visitors to the zoo, some scenes of which are presented in a kaleidoscope of psychedelic colours absolutely bursting with activity, while others, such as the arctic pool, are rather more restful on the eye, although equally intricate. Every one though, is absolutely brimming over with talk potential and storytelling material.

The Case of the Stinky Stench
Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Hold your noses; something malodorous is emanating from a certain fridge, but worry not; Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have been called back while holidaying on Marshmallow Coast at the request of Inspector Croissant, Sir French Toast’s nephew. They’re on the case right away searching for what it is that’s causing shelves of food to turn bad and pong alarmingly.
Following clues, the three of them set about searching the fridge’s inner landscape: across Salsa Ravine, around smoggy Mount Everbean and through Applesauce River, but still all they discover are false alarms and red herrings. Will they ever get to the bottom of the mysterious stench: perhaps Casserole Cliff might yield the answer …

and if so, how will Inspector Croissant deal with the culprit?

Replete with a culinary vocabulary and served up in a saucy rhyming text and deliciously funny foody scenes, this tale of stinky sleuthing is satisfyingly silly, not least in its final resolution. There’s even a foldout map of the whole search at the end to feast your eyes on.

I’ve signed the charter  

Wings! / Bertie Wings It

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Wings
Paul Stewart and Jane Porter
Otter-Barry Books
Paul Stewart, co-creator of the wonderful Edge Chronicles series turns his hand to picture book writing and has teamed up with Jane Porter; the result is a picture book that celebrates friendship, determination and discovering your own talent.
It’s the Great Gathering of Birds and everyone is there having fun, until that is one of their number shouts, “Last one to the top of the tree’s a rotten egg!” With that the whole gathering takes to the air, all except Penguin. The poor fellow is left all alone and it’s not the first time. Time to teach himself to fly, thinks Penguin but try as he might his feet remain well and truly grounded, despite the help of some of his friends.

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Emu, Kiwi and Ostrich can’t see what all the fuss is about; they much prefer to walk but Penguin remains determined. Owl steps in and offers a spot of coaching but all penguin perfects is running, jumping and flapping. Seemingly nothing can get our penguin pal airborne – or can it? Wait a moment … what’s that string for?

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Oops. Is this the end of Penguin’s flight then?.

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Not quite: there IS one place where those wings of his can be put to good use …

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Jane Porter’s richly coloured mixed media collage pictures are full of humour and pathos: her love of birds shines through in every one.

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Bertie Wings It!
Leslie Corin and Brendan Kearney
Sterling
Bertie knows it’s time to fly the nest. He’s all prepared and the sun is shining: “Today is the day that I fly!” he announces stepping, wings a-tingle, to the edge of his nest. That’s when things start to go wrong.

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Seemingly every other bird around has opinions as to how it should be done. Bertie listens attentively to their input and some time later, he’s ready for the off; he now looks like this …

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and there he goes … Uh-oh!

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That’s not quite the end though: Bertie picks himself up and suddenly he feels freer. Now he KNOWS for sure exactly what to do and this time, he’s going to stay true to himself and follow his own instincts.
A fun look at what happens when you stop trusting yourself and start listening to everyone else’s opinions instead; and a good starting point for discussion.