Board Book Miscellany

Goodnight, Rainbow Cats
Barbara Castro Urio
Chronicle Books

The setting is a big white house wherein sleeps Little Red Cat. How do we know this? Because on the recto we see a die-cut window coloured red, while opposite on the verso is a Little Green Cat about to cross the book’s gutter and enter the door of the house. And the text bids ‘Goodnight, Little Red Cat.’

When the page is turned it’s evident that the Little Green Cat is now inside and Little Yellow Cat (from the verso) will be next to enter.

All the while the narration is presented in a conversational style above the awaiting cat. For instance we read, ‘Up to a room in the big white house!/ Goodnight, Little Yellow Cat. / Look who is waiting outside. / It’s Little Brown Cat! / Where are you going, / Little Brown Cat?’ (Each new cat is introduced with its own colour font which will help little ones predict what colour window will appear next in the house.)

When all twelve cats are safely indoors and asleep in the big white house it’s time to bid ‘Goodnight, rainbow cats!’A fun bedtime wind down for little humans and one that’s sufficiently strongly built to stand up to the frequent readings youngsters will likely insist on.

A to Z Menagerie
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books

With wonderfully quirky illustrations some of which have lovely touches (the horse wears ‘high-tops’) Suzy Ultman has created a distinctive board book picture dictionary with a pullout tab highlighting each letter.

Every page features one letter that fills up with colour when its tab (placed halfway down the edge) is pulled; for instance the C becomes a caterpillar and O an owl.

The vocabulary is interesting and will likely introduce young users of the book to new words such as axolotyl, challah, iguana, pennant and zooplankton, as well as including some vocabulary you might expect.

The whole alphabet is introduced by a page inviting little ones to “look and touch’ and there’s a concluding A to Z asking users to choose a favourite discovery.
Idiosyncratic, gently educational and great fun.

Now for two Nosy Crow titles new in board book format both of which were smashing picture books previously featured on this blog:

Neon Leon
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup

A book about a chameleon that’s great for audience participation and features colours, counting, camouflage and different environments.

There’s a Bear on My Chair
Ross Collins

This features a little mouse upon whose chair a huge bear has placed his bottom and it’s clearly going to be a difficult task to get him to shift it. So much so that the little rodent narrator decides that the only solution is to quit the scene and let his paws take him elsewhere.
Wonderfully droll illustrations and a superb monologue in a small package for small hands.

At the Beach, On the Farm, In the Forest, Under the Ocean
illustrated by Nancy Bevington
Catch a Star Books

Four Can You Find? board books designed to encourage the very youngest to learn new words are illustrated by Nancy Bevington. Her brightly coloured, amusing images of animals, plants and the occasional human are clearly labelled.

Of the eight double spreads in each book, the first seven are introduced by a sentence such as ‘Under the ocean there are …’, or ‘At the beach there is … ‘ and the final one asks ‘Can you find all the things under the … ? inviting users to turn back and look again at the previous pages.

Adults/infants can play other games such as finding all the things with wheels in the Farm book; there’s plenty of potential for extending the use of each book depending on the interest of the little one involved.

Kindness Grows / Get Up, Stand Up

Kindness Grows
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books

Within her signature style collage scenes, Britta Teckentrup cleverly uses the growing die-cut image to represent on the verso spreads an ever widening crack or rift caused by bad feelings towards others or unkindness of some sort, while on the recto the same shape grows to become something positive – a beautiful tree nurtured by acts of loving kindness towards others be they words spoken or actions such as sharing, forging a new friendship, working or playing together.

Little by little though, as the rhyming narrative says, from a small beginning – a simple seed of kindness like a smile or reaching out …

even a seemingly enormous rift can be repaired.
If only …

Get Up, Stand Up
Cedella Marley and John Jay Cabuay
Chronicle Books

The daughter of reggae artist and social activist Bob Marley has taken one of her father’s most popular songs and used it to create a powerful picture book message for young readers and listeners.

That message is clear and unequivocal – don’t let anyone bully you or other people – and we’re witness, thanks to Cabuay’s bold, bright scenes rendered in pencil and digitally, to a school day wherein when such bullying happens, the other children don’t just stand by and watch. Instead, they stand up and rally round be it in the playground,

at the bus stop, on the school bus, in the street or the park.

The final spreads show the youngsters hoisting a huge flag depicting Bob Marley and his anthem One Love above the stage whereon they then dance and sing for all they’re worth.

This is a book to have in primary classrooms to open up discussion on themes such as standing up for yourself and others in the face of injustice, no matter what that may be. Certainly in the UK right now, it’s a message that needs saying over and over. Of course it isn’t always easy to do but it’s never too early to start learning the appropriate ways to respond to discrimination, abuse, inequality, prejudice or any kind of wrong doing.

There are Bugs Everywhere

There are Bugs Everywhere
Lily Murray and Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press

The title of this book proved all too true for this reviewer – an elephant hawk moth caterpillar crawled past my foot as I sat outside my favourite café this morning. This insect …

is one of over 100 ‘bugs’ Britta Teckentrup has illustrated in this colourful and fascinating book.

The term bugs is here used as a catchall to include six legged insects, eight legged arachnids and multi legged myriapods and collectively there are, we’re told, millions of different species.
With spreads devoted to bug anatomy,

feeding habits, survival techniques, social insects, the life cycle of the Madagascan Sunset moth and much more, there is a mine of information for the curious reader.

Did you know that Chan’s megastick which inhabits the Borneo rainforest is the largest bug in the world, growing up to 56cm.

There’s even a ‘can you find?’ challenge posed on the final end paper to track down the golden tortoise beetle from North America hidden somewhere in the book. This will surely encourage further close perusal of every one of Britta’s already inviting spreads.

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.

Dolphins!
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.

Board Book Extravaganza

Cat & Mouse
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel Publishing
There’s a surprise ending in store for listeners to this rhyming tale of a cat and mouse chase.

That though is getting ahead of the tale that begins with a warning to Little Mouse to hide inside the blue house. Through the door goes Little Mouse but the door is open wide so another furry creature enters too.
A chase ensues with Mouse running round and round eventually diving down a hole leaving the moggy pondering momentarily on his whereabouts and the little rodent in boastful mood.

Not for long however for the mouse soon exits the hole and the chase is on again.

A clever manoeuvre on Mouse’s part sees him outside under the moonlight without a hint of a cat. Not for long though for Mouse is being trailed around and about and back to the house that both creatures enter. But is all as it first appeared?

With its strategically placed die-cuts, minimalist illustrations and playful narrative this board book will amuse little ones who watch the lively events as they unfold towards the unexpected finale.

Hug Me Little Bear
Chronicle Books
Here’s a very cute little finger puppet book that, courtesy of a thoroughly endearing parent bear, little ones find out what arms can do. There’s a favourite song to dance together to; a gentle game of lift and catch; scrummy breakfast treats to cook up; a tummy tickle and best of all lots of ‘I love you’ hugs.

Full of sweetness and bound to bring on big smiles is this cuddlesome offering.

Little Plane
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
It’s take off time for Little Plane. He zooms skywards for an adventure one beautiful day. However his playful flight suddenly encounters some turbulence courtesy of the smoke pouring from the factory chimneys to which he gets a tad too close.
His landing attempts as he skims and tries to stop atop a tree and whizzes into a very muddy mountain aren’t a great success; and then it looks as though our intrepid friend is about to become engulfed within the huge open mouth of a building.

All ends happily though as Little Plane emerges safely, ready to fly off back home, looking even more shiny-bright than when he began his adventure. (A plane-wash perhaps?)

Little Plane is, like most little humans, learning by experience to cope with the ups and downs of life, and showing resilience in so doing.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Bulldozer’s Shapes
Sherri Duskey and Ethan Long
Chronicle Books

Get ready to shape up along with your little ones and their favourite construction vehicles, in particular big Bulldozer. Aided and abetted by Crane Truck he prepares the site for building. Along the way he shifts the rubble forming first a squiggle, then a ‘triangle’ (strictly speaking though it’s a cone), a circle, a diamond, a rectangle (kind of! But it’s more of a cuboid), a star, an oval and he finishes by squaring the plot off, nice and flat.

With Sherri Duskey’s rhyming couplets and Ethan Long’s digital art this little book will appeal to the many established fans of the series. I’d suggest reading it along with some small world construction toys and a set of both 2D and 3D shapes.

Pigs in a Blanket
Hans Wilhelm and Erica Salcedo
Chronicle Books

Before you  even open up the first page, you’ll be captivated by this charmer with the porcine trio fast asleep tucked cosily beneath the wrap-around blanket that stays in place courtesy of the strategically placed hidden magnet on the front cover.

We then follow the pigs as they wake up, playfully get dressed and style their hair before setting out for a run. The three also attend a ballet class, do a spot of baking, revel in some puddle jumping followed by a warm-up treat.

Goodness they do pack a lot into their day, as there’s still time for some theatrical fun before their bath, tooth-brushing and final clambering back into bed in their moonlit room.

Wilhem’s rhyming text coupled with Salcedo’s comical, energetic piggy scenes make for a fun-filled book that celebrates the simple delights of early childhood and is ideal for sharing with the very young, who are likely to recognise the piggies’ actions as akin to their own.

Leap Frog

Leap Frog
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The latest in Jane and Britta’s series of stories that offer maximum audience participation features a little tree frog named Felix. Felix has got lost near the pond, far from his home in the jungle trees.

The tiny creature appears easily frightened by the strange noises, the first being the ‘Plip! Plop! Plip! Splosh!’ of the turtle. She though is nothing to be alarmed about; the friendly creature merely wants to watch the sunset and we’re ready to reassure him with our, “Don’t worry, little frog, / there’s nothing to be scared of.”

These words of encouragement are to be repeated each time Felix hears a scary sound and there are encounters with a beetle that’s just walking across the foliage;

a troupe of cheeky monkeys a-nibbling their ‘nutty night-time snacks’ and dropping the shells with a ‘Crack! Crunch! Clatter!’; and a slithery snake to be seen off with some clapping and shouting.

The branching tree beside that on which a woodpecker taps provides young listeners with some counting practice as the little frog, aided by his sticky toes, climbs up and up.

Having reached the top, Felix hears yet another sound, and it’s getting nearer. What could be making that ‘Hop! Hop!’ hopping noise … ?

The textured, jewel-like colours of Britta’s scenes with the leap-off-the-page fluorescent green of Felix’s back and lower limb parts are perfect for holding the attention of little ones as they enthusiastically respond to Jane’s irresistible instructions and questions on every spread of this noisy, fun-filled story.

Mole’s Star

Mole’s Star
Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books

Mole loves to watch the stars; they help to alleviate his feelings of loneliness that are sometimes brought on by the dark. Every night he sits on his favourite rock star gazing and enjoying their lights that twinkle in the sky.

One night he sees a shooting star and makes a wish. Finding himself immediately surrounded by tall ladders stretching all the way up to the sky, it seems his wish to own all the stars in the world can really come true.

Up and down the ladders Mole hurries, as he fills his burrow with starlight, giving not a thought to the consequences of his actions.

So much does Mole love the new brightness of his home

that it’s a while before he pops his head out of the molehill again. Total blackness meets his eyes; then he learns how his actions have affected the other woodland animals.

Ashamed of his thoughtlessness Mole wanders deep into the forest where he suddenly comes upon a dim light glinting in a puddle.
Voicing his regret at his ill-considered action has a surprising effect; the faded star twinkles and …

Mole knows exactly what he must do and happily his friends are ready to lend a paw, hoof or wing to help him.

Picturebook star Britta Teckentrup’s magical story highlights the importance of sharing, demonstrating how the wonders of the world belong to all its creatures. Her characteristic digitally worked collage style illustrations show the beauty of the natural world, while in this instance her sombre colour palette allows the night’s twinkling lights to shine through with dramatic effect.