Counting in Green / Bee Activity Book

Counting in Green
Hollis Kurman and Barroux
Otter-Barry Books

So much more than a mere counting book: this collaboration between Hollis Kurman, a climate activist and Barroux, an award winning illustrator presents as the subtitle says, ’10 little ways to help our big planet’. Little ways they may be; but if everyone followed all ten or even most of them, what a BIG difference that would make to our precious Mother Earth.

The actions include planting a new tree, eating meat free meals, recycling and reusing, 

taking our own bags when we go shopping so as to avoid plastic, getting involved in a beach clean-up, 

cultivating a garden that encourages bees and butterflies.

Barroux’s gently humorous illustrations are inclusive and work well with the straightforward text; and the final spread concludes with this challenge to young readers: How many ways can you think of to go green? That would make an excellent starting point to get a class of primary children thinking about this vital topic.

The final endpapers offer some relevant websites as well as a paragraph about the interconnectedness of everything on earth, which’s why getting involved is so vital.

Bee Activity Book
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

This activity book is based on Patricia Hegarty’s text and Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations for the buzz-ingly bee-utiful original picture book Bee:Nature’s tiny miracle published a few years back.

Herein several settings are used – a meadow full of wild flowers, a pond, a riverside, a woodland clearing – as backdrops for the wealth of bee-related activities. You will find word searches, bee parts to label, mazes, spot the difference, things to count, scenes to colour, and others to complete using the stickers at the back of the book, as well as mosaics that also require colouring and the placing of stickers.

There’s a wealth of fun learning between this book’s covers – an ideal way for youngsters to enjoy some nature-related, screen-free time.

Eye Spy / Bugs

These are two picture books that celebrate the natural world: thanks to Scallywag Press and Little Tiger for sending them for review

Eye Spy
Ruth Brown
Scallywag Press

With her stunningly beautiful scenes and playful rhyming, riddling text, Ruth Brown provides readers and listeners with an altogether different I spy experience that begins at sunrise and ends at sundown with the appearance of the moon in the dark night sky. In all there are a dozen riddles to solve and the same number of objects from the natural world to find hidden in plain sight on the full page illustration on each recto.

Every nature scene is a delight – a veritable visual feast at every turn of the page -and some of the hidden things are much more tricky to find than others, such is the wealth of detail and clever use of colour in each one, be it the wheat field, the verdant meadow,

the stone wall, the autumnal bracken or the close up view of the base of a tree, to name just some of the sights we’re treated to.

No matter though, for the answer to each riddle is given on the following page.
This is a book to treasure and return to time and again: even when you can find all the hidden items there is SO much to see and be awed by in Ruth’s wonderful works of art.

Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In a rhyming narrative Patricia Hegarty takes readers and listeners through the year focussing on happenings in the natural world. These are shown in Britta’s bold, scenes that take us close up to a wealth of minibeasts and the greenery on which they land, rest, crawl and sometimes nibble
We see an abundance of new life in the springtime, be it day or night; then come the summer, changes are afoot: the caterpillar pupates and we see a chrysalis hanging from a tree branch.

Turn the page and it’s revealed what has emerged among the richly hued flowers that have burst forth. Now in the sun Ladybird needs to be extra alert for fear of becoming a tasty tidbit for a hungry bird whereas summer nights are all aglow with fireflies flitting to and fro.

Autumn brings dew and plenty of bees are still busy collecting pollen while grasshoppers chirp and leap among the turning leaves and grasses. As the days grow ever colder heralding winter, it’s huddling and hibernation time until once again nature bursts forth once more and the cycle repeats itself.

Peeking through the holes in the die-cut pages allows youngsters to experience more fully the wealth of natural colours, greens especially, that Britta has used throughout her alluring artwork.

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll
Britta Teckentrup

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog are out for an evening stroll and as the sun sinks on their return journey, Little Hedgehog asks that they can pause and wait for the sun to set, which they do. Once it’s completely disappeared on they go, but after moving a little way further Little Hedgehog again wants to stop, this time for the moon to rise. Big Hedgehog agrees, they pause

and then with Big Hedgehog insisting it’s now late, they continue homewards.

Before long, Little Hedgehog wants to make another stop – to inhale the scent coming from the wildflowers and they stand, so doing for a long time. These stops continue, next to visit an owl family, then to look for the moon as it emerges from behind some clouds, followed by a pond pause to bid goodnight to the frogs and fish. By this time it’s decidedly chilly but that doesn’t stop Little Hedgehog from following a tiny firefly

until it reaches a host of others that together perform a beautiful dance. Surely after such a long stop, Little Hedgehog must be completely ready for some sleep: almost but first there’s one more request …

This is such a gorgeous story about the joys of slowing down to appreciate, and be awed by, the natural world with all its wonders from the immense to the minute. Brita Teckentrup has a wonderful way of capturing the natural world in her richly hued and textured collage scenes that are certain to make big humans sharing this book with little humans, also slow right down to imbibe the beauty of each one of them.

When I See Red

When I See Red
Britta Teckentrup

The child protagonist in Britta Teckentrup’s study of anger feels her fury as a gushing, twisting, twirling swirling roaring dragon that then morphs into a raging tornado as it rumbles and crashes. She bellows, booms and hollers as she roams the world seawards becoming that sea rider proud, bold and absolutely in control as she traverses the world.

Too long has she held back before pouring forth her torrent

but once she’s given vent to all that’s inside, it’s time to move forward leaving rage behind. Now storm spent, there’s a sense of freedom:

there’s a new and powerful force that comes with inhaling deeply and slowly. Let another journey commence with calmness and positivity.

The girl’s wild ride encompasses so many facets of anger, both negative and positive: she feels alone and isolated, engulfed and thoroughly overwhelmed, alarmed, perhaps frightened of the power of her emotions; on the other hand that power can be transformed into a force for good, a vehicle for changing from within.

Through her dramatic paintings, and words relating to earth and the elements, Britta portrays an emotional journey that offers youngsters both an affirmation of, and an opening to talk about their own feelings of anger. It couldn’t be more timely especially with all that everyone has gone through over the last eighteen months.

Tiptoe Tiger

Tiptoe Tiger
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

Tara is a little tiger cub – a lively one – and so, despite it being sundown in the jungle, she’s not ready for bed just yet.

But who can she find to play with? Could it be the fluttering Butterfly and her spotty-winged friends, the strutting peacock with his beautiful tail, or maybe those hooting owls sitting on the branch?

She’ll surely need to tread warily along the river bank on account of the scary-looking crocodile lurking in the water. I doubt if even Tara’s bouncing and pouncing will scare that away even if it frightens off all the other potential playmates.

This is another of Jane and Britta’s smashing interactive neon bright picture books that will delight little humans at bedtime (or any time). They’ll love delaying their own shut eye as they follow Tara on her nocturnal search helping her on her way with whispers of “Tiptoe, tiger,” spotting the animals lurking part-hidden in Britta’s neon bright, vibrant illustrations, fluttering their arms, stretching them wide, ‘Raaaaar-ing’ and finally, when the cub does settle down for the night, joining in with her yawn and bidding her, ‘Night, night, little tiger. Sleep tight!’

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!
selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

I love getting poetry anthologies to review, for despite owning a iarge bookcase crammed with books of poems (for both adults and children) and having compiled a fair number of the latter myself, I always make some exciting new discoveries.

What joy then, to have a bumper compilation such as Fiona’s offering, an animal poem for every day of the year, with a stunningly beautiful illustration from Britta gracing every spread.

Name an animal and more than likely you will find it featured somewhere in this collection; and you’ll find a creature (sometimes several) for almost every letter of the alphabet with the notable exceptions of q – this has Tony Chen’s Question: ‘As asphalt and concrete / Replace bushes and trees, / As highways and buildings / Replace marshes and woods, / What will replace / The song of birds?’ , u (there is a poem but it’s an extract from John Bunyan’s Upon a Snail) and x is not represented at all.

Whether your preference is for creatures great or creatures small, feathered, scaled, smooth-skinned or spiney you will be satisfied. Having seen the bird she writes of standing in the rain on my walk yesterday I absolutely loved discovering this new to me poem of Roberta Davis: ‘Perfectly still / in the falling snow / grey heron’

I also heard on that same walk but didn’t see, a Woodpecker, the subject of John Agard’s wonderful poem – another new discovery for me, the first verse of which is ‘Carving / tap/tap / music / out of / tree trunk / keep me / busy / whole day / tap/tap / long ‘

Despite summer now being over for this year, there are still plenty of bees, wasps and other small insects about including the bees that George Szirtes writes of in The Bee’s Knees: ‘Great hairy knees bees have as they squat / in the flowers then push off with a spring, / all six knees pumping and shoving. With so much power they’re soon airborne, resilient, / muscular, adrift. // The bee’s knees. // Brilliant. ‘ And brilliant that surely is. Henceforth I’ll look anew at bees.

There’s more about minibeasts and their knees in Dorothy Aldis’ Singing: ‘Little birds sing with their beaks / In the apple trees; / But little crickets in the grass / Are singing with their knees. ‘

Interestingly October has four wasp poems though I’m less well disposed towards those buzzers as I have a wasps’ nest all a-buzz outside one of the bedroom windows; so I really appreciate the opening lines of Carol Ann Duffy’s The Wasp: ‘Help me to love the wasp, / help me to do that thing – / to admire the raspy buzz / of its wings, to grow fond / of its droning whinge.’

Having spent most of this review talking of creatures small, I should finish with a poem about a large one and a favourite of mine – the subject of another new delight for me; it’s Liz Brownlee’s An Elephant is Born: ‘Night holds them safe / the moon cloud gleams, / deep in the darkness / of soft breath and dreams, // the elephant mother / greets her new son, / with a tender and gentle, / low, soft hum, // strokes his face / the night-left long, / and sings her newborn / elephant song.’

Finally, I must endorse what Nosy Crow’s Louise Bolongaro says in her introduction, ‘Poems and reading “matter” more than ever but so does the natural world. If this book can nurture a love of the animal kingdom, then maybe it will also help create the conservationists of the future.’ If that isn’t a reason to go out and buy a copy to give as well as one to keep, then what is?

Nature in Focus – Home / Seasons

Here are two books from Little Tiger that focus on nature and the changing seasons

Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup

‘All of us need a place to rest – / A cave, a warren, a pond, a nest … // Wherever we may choose to roam, / We need a place to call our home.” So says Patricia Hegarty’s introduction to this look at the forest that is home to all kinds of creatures large and small.
In the company of little bear, we visit a variety of animal homes starting with the cub and her family’s cave, dark and deep.

With the advent of spring, the cub ventures out watched by an owl in her tree. He visits the place where squirrels are gathering leaves for their drey; beavers are also building a shelter; a bird is busy nest building.

Further afield salmon spawn in the glistening river, multitudes of minibeasts are hard at work, and underground rabbits are safe in their warren.

As night begins to fall, a pack of wolves begin to prowl, hunting for food; while a flock of arctic terns make ready to begin their long journey before another winter sets in.

Finally as the cold arrives, it’s time for little bear and his family to hibernate ‘til spring comes round once more.

In her lyrical text Patricia takes us through the changing seasons and to the various animal homes. Britta Teckentrup’s signature style collage scenes, with their die-cut pages, follow the action and the bear cub, highlighting the importance of each home mentioned in the narrative as well as showing the seasonal changes in the forest.

Hannah Pang and Clover Robin

Author Hannah and illustrator Clover take us to half a dozen different locations in the world to experience the natural world in all its glory through the seasons.

We observe the changes that each season brings, starting with a focus on a mighty European oak tree that stands majestically in a meadow, its spreading branches and roots providing shelter and food for countless creatures – birds, insects and other minibeasts, small mammals and some larger ones too.

Spring, summer and autumn with their flowers, fruits and fungi are times of abundance for the various animals. Come winter, the branches are bare and it’s a hard time for animals, many of which hide themselves away in order to survive. Indeed, change through every season is vital for survival of the tree and the associated wildlife.

The other natural habitats are the chilly Arctic where the change in length of day and night is dramatic,

the wilds of Alaska where rivers freeze in the coldest months; a boggy mangrove in northern Australia – one season teeming with land animals, another with fish; then comes the Yellow Dragon Valley, home to some of China’s rarest animals including the giant panda.

The last stop is on the grasslands of the Kenyan Maasai Mara with its wonderful richness of awesome animals and plant life.

As in the oak tree’s location so it is with all the others: change is vital for survival and the Great Migration of the animals of the final location is, so we read, ‘one of the most dramatic events on Earth. For the animals, … a journey of life and death.’

Since the pandemic struck, I think huge numbers of us have become much more aware of the importance of nature in our lives: this book, with Clover Robin’s richly detailed illustrations and Hannah Pang’s factual text, sings that song loud and clear.

Love, Hide-and-Seek and Night-time Board Book Style

Little Love Bug
Illustrated by Emily Dove
Chronicle Books

Author/illustrator and nature enthusiast, Emily Dove, uses a popular minbeast as the featured creature in her latest in the finger puppet series to share with babies. We see a parent and little bug spending a busy day together snuggling, meeting friends, taking a slow wander, enjoying a dance and having a goodnight hug. No matter the time of day you can find an opportunity to show your love.

Bright, cute and sturdily built for lots of reading together times.

Where’s Mrs T-Rex?
illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

There’s a decidedly dinosaurish theme to the latest in Nosy Crow’s ever-popular felt flaps series with that final mirror that tinies love.. In this one you can introduce babies and toddlers to the four dinosaurs that are playing hide-and-seek from various minibeasts, a pterodactyl and a turtle.

It’s never too early to expose them to such names as Stegosaurus (Mr) Diplodocus (Mrs), Triceratops (Mr) and T-Tex, herein set against vibrant, patterned backgrounds. What fun!

Shhh … Good Night
Nicky Benson and Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books

With Nicky Benson’s gentle, rhyming text and Thomas Elliott’s gorgeously hued illustrations, this lovely book with its die-cut pages, showing a mother bird and her baby, a baby squirrel with its parent, a big and small firefly and deer, little and large, settling down for a night’s sleep, this book is a lovely way to bid little humans goodnight; they’ll surely sleep well after this dreamy meditative experience.

And if you missed the paperback version of Britta Teckentrup’s beautifully illustrated Moon, reviewed already on this blog, Little Tiger have now published a die-cut paged board book edition showing animals around the world at night-time.

Fun, Facts and More in Boardbook Format

Here’s a handful of board books to entertain your little ones courtesy of the Little Tiger Group:

ABC of Kindness
Patricia Hegarty and Summer Macon
Caterpillar Books

Rhyming couplets by Patricia Hegarty together with Summer Macon’s small scenes of super cute animal characters showing the way make for a lovely reminder of the important things in life.

For instance, there’s ‘Cc is being caring in everything you do. / Dd is for dear ones – who mean the world to you!’

The pastel backgrounds to the kindnesses illustrated complement the softly spoken text in a lovely introduction to the behaviours we’d all like to see in little humans. Perfect for sharing and talking about.

Cook with Me: Bunny Makes Breakfast
Kathryn Smith and Seb Braun
Little Tiger

Big Mummy invites her Little Bunny to share in the creation of a ‘yummy breakfast’ but what are they going to cook? They already have butter, flour and maple syrup, but that’s not all they need.

Out they go and pick juicy berries, collect eggs from the hens, and creamy milk from the cow.

Back in the kitchen comes the fun, messy part of mixing all the ingredients and by the time the delicious aroma comes wafting from the cooker, Little Bunny has worked out what their surprise meal will be. Hmmm!

Kathryn Smith’s is a story with a bonus – the final spread includes a recipe book – Bunny Oliver’s Breakfast for Bunnies.

With flaps to explore on every one of Seb Braun’s engaging spreads, this is a tasty little book for sharing with small humans – preferably not at breakfast time though in case of sticky fingers.

Curious Kids: Sea and Shore
Jonny Marx and Christine Engel
Caterpillar Books

From early morning to sunset, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy at the seaside.

This board book format non-fiction title presents in eight spreads, snippets of factual information about some of the marine creatures to be found in and around our seas from seagulls

to seahorses, octopuses to turtles.

There’s a pop-up feature on each bold, bright spread and observant eyes can also look for marine flora both in the sea and on the shore.

With the seaside likely to be off-limits for some time, maybe one way to remind little ones of its delights is with Christiane Engle’s sturdy book.

Also out in boardbook format now is:

Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

I reviewed the original hard cover edition of this smashing book that absolutely buzzes with bee-uty almost 4 years ago and it’s great to see it in a sturdy format for tinies: Britta’s illustrations are stunning.

The Seedling that didn’t want to grow

The Seedling that didn’t want to grow
Britta Teckentrup

The riches of spring are all around us now so there’s no better time to enjoy Britta Teckentrup’s story of a seedling that grows in its own time eventually flourishing into a wonderful plant.

Through her softly spoken text and gorgeous collage-style illustrations we follow along with her characters Ant and Ladybird, the reluctant to germinate seed, as it eventually shows signs of life, growing from a delicate, fragile little seedling in the meadow, and creeping through the undergrowth towards the sun.

Under the watchful supervision of the two insects, together with other friends – Cricket to guard her roots, Mouse to search for the most suitable paths, Butterfly accompanying Ladybird flying above to locate the perfect spot – it gradually changes as it weaves and twines through dense foliage to emerge at last to feel the warmth of the summer sun’s rays on her leaves.

The perfect location to continue her life story.

Now in the hot sunshine she is ‘the happiest plant there could be’ as all manner of creatures live in her foliage so she is ‘full of love and life.’

With the coming of autumn and shorter days comes further changes as the plant ‘s leaves turn a golden colour, eventually wilting as she sets seed ready for the wind to liberate a host of white fluffy parachutes scattering them far and wide before the winter comes and the plant is ready to die away.

That though isn’t the end, for with the melting of the snow, those seeds will start to flourish as the cycle of life begins anew.

This is one of my favourites to date of Britta’s books: her richly textured, detailed art reflects in her choice of colour palette, the changing seasons; while thanks to her changing depth of focus, we are made truly to appreciate the beauty of the incredibly diverse natural world. We appreciate too that just as diversity is key in the natural world, so it is with humans: each of us is unique and with careful nurturing, can find and fulfil our own path in life.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

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.

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.

Oskar Can …

Oskar Can …
Britta Teckentrup

This blog has been a fan of Oskar, Britta’s little raven character from his first appearance a couple of years ago. Now he’s back in a celebration of all the things he can do.

His achievements are diverse and beautifully visualised in a series of very amusing scenes of jumping, counting, making a cuppa brewed to perfection to share with best pal Mo,

singing, digging holes – show me a youngster who doesn’t love that; then there’s creating pebble towers (his are always super tall), ski-ing, ice-dancing,

swimming (almost unaided) and riding a tandem with Mo. The list just goes on.

He’s even a bit of a yogi. (I love his downward facing dog –and balances); perhaps he should try a crow pose next, I’m sure he’d soon add that to his ‘can do’ list.

With its inherent message about celebrating what children CAN do rather than forever pressurising them into constantly feeling the need to perform, be it at school or home, this is a smashing little story to share with little ones.

Alternatively for those in the early stages of reading, it’s an ideal ‘I can read’ book. I know whom I shall offer it to for that purpose next time I see her.

I always tell children ‘I don’t know CAN’T’ so it’s a huge HURRAH! for little Oskar with all his positivity.

Happy / As We Grow / We Are Together

Here’s a trio of books from Caterpillar Books one of the Little Tiger Group imprints that I was excited by on my return  home after three weeks away in India.

Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey
Caterpillar Books

Mindfulness is a popular theme at present and we’ve had several books on the subject for children in recent months, possibly as a response to the growing concern about the pressures even very young children are under in their everyday lives both in school and at home.

I know from experience that offering youngsters a brief period of quiet, calm time each day when they can be in the here and now away from the stresses and strains of life leads to a happier, more relaxed classroom or home atmosphere.

This beautiful book encourages children to become mindful, offering them some ways to be in the moment, to explore their emotions by tuning in to their senses in a meditative manner. They can listen to the natural sounds around them; or tune in to and focus on their feelings. Tension can be released not only from our minds but also our bodies in a manner similar to that at the end of a yoga session when participants are encouraged to tense and relax the muscles in their bodies one by one until the whole body is completely relaxed.

How many of us really pay attention to what we eat, to savour every mouthful noticing the texture and flavour as we chew: it’s a really great way of being mindful and perhaps more appreciative of our food.

Touch too is a way of connecting and calming, particularly when outdoors in natural surroundings; looking with awareness too works to calm and connect as do smelling and deep slow breathing.

The gorgeous illustrations and gentle, rhyming text herein will surely encourage children to slow down and become mindful, to discover that place of peace that’s deep within us all.

As We Grow
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

This Walden/Jones collaboration is a great way to look at life as a journey full of changes, challenges and joy, that begins as a very tiny babe totally unaware of what is to come as we grow and travel through the years. What we can be sure of though, is that each stage will be different, full of excitement and new adventures. There’s that toddling stage that opens up a myriad of new experiences and quickly gives way to the more assured young child full of imaginative ideas, when language develops rapidly and words are a toy and a tool. Fuelled (one hopes) by mind-opening books a plenty that help with those ‘hows’, whys’ and whats’.

The transformation into a teen is a dramatic one when times are unsettled, restless and confusing, a time of self-discovery prior to adulthood; in the early stages of which independence and challenge go hand in hand before perhaps settling down and maybe even becoming the parent of a new little one.

Like life, this entire book is full of beautiful, memorable stopping points

richly portrayed in Richard Jones gorgeous scenes and Libby Walden’s lyrical text.

We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books

Britta Teckentrup celebrates human diversity through a rhyming text and her inimitable vibrant style illustrations with their peep through cut out pages.

What better way to encourage young children to value togetherness than these opening lines: ‘On our own we’re special, / and we can chase our dream, / But when we join up, hand in hand, / together, we’re a team.’

Readers are then presented with a sequence of gorgeous scenes of children out together in the natural world that will surely encourage positive feelings in youngsters both about themselves and others.

Perfect for sharing in foundation stage settings and a great starting point for a circle time discussion.

The Little Mouse and the Red Wall

The Little Mouse and the Red Wall
Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books

Little Mouse lives in a community surrounded by a big red wall. It’s always been there but why? And what lies beyond?
When she asks the other animals, each one comes up with a different reason – for protection, thinks Scaredy Cat; Old Bear cannot remember; Fox doesn’t care and Lion Who Had Lost His Roar says  ‘just a big black nothing’ is behind the wall.

None of these responses satisfy Little Mouse but then one day she meets a Bluebird. Thanks to the bird, she is able to discover the answers to her questions.

What she sees – a world of freedom and beauty – and an ensuing conversation with the Bluebird are life changing, altering completely her way of seeing and being in the world.
They were looking with fear… YOU are looking with wonder. You were brave enough to find out the truth for yourself.

Little Mouse goes back to her friends and tells them of the wonders she’s seen and one by one they walk through the wall, all except Lion, although one day he too is ready to join the others in the land beyond.

Despite the simplicity of her telling, Britta Teckentrup’s beautifully illustrated story is profound and would be an ideal starting point for a community of enquiry style philosophical discussion.

When we in the UK, and other countries, seem to be putting up boundaries, its timely themes of discovering freedom and embracing change, both personal and in the world, will resonate with both children and adults.

Birds and their Feathers / A World of Birds

Birds and their Feathers
Britta Teckentrup

Following on from The Egg, Britta Teckentrup has created another bird book with a difference, approaching the subject via plumology – bird feather science.
Its ninety or so pages are packed with fascinating feathery facts.

Each double spread is devoted to a particular aspect including feather development, structure, types of feather, colour – did you know flamingos are pink thanks to the carotenoid pigment in the crustacea they eat?

She also looks at wing types, flying strategies, heat regulation and many more topics relating to form and function,

with the final pages devoted to how humans have been inspired by, and exploited, feathers in creating myths, dreams of human flight, for decoration and warmth, a feather was even taken to the moon.

The subject allows full reign to Britta’s amazing artistic talent and her beautiful paintings are a delight to peruse and gaze upon in wonder.

A book for the family bookshelf, for bird lovers, art lovers and school collections.

Taking a more conventional approach but also well worth getting hold of is

A World of Birds
Vicky Woodgate
Big Picture Press

In her follow up to Urban Jungle wildlife enthusiast Vicky Woodgate starts with some general ornithological information giving facts about classification, anatomy, flight and eggs.

She then takes readers on a whistle stop tour of seven locations around the world – North America, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica – wherein we learn about different bird species, some resident, others migratory. Every one of the 75 birds selected is representative of its wider family, the author explains.
Each geographical section begins with a map of the location along with a brief description of the climate, habitats and conservation issues.

The first location is North America, which, with habitats as varied as tropical rainforest, hot deserts and frozen plains has a huge number of different species, partly because it encompasses four major migration routes.

All the other sections too have both resident and migratory species, though Antarctica, has the most challenging conditions for its wildlife and thus fewer avian species.

Central and South America in contrast has an enormous variety of birds and new species are still being discovered although sadly, due to human action, some of the most beautiful such as the Macaws are now on the endangered species list.

The same is true of some of those featured in the African section the continent of Africa being home to some of the world’s largest and most colourful birds.

Europe is home to many species that have adapted to urban environments; Asia, with its varied climates and habitats has, despite the fact that many Asian cultures revere birds, a big problem with the pet trade and hence a fair number of threatened species, whereas the biggest threat in Oceania is that from introduced and invasive bird species – an issue conservationists are earnestly tackling.

Beautifully illustrated and packed with fascinating information, this is a book pore over, to immerse yourself in and enjoy.

Firefly Home

Firefly Home
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The second interactive picture book from the Clarke and Teckentrup duo features another creature from the natural world, a little firefly called Florence, and she’s got lost.

It’s up to readers to help her find the way back home. There’s a problem though: there are so many flashing lights in the night sky that Florence follows lots of false leads.

Young listeners, more worldly wise than the little firefly will revel in anticipating the bright moon, the lighthouse beam,

the moving train and the brightly illuminated buildings in the city before the respective pages are turned, as well as responding to the verbal instructions given to help Florence on her long flight in search of her firefly friends.

The yellow used in Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations glows so intensely that I found myself wanting to check to see it there was a hidden battery somewhere.

A potential story-time favourite for early years listeners for sure. And shared one to one, it’s totally absorbing: each of my listeners has followed Jane Clarke’s instructions with gusto and been thrilled to be instrumental in Florence finally finding her way back to her friends.

Now in paperback is their Neon Leon, which I absolutely loved and used frequently last year always with enthusiastic responses.

A Briefing of Board Books

Time to Go With Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Ted, the wonderfully imaginative toddler is back and he’s ready to go.
Whether it be to the park, the shops, the pool or the playground swings …

he’s always sure to have the appropriate gear with him.
And being such a friendly little boy, he’s bound to make friends wherever he goes; so come teatime he’s got plenty of guests to share with.
Lift-the-flap pages hide a host of animals as well as opportunities for some noisy roaring, shivering, sploshing and making monkey sounds.

Listen to the Dance Music
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
Just in time for ‘Strictly’ here’s an opportunity to brush up on your dance moves with the animal movers and shakers. You can waltz with the wolves, tango with the horses, practise some Charleston swivels with the bears, salsa with the flamingos, rock n’ roll along with the cats and hip-hop with the frogs. And, to get you and your little ones going, there’s a sound button at the back of the book, so as well as enjoying the dancers visually, you can listen to the various types of music. What are you waiting for: let’s dance.

I Thought I Saw a Lion!
Lydia Nichols
Templar Publishing
Using the sliders on every spread, toddlers can develop their manipulative skills while enjoying playing hide-and-seek with a mischievous lion that invades a variety of venues. Is he somewhere in the restaurant? Or perhaps he’s visiting the fancy dress shop or the bookshop maybe.

Surely he can’t be getting his mane trimmed at the hairdresser’s, so where is he?
Built-in repetition and bold, stylish illustrations enhance the game.

Colours/ Opposites
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Two popular topics feature in stylish look and find presentations by Britta Teckentrup.
In addition to the colour element of the first, there are opportunities for counting and developing talk on each spread.

Opposites here entails essentially, finding the odd one out, be that outside, above, fast, short, heavy, white, closed or small. Some concepts such as tall/short or heavy/ light are relative and thus not so clear-cut, but the rhyming text ensures that answering the questions asked is not an issue. Here: for instance,

‘Some animals plod / with a slow heavy pace, / but who is so fast she’s / winning the race?’

Opposites/ Colours
Nosy Crow and The British Museum
The two new Early Learning at the Museum titles contain around thirty fascinating objects from the museum collections per book.
Apart from the basic concepts presented in the two books, each fascinating image offers opportunities for developing open-ended conversations with young children.
You can look into recent history and go back over 2000 years with intriguing artefacts from a variety of cultures in Opposites. Or in Colours go back even further to 2600BC or be bang up to date with a Grayson Perry vase from 2011.
These chunky books will be of interest to children long after they’ve acquired the basic concepts related to opposites and colours.
Adults can scan the QR code in each book to find out more about the featured objects and there is a full key at the back.

The Marine Team / The Forest Folk / The Sky Guys
Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here are three new additions to the Mibo board books series featuring five animals, apiece, two spreads being given to each one.
Once again in each book, superb graphics are accompanied by fact-filled rhymes and there is a final fact page that tells you a little bit about each animal presented, their habitats and what we can do to help protect them.
The Marine Team comprises the green turtle, the great white shark, which is actually only white on its lower part, the seal, the blue whale and seahorses.
Did you know that it’s the male that carries the eggs from which the babies are born?
In The Forest Folk we meet temperate forest dwellers, brown bears, grey wolves, red squirrels, otters and deer, both male and female.
The Sky Guys features five bird species – the majestic albatross, the elegant flamingo, the wise owl, the guzzling pelican and the tiny hummingbird.
The rhyming texts will help young children absorb the information as an adult reads it aloud; and each book offers plenty of talking points.

Friends Return: Oskar and Mo / Alfie in the Woods / Elmer and the Tune

Oskar and Mo
Britta Teckentrup
In his first book Oskar the raven loved a whole lot of things; now he’s back with more love. This time it’s directed at his best friend Mo and we discover what the two of them love to do together. After all, unless you’re a solitary individual most things are better if you have a friend to share them with.
They share a favourite place where they go to share secrets. A shared love of stories means that Mo loves Oscar to read to her – good on you Oskar;

they love playing together, whether it’s block building or hide and seek but like all friends they do have the occasional tiff. But it never lasts long because they’re there for each other whatever the weather, night or day, happy or sad, be they close by or far away.
Full of heart, this is a winningly simple portrayal of friendship and a great starting point for discussion with pre-schoolers.

Alfie in the Woods
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Little rabbit, Alfie returns for his third story and he’s out walking in the woods with his dad. It’s autumn and the young rabbit is collecting seasonal treasures.
He spies his friends and together they play hide-and-seek among the trees.
The mischievous little creature then starts using the available autumnal litter to transform himself into various other forest creatures: he becomes an owl gliding from tree to tree; a busy, buzzy bee, a hedgehog,

a dozy bear and even a tree.
All this imaginary play is pretty tiring though, so it’s a sleeping Alfie who is carried safely home by his dad after his crazy adventure.
Alfie has become a firm favourite with pre-schoolers and his latest story, with Debi Gliori’s captivating illustrations, is bound to be another winner.

Elmer and the Tune
David McKee
Andersen Press
How annoying it is when you get a tune stuck in your mind and the words just keep on going around and around no matter what you do. That’s almost what happens to Elmer when he’s out walking with his friend, Rose one day. First the tune gets stuck in her head and then Elmer too catches it and can’t stop humming the wretched thing.
So infectious is it that pretty soon all the jungle animals are humming that self same tune of Rose’s over and over. What are they to do?
Time to call upon Elmer. Can he come up with a solution to their problem?

Seemingly he can and it works for all his friends; but what about Elmer?
This is David McKee’s 24th Elmer story and his escapades continue to win him new fans as well as pleasing established ones; the latter, like elephants, never forget.


Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger Press

Gorgeous collage style moonlit scenes grace every spread of Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘peek-through the pages’ book wherein we travel the globe following the moon through one complete cycle.

As it waxes, we visit a woodland, a desert landscape, a snowy puffin rookery; sea birds using the moon to migrate to warmer climes, and a tropical jungle.

The full moon shines upon a southern beach where turtles have arrived to lay their eggs.

Under the waning moon, field mice hunt for food and ‘The ocean ‘sparkles, bluey- green, / Lit up by a magical scene,‘ – an ocean whose waves are influenced by the lunar cycle.

Bears standing on a mountainside; giraffes and elephants resting in the cool nocturnal grasslands; penguins huddling together for extra warmth beneath a snowy sky …

and finally, a row of houses, complete the waning moon landscapes.

Patricia Hegarty’s lilting rhyming couplets provide a gently soporific, textual accompaniment to Teckentrup’s nocturnal homage to the natural world.

Look, Look and Look Again

Where’s the Baby?
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
Baby animals are the objects of the search in Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘spotting’ book, which, once again is intended to develop visual perception in the very young.
A rhyming text accompanies each digitally composed spread and the challenge is satisfyingly demanding for youngsters: I had to search for a while to locate the gosling on the pond.
With their matt colours and wallpaper style patterns, the artist’s visuals really demand that you look closely savouring the pleasing design of each one be it the vibrant parrots,

the farmyard hens, the kangaroos, the zebras or the seahorses to name just some of the fourteen creatures featured.
The final challenge in the book is different asking, ‘can you see the mother/ whose babies are TWINS?’
Alluring, absorbing and enjoyable.

Have You Seen My Lunch Box?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Morning chaos reigns as a small boy gets ready for school: the clock is ticking but he wants help locating all the things he needs: his socks, his pencil case, a crayon, his book,

a ball, marbles and particularly important, his lunch box. Mum and Dad are on hand to hunt but essentially it’s down to the reader to save the day and ensure he boards the bus on time.
The text, delivered as a first person narrative, appears on each verso, set against the same colour as the missing item to be located on the recto among the plethora of items inked in detail against a predominantly white background. This pattern continues throughout until the last object is safely in the hands of its owner. The final page shows all eight things.
Essentially this is a game for adult and toddler to play together: there’s plenty to talk about in addition to those misplaced items, and that’s in the hands of the adult sharer; in fact every spread is a possible starting point for some adult/child storying.

Double Take!
Susan Hood and Jay Fleck,
Walker Books
We’re in the company of a little boy, his cat and a friendly elephant being asked not to take things at first sight. Assuredly, we’re told, some opposites – in/out, asleep/ awake for instance, are pretty straightforward, albeit orchestrated herein; but others are totally dependent on one’s frame of reference.

Subtitled ‘A New Look at Opposites’ and published under the imprint Walker Studio, this rhyming invitation certainly demands that readers think about opposites with regard to perspective.

I’ve signed the charter  

Under the Same Sky / This Is How We Do It!

Under the Same Sky
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books
I’m a big fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work especially her books with cut out pages so I eagerly anticipated this one. With its theme of connectedness, it’s absolutely beautiful.
We live under / the same sky … / … in lands / near and far.’ So begins the lyrical text, which accompanies superb, soft-focus animal images set against natural backgrounds.
Hugely impactful with its spare narrative and its strategically placed die-cuts on alternate recto pages, through which we see  elements of scenes of universally shared games, feelings,

hopes and dreams, this is uplifting and full of hope. Timely, and exactly what is needed when our world seems to be growing increasingly intolerant, fractured, and with too many people focusing on differences rather than what binds us all together – our common humanity.

Fuelled by this powerful and lovely book, let’s seize every opportunity, transcend those differences and come together for the ultimate good of everyone.
Share, ponder upon, delight in and discuss: it’s a must for every family, early years setting and KS1 classroom collection.

This is How We Do It
Matt Lamothe
Chronicle Books
Children are the focus of this fascinating book, children whose ages range between seven and eleven; children from seven different families, backgrounds and diverse situations tell their own stories. Let’s meet, Romeo (Meo) from Italy; Kei from Japan; Daphine from Uganda; Oleg from Russia; Ananya (Anu) from India, Kian from Iran and the eldest, Peruvian, Pirineo.
These narrators share information about their particular homes, their families, their clothes – in particular what they wear to school; breakfasts, lunches and evening meals (each meal has a separate spread); mode of travel to school.

We meet their various teachers and see how they learn (almost all classrooms looks very formal). Each child shows how his/her name is written …

We also see the children at play, helping at home and finally, sleeping.
Yes, there are differences, each country, each family is unique; but the most important message is that no matter where we are from, we all have similarities: we eat meals, we play and we go to school (at least those children we meet do) and all under the same sky.
At the end of the book we meet all seven families in photographs; and there is a final glossary, an author’s note on how he came to create the book and the endpapers have a world map showing where the children (and author) live.
This predominantly pictorial presentation celebrates our commonalities and our uniqueness. With world travel a commonplace nowadays, the book offers a great way to expand children’s horizons giving them insights into particular ways of life in addition to those in countries they might themselves visit.

I’ve signed the charter  

Never Take a Bear to School

Never Take a Bear to School
Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books
The creators of the gorgeous Your Hand in My Hand have teamed up again for this starting school or nursery story; and according to the two of them, there is only one rule: ‘you just cannot take your bear into school.’ As if!
After all he’d scare everyone silly with that huge bulk and gigantic paws;

he’d sabotage the child-sized furniture and fill the room with ill-timed growls and grizzles. Then, come lunchtime, nobody else would get a look in …

Imagine his crushing capacity in a PE session; and he’d completely trash your role-play area: his havoc wreaking potential just makes the whole idea a complete no-no. And anyhow you’ll be far too busy getting to know the ropes, making friends, even making a picture of your favourite thing …

Much better then, to have that ursine pal waiting by the school gates at the end of the day, when he’ll welcome you with open arms; and you can walk home together talking about that important first day. Then once at home well, you can do whatever you want – just you and YOUR BEAR!
The possibilities entertained in Mark Sperring’s funny rhyming narrative lend themselves so beautifully to Britta’s picture making. Her scenes of chaos and consternation among the children are a treat for those around the age of the little boy and his classmates; equally so, the fun times boy and bear have together at the end of that first school day. Yes it’s a lovely starting school story but too much fun to keep just for those run up to it days, or those in the little boy’s situation: it’s a wonderful ‘what if ’ story for foundation stage audiences no matter when or who.

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The Egg


The Egg
Britta Teckentrup
Many aspects of oviparity are explored in this fascinating book along with spreads on the egg in art, religion and mythology;


a look at traditions involving eggs, the famous Fabergé egg and the symbolic golden egg of wealth and fairy tales; and there’s a look at decorating eggs.
Caliology is an engaging aspect and obviously interested Britta Teckenetrup who devotes a dozen double spreads to various kinds of bird’s nests from the colonial nest building weaver birds, whose amazing nests are often built suspended (as a safety precaution) from trees over water,


to the ground nesting Snowy Owls that make shallow nest bowls where the snow has gone, during the Arctic summer.
Other egg layers include insects, there being a multitude of marvellous shapes, colours and textures;


spawning amphibians, reptiles – these mostly lay soft-shelled eggs incubated by natural heat rather than by the adult; turtles, fish and the mammalian sub-group which includes the platypus and echidna, the latter two being termed monotremes; and are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea.
The book’s blurb says of the egg, ‘Its beauty has inspired artists since ancient times’:


it has clearly inspired Britta Teckentrup, the creator of this handsomely produced, (it has a wonderful feel as well as look) enormously engaging and informative ‘eggthology’. As with many good information books it leaves you wanting to know more.
One for the primary school bookshelf, as well as for interested individuals.

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Neon Leon


Neon Leon
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
If you want a fun, maximum audience participation story to share with your early years listeners then look no further; Jane Clarke’s tale of chameleon, Leon, is all that and more. You might need to put on your sunglasses though for Leon is, shall we say a chameleon that stands out from the crowd. No matter where he goes with his companions, be it the green leafy jungle, the sandy yellow desert …


or the ‘big, grey, rocky mountains, no matter how hard he tries, even with the help of listeners instructions, he stays very visibly, Day-Glo orange.
Come nightfall, Leon returns, with the other chameleons, to the jungle. Dark it may be but there’s no chance of sleep for any of them with that brightness emanating from Leon. Feeling very sad, he sets forth in search of somewhere he can fit in. His first spot looks promising but then hunger calls the birds …


so the dejected-looking creature hurries off once more, to …


This certainly looks the perfect place but there’s something missing, something that can make Leon even happier …
Colours, camouflage, counting, different environments, and above all a thoroughly enjoyable story, make this a great read aloud especially if you have dealings with fives and under. Britta’s Leon really does stand out from the crowd and from her wonderful collage style, patterned backgrounds. I love those differing designs on Leon’s fellow chameleons too.


One Is Not A Pair & Who’s Hungry?


One Is Not A Pair
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
This is the third of Britta Teckentrup’s ‘spotting’ series that encourage and develop visual perception in a playful way that children (and many adults) delight in. Here she takes fourteen objects and presents them in spreads where everyone has a pair except one – the odd one out. All interests are catered for: there’s food  – yummy-looking ice-cream cones, sweet shiny cherries –


machines are represented by huffing puffing tractors and a ‘squadron of planes’, wild life has strutting magpies, spotted toadstools upon which spotty ladybirds crawl; there are birds in bird houses and in trees: ‘Each tree has a pair/ where matching birds call, / but one has a guest/ that is no bird at all.’ Can you find it?’


There are wonderfully coloured autumn leaves upon which insects crawl. We visit a toy shop with a host of cuddly bears …


and there are wooden blocks, built into towers and houses, a cacophony of yowling black cats, a richly hued pack of colouring pencils and last but definitely no least, washing lines of socks …


And the final spread is a mix of all the things to pair up and find the odd one.
Characteristically stylish, bold bright graphics grace every page and Britta’s rhyming text trips off the tongue nicely.
Look, look and keep looking: it’s such fun.
There’s also a set of Where’s The Pair? spotting postcards from Britta:


every one a diverting visual charmer and like the book, beautifully patterned in Britta’s inimitable style.


Who’s Hungry!
Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Walker Books
The split page format is cleverly used to put young readers in control of feeding some hungry animals. By turning the half pages they can bring the food right to the animal’s mouth each time. The book starts with the straightforward, all-important ‘Time to eat. Who’s hungry?’ to which seven animals respond in the affirmative, starting with a rabbit who declares, “I am! I’m hungry.” A quick flip of the flap delivers a crunchy carrot almost straight into Bunny’s mouth. This is followed by ‘Glad you like it, Bunny. Who else is hungry?’ And thus the refrain is repeated and responded to, next by Seal who hastily slurps up a fish leaving only the bones behind.


Monkey unsurprisingly, snatches up a banana, dropping the peel; Horse chomps through a pile of hay, Squirrel consumes a large acorn, Panda some scrummy bamboo shoots, and lastly Mouse politely requests and nibbles on a chunk of cheese.
The off-screen narrator is always on hand to make certain each animal is duly satisfied: ‘There’s plenty more, Panda!’ he says …


And, the final spread offers a plate to the reader – I’d certainly relish the vegetables particularly that broccoli.
The eyes of each animal have that ‘come on’ appeal that seems to be directed straight at the reader (or listener) who will take great delight in responding by delivering the food to each member of this alluring-looking menagerie.
In addition to providing opportunities to discuss healthy eating, asking and receiving politely, caring for animals, and animal habitats with the very young, this is a great ‘have a go yourself’ book for those in the early stages of becoming a reader. All in all, it’s cleverly conceived, all-involving enjoyment for children and adults.

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Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle


Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle
Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty
Little Tiger Kids
Buzzing with bee-u-ty, this sent shivers all through me; right from that arresting die-cut front cover with its centrally placed sunflower, through spread after spread of exquisite collage-style scenes linked by strategically-placed, die-cut hexagons, to the glowing endpapers: it’s just SOO breath-takingly gorgeous.


Stunningly beautiful endpapers

With each new book from the inimitable Britta Teckentrup, I think, she won’t better this; but, she’s done it again here in this glorious collaboration with Patricia Hegarty whose rhythmic rhyming text transports readers and listeners, accompanying a single bee as she travels here and there, flitting from flower to flower on a vital, life-giving journey –

    Gathering nectar as she goes,
From every foxglove, every rose.
Dusty with pollen, the little bee
Buzzes, buzzes, busily.

It’s almost as though you can smell the sweet-scented flowers …


and hear the sounds of that bee and of those back at the hive. For they in turn hear bee’s crucial message – with the vast numbers of flowers, it’s too huge a job for a solo bee- and join her in that all-important role of pollination …


‘ … A tiny miracle occurs.
For every plant and flower you see
Was given life by one small bee.

What a testament to one crucially important little insect and its symbiotic relationship with plants. The author gently imparts nuggets of scientific information into her poetic text as she tells of pollen harvesting and transporting; that bees use the sun to navigate by; that bees communicate one to another and crucially, that the life of most flowering plants is dependent upon them.
Bees have become almost an endangered species, yet not everyone is aware of either the contribution they make to our precious planet, or the magnitude of the crisis of their dwindling numbers. I’m currently living in Stroud, which claims to be ‘Britain’s First Bee Friendly Town‘. May there soon be many others that follow suit. There is a snag though, this ‘bee friendliness’ seems to give my partner tacit license to allow bees to build a nest right above my front door; and to let a large area of our front garden become a wild ie ‘bee welcoming’ space!
This book may well start a small revolution. It’s certainly a MUST have for every family bookshelf, early years establishment and primary school.
Now try this: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and imagine yourself into one of those stunning scenes from the book; place your lips close together, inhale through your nostrils, place your finger tips gently just inside your ears, then slowly exhale, also through the nostrils, making a deep buzzing sound in your throat like a bee: you will hear a ‘swarm’ of bees in your throat. That’s brahmari or bee breath and it has a wonderfully calming effect. Just like this book, although that’s exciting too.

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Animals: Eyes, Bunches, Numbers and Squares

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Who’s Who in the Woods?
Eryl Norris and Andy Mansfield
Templar Publishing
It’s nighttime in the woods: everywhere eyes peep out from the inky darkness. Eyes belonging to all manner of creatures; but which is the one causing all the unease?
Pop-ups on every spread but the first, leap out from the pages to reveal the animal with a frightening stare, the one with a fearsome roar and more

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in this exciting and engaging little book, written in rhyme for which the artist has used a limited palette to great effect. I suggest it’s best saved for home use as some of the pop-outs are quite fragile and might not stand up to the repeated readings this is bound to have.

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A Tower of GiraffesAnimal Bunches
Anna Wright
Words & Pictures
Subtitled ‘Animal Bunches’ this book is essentially a mixed media visual presentation of just that, with each of the sixteen animals represented under the heading of its collective noun. Thus we have the gloriously messy “A Drove of Pigs”,

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a wonderfully woolly Flock of Sheep,

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the florally coated …

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the oh-so-showy Ostentation of Peacocks and many others all portrayed in their full glory. There is a delightful quirkiness about the whole thing and the range of expressions on the animals’ faces in every group is splendid.
Alongside each animal portrait is a paragraph giving some information about the habits and characteristics. Thus we learn for instance that ‘Flamingos are highly sociable, living in groups of up to one thousand … These fancy feathered friends also work together to make theatrical displays … marching in time to impress other birds.
This book is likely to appeal as much to those interested in design as nature and animals. It is certainly one for the school library or family bookshelf.

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Bear Counts
Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Simon and Schuster pbk
A cumulative counting book whose rhyming text takes listeners through a sequence of encounters along with friends Mouse and Bear from their shared breakfast in the morning sun. Bear is the leader showing Mouse one sun, one dragonfly, one robin on her nest and one mouse disappointedly clutching just one berry. Then along comes Hare clutching two fruits and …

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so on until there’s a whole host of friends splashing and floating in the pond counting …

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Gorgeous double page spreads of the various stopping points alternate with the counting pages where the focus is on the individual items seen on the previous friend-encounter spread.

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Take a Square
Britta Teckentrup
Words and Pictures
This is one of a new series for the very young that looks at concepts in a fresh, imaginative way at the heart of which is clever design and uncluttered images. Herein, we trail a small dog as he involves readers in a follow-my-leader game taking them through the pages on a playful journey that encompasses a toy truck, the demolition of a block building, a cat, a bone, a toy robot, children playing,

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a visit to the park and finally, a bus ride home and bed.

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But the story is not quite over as closer study reveals …
As the journey progresses, the line of objects accumulates down the left-hand side of each double spread forming a kind of visual list of the story ingredients. Totally involving and lots of fun.

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Follow Me!/Get Out of My Bath!

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Follow Me!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books
‘Wake up! Follow me! ‘Exhorts the lemur leader of the pack as he heads off, swinging and leaping down the tree and off across the arid landscape leading his friends through flora and fauna and the pages of the book.

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En route they encounter various birds, reptiles, chewy things to munch on, and hop and jump on -well maybe not that one!

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All that leaping and swinging is tiring work though, so after an energetic adventure, it’s time to head back to the tree for a well-deserved … rest. PHEW!


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This is packed with lovable lemurs and Ellie Sandall has managed to give each one its own individuality – no mean achievement. Her mixed-media scenes are full of humour, while at the same time, capturing the feel of the Madagascan landscape. (One can almost feel the heat coming off the ground.)
Lemurs certainly seem to be in vogue as far as picture books are concerned this year. For me, this particular one is the leader of the pack, thus far.

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Get Out of My Bath!
Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
What is it about elephants and baths? This is another favourite topic for picture books of late. Britta Teckentrup’s cleverly constructed, immediately interactive book starts with Ellie taking a bath and playing with her duck; and we are asked to play along by tipping the book from side to side to create waves, then turning the page one way and then the other. Suddenly though, we – Ellie and readers – are confronted by a crocodile intent on snapping up Ellie’s rubber duck. Shouting at the croc. only brings another creature – Flamingo –

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to the fray … followed quickly by Tiger, a mouse – more shaking and shouting required, unless that is Ellie’s water-sucking plan works. Oh good, it has. No water left, just a host of shivering animals that need additional human shivers to make them disappear.

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Safely alone once again, Ellie is able to refill her bath and resume her ablutions.
A bath time book that’s fun to share just before or after a bath; don’t try reading it to your little one during bath-time though. I doubt even those shiny pages will stand up to a soaking.

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Look, Talk, Do …

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One Thousand Things
Anna Kövecses
Wide Eyed Editions
There is a synergy of contemporary and retro feel about this vocabulary-developing book. Little Mouse has helpfully divided it into seven sections and invites participant toddlers to spot her in every scene of the thematic organization that begins with First Things to Learn. This includes spreads of shapes, colours, numerals and counters to 10, some opposites and times of the day. In Things in nature there’s a spread of tasty-looking fruit,

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another of equally mouth-watering vegetables, three of animals in different habitats and one of extinct creatures. Things you can do includes both outdoor and indoor activities and some to aspire to, desirable everyday ones

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and the two final sections look at objects inside your house – everyday things in different rooms and lastly, Things outside your house such as vehicles, buildings and natural features.
The final spread asks us to imagine, and shows pictorially, 1,000.
Absorbing and fun for the very young to share with an adult or older child: I like everything about this one including its smell and feel.

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Stephen Biesty’s To the Rescue
Rod Green and Stephen Biesty
Templar Publishing
Biesty has selected eight vehicles from different parts of the world that carry out rescue operations by land, sea and air to be the subjects of his latest info-graphic picture book. Given the close-up treatment herein are a Hi-Tech Police Car, a Fire Truck,

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a Flying Firefighter, a Submarine Rescue vehicle (part of a NATO Submarine Rescue System), a Giant Fireboat, the Agusta Westland AW139 Air Ambulance, a 27 Tamar lifeboat and an ambulance.
As with the earlier, Giant Vehicles, a plethora of facts written by Rod Green surround each of Biesty’s amazingly detailed pen/ink and watercolour washed illustrations, and there are numerous flaps (engineered by Andy Mansfield) under which more information is to be found.
It’s a good job that this book is sturdily built: I envisage it being read to destruction having provided countless hours of fascination to child (and perhaps adult) readers. Assuredly, a great way to interest young readers in applied science/ technology: My only quibble is an almost total absence of female personel; I know many girls who aspire to such roles as piloting a plane or driving a fire truck.

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The Odd One Out
Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press
This is actually a cardboard wallet containing fifteen gorgeous animal postcards of artwork that featured in the book of the same name by one of my favourite contemporary-style artists. Spot the surprise on every page – some are easier to find than others – have fun.
I would find it almost impossible to part with any of the postcards, which presumably are intended for sending.

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Zip It
Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway
Little Tiger Kids
Subtitled ‘A fancy book of fastenings’ this largish board book is indeed that. Herein we have a frog with a zip mouth to open and shut, a pig with a button nose, a duck with a Velcro fastened down wing that lifts to reveal a small duckling hidden beneath, Kitty with a popper collar to ‘Pop’ and ‘snap’ and finally two squeaking mice whose tails are tied in a bow. In addition to developing their fine motor skills small children can enjoy listening to the simple rhyming text with its carefully chosen words including animal sounds and action words.

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Walks with Wonder

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Your Hand in My Hand
Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books
As winter is turning to spring we join a mouse parent and child in a litany to nature through the seasons as they walk hand in hand. Together they encounter trees bejewelled with singing birds,

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the glorious blues and yellows of the woodland flowers, experience the wildness of the wind as they splash through puddles and wonder at a rainbow.

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Then come summer’s glowing meadows alive with birds, butterflies and other creatures large and small, as well as the delights of paddling in the warm sea. Autumn too brings gifts – of acorns, berries, conkers, fungi and leaves glowing golden, orange, red and brown as they start to tumble.

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Then when winter takes hold once more, the pair snuggle closer together through frost and snow safe in the knowledge, “With your hand in my hand … we’ll never feel lost.”
This book is an absolute joy to share with young children. Sperring’s gentle rhyming text is perfectly paced so one can linger long over each spread and savour the colours, shapes and patterns of Britta Teckentrup’s eloquent scenes along with the mouse and child.
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On the Day You Were Born
Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks
Allen & Unwin (Murdoch Books)
My daddy said,
On the day you were born, I wrapped you up warm and took you for a walk to see the world.

A new father takes his new baby out into the world, and as they walk, it’s as if like his infant, he too is seeing it as new. What a truly wonderful walk it was taking them through sparkling puddles after the rain had stopped, when sleepy night creatures woke to say hello and the honey-scented air was filled with the buzz of bees,

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where a duckling found its family once again; a walk past an old tree of special significance, where friendly animals were almost overwhelming and berries glowed on the bushes, and crickets sang and butterflies danced among the glorious wild flowers. Then as day gave way to night the full moon shone to light the way home where, ‘My daddy said, …
I put you back in your mother’s arms and that night we were the world, the three of us together.
This celebration of a new life is poetry in motion. Brooks glowing scenes, so rich in detail, texture and colour are the perfect complement for Margaret Wild’s lyrical text.
A gorgeous gift for a young child, new or not so new, and surely one to engender feelings of awe and wonder about the natural world.
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Wintry Worlds


When Charley Met Granpa
Amy Hest and Helen Oxenbury
Walker Books
This is the second story from the transatlantic Hest/Oxenbury partnership to feature Henry and his dog, Charley. Now it’s a cold, snowy Sunday and Granpa is coming to visit. Henry sets out for the station dragging a sledge behind him for Granpa’s big suitcase, Charley frisking in front. Henry is apprehensive about Granpa’s reaction to his canine pal; he has never had a dog for a friend he tells Charley as they wait for the train to arrive. But, as readers of Charley’s First Night will already know, Charley is no ordinary pup, he’s an adorable, playful little chap. Granpa finally arrives and as the trio start to make their way back home, the wind whisks Granpa’s hat high into the air and with a swish of his tail, Charley is off chasing it into the whirling snow. Happily, he returns before long with the green cap between his teeth.
This small incident is lyrically portrayed through both words and pictures. Told from Henry’s viewpoint, Hest’s attention to detail in her narrative has a child-like simplicity while at the same time capturing the warmth between the characters. Oxenbury’s gorgeous illustrations too, glow with warmth despite the chilly landscape and as always, her attention to detail is impeccable.
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You Make Me Smile
Layn Marlow
Oxford University Press
One can almost feel the chill in the air as those first snowflakes fall, watched by a little girl from her bedroom window. Softly they cover the ground all around her house and she rushes down to join her waiting parent. In the hall she puts on her outdoor clothes and then it’s out into the snowy world to start making a snowman. As she works, the rosy-cheeked little girl talks to the ‘friend’ she is building; she even wraps her own scarf around his neck before adding the final, all-important smile.


Then it’s time for a photo-shoot with her new friend; and the two smile together – a smile that can last the whole year through.
A special event in the life of a small child, captured to perfection in Layn Marlow’s spare text and heart-warming pictures – simply beautiful.
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Up & Down
Britta Teckentrup
Templar Publishing
Perched atop a large ice-block, Little Penguin thinks about his friend far away on another iceberg; he misses her. So off he goes to meet her, launching himself high in the air,


then diving low under the waves,


up towards a tunnel, down through seaweed, inside the tunnel, first pausing bravely outside … and reaching the end of that small tunnel, then out into the big ocean… There he negotiates various marine creatures moving in turn in front, behind, above, below, over or under them before finally catching sight of his destination. His once sad friend, having spotted Little Penguin is now happy as she watches him walking from the bottom of the slope to the top, where they are finally together.
As this brief synopsis shows, Little Penguin’s journey is filled with opposites. The opposing pairs being completed by opening the series of flaps (one per spread) as he moves through the grey murky seascape to his destination atop the distant iceberg.
As well as being a fun book to share with the very young, this straightforward story of friendship has lots of potential for language development with young children especially those for whom English is an additional language.
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After reading the story you can use either puppets or small world toy penguins for the characters, and marine small world creatures. Then with children’s help, build up an Antarctic scene with a short drain-pipe for the tunnel, murky coloured ‘water’ (screwed up tissue paper works well) and small pieces of white fabric draped over shoe boxes or similar. First you and then individual children can then move ‘Little Penguin’ at your instructions, following the route taken in the story. As they gain confidence, the children can tell you where Penguin is and then at a later stage, take over the activity themselves.


red sledge
Lita Judge
Andersen Press pbk.
This near wordless picture book story is sheer delight.
A small child leaves a red sledge propped up outside the house one chilly night. It is found by a large bear who decides to take a joyride. On the way he accumulates a whole host of other woodland creatures and soon they are all enjoying a moonlit descent,


which ends in a glorious eeeeeeeeeee fluoomp …….. ft as the sledge takes flight, crash lands and the riders come tumbling off to land in a huge heap. And what a wonderful sight that is; both bear and rabbit at least, look totally blissed out; Bear spread-eagled on his stomach and white rabbit peering over his head. Bear then picks up the sledge and returns it to the place he found it. Next morning the child notices animal footprints outside leading away from his house. That night, animals and child enjoy another ride – together this time. Wheeeeeeeeee
The whole exhilarating story is told with wonderfully dynamic watercolour illustrations and a sequence of glorious onomatopaeaic sounds. Scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch is just the perfect sound for bear’s footsteps in the snow. But my favourite of all accompanies moose crouching dog style on the sledge with rabbit between his hooves and bear – open mouthed – spread eagled atop moose’s antlers as the sledge bounces
Gadung  Gadung  Gadung  Gadung
down the snowy hillside.
So clever, so spot on for young listeners and beginning readers. Who could possibly want to use dull boring contrived phonic ‘reading’ books when there are brilliant real books like this one?
Destined to be read over and over and …
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Winter’s Child
Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith
Templar Publishing
Tom loves the winter days: he spends them skating and sledging. His Nana in contrast is old and feels the cold badly. Out playing one day, Tom meets a pale boy with ice-blue eyes and they become friends. His new playmate tells Tom he wishes winter could last forever.  At their parting, Tom asks the blue-eyed boy where he lives; “Everywhere and nowhere,” is the reply. That night Tom is unable to dry his wet clothes and he gives his blankets to a now ashen Nana . In the morning it’s a heavy-hearted Tom who goes out to play . He tells his friend about his ailing Nana who is in desperate need of some warm spring sun.
Now both boys have a dilemma.
The winter is long and cold. Tom loves it, but each day the boys play, his Nana grows weaker.


Little does Tom know, when he meets his new friend, that the two of them are prolonging winter. As their friendship blossoms, Tom’s mother uses up all the logs, so he sacrifices his skis and his treehouse ladder for fuel. But there is a much greater sacrifice to be made if Nana, who is becoming increasingly ashen and wasted, is to survive to see another spring. For, unbeknown to Tom, his friend is Winter’s Child and unless he heeds his father’s call to rejoin him and sleep, Spring cannot wake.
This is a magical modern fairy tale of friendship, hardships and difficult decisions. It is wondrously illustrated in shades of blue, white and grey. Baker-Smith’s snow is truly brilliant; he achieves dazzling effects without a single touch of added glitter and his small framed  scenes of the potential human tragedy and the dilemma inherent in the boys’ friendship, set into the snowy landscapes, are a stark contrast to the beauty of the landscapes surrounding them. Hauntingly memorable; a book for all ages and one to return to again and again.
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A book to make you laugh, a book to make you cry, a book to make you sing


Monkey Business
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and David Wojtowycz
Orchard Books
We had the story of Major Trump’s missing knickers: now from the same partnership comes another of those books that quickly reduces early years audiences to uncontrolled giggles. Once again we are on board the ark and Mr Noah has been woken by cries from young monkey, Charlie Chatter who is in desperate need of a wee and has lost his potty. What group of under fives will be able to resist his opening speech?
“ Oh, bother my botty!
          oh where,
          oh where
        is my potty?”
The thought of sitting on the toilet is too distressing for young Charlie so Mr Noah calls upon the other animals for some loo loving anecdotes. These win him over but when he finally heads for his bathroom, the door’s stuck fast. Will the result be a puddle on the floor? Fortunately not for it’s Mrs Noah on the other side doing a spot of DIY on the bathroom roof and guess what she had been using to catch all the drips… All’s well that ends well though and Charlie finally enters the little room for some very important and by then very urgent business.
David Wojtowycz’s bright exuberant illustrations are a real hoot and the perfect complement to the rib-tickling, rhyming text; I especially like the story-reading snakes sitting with their heads in books from the bathroom library; they won’t be out in a hurry then.
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The Memory Tree
Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books
Fox has lived a long, happy life with his friends in the forest but one day he is tired and it is time for him to fall asleep – for ever. He goes to his favourite clearing and as the snow falls and slowly covers him, the other animals gather to remember him.


Owl is the first to share his most precious memory of Fox and then, one by one, Squirrel, Weasel, Bear, Deer, Bird, Rabbit, Mouse and others talk of their favourite memories about Fox. As they do so, a little orange plant begins to peep through the snow and as each animals adds to the story telling, it grows bigger and stronger till in the morning it has become a small tree; and Fox’s friends know in their hearts he is still a part of them. Time passes, the tree grows with each new memory and finally it is large enough to shelter all the animals that had loved Fox: a strength-giving tree of memories and love.
Beautifully told without sentimentality, this book celebrates life, love and friendship. Teckentrup’s  illustrations in suitably subdued colours perfectly capture the sadness of the animals at the loss of their friend and their warmth as they  recount their memories of him. Every turn of the page is a delight.
A tearjerker? Yes if like me you are a bit of a softie but ultimately this is an uplifting book.
Recommended for family reading and a must buy for all primary schools and nursery settings. A lovely book to sit alongside Badger’s Parting Gifts.
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Octopus’s Garden
Ringo Starr and Ben Cort
Simon and Schuster
I defy you to read this book and listen to the accompanying CD without getting the classic number stuck in your brain. Apparently, Ringo Starr wrote it in 1968 when holidaying in Sardinia after a sea captain told him about how octopuses move around the seabed collecting objects. Ringo was taking time out from the Beatles and wanted to escape somewhere; what better place than under the sea?
Back to the book. Here we find a little boy gazing at his goldfish bowl from whence he is transported, along with four of his friends, to a wondrous sub- marine garden. There they ride on turtles, share a story read by their cephalopod host,


cavort on the pillars of an ancient temple and much more.


These joyous scenarios and others are brought into being in ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ artist, Ben Cort’s wonderful illustrations. These absolutely bubble over with the kind of exuberant fun that young children take delight in.
Share the story, listen to the song, listen again and your children will be joining in. Then they can follow the story with the book as it’s read aloud by Ringo. There are opportunities for movement too, when the tune is played over at the end.
Everyone loves the idea of a special place where they can take time out from the real world, away from any worries or niggles they might have and away from watchful adult eyes. This book offers an opportunity for you to invite children to think about and discuss the kind of place they would like to escape to.
I’d definitely include this in an early years sea theme collection and possibly leave a copy in an undersea role-play area for children to enjoy once they have had the book read to them. They (and you) will have to be adept at turning the book around on a couple of occasions, as the page layout becomes portrait to deepen the undersea experiences.
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