The Fairy Dogmother

The Fairy Dogmother
Caroline Crowe and Richard Merritt
Little Tiger

This playful modern fairy tale has its origins in Cinderella and is set in Woofington’s Dog Shelter, home to most of the characters in the book including Cinders. This resident is just contemplating lunch when suddenly one Priscilla Paws, Fairy dog mother announces herself and offers Cinders a wish – “Whatever will make you the happiest you can be,” she suggests.

Now Cinders is pretty satisfied already with his home, food and friends so he tells Priscilla, but the fairy urges him to make haste before the wish times out. Unable to come up with anything, Cinders consults his friends and every one has a different suggestion, Boris’s idea being a ball … How do you think Priscilla envisages that one?

The clock ticks on and Cinders’ time is almost up …

when suddenly Old Wally has a brilliant proposal. Kind-hearted Cinders happily makes the wish but it leaves him without any companions. Or does it? For as Priscilla’s experience tells her and she tells Cinders, “fairy tails always have a happy ending” …

Dreams sometimes do come true, perhaps even when the dreamers don’t realise what their deepest wishes are.

Be they bursting with detail and pattern or less ornate, Richard Merritt’s vibrant humorous scenes completely fill every page and along with Caroline Crowe’s positive message about Cinders’ kindness and generosity,.this is a fun book to share with youngsters, preferably once they know a traditional version of Cinderella.

How Do You Make a Rainbow? / Finney’s Story

Positivity shines through in both these recent picture books:

How Do You Make a Rainbow?
Caroline Crowe and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Macmillan Children’s Books

Rainbows have always been symbols of hope but during the last year have come to symbolise not only that hope of better things to come, but also our appreciation of NHS staff and other key workers with children everywhere creating their own rainbows to say thank you.

This book starts with a little girl and her grandad looking out on a grey rainy world and the child asking for his help to create a cheering up the sky rainbow. Rather than offering a scientific answer, Grandad explains that rainbows aren’t really painted; rather they’re created from kindness and hope, love and thinking of others.

Then, taking one colour at a time,

he goes on to give examples of small, everyday things that bring and give cheer both to others and ourselves.
Told in Caroline’s jaunty rhyme and through Cally’s playful, vibrant illustrations that exude positivity and kindness,

this is a hugely heartwarming book (with two final spreads of activities), for sharing both at home and in foundation stage settings. Definitely one to reach for if you’re feeling a bit down; it will surely act as a reminder of focusing on the positive things in life.

Finney’s Story
Alana Washington and Charlotte Caswell
UCLan Publishing

Finney the fox is an aspiring book author but he has a lot to learn about the whole process of authorship. Fortunately however, he has a moggy friend that is ready and willing to offer some helpful advice, or should that be, criticism. The trouble is, does Finney really have any ideas of the original kind,

let alone an understanding of what that word actually means.

Cat’s suggested visit to the library …

leaves him even more dispirited “All the original stories are gone,” he reports. Finney does notice something else however, something that might just be of assistance. But will this ‘ideas machine’ as he calls himself ever actually produce the goods?

Listeners will love being in the know with Cat as Finney puts forward his proposed storylines from traditional tales in this dialogue between the two friends. They’ll love too, Charlotte Caswell’s bold illustrations with their silhouettes depicting the fairytale characters Finney mentions in his story openers.

There’s a QR code inside the front cover which when scanned gives access to a free Sarah-Ann Kennedy audio reading of the book.

Tiny Tantrum

Tiny Tantrum
Caroline Crowe and Ella Okstad
Little Tiger Press

Temper tantrums are part and parcel of being a toddler and the little girl in this story is no exception.

Indeed she seems to have got the whole tantrum thing down to a fine art causing windows to wobble, jelly to shake and birds to fall from trees and all because mum has requested that she put on her coat.
Enter one purple hairy monster with talk of a freezing bottom and hence no fun and before you can say ‘chilly bum’, the little miss has donned her coat and is meekly following her mum.
All is fun and cuddles until back home at lunchtime. Then comes tantrum number two: it’s broccoli induced. Fortunately there just happens to be an apron- wearing monster to advise on improving the taste of veggies too; and it works like magic.

Those are not the only tantrums Tiny throws during the course of her busy day, but each time it happens there’s a monster on hand with timely advice.
Come bedtime though, Tiny has four very lively monsters to put to bed. Can she gain the upper hand and get them to take one final bounce, right into bed and stay there?

She’s certainly had some good training.
Ella Okstad’s portrayal of the capricious infant shows her ticklish temperament to great effect in an offbeat colour palette, and Caroline Crow’s rhyming narrative is just right for sharing with tinies especially those of a tantrum-prone nature.

I’ve signed the charter  

Wild Imaginings by Day & Night

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Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes
Tim Wynne-Jones and Brian Won
Walker Books
Who wouldn’t want a pair of funky tiger-striped trainers like those acquired by the young hero of this delightfully quirky book? That’s getting ahead of the story though. First, meet S.A.M. Secret Agent Man, a boy with a fertile imagination …

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Oops! That’s getting ahead too but that’s the way this Wynne-Jones’ story works. Let’s get back to the start with K. and the lad in question. K. – his carer? Mum? – or sidekick? is busy … when she decides her charge needs new footwear.
Off they go to the shop and eventually, despite his original thoughts on rocket shoes or vanishing ones, S.A.M. decides on ones with tiger stripes. (They have laces, but that’s part of the challenge when you’re a super hero.)

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In fact two pairs are purchased – one child sized, the other adult – K. gets the same kind; then off they go for a spot of lunch.

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The day continues with all kinds of danger and attempted dastardly deeds (someone tries stealing the Plans for World Domination, no less), spy meetings and the disappearance of K.

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But, nothing’s too difficult for S.A.M. now he’s sporting those tiger trainers and off he goes. Did I just see him tie those laces himself? – to undertake a rescue mission of the trickiest kind. ROAR!
As the story moves between the boy’s imagined, ‘undercover’ life, and his real one, Brian Won switches from shades of blue and black to a full-colour palette in his retro-style illustrations. Cleverly conceived and skilfully executed, this shift between the boy’s two worlds is effectively managed and I particularly like the restaurant scene wherein child and adult become co-conspirators and fellow roarers. Hurray for childhood’s imagination and for all those adults who manage to retain their playful inner-child.

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Is That an Elephant in My Fridge?
Caroline Crowe and Claudia Ranucci
Scholastic Children’s Books
I liked Fred from the outset: he’s a divergent thinker. When his mum suggests counting sheep to help the boy drop off to sleep, Fred instead, decides to count elephants: he visualises them too. Visualises them in all manner of exciting scenarios …

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until things begin to get out of control …

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Finally Fred has to take matters in hand …

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After all the exhausting action, unsurprisingly as soon as Fred’s head hits the pillow again, he’s fast asleep: no more counting elephants for him.
A book to induce delight for sure: it’s certainly true of those I’ve shared it with. I suggest you don’t use it as a bedtime story however; you never know what might ensue …

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Claudia Ranucci’s energetic illustrations – this is her UK picture book debut – highlight the humour of Caroline Crow’s telling splendidly.

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Pirates Ahoy!

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Are You the Pirate Captain?
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
The ship’s a-ready, the deck swabbed, even the crew’s had a wash but there’s still something stopping those pirates setting sail: what ever can it be? Even the best pirate ship is no good without a pirate captain – a giant squid consumed the previous one – so, the search is well and truly on. First Mate Hugh, with his trusty telescope, is on the lookout for a worthy successor:
               A buccaneer
           Who will strike fear
         In every sailor’s heart.
Several misidentifications later – a coat-hanger for a hook,

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a brolly for a parrot …

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a shopping list for a treasure map, but surely the chap sporting pirate gear must be the one.

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Not quite but he does help the crew find a solution to their leadership dilemma and then it’s a case of brains to the fore …
    ‘He diddle-he and a hey diddle-hey,
     Weigh the anchor, we sail today!
     Hey diddle hey and a he diddle-ho,
       Hoist the flag … and off we go!’
With its jaunty rhyming telling and gigglesome visuals, this swashbuckling tale, complete with sea shanty is likely to appeal to would-be young sea dogs especially those who enjoy a book where things are not quite as they seem.

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Dolci absorbed in the piratical doings

Pirates in Pyjamas
Caroline Crowe and Tom Knight
Little Tiger Press
There seems to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present and now here’s first time author Caroline Crowe answering the question ‘Do pirates wear pyjamas when it’s time to say goodnight?/ Do they have a skull and crossbones, are they stripy, black and white? that two small children are pondering.
The answer is seemingly, where pirates and pyjamas are concerned, pretty much anything goes

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as we see when we join Captain Grotbeard and his crew aboard the Leaky Parrot as they perform their ablutions, then step into their night attire. Before retiring for the night however there’ll probably be the obligatory pyjama party, not to mention the odd spot of pillow fighting.
All this action calls for a nightcap though …

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And finally, it’s time to bed down for some shut-eye wherever you are.

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Tom Knight illustrates the nocturnal frolics illuminating the rhyming text with verve and humour, adding chucklesome details here and there.

Finally, a reissue of a classic piratical tale from over fifty years ago is:

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Captain Pugwash
John Ryan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
This is the very first of what became a popular series of picture books featuring Pugwash the pirate captain, his arch enemy Cut-throat Jake and Tom, the cabin boy: the latter being the only person able to do the important jobs aboard The Black Pig – sailing the ship, working the compass and making tea.
In this adventure we discover what happens when Pugwash attempts to seize the treasure stashed aboard the ship belonging to Cut-throat Jake and is taken prisoner and made to walk the plank by Jake and his crew.
As becomes the norm in subsequent stories, it’s really down to trusty young Tom to save the day and the Captain. …

 

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Great stuff.

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