A Friend for Bear

A Friend for Bear
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger

When Little Bear wakes from her long winter sleep she cannot wait to embrace spring with all its exciting possibilities for running, flower smelling, tadpole tickling and twirling.

It’s the twirling that causes her to trip and fall flat. What she fell over wasn’t in fact the stone she thought but a tortoise.

Tortoise is excited to hear about Little Bear’s plans for roly-polying, tree climbing and making new friends but knows his short legs are no match for Little Bear’s.

Bear offers Tortoise a piggyback and away they speed, with the former anything but aware of potential new pals and sweet smelling flowers they pass, right up to the top of a small hill.

After a downhill tumble the two narrowly miss hurtling into a tree. Tortoise just wants to sit and allow his head to stop spinning.

Unmindful of Tortoise’s predicament Little Bear hoists Tortoise on her shoulders again dashing up the hill only to zoom straight back down to the water’s edge. Once again Little Bear doesn’t stop long enough to allow Tortoise to finish speaking and in they leap.

Poor Tortoise can take no more. With a waterlogged shell and worse, he spells it out to Little Bear. “You never stop to listen, or think, or make friends.”

At last Little Bear pays attention to what’s being said; friendship wins through and both creatures eagerly anticipate another day in each other’s company.

Caroline Pedler shows the cuddly bear cub, with Tortoise holding on for dear life, dashing through verdant meadows and sunlit woods alive with spring flora and fauna. Like Little Bear, little humans (and big ones) can all benefit from slowing down and enjoying being in the moment as Steve’s protagonists finally demonstrate in his telling.

Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? / I’m Not Grumpy!

Will You Help Me Fall Asleep?
Anna Kang & Christpoher Weyant
Hodder Children’s Books

Little Frog is anxious to fall asleep and asks readers to help him for if he doesn’t get sufficient sleep his mother won’t allow him to participate in the Frogatta boat races the following day; in other words he’ll be in BIG, big trouble and there’s no fooling his observant mum.

He tries our (supposed) suggested counting sheep, a bedtime book – definitely not the best idea – and a chat with last year’s prize caterpillar toy all of which fail and then he recalls his teacher, Miss Chon’s advice to breathe long and deep then mind travel to his ‘happy place …

and joy of joys, zzzzzzzz.

Whether the final wordless spread is Monty’s blissful dream or the young frog’s elated presence (along with his parents) at the next day’s Frogatta is left open to readers to decide: no matter which, one cannot help but root for little amphibious Monty in this frog-a-licious bedtime tale.

With Christpher Weyant’s super, lively, cartoonish scenes of Anna Kang’s dramatic telling, the book is enormous fun for pre-sleep sharing, especially for little ones with a touch of insomnia.

I’m Not Grumpy!
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger

Waking up to discover a huge furry bottom blocking your door might put most of us in a bad mood; it certainly does Mouse whose mood further deteriorates when he’s splatted on the nose by – so he thinks – a splashy raindrop.

In fact it’s a tear shed by a distraught little badger just outside his window wailing, “Where’s my Mummy?”

Together the two animals set off in search of the Mummy Badger only to find themselves lost.

Encounters with Squirrel and Owl both of which recognise Mouse as ‘that grumpy mouse”, (hotly denied by said Mouse), are willing to help in the search and off they all go deep into the forest.

There they come upon a large bear. On learning that Mouse is in fact helping Little Badger get home, the bear changes his grumpy accusation to “a kind friend”; a first for Mouse.

They travel deeper into the forest until Mouse becomes overwrought

which results in Owl giving him a cheer-up hug – another unusual event for the little creature. Suddenly out of the bushes emerges a very scary, very hungry predator.

Does that mean Squirrel, Badger, Owl and Mouse become a lupine’s evening meal?

Happily not. I won’t divulge the ending, but what ensues will certainly bring a happy smile to the faces of young listeners.

With opportunities for audience participation, Steve’s warm-hearted story with Caroline Pedler’s expressively portrayed woodland animals provides a good starting point for circle time discussion with early years children on themes of friendship, kindness, and on how their moods might affect other people.

Scaredy Bear

Scaredy Bear
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press

What’s BIG and HAIRY and cause for alarm in the deep, dark forest? According to Little Bob’s mother (rabbit) one bedtime, it’s a terrible creature with a roar like thunder, huge scary teeth and long, equally scary, claws.

Little Bob however, wants to find out about this creature for himself and so waiting until his mum is fast asleep, he arms himself with an extra pointy carrot and creeps out into the forest: a forest that in the moonlight looks considerably more scary than it does by day.

Having narrowly dodged a hunting owl, he dives into a huge bush only to discover it isn’t a bush at all but an enormous ursine creature. He tells the creature about the BIG HAIRY; they introduce themselves to one another and having decided to become friends, the two Bobs Big and Little, continue the search together.

When Bear, now hungry, asks about Little Bob’s carrot, he’s told it isn’t for sharing but instead the little rabbit intends sticking it up the Big Hairy’s nose. Ouch!

This prompts Big Bob to comment on Little Bob’s unexpected bravery. “How can you be so brave when you are so small?” he wants to know. ‘Because,” comes the whispered response, “I’m big on the inside.” He also tells Big Bob that he too must have a big bear hiding within if only he could let it out.
By this time Little Bob too is feeling hunger pangs so his pal goes off in search of food. Suddenly from behind leaps a very hungry fox.

Now Big Bob needs to find that inner big bear in time to save his friend from becoming fox’s supper. He lets out an enormous …

and that gives the game away well and truly.

When Little Bob finally realises who his saviour is, can the two of them sort things out between them without the little rabbit having recourse to that carrot of his? Or could there perhaps be a better use for it …

Steve Smallman’s lovely story about finding your inner strength and making a special friend is a great reminder that we can all be brave no matter our shape or size so long as we have the confidence to draw on our inner resources.
Caroline Pedler’s moonlit woodland scenes are aglow with tension and she captures the animals’ changing feelings wonderfully.

Operation Rescue!

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Intergalactic Ed and the Space Pirates
Ella Denton and Jamie Littler
Oxford University Press
Just behind Ed’s bedroom wall, safely hidden by a panel, lies his Intergalactic Operations Headquarters so when through his bedroom window, Ed notices the troubled-looking moon, it takes almost no time for him to alert his cat Sputnik , grab his Turbo Torch and backpack, don his spacesuit, step into the Space Transporter Capsule and zoom off into space.

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Before long, into view comes the largest spaceship in the galaxy –the Interplanetary Plunderer no less. And what’s that? A gang of pirates intent on a dastardly, almost unbelievable plan: to steal the moon itself. Can Ed, with his knowledge about the lunar landscape not to mention the relative size of the moon vis-à-vis Jupiter’s moon Ganymede foil the plot, especially in the face of threats from the ghostly galactic crew? …

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Let’s just say, that the marauding crew hadn’t quite reckoned on the guile of Ed’s faithful Sputnik and his beguiling feline footwork …

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With Jamie Littler’s frenetic, cartoon style illustrations, this far-fetched frolic with its sprinkling of facts, will definitely appeal to those who like their action fast, furious and full of fun.

Much gentler but also involving a dramatic air-born rescue and teamwork is

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Badger and the Great Rescue
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
When Badger and his pals discover some bits and pieces lying abandoned in various places, they are quick to put them to good use: a washing line for Mouse, a new shed for Hedgehog and then there’s that large piece of red and yellow cloth. It would be ideal for a tent, a hammock and perhaps a kite – once the friends have shared it fairly that is.
Then all of a sudden, down swoops Bird with news of a little mole stranded in a tree …

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And that little mole knows just what the ‘trampoline’ offered for him to leap onto is a part of. Then it’s time for the friends to abandon their original creative plans and work together on operation repair and rescue.

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Heroes Small and Large

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Mighty Small
Timothy Knapman and Rosie Reeve
Oxford University Press
Meet Max, a diminutive would-be superhero who wears a cape and his pants over his trousers. Despite his best efforts however, Max’s superhero status goes unrecognized and he is forced to abandon the role, until that is, the circus comes to town. In all the razzle dazzle none of the townsfolk notices the shady goings on of some of the so-called performers who are actually bent on robbing the town of its riches. Time to prove himself a scared Max decides and it’s a case of BADDIE PANTS BEWARE! as our young rodent leaps into action and is immediately hot on the heels of the dastardly thieves.

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Before long Max is inside the Big Top yelling threatening orders to the robbers as he casts an almighty shadow in front of them. Their leader however isn’t that easily fooled and there follows some aerobatics and more on Max’s part before he finds himself face to face with Mr Big himself. It’s then that Max realizes his superpower and on hearing what the clowns say, has no hesitation in putting it into action …

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Guess what young Max spends his reward money on …

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A slightly crazy story which demonstrates that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes – a powerful message for young children – delivered by author and artist with panache and humour, not to mention a smattering of Ka-Pows Yee-harrs, Thwacks, Whumpfs and Pows.

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Dinosaur Rocket!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow pbk
The dinosaur team returns with the fourth adventure in the series. So, it’s to the launch pad and after the final countdown,

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they’re off into space for a lunar expedition. Just imagine the size of their spacecraft to house such enormous crew members.
On arrival they drive their buggies,

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post their flag, for no dinosaurs have ever before been to the moon, then it’s time for space soccer and some collecting of rock samples. But before long it seems, the cosmonauts are blasting off back towards home and a safe splashdown on the ocean.
Dinosaurs and space are two endlessly popular topics with young audiences who will doubtless relish the combination of the two, herein. Penny Dale’s energetic illustrations (which also include other machines) are full of fascinating details and have enormous child appeal.

 

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Big Pet Day
Lisa Shanahan and Gus Gordon
Templar Publishing pbk
Mrs Dalton’s class is having a Pet Day and there’s to be a competition for the best pet. Courtney has brought hermit crabs, Ahmed, a pair of parrots, Caleb, a puppy, Sofia a duck, Glen, a ferret and Jody has her pony. Lily’s pet is a dragon. ‘There’s no such thing as dragons,’ Courtney maintains and continues in similar vein throughout. Soon with all those squawks, squeaks, quacks and woofs, the classroom has become a veritable menagerie. Best pet behaviour is supposed to be the order of the day but …

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The entire day is devoted to pet activities: there’s a carpet time discussion, a dried dog food eating contest between Caleb’s puppy and Glen (unofficial),

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the children draw pictures of their pets (Lily’s being the favourite – it shows her flying on her dragon’s back), lunchtime brings a show of pet tricks and after there’s the competition judging by headteacher, Mr Fisher.
The event turns out to be a rip-roaring success … kind of.
The winner of the large gold trophy is …

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With an action-packed text, a whole host of lively characters – human and animal, spot-on dialogue and amusing, wonderfully detailed mixed media illustrations, this is both a visual and verbal treat of a tale. I can see it becoming very popular in early years settings and younger primary classrooms.

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Badger and the Great Storm
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
This heartwarming tale features selfless Badger who, on hearing from Mouse that a terrible storm is on its way, puts friendship and the safety of his friends’ homes before his own. The resourceful character goes to great lengths to ensure that Rabbit’s burrow, Bird’s nest

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and Mouse’s hole are secure from the deluge and then stays overnight with Rabbit and his family. But on the morning following the storm his friends discover that disaster has struck Badger’s oak tree home. Badger however is not daunted. “Every problem has a solution!” he comments accepting their offers of help. Then together the friends set to work to create a very special new residence

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for their hero who finds an important use for Hedgehog’s tiny acorn.
A great message about being a true friend that offers children at home or in an early years setting a starting point for an exploration of friendship. The sight of badger sharing a bedtime story with all those baby rabbits is something to celebrate

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and I was delighted to learn that Badger prioritised the rescuing of his books in the aftermath of the storm. A creature after my own heart.

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