When a Dragon Comes to Stay

When a Dragon Comes to Stay
Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

When a scaly creature turns up at number 124 with a shoulder bag it looks as though she’s there for the long haul. Perhaps though, she does need some guidance when it comes to good behaviour.

Snatching toys rather than sharing; breaking the rules in a supposed-to-be co-operative set-up; cheating and messy eating; all these need attending to; so its fortunate for this particular little dragon that she’s found some small, kind, friendly residents ready and willing to lead the way as positive role models:
‘And does she snatch and keep the toys / away from other girls and boys? //Why, no! / Dragons don’t do that! // A dragon knows she must play fair / And wait her turn and always share. / She knows the rules of all the games / and never argues or complains …’

Caryl cleverly alternates the undesirable with the desirable behaviours in a rhyming narrative that gently guides without preaching (in the same way, one hopes teachers/parents model what they hope to see rather than drawing attention to the misdemeanours of little ones).

And of course, allowances need to be made for nobody’s perfect, and certainly not little dragons.
I particularly like the sequence where the dragon’s messy eating is helped when she’s given a stable seat.

In her wonderfully expressive scenes of the adorable humans and their visitor, Ros. brings out the gentle humour in Caryl’s telling, showing how hard the little dragon is trying to behave appropriately.

Altogether a smashing book to share with little humans at home, or in an early years setting.

Toppsta have created some very useful reading records for schools: for further details follow the link.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan
J.M.Barrie, Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
Nosy Crow

Caryl Hart retells in rhyme, the ever-popular J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan, the boy who wanted never to grow up, making it a truly magical experience for children long before they’re able to read the original for themselves.

And to keep up the rhyme so superbly well making it easy on the ear and a pleasure to read aloud – all seventy odd pages of it – is something of a mammoth achievement.

Right from the gorgeous silver embossed cover you know this book is going to be something special and Caryl’s wonderful telling in combination with Sarah’s gorgeous, brilliantly expressive illustrations make it truly that. The characterisation is terrific and every scene worth lingering over.

“Second to the right!” they cried. “Then straight on until morning!” If you start reading this with a child at bedtime, you may well find that enchantment prevails and straight on till morning is exactly what happens.

I love everything about this book and what a smashing present it would make this Christmas season.

Girls Can Do Anything

Girls Can Do Anything
Caryl Hart and Ali Pye
Scholastic
Let’s hear it for girl power!
This is a celebration of what girls can do narrated in Caryl Hart’s enormously empowering jaunty rhyme:
“I’m a GIRL! I’m FANTASTIC! I’m strong, brave and proud!” so say a huge diversity of girls in no uncertain terms as they talk about their attire – anything goes; demonstrate their unique prowess as sports participants and students favouring a huge variety of subjects – maths, writing, science, music, art and more.
The older they get, the more amazing they become: there are environmentalists, vets, zookeepers, scientists of all kinds, machine operators

and life-savers.

They can be rough and tough or soft and gentle, they can speak up for others …

and a great many help improve people’s lives.

Ali Pye’s cast of splendidly inclusive young females have enormous va-va-voom;

and the front endpapers are a gallery style presentation of possibilities for the future, while those at the back are fifteen named portraits (some more recognisable than others) of high achievers in many walks of life including Malala Yousafzai, Serena Williams, Olympic medallist LGBTQ boxer Nicola Adams, first woman-British firefighter Josephine Reynolds and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Having read the book together with a five year old in the park after school , I spent 15 minutes exploring the endpapers with her; a woman came and sat on our bench with her phone. After a couple of minutes she put it away asking if she could listen as she thought the book ‘so brilliant’. I said ‘Be my guest’. She then called her friend over to share the experience. Five-year-old Emmanuelle instantly recognised Serena Williams but I had a fair bit of explaining to do with several of the others. Well worth the effort though.

In short, in this highly infectious adulation, it’s a case of no holds barred when it comes to girls; they’re undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, cheered and applauded. Once again, let’s hear it for girl power!

Lunch on a Pirate Ship

Lunch on a Pirate Ship
Caryl Hart and Kristina Stephenson
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Pirates rule yet again, or is it young Jack, in this lipsmacking adventure that rollicks and rolls along apace in Caryl Hart’s seemingly effortless, rhyming narrative.

Let’s meet Jack then: he’s something of a fussy eater – I’m sure we all know a few of those – and one day, a fine one perhaps like today, he decides that cold chips and crunchy baked beans do nothing to tempt his taste buds.

Instead he fantasises about the possibilities of lunch aboard a pirate ship. Now what might those salty souls sink their gnashers into by way of a lunchtime treat, he wonders – pongy pickled crabs and rancid rotten fish maybe?

Rejecting this unappetising dish, both pirates and Jack set off in search of other more promising fare.

What the giant offers is little better …

so he too joins the hunt – as passenger carrier – and off they all go following a sweet-smelling scent, eventually coming upon a fantastic feast laid out in a field.
Uh-oh! First they must cross a bridge and we all, children in particular, know what might be lurking somewhere in the vicinity of one of those.

What takes place thereafter, I won’t reveal for fear of spoiling your appetite for the remainder of the tale, but let’s just say, they do all, or almost all, get home in time to appreciate their tea that includes some pretty delectable offerings, so long as they eat their greens, that is.

Kristina Stephenson eschews her ‘stinky socks’ for a sojourn on the high seas doing it with absolute appetising aplomb as befits this truly tasty story that so brilliantly mixes food and fairy tale.

Swapsies / Say Sorry, Sidney!

Swapsies
Fiona Roberton
Hodder Children’s Books

There’s a delightful lesson in the importance of friendship and learning to share in this latest book from talented author/illustrator Fiona Roberton whose books have all been winners with me.
Fang has a favourite toy, an amazing yellow, stripey, squeezy, thing with an aroma of bananas; he loves Sock more than anything else.
Enter Philip with his magnificent shiny red train, which looks a whole lot more exciting than Sock. Being a good sharer, Philip agrees to a swap.

A similar thing happens with the bouncy toy belonging to Simon. But then disaster strikes …

and Fang is left toyless and missing his old favourite.
Is he to be without his beloved Sock forever more or is there perhaps a way they can be re-united.
Fiona’s characters are adorable; her dialogue superb: “What happened to Ball?” asked Simon. “Ball is no longer with us,” says Fang; and the finale (which I won’t divulge) leaves room for the children’s imaginations to take over and draw their own conclusions.

Say Sorry, Sidney!
Caryl Hart and Sarah Horne
Hodder Children’s Books

Resident of the zoo, rhino Sidney feels lonely so he decides to make a break for it and heads for the farm.
Once there, the creature starts helping himself to anything and everything that takes his fancy. First he scoffs Mr Potts lunch, then ruins all the washing on Aunt Ann’s clothes line. How wonderfully affronted she looks …

Not content with that he destroys young Emily’s den and smashes all her favourite toys. Even worse, despite their protests of innocence, everyone blames their loss on whichever farm animal happens to be on the scene at the time.
Rhino? What Rhino? / That cannot be true. / There’s only one rhino / and he’s in the zoo.” Is what the accusers all say to the accused.
Come the evening, those farm animals have had enough; time to confront that rhino and teach him a lesson they decide.

Will Sidney finally see the error of his ways, learn some manners and become a valued member of the farm community, or will it be back to the zoo for him?
With its join-in-able repeat refrain, the jaunty rhyme bounces along nicely and Sarah Horne’s wonderfully quirky characters, both animal and human, are quite splendid.

Playful Pets: Buster and the Baby / Big Box Little Box

Buster and the Baby
Amy Hest and Polly Dunbar
Walker Books
A very boisterous toddler and a lively little dog star in this rumbustious romp of a picture book.
The dog’s called Buster and the infant – a female – is just called baby. Both are charmers and live with baby’s parents in a little red house.
There’s nothing Buster enjoys more than a game of hide-and-seek with the infant,

a pretty hazardous activity when it comes to finding suitable hiding places, from baby’s parents viewpoint, that is.
As for Buster, his heart goes THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! as he waits and watches for baby to come …

CHAAA! out of the shadows like a small thunderbolt right at him with joyful exuberance.
The two of them cavort through the house and garden, and the book, all day until finally, it’s baby’s bedtime. Now it’s her turn to hide and wait …

Engaging textual repetition and exuberant, warm-hearted illustrations make this a lovely one to share with toddlers at any time of day.
A delight through and through.

Big Box Little Box
Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Experience has shown me that young children love to play in and with boxes but cats? Seemingly they too enjoy boxes; though I suppose I should have known, thanks to Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd’s My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.
Certainly it’s the case in this book wherein the moggy character is a real box aficionado exploring the plethora of boxes to be found in his home, be they large, small, fat, thin, flat even. And they come in so many different colours …

and with attractive designs.
Taking things almost literally results in some interesting uses where this feline is concerned …

Now though he’s found a box that something has been having a nibble at; I wonder what that might be.
‘Cat peeks.’ Something squeaks …
Could this be the start of a beautiful new (although rather unlikely) friendship? …

Caryl Hart’s minimal text provides designer Edward Underwood a playful scenario with which to co-create his debut picture book. He does so with panache.

I’ve signed the charter  

Let’s Go to Nursery! / Will You Be My Friend?

Let’s Go to Nursery!
Caryl Hart and Lauren Tobia
Walker Books
We join Bee and Billy (and their mums) at the door of a nursery. The session is already in full swing with all kinds of exciting activities taking place. The children give their mums a farewell hug and Bee eagerly begins to join in. Billy however, is more reluctant and a tad clingy. He soon gets drawn in though, thanks to a ‘message’ full of kindness …

Happy noisy play ensues until there’s a dispute over ownership of a large toy; but Billy, surely a fast learner, comes to the rescue and all is well once more.
There’s so much fun to be had, so many things to share and so much playful learning – just how it should be.

All too soon though, it’s time to help tidy up; the mums are back and it’s farewell until tomorrow: a happy, exhausting day spent and the prospect of many more to come.
Caryl Hart and Lauren Tobia paint a lively portrait of nursery life without the intrusion of the nursery staff: they, one hopes, are observing and sometimes, gently encouraging and perhaps guiding, unobtrusively from the side-lines.
The first of the First Experiences series for ‘a new generation of little readers’ the publishers say. Perhaps ‘little listeners’ would be more accurate, but no matter which, its intended young audience will find plenty to enjoy; it’s as well that the book is sturdily made with wipe-clean pages as I foresee a lot of enthusiastic handling.

Will You Be My Friend?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is a title from Bloomsbury’s Featherstone imprint and has something of an educational slant: There’s plenty to think about and discuss; and the whole thing is invitingly illustrated with a sequence of vignettes. These are captioned and each spread opens with a question on an aspect of friendship: ‘What do you do when a friend upsets you?’ and ‘What do your friends think of you?’ for instance. Notes from a friendly puggish pup offer further food for thought at the bottom of each right hand page.

A final spread is aimed at parents, although I see this book being used in preschool and KS1 sessions on ‘What makes a good friend?’ too. It’s all very nicely and inclusively done though personally, I prefer emotional and social learning to be part and parcel of picture books’ stories rather than books specially created for the purpose.

I’ve signed the charter