Jasper & Scruff Take a Bow / My Robot’s Gone Wild

These are two new titles from Little Tiger’s Stripes imprint both featuring already popular characters. Thanks to the publishers for sending them for review.

Jasper & Scruff Take a Bow
Nicola Colton

The unlikely best friends Jasper, a dapper feline and mud loving Scruff the pup return for a third adventure.
When Jasper hears of the Reach For the Stars talent show to be held at the town hall the following afternoon the two can’t wait to take part. There’s a snag though: Scruff wants them to enter as a dazzling magic making twosome; Jasper wants to do a solo act, one he’s polished up from a previous occasion.

During the heats Jasper’s act fails to impress the judges and he’s eliminated whereas Scruff manages to get through to the finals. Finals for which the winner will receive a Grand Prize – a week on stage performing alongside Marvello the Magnificent. 

It’s a prize that Sophisticat Lady Catterly has set her sights on.
Perhaps now Scruff and Jasper should join forces to try and wow the judges.

Come the finals however, there appears to be some chicanery at work where Lady C and the Sophisticats are concerned. Time for Jasper and Scruff to do a spot of detective work of the underground variety to discover exactly what is going on.

With detailed illustrations that fizz with energy and gentle humour on every spread, this entertaining drama is perfect for young solo readers at that crucial in-between stage. Scruff and Jasper are a hugely endearing pair and there are some interesting bit part players in the cast of characters too.

Equally, Nicola’s lively narrative style with its occasional puns and plenty of snappy dialogue makes the book work well as a read aloud.

My Robot’s Gone Wild
Dave Cousins, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Changes are afoot in the fourth of Dave Cousins’ Robot adventures featuring the robot babysitter Robin created by twins Jess and Jake’s inventor Grandma.

As the story opens year six has just ended and the twins, accompanied by a robot (not Robin) dressed to look like Grandma, Ivana and Ali, and Digby dog, are on a train en route to the Scottish countryside. The purpose is a holiday visit to Robin currently in hiding with Grandma at Granny Anderson’s who lives in a remote spot near Loch Wilder. Said Granny (the twins motorbike riding great grandmother) has organised some ‘wild camping’ for the visitors.

The first shock is the nature of the location, the second is the change in Robin. The robot now bears some resemblance to a tree and thanks to upgrades by Grandma, has new feet and hands and sports army-style shorts and shirt. Grandma certainly hasn’t been idle while in Scotland: she’s also created pop-up tents as well as a ‘water-dragon-submarine’ supposedly to help with catching cattle rustlers.

Then a spot of fishing lands Jake (narrator) in icy cold water: this holiday certainly doesn’t look too promising especially when hedgerow stew is served up for supper. 

Surely day two must be better but …

So much happens during the rest of the holiday and by the time they leave, the children have accepted among other things, that it will be without the physical Robin although they take something with them that will make it feel as though he’s still with them.

It seems as though this is the final story in Dave Cousins’ madcap robot series, so amusingly illustrated by Catalina Echeverri. I know a fair few readers who, like Jess and Jake, will be sorry to say farewell.

A Robot Ate My Grandma / Level Up! Last One Standing

A Robot Ate My Grandma
Dave Cousins, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
Little Tiger

This is the third in the series about twins Jake and Jess and their babysitter robot, Robin.

Now in addition to minding the children, Robin has a new job – or rather two: he’s in charge of the lighting for the school play (a musical version of Little Red Riding Hood) and also acting as the narrator of same.

But then the robot starts mal-functioning time and again and the only person who can fix him is his creator, the twins’ STEM expert Grandma. The trouble is she’s gone AWOL and in her place is – can you believe – a robot, albeit an excellent Grandma look-alike.

Mum assures them Grandma has merely gone on holiday so it’s down to the twins to sort things out.

Then they discover someone in her garage workshop and having inadvertently shot the old person, it turns out that she’s none other than Granny Andersen, the twins’ great grandmother accompanied by her ferret, Wee Freddie.

Now there’s a semblance of a team,

but can they discover what’s really happened to Granny, and if necessary, pull off a rescue?

There’s plenty to keep newly independent readers turning the pages of this zany story, not least being the introduction of a new character, Granny Andersen. There are also lots of laughs, a fair few tense moments and terrific illustrations by Catalina Echeverri breaking up the text and adding additional humour and drama to the telling.

Level Up! Last One Standing
Tom Nicoll, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
Little Tiger

Video-game obsessed best friends Flo (narrator) and Max are stuck inside a video game series. As this book opens, one minute they’re in a plane flying over Last to Leave terrain and the next they are parachuting (just) down to land in the middle of the village square. Game on.

Before long they find themselves face to face with an old adversary, Rhett Hodges, commonly known as Hodges claiming he wants to team up with them. But can he be trusted?

Time’s running out so should they take a chance on his offer?Seemingly it’s their one chance and Flo’s Mum needs saving. Determined to make it to the end and get back home, they get into a speedboat with Hodges and away they go.

Fast and furious is the action and with so much at stake in the toughest battle ever, readers will be on the edge of their seats right to the very end. There are plenty of Anjan Sarkar’s black and white illustrations to add to the dramatic atmosphere throughout.

Only One Of Me

Only One Of Me
Lisa Wells, Michelle Robinson and Catalina Echeverri

Less than twelve months ago at just thirty-one, Lisa Wells, mother of two young children, was diagnosed with terminal bowel and liver cancer. Instead of letting herself become overwhelmed by gloom, Lisa was determined to leave something very special to show her abiding and unconditional love for her two little girls, and also to help other families in similar situations. Part of this is Lisa’s Army UK and the other is Only One of Me, the book, which, thanks to co-writer and friend Michelle Robinson, illustrator Catalina Echeverri and crowd funding, was completed in a matter of months.

Speaking in rhyme to her children Lisa wistfully acknowledges that her time left is all too short and insufficient to do all that she’d hoped with her little ones.

Instead, with the loving support of those left behind (family and friends),

the remainder of her message is one of enormously inspiring positivity: ‘Be kind! Be Brave! Be free! Remember all our joy and fun / When you remember me. Love you always, Mummy xxx’ she tells the girls.

The love this mother has for her family shines through in every one of Catalina Echeverri’s beautiful illustrations.

There’s also a version of the book – ‘A love letter from Dad’ illustrated by Tim Budgen and both artists waived their illustrator’s fees and like the co-authors are giving their royalties from sales to We Hear You (WHY) and Mummy’s Star charities.

Powerful, poignant and comforting, this is a book that nobody wants to have to use, but one that could offer essential reading for families facing and coping with, impending bereavement.

Not Enough for Queen Fluff / Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

Not Enough For Queen Fluff
Rachel Lyon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing
Queen Fluff has everything a person (or a fancy bunny) could want: a large, lavishly furnished burrow full of queenly comforts, quite the opposite of all her subjects. They live in near poverty out in the Kingdom beyond the palace boundaries. Riches, as most of us know, don’t equate to happiness though, and thus it is with Queen Fluff who spends a bored, lonely existence.
So her royal bunnyness sends out a communication to all the other bunnies …


It’s hardly the way to win friends methinks, but how do the recipients respond?
They certainly start making some plans for their royal visitor. She meanwhile, sets off with bulging bags, eagerly anticipating a welcome befitting her regal status. What she gets however, is something of a surprise, or rather a shock, as she visits burrow after burrow in search of delight.


And what of that ten-course feast she’s set her sights on? Well, those rabbits surely know how to serve up a surprise menu; but is it one that will cause their monarch to eat her words? It might just be …


With a rhyming text from Rachel Lyon that simply rolls off the tongue, mixed with super-cute, funny illustrations from Catalina Echeverri …


this book has gone down very well with my audiences. I had great fun with one group suggesting their own disgusting courses to serve up to Queen Fluff.


Ellena snuggled up for the story

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast
Christine Pym
Nosy Crow
Little Mouse has a big appetite or so it seems; but maybe not: let’s wait and see.
We first meet our intrepid little hero one chilly evening when he’s decidedly peckish and having nothing ready for a breakfast nibble the following morning.
Fortunately though, Little Mouse knows just where to go and off he sets, scampering along the footpath, scaling the drainpipe and hopping in through an open window where on the table he spies this …


followed quickly by a rosy apple and then a whole lot of ‘big brown biscuits’ …


But that’s not all. Pretty soon, despite the odd doubt about the deliciousness of one or two items, he has all this precariously balanced …


Guess what though: he then spots the ABSOLUTE perfect item for a tasty breakfast – one ‘shiny, stripy sunflower seed’ and of course he just HAS to have it … Seems someone else is after that perfect breakfast too and we know what that is …


I wonder who gets their perfect breakfast – that would be tale telling, wouldn’t it. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty tasty.
Christine Pym’s timing is spot on, and her tale deliciously illustrated with a mix of double spreads, single pages, panels and frames. This really went down a treat with my early years audience who delighted at the ending and were eager for an immediate re-reading.

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Milo’s Dog Says Moo!

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Milo’s Dog Says Moo!
Catalina Echeverri
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Milo, the narrator is celebrating his seventh birthday and he’s super-excited. We join him and other family members as they visit Waggy Tail Dogs Home to select Milo’s longed-for pet. Despite his parents’ reservations, there’s no doubt in Milo’s mind which dog it will be that accompanies them home.

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Once through the front door, Beans begins to make himself familiar with his new surroundings showing a distinct preference for vegetarian fare.
Dog lessons prove something of a challenge for both Milo and Beans …

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and the latter certainly doesn’t appear to be exhibiting the usual canine characteristics like bone chewing and cat chasing. And as for barking well …

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However, the one thing beans excels at is increasing in size and before long, he needs new accommodation. Even this though, cannot contain the voracious eater and after just one night in his new abode, Beans has made a spectacular exit …

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seemingly never to be found again.

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But could that training be about to pay off after all …

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Milo and his family’s failure to notice the difference between a dog and a calf is the key to the reader’s enjoyment of this wonderful story. As with all good jokes, it’s the way you tell them that counts for most. Here, Catalina Echeverri’s text is the ‘straight man’ so to speak giving hardly a hint that anything is amiss. In the know young listeners though will spot what’s really going on in her deliciously playful illustrations and will revel in recognizing Beans’ true identity from the outset.

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Woolly Wonders and Katie’s Wondrous Starry Night

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A Box of Socks
Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Granny Mutton is knitting again – not a scarf this time but socks – a whole box of them. Little Lionel cannot wait to open the box of delights that is Granny’s container for the woollen gifts she Clickety-click’ creates with her trusty needles. Instead he plays the “What’s in the box … “ guessing game; (now that sounds familiar to me in my foundation stage teacher role) and learns that its contents will keep the feet of his friends horse, duck, dog and mouse cosy and warm.
After a spell spent pairing and labelling said socks, off goes an excited Lionel to deliver them to his pals.

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But disaster strikes in the form of sheepdog, Rocky who zooms past sending the box and its contents whirling skywards – whoopsie! You will guess what happens when Lionel finally retrieves all the socks and labels – labels that have been separated from their sock pairs …
Then it’s a case of Operation Swap Sock until order is finally restored and those stylish socks (and one more pair) duly celebrated.


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Part of the enjoyment of this amusing tale is in the anticipation of the sock mix-up and the story is a fantastic starting point for an early years game of sock sorting/matching. (You will need a few pairs of funky socks to play and there are several possibilities for activities, some open-ended, others less so.)
First though, share this super-socky story with your class or group and let them relish the antics portrayed in Calalina Echeverri’s wild and woolly artwork.

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Katie and the Starry Night
James Mayhew
Orchard Books pbk
Katie and her Grandma enjoy visiting art galleries together and on this particular day, the purpose of their visit is to look at some of the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Katie’s favourite is The Starry Night and as Grandma dozes in front of the painting, Katie goes right inside it and catches one of the dazzling stars. Other stars tumble out and follow her as she leaves the picture and moves on visiting

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Vincent’s Chair, Noon, The Olive Grove and Fishing Boats on the Beach each of which becomes part of her magical journey. But she must catch and replace all the stars before the gallery guard discovers their absence. Katie is joined on her journey by the subjects of the other paintings,

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but rest assured, everything and everyone is returned to the rightful place before Grandma stirs from her own dream.
It’s over twenty-five years since James Mayhew first introduced Katie as a means of sharing his enthusiasm for art with children. He has continued to delight countless under eights (and adults) with further Katie books and this one will be no exception. It’s a wonderful way to introduce the work of Van Gogh to a young audience (along with seeing one of the artist’s paintings for real that is) and will surely inspire many of them to try creating their own twirly, starry, skies. There’s even a final page message from Katie to help set those paint tools or fingers a-swirling.
Not to be missed: a classic.

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Prehistoric Animal Brigade


Sam Childs
Scholastic pbk
The new addition to the mammoth family has something of a problem. She’s not woolly at all, just the opposite in fact; she’s bald and pink and feels the cold terribly. Mum has an idea – a tea towel wrapping, but this scares off the potential friends she meets. Poor Woolly: back home she goes. Time to start knitting advises Daddy but Mummy has another idea in the form of a rainbow-hued, feathery coat. However, Woolly’s attempts to emulate the birds win her no friends either so it’s back home once again.


This time though, Mummy heeds Daddy’s advice and gets knitting.


The outcome? A very happy Woolly with lots of playmates until she gets overheated in the family cave and rushes out to play in the cold, cold snow. That proves to be her undoing but it’s not a total disaster; far from it in fact … Unashamedly cute and heart-warming; what endearing characters Sam Childs has portrayed in the mixed media illustrations of her hugely enchanting story.
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Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury pbk.
Dino-Mummy is a marvel. From singing a morning ‘Tra la la” to after lunch rocket launcher, afternoon dino-pirate


or evening bath time bubble maker she is hard at work caring for and entertaining her two demanding dino-offspring. Nothing seems to faze this super-mum and although it would have been good to see her engaging in some less traditional female activities, Dino-Mummy as portrayed by Sam Lloyd is a charmer with her matching pink shoes, necklace and floral adornment. Sperring’s rhyming text reads aloud well though I suggest if you are sharing it with a group that you try it on your own first as the phrasing in one or two places can be a bit tricky on the tongue.
Definitely a good bet for appreciative (dino) tinies to give to their mums on Mother’s Day.
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There’s a Dinosaur in My Bathtub
Catalina Echeverri
Bloomsbury pbk.
Not so much a dinosaur, more an imaginary friend is the huge green creature in this story, especially as he is only seen by Amelia, sports a large black curly moustache, hails from France and answers to the name, Pierre. Said large beast certainly adds spice to Amelia’s life: together they picnic on the moon, dance upside down to Pierre’s magic violin and much more besides, the bathtub becoming a vehicle for their flights of fancy.


Sadly though, Pierre and others like him only stay during the summer months and so, when the autumn leaves begin to fall, it’s time to bid farewell. But not before one last special picnic with Pierre’s most favourite food: can you guess what that might be?
Catalina Echeverri’s wonderful scenes abound with witty detail, including captions and labels, adding to the quirky humour of her tale, a tale told by Amelia herself who engages her audience with her opening speech … ‘My name is Amelia. … Shhh!! It’s a secret so you mustn’t tell anyone in the whole world … OK?
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Toot Goes to Dinosaurland
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Nosy Crow pbk
Toot has a little red car with a magic satnav that will take him and his toy puppy to all manner of exciting places. He decides to visit Dinosaurland. (I can see a series coming here.) Off goes the car, through the city, into a tunnel, up and down mountains, to the top of a high hill and down to his destination. There he meets dinosaurs of different sizes – a weeny one, a middle-sized one and a big one but not, much to Toot’s relief, a huge enormous one. So what is that long green slope you are driving up Toot? “ROA-AR!


Time for some fast thinking and a clever trick to escape those open jaws.
This story will go down well with very young children either individually or in a preschool setting. The bright illustrations are engaging and will hold their interest; and the text offers lots of opportunities for audience participation through sounds and actions, Children will enjoy being in the know as they notice what Toot does not; that he is driving along a tail-shaped road towards danger.
After sharing the story you could take the opportunity offered therein to talk about comparative sizes. Then, why not let preschoolers play out the story with small world dinosaurs of various sizes, a little rabbit soft toy for Toot and a toy car large enough to fit him in; the children could decide what else is needed.
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Nina is immediately grabbed by the story

Jonny Duddle
Templar Publishing
His feet go STOMP!
His jaws go CRUNCH!
In the blink of an eye
You’d be his LUNCH!
Watch out! The Gigantosaurus is about, warn the dinosaur mums as Bonehead, Tiny, Fin and Bill set off to play on the hill one day.
Self-elected lookout, Bonehead posts himself on the termite nest and it’s not long before he raises the alarm “GIGANTOSAURUS!”


THUD THUD THUD – a false alarm as it turns out. So too is the second cry and the third. Bonehead laughs at his pals, leaves them and goes to take a nap so he says, but “GIGANTOASARUS!” he calls again. Enough is enough decide the others going off to explore but then …
Duddle’s prehistoric take on The Boy Who Cried Wolf is nothing short of stupendous. The rhyming story rollicks along and with their filmic quality, the digitally created illustrations almost leap off the page.


There’s also a fold out page and sturdy dust jacket that doubles as a large two-sided poster,one side of which shows the dinosaurs on a time-line and, to whet the appetites of knowledge seekers, there are snippets of information about the featured dinosaurs on the two final double spreads.
With his dinosaurs, Duddle has definitely done it again.



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Finally, not really a picture book


Hot Dogs and Dinosnores
Amanda Li
Macmillan Children’s Books pbk
‘What do you get when a dinosaur sneezes? Out of the way’.  You can find this joke, more dinosaur jokes and a whole host of others in this ‘first animal joke book’. It’s ideal for those gaining confidence as readers, and even if they don’t laugh uproariously at Li’s one hundred odd groan making jokes, Jane Eccles’s dotty line drawings are sure to raise a smile.
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