Esme’s Rock

Esme’s Rock
Simon Philip and Magda Brol
Oxford Children’s Books

Esme is a little cave girl with a lot of energy and curiosity and, a very powerful voice. That’s very useful if you want to ward off scary big creatures but definitely not so when it comes to keeping things secret. One thing she intends to do her utmost to keep her voice down about is the birthday surprise she’s organising for her best pal Morris the mammoth’s birthday.

Having wished him many happy returns, the transport arranged turns up to whisk Morris away for some pampering and she’s able to get on with carrying out the plans for the rest of the surprise. For this she has enlisted the help of her fellow cave people and they’re horrified at what the task entails in so short a time.

Come lunchtime it seems as though the painters are way behind schedule and Esme can’t keep her voice down any longer. What she yells echoes far and wide. Then, just when the painters are on the point of giving up their mammoth task, a party of strangers arrive armed with the necessary tools and it’s all systems go once more.

Finally it’s time for Esme to use that booming voice to summon Morris to his surprise celebration …
At last Esme’s voice comes into its own …

With Magda Brol’s exuberant illustrations, Simon Philip’s celebration of community spirit is a fun read aloud demonstrating that everybody has a special something to offer, albeit with a bit of channeling sometimes.

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

To alleviate her boredom while Wilbur naps, Winnie the witch scrolls through her mobile and discovers that Chinese New Year is coming soon. It sounds exciting and so she decides to throw a Chinese New Year party to celebrate with friends and family.

The preparations go pretty smoothly with Winnie waving her wand to create fabulous decorations and a yummy-looking feast.

Then comes a spectacular parade with dragons large and small, as well as lions including a baby one; but just as the fireworks are about to start, Winnie realises that Wilbur has vanished.

Is the party sparkle about to disappear too, or is there an explanation for the cat’s mysterious absence?

Perhaps just one more wave of that wand of Winnie’s might just rescue the situation …

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul’s magical two W characters have been exciting children for over thirty years and their powers seem to be showing no sign of waning. Youngsters to whom I introduced Winnie and Wilbur as a young teacher now have their own children to share this whizz bang crackling,

lucky money envelope cascading story with in celebration of Chinese New Year at the weekend.

The illustrations are absolutely brimming over with detail and I love the gallery of children’s art that adorns the endpapers.

Early Years Bookshelf: Maisy Goes to a Wedding / Bigger, Bigger!

Maisy Goes to a Wedding
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Oh my goodness! Ostrich and Penguin are getting married and we’re all invited to their wedding. Needless to say Maisy, decked out in her new outfit, is super-excited.

At the flower-bedecked venue, Maisy greets all her friends. Every one of them has brought something for the couple and soon it’s time for the celebration to start.

Music plays as Tallulah leads the way festooning the aisle with flowers and is closely followed by Penguin on the arm of Charley. They reach the waiting Ostrich.

Owl does the officiating, rings are exchanged, “I do” is said by both partners and then it’s the party. Hurrah!
Delicious food, toasting the couple, music and dancing and cutting the cake follow.

Then the bride throws her bouquet: who will catch it though?

After a wonderful party the happy couple leave for their honeymoon …

Maisy fans will love this latest episode in the ‘First Experiences series’, which now numbers over 15 titles.

Bigger! Bigger!
Leslie Patricelli
Walker Books

The story really starts before the title page with a little girl gleefully emptying out her box of coloured blocks onto the floor.
Build’ she says smiling, hard-hat balancing precariously on her head.

From then on her imagination appears to take over as the blue wall behind her is transformed into blue sky and her pets too have donned hard-hats and their buildings look real: first a dog kennel ‘Big’; then a wooden house ‘Bigger!’ and ‘Bigger! Bigger!’ is the cry …

as a block of flats, a large bridge, office blocks appear until we see the happy builders exuberantly celebrating the finish of their task.

They’re certainly an ambitious crew these three.

Suddenly there’s a ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ followed by at the turn of the page a huge nappy-clad baby (has it escaped from the author’s board books?) wreaking havoc.

Thereafter reality is restored with tears from big sis. and then a penitent babe attempting a silent apology.

Finally co-operation wins the day and ‘Stronger! Stronger!‘ comes the cry.

Share with a group of nursery children or an individual around the age of the girl builder – either way they’ll demand repeats. Equally, with its minimal text writ large, this is perfect for those just starting to read.

When’s My Birthday?

When’s My Birthday?
Julia Fogliano and Christian Robinson
Walker Books

For young children, birthdays are possibly even more eagerly anticipated than any other day of the year and here we have a book that can be shared in the days running up to that special celebration.

Everything about this is sheer delight. First there’s the unusual, attention grabbing shape of the book. Then come the striking but simple candle endpapers, after which begins  Fogliano’s spare chant of a text wherein she captures perfectly the voice of the child.
‘ when’s my birthday? / where’s my birthday? how many days until / my birthday? ’ asks the repeat refrain that holds the whole narrative together as the excitement builds.

That artist Christian Robinson has a deliciously playful sense of humour is evident in the joyful collage style illustrations such as this one with its visual pun on ‘ice-skating’ …

No child’s birthday is complete without other vital ingredients including singing and dancing: ‘will we sing so happy happy? / will we dance around and round? / will we jump and jump and jump?’

Presents and cake too are contemplated: how wonderfully the artist plays with size as here …

and

and these children know precisely what must comprise the birthday tea, but when it comes to the party, everyone is invited both human and animal and any kind of dress is acceptable.

Spirited, inclusive and the ideal gift for a small child whose birthday is fast approaching; a ‘happy, happy day’ for sure.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Christmas for Bear

A Christmas for Bear
Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton
Walker Books

Can it really be the sixth story to star the unlikely best friends Bear and Mouse? This one really is a cracker despite the grumpiness of Bear – nothing unusual about that, but he seems even more so where the festive season is concerned.
Having agreed to host a Christmas party, his first ever, Bear goes on to declare presents “Most unseemly,” and appears to think Christmas pickles and the odd poem or two are all that’s needed for a successful party.
Mouse meanwhile is focussed on the possibility of presents and goes off in search of same.

Bear then pours further cold water on the notion calling them “Unnecessary hogwash” and announces his intention to read a poem.
This turns out to be A Visit from St. Nicholas –  something children will delight in .
It does of course, include a reference to a mouse and stockings; the latter seems to hold a particular significance that Mouse takes a while to grasp.

Eventually though he does finally fall in and discovers his stocking containing, no not a pickle, but a tiny, shiny silver telescope.
That’s Mouse’s present dealt with, but what about Bear? Surely his best friend can’t have forgotten him, can he?

Priceless dialogue – “Not even one present!” squeaked Mouse. “The pickles are from France!” declared Bear. “But surely – “ said Mouse. “And furthermore,” continued Bear, “I shall be reading a long and difficult poem.”, – and perfect pacing with a wonderful finale, combined with superbly expressive watercolour, ink and gouache illustrations make for an unforgettable seasonal story to share and relish.

Let’s Hear it for Dads

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Baking With Dad
Aurora Cacciapuoti
Child’s Play
When a little girl (the narrator) and her dad, oh, and there’s a moggy assisting too, spend the day baking, magic happens. But this isn’t any old baking day – it’s a special day for someone.
Let’s go back to the start though: first task (having donned chef’s hats) is to select the ingredients …

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Then it’s time to get them into the mixing bowl, starting with the eggs …

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followed by the sugar and a bit of mixing and shaking. Next comes the flour – a rather large quantity

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and butter and milk, plus fruit to finish the whole thing off.

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Now let the baking magic commence.
But why are the cooks now bustling around with bunting, crayons and more? To find out, you’ll just have to get hold of this sparkling story to see for yourself.
Aurora Cacciapuoti’s illustrations, in combination with her brief text, have made for a gigglesome delight to share around Father’s Day. But it’s way too much fun to restrict to then: this one’s a winner any day and in addition to a read aloud, it’s ideal for those beginning to read for themselves.

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Amazing Daddy
Rachel Bright
Orchard Books
I’ve come across very few children who don’t think their particular dad is THE best and so it is with the little panda narrator of this wonderfully warm story. Of course, like most dads, Daddy Panda has to go to work but before that there’s usually time for a snuggle up together …

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and maybe even a shared breakfast.

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At weekends Daddy might be busy in his shed, working on important projects …

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but other days are spent just playing and even when little panda misbehaves, his dad remains cool and calm.
For all these reasons and many more – best of all being the shared bedtime stories – there’s no other dad that can come close to the amazing superhero daddy whose virtues this little panda extols.
A smashing celebration of the relationship between father and child: Rachel Bright’s illustrations are full of tenderness and sufficient gentle humour to please the adults who share this with young children.

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Your Baby’s First Word Will be Dada
Jimmy Fallon and Miguel Ordóñez
Hodder Children’s Books
Two dads, one a relation, the other a friend have said to me in the last couple of weeks that their offspring have started talking and guess what the first word said in both instances was: “Dada”. So too here – or rather that’s the intention of the various animal fathers – in this hoot of a book. However paternal coaching doesn’t yield the desired results as we are shown – most merely proffer the characteristic sound of their species …

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though there is the odd exception …

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Maybe a more regimented group effort will bring on the all-important D word.

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That’s better, proud fathers all round … Well, almost: there’s always one …
Comedian and actor, Fallon has combined forces with Spanish illustrator, Ordóñez and it’s the artist who really makes this extended joke work.

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I Love My Daddy
Jonathan Litton and Fhiona Galloway
Little Tiger Kids
Dads come in all shapes and sizes and, according to their offspring in this board book celebration of father figures be they Lion, Penguin, Cheetah, Hippo …

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Goat or Dog, deserve rewarding in one way or another.
Attractive illustrations with a die-cut star on each spread that is part and parcel of a special gift from child to dad, are a key feature here; and the combination of Litton’s rhyming text and Fhiona Galloway’s bright scenes make for a jolly book for very littles to share with their special Dad figures around father’s day or any time.

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