Tales from the Ocean

Tales from the Ocean
Chae Strathie, illustrated by Erin Brown
Little Tiger

With Erin Brown’s colour illustrations on every spread, this is a collection of twenty original short stories about sea creatures large and small by Chae Strathie.

The oceans are teeming with life whether it be in the tropical waters of the coral reefs, the coastal waters and shallows, tropical and temperate waters or those of the Arctic and polar regions, the four locations in which the author sets these tales.

First we meet a rather impatient young Giant Clam. He’s in a hurry to find a place to settle and grow his shell. Will he listen to the advice of others that have made far from perfect choices?
In the shallows, Hermit Crab too, needs a new home on account of a shell, but hers has become too tight; now she’s on the hunt for one that ‘feels just right’ and in so doing she helps two other crabs find something that’s ‘a better fit’.

Out in the warmer waters Ocean Sunfish is suffering from a bout of itchiness on account of not finding a cleaner wrasse to nibble off the irritating parasites tickling her skin.

Resigned to having to put up with the discomfort, she sets off jelly hunting and by late afternoon although her appetite is sated, her itchiness is worse. Another sunfish makes a suggestion but this fails to rid her of the wretched irritants. Maybe the seagull can help …

In the immense whiteness that is the Antarctic, living in a colony of Adelie penguins is Small Penguin. Despite his size compared with the Emperor penguins that live close by, Small Penguin has big ideas about himself and is more than ready to take up the challenge of one of the Emperors: ‘first penguin to catch a silverfish is the best’. Which penguin will be the victor?

It’s impossible to choose a favourite tale: that will depend on listeners and readers. Each one ends with a verse from the marine protagonist and with the author’s infusion of gentle humour and lots of incidental learning built in, as well as Erin Brown’s gorgeous illustrations this is ideal for sharing with younger children or for older ones to read independently. (The book concludes with two finals spreads with paragraphs of additional details about each of the twenty creatures featured.)

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

This the latest in an excellent fun history series written by the award winning Chae Strathie and developed in consultations with British Museum experts, reveals what it was really like to be a child in the Aztec age..
Covering the topics one’s come to expect of the series – clothing and hairstyles, education, diet, the home, family life, health and medicine as well as some you might not, such as human sacrifice (it could happen just for being a member of a losing team), this truly is horrible history made highly visual.

Imagine – or preferably don’t unless you want to puke – being fed maggots, tadpoles, lizards and the like, or a cake made with blue green algae containing masses of water fly eggs – gross! It wasn’t all revolting though; there were occasional tomatoes and beans. This vegan reviewer would surely have gone hungry much of the time.

Can you contemplate being stretched by the neck in a special ceremony every four years – a very strange way to demonstrate parental love but it happened; and then being likened to jade, a precious gem stone: talk about mixed messages.

As for schooling, modern youngsters might love the idea of not starting school until you’re in your teens, but it happened to Aztec children, who were home schooled up until then – sounds familiar! As does the dual system of one kind of school for the rich, another for the poorer families.

When I taught KS2 classes, children were always especially fascinated by the Aztecs and I have no doubt if I’d had this book there would have been a queue of eager readers waiting to get their hands on it. Marisa Morea brings all the gory details to life in her wealth of illustrations that illuminate the text.

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Imagine having your pet parrot or fish ending up in the cooking pot, or being sold as a slave to cook for richer neighbours.

How would you feel if you had a headache and the remedy was finding an elephant to touch your head with its trunk and hoping it sneezed a trunkful of snot right at you?

Or worse perhaps, if you were a boy you’d have to go to school every single day of the week (except holidays) and anyone who made more than the occasional mistake in class, would be held down by a couple of slaves while the teacher beat you with a leather whip: scary or what?

Alarm bells ringing I suspect, but this is just a small glimpse of what life was like for children in Ancient Rome that is provided in this fascinating book. There’s a section on clothing, hairstyles and make-up – supposing your mum used bear fat to make her hair grow, or pigeon poop to lighten it?

Other sections include food, family life, the home, gods, fun and games – yes there were some,

gladiators and emperors. And there’s a final glossary and index.

High on entertainment for sure, but also high on information of the accessible sort, this book published in association with the British Museum and with an abundance of amusing illustrations by Marisa Morea, is definitely one for primary school classes and individuals interested in ancient times.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Chae Strathie knows just how to make history interesting and fun for children as he demonstrates in his latest So You Think You’ve Got It Bad title published in collaboration with The British Museum.

The first topic (of ten) Clothes and Hairstyles contains some tasty or perhaps rather yucky, snippets of information such as the fact that one source of purple clothes dye was insect larva (maggots to most of us); though actually, yellow was a favourite with girls.

Suppose you were a boy in Ancient Greece; you’d wear merely a short tunic; yes it was probably pretty warm much of the time but even so a sudden gust of wind, especially in winter, would probably expose your nether regions. Brrrr!
Moreover, young men training in the gymnasium or participating in a sporting event did so in the altogether and it was considered absolutely normal so to do.

Young girls fared slightly better; they too wore only a single garment – an ankle length dress called a peplos but at least it was belted.

Zips or buttons hadn’t been invented although people used brooches, pins, cord or belts as fasteners.

Girls had a pretty grim time of it back then and female babies were often left to die on account of the dowry system, which meant that it could cost parents a fortune when a girl married, something that could happen as young as thirteen and to a complete stranger.

Girls fared badly too when it came to education: boys went to school when they were seven but girls –rich ones only – were home educated, the focus being how to run a home.

Inequality was everywhere with slaves making up around a third of the population of Athens.

Talking of education, tablets were used for note taking in lessons – no not the electronic kind; these were made of wax-covered wood on which you wrote with a stick-like stylus.  Sticks were employed for another reason too – for beating those boys who didn’t learn quickly enough in class. Yeouch!

Pets were popular with families with snakes, goats, swans, ducks and geese numbering among the favourites along with dogs (the very favourite). Try taking geese out for a walk!

Oh my goodness! Even the homes of the very richest were without a loo. Imagine having to poo in a pot every single day. No thanks. There’s even a depiction on a painted vase of a small boy sitting having a dump on a tall potty-like object that apparently doubled as a high chair. Hygienic it surely wasn’t.

The largest room in a typical Greek house was devoted to partying – men only again. Female readers are probably fuming by this time.

Health and medicine introduces physician Hippocrates, often called the founder of modern medicine but before he came along much of ancient Greek medicine relied on magical prayers and charms.

Diet, myths and legends, ancient gods and fun and games complete the thematic sections.

The layout of almost every spread differs with information presented in paragraphs of text, in speech bubbles, via diagrams, and through Marisa Morea’s amusing illustrations, which make the book even more engaging.

Readers will surely finish reading this with a big smile and almost without noticing will have gained insights into an important ancient civilisation as well as a greater appreciation of their own lives today.

The Colours of History / So You Think Yo’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Egypt

The Colours of History
Clive Gifford and Marc-Etienne Peintre
QED

There have been several books on the theme of colour recently: now here is one that takes a historical approach with the subtitle ‘How Colours Shaped the World’.

After an introduction to the world of colour, there are five main sections: Yellows (which includes orange), Reds, taking in ‘Mummy Brown’), Purples, Blues, Greens and then a spread on ‘Colours that made their mark’ that looks at
kohl black, graphite, lime and lead wash.

Over twenty colours – divided into shades – are explored with each different shade being allocated a double spread that includes an arresting illustration by Marc-Etienne Peintre, related historical facts, associated symbolism and often, a relevant quote. There is also an introductory paragraph for each colour group supplying connotative meanings.

Did you know that the predominant colour of the prehistoric Lascaux Cave paintings was yellow ochre,

or that saffron comes from a particular crocus species grown mainly in Spain and Iran?
Or that cochineal, still used in some lipsticks, is actually a tiny insect that when crushed, yields a scarlet colour due to the carminic acid it carries to protect itself from predatory ants?

One of my favourite blues, ultramarine, is made by grinding one of my favourite semi-precious gemstones lapis lazuli – a fact I knew, but I was intrigued to learn that the artist Vermeer’s heavy use of the colour in his paintings left him heavily in debt when he died.

This inviting and rewarding book will be of particular interest to those with a liking for art or history and is well worth adding to a primary school library.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s life in Ancient Egypt
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Guaranteed to bring on giggles galore is this look at ancient history Egyptian style published in collaboration with the British Museum. It presents history like you’ve never seen or even imagined it before – from the children’s viewpoint.

A variety of topics is covered – clothing and hairstyles, family life, the home, work – parents introduced the idea of work to their offspring at an early age.

There are sections on education – formal school outside the home was mostly only for boys and rich ones at that, and  diet – raw cabbage was a popular starter and pigeons were often served (along with geese, ducks and oxen if you were well off)

and even children drank beer back in those days.

Medicine and health – apparently the mother of a sick child might eat a mouse and then put its bones in a bag and dangle it around the child’s neck to effect a cure; protection and gods, and fun and games are also explored. Popular pastimes for the young included swimming, boating and games by the river, although, you had to keep a watch out for hungry crocs or hippos. Ball games were often played too, though not football, and the balls were made from papyrus or leather stuffed with straw.

Humorously illustrated with a multitude of labels and speech bubbles, and packed with fascinating facts, yes it’s light-hearted, but children will absorb a lot of information from this unashamedly zany book.

Dear Dinosaur

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Dear Dinosaur
Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne
Scholastic
Dinosaurs are an ever-popular theme in picture books but how to give it a new slant? Chae Strathie does it with letters.
After a visit to the museum, young Max writes to his favourite exhibit, the T.Rex and after a long wait, is super-excited to receive a reply – albeit a slightly alarming one …

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Thus begins an exchange of written communications between boy and dinosaur wherein each reveals a variety of facts and figures about himself. For instance six year old Max learns that his dino. pal is 65,999, 999 older than he is; and hears all about how his favourite T.Rex celebrated his birthday – playing football just like Max himself. Or maybe not exactly like: there wasn’t a vase-breaking mammoth at Max’s party.
In exchange, T.Rex learns a little about ballet dancing and sandcastle construction.

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Summer holidays over, Max and his family return to the dinosaur museum where they discover that things aren’t quite as they were on their last visit …

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Now why might that be? And what is his special friend doing with a rubber duck?
Certain to appeal to dinosaur fans, this funny epistolary tale has great potential for primary teachers wanting to encourage writing. Children could perhaps pair up and, with one acting as human and the other, dinosaur, send letters and other communications to each another.

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Food Favourites

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Gorilla Loves Vanilla
Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne
Scholastic Children’s Books
Fancy some ice cream? Then head down to Jellybean Street and there you’ll find Sam’s Sundaes, a favourite haunt of ice cream aficionados of a rather unusual kind. And young Sam Sundae doesn’t seem fazed at all when five of them arrive at once as soon as he opens up shop.
First in the queue – and yes they do queue, no pushing and shoving here – is a little mouse and his request is for a sundae tasting of blue cheese. I said nothing fazes our Sam and straightway he presents the mouse with some cheesy ice cream. His next order is for “fish finger ice cream in a dish” – you can guess who would want such a disgusting-sounding thing.
Chicken’s favourite comes in a cone, and it’s wormy and squirmy. YUCK! Cow’s penchant is for daisy ice cream and Sam quickly obliges once again …

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And as for hippo, he doesn’t even want to eat what he orders …

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Last in line is a gorilla and his taste is rather more conservative – “Just give me a cone full of good old vanilla.” is his request. And now, judging by the way they’re staring, the others might be having second thoughts about their choices as Sam adds yummy toppings of sprinkles, chocolate chips and sticky fudge sauce to gorilla’s order …
Chae Strathie’s tasty tale bounces along in exuberant fashion and is sure to have young listeners EEEUURRGHING loudly at the thought of some of the orders and giggling as hippo makes messy use of his selection.
Nicola O’Byrne’s equally exuberant illustrations are to be relished too: just take a look at the cat and mouse tucking in together here …

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More food fun in:

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Hugless Douglas and the Great Cake Bake
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
A honeyless breakfast is something Douglas just cannot contemplate so having discovered his cupboard has been raided, he follows the sticky footprints (and his nose) until they lead him to …

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When the sheep tell him they’re collecting ingredients to make honey cakes, Douglas is eager to help – no surprises there! With berries, nuts, carrots and of course, honey duly assembled, and Flossie in charge, the cooks set to work …

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Having finished the task, Douglas cannot wait to try the product of their labours but has to join the line of eager cake consumers awaiting the oven’s PING! The sheep however, are less polite than Douglas and pretty soon a fight breaks out and is only halted by Flossie’s announcement “The cakes are ready!” There follows a mad scramble in the direction of the delicious aroma emanating from the oven door but do you think those crazy sheep gave Douglas a look in when it came to consuming those yummy cakes? Definitely not; but their actions do result in a partial re-education of our hugging friend’s taste buds as he samples the surplus – carrots, berries and nuts, declaring they’re “… ALMOST as good as honey,”.
With instructions on ‘How to decorate cupcake sheep’ on the final spread, this latest Hugless Douglas offering is sure to tickle the taste buds of young listeners who will delight at the humorous interplay of text and visuals –

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and be duly shocked at the sheep’s shenanigans.

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Nocturnal Tales

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The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger
Timothy Basil Ering
Walker Books
By day, young Hamilton (with his trusty wooden sword) can take on all the threatening -so he imagines- creatures in the swamp be they fire-breathing frackensnapper, clawed skelecragon or twining bracklesneed. Come nightfall though, all his bravado vanishes and Hamilton gives full rein to that fertile imagination of his and flees from his own muddy space and those same, now shadowy monsters, to take refuge in his secret hideaway. Each morning however, a newly fearless Hamilton awakes ready for more sneaking, wrestling and sword fighting. His long-suffering father on the other hand has tired of his son’s nocturnal habits and bakes him a super-dooper ‘double-decker grasshopper worm-cake,’ to be consumed at breakfast, in return for remaining a night in his own mud. Hamilton agrees to the deal, but then as dark rain clouds loom overhead and thunder booms, he begins to fret about the coming night.
Dad offers good advice – use the power of your mind positively, he tells Hamilton.
There follows a sequence of amazing happenings: a sea of pink lemonade gushes forth from a discarded TV,

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and upon that sea is a boat complete with striped sea bass chef. Hamilton scrambles aboard, said chef offers good advice, cooks pancakes

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and the ship takes to the air, powered by – can you believe – the frackensnapper’s breath. Yes he’s aboard too as are the bracklesneed and skelecragon, though now the monsters are friendly.

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During a breathtaking flight, son and father are reunited and there are individual cabins in which everyone beds down for the night including a now ‘totally’ fearless Hamilton Squidlegger.
Ering’s creatures are wonderful. With their googly eyes and spindly legs, Hamilton and his dad are frog-like in appearance; indeed the former positively leaps from the pages of the book. The contrast between the glowing colours of the splodgy, spattery backdrops and the scratchy etched lines of the characters is superb. Guess what happens on the final page …

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What a totally satisfying scene and fitting ending to a totally satisfying, empowering story.
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Florentine and Pig and the Spooky Forest Adventure
Eva Katzler and Jess Mikhail
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Wooooooooooooooooooooo!” Can that awful sound Florence and Pig hear as they lie in their beds one night be the Growling Prowling Bogmog, they wonder; the same creature that dwells in the deepest, darkest forest.

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A plan is needed, a plan to discovers its whereabouts, so the friends pack their rucksacks (Pig’s with camping gear, Florentine’s with tasty treats) and march out into the forest. After trudging, tramping, hopping, hurdling, splishing and splashing, they suddenly hear alarming sounds – oh no. Don’t panic it’s only Pig’s rumbly tum.

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Supper and a singsong follow and then they bed down for the night. But what is that familiar sounding “Wooooooooooooooooooooooo!” and that enormous shadow, looming ever larger? Just an owl; back to sleep guys – that’s all it was, or …

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Although new to me, this is the third adventure of Florentine and her porcine pal, two healthy food promoters who love to eat tasty treats and whose stories come complete with tempting-looking, healthy recipes and some craft ideas for young listeners to share with adults – after they’ve hunted for that Bogmog of course.
This combination of a fun story and cooking – two things young children love – is a winning formula: the recipes are clearly presented and look truly mouthwatering, the narrative contains some lovely, playful language and the mixed media illustrations are full of amusing details to discover.
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Bedtime for Tiny Mouse
Chae Strathie and Sebastien Braun
Scholastic pbk
Tiny Mouse cannot sleep: his head’s full of fuzz, his feet of fireworks, his knees are misbehaving, his tail twitchy and his ears excited so none of the suggestions his mum,

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dad and big brother offer are at all helpful. Tiny Mouse turns to Grandma and at last, thanks to the soft moonlight and her soporific lullaby under the stars, Grandma Mouse is able to tuck up her sleeping grandson tenderly in his bed. Sweet dreams, little one.
A gentle, bedtime tale for the very young illustrated with appropriately playful scenes and sequences.

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