Maybe …

Maybe …
Chris Haughton
Walker Books

“Whatever you do, do NOT go down to the mango tree. There are tigers down there.” So says the departing adult monkey to the three little monkeys. An invitation to do just that, if ever there was one and as you might expect, after due consideration and a quick scan below, the trio start descending through the canopy lured by an irresistibly delicious sight.

After another quick scan for tigers (your audience will have spotted something but not the eager threesome), they dash down, secure a yummy fruit and consume same. But is just one sufficient? Of course not, so the monkeys climb right the way down to the ground.

As they sit feasting on some succulent spoils, the monkeys become aware that this latest step was perhaps one too many, for there follows a dramatic case of tiger confrontation and a splendidly scary, suspenseful dash for their lives that listeners will relish. But what about the monkeys?

To discover that, and how the story ends, you’ll need to creep out to a nearby bookshop and get a copy of your own.

Maybe, just maybe this is my favourite of Chris’s books so far, but then I love boundary pushing risk-takers. That chase over four double spreads is absolutely superb; in fact the whole book is simply brilliant.

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Don’t Worry, Little Crab
Chris Haughton
Walker Books

Chris Haughton takes the familiar topic of first time fears and finding the courage to overcome them and in his signature style arresting, minimalist graphics and a present tense narrative, conjures an original decapod spin.

Little Crab and Big Crab live together in a small rockpool and today’s the day Little Crab takes his very first swim in the big ocean. They set off together making their way over the rocks, tip-clawing across shallow pools and squelching through slimy seaweed, Little Crab full of eager anticipation until …

Perhaps this isn’t quite such a good idea after all, he thinks as despite Big Crab’s reassurance and encouragement, a rather large wave approaches. Then comes an even bigger one followed by a much, much bigger one.

Big Crab continues to cajole his companion and all the while ever more fierce-looking waves wash up.

Inching closer and closer the tiny creature eventually dips his claws beneath the sea

but still those waves come, one so gigantic it WHOOSHES the two of them right away from any land.

Down into the depths they go discovering together a truly wonderful new place and what’s more, it’s full of friendly creatures ready to introduce them to some exciting new experiences.

Chris’s vibrant, seemingly simple illustrations convey SO much about Little Crab’s feelings showing how in his case, less is most definitely more.

This is an ideal book for little ones taking their first steps towards independence be that starting nursery or school, learning to swim, joining a new club or whatever.

Goodnight Everyone

DSCN8500

Goodnight Everyone
Chris Haughton
Walker Books
It’s sundown and the woodland animals – the mice, the hares …

%0A

the deer and Great Big Bear – are feeling sleepy. There’s one animal that doesn’t join in all those yawns and stretches though; that’s Little Bear who is still full of energy and eager to find a playmate. Despite determined efforts from the insomniac, none of the others wants to do anything but bed down for the night …

 

%0A

and then comes a sigh from Little Bear AH ………….., followed by a long deep breath AHHHH ……….. and then an enormous stretch and a gaping yawn. And that’s when Great Big Bear seizes the opportunity and Little Bear, who is the recipient of a great big good-night kiss and …

%0A

With a beguilingly simple, somnolent narrative style and a brilliantly rich colour palette, Chris Haughton works his magic once again, in this instance inducing in listeners and readers aloud alike, a deep sense of satisfying warmth and relaxation. At the same time he imbues the story with gentle humour and the whole thing is cleverly designed with cut out pages (matching the relative size of the animals) leading us through the woods and the story, and then moving into full page and strips; and from light into darkness as the animals drop off to sleep one by one.
If you’re looking for a bedtime story you need look no further – this one is perfect; if you’re looking for a wind down after a hectic lively session in nursery or early years classroom, again, this is perfect – zzzzzzzzz
Moreover those endpapers (the front showing Southern Hemisphere constellations; the back the Northern Hemisphere with Great Bear and Little Bear in the sky) are quite superb …

DSCN8504

and add an extra dimension to the whole brilliant thing.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

Problems, Plans, Perils and Parties

DSCN1890

Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon
Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Marmaduke just hates being different. Unlike the other (purple) dragons his skin is faded orange, his scales stick out and his ears are positively elephantine. Protecting princesses is definitely out of the question, so the other dragons laughingly tell him when he asks for their assistance. However, Marmaduke is not only different; he is also determined. So too is Princess Meg and when she gets herself lost in the deep, dark woods, Marmaduke seizes the opportunity to dash to her rescue.

DSCN1893

When he finally spreads those unusual wings of his, Meg declares them “Fantastically different!” as they shimmer and sparkle in the sky.

DSCN1891

So, does he become her protector? Suffice it to say that although Meg is a strong- minded kind of princess, she does need a friend.
Yes, it’s sparkly and spattered with pink but here is a divergent princess who refuses to fit into a mould and what’s more she accepts and appreciates difference in others. And of course both she and in the end, Marmaduke, show strength of character.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1945

Shh! We Have a Plan
Chris Haughton
Walker Books
I’ve been a big fan of Chris Haughton since A Bit Lost some four years ago but this, with its intriguing title, is I think, my favourite so far.
Essentially four woolly-hatted friends, nets a ready, (hence the title) spy a colourful bird as they are out walking. The approach of the smallest is a friendly ‘hello birdy’, quickly ‘shhed’ by the others, those with a plan, a catching plan of course. Slowly, they creep, tiptoe, tiptoe … Oops! Missed.
Plan B involves a ladder and a balancing act;

DSCN1942

ready… whoopsie! …
Plan C – these are determined characters – paddling upstream … stretching forwards, ready, one, two, three…

DSCN1943

splash!
Time for a different approach, the little one’s this time; he knows just how to tempt a bird

DSCN1944

or two or … O OHHHHH!
Dry humour, quirky characters, a slightly ridiculous, perfectly paced, skillfully suspenseful tale and distinctive, limited colour palette; add to that an eye-catching typeface, images and shapes – the result? Another Haughton must have –I’d get more than one in fact.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2013

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing pbk
Howling Hill stand far from the city, a quiet peaceful place during the day, alive with the sounds of foxes, and weasels, boars, badgers and bears, wolves too, each making a characteristic rustle, snuffle, sniffle, growl, or howl. Then one night, there comes a rumble, a ROAR and a dreadful vision atop the hill. Wild speculations on behalf of the frightened animals ensue and off they dash to hide in the Great Forest. Back they creep next morning; the trouble remains. Speculations run wild – “a big blue elephant!” say the weasels, ‘a big blue dinosaur!” is the badgers’ decision. (Echoes of The Six Blind Men and the Elephant here). “It’s a BIG BLUE THING” is the foxes’ correct assertion. All agree however that the thing appears to be awake and should be left till it sleeps.
At dusk the animals return to HOOOWWWLLL – the wolves suggestion this –

DSCN2014

GRROOOWWLL – that’s the bears; HUFF, PUFF, PUSH and SHOVE – the boars try that. But does the Big Blue Thing budge? Not one single centimetre. Burying, a seemingly possible ploy, is foiled when the Thing makes a “WAKING UP” sound. Off flee the animals to consult the Wise Owls. An attack of the BUZZING WHIZZING ZOOMING kind delivered by a BIG BUG FLYING SQUAD ensues as the sun peeks over the Hill.

DSCN2016

Peace and quiet resumes until …

DSCN2015

Foolishly funny: those fearful animals with their troubled countenances and plucky plans are an absolute hoot and the surprise ending has caused much mirth among my young listeners who relished every moment of the tale.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1976

Two Speckled Eggs
Jennifer K. Mann
Walker Books pbk
Ginger wants to invite the girls in her class to her birthday party, all except one – Lyla Browning. Lyla is different, smelling ‘like old leaves’, carrying a magnifying glass and she’s not much of a talker.

DSCN1979

Ginger’s mum insists she’s included. On party day, the first to arrive is Lyla but once the others come, things begin to go rather differently from Ginger’s expectations. Ava invents new rules for Blind Man’s Buff, Pin the Tail on the Donkey becomes pin the tails on each other and the egg and spoon and Three legged races are disastrous. Moreover, the silver-and gold cake is anything but a hit, except with Lyla, who until then has stayed in the background. Poor Ginger. But then she starts to think that perhaps she’s misjudged Lyla;

DSCN1978

maybe she is actually rather cool.Assuredly her present – a tiny bird’s nest, hand-made and containing two speckled eggs (chocolate caramel-cream and Ginger’s favourite no less) stands out as wonderfully thoughtful and serves as a symbol of a new friendship. Being different is a good thing after all, Ginger decides or perhaps the two of them aren’t really so different anyway.

DSCN1977

How good to see a quietly strong, divergent character such as Lyla ; all the more so as her independence of thought and openness come to be appreciated by Ginger. Jennifer Mann’s slightly scruffy crayon outlines filled with soft waterolours, stand out against the largely white backgrounds of the pages
As well as in their facial expressions, a considerable degree of emotion is conveyed through the artist’s perfect placing of particular characters on the page.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1980

Farmer John’s Tractor
Sally Sutton and Robyn Belton
Walker Books
Thoughts of the recent floods came right back to me as I started to read this rhyming tale of how Farmer John’s tractor – a rusty orangey-red one kept locked in a shed – comes into its own when the river breaks its banks after a very rainy winter.
Down by the river a car is stuck fast: the family inside shouts for help. They manage to climb onto the roof as a series of vehicles — a speedy jeep, a tow truck,

DSCN1981

and a fire engine, siren blasting — rush to the scene one by one. Each ends up more firmly stuck than the last. Time to see if Farmer John’s ancient tractor, might still be up to the job?
Belton’s muted watercolour pictures are just right for the prevailing wetness of the countryside setting and Sally Sutton’s strong, rhythmic, rhyming text just right for conveying the power of the swirling, twirling, rushing, gushing water and the muscle power of Farmer John and his chugging tractor.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2010

Dinosaur Roar!
Paul Strickland and Henrietta Strickland
Doubleday Children’s Books
With a host of opposites dinosaur-delivered, but even more importantly, the powerful message that early reading is (or should be) fun, this rip roaring rhythmic rhymer really packs a punch. What young child can resist the lure of Paul Strickland’s roaring or squeaking

DSCN2012

lunch gobbling beasties be they fierce or meek, fast or slow, above or below, weak or strong, short or long, sweet or grumpy, spiky or lumpy …
After twenty years, with its glorious pictures and a cleverly catchy text
this one is still a real winner.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
Buy from Amazon
Find and buy from your local bookseller:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch