Brave Molly

Brave Molly
Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Chronicle Books

This virtually wordless picture book follows young Molly from her window seat where she sits reading and observing three young passers by, out from her house and down the street. But what is constantly lurking close by, sometimes waiting, sometimes following, sometimes stopping to watch?

It’s the monster that bears a strong resemblance to her own drawing tossed into the rubbish bin before she left home. Said monster, so we assume, is a representation of Molly’s own fear of interacting with others.

The three children leave behind a book on the seat they’d stopped on; Molly puts it in her backpack and sets off after them, with the monster not far behind.

Her shyness escalates and with it the number of monsters as she runs, crawls through a tunnel

and climbs trees until she feels almost completely overwhelmed. Somehow though, she summons up the courage to confront the terrors and seemingly they vanish, or almost.

One returns as she attempts to overcome her shyness and return the book: can she manage to get the better of it?

Could a simple word perhaps be all that’s required?

Make sure to check out the endpapers – this moving, empowering story starts and concludes thereon. It’s a great book to open up discussions with youngsters, about overcoming shyness or other fears.

Wordless books leave room for readers’ own interpretations – to ask and answer their own questions, and perhaps draw their own conclusions. Brooke Boynton-Hughes’ softly coloured pencil, ink and watercolour illustrations leave plenty of space for them to do just that, not least just how much inner courage Molly had to summon up to step outside and make that journey into the anxiety-inducing world beyond the safety of her home.

I’m a Baked Potato

I’m a Baked Potato
Elise Primavera and Juana Medina
Chronicle Books

As a stylish woman sits relaxing in her garden she admires her potato plants for she has a particular penchant for potatoes.

She also has a great liking for dogs and one day she goes out and gets a little brown terrier, likening it to her favourite baked potato food and constantly calling it “Baked Potato” as they spend their days inside together.

One day though, the two sally forth but not together.

As the dog searches for the woman, little by little he starts to wonder whether perhaps after all, he’s not a baked potato; but nor is he as the big dog tells him, a groundhog; nor is he a plump bunny like the fox says, igniting his oven and licking his lips in eager anticipation.

Happily for the ‘bunny’ an owl happens along and taking the little canine under its wing, explains that he’s a dog and points out that “dogs are very good at finding things, especially with their noses.” And the rest, shall we say is a sniffing journey and a joyful reunion.

Slightly crazy, but full of cosy charm and gentle humour is Elise Primavera’s telling; and with Juana Medina’s brightly coloured, detailed, swirling, whirling digital art, the book is a delightful read aloud either to a class or individuals with lots of possibilities for adult/child dramatising along the way.

Most Marshmallows

Most Marshmallows
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books

Imagine an entire world populated by marshmallows; it’s what story-inventor extraordinaire, Rowboat Watkins does, one way or another.
As he informs us at the outset, ‘Most marshmallows don’t grow on trees … or come from storks — or even Mars.’

Instead most are mostly born of marshmallow parents and reside in various kinds of homes. They do the kind of things you and I would do like celebrating birthdays, watching television, going to school – well the young ones do, and presumably the marshmallow teachers.

Lessons are taught in being squishy – yes even these already soft confections have to perfect their squishiness, and in standing in rows – I’m not a big fan of that one, but some educational establishments think it’s super important;

and most definitely they should come to understand why they cannot breathe fire (that art is the preserve of dragons).

Now happily there are some divergent thinking marshmallows with secret knowledge and it’s something SO important I’ll share it with you humans so you can make sure your little ones know too: ‘Marshmallows – all of them – can do or be anything they dare to imagine.’

Now I’ve always said how crucial the development of the imagination is in education, or anywhere really and now THANK YOU Rowboat for your affirmation of this, with the help of those malleable little confections of yours.

Superbly creative, funny and positively inspiring, this is a truly tasty tale to share with young humans. Rowboat’s mixed media photo images are absolutely terrific; his scenes of what marshmallows do – be that most, the exceptions, or indeed all, are quite brilliant.

I was partial to marshmallows before reading this book, I’m even more so now.

Bikes For Sale

Bikes For Sale
Carter Higgins and Zachariah OHora
Chronicle Books

Meet Maurice, seller of lemon drinks from his mobile stall: ‘No matter where he rode, he always had customers.’

Also meet hedgehog Lotta; she owns a red bicycle that she uses to collect sticks, which she gives away for stilts, swords and limbo bars: ‘Everyone loves sticks … They’re the best thing to collect.’

Both pedal all over town but thus far the two have never met. Then however both need to move on and all of a sudden a stick – just a small one – becomes caught in Maurice’s wheel spokes and …

Almost simultaneously Lotta’s bike skids on some petal-like peel and she too takes a tumble. That’s two ruined bikes, but the two characters are unhurt so they endeavour to make do without them, losing business all the while.

In the meantime Sid, local bike restorerer makes a find – two actually –

and before long signs appear in the town advertising his wares; signs that both Maurice and Lotta read and decide to pay a visit to Sid’s establishment.
Hip hip hurrah! Two bikes have become one – a splendiferous tandem.

Then it’s a case of four legs are better than two as the wheels of the bike go round and round, a new friendship is forged and business begins to flourish once more.

With gentle anti-consumerism messages about making do and mending, re-using and recycling, Carter Higgins’ enchanting story is a celebration of friendship, collaboration and much more. I love the alliteration and quirky poetic nature of her verbal narrative.

Equally I love OHora’s characterisation and chosen acrylic colours for his delightfully detailed, sunny scenes of the ups and downs of life animal style. Make sure you take time to look at the maps on both front and back endpapers when you share this super book.

Kindness Rules! / Hide-and-Sleep

Kindness Rules!
Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters (aka Hello! Lucky), offer, courtesy of an elephant and friends, a lesson, or rather several lessons, in good manners. (Elephants are apparently ace when it comes to faultless etiquette.)

First though our magic manners advocate dons respectacles, positive pants and cape of kindness. Polite greetings, sharing, inclusivity, saying please, good listening and explaining one’s feelings, respecting the property of others, not invading another’s personal space; good table manners and knowing when to apologise are all presented as desirable and elephant ends with a summarising golden rule: ‘Treat others the way you want them to treat you!’,

Delivered mostly in rhyme, and through alluring, lively illustrations these lessons will prove invaluable when little ones start playgroup or nursery.

Hide-and-Sleep
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

With her characteristic whimsy, Lizi Boyd has created another winner for little ones. Right from the start they’re urged to join in the play, look closely and carefully and try to discover the answer to the question, ‘Who is hiding?’ in the meadow and forest scenes.

Alternate pages of this tall book are split a little more than halfway down, which encourages readers to participate in the game and search for creatures among the flowers, trees, beside the pond and as day turns to night, on the moonlit hills, among the tree branches and up in the sky.

Every turn of the page reveals more creatures – blinking fish, a sneaking racoon, a resting turtle, a leaping frog, a dashing fox,

a sitting squirrel, a swooping owl and more. Deft fingers can create three alternative double spreads from two as they enjoy the captions that engage and move the game forward in response to the “Who is hiding?’ question it the bottom corner of each recto.

Just before the animals all, or rather almost all, bed down for some shut-eye, the answer to this persistent question is revealed.

Gentle, playful and thoroughly engaging: Lizi Boyd’s richly patterned, stylised images in jewel-like colours provide delight at every turn of the page; but as for the titular ‘sleep’, well, forget it until the final pages; this is full-on energetic frolicking.

Tomorrow Most Likely

Tomorrow Most Likely
Dave Eggers and Lane Smith
Chronicle Books

Dave Eggers has penned rhyming ponderings upon the possibilities of what tomorrow might have in store. None of us knows what the next day will bring but Eggers’ likelihoods are safe, reassuring, sometimes weird like this something that won’t rhyme

and sometimes totally delightful: ‘Tomorrow most likely / there will be a sky / And chances are it will be blue.’ … ‘Tomorrow most likely / you’ll smell the good smell / of an unseen flower you can’t quite name.’ … ‘Tomorrow most likely / you’ll pick up a stone / striped like a spiderweb or maybe a brain.’

In this bedtime story, his laid back languorous, rhythmic textual repetition provides both comfort and cheer –seemingly spoken by the mother from the title page bidding her child goodnight and in so doing looking forward.

Lane Smith holds up a two-way mirror to Egger’s contemplations with his mixed media images of a boy heading out through the door to wander around his urban environment encountering such oddities as a troubled big-eyed bug missing his friend named Stu; or that curved-beaked creature sporting a paper-hat, as well as envisaging eccentricities like eating the cloud-cone as he pauses in a flower-filled patch of green and then, clutching the cone, sings atop a rocky tower;

and closing with the boy now sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow, happy in the belief that because he’s in it, it will be ‘a great day.’

Touches of whimsy abound in this detailed urban landscape especially for those who know how to look for the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.

Catch Me / Wilfred and Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure

Catch Me
Anders Arhoj
Chronicle Books

In this double-ended seek-and-find book a long-necked cat, Big Meow and a spotted dog, Little Woof hunt for one another as they dash through eleven, mostly very busy scenes, changing their colour to blend in with each one.

Begin at the front to follow Big Meow’s journey through the pages and to try to catch Little Woof, work backwards. Either way there’s a pre-chase introductory spread introducing the characters.

The search-and-find pages have no words apart from a sign with Japanese symbols in this springtime café scene …

Each one of Arhoj’s incredibly busy, bright digital scenes will likely make the reader linger long after finding Meow and Woof as they enjoy the quirky details be that in the beauty salon, the alley with its shadowy creatures …

the park, the animal show, the cloud based carnival or any of the other zany locations. Each one is rendered in a different colour palette, which ups the challenge and interest levels another notch.

Enormous fun, the entire book is totally immersive; I hate to think how long I spent poring over it. Love those clever die-cut covers, each with its pair of alluring staring eyes; young readers will too.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure
Lomp
Little Tiger

Following their Totally Wild Chase famous explorers Wilfred Wiseman and Olbert Oddbottom are off on another action packed adventure.
While out shopping one afternoon the friends enter a time portal and in so doing find themselves cascading through thousands of years of history and unbelievably all the way back to the beginning of the universe.

Landing in a prehistoric ocean 360 millions years ago they confront among other creatures a Dunkleosteus, and readers are asked to search and see how many trilobites they can find.

From there they make a hasty exit and land up in a swampy forest of the Carboniferous period.

Further retreats into the time portal take them not home but in turn to the Jurassic period when dinosaurs roamed and they have a narrow escape from a Stegosaurus.

Thereafter they enter the Cretaceous period and come upon even more dinosaurs, followed by the Neogene period, the Quaternary ice age where they meet a mammoth as well as encounter some human cave dwellers before leaping once more through the portal and right back home where it’s time for tea, followed they suppose by a well-deserved rest.

But then they look through the window where a big surprise awaits.

My head was certainly spinning after all that, so I’m certain the two friends needed a lot more than a cup of “Earlier Grey’ or ‘Oo-So-Long’ tea to calm them down.

Frenetic, crazy, action-packed and bursting with speech bubbles: search-and-find enthusiasts especially, will quickly be sucked through the portal along with Will and Ollie, taking a considerable time to emerge from this absorbing book. Fortunately the solutions to the puzzles are given inside the back cover along with a message from a nautilus that issues a further challenge to readers.