Tag Archives: Chronicle Books

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.

Ruby’s Sword

Ruby’s Sword
Jacqueline Veissid and Paola Zakimi
Chronicle Books

However hard she tries, spirited, young Ruby always seems to get left behind when out with her two older brothers. Pausing for breath on their walk, she discovers three long sword-like sticks in the grass; and feeling ‘invincible’ she offers two of the ‘dragon-fighting swords’ to her brothers.

They however only proceed to play with each other leaving her out once again. Disappointed she storms off.

Then, she comes upon an apple tree bearing ‘a royal feast’; she spears the fruit with her sword, which she also uses to help a colony of ants ‘Loyal subjects saved’, as well as to decorate the dirt with her creative efforts.

When a storm gathers scattering swallows, Ruby lifts her sword, whipping the wild winds, swishing at the rumbling, grumbling clouds, the raindrops and, when a huge gust of wind rips a sheet from a clothesline, she catches it on the tip of her sword and uses it to construct a tented dwelling.

Inevitably this attracts the interest of her siblings who are given the cold shoulder when they offer their help.

Now it’s their turn to feel snubbed and off they march but return soon after with handfuls of peace offerings.

Then all three work together to create a ‘magnificent castle’ – the perfect place to shelter loyal subjects – noble knights as well as animal friends.

Jacqueline Veissid’s charming story of sibling squabbles and reconciliation pays tribute to the power of the imagination in her softly spoken narrative, while in her digitally worked watercolour and pencil illustrations, Paola Zakimi clearly shows the siblings changing feelings and adds some lovely details of flora and fauna, along with touches of whimsy through the activities of her playful furry creatures.

A debut story for the author; I shall look out for more from her.

A Friend for Henry

A Friend for Henry
Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
Chronicle Books

Softly spoken though this story is, its impact is powerful. It tells of Henry’s search for a friend among his classmates. Henry has autism, something we’re never told although we’re shown it’s so through his behaviour and his thoughts.

To Henry, Vivianne is ‘a kaleidoscope, a tangle of colours; Samuel ‘a thunderstorm, booming and crashing.’ Later he’s unable to cope with Samuel’s flight of fancy when he grabs one of the tiles Henry has taken such care to arrange, (‘All the edges met and the corners fit perfectly’) describing it as ‘a magic … from a genie’s lamp: “It’s not! It’s from Rug World” the literal-minded Henry insists pointing out the identifying sticker. Now the little lad seems as though he’s getting close to a melt down.

Later on though, Katie joins him as he stands watching the class goldfish in her bowl. Henry considers her, they speak

and then the two go off to play together, first with the blocks …and then outside where Henry waits in eager anticipation for his new friend till she reaches the bottom of the Big Slide.

That Jenn Bailey writes with such sensitivity and understanding is due in no small way to the fact that, as we learn from the book’s cover, one of her son’s has autism. This narrative really does ring true as those of us who have taught differently abled children will appreciate; it feels as though she’s standing behind Henry’s head as she tells her story, while at the same time leaving space for readers’ own interpretations And I really like that there are no labels.

Mika Song’s ink and watercolours illustrations capture Henry and his classmates with grace and economy of line, imbuing each character with a real identity, different feelings and predilections.

An empathetic look at the emotions of finding a friend from a child’s viewpoint whether or not s/he has autism.

Board Book Extravaganza

Cat & Mouse
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel Publishing
There’s a surprise ending in store for listeners to this rhyming tale of a cat and mouse chase.

That though is getting ahead of the tale that begins with a warning to Little Mouse to hide inside the blue house. Through the door goes Little Mouse but the door is open wide so another furry creature enters too.
A chase ensues with Mouse running round and round eventually diving down a hole leaving the moggy pondering momentarily on his whereabouts and the little rodent in boastful mood.

Not for long however for the mouse soon exits the hole and the chase is on again.

A clever manoeuvre on Mouse’s part sees him outside under the moonlight without a hint of a cat. Not for long though for Mouse is being trailed around and about and back to the house that both creatures enter. But is all as it first appeared?

With its strategically placed die-cuts, minimalist illustrations and playful narrative this board book will amuse little ones who watch the lively events as they unfold towards the unexpected finale.

Hug Me Little Bear
Chronicle Books
Here’s a very cute little finger puppet book that, courtesy of a thoroughly endearing parent bear, little ones find out what arms can do. There’s a favourite song to dance together to; a gentle game of lift and catch; scrummy breakfast treats to cook up; a tummy tickle and best of all lots of ‘I love you’ hugs.

Full of sweetness and bound to bring on big smiles is this cuddlesome offering.

Little Plane
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
It’s take off time for Little Plane. He zooms skywards for an adventure one beautiful day. However his playful flight suddenly encounters some turbulence courtesy of the smoke pouring from the factory chimneys to which he gets a tad too close.
His landing attempts as he skims and tries to stop atop a tree and whizzes into a very muddy mountain aren’t a great success; and then it looks as though our intrepid friend is about to become engulfed within the huge open mouth of a building.

All ends happily though as Little Plane emerges safely, ready to fly off back home, looking even more shiny-bright than when he began his adventure. (A plane-wash perhaps?)

Little Plane is, like most little humans, learning by experience to cope with the ups and downs of life, and showing resilience in so doing.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Bulldozer’s Shapes
Sherri Duskey and Ethan Long
Chronicle Books

Get ready to shape up along with your little ones and their favourite construction vehicles, in particular big Bulldozer. Aided and abetted by Crane Truck he prepares the site for building. Along the way he shifts the rubble forming first a squiggle, then a ‘triangle’ (strictly speaking though it’s a cone), a circle, a diamond, a rectangle (kind of! But it’s more of a cuboid), a star, an oval and he finishes by squaring the plot off, nice and flat.

With Sherri Duskey’s rhyming couplets and Ethan Long’s digital art this little book will appeal to the many established fans of the series. I’d suggest reading it along with some small world construction toys and a set of both 2D and 3D shapes.

Pigs in a Blanket
Hans Wilhelm and Erica Salcedo
Chronicle Books

Before you  even open up the first page, you’ll be captivated by this charmer with the porcine trio fast asleep tucked cosily beneath the wrap-around blanket that stays in place courtesy of the strategically placed hidden magnet on the front cover.

We then follow the pigs as they wake up, playfully get dressed and style their hair before setting out for a run. The three also attend a ballet class, do a spot of baking, revel in some puddle jumping followed by a warm-up treat.

Goodness they do pack a lot into their day, as there’s still time for some theatrical fun before their bath, tooth-brushing and final clambering back into bed in their moonlit room.

Wilhem’s rhyming text coupled with Salcedo’s comical, energetic piggy scenes make for a fun-filled book that celebrates the simple delights of early childhood and is ideal for sharing with the very young, who are likely to recognise the piggies’ actions as akin to their own.

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug / Dinosaur Farm!

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug
Jonathan Stutzman and Jay Fleck
Chronicle Books

Daft and sweet sums up this story of one very small T. Rex and his enormous challenge.

Tiny, as he tells us at the outset has tiny arms and a strong desire to cheer up his stegosaurus friend Pointy by giving him a hug.

Determined to overcome his design fault and bestow a comforting embrace upon his best pal, Tiny consults various members of his family. His father suggests the solution might be a mathematical one: ‘Rexes are thinkers, not huggers.’ he proffers.
Auntie Junip – a yoga buff – suggests balance (along with a healthy drink of cucumber juice), offers the best means of problem solving.

Thank goodness then for his mum, for now Tiny is both battered and lost until she discovers him and gives some words of reassurance about his being creative, kind, brave and big-hearted.

It’s siblings, Trixie and Rawie that have the most useful suggestion: ‘To do the impossible you must plan and practice.’

However well intentioned this advice – and Tiny is ready to embrace it – the practice doesn’t go so well for the little guy.

And his final hug is a huge error although he does make an important discovery while airborne.

All ends well, though to reveal what happens will spoil the compassionate finale.

Young listeners will doubtless be rooting for Tiny throughout Stutzman’s wryly humorous tale and enjoy Fleck’s minimally detailed stylised digital art; mine certainly did, requesting an immediate re-reading.

Who can fail to admire Tiny with his determination not to let his physical limitations get in the way of his big-hearted instincts?

Dinosaur Farm!
Penny Dale
Nosy Crow

You might be surprised to learn of a gang of dinosaurs running a farm unless you happen to be familiar with Penny Dale’s dinosaur brigade. In which case you’ll already know that these prehistoric beasts can take on all manner of unlikely roles so farming is no challenge too far despite Dinosaur Farm being an extremely busy place.

There are fields to plough – up and down, up and down as well as sheep that need feeding.

A group of noisy dinosaurs are building a fence, bang, bang banging in the wooden posts while a rather pongy Allosaurus is muck-spreading.

We see two of the team making the hay into bales and others digging up the muddy carrots.

When the sun comes out, it’s time to get out the combine harvester and cut the corn. Then there’s the apple harvest to pick – red, juicy fruits aplenty – yum, yum.

Finally all the produce needs cleaning and packing: it keeps the entire group of ten working late into the night but what is all this hard work for?

Where could they be going next morning with their trailer loaded? There’s certainly excitement in the air …

Told as usual in rhythmic language, the story is punctuated by contextually apt exclamations your little ones will love to join in with, while Penny Dale’s elaborately detailed pencil and watercolour scenes will absorb them visually. They’ll likely be amused at such humorous touches as the ‘Haymaking dinosaurs …’ scene that shows one of the two propped up against a bale, seemingly snoozing.

Early Years Christmas Miscellany

Christmas
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow

What a gorgeous introduction to the festive season for a little babe is the latest in Lisa and Edward’s Baby’s First Cloth Book series.

Baby Boo, suitably clad is taken outdoors into the snow where, to the song of a bird, Daddy and infant build a snowman. Back inside the fire gives a warm glow, the Christmas tree lights sparkle and soon Santa will come with a special gift for Baby Boo.

With its crinkly pages and buggy handle, this book in a box would make a lovely gift for a new parent this Christmas.

Decked Out for Christmas
Ethan Long
Abrams Appleseed

The mouse elves are all prepared; it’s time to start decorating. Out come the lights, the garland, the baubles, and the star.
But why sunglasses and hot chocolate and surely a map and air freshener aren’t needed to adorn a tree?

Eventually in a fun twist, Ethan Long reveals all. It’s a turbo-charged sleigh those elves have been busily decorating: now who might that belong to? …

Just right to share as you and your toddler set about decorating your tree.

Make & Play Christmas
Joey Chou
Nosy Crow

Unlike other titles in this series where you can make an entire scene, the press-out pieces from this festive book slot together or are used separately to make twenty seasonal decorations – Santa, a reindeer, an angel, snowflakes and a star, bells and baubles, candy canes and a Christmas tree to hang on your tree.
There are also pages with instructions for making paper chains and wrapping paper, recipes for gingerbread biscuits and snowball truffles, the words of the ever popular Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas and those little ones who like messier things can use their hands and feet to print a reindeer’s head: (if done on thick paper or card these might be turned into Christmas cards).

Helpfully the decorations can be dismantled and popped back into the book to keep them safe until next year.

Construction Site on Christmas Night
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Ag Ford
Chronicle Books

Christmas is almost here but the construction vehicle team has one final job to complete: they’re building a very special house and they really must get it done.

Into action roars Bulldozer first and for his trouble he receives a special thank you gift.

So it is with Excavator, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck and Crane: each one gets a special ‘thank you’ surprise at the end of the day.

Then across the snow comes the fleet of fire-trucks, bells a-ringing. What awaits this merry ‘fire crew’ as they come to a halt for the night? …

Full of the seasonal spirit of friendship and kindness, the rhyming narrative with its repeat refrain “Merry Christmas! … Goodnight.” together with richly coloured spreads of the construction vehicles against a snowy townscape make for a truck-lovers delight.

Animal City

Animal City
Joan Negrescolor
Chronicle Books

I’m always on the lookout for books that celebrate story telling and reading, and this one does just that. The stories in this book however have a most unusual setting and an unlikely audience.

Without further ado let’s go to Nina’s favourite place, a secret jungle city where lost objects might be discovered, though now its only inhabitants are plants and animals, for nature has completely taken over.

Nina loves to observe the animals and they love to see her too bringing with her as she does, storybooks to share with them.

Different kinds of stories are favoured by her audience: the monkeys like space adventures; the flamingos’ taste is for myths and legends while the snake has a penchant for sea-related poetry.
All however agree that the very best story of all is one featuring themselves in their wild ‘animal city’ as Nina calls it in this metafictive turn.

Where has the storyteller come from? Why is she there? What has happened to cause the humans to leave their urban homes and where are they now?

These questions immediately come to mind as one reads the brief text, although a fascinated child audience will likely come up with a number of others, for each of Joan Negrescolor’s striking spreads offers much to explore and speculate upon.
His chosen striking colour palette and flatness of the illustrations serve to emphasise the strange, somewhat dystopian nature of the entire book.

Bedtimes Dramas: Night Play / How to be a Supercow!

Night Play
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

This is billed as a bedtime story in three acts and as the presenter states as the first act opens, it stars Arlo (a little boy) and Friends (his soft toys). That is the intention but as the boy tells us, he is already feeling sleepy and while the toys – a big cat, lemur, rabbit, fawn and two birds are engaged in planning Act 1, the boy falls asleep.

The excitement builds as props are gathered, costumes tried and hastily abandoned on account of their itchiness and weight; sound effects are debated, moves worked on and further sounds added …

till all the noise eventually reawakens the slumberer.

Then with full cast reassembled, the curtains are opened in a dramatic gatefold to reveal …

and the entire show concludes with a bow and (instead of the suggested Act 4) the actors’ sleepy denouement.

Beautifully satisfying, this truly is a theatrical performance with clever design that promotes close attention to detail as well as using a similarly striking pattern for the stage curtains and Arlo’s pyjamas. I particularly like too, the changing backdrops for each spread with additional bit part players and other details for aware viewers to spot and enjoy.

A lovely introduction to theatre for little ones and perhaps, an inspiration for some to have a go creating their own dramas.

How to be a Supercow!
Deborah Fajerman
Barron’s Educational

Here’s a little rhyming book that will resonate with a good many parents.

Three tired little calves attempt to sweet talk their mother cow into allowing them to delay bedtime with accounts of their secret must-do supercow activities.

There isn’t much these lively creatures can’t turn their hooves to. There are dragons to rescue from angry princesses;

there’s gold to liberate from pirates, not to mention call outs to attend to, troublesome machines to fix and much more. Quite simply with such drama, there isn’t time for sleep.

Mum knows just how to deal with her young offspring however. She acknowledges their super powers but beguiles them into donning their night attire,

brushing their teeth, washing and delaying all those vital heroic actions till morning. Oh! there’s also a promise of a special treat  too.

All this crazy action is wonderfully illustrated in spirited scenes of totally endearing bovine characters that will amuse both little humans and their long-suffering adult ‘putters to bed’.

Little Bear’s Big House / There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor

Little Bear’s Big House
Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books

Tired of his uneventful life in the forest Little Bear leaves his Mama, Papa and Teeny Tiny bear to embark on a big adventure, “far from the forest” so he says.

His exploratory intent means that he turns down invitations from his forest dwelling friends, to keep moving
till eventually, as night falls he comes upon a huge, amazing-looking house in a clearing.
The door is ready to be opened so Little Bear, acting like a little boy, decides to enter.

Once inside the real adventure begins …

“Being on my own is so much fun!’’ comes the cry until there is an enormous BANG! Little Bear dives beneath the bedcovers and his imagination runs riot.

What ensues is something of a surprise but suffice it to say that when Little Bear finally reaches home after an adventure that proves a little too much for the young ursine character, he learns that he isn’t the only one with an exciting story to tell about a big house.

Hilarious scenes of Little Bear and his antics as he seeks a modicum of independence, offer plenty for little humans to pore over.

There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor
Wade Bradford and Kevin Hawkes
Walker Books

Mr Snore, an extremely tired musician checks into the very grand-looking Sharemore Hotel hoping for a good night’s sleep. No sooner has his head hit the pillow however than he discovers that his bed is already occupied. He demands a new room and there are plenty of options starting on the second floor but he has no intention of sharing his slumber time with a pig so he calls the front desk again.

And so it goes on until despite the knowing porter’s unfinished warning, Mr Snore ends up at floor number thirteen. The bed is definitely gigantic and might at last prove satisfactory.

Now however, it isn’t Mr Snore who makes a call downstairs to the front desk …

With its crazy finale, nicely contrasting main characters and Kevin Hawkes’ zany illustrations, this romp of Wade Bradford’s truly is a bedtime tale with a difference.

Door

Door
JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books

I loved JiHyeon Lee’s debut Pool and this story too is wordless or virtually so.

It begins with a boy finding a key and following a flying insect through miserable-looking humans to a door.
Having turned the key and ventured forth he finds himself in a new world populated by strange-looking creatures, the first being one carrying a large musical instrument case. Alarmed, the lad runs off …

only to encounter another creature, who also speaks to him.

Overcoming his initial alarm, the boy allows her to take his hand and lead him to join a group of picnickers.

After partaking of some food, the boy swings,

climbs trees and generally has a fabulous time, as more doors appear through which many more creatures enter.

One of them is a bride and then we discover where everyone has been heading: a very special celebration.

Differences in language and kind matter not: all are welcome at this joyful occasion so wonderfully depicted in Lee’s intricately detailed, enchantingly whimsical scenes. The speech bubbles show many different languages being spoken but the understanding comes not through the words, rather it’s the inclusive, all-embracing attitude of the creatures that speaks of open-heartedness and warmth.

Observant readers will notice that as the story progresses, the boy’s appearance changes from a frightened grey to rosy, full colour.

Halloween is Coming: The Right One / Monster School / Bizzy Bear Spooky House

The Right One
Violeta Noy
Templar Books

New Spanish author/illustrator Violeta Roy presents in bold graphics, a cute story about daring to be different ghost-style: it’s perfect for Halloween, especially for those who don’t like to be scared.

Roderic is the smallest ghost in a very large, ancient family. They all look pretty much alike on account of wearing sheets although Roderic’s is the tiniest.

This diminutive ghost is the last of a long line and he feels more than a little insignificant. None of his family seems to notice his presence. Roderic decides to do something about this. His name is fixed, ditto his family but he can change his appearance. Both a hat, and a scarf prove problematic.

Next morning, deciding a more radical approach is required, our little ghost experiments until finally he’s ready to sport his new gear.

However the reception he receives isn’t quite what he’d hoped, so off he goes to strut his stuff among the city folks. Once again though, nobody notices him at all: poor little thing is now feeling even more invisible than ever.

Back home again he’s given a fresh white sheet but it makes him anything but happy. His frustration causes things to start flying around, one of which just happens to land upon the little ghost and yippee! It feels absolutely right.

What’s more, it looks absolutely right and now nobody is going to stop him from wearing it.
And maybe, just maybe, his new appearance might have some influence on other members of Roderic’s family.

For older readers:

Monster School
Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin
Chronicle Books

A school it may be, but despite its fairly typical activities – homework for example, there’s a class pet and a regular weekly menu on offer at the cafeteria – Monster School’s pupils are anything but your usual boys and girls; the staff are pretty weird too.

Let’s meet some of them. There’s Stevie the Loser, who manages to lose pretty much anything and everything from backpack, book and homework, to his eyeball, kneecap and arm; what a zombie! He may not be able to find said homework but keen-eyed readers will surely spot it still attached to that missing arm of his.
There’s also ‘a ‘multicultural’ miss – whose family tree comprises giants, witches, trolls and other ghoulies.

Computer Wizard has tech skills aplenty: app creator, program writer extraordinaire, with a mouse that dines on virtual crackers and cheese and a ram that consumes virtual grass; seemingly this guy can do anything so long as it’s not a word problem.
I should also mention she of the amazing hair; it’s entirely reptilian with an abundance of adders, vipers and other venomous twisters and twiners.

Katie Coombs imaginative verses employ a variety of forms that will send tingles down the spines of primary age readers while Lee Gatlin’s creepy illustrations home in on the grim and gruesome with plenty of details of the shivery kind.

For the youngest:

Bizzy Bear Spooky House
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow

In his latest adventure, Bizzy Bear dons his starry costume and accompanied by his pal, ventures into a spooky house. Therein are plenty of things to make him shiver as he enters the spiders’ web festooned hall, climbs the creaky stairs and discovers a surprise party at the very top of the house.
Benji Davies’ scenes have plenty to amuse and explore and with a slider or tab to manipulate on every spread, this is mock scary Halloween fun for toddlers.

The Dreamer

The Dreamer
Il Sung Na
Chronicle Books

Pig, an admirer of birds has a dream; he too wants to fly.

He’s a determined creature and having watched them fly south he sets to work to discover the secrets of flight. With the help of his friends – assorted feathered ones, a horse, a rabbit and a pink pachyderm – he amasses information, develops plans, fails …

modifies, perseveres and finally, he is triumphant. Ambition achieved: he can fly like a bird.

Still not satisfied, the sky’s the limit, decides Pig as he sits staring up at a large round object amid the stars.
His achievements inspire others the world over

and yet … ‘in my beginning is my end’ to borrow some words from T.S.Eliot; and so it is with this story that ends as it began, “Once, there was a pig who admired birds.’

This is a beautiful tale made all the more so by the fact that the book was inspired by Il Sung Na’s own life journey towards becoming a creator of picture books. He clearly has a sense of humour as is shown in his somewhat whimsical ink and pencil, digitally composited illustrations. I love the scene of Pig sitting beneath the tree with an apple falling before his eyes a la Newton; and that of the friends also gathered under that same tree with an apple precariously balanced on a branch ready to drop.

Dream big, work hard, seek advice, never give up and eventually with determination and imagination, success will come. So it was for Pig, so it will be one hopes, for young children who share in his story. It’s simple yet profound.

The Crocodile and the Dentist / Molly Mischief: When I Grow Up

The Crocodile and the Dentist
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

Crocodile has a cavity and is suffering from toothache, and must, albeit reluctantly, pay a visit to the dentist.
Equally, the dentist is more than a tad apprehensive about treating the croc.
Both try to be brave and each prepares for the worst.
Two “Ouch” moments occur – one apiece; tears are shed (crocodile tears perhaps) but both persist with the task in hand reigning in their anger

until finally, the tooth is fixed.

Unsurprisingly neither crocodile nor dentist is looking forward to the next visit.

In the meantime Crocodile knows he must follow the dentist’s instructions and brush his teeth regularly.
As portrayed in Gomi’s bold expressive style, both characters display their emotions facially and in their body language with the croc. being particularly appealing despite those jaggy teeth and enormous jaws.

A fun book for re-enforcing good oral hygiene and the desirability of regular visits to the dentist, as well as an enjoyable demonstration of bravery and empathy.

Molly Mischief: When I Grow Up
Adam Hargreaves
Pavilion Children’s Books

Fed up with being bossed around by her parents, Molly Mischief contemplates what being a grown up with a job has to offer.
There are all sorts of possibilities such as an astronaut – although this has its distinct disadvantages too.
She tries her hand as a fire-fighter and loves it, although her mum and dad definitely do not.
Mum is equally aghast when her daughter attempts to become a baker of the world’s best cakes –err?

Exploring could bring excitement and plenty of action –perhaps too much though!
So what else is there? Maybe a scientist or even, a pop star? But on second thoughts …

Other roles she imagines seem in turn, too dangerous, challenging, yucky, downright scary, noisy, or stinky. Molly does excel at making others laugh though, so what about a clown. Oops! Dad is not amused.

Libraries are definitely out of the question: Molly’s far too noisy.

Light bulb moment: none of these grown-up roles leave any room for the activities she loves as a child – playing with her pals, constructing, painting, teasing even. Maybe Molly should put off becoming an adult for a little while and just get on enjoying being mischievous herself.

Adam Hargreaves’ Molly is a delight: I love the way it’s no holds barred when she comes to considering what she might do as an adult. Her imagination knows no bounds, so misadventures are larger than life and full on as she throws herself wholeheartedly into everything she does.

Super Frozen Forest / Maze Quest

Super Frozen Magic Forest
Matty Long
Oxford Children’s Books

Brrrrrr! The inhabitants of Super Happy Magic Forest are back in a third adventure that begins when the evil Ice Queen who is intent on spreading bitter winter chills across the entire world starts with Super Happy Magic Forest, over which now hangs a huge snow cloud.

As a blizzard rips through the forest, five brave heroes, Blossom, Twinkle, Herbert, Trevor and Hoofus sally forth with the hope of defeating the enemy and breaking the spell.

Readers accompany the quintet on their quest as they journey northwards (pausing for rest and refreshment at the Elf and Dwarf Tavern). Their endeavours to blend in with the local residents are not entirely convincing and a chase begins.

Sadly the adventurers are captured and taken before the Ice Queen in whose palace they receive a chilly welcome.

And worse, for the egregious ruler lets loose her magic, encasing four of their number inside blocks of ice.

That leaves Herbert to take on the Queen by himself: is he a match for the evil woman?

Can he break the spell that grips his homeland in wintry weather, restore the sunshine and free his companions?

This is absolutely brilliant fun, brimming over with splendidly wacky characters both good (don’t miss Gnomedalf) and bad. Every spread – like that icy cloud – will hold readers in its clutches as they explore Matty’s superbly imagined scenes that are guaranteed to make readers splutter with delight over the splendid silliness of it all.

Maze Quest
Travis Nichols
Chronicle Books

A story with puzzles to solve, not just any story, but an exciting one that’s lots of fun, places the reader in the role of main character and asks him/her to put their photo in the frame on the front endpapers.

From then on it’s a quest to find the Sword of Lacidar, stolen hundreds of years ago from the Chamber of Priceless and Ridiculously Fantastic Treasures. The first task is to navigate the maze of messy bedroom into the secret Quest Office wherein sits Anirak, warrior/manager of the whole operation.

The missing sword is now in five pieces scattered through the realm, the first being just outside the Quest Office; the others lie in Drymouth Desert, within Shinsplint Mountain, across the Sea of Sickness and atop the Mazing Temple.

There are all kinds of mazes to negotiate, some fairly easy, others more challenging as you travel through a boneyard, a field of flowers, a beehive, a tropical rainforest, a junkyard and on other exciting paths. You even have to pass through the innards of a large dead beast. YUCK!

On the way there are some weird and wonderful encounters with such characters as monks, a wizened old man and the Ghoul King.

Hours of immersive enjoyment and challenges a plenty.

Hungry Bunny

Hungry Bunny
Claudia Rueda
Chronicle Books

We first met Bunny on the ski slopes and now the cute little rabbit returns with a very rumbly tummy. However, there’s a snag: the yummy-looking rosy apples hanging ready to sate that hunger are out of reach.
This is where readers can help, first by shaking the book to try and dislodge said fruit; then blowing on the page to unwrap Bunny’s leafy wraparound.

Oops! Yes that works but the sudden breeze causes our friend’s scarf to blow up into the tree just above grabbing height.

Ah-ha! Bunny has a plan. If we carefully position the ribbon inserted in the page, it becomes a climbing rope: clever thinking Bunny.

Now you can sit on the branch and throw juicy apples into the strategically placed cart. Then yes, we’ll surely grab the scarf once more and hold it tight while you slide down.

If readers were thinking that’s all the assistance Bunny requires, well it’s not.
There’s some book-tilting required to get the cart rolling down the hill; a bit of playful rocking it back and forth.

Yippee! That launches cart and Bunny skywards for a spot of aerobatics –

great fun, but out come all the apples.

No matter; life’s full of thrills and spills and that ribbon comes in useful again – this time as a means of crossing a gorge.

Is Mum bunny ever going to get those apples to make a deliciously tasty pie? What do you think?

There’s a delicious autumnal feel to this slice of life Bunny-style: outlined in charcoal, there are the rosy apples of course, the cart has a pinkish hue and certain imperatives are printed in matching red, and both the background, Bunny’s jacket and other items are rendered in yellowish tones.

To add to the appetising nature of the telling, our rabbit friend has dropped some choice idiomatic phrases into the narration, ‘I upset the apple cart’ being one.

Very effective as an interactive tale, and enormous fun to share.

Mike the Spike / Barkus Dog Dreams


Mike the Spike

Stella Tarakson and Benjamin Johnston
New Frontier Publishing

Small for his age, Mike has red hair; it’s his pride and joy, particularly because it makes him look taller when he’s gelled it into spikes. The trouble starts when his class is busy engaged in hat making for the great hat parade to be held in a couple of days. Everyone’s hat is well under way except Mike’s; he’s having trouble deciding what to make on account of his itchy head, which has been bothering him all day. Dandruff maybe, he wonders. But then as the lad gives his head yet another scratch, something becomes wedged under his fingernail. Oh no! Mike has head lice.

Determined to keep the matter a secret both from people at school and his mum, the boy takes matters in his own hands; but his lice-ridding attempts fail miserably.

Seizing the opportunity to go to the chemist when Mum needs some more contact lens cleaner, Mike asks the chemist for what he thinks he needs.

Eventually though he has the right shampoo for the task, a task he decides must be done in the school toilets. No easy task since the stuff needs to be left on for twenty minutes.

Will he ever rid himself of this pesky problem and can he manage to make himself a stylish hat in time for the parade?

The gigglesome moments as the lad tries to sort out one scratchful incident after another are likely to induce splutters of mirth from newly independent readers whether or not they’ve suffered from having those uninvited guests in their own hair. Watch out when you read this review (or better still, the book,) that you don’t suddenly get that urge to scratch.

A sprinkling of coloured louse-some, laugh-some illustrations from Benjamin Johnson have wriggled their way into the tale.

Barkus Dog Dreams
Patricia MacLachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books

Five further episodes, one per chapter, in the life of the mischievous Barkus, his little girl owner Nicky, feline Baby, and their family.

Once again Nicky acts as narrator relating a visit to see Robin the vet on account of a problem with Barkus’ ear (it’s infected);

a birthday party for the town in which they all live when Barkus finds temporary fame as a singer as he comes to the aid of a soprano struggling to reach the high notes;

and a search and rescue for some missing farm animals. Barkus makes friends with the next door neighbour’s dog, Millie and an exchange of toys takes place. The final chapter has Millie and owner Miss Daley staying with Nicky’s family while a storm rages and there’s a power cut.

It’s all highly entertaining, generously illustrated with Marc Boutavant’s bright, funny pictures and there’s just the right amount of action and detail to keep those just starting to fly solo as readers interested and involved.

Nature & Around the World / Look, a Butterfly! / Little Boat

Nature
Around the World

Nosy Crow

These are the two latest additions to the wonderful board book series produced in collaboration with The British Museum, each presenting and celebrating cultures the world over, and inspired by the enormous British Museum collection.
Nature celebrates both the flora and fauna of the world and the elements, from a shell to the sun; the squirrel to the sunflower and the butterfly to blossom.

It’s absolutely gorgeous and certain to engender curiosity about the natural world.
In Around the World fourteen cultures are represented through items from near and far: Egypt, France, Britain, America, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, Greece, China, Kenya and India each have a spread or page devoted to items including clothing,

musical instruments, buildings, jewellery, and much more.

Both are, like the rest of the series absolutely superb for developing language as well as being a brilliant way to introduce history and culture to your little ones, especially if you can combine it with a museum visit too.
If you can’t, worry not: each has an index as well as QR codes linking to additional information about each object featured.

Enormously worthwhile to add to bookshelves at home, or in an early years setting.

Look, a Butterfly!
Yasunari Murakami
Gecko Press

This lovely little board book is by award-winning Japanese artist/designer/author, Yasunari Murakami who is also an environmentalist and lover of wild-life. It begins with an irresistible invitation to notice, and then follow the journey of a butterfly as it explores what a flower garden has to offer.

We see the flower buds pop open and burst into a host of colours;

watch the little creature pause for a drink of nectar and revived, flit and flutter again before coming to rest upon a playful kitten.

This of course precipitates a game of flap and tease before the butterfly finally flies away.

Beautifully simple and attractively illustrated, it gives you an injection of joie-de-vivre and is perfectly honed  to be just right for sharing with tinies. Catch hold of this one before the butterflies disappear for the season.

Little Boat
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

Life lessons Little Boat style will delight fans of Taro Gomi’s previous Little Truck especially.

Here we follow Little Boat as he determinedly manoeuvres his way through bigger boats including a snarling one, braves the rough seas and stormy weather

until after his testing adventures, he finally meets his parent boat once more in calm waters.

Short and sweet: splendid entertainment for little ones and a great demonstration of remaining positive no matter what.

What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference?
Emma Strack and Guillaume Plantevin
Chronicle Books

Have you ever been curious about the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket?

Or perhaps pondered on what makes a clementine different from a mandarin – I’ve never been able to get that straight; ditto a peach and a nectarine.

Feeling rotten? Maybe you’ve caught a virus – or is it in fact, something caused by bacteria?

And when do shorts become Bermuda shorts and vice-versa? I can remember at grammar school being told my games shorts, actually more like a divided skirt, should be 3 inches from the ground when kneeling, so surely those were technically bermudas. Who knows.

Seemingly in this case, as with all the 40 pairs in this fascinating book, the devil or rather the difference comes down to the detail.

The stylishly illustrated potpourri refines the distinctions between pairs of animals, items of food and drink, geographical subjects, fashion items, things to do with the human body and finally, city things.

Each double spread offers an introductory paragraph and there are fascinating facts, amusing trifles and other snippets of information all invitingly presented, making this a book that you think you might dip into for a few minutes but then find you’ve spent an hour digging around, poring over the graphic style art work as well as the text.

Ta-Da!

Ta-Da!
Kathy Ellen Davis and Kaylani Juanita
Chronicle Books

Once upon a time a little girl was playing happily with her animal friends in a homemade castle until DUN DUN DUH! there appears at her door, a wizard accompanied by his ‘dragon’.

So begins an action and reaction concatenation with boy wizard attempting to subvert the girl’s peaceable play with his roistering, wrecking actions. She counters these with her wand ‘Ta-Dah!’ and magic spells.

This to and fro of ‘Dun Dun Duhs and Ta-Dahs continues apace until the dragon, having imbibed rather too much water, needs an urgent visit to the bathroom, and the boy exits stage right …

leaving girl and dragon to live happily ever after.

Well, perhaps not quite ever after, for after an uneventful interval, the two decide to pay the boy a visit to see how things are going. And going they certainly are: the boy has become a magician and is about to perform before a decidedly small audience.

Small that is, until girl and dragon pitch in providing more watchers and a co-performer.
Show over, it’s time for a snack providing more happily ever afters … whoops! Not EVER, after all: there’s still time for one final, sub-aquatic adventure together.

DUN DUN DUH! … Ta-Da!’

Conflict and resolution done with panache in this debut for both author, Davis and illustrator, Juanita. It’s a wonderful portrayal of children’s imaginative play with its give and take and boundless possibilities.

The Truth About My Unbelievable School…

The Truth About My Unbelievable School …
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books

Henry returns in a new story, and on this occasion he’s charged with taking a new classmate on a tour around school. If you’ve met Henry previously, you’ll already know that he’s more than a little inclined to exaggerate. Here though he’s up to something different: “… there really isn’t much to see …” he tells the girl as he shows her the class pet – a gigantic jellyfish. She appears singularly unimpressed, as she does at the sight of the music teacher,

the art class in progress and the maths lesson.

Not even the long tentacles escaping from a part closed door, the short cut to the playground …

or the flying mashed potatoes in the cafeteria cause her to bat an eyelid.
After a few more stops including a Smaug-like den and the principal’s office (reached by rowing boat),

the two arrive back at their classroom just as their teacher is bidding the class farewell. Perfect timing. And then we get a wonderful surprise ending.

(Observant readers may well have noticed the odd clue as to what’s coming already, as well as enjoying the various literary allusions scattered throughout in Chaud’s wryly funny illustrations.)

Keep an eye on Henry’s dog: the animal seems to have muscled its way into the action and is sure to make readers smile.

Delicious fun and another likely winner for Cali and Chaud.

Sea Star Wishes / Ocean

Sea Star Wishes
Eric Ode and Erik Brooks
Sasquatch Books

Singer, songwriter and author, Eric Ode shares the sights and sounds of the seashore in his twenty poems, some tightly rhyming, others more free, and some such as Wrinkles and The Sea Lion sans rhyme altogether; but all painting wonderful word pictures.

I love for example, those closing words of his The Sea Urchin where he describes the creature as ‘that thistly / bristly / hedgehog of the sea.’ as well as Wrinkles and The Stunt Kite. The latter rather than fly, ‘swoops / and loops./ … circles / and lunges, / lurches, / dives, / climbs / and plunges.’ Text and illustration work particularly well together in this one.
Moods range from comical

to contemplative

and there’s certainly much to discover and enjoy whether or not a seaside trip is planned. No matter, herein without getting sand in your sandwiches, you can construct a sand castle and perhaps encounter a sandy royal family.

I have to admit I’ve never heard of a geoduck – the subject of one of Ode’s more insouciant poems, perhaps because it’s native to waters around the coast of northwest US and western Canada, although geoducks are apparently available through a shellfish trader in London’s Billingsgate Market.

From barnacles to boats and fishing to footprints, you’ll find something to stimulate children on a visit to the coast, to search for some of the wonders captured herein.

Ocean
Ricardo Henriques and André Letria
Chronicle Books

Billed at “A Visual Miscellany’ this book takes the form of a digest. There’s a wealth of information about a wide variety of ocean-related topics starting with a look at the major oceans themselves.

Then follows several spreads on ‘watercraft’ – the various kinds of sea vessels; the parts of a ship, the use of stars as guides for seafarers and other means of navigation. There are several practical activities including making a paper boat and a submarine.

Historical facts too are included, from a look at some famous explorers, to the kinds of food eaten and illnesses that might trouble sailors of yore, as well as mention of mermaids, the kraken, Neptune and superstitions; and there’s a spread on some famous tales from the deep.

Fishing, waves, safety at sea and marine wild life have also seeped between the covers;

there’s even a recipe for Portuguese fish stew, although as a veggie, I won’t be trying that.

With its eye-catching blue, black and white illustrations by André Letria, this is an enticing book to include in a primary school library or classroom topic box.

Mabel and Sam at Home

Mabel and Sam at Home
Linda Urban and Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam and things look pretty chaotic from the viewpoint of the siblings.

To keep out of the way of the grown-ups they embark on a series of adventures related in three chapters. The first is ‘On the High Seas’ and here Captain Mabel and First Mate Sam set out in the good ship Handle With Care. Bossy sis. gives the orders as they go sailing on the high seas, a dangerous voyage full of pirates, whales and sea serpents

until they spy some friendly landlubbers, after which it’s “All ashore” for some tasty pizza.
‘At the Museum’ has curator Mabel showing Sam new ways of looking at old familiar things: the dialogue here is especially wonderful with Mabel “Behold“ing at every opportunity as she introduces the various artefacts to her brother.

Finally, after supper the two become astronauts blasting through space heading for Planet Perfecto and for this they need to be especially bold, “Space Bold” Astronaut Mabel declares, “Space Bold is bigger, because space is bigger.

Linda Urban’s entire text is a delight – funny, full of charm, reassuring and cleverly structured so as to embrace the kind of things that cause young children moving day anxieties; and before the end, the children are feeling upbeat about the move with Mabel concluding that their ‘new planet was surprisingly homey’.
Hadley Hooper’s illustrations (created with printmaking techniques and Photoshop) are, like the siblings’ adventures, wonderfully imagined, both in their rendering of the children’s adventures and the portrayal of the somewhat frazzled parents at the end of the book.
Just right for sharing with a child or children moving home.

The Brilliant Deep

The Brilliant Deep
Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe
Chronicle Books

‘It starts with one.’ So begins the inspiring true story of Ken Nedimeyer, who as a boy was fascinated by the underwater world of Florida Keys, in particular the coral reefs. He became troubled when he discovered that those reefs were fading and dying, seemingly there was nothing he could do to save them.

Then as an adult he had one of those ‘what if …?’ moments relating to the staghorn corals he’d grown on his rock farm. His brilliant idea was to transplant the staghorn coral colony he’d grown onto that reef he’d loved as a child: could that colony be brought back to life?

It was surely worth a try and so Ken went back to his beloved reef and glued six small coral colonies onto the limestone surface of the erstwhile reef.

Month by month these transplants grew and became the catalyst for the Coral Restoration Foundation, which now has international links.

Kate Messner pitches her telling of this inspiring story perfectly for primary school age audiences, telling of Ken’s passion, of staghorn corals grown on the rock farm, of his successful experiments and of the volunteers his inspirational work has recruited, finishing as she began with the upbeat, ‘It starts with one.’

A love of wildlife shines through Matthew Forsythe’s exhilarating illustrations. Using a rich colour palette to portray the undersea world and the divers he takes us right up close to the action making this a great book to share with a class or group and who knows, it might just inspire budding marine biologists.
To that end, the final spread provides details of further reading, websites to visit, ways to help and explanations of some of the terms used in the narrative.

Night of the Moon / Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets

With the month of Ramadan starting soon here are two lovely picture books to add to your early years or KS1 class collection:-

Night of the Moon
Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis
Chronicle Books
There’s a slither of a new moon in the sky and Yasmeen’s mother reminds her that it heralds the start of the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

We then follow 7 year-old Yasmeen and her family through the month as the moon waxes and wanes and the girl expands her understanding of what Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr mean.

All the while, the author skilfully integrates information about the celebrations with the warmth of Yasmeen’s love of family and friends as she talks to her mother about fasting, attends family parties, goes to the mosque

and learns about the importance of sharing during Ramadan.

Eventually there is no moon in the night sky and Yasmeen knows that the next night will be the Night of the Moon signifying the end of Ramadan and the much-anticipated Eid-ul-Fitr.

At sunset Yasmeen’s family go to the community centre for a special Night of the Moon celebration and from one of the stalls her mum buys new clothes for the family to wear on the day of Eid.

Back home Yasmeen has her hands decorated with beautiful Mehndi patterns …

and finally next morning it’s time to wish everyone “Eid Mubarak”.

What makes this book so arrestingly gorgeous is Julie Paschkis’ richly coloured gouache paintings bordered with motifs and designs borrowed from Islamic art.

Children of all faiths and none can enjoy sharing in the young girl’s joy in celebrating her faith and its traditions.

a Muslim family celebrates

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets
Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini
Chronicle Books

Following on from Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, the author and illustrator explore both shapes and some cultural and religious aspects of the Muslim world.

Most shapes are two dimensional – the rectangle of the mosque’s wooden door; the octagonal pond surrounding a fountain; the triangular sides of the mimbar’s stairs.

There’s a beautiful square garden fragrant with sweet smelling oranges; the large drum used on festive occasions – a daff – is circular; a painted tile hexagonal; the table an oval and there’s a diamond design on the child narrator’s new Eid kaftan.

Others such as the cone shaped tip of the minaret are 3D and the Ka’aba stone is an enormous cube shape.

So much beauty / in the shapes that I see / adds to my faith / and the world around me.” So concludes the narrator at the end of the book after which comes a helpful glossary in which I discovered that ‘ayah’ used here is a verse from the Quran rather than the meaning ‘nursemaid’ that I’m familiar with.

Mehrdokht Amini’s illustrations, which accompany Hena Khan’s straightforward rhyming text portray Muslims from a number of countries, each spread representing a different country, thus encompassing the cultural diversity of Islam.

Timeless Tales: I Really Want to See You, Grandma / I Wish I Was Sick, Too!

I Really Want to See You, Grandma
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

First published in Japan (the home of the book’s creator), in 1979, this story about a small girl and her grandmother and their efforts to see one another is now available in English for the first time.

Yumi and her Grandma live some distance apart, Yumi on a hill, her grandma on a mountain, and simultaneously each decides to visit the other – why they didn’t ring one another one can only assume is due to there being no mobile phones in those days.

They both leave home in upbeat mood, Yumi boarding a bus, her Gran taking a train.

Both arrive at the other’s home to discover the muddle and head back to their own homes …

missing each other again.

Will they ever get to meet or are they destined to spend the day passing each other on the way?

Gomi’s illustrations fill in much of the detail not mentioned in his simple text: ‘How come she was allowed to go on a bus without a grown-up?’ my listeners wanted to know after hearing this story of mix-ups and changing emotions.

Those in the early stages of becoming readers may well be able to try this one for themselves having heard the story read aloud first.

I Wish I Was Sick, Too!
Franz Brandenberg and Aliki
The New York Review Children’s Collection

I first came across this book as a young teacher in its Picture Puffin incarnation, I Don’t Feel Well.

It features sibling kittens, Elizabeth and Edward. Elizabeth is resentful of the attention her brother receives when he’s ill in bed. “It isn’t fair! … I wish I was sick, too!” she says.
When her wish comes true a few days later, she realises that, rather than all the attention received, it’s as her brother says, “The best part of being sick is getting well.

Aliki’s chalky illustrations capture the emotions of the infant cat characters superbly and the story’s as amusing now as it was over three decades ago.

Share and enjoy no matter the state of the listeners’ health; equally, with its clear print and inviting layout, it’s a good book for solo readers to try for themselves.

The Long Island

The Long Island
Drew Beckmeyer
Chronicle Books

This is an enigmatic debut picture book – a modern fable essentially – that will I suspect, have as many interpretations as there are readers.

We follow a group of five friends as they contemplate and then endeavour to visit the other side of the island they live on.

They set out in a canoe only to discover the far side is ‘too rocky to land on’; one of the crew is lost overboard. Four encounter vegetation ‘too dense to cut through’ where big cats stalk and the explorers’ number is reduced to three.

The trio construct a slide down which they eventually slither in so doing losing another one of their number

leaving the remaining two to discover they are unable to get back from whence they came.

The elaborate edifice they co-construct eventually attracts outsiders who start destroying the beauty of the place

and as the book concludes we see just a single one of the original five setting out alone …

This is a long book with a kind of circularity, richly illustrated in textured crayon, which raises many questions, leaving readers to ponder and to try and draw their own conclusions. It would be an interesting one for community of enquiry discussions, be that with primary or secondary age children, or with students in college.

Aquarium

Aquarium
Cynthia Alonso
Chronicle Books

Leaving her home a little girl follows the path towards a river jetty.

There she stops and gazes into the water completely at one with her surroundings. As she imagines herself swimming among fish of all shapes and sizes,

one fish leaps from the water and lands on the jetty.

The girl catches it in a jar and rushes home with it.

Using an assortment of containers and hose piping, she creates a complicated, multi-container aquatic environment and then, inflating a small pool …

and donning her bathing suit, she enjoys splashing around with the fish.

Suddenly, leaping from the pool, the fish makes a break for freedom and that’s when the girl realises that the creature isn’t happy in its new surroundings.

There is only one thing to do …

This thought-provoking wordless tale is beautifully told in Cynthia Alonso’s debut picture book. Using a gorgeous and unusual colour palette of blues, pinks, browns and oranges rendered in pencil, pens and by digital means she immerses the reader in her heroine’s world of water, fish and wonderment leaving plenty of room for her audience to story for themselves.

Testing Friendships – Fox & Chick: The Party and other stories / Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury

Fox & Chick: The Party
Sergio Ruzzier
Chronicle Books

Let me introduce Chick and Fox. Fox is an equable character who enjoys reading, cooking and painting; Chick, in contrast, is totally irrepressible – a bit of a pain to say the least. Surprisingly these two are friends. They star in three comic style episodes aimed at those just taking off as readers.

The first story (which gives the book its title) is I think the funniest. Chick calls on Fox, gains entry asking to use the bathroom and then proceeds to throw a party for his pals therein.

In the second story, Good Soup, Chick gives Fox a hard time about his vegetarian predilection wondering why he eschews frogs, small furry creatures, grasshoppers and er, little birds as ingredients for his soup.

Finally, Sit Still focuses on Chick’s total inability to do just that , leaping up every few minutes for a cushion, food and a drink while Fox endeavours to paint his portrait.

How long-suffering Fox puts up with Chick is anybody’s guess: – shades of Lobel’s Frog and Toad here – but their interactions are highly amusing, the text very readable and the illustrations rendered in pen, ink and watercolour are wonderfully expressive and enormously engaging.

Rabbit and Hedgehog Treasury
Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
Andersen Press

I’ve been a huge admirer of Stewart and Riddell’s Rabbit and Hedgehog since A Little Bit of Winter (one of the four tales included here) was published about twenty years ago. If you’ve not met these two enchanting characters then this book of four stories is a great opportunity to get to know these two and the challenging nature of their friendship: one is awake all day and the other all night.

In the first neither of the best friends knows the date of his own birthday let alone each other’s. To be on the safe side they decide to celebrate the very next day and each goes about finding a very special gift to give the other.

Rabbit’s Wish is the second story but when he wishes that hedgehog will stay awake so they can spend a whole day together, the outcome is not quite what was anticipated.

In the third episode a remembering game tests the friendship between the two protagonists but an accident serves to remind them of the strength of their bond.

The final A Little Bit of Winter sees the friends facing another challenge. As Hedgehog prepares to hibernate he carves a message on the bark of an oak tree asking the somewhat forgetful Rabbit to save him a little bit of winter so he can find out what the season he’ll sleep through is really like.

Despite the chilly nature of the season, it’s a truly heart-warming story and like the others, beautifully and sensitively illustrated.

Big Bunny

Big Bunny
Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books

Rowboat Watkins does off the wall humour brilliantly as demonstrated in Rude Cakes and Pete With No Pants. Now he’s come up with another quirky, no make that totally bonkers, offering.

‘Once upon a time there was a BIG BUNNY’ begins the storyteller. ‘A ginormously SCARY bunny?’ responds the listener – presumably a child.

From then on the tale becomes an increasingly tall one with BB gorging himself on truckloads of carrots,

until the adult finally hands over the narrative to the child whereupon things spiral out of control with said rabbit devouring not only the carrots but the delivery trucks, a bridge

and then an entire city – the buildings were very tasty after all.

As for Big Bunny surely all that consumption would have damaged his inner workings wouldn’t it, rendering the creature totally unscary?

Thus far, we’ve not seen the two story makers and so have assumed their humanness.

Then comes the penultimate spread where all is revealed – a terrific splutter inducer if ever there was one.

There is no narrative as such, merely the dialogue between the two story makers whose identity I won’t reveal, but let’s just say it’s a bit of a cruncher and the final spread, absolutely delicious.

Seemingly Watkins’ inventiveness knows no bounds: this telling in combination with his crazy scenes of carrots, trucks and that omnivorous Big Bunny are wonderfully weird; look for all the lesser jokes scattered throughout too.

All ages will relish this yummy book for sure.

Maths, Manipulations and Mindfulness

5 Wild Numbers
Bella Gomez
Words & Pictures

Vibrant scenes of jungle animals introduce counting and the numerals 1 to 5 in this chunky book.
The thick sturdy pages accommodate a die-cut numeral on each spread with a sliding disc so that small fingers can follow the arrows, move the disc and trace the numeral for ‘One fierce tiger’, ‘Two stripy zebras’, ‘Three parrots’, ‘Four long-tailed monkeys’ and ‘Five pink flamingos’.

The rhyming text introduces exciting words such as ‘paces and snarls’ for the tiger; ‘laze’ and ‘scorching days ‘ for the zebras and even metaphorical language – ‘ their feathers shining bright as jewels’

A fair bit of pressure is needed to move the discs so in my view the value of this activity lies in helping develop fine motor skills but is of limited help in learning to form the numerals.

Shapes Colours Numbers
Dario Zeruto
Words & Pictures

This is a wordless, (apart from the initial ‘How many shapes and colours can you find?) simple, yet ingenious, chunky book that as it unfolds, encourages youngsters to find out about 2D shapes and colours, and do some counting along the way as they explore a series of gatefold flaps.

Playful, engrossing and educational, and all based on five colours, squares, triangles, rectangles, circles and diamonds.

Touch Think Learn Wiggles
Claire Zucchelli-Romer
Chronicle Books

An engaging rhythmic text, inspired perhaps by Hervé Tullet, urges young children to use their wiggly fingers to dance on each spread as they trace shapes, tap and hop, slide up and down, follow circle outlines, zigzags, and spirals as the text is read aloud.

The text is upbeat and playful, the shapes cut out in fluorescent green, pink, or yellow are attractive and inviting but the white type against pale blue pages less satisfying that the brighter shade of blue used for the cover.

ABC Mindful Me
Christiane Engel
Walter Foster Jr.

Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment, or being in the here and now – is very much in vogue at the moment, with schools adding it to their daily programme, often sadly, tacked on as an optional after school extra rather than it being part and parcel of the curriculum.

Christiane Engel’s sturdy large format board book could help integrate it into the foundation stage curriculum at least. She takes us on a journey through the alphabet linking each letter to an activity – walk, yoga, breathe for example, or a state of mind or concept –awareness, giving, joy or thankfulness.
The rhyming text talks directly to the child and the illustrations are attractive and inclusive.

The book concludes with some creative ideas related to the book’s overall theme.

If you think young children need help to be mindful then this will be useful: I know from experience that if left to their own devices, preschool children naturally reach a state of mindfulness; adults just need to step back – it’s they, rather than children who need a book such as this.

Forever or a Day

Forever or a Day
Sarah Jacoby
Chronicle Books

Sarah Jacoby explores the passage and power of time in a profoundly beautiful picture book meditation that takes the form of a conversational narrative.

The whole thing begins with a Times newspaper van moving through the streets as day begins to dawn watched perhaps by the child on the opposite page through whose eyes we then see a sequence of scenes of family life, some slow, others hurried …

or even frenetic seeming, but each one frozen in time in Jacoby’s watercolour spreads of commuters, a holiday train journey, a car ride to visit grandparents in the countryside.

All the while the accompanying text is gently nudging the reader to think deeply about the passage of time: ‘It can be precise, like pouring the first cup of tea’;

‘Sometimes it’s far, far away – like when you will be old, gazing out at the sea.’

Time can be illusive as here: ‘The more you try to hold it … the better it hides. Where does it go?’ accompanies this sand-castle building sequence .

By now day has given way to night: the family gathers for a sing-song around a campfire but after a fond farewell “You cannot hold it. … We’ve only got what we’ve got.” it’s a night train ride back to the city with its glowing lights

and a final benevolent ‘I love the time I have with you.’

The questions Jacoby poses are profound, though simply asked; and it’s her elegant watercolour spreads that do much of the talking, sometimes surprising and amusing as with the Tyrolean-looking hikers who appear in some of the scenes.

This is a book to share, to ponder over, to talk about, to speculate upon (it’s certainly one for a community of enquiry style discussion) and to savour, and unlike time, to hold on to.

Hello Hello

Hello Hello
Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books

An exchange of hellos between a black cat and a white one sets in motion a concatenation of greetings that celebrates the world’s amazing diversity of zoological life forms, as each turn of the page leads on to something different.

First it’s the varieties of ‘Black and White’ showcasing the black cat, a black bear, a panda, a zebra and a zebrafish.
This fish starts off the colour blast on the next spread where we find …

which completes the rhyming couplet.
The salamander greets the striped and spotted animals on the following page and so it continues with more and more animals and greetings as the creatures pose and posture, display their tongues,

avort, turn upside down or strut across the pages leading into a dance of interconnectedness over the final double spread.
Wenzel uses many different media – pastels, markers, coloured pencils, cut paper collage and oils to showcase his arresting animal and human compositions.

Each of the animals portrayed has a vital role in the ecosystem it inhabits and Wenzel reminds readers of this in the final pages of the book. There is also a double spread identification guide – a cast in order of appearance –that includes information on which ones are ‘vulnerable’, ‘near threatened’, ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’ species. We should get to know more about these amazing creatures and the need to protect those under threat.
As Wenzel, himself an animal enthusiast, says in his author’s note, ‘It starts with saying hello.’

A clever and artful book that celebrates both difference and what unites us, and a message about acceptance of all.
Savour, share, and discuss.

Who Was That?

Who Was That?
Olivier Tallec
Chronicle Books

That Olivier Tallec is a genius in seemingly effortless characterisation was evident in Who Done It? and Who What Where? Now he follows with another equally wonderful memory and observation testing offering, this time making clever use of occasional die-cut holes in the long, narrow pages.

If you ever thought looking and seeing were one and the same, think again.

We begin with a spread that introduces a mix of animal and human characters with a child inviting readers to ‘Blow out the candle and turn the page.’
Having plunged them into darkness we’re then asked ‘Who is wearing a yellow scarf?’

The answer to the question ‘What is Olive afraid of?’ on the next spread, is revealed by turning the die-cut page, but then another tester greets us concerning the colour of Oliver’s undies.

The questions are totally unpredictable as for example when we’re instructed to cover a character standing on a diving board and then asked how many teeth he has.

Sometimes there’s a tricky double poser as when the first question asks ‘Which of these friends likes sleeping on both ends of the bed? You think ‘no problem’ but when you turn over you’re faced with ‘But who wasn’t wearing pyjamas?’ Hmm.
The illustrative details are enormous fun in themselves, take this line up here: every one of the characters must surely have a myriad of stories to tell …

The final scenario is a knockout – literally –it’s as well the archers are using sucker-tipped arrows …

as we discover when the die-cut page is flipped to reveal …

Enormous fun and if you can’t solve the posers, there’s a final visual answer page.

I envisage children inventing their own tricky questions once they’ve solved the posers herein; the potential is huge. Some slightly older readers might even try making their own books along similar lines.

I’ve signed the charter  

Search-and-Find Bonanza – The Walkabout Orchestra, Mice in the City London and Cycle City

The Walkabout Orchestra
Chloé Perarnau
Wide Eyed

What has happened to the members of the orchestra? They’ve all gone missing and there’s an important concert coming up in a few days. Seemingly they’ve dispersed to locations all over the world from where they’ve sent the maestro postcards telling of their various activities. These appear in the top left-hand corner of each locale spread.
In a desperate effort to locate the musicians, the maestro, together with his side- kick, sets off in search of them. Their journey takes them to such diverse places as a fishing village in Iceland, Tokyo, a campsite in France, the pyramids of Egypt, carnival in Brazil and a football field in Abidjan.
In addition to finding the missing musicians, almost every place has a little yellow bird whose speech bubble provides something additional to search for in the lively scenes of the musicians’ sojourns.
Each one is packed with amusing details so that finding the musicians is often no easy matter. However they do all appear within a large arena ready for the concert with their maestro ready to conduct, bird atop his head.
Don’t start reading this if you are short of time, unless you are happy to cheat and look at the answers on the two final spreads.

Mice in the City London
Ami Shin
Thames & Hudson

It’s a mouse takeover: London had been invaded by an army of tiny rodents; some – The Mouses of Parliament for instance, – have jobs to do, others are there to enjoy the sights and some are turning Tate Modern into complete disarray. One daring mouse has even installed herself as Queen Mouse in Buckingham Palace.
A verse introduces each location, opposite which is a detailed whole page pastel coloured illustration of the particular tourist attraction under mouse occupation: every one is full of things to delight and entertain.
The purpose of the book, in addition to enjoying what the mice are up to, is a game of ‘hide-and-squeak’ that entails finding eight things – Inspector Mouse, a stripy tailed cat, Bumble-mouse, a mouse in a bin, a teddy, a Union Jack top hat, a mouse hiding in a top hat and a balloon seller.
Happy Hunting! You’re in for some fun with Ami Shin’s mice.
In the same series is Mice in the City New York. Oh my goodness! Think of the chaos the little creatures might cause in The Strand Bookstore!

Cycle City
Alison Farrell
Chronicle Books

It’s the morning of the Starlight Parade in Cycle City but the parade committee has yet to send out the invitations so they decide to call on the assistance of Mayor Snail.
Can he get all those invites delivered in time for the evening? Perhaps, with the help of Little Ella Elephant who has come to visit one of the city’s residents, her Aunt Ellen. If so, who will play the important role of Grand Marshal at the big event?

A captivating search-and-find for slightly younger readers: this one has a clear storyline and a plethora of speech bubbles and is populated by a vast array of anthropomorphic animals. The spreads are less densely packed than some of its ilk, but have plenty of lovely details, and the endpapers are a visual glossary of all the different bicycles included.

I’ve signed the charter  

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep and Old MacDonald Had a Boat

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep
Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Now here’s a cool idea: new author Katrina Charman has based her upbeat rhyming romp on the rhythm of ‘Baa baa black sheep’, and I’m guessing the playful notion of the strategically placed black sheep passenger on one of the trucks was Nick’s.

So let’s get going on our journey through this vehicular extravaganza, but first we need to make sure that those fuel tanks are full …

Now let the journey begin and see how many different things with wheels, not to mention rotors and sails, we can spy on our travels through the pages.
All that honking, beeping, zooming, chugga chugga choo-ing, flicka flacking, rumbling and scraping, vrooming, screeching and more is pretty tiring, especially when it’s kept up throughout the whole day.
So, come nightfall it’s more than time to head home for some shut-eye …

A terrific, rhythmic read aloud that’s packed full of wonderful sounds to let rip with, in combination with Nick Sharratt’s characteristic cartoon bright illustrations, (love that bus ad.)  this is surely any pre-schooler’s idea of picture book wonderland.

Old MacDonald Had a Boat
Steve Goetz and Eda Kaban
Chronicle Books

First we met the MacDonalds and all their animals with their truck and now they’re back in a new story, truck and all. As the story starts the truck has just drawn up near the barn and it’s pulling an old boat.
Then it’s time for Old Macdonald to set to work. Out come his tools. First it’s a buzz saw with a ‘BUZZ BUZZ here and a BUZZ BUZZ there.’
That’s followed by some hammering

though perhaps the pigs have a better aim that the farmer himself when they BANG BANG in those nails.

Gradually things take shape, then out come the blowtorches, the sanders and finally the paint rollers.

As evening falls their craft is launched and it’s time for a spot of water ski-ing.

Once you’ve had a couple of sing-alongs of Goetz’s text with the book, you’ll likely want to go back and take time over Eda Kaban’s expansive, brightly coloured spreads; of the farmyard crew enjoying themselves together and working together as a team. They’re full of detail and humorous touches.

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words
Animals

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping
Mariana Ruiz Johnson
Chronicle Books

Words there are none, but this picture book is absolutely brimming over with stories.

We start with a view through a window of a mother reading a goodnight story to her child …

then on the next spread, tiptoeing out of the bedroom as the youngster falls asleep.

The view widens as we see both inside the house, and outside in the urban setting where fantasy and realism mix. Under a starry sky what appear to be animal characters from the storybook cavort, while in their homes people eat, chat, cook and embrace. We see a nurse and patients in a hospital, an artist working at an easel, someone with a telescope and more.

The lens widens still further revealing two animals on a jetty carrying a large object.
Keep turning and you see all six characters from the book cover have left the city and are paddling out across the ocean in a kind of long canoe (note the pattern and compare with the child’s bedspread).

They reach the shore of a wild jungle and there in the darkness, light torches and build a bonfire around which they play instruments and dance.

Then, something even more amazing takes place: the bonfire rises up into the sky becoming the morning sun.

Back in the city dawn breaks, the child awakes and a new day begins …

The magical realism of Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez come to mind as the story slips effortlessly between its real and dreamlike, surreal elements.

This is a book that demands close attention and several readings during which, new details will be discovered and fresh possibilities emerge from the dazzling folk-art hues of Johnson’s scenes.

Halloween Briefing: Monsters Galore and a Witch or two

There’s a Monster in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books
Here we have one of those interactive picture books that are in vogue at the moment and it comes from the co-writer of The Dinosaur That Pooped series.
The book is invaded by a rather cute-looking little monster that seems intent on wrecking the whole thing. ‘Let’s try to get him out,’ suggests the narrator which is clearly a good idea.
Readers are then asked to shake, tickle, blow, tilt left, then right, wiggle and spin the book, turning the page after each instruction. All the while the monster lurches this way and that around a plain background looking far from delighted at the treatment being meted out to him.
None of this succeeds in dislodging the creature but he’s definitely feeling dizzy so loud noises come next; then even louder ones.

This works but ‘Now he’s in your room!’ That’s even worse than being contained within the pages, at least from the reader’s viewpoint, so now the idea is to gently coax him back into the book. There he can stay while receiving some tender head stroking and a soft ‘goodnight’ until he falls fast asleep. Ahh!
With Greg Abbott’s cute, rather than scary monster, this is a fun book to share with pre-schoolers particularly just before their own shut-eye time; all that shaking and shouting will likely tire them out making them feel just like this.

SHHHH!

Ten Creepy Monsters
Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Here’s a gigglesome twist on the nursery countdown featuring a mummy, a witch, a ghost, a werewolf, a vampire and others who, having gathered ‘neath a gnarled pine’ begin to disappear until only one remains. But what sort of creepy monster is that? Be prepared for a surprise.
Trick or treaters, if mock scary ghastly ghouls are your Halloween thing then look no further than this gently humorous, little paperback offering.

Scary Hairy Party!
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Monster’s having a party; it’s at 3 o’clock and all her friends are invited. Fortunately they’ve just got time to nip into Raymond’s salon for a hairdo first.
Seemingly Raymond’s not on top form however, as one after another receives a style disaster.

What on earth is Monster going to say when she sets eyes on her pals with their new make-overs?
Light-hearted rhyming fun illustrated with crazy, brighter than bright scenes of barnet mayhem: just right for those youngsters who like their Halloween stories to be on the silly, rather than the spooky side.

The Pomegranate Witch
Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books
A deft rhyming text, imbued with spookiness and replete with rich language, tells a tale of how five children desperate for a pomegranate from the witch’s tree, and armed with all manner of unlikely implements, do battle with its owner to get their hands on a tasty treat from its branches. A veritable Pomegranate War is waged …

until finally, one of children succeeds in bagging the object of their desires and they each have a share of the spoils.
The following day, Halloween, a Kindly Lady (the witch’s sister) appears to offer cider and a celebratory surprise fruit to all the town’s children: ‘And not one child wondered who was who, or which was which. / The shy old Kindly Lady or the Pomegranate Witch.’
Surely they couldn’t be one and the same – or could they?
Not for the very youngest listeners but a fun read aloud for KS1 audiences. As your listeners savour Denise Doyen’s story, make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy Eiiza Wheeler’s delightfully quirky ink and watercolour illustrations.

For older solo readers:

Witch Snitch
Sibéal Pounder, illustrated by Laura Ellen Andersen
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The (Witch Wars) Sinkville witches are preparing for Witchoween and it’s the first Tiga will experience. This is especially exciting as Peggy has asked her and Fran to make a documentary about the town’s most famous witches. With Fluffanora acting as fashion adviser, what more could she ask?
This book with its numerous activities, facts and character information as part and parcel of the narrative, is sure to make you giggle. So too will Laura Ellen Andersen’s line drawings.

Amazing Information Books

Bees
Toni Yuly
Walker Books
For the very youngest is this beautifully simple book of gratitude that demonstrates our connectedness to the natural world: it’s narrated by a small boy, who we see interacting with the things he mentions.
‘Sun gives us light. // Thank you, sun. // Bees give us honey. // Thank you, bees.’ Thus begins the concatenation of connections: from sheep we have wool. From clouds comes the rain, trees provide wood

and thanks to dirt, there are plants.
Appropriately, bold, bright collage illustrations combine fabric, paper, wood, ink and tissue, re-enforcing the biological bounties of the natural world.
Perfect for an end of the day sharing, be it with a single child, or nursery group; and equally with its minimal patterned text, it’s ideal for those just starting to read.

The Story of Snow
Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson
Chronicle Books
In this narrative non-fiction book we begin high up in the clouds with an explanation of how a tiny speck of earthly matter becomes a snow crystal (each crystal requires a single particle to start growing); and then we zoom right into a crystal.

Did you know that its shape depends on the wetness of the cloud and how cold it is? Or, that a single crystal is rarely perfect.
We learn that there are in fact, three main types of snow crystal – star-shaped, plate and column-shaped; and are told something about each kind including the different conditions under which the three kinds form.

With its succinct text, diagrams and amazing photographs of each kind of crystal, this is an excellent starting point for those who want to discover more about snow and can be used across a wide age range. There’s even an instruction spread on how to catch and observe snow crystals; and I love the final quote from Japanese scientist, Ukichiro Nakaya, ‘A snow crystal is a letter from the sky.’ – a perfect ending to a fascinating book.

Bugs
Simon Tyler
Pavilion Books
This large format book is packed with bright, bold illustrations and is designed to draw readers into the fascinating world of insects, the title word being used as an alternative generic term for this entire class of animal.
The first third is devoted to their general characteristics including anatomy, life cycle, eyes …

and other senses, and how and what they eat. Also included is an explanation of taxonomy.
The remaining 60 or so pages cover the nine main insect orders including beetles,

true bugs,

dragonflies, flies, cockroaches and termites. There’s also a double spread each, covering the most dangerous bugs, and some beneficial ones at the end.
The larger than life illustrations of representatives of each order are drawn from all parts of the world and each is captioned with its own common and scientific names, its size, its geographic range and a short factoid of additional information. The detailed scientific information together with the superb illustrations make it appropriate for a wide readership.

13 ½ Incredible Things You Need to Know about Everything
DK
Dorling Kindersley do non-fiction books really well and this one is amazing.
The title of this large volume makes you stop in your tracks and wonder what on earth could be inside.
Prepare to be impressed at the superb exploded illustrations you’ll encounter at every turn of the page, be they of Fantastic Fungi, Super Seeds or any other of the biological topics explored.

Biology isn’t the only subject herein though. The book also covers medicine, space, geology, history, technology, music and more, such is its diversity.
With over a thousand facts (not to mention those myth-busting halves, one per topic) you’re guaranteed a fascinating read. And if you don’t come away from the book knowing a whole lot more than before you started reading it, then your knowledge must have been truly encyclopaedic.

Transport, Words and Numbers

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes
William Bee
Pavilion Books

William Bee showcases an amazing array of vehicles from early steam engines to high-speed super-sleek electric trains,

biplanes, to vertical take-off jump jets,

submarines to speed boats. There’s even a space rocket.
Every brightly coloured spread offers plenty to explore. There’s the featured vehicle of course but also a plethora of signs, logos (Elephant brand reigns supreme), and traffic cones getting up to all sorts of things and seemingly having a great time. William’s dog, Sparky, is there for the ride and so too is a tiny white rabbit.
All of that is accompanied by an interesting, on-going narrative from Bee himself that includes some occasional tongue-twisting alliteration; and the final spread is given over to some playful ‘Elephant’ brand advertising.
Totally immersive and certain to delight all mechanically minded young children and a fair few adults too, I suspect.

Big Words for Little Geniuses
Susan & James Patterson and Hsinping Pan
Penguin Random House Young Arrow

For sure there are lots – 52 in all – delicious words in this zany compilation for youngsters to get their tongues around; 26 illustrated – one for each letter of the alphabet – and the others in a kind of addendum.

I have issues with the pronunciation guide in a couple of places though, one being Magnanimous (mag-NA-nih-mus) which I suspect is the American way of saying the word; ditto Onomatopoeia (AH-noh-ma-toe-PEE-ya).
Nevertheless, I’m all for children expanding their vocabularies and this fun picture book certainly should, in the right hands, help them do just that.
A number of primary schools I know of (and I’m sure it’s quite common), have a ‘word of the day’ or a ‘word of the week’ – here’s a rich source to mine.

And, very young children really do love exciting-sounding words, repeating them for the sheer enjoyment of hearing them spoken aloud. Add to that Hsinping Pan’s bold, bright visuals and you have an alphabet book unlike any other.

I Know Numbers
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books

This is an exploration of numbers and the various roles they play in everyday life. ‘Numbers are everywhere’ we’re told at the outset and we’re then show various examples from clocks and calendars, thermometers and weighing scales. These still hold true although this is a re-issue of a book first published in Japan in 1985. The next spread though shows out-dated technology

although it’s the only one and it offers an interesting talking point when sharing the book.
The upbeat text and bold, bright images certainly do put the case for the importance of numbers,

and their multi-functional nature, in an appealing way for those just getting to grips with number learning / number recognition skills.

Beep, Beep, Maisy / Flora and the Ostrich / BuildaBlock

Beep, Beep, Maisy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
With petrol tank duly filled, Maisy sets off through the countryside and it seems all her pals are out and about too.
Dotty drives her tractor, Peacock pedals his bike, Ostrich is in charge of a train …

Eddie has taken to air in his helicopter, Tallulah has received a fire-engine call out and Cyril is driving a bus.
There’s one more vehicle none of them will be pleased to see though, and that’s the one digging up the road. Uh-oh! I hope they’ll let that fire engine through.
A large sized board book with Maisy and friends, lots of vehicles and associated sounds to join in with, and over 50 flaps to explore: that surely adds up to toddler delight.

Flora and the Ostrich
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora is back to perform with yet another bird and enchant us with her dancing once again. This time however it’s a dance of contrasts: Flora holds a yellow sunshade – her prop throughout the performance, – so, for example, her front is revealed while the ostrich shows its back.
The pair’s dance of opposites continues as they present hello/goodbye, hide/seek, under/over, give/take,

stop/go, near/far, sad/happy, apart and …

What a beautifully playful way to demonstrate some basic concepts and a great starting point for an early years movement session on the same theme, with children working in pairs in Flora/ostrich fashion.
A lovely addition to Molly Idle’s Flora board book sequence.

BuildaBlock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
Twenty four construction vehicles, are sandwiched between the sturdy covers of the latest ‘Block’ board book,
A team of building workers – it’s good to see both males and females – talk us through the whole process from demolition of the old …

right through to the almost finished redevelopment. We see every truck as it plays its vital part be that clearing, levelling, excavating, shifting loads, tunnelling, road making, bridge building, lifting loads skywards, pile driving, cutting trenches. There’s even a sky crane involved.

A straightforward sentence describes each part of the operation and the visuals, with fold-outs and die-cut pages, fill in the details of what I envisage becoming, like others in the series, a firm favourite with mechanically-minded pre-schoolers. Another winner for the Franceschelli/Peskimo team.

Lines

Lines
Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books

This truly is a wordless wonder.
A skater whizzes across the white page etching swirls and whirls onto the surface of the ice in a glorious solo dance – a veritable symphony of graceful motion, dizzying sometimes even.

But then she takes one pirouette too many, loses her balance and crashes to the ground losing her hat in the process.
Turn over and you see a crumpled sheet of paper, a pencil and an eraser indicative perhaps of frustration on behalf both of the skater and the artist.
Turn over again and there’s the skater, alone and gazing at her hat on a wrinkly background. But then, enter left another skater and then another and … before long there are several others tumbling clumsily, but joyfully, around her.

Suddenly the whole of the ice is alive with skaters; one of them helps the girl to her feet and …

There’s joy in abundance as readers see the wintry wonderland that is the iced-over pond and the surrounding countryside.
Essentially the book can be viewed as an exploration of the notion that making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process be you a skater, an artist or any other kind of learner. This is something all children need to learn early on, and that some teachers would do well to remind themselves of from time to time.
Equally it’s a superb, thought-provoking picture book that transports us into unexpected places pushing at the boundaries of creativity.

A Trio of Search-and-Find Books

Where’s Bernard?
Katja Spitzer
Prestel
Bernard the bat is preparing for his night-time birthday celebrations but he wants help to find everything he needs for the party he’s throwing for his friends. His search involves nine items …

and takes him hunting in all manner of fascinating places: a greenhouse, an underground cavern, an ice-rink, a garden,

the woods, beneath the ocean and even in outer space, each one being populated by weird and wonderful creatures.
With its ‘glow-in-the-dark’ cover and quirky, vibrantly coloured, magical scenes that are not too busy for the youngest seekers, this is a good place to start on the whole ‘search and find’ genre.

A Thousand Billion Things (and some sheep)
Loic Clement and Anne Montel
Words & Pictures
A small girl takes us through a variety of everyday happenings – having breakfast, taking a bath, getting dressed, exploring the garden, going to market, helping dad prepare the dinner and more, asking us to locate items hidden in spreads brimming over with food, clothes, vegetables, …

fish and more. Each of these events offers plenty of choices and entices readers to linger over the delicately drawn flora, toys, clothes, delicious pastries etc –which almost prove too much for the young protagonist while also locating such items as 4 hedgehogs, a frog mask, a spotty green sweater, or a pyramid of cream cakes.
Then comes bedtime, which, so the young narrator tells us on the first page, is the one time she dislikes: instead of a multitude of choices, bedtime offers nothing but sheep, endless sheep and ‘it’s a complete nightmare!’
Accompanying Clement’s quirky textual narrative, Montel’s slightly whimsical images provide a visual feast; and it’s as well, in case one gets too carried away over the details, that a visual key with the answers is provided at the back of the book.
Absorbing, fun and rewarding.

Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book
Anders Arhoj
Chronicle Books
Children can join with two friends as they engage in a game of hide-and-seek from opposite ends of this book.

Two large pairs of eyes peer through the die-cut holes in the front and back covers, forewarning that child participants are going to need to keep their eyes peeled to spot the protagonists in their play.
Arhoj teases with his own game of give and take: if you look at the endpapers you’ll also be forewarned that the playmates sport differently shaped hats – that should make the whole thing easier surely. But then to make the spotting considerably more difficult, he makes the two slightly foxy characters change colour; not only once but on every spread, as they move through the book and their world of hustle and bustle.
It’s a world populated by all kinds of strange and cute creatures going about their daily lives and its these, as much as the main protagonists, that provide a lot of the intrigue. I found myself distracted in every setting, just exploring all the quirky goings-on, before even starting to discover the whereabouts of the foxy friends. Every location be it shop, office, park, hospital

or elsewhere, has potential for stories aplenty.
With minimal text Arhoj has created an engrossing story-cum game picture book that will enthral and gently challenge young readers.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange / Sam’s Hamburger

Nothing Rhymes with Orange
Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
I do love a book that encourages language play and Adam Rex’s crazy fruit-filled extravaganza does just that. His rhyming litany, interspersed with an orange’s lament at the lack of fun-filled opportunities afforded to one without a rhyme for itself is a hoot; and that long-suffering orange, with his constant interjections, is an absolute charmer.
Rex, not forgetting our citrus pal, introduces us to a plethora of fruits that can be made into rhymes,
And all the while, the solitary orange remains just that, until one empathetic apple takes pity on him and with a wonderful invented word, creates an opportunity to draw orange into the heart of the group.

Emotions run high throughout, where orange is concerned: I love the way the quirky collaged photographs show his changing feelings.
With a bit of Nietzsche thrown in for good measure …

a fruitful offering indeed,.

Sam’s Hamburger
David Pelham
Walker Books
If you want to illicit an audience response of ‘yucks’ and ‘eughs’ then this rhyming novelty will fit the bill. It relates how with her help, Sam’s brother, carries out a burger-shaped plan to unmask the thief who has been stealing his sister’s lunches.
The whole thing is absolutely bursting with creepy bugs and wriggly wigglies embedded within layers of onion, egg,

cheese, sauce and more, all sandwiched between a ‘nice big bun’.
Surely the consumer of that particular delicacy will be deterred from ever coming back for more …
Unless like me you’re a life-long veggie, I’d suggest sinking your gnashers into this tasty offering now back on the menu served by Walker Books.

Say Zoop!

Say Zoop!
Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books

Before you’ve finished reading this latest offering from the inimitable Tullet you and your listeners will have said a whole lot more than ‘Zoop’ and had an absolutely brilliant time to boot. Herein the artist takes pointillism and imbues it with his puckish genius.
It begins with a simple blue dot and an invitation to say ‘OH!’ A bigger dot appears demanding an appropriately ‘HUGE OH!’ and so on … Whoppee! We’re starting to make music – soft soft loud soft soft loud and so on; but that’s not all – how about a crescendo or the reverse …
We can also do a spot of dot counting or try some beats in dots and … wait for it, dive in dot sounds, rising up and … down;

then swim dot style, shiver and even cry.
Enter red dot – say ‘AH!’ And off we go again – double the possibilities: a dot dialogue or better still a robot dot dialogue – amazing! Then a spot of tickle induced laughter, dot style of course; or maybe a song and even a walk.
Oh no! Now there’s a very noisy argument … Phew! They’ve made up.
Oh my goodness, now there’s a sunny looking yellow dot WAAHOO! And off we go again, trampolining, zooming car style or singing like birds …

A whole new language perhaps?

Superbly creative: this absolutely cries out for performance over and over – first vocal, then perhaps with paint and after that, what about both together: WAAHOOAHTCHONKOHPLUCKZIKZOOPWHISHHH!! What are you waiting for?
The possibilities are endless and no reading will be the same as any other.
Zooper-dooper fun!

I’ve signed the charter  

Professional Crocodile

Professional Crocodile
Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Chronicle Books

Now here’s a wordless picture book that is simply bursting with wit, and full of wonderful details to tickle your fancy.
Meet Mr Crocodile, an extremely dapper gent if ever there was one.
Every morning he rises with his alarm, performs his ablutions, breakfasts (on toast and jam), dons his business attire, including matching tie, and heads off to work.

But precisely how does this croc-about-town earn his livelihood? That is the question.
As you turn the pages you’ll find yourself pausing to pore over the wealth of interesting and absorbing happenings on each and every spread.

So many questions, so many possible stories wherever you rest your eyes.

The surprise final twist will leave you open-mouthed, I suspect. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.
(Perhaps if you take off the dust jacket before reading it, you’ll be less surprised; but hey, why spoil the fun?)
Captivating, clever and totally immersive.

I’ve signed the charter  

Barkus / Lulu Gets a Cat

Barkus
Patricia Maclachlan and Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Meet large brown dog, Barkus, “Smartest dog in the whole world.” So says globetrotting Uncle Everton when he arrives on the doorstep one day with what he calls “a present” for the young narrator, his niece Nicky. Nicky is reassured to learn that Barkus doesn’t bite and thus begins a beautiful friendship.
Over the next four short chapters we learn how Barkus follows Nicky to school and is adopted as the class dog; celebrates his birthday in a very noisy manner;

discovers a kitten and is allowed to keep it, naming it Baby; and finally, camps out for the night and enjoys an autobiographical story by torchlight.

The five amusing episodes are linked but the separate events provide suitable stopping points for readers just embarking on early chapter books.
Marc Boutavant provides appropriately cheery, retro style illustrations that range from full page to vignette.
All in all an upbeat, engaging read about family, friendship and the benefits of having a winningly positive attitude to life and its possibilities.

Lulu Gets a Cat
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Books
In her latest story Lulu wants a cat and sets about showing her mum that she’s ready to have one by doing some research on their care and putting in some practice on her cat toy. Eventually Mum is persuaded and off they go together to the cat shelter.

There, Lulu doesn’t so much choose a cat, but is chosen by one of those she’s shown.
Cat shelter worker, Jeremy provides some helpful advice; they go home and make preparations; and return next day to collect the new pet. Lulu gives her cat the beautiful name, of Makeda, which means African Queen and after a period of adjustment, it’s not long before Makeda is well and truly settled into her new home.

Lulu never fails to delight: this new story, endorsed by the National Cats Adoption Centre, ticks all the boxes for showing the very young that becoming a pet owner involves considerable responsibility, as well as introducing the basics of adopting a cat.

I’ve signed the charter