Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth / What’s in the Box? / Halloween

Ganesha’ Sweet Tooth
Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes
Chronicle Books

Just in time for Ganesh Chaturthi in a few days is this lovely board book edition of a modern version of one of the most popular Hindu legends – the episode in which Ganesha got his broken tusk. It tells how when young, Ganesha liked nothing better than eating sweet things, especially the Indian confection, laddoos. This results in tragedy during Ganesha and his ‘friend’ Mr Mouse’s search for sweets when they come upon a new kind of laddoo, The Super Jumbo Jawbreaker Laddoo.

Despite warnings from Mr Mouse, Ganesha just can’t resist chomping down on the thing – “I’m invincible.” he reassures his friend – and snap! Off comes one of his tusks. Furious at being unable to repair himself, young Ganesha hurls the broken tusk at the moon.

It misses, landing at the feet of the ancient sage and poet, Vyasa who happens to have a special task for the tusk thrower and thus Ganesha lands the job of scribing the great epic of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata.

This little book is a riot of dayglo colour with Sanjay Patel’s brilliant ultra-modern visuals, some of which are reminiscent of what you might see in a temple in South India. Others are decidedly closer to some of the contemporary Pixar animations he has worked on.

By adding their own embellishments and playing slightly with the original plot, Patel and Haynes have created a wonderfully playful rendering of a classic legend that will appeal widely .

The next two are published by Little Tiger:

What’s in the Box?
Isabel Otter and Jaoquin Camp

How exciting: a pile of parcels has just arrived waiting to be investigated. What could be packed away inside? That’s what youngsters are invited to discover in this chunky tactile, lift-the-flap book.

Box one looks as though it’s rather fiery but what has made those scorch marks? There’s a hint in the cut-away shiny, scaly shape just visible.

The second box seems to have the fidgets and there’s a warning on the wrapping … A tricky one this. I wonder what it holds …

Next is a beribboned container but strangely some wool has escaped from within. “Fragile” says the label on the fourth box wherein so we read, is something noisy – hmmm? 

However, the best has been kept till last – it’s a veritable treasure trove of … Can you guess what?

With Isabel Otter’s brief rhyming text andJoaquin Camp’s alluring surprise containers to explore, there’s sufficient to engage little ones during several book sharing sessions.

Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway

With Halloween coming up next month (I can’t believe I’m saying that), adults might want to reinforce counting skills with this mock-scary book that introduces in turn, one little skeleton that’s found a hiding place, two slightly anxious little trick-or-treaters, three glowing jack o’lanterns, four hoppy toads, five family portraits, one about to take a tumble, six sleepy bats, seven ghosts, eight spiders of the hirsute kind, nine snoozing moggies, or rather they were before being disturbed by the ten small, appropriately attired party goers.

The rhyming text and Fhionna Galloway’s cute, colourful illustrations offer plenty for preschoolers to enjoy herein.

The Bear and the Moon

The Bear and the Moon
Matthew Burgess and Cátia Chien
Chronicle Children’s Books

A little bear wakes after a long sleep and spies something floating in the sky. At first it’s just a red dot, but as it comes closer he notices more; ‘red as a berry / and round like the moon / with a silver string drifting brightly in the breeze.’ Being of an investigative nature the bear goes to discover what he can. The two are soon engaged in a pas de deux

lasting till evening when the bear stops to eat and then settles down with his companion in the glowing moonlight.

Next morning though the two are soon up and about once more with bear rolling, sitting and cavorting with his new friend until … disaster. An over-enthusiastic bear hug ends the balloon’s life rendering it a scattering of red pieces, one attached to the silver string.

As evening comes Bear is left devastated. And full of guilt: ‘Bad bear, / he thought. / Bad, bad bear.’ With the night though as he swims miserably across the creek,

comes another gift from the sky to bring comfort and cheer as it ‘reached down to him and gently stroked his fur.’ And all is well once more: loving memories endure …

Written in spare, gentle words, Matthew Burgess’ poetic allegorical text is both potent and poignant, highlighting the power of friendship, and of loss. In artist Cátia Chien he has the perfect collaborator. Her mixed media illustrations with those changing viewpoints and colours, are sublime, and finely tuned to the changing moods of bear, from the delight of discovery right through to mourning and finally, acceptance (of self and of loss), and healing. Simply, beautiful.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago / How to Speak Astromech with BB-8

These two books present opportunities to learn something new and have great fun in so doing.

Mother and Daughter Dress-Up Dolls: Fashion from Long Ago
Gracie Swan and Felicity French
Nosy Crow (in collaboration with the National Trust)

With this hardback book, children can press out eight dolls – four large and four small – mothers and daughters – dress them and learn lots about fashion from Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian times, as well as the Twenties, the Thirties and every other decade through to the 1970s.

Isabella and her mother Beatrice don their finest attire to attend a medieval banquet anticipating tasty food, loud music and acrobats to entertain them.

Margery and daughter Alice will head to the market once they’ve put on their warm woollen dresses, shawls and bonnets hoping to sell all their homemade bread.

Turn each of the press-out garments around and there’s an alternative story with two different characters, each time – a clever idea that provides a whole set of new opportunities.

Children will love discovering what their older relations wore and those before them, when they reach the twentieth century characters and their geometric mini-dresses, those jump suits, bell bottoms-trousers, maxi dresses and more. It’s amazing how everything comes around again!

In addition to the main items of clothing there’s a page of accessories and shoes to complete every one of the forty outfits. What more can aspiring fashionistas ask? Perhaps for a timeline – but there’s even one of those on the back inside cover.

Hours of fun learning to be had from this fascinating activity book.

How to Speak Astromech with BB-8
I.M. Rollin, illustrated by JAKe
Chronicle Children’s Books

Star Wars enthusiasts will love this sound book- a communication manual – that celebrates the enormously popular, adorably quirky droid character BB-8 that appeared in several of the films.

Included are ten built-in droidspeak audio clips, with translations and conversation tips, and funny illustrated scenarios that will help readers understand and get the best out of their own droid companion in a galaxy far, far away.

Astromech qualities such as playfulness, resourcefulness, determination, trustworthiness and bravery, demonstrated by means of BB-8’s adventures, are recognised herein. Fans will lap up the insider jokes too.

A fun and handy guide indeed, that fans young, and not so young, will delight in.

Everyone’s Awake

Everyone’s Awake
Colin Meloy and Shawn Harris
Chronicle Children’s Books

Wide awake, a child narrator lying in bed regales readers with the night-time activities of various members of the household, not one of whom is actually in bed despite it being almost midnight. Speaking in rhyme he tells of the relatively normal activities ‘Grandma’s at her needlework. / Dad is baking bread. / My brother’s making laundry lists / of every book he’s read’;

and the much more unlikely “My brother’s now reciting every line from Condorman while my sister is trapezing from the kitchen ceiling fan. / Dad just rolled the motorbike into the living room and is practicing Sinatra with the handle of the broom.’

Why oh why, when they have a busy day planned for tomorrow would Mum decide to go up on the roof and start fixing broken slates, or brother spend time using toothpaste tops to build a temple – totally bizarre behaviour. Even the family pets have got involved in the action: the cat’s been taking lessons in bad language from ‘my brother’ and then goes on to engage in a spot of tattooing.

Will these frenzied activities ever cease?

Eventually our narrator just has to go down.

The retro feel illustrations rendered in ink, charcoal and pencil with added colour absolutely capture all the frenzied nocturnal activity as the clock ticks on towards the morning. With a satisfying finale, the entire thing is absolutely and defiantly crazy – insomnia guaranteed – so best not shared as a bedtime tale.

My Friend Earth

My Friend Earth
Patricia MacLaughlan and Francesca Sanna
Chronicle Children’s Books

The combined talents of award winning writer Patricia MacLaughlan and illustrator Francesca Sanna have created a wonderfully inspiring celebration of Mother Earth.

Through Patricia’s lyrical text, seemingly spoken by a child narrator, and Francesca’s beautiful, boldly coloured scenes with their intricate layered die-cuts, youngsters are invited to share in and savour nature and its beauty.
The message is soft-spoken yet its subtle gentleness wields a power that will definitely inspire children as they savour the changing seasons, starting with Earth waking from its winter nap roused by the sounds of spring – the farmer at work in the garden, the bird song.

Not just the sounds though, the sights – of a ‘silent seed, / the spider spinning silver, / the robin and the wrens.’;

and larger creatures too – an albatross on the wing, a tunnelling mole. She gently guides animals to their sleeping places and to their mothers.

There’s such beauty in the landscapes too, be they grassy prairies, icy arctic;

beneath the sea.

Each one is affected by the elements – the heavy rains; the fierce autumn winds; the soft, silent whispers of snow as it blankets ‘… my friend Earth’ with its flora and fauna waiting for the arrival of the sun that heralds spring once more.

There’s beauty too, and tenderness, in Patricia’s alliterations: ‘the baby black bears are born in soft darkness’

though every sentence, every phrase, is a joy to read.

Francesca’s art is a perfect complement for the text – those enticing die-cuts set into her lovingly portrayed scenes of nature, helping to create at every page turn, a time to savour the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Yes Earth is our friend but most important, we all need to be Earth’s friends – before it’s too late.

You might want to use this wonderful book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (22nd April) with its theme of climate change. In the meantime buy it, share it, give it.