Early Years Bookshelf: Moon and Me / All Around Me: A First Book of Childhood

Moon and Me
Andrew Davenport and Mariko Umeda
Scholastic

Not being familiar with the TV programmes I watched an episode and with its generous sprinkling of ‘tiddle toddle’s, it certainly does have some of the magic of the Teletubbies and In the Night Garden.

What we have in this book is a sequence of episodes starting with Pepi Nana’s sending of a magical letter to the moon that results in a visit from Moon Baby and his magical kalimba; and thus she makes a new friend.

Once at Pepi Nana’s Toy House he wakes her friends with his music: for the uninitiated they are Mr Onion, Colly Wobble, Sleepy Dibillo, Little Nana, Lambkin and Lily Plant. They create tissue paper flowers from the resources in the curiosity box and one ends up looking like a seed that becomes the inspiration for the next Storyland tale wherein ‘Tiddle toddle’ Pepi Nana’s magical seed grows into a large beanstalk which everybody climbs

and there they see something wonderful.

And so it continues until finally, it’s time for sleep and for their visitor to return to the moon.

There are songs to learn and the repeated “And I think she was right about that’ to join in with, as well as a lot of playing of Moon Baby’s magical kalimba.

If your little ones enjoy the Moon and Me CBeebies series then I suspect they’ll love this attractively presented, whimsical picture book.

All Around Me: A First Book of Childhood
Shirley Hughes
Walker Books

Putting together five previously published books, this is the most delightful children’s collection of basic concepts done with genius as only Shirley Hughes can.

Enormous fun and wonderfully engaging for little ones, we’re shown the world of childhood through the eyes of Katie and her smaller brother, Olly.

Whether it’s the rhyming look at Opposites; the story of an outing (Grandpa and Katie) to the park that provides a superb opportunity for Counting; Colours identified through wondrous scenes and accompanying rhymes;

the enchanting visual presentation of All Shapes and Sizes, again with accompanying rhymes; or cacophonous Sounds alongside some gentler ones, each section offers sheer pleasure (and some gentle learning) at every page turn.

If you have a little one or know others who have, then this is for you. Equally it’s a classic to add to a nursery or playschool collection.

Mary Had a Little Lamb & This Little Piggy / Little White Fish, Little White Fish has a Party, Little White Fish is So Happy

Mary Had a Little Lamb
This Little Piggy

Jarvis
Walker Books

Jarvis has taken as his starting point for these board books the opening lines from two nursery rhymes and from them created one with colour connections, the other with a counting twist.

So yes, Mary did have a white-fleeced little lamb that decided to follow her. But then so too did an orange tiger, a pink dancing hippo, a cool red monkey, a tiny purple mouse, a snapping green crocodile and a yellow giraffe.
Where though are they all going in Pied Piper fashion, making a merry din before boarding a bus takes them all to their destination

and a treat…

One little piggy went to market, so the rhyme says and Jarvis does too. Rather than staying home however, two more make a mess of parking their car; three get themselves in a terrible tangle when learning to knit; four get struck by the fitness craze. Block your ears when five make music.

Six scoff all the spuds, seven try their trotters as dancers, eight become super pigs but nine –phoah! pongy piggies all.
At least when ten get together they can all agree, somewhere muddy is the best place to be.

With Jarvis’ funky animals cavorting across the pages, lively little ones are going to love these neo nursery rhymes as they absorb the colour connections and join in counting the piggies. Above all though, they’re terrific fun.

Little White Fish
Little White Fish has a Party
Little White Fish is So Happy

Guido van Genechten
Catch a Star

These board books featuring Little White Fish can be read just for fun, but each has an inherent educational element.

In the first, the little fish (not strictly speaking white for he has a rainbow stripe along his back), has lost his mummy and is feeling sad. In his search he encounters other differently coloured sea creatures – a red crab, an orange starfish a yellow snail, a green turtle, a large blue whale, a purple octopus. Clearly none of these fits the bill but what about a large fish that also sports a rainbow across her back …

In the second book, the little fish celebrates his second birthday with a party to which he invites his friends that all arrive in pairs that show opposites; for example a small sea urchin and a big one,

a long sea snake and a short one, a sad dolphin and a happy one. (We discover why one is sad on the final spread that shows all twelve guests).

The third book introduces positional vocabulary (prepositions):  when his Mummy comes to get him, Little White Fish bids farewell to his playmates – snail in the shell, frog on the rock, crab behind the rock etc. then swims away in front of his mum assuring the others he’ll be back to play the next day.

With their simple narratives and vibrant sea creatures that stand out against the predominantly black backgrounds, all three are a delight to share with very young children either at home or in a nursery setting.

Can You See a Little Bear?

Can You See a Little Bear?
James Mayhew and Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books

Stunningly beautiful illustrations by Jackie Morris accompany James Mayhew’s sequence of rhyming statements relating to a variety of animals and a question ‘Can you see a little bear …?’ as we accompany the young polar bear on a fantasy journey.

It takes us through a medieval landscape during which he encounters hot air balloons, entertainers of various kinds, a camel train and a host of exotic creatures including an elephant, musical mice, parrots, peacocks, a walrus, zebras and a whale, beautiful moths, foxes, dolphins and geese.

Little bear engages in activities such as balancing on a ball, and head standing; he tries on items of the performers’ attire

and even participates in a performance.

Then, towards the end of the book into the array comes a big bear carrying a light to guide the little one homewards

for a bath, some tea and then, as he’s drifting into slumbers, bed.

The patterned text and questioning nature of the rhyme serves to draw the listener’s focus into the spectacular scenes, gently guiding attention towards the little bear’s named activity among the wealth of gorgeous detail on each spread. For example ‘Parrots can be green / and parrots can be red, / Can you see a little bear standing on his head?’

Full of mystery and magic and along the way introducing colours, opposites and contrasts: this book was first published over a decade ago. If you missed it then I urge you to get hold of a copy now: it’s sheer, out of this world bedtime enchantment for both child and adult sharer.

Surprising Birds / Big Dog, Little Dog

Surprising Birds
Big Dog, Little Dog

Elodie Jarret (élo)
Walker Studio

Here’s a pair of super chic, lift-the-flap concept books created by designer and illustrator Elodie Jarret to share with the very young: they’re in a different league altogether from the usual toddler concept books.

Surprising Birds features a whole host of wonderfully shaped avians that the artist has, with deft touches of colour and distinctive black and white patterns managed to make into enchanting feathered characters.

Part and parcel of each one is a flap – a wing, a tail, a head, a beak –

which when lifted reveals a flash of bright colour and the colour name (eleven in all).

Each bird is set against a pastel coloured background making it stand out starkly, and every one has an element of delight be it the chick sheltering under its mother’s wing or the hide-and-seek owl on the final spread.

With striking images, sturdy flaps and cover, and a perfect size for small hands, this is a super little book to have fun with and perhaps learn some colour names along the way.

Equally enchanting and playful is the assortment of canine characters in Big Dog, Little Dog that features ‘opposites’ (and also introduces some positional vocabulary) including  above/below, long/short, awake/asleep and spots/no spots. Here again flaps and fold-outs are used to effect and every animal has a real personality.

They Say Blue

They Say Blue
Jillian Tamaki
Abrams Books for Young Readers

In her debut picture book, Jillian Tamaki explores colours, the seasons and aspects of the natural world through the eyes of a child narrator.

As the book opens the girl sits under a blue sky acknowledging that, as she’s been told, the sea from a distance looks blue, but goes on to observe as she plunges in, ‘But when I hold the water in my hands, it’s as clear as glass.

She also ponders upon things she hasn’t seen. ‘Is a blue whale blue?’ she asks, though she accepts that an egg yolk is orange without having to crack the shell, and that her blood is red.

Her contemplations take her away from the sea itself to a field: this she likens to a ‘golden ocean’ upon which she imagines sailing in a boat she herself has built.

Blown by the wind, storm clouds gather and reality again sets in: it’s cold and rain starts to fall; but within the grey is something new and beautiful – a small purple flower.

The whole thing then takes something of a surreal turn as the girl sheds her thick layers and morphs into a tree …

in which form she continues with a series of seasonal observations before falling fast asleep.

The book concludes with an affectionate parting of her hair by the child’s mother as, with the curtains open, together they view the soaring black crows ‘Tiny inkblots on a sea of sky’ that is very far from blue,

and wonder what the birds might be thinking.

Visually beautiful (Tamaki renders largely impressionistic acrylic and photoshop paintings), thought provoking and perfectly in tune with the way young children think, wonder, imagine and respond, this is a book likely to inspire further musings, discussion and creativity on the part of its audience.

Rainbow & Opposites / Little Mouse’s Big Secret

Rainbow
Opposites

Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
Pleasing design and adorable illustrations are the hallmark of Jane Cabrera’s books for the very young. Her two latest offerings have both those qualities.
Rainbow has die-cut arched pages that build up to form a rainbow.
It’s a fun board book to enjoy together and each colour spread, with its named items …

could make a great starting point for adult and child to participate in some shared storying.
Opposites uses flaps and while young children acquire concepts such as slow/fast and wet/dry from real life experiences, books such as these can facilitate this development in an interactive, playful way, helping to reinforce the vocabulary.

Here you can play a game with your child or children by asking them to guess what is hidden behind each interesting shaped flap before being allowed to open it. This game also introduces the idea of predicting as an important reading strategy.

Little Mouse’s Big Secret
Éric Battut
Sterling
Little Mouse finds a yummy red apple on the ground and decides to keep it a secret. He buries it. Shhhh! Don’t tell. Friends pass by and each wants to know what Mouse is hiding. “It’s my secret, and I’ll never tell,” is Mouse’s reply to Bird, Turtle, Hedgehog,

Rabbit and Frog.
Nature takes its course and eventually, Mouse’s secret’s out – well and truly. Mouse takes a big decision; he shares and all his friends reap the rewards.

The spare, repetitive text and cute yet subtle illustrations make this best for sharing one-to-one or with a very small group of pre-school children. Equally, it’s ideal for beginning readers who are likely to be sufficiently savvy to realise what mouse doesn’t: that right behind his back, a tree is growing …

I’ve signed the charter  

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? / My Dad is a Bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle
Puffin Books
With a CD read by Eric Carle, this is a 50th anniversary edition of a truly golden picture book. Yes, as it says on the blurb, it can ‘teach children about colours’ but it does so much more. It’s an iconic ‘learning to read’ book and one I included in a Signal publication I wrote early in my teaching career when I talked about the importance of using visual context cues. This is now something that most teachers who use phonics as the basis of the way they teach beginning readers insist children should not do. How ridiculous! Any book worth offering to learner readers and I stress ‘worth’ has pictures and words working hand in hand, as does this simple, singsong question and answer book wherein you have to read ahead ie turn the page,

in order to get the visual context cue offered by the bright tissue-paper collage picture of each animal being questioned.
A classic; and one all children should encounter in the early stages of becoming a reader.

Also good for beginning readers is:

My Dad is a Bear
Nicola Connelly and Annie White
New Frontier Publishing
What is ‘tall and round like a bear; soft and furry like a bear’; can climb trees and gather in a bear-like manner?

And what has big paws and enjoys a spot of back scratching, not to mention possessing an enormous growl, having a penchant for fishing and a very bear-like way of sleeping?

Why a bear of course. And what is it about young Charlie’s dad that brings the most pleasure of all? What do you think? …
Using ursine characteristics to point up the numerous ways in which a dad is special, debut picture book author, Nicola Connelly paints a pen portrait of a much-loved character.
What an engaging book this is with its lovable characters, two bears plus bit part players, blue bird and rabbit. All are so adorably portrayed in Annie White’s uncluttered paintings that beautifully orchestrate the simple storyline making every page turn a fresh delight. Beautifully simple and full of warmth, it’s just right for sharing with a pre-schooler or with an early years group.

I’ve signed the charter  

Grumpy Frog

Grumpy Frog
Ed Vere
Puffin Books
Grumpy Frog wasn’t the only character to be leaping around when I opened his book parcel: I started leaping round the kitchen waving the book in delight especially as its arrival coincided with Earth Day and there on the first double spread is a more upbeat version of the amphibian proclaiming thus:

He then proceeds to blow it though by damming every other colour, he can think of: “Uh oh!” to pinch his words, “Grumpy Frog alert!“.
Better organise a hopping contest with some pals ASAP, but make sure he crosses the line first or else …

Don’t think of suggesting a swim – that involves blue; or a bounce, which, so Grumpy Frog decrees, is yellow.
It looks as though isolation is the best thing; after all, aloneness he absolutely adores. It gives him time to contemplate colour, diet, annual events and err … loneliness.

Not such a good idea after all then, this setting oneself apart.
Enter stage left another kind of jumper but as you might expect, a pink rabbit gets a huge thumbs down from our frog who manages to make the poor unsuspecting creature cry for its trouble. What about this large snuggle toothed croc. then? He’s definitely making friendly overtures towards GF and SNAP! Oh no! surely Grumpy Frog hasn’t met his demise; has he?
Actually no: a spot of self-reflection appears to have saved his skin so …

Furthermore it looks as though some apologies are on the cards too; though that is not quite the end of this corker of a book: this is …

and, to discover what happens in the interim, I urge you to hot foot it, or rather hop foot it immediately to your nearest bookshop and bag yourself a copy.
It’s an utter triumph for Ed Vere and maybe even for Grumpy Frog, just so long as he gets there first. This reviewer found herself snortling at every turn of the page: it’s the perfect antidote to grumpiness (and election blues).

I’ve signed the charter  

Just Like Me! & A Handful of Playful Board Books

Just Like Me!
Joshua Seigal and Amélie Falière
Flying Eye Books
A joyful spin off from the favourite nursery game ‘Everybody Do This’ populated by adorably playful animals, a hairy, sluggy-looking quadruped, and one small girl, that simply cries out to be joined in with. There are instructions to ‘suck your thumbs’; ‘rub your tums’; ‘lick your lips’;

‘shake your hips’, ‘spin around’; ‘touch the ground’

and ‘stretch up high’.
I’m pretty sure your ‘littles’ still have plenty of oomph left to enjoy flapping their arms and trying to fly, tapping their toes, nose picking – not much energy required for that but the instruction will be greeted with relish; and then comes a final leap before snuggling down for a little nap zzzz …
If this book doesn’t fill your nursery group with exhilaration, then nothing will.
Perfect for letting off steam; but equally so for beginning readers.

Peek-a-Boo What?
Elliot Kreloff
Sterling Children’s Books
This title from the ‘Begin Smart’ series is just right for a game of peek-a-boo with a baby. Its rhyming text, bold, bright collage style, patterned artwork and die-cut peep holes, introduce in a playful manner some animals, a chain of rhyming words – boo, two, blue, shoe, moo, zoo and who’. Irresistible delight; and there’s even a ‘Dear Parents’ introduction explaining the rationale behind the game/book’s design.

What Do You Wear?
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
Taro Gomi takes a playful look at the outermost layer of various animals including penguin’s classic suit, snake’s snug stocking – striped in this instance, and goldfish’s patterned ‘skirt’ …

Although perhaps the metaphors will go over the heads of toddlers, they will delight in the sheer silliness of animals supposedly wearing clothes; and sight of the small boy in his nuddies. Slightly older, beginning reader siblings can enjoy sharing the book with their younger brothers or sisters too and share in the whole joke.

Welcome to Pat-a-Cake Books, a new Hachette Children’s Group imprint focusing on the years from babyhood to preschool. Here are two of its first titles, both board books:

On the Move
illustrated by Mojca Dolinar
This is one of the ‘First Baby Days’ series and aims to stimulate a baby’s vision ‘with pull-tabs to help … focus’. With a carefully chosen, high contrast, colour palette, a sequence of animals – using different modes of transport – cars, a train, a space rocket, an air balloon, and a boat is illustrated. Every spread is beautifully patterned; the illustrations stand out clearly; there are transport sounds to encourage baby participation and of course, the sturdy pull-outs to enjoy.

Colours
illustrated by Villie Karabatzia
This title introduces the ‘Toddler’s World’ Talkative Toddler series with colour spreads for red, blue, orange, yellow, green, pink, brown, purple, grey, black and white; and then finally comes a multi-coloured fold-out spread with an invitation to name all the colours thereon. Each colour spread has at least nine labelled items and patterned side borders.
Each book is sturdily constructed to stand up to the enthusiastic handling it’s likely to get.

Bedtime with Ted
Sophy Henn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is one of a pair of enchanting, lift-the-flap board books from the amazing Sophy Henn. Herein the utterly adorable toddler fends off shouts of “Bedtime, Ted!” with a chain of wonderful deferral tactics: sploshing in the bath with flappy penguins; brushing “teeth with a snappy crocodile”; slurping milk with a big, stripy tiger; jumping “out the fidgets like a bouncy kangaroo”. Then it seems, young Ted is finally ready to bed down – along with a few snuggly pals of course.
Perfect bedtime sharing; make sure your toddler is already in bed first though …
Ted himself is a tiny tour-de-force.
The companion book is:
Playtime with Ted
Herein the little lad uses a cardboard box for all kinds of creative uses: racing car, digger, submarine, train; and space rocket bound for the moon – whoosh! And after all this imaginative play, he’ll make sure he’s back in time for his tea. Play is hard, appetite-stimulating work after all. Two must haves for your toddler’s collection.

I’ve signed the charter 

Sleep Well Siba & Saba / The Frog in the Well

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn
Lantana Publishing
Sisters, Siba and Saba are inveterate losers of things, be it sweaters – seven of them; silver sandals ‘on sandy beaches at Ssese islands’ ; even their bedroom slippers go missing.
Strangely though, they never manage to lose one another; and when their papa had sung them to off sleep, “Sula bulungi, Siba and Saba,”, the sisters would find their lost possessions in their dreams.

One night though, their dreams are of things not lost – a silver shilling for Siba and a ‘stiffly starched school uniform’ for Saba.

Sisters as close as these two share everything, so when they wake from their slumbers, Siba and Saba share their dreamtime sorties. The following day two very unexpected things happen: I expect you can guess what they are: rather than be a story-spoiler though I’ll just say that from that day forward, those sisters always set their sights firmly on the future and what it might bring …

Such eloquence of words and pictures; this simply sparkles with brilliance.
Isdahl’s sibilant text combines with stunningly beautiful scenes of the sisters both inside and outdoors in the African landscapes.

The Frog in the Well
Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
An oldie but goodie: I think I may somewhere have a very old edition of this enchanting book from way back when I used to visit the USA fairly frequently. Now it’s been given a new lease of life by the New York Review. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it centres on a well-residing frog who leads a contented life thinking his well is the whole world; “The world is nothing but moss-covered rocks … with a pool of water at the bottom.” is what he tells himself. But then the well-water dries up and the frog is forced to emerge into “the end of the world”

Deciding to take a look around, he discovers all kinds of ‘end-of-the-world’ creatures, learns a few things and eventually becomes a very wise, wide world-loving frog ready to take the longest leap he’s ever made …

For, “A foolish frog can be happy all alone at the bottom of a well, but a clever frog can be much happier out here.”
With its supremely brilliant visual perspectives and thought-provoking words, this still has much to offer 21st century readers and listeners, who will bring to the story an entirely different perspective from that of audiences when it was published in 1958.
More classic Duvoisin comes in:

The House of Four Seasons
Roger Duvoisin
New York Review Books
A wonderful celebration of colour, the seasons and endeavour: and built into this uplifting story are lessons on colour mixing, and a demonstration of how to create a colour wheel.
Both books offer a great opportunity to discover or re-discover some vintage gems from over 60 years ago.

I’ve signed the charter  

Talking Points

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Animal Rescue
Patrick George
Creators of books for young children use a variety of ways to engage their audience. A particularly effective one – acetate overlays – is employed by Patrick George. A double-sided printed acetate page is sandwiched between two ordinary brightly printed wordless pages and when flipped, this allows the child to change the story completely.
This one however, has an added dimension in the form of an environmental message in that it draws attention to the difference between each animal in its natural habitat or being cared for/and in captivity or being mistreated for human purposes such as entertainment:
Thus we have an elephant roaming free …

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Flip the acetate sheet to the right and you have …

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Fashion purposes – exotic skins,

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factory farming – chickens, trophy hunting and abandoned pets are some of the topics included.
Virtually wordless apart from the final question, this delightful book is rich in potential for talk and storying as well as offering those opportunities for discussing issues of animal welfare.
50p from sales of each book goes to the Born Free Foundation.
Conversation creator – assuredly: Conservation/animal welfare promoter – one truly hopes so.

Equally playful and similar basic design, but without the serious underlying message, is

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Opposites
Patrick George
Herein basic concepts such as Big/Small, Left/Right, Empty/Full, Up/Down, First/Last, Hot/Cold, In/Out are presented …DSCN5769 (800x600)and …

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along with Sun/Rain, Hit/Miss, Land/Sea, Boy/Girl. The latter are rather more questionable in terms of mere ‘opposites’, but will certainly engender a lot of interactive talk and creative thought and learning. Eye-catching art in vibrant colours with single word labels complete the ingredients of this one.

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Colours
Susan Steggall
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Tractors, tippers, trucks, rollers, mixers, vans and cars are among those featured in the twenty different types of vehicle, (two for each of the ten colours) presented in the bright collage style,

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captioned illustrations of this book for very young lovers of all things mechanical. The final spread shows all the vehicles.

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There’s lots of potential for talk and I envisage ‘littles’ with their own collections of toy cars getting them out and lining them up along with those presented herein. And there’s a wheel attached to the back cover which when turned, makes the vehicles change colour –

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more talk potential!

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Whose Truck?
Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz
Abrams Appleseed
Featuring half a dozen different trucks and their operators, this cleverly designed board book is bound to appeal to all young machine lovers. Readers are invited in Toni Buzzeo’s rhyming text, to guess: Whose truck is this? in relation to a utilities truck, a fire-engine, a snow-plough, an ambulance, a crane, an outside broadcast vehicle.
Thus we have …

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Open the gate-fold to reveal …

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The end pages showcase all the vehicles and a surprise finale unfolds …

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Full of potential for interaction and playful learning – with the book and beyond.

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

Play and Learn

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Colours/Counting
Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions
Young children acquire concepts relating to colour and numbers from their life experiences, not from books, but if these experiences include encounters with this pair of super-stylish, sophisticated concept board books with flaps to lift on every page, so much the better. They will certainly help to develop those all important concepts in a playful, interactive way.
Colours has spreads for the three primary colours plus orange, green, pink and purple with the images cleverly placed on backgrounds of black, white or grey thus adding another three to the total palette. And, each captioned colour page has an interloper in the form of a different coloured object that has somehow found its way there, along with a question inviting readers to spot say, ‘Which thing isn’t orange?

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The range of objects goes from the familiar such as hat to the less likely ‘hummingbird, aubergine and lavender or from ball and bird to blue whale.

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Numbers 1 to 10 are included in Counting but this is no straightforward counting book with the numeral and simply the appropriate number of items on the page. Rather we have something more complex such as

 

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And, from 4 on each number has its own spread …

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Totally involving books whether or not the user is at the stage of beginning to develop the particular concepts presented.

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My First Colours
illustrated by Maxine Davenport and Cindy Roberts
Autumn Publishing
This is one of the new ‘Bilingual Baby’ series for the very youngest that takes a basic concept and presents it in two languages and bold, bright images.
Ten objects are attractively illustrated and captioned and each is positioned on a flap, which, when opened, reveals – in this case – French caption and pronunciation.

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Certainly this little book invites interaction and exploration though I’m not completely convinced the board book format is appropriate for the content.

Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2