Search-and-Find A Number of Numbers

Search-and-Find A Number of Numbers
AJ Wood, Mike Jolley and Allan Sanders
Wide Eyed Editions

What at first glance appears a relatively simple search-and-find counting book rapidly becomes a totally immersive experience in the hands of Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Allan Sanders.
Once you dive into the pages comprising their sequence of zany spreads with scenes as diverse as a monocyclist, marine life, a castle scene, and canines galore – both adult and pups, you’ll find it hard to stop before the end.

This playful offering will surely have a wide age appeal – pre-schoolers for instance will relish the number 3 pages whereon nursery favourites the ‘3 blind mice,’ rhyme, the 3 bears, the 3 billy-goats gruff and the 3 little pigs all put in an appearance along with a host of other items in 3s, to locate.

Few of any age will be able to resist the delicious picnic spread out along the banks of a meandering river (number 10,) or the 19 robot with all manner of inappropriate items left inside by its absent-minded boffin constructor.

Another of my favourite spreads is 5 with its splendidly embroidered woolly glove – perfect to wear in chilly weather.

By the time anyone reaches the 100 challenge – a building site – their counting fingers will likely be all a-tingle and their eyes agog; and their visual skills will most definitely have been honed considerably, thanks to every one of Allan Sanders splendidly eccentric scenes. But there’s still one final challenge …

Brilliantly playful and playfully brilliant – don’t miss it!

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.

One Fox / The Button Book

Just right for an early years collection are:

One Fox
Kate Read
Two Hoots

One moonlit night down on the farm, with his two sly eyes, one famished fox is on the prowl. Lots of lovely alliteration describes the happenings:

The three plump hens need to keep their ears and beady eyes open.
However that fox is in for a big surprise when he takes six silent steps towards the hencoop and taps seven times upon the outside …

In a dramatic and satisfying climax (although not for the fox), debut author/illustrator Kate Read takes us right up close to the action in her counting story.

With an economy of words she creates a visual comedy that is both exciting and gently educational; but It’s her superb visuals that carry the power – bright, textured art combining paint and collage – that build up expectations of the outcome

and then turn the tale right over on itself.

The Button Book
Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin
Andersen Press

Take a group of inquisitive animals and an assortment of ‘pressable’ buttons of different shapes and colours; add several generous spoonfuls of imagination and stir. The result is this playful interactive picture book for little ones.

Squirrel starts the whole thing off by prodding at the red button with his stick and wondering what will happen. It beeps, and that sets off the button investigation.

To discover which is the clapping button, which one sings songs;

which blows a raspberry;

what joys the yellow button delivers, and the pink and purple ones, you need the fingers of a child or so, and the willingness to indulge in some pretend play.

This is children’s / YA author Sally Nicholls debut picture book and it appears she’s had as much fun creating it as will its intended preschool audience. The latter will take great delight in all the noisy, occasional mischievous activities offered at the mere touch of a button. Adult sharers on the other hand might well be relieved to learn what the white button does.

Seemingly too Bethan Woollvin had fun creating the illustrations; she’s certainly done a cracking job showing the seven characters having a thoroughly good time as investigators and participants in their own comedic performance.

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.

Nibbles Numbers / Little Fish and Mummy / Where’s Mr Duck?

Nibbles Numbers
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press

Emma Yarlett’s little yellow book-eating monster Nibbles is back and now he’s got his teeth into a board book. One might think that chomping through card would be a challenge too far but no. Once released the little fellow immediately starts sinking his gnashers into the pages and even has the audacity to nibble into the numerals leaving fairly sizeable holes.

Moreover he’s sabotaging our counting practice and just when we think we’ve cornered the little munching rascal, he makes a dive for it and disappears through the final spread, only to emerge on the back cover with a satisfied grin on his face.

Smashing fun and what a delight to be able to introduce my favourite little monster Nibbles to a younger audience.

Little Fish and Mummy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

The latest Little Fish book is narrated by none other than Little Fish who is particularly excited about sharing with listeners a ‘Mummy Fish and me’ day.

This special day is spent on lessons in swimming and bubble blowing, splishing and splashing with all the other fish, a game of hide-and-seek just with Mum and a look inside a deep down cave.

What better way to end such a great day than with a round of kissing – ‘Kiss, kiss, kiss!’

Irresistible if you know a little one who’s a fan of Lucy Cousins’ endearing spotty Little Fish, and I certainly know a lot of those.

Where’s Mr Duck?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

The latest felt flap hide-and-seek board book in this deservedly popular series is set around the pond. In its environs little ones can discover Mrs Butterfly, Mr Frog,

Mrs Worm, Mr Duck and finally as the creatures look on, him or herself.

With its characteristic question and answer format, a wealth of opportunities for developing language, bold bright art and satisfying conclusion it’s no wonder the series is such a success; this one will be as popular as its predecessors.

When the Moon Smiled / Vehicles ABC

When the Moon Smiled
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
Full of twinkling charm is this board book version of a favourite Petr Horáček counting story.

One evening the moon rises to discover that everything down below has gone topsy-turvy. The animals that should have been awake are nowhere in sight while those that ought to have been asleep are still awake.

Time to light the stars and set things right, thinks the moon. And so he does, one by one.

The first star lit sends the dog into the land of nod; the second is for the two cats; they stretch and go out on the prowl.

Then in turn he goes on to light a star, for, the three cows, four bats,

five pigs, six foxes, seven geese, eight mice, nine sheep and finally, the tenth star is for the moths.

Now the entire sky is full of stars shining down over the farm and all’s right with the world.

It’s a perfect bedtime story for little ones, so written in a lyrical manner and illustrated in mixed media by Horáček, as to induce a feeling of somnolence.

Children will love to join in counting the stars and animals along with the moon as he alternates between setting to rights the diurnal and nocturnal creatures, before falling fast asleep themselves.

Vehicles ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow

Just right for introducing an assortment of 26 means of transport, from ambulance to zeppelin, is this alphabetic array of vehicles that run on land, move across water or fly through the air.

If your child’s at that stage, it’s great for learning letters of the alphabet by name and also the initial sounds; although electric car and ice-cream van, unicycle, Queen Mary and express train will need a bit of extra talking about (one of the snags of phonics).

With bold bright images against equally bright backgrounds to enjoy, the sounds of the various vehicles to make – both you and your toddler can have fun being inventive over this – plus possibilities such as wheels, lack of, who might drive and countless other possible things to talk about, this little board book is simply bursting with a wealth of language learning potential.

Roald Dahl’s 123 & Roald Dahl’s Opposites

Roald Dahl’s 123
Roald Dahl’s Opposites

illustrated by Quentin Blake
Puffin Books

‘Board books with bite’ announces the accompanying press release.

Said bite comes courtesy of The Enormous Crocodile that features large and very toothily in both books.

Toddlers can have some enjoyable counting practice along with the little ‘chiddlers’ – 10 in all, who co-star in the 123 along with the wicked-looking croc. that, having spied some tasty looking fare while lurking in the undergrowth, then disguises himself as a roundabout ride, a palm tree, a seesaw and a picnic bench.

And all the while he’s biding his time, waiting to sate his lunchtime appetite: oh my goodness those gaping jaws, those vicious-looking teeth.

Will the 10 chiddlers cease their play and beat a hasty retreat before they become 1 Enormous Crocodile’s next meal?

Fifteen opposites are demonstrated, thanks to the creatures big and not so big that feature in the second book, along with of course, a certain Crocodile.

On alternate spreads, this book has foliage of different kinds, behind which are hidden a ‘little’ mouse, the ‘upside down’ crocodile, the same crocodile now snapping through a ‘low’ tree trunk, as well as a ’light’ frog leaping.

But what will the wily Crocodile snap ‘closed’ his enormous jaws upon? That question is answered on the final page.

The countless parents who were brought up on the originals will relish the opportunity to share these new incarnations with their offspring. Clearly the intended toddler audience of the board books will not be familiar with Roald Dahl’s characters and Quentin Blake’s iconic images of same, but they will still delight in language such as the BFG ‘childdlers’ and the storyline of both the counting book and the opposites.

Everybunny Count! / abc

Everybunny Count!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books

Since making friends in Everybunny Dance, ’Fox and bunnies like to play, / all together, every day.’ And their chosen game for this particular day is hide-and-seek.

The bunnies do their countdown and the hunt for fox commences. The first finding is a single badger soon followed by two bunnies spotting two birds: ‘Everybunny count to TWO!’

The search continues. Three bunnies spy three frisky squirrels; four find four ladybirds.

The pond is a fruitful place for fresh discoveries: five diving bunnies see five ducks while among the sticks, six bunnies find six frogs. ‘Everybunny count to SIX!’
Next stop is the carrot patch – just the place for a crunchy carrot nibble. It’s getting late and eight bunnies are anything but observant in their haste …

By now those bunnies are feeling sleepy as they form a line and count to NINE! (sheep) and then hurrah! There among the trees, close to his den is Fox.

There’s another surprise however for at the count of ten what should appear but ten little fox cubs and a proud mother.

It’s time to dance …

Ellie Sandall’s rhyming text with its infectious repetition ‘Everybunny count to …’ bounces along as beautifully as the bunnies. Add to that her deliciously playful pencil and watercolour illustrations (children will delight in occasional glimpses of Fox along the way) that lead to this …

and we have a counting book story that’s full of fun and sure to result in echoes of the animals’ “Let’s play hide-and-seek again.”

abc
Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions

Learning the alphabet is just a part of this new addition to the Learning Garden series. Young children can have fun not only naming the objects for each letter of the alphabet but also enjoying the various patterns, shapes and bright colours that are part and parcel of every page.

There are numerous opportunities for language learning, depending on the child’s interest and the skill of the adult sharer. You might for example, chose two or three of the letters and illustrated objects, and use them to make up a story together. The sturdy pages mean that this little board book should stand up well to the enthusiastic use it’s likely to get in a nursery or family.

Mice Skating / Wow! It’s Night-Time

Mice Skating
Annie Silvestro and Teagan White
Sterling

There’s nothing better after a walk on a chilly day than an exhilarating tale of the great outdoors to snuggle up and share, as you sip mugs of hot chocolate in the warmth of your home; and this one really fits the bill.

Lucy Mouse is something of an exception when it comes to winter: she loves it for the crunchy snow, frosty air and opportunities to wear her woolly hat. Not only does her hat warm her head, it warms her heart too.

Her friends in contrast, much prefer to stay huddled up in their burrow waiting for spring.

Venturing forth alone, Lucy has great fun …

but it’s lonely and she really wants to share the wintry pleasures with her pals. They however, are not interested.

Then she accidentally discovers ice-skating, even making herself a pair of skates from pine needles (I love that); and is all the more determined to get her friends to try this magical experience.

If you can put up with some corny, or rather, cheesy punning in the text (courtesy of Marcello, one of the mice), this is a wintry wonder.

The glowing illustrations exude warmth despite the chilly nature of the world beyond the burrow, and are full of creative details such as the pine needle skates and the furnishings of the mouse abode.

For younger listeners:

Wow! It’s Night-Time
Tim Hopgood
Macmillan Children’s Books

Tim Hopgood’s curious little owl that was enchanted by all the colours she encountered in nature returns to share the wonders of the night-time world with young listeners.
There’s the mole that peeps from his hole, the creeping foxes, the rabbits, bats and mice; and when the clouds part, a beautiful big bright moon surrounded by twinkling stars.
All this she sees but there’s a double “wow!” when she spies the other owls that share her tree.

Just before bedtime especially, little humans will delight in discovering what goes on while they’re fast asleep and enjoy the built-in counting opportunity on each spread.
An enchanting taster of the nocturnal natural world, stylishly presented by Hopgood.

Baby Goes to Market

Baby Goes To Market
Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank
Walker Books

I love a good market and this one, located somewhere in West Africa, absolutely exudes atmosphere immersing readers in a multi-sensory experience so you can almost feel the heat and dust, smell the roasting sweetcorn and taste the juicy tomatoes.
We accompany a totally adorable baby and his mother as they wander through the hustle and bustle with Baby charming every stallholder they stop by. So much so that none can resist giving the lively little chap something.
From Mrs Ade it’s six bananas: one goes in Baby’s mouth, five in Mama’s large basket along with the yam she purchased.

Mr Femi offers juicy oranges: one Baby sucks on; four go into the basket. And so it goes on and all the while the cheerful little fellow is receiving bounties from the vendors: four biscuits, three roasted sweetcorn and two pieces of coconut.
Purchases complete, Mama hails a taxi; after all, she thinks, Baby must be a tad hungry after all that shopping. Putting down her basket to wait, she gets a very big surprise …

Then, reassured by the traders, Mama gets on the taxi and away it goes: Baby slumbering replete with goodies. “Poor Baby!” says Mama. “He’s not had a single thing to eat!

Essentially Atinuke’s zingy, patterned text is a shared joke between author and audience. The latter will relish the antics of Baby and savour Mama’s total unawareness of what is going on behind her back.
Angela Brooksbank captures all the vibrancy and excitement of a crowded tropical market: the rich, bright colours and patterns, the dusty byways, the goods for sale and those wonderfully observed characters.

I’ve signed the charter  

Ice Boy / Stack the Cats

Ice Boy
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
Meet Ice Boy, the hero of Stein’s latest book. Rather than being restrained by his freezer existence and frequent “Never go outside” parental warnings, the young ice-cube leaves the safe enclosed environment and ventures down to the ocean’s edge and thence discovers a whole new world of exciting adventures is to be had.
His first incarnation is ‘Water Boy …

and thereafter Vapour Boy; after which, having tap-danced upon a thunderstorm and freezing …

a tiny pellet of summer hail.
In solid form once again, he hurtles off a roof-top and ‘BLOOP’ –is reunited with his parents who just happen to be chilling someone’s drink.

Suddenly it looks as though extermination is to be the outcome for all three cubes but fortunately, the thirsty human’s first taste is of the little lad who, after all his adventures has become a taste-bud disaster; and Ice Boy and parents are summarily tossed from the tumbler onto the grass.
Then, with an infusion of worldly knowledge, Ice Boy leads the trio off on a new water-cycle adventure …
This clever tale of risk-taking, transformation and re-incarnation is such a fun way to introduce a sclence lesson on the water-cycle. Stein’s mixed media, largely blue and grey illustrations are littered throughout with witty speech bubbles (‘Oh, Ice Boy! You’re a sight for sore ice.‘ Or, ‘Am I dense or did I just become a liquid again?‘and peppered with POPs, PUFFs, BLOOPs and other appropriate noises off.

Stack the Cats
Susie Ghahremani
Abrams Appleseed
Much more than a mere counting activity, this playful picture book offers opportunities for youngsters to expand their mathematical thinking to embrace simple division and multiplication; and a spot of height comparison. We start with ‘One cat sleeps.’ // Two cats play. // Three cats?/ STACK!’ Followed by …

After which the pattern alters thus:

Clearly the six have found this process a little wearying so ‘Seven cats nap.’
Then, the revived felines plus another try their paws at a spot to towering , which rapidly turns to a tumble. It’s as well cat nine is there to even things out and for the first and only time, numerals make their appearance …

What happens thereafter is that Ghahremi decides that ten cats are ‘just too many’, dispersing the gathering to hide, sleep, climb and generally have a playful time (a subtraction discussion opportunity) and finishing with an open-ended, ‘How will you stack the cats?’
The eye-catching cats are given the opportunity to show their playful personalities while youngsters are offered a plethora of mathematical possibilities. A purrfect prelude to some mathematical activities: fun and educative and also, great for beginning readers.

I’ve signed the charter  

One Happy Tiger/ Colours: A Walk in the Countryside / My Little Cities: London

One Happy Tiger
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
What a delight to have Augustus back and between the sturdy covers of a wonderful board book. Everything about this is splendid from the look and feel of that cover through to Augustus’s sublime smile as he watches the movements of his ten friends on the final spread.
In between, he starts off sitting alone and then we see a sequence of encounters with 2 bugs (beetles I think); 3 birds with bright plumage; 4 ‘floating butterflies’;

5 dragonflies hover above his head. Augustus then bounds off leaving 6 large footprints and moves through a rain shower dancing with 7 ‘plump raindrops’ …

relaxes to watch 8 bees; splashes into the pool to tease 9 fish before clambering out to dry off in the sun and greet his friends all together.
This is a board book, (based Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and His Smile), that looks, apart from its sturdy card pages like a real picture book; and its shape is truly satisfying too. Adults will get as much pleasure as the toddlers they share this one with.

Colours: A walk in the countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this is another delightful countryside walk wherein readers accompany two toddlers on a joyful nature ramble; this time, it’s colour-related. We join the children as they exuberantly run down a slope surrounded by green – look closely and you’ll see a cricket and a butterfly on the plants. They stop to observe a ladybird on a grass stem in a poppyfield; then notice an orange-tip butterfly by a stone wall; a group of ants attracts the attention of the boy while the girl views a black bird through her binoculars. Their walk continues apace till picnic time, when they have a snack before moving on, all the while keeping their eyes open for interesting sightings such as …

A veritable paintbox of twelve colours and an entire rainbow are part and parcel of their rural ramblings. Awe and wonder for tinies: if this doesn’t inspire an adult to take their young infant out into the countryside on an observation walk, which may or may not mirror that of the children in this lovely little book, I’d be very surprised.

My Little Cities London
Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
Chronicle Books
Board the bus and take a tour of London. Ten of its famous landmarks are featured in this board book although none is named until the final spread whereon there is a ‘cast in order of appearance’ style briefing about each one depicted. The whole thing is beautifully presented, the text being in rhyming couplets; and the font changes on each spread.

Concepts such as new/old, many/few, soft/hard (rain) are introduced in relation to The Tower of London, the Shard, Trafalgar Square (many pigeons), the Natural History Museum (few dinosaur skeletons), and the two final spreads show wonderful illuminations – the London Eye

and Big Ben – against the night sky.
Altogether a class act, with so much to see and so much to talk about: that’s London. Author, Adams, and illustrator, Pizzoli, have, for toddlers, done it proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

I Can Only Draw Worms

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I Can Only Draw Worms
Will Mabbitt
Puffin Books
Bonkers! A book that can reduce two adults to fits of helpless laughter on a dull day has got to be worth something: it’s what Will Mabbit’s foray into picture books did to one reviewer and her partner. It’s billed as ‘an unconventional counting book’ and it surely is that, and a whole lot more. In truth I suspect pretty much anybody can draw worms, but only Will Mabbitt could make quite such a ridiculously and gloriously silly book as this one with its day-glo pink and yellow annelids wriggling all over it. Yes we’ve had wormy books before: Janet Ahlberg’s The Worm Book, Superworm from Julia Donaldson and Leo Lionni’s Inch by Inch to name but three; but nobody (to my knowledge) has given the reason, as the title proclaims, for devoting their entire picture book to them. In fact there is absolutely nothing else between the covers other than words of course. Other characters do crop up though; Worm SIX, is said to be ‘riding on a flying unicorn!’ Of course, no unicorn appears (you just have to imagine); instead, guess what? Mabbitt has drawn worm FIVE again. Hmm …

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and then has the audacity to go on to relate that worm SIX actually rides this unicorn off to meet the seventh worm who lives um, in outer space.
This Mabbitt guy clearly doesn’t know his cardinal numbers from his ordinal ones though, at least where worms are concerned (and as for whole and half numbers, let’s not even go there. If you doubt what I say then listen to this bit: ‘THERE’s BEEN A DREADFUL ACCIDENT.’ That whole thing about cutting a worm in half and getting two worms has just been disproved OUCH!: instead, all you get is two half worms … like this …

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Moreover, worm NINE has gone AWOL to the concern of the others (won’t even try counting them as I’ll get bogged down in the halves and wholes thingy.) Next, more craziness in the way of an identity mix-up and then along comes number 10 worm. And he (actually Will, take note, worms are hermaphrodite) is accompanied by the missing number NINE (back from that urgent loo break). Now let the counting proper – or rather, almost proper – begin …

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That’s it.
Sunglasses out and off you wiggle, and giggle! I’m off out to dig worms; but that’s another story …

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Mr Tweed’s Busy Day

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Mr Tweed’s Busy Day
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Mr Tweed is a dapper dog on his daily walk to town. En route he meets and comes to the aid of, all manner of members of his local community searching for various lost creatures or items. Little Colin Rocodile has lost his new kite.

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Turning the page reveals a park spread full of almost surreal scenery and all manner of animal characters depicted in purple, orange, green and blue hues.
Thus a pattern is established: one double spread presenting the problem followed by another with the scene to search for the lost items, a search readers will enthusiastically undertake in Stoten’s various whimsical locations.
Mrs Fluffycuddle has lost her 2 kittens, Mr McMeow’s 3 pet mice have escaped in – of all places – the library …

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After which there are 4 goldfish, 5 arrows – those shot by Big Bear Bob somewhere in the woods, 6 pineapples (a prickly matter) but of course Mr T. is quite up to finding those too; after all, they’ve just got to be in that busy market.
Oh my goodness, now what can be the matter with tearful Little Penny Paws?

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Oh no! The wind has whisked away the bunch of flowers she’s bought for her mum and 7 flowers are floating somewhere on the river …

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Young Billy Webber’s socks are also a victim of the wind so 8 of them need spotting, as do the 9 balloons belonging to Pingle located somewhere among the rides at the fair.
Job done, Mr T starts heading home. Then who should come running up but Pete Weasel and seemingly now the helpful dog himself has one more search to undertake – at the street party the grateful folk he’s assisted are throwing for him as a ‘thank you’; and there are 10 surprise presents all for him, to be located.
There’s a kind of ‘Where’s Wally?’ feel to this with an added counting element. Mr Tweed is an enthusiastic helper and of course his tasks are – ultimately, thanks to the reader – rewarding. Readers in turn are rewarded by the fun of the search and find aspects, as well as the sheer wackiness of the whole book.
Hours of visual exploration and further hours of potential talk herein, especially if groups of children together participate in the search.

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Animal Allsorts

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Hello, Mr Dodo
Nicholas John Firth
Alison Green Books
I absolutely loved Nicholas John Firth’s debut Hector and the Hummingbird, so was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this, his second offering. It also has an avian theme and once again, is a delight through and through.
Martha is an avid bird lover and twitcher spending much of her time in the woods with her binoculars; there isn’t a bird she can’t identify until that is, the day she comes upon an extremely large specimen she doesn’t recognise

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and it bears a very close resemblance to a supposedly extinct creature.
Before long a secret friendship has developed between Martha and her discovery, who shares with her, a particular penchant for doughnuts …

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Then one afternoon Martha accidentally lets slip her secret and the following day she’s besieged by a crowd at her front door. Time for some quick thinking: the dodo has to disappear.

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Is that to be the end of a beautiful friendship?
The wonderfully retro look of the book (there’s a slight touch of Roger Duvoisin about it) comes from the artist’s choice of colour palette, yet this is a thoroughly modern and enchanting tale.

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One Very Big Bear
Alice Brière-Haquet, Olivier Philipponneau & Raphaële Enjary
Abrams Appleseed
Mightily impressed by his own stature, a bear make an announcement: “I’m very big! … I’m almost a giant!” This claim is quickly countered by a whole host of other polar creatures that turn up in turn: two walrus, three foxes, four sea lions, five penguins and six sardines, the latter have the cheek to call him ‘foolish

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But who gets the last word …
Minimalist artwork, an easy to read text, mathematical opportunities aplenty and a giggle-inducing finale make for a fun book to share and discuss.

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I Need a Hug
Aaron Blabey
Scholastic Childrens’s Books
We all need a hug from time to time but when you’re covered in spikes it makes things just a little tricky and so it is with the prickly creature in this tale.
When a porcupine declares he needs a hug, unsurprisingly he doesn’t get any offers.

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Then something happens to change his luck but it’s not quite what he was expecting …

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With themes of looking for friendship and embracing difference, this brief rhyming tale offers food for thought and discussion with early years groups or individuals.

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Superchimp
Giles Paley-Phillips and Karl Newson
QED
Sporting his red underwear and feasting on fleas, a young chimp spends his days whizzing around in the jungle coming to the aid of troubled animals,

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zooming through the trees in his super-cool chimpmobile or occasionally, relaxing in his secret cave. Known as Superchimp, he’s loved by all the rainforest inhabitants; in fact he’s nothing short of their hero …

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Come nightfall though, from afar there comes another booming voice; but it’s not a voice asking for assistance this time. Now Superchimp doesn’t look quite such a hero and it’s not just his underpants that are a dazzling shade of red.
Rhyming text from Paley-Phillips and vibrant rainforest scenes from Newson combine to make a fun read for young would-be superheroes.

Handstand

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Handstand
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
If you’ve spent any time in a primary school during the summer term you’ll know that one of the crazes that unfailingly comes around every year is handstands. During playtimes, seemingly half a school population is endeavouring to perfect the art of handstanding. Now we have a storybook character doing just that; she’s the narrator of this quirky picture book and her name is Edith. It’s at home or in the park, not school where she’s honing her inversion skills though; watched – or more accurately, interrupted – by various creatures – a worm, a bee, a bird in flight, a spider …

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none of which is happy about what she’s doing. Her “giant” hand was too close to the worm’s favourite ‘popping-up’ spot; her ear tricked the bee into thinking it was a flower; the bird, well he’s actually happier than the others as Edith provided useful ‘target practice’ for his flying poops. And the spider is shocked having ended up in her shorts when doing his ‘daily descent’.
Over the course of a week she goes from 1 second to 6 of ‘upsidedown-ness’ – the six being with a bit of support from Dad, who naturally has better things to do most of the time. By Sunday, Edith appears to have got this whole handstanding thing pretty much licked – in more ways than one …

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I love the humour inherent in this tale of persistence and determination: Edith is a real cool cookie. I love too her various patterned outfits and the way, Lisa Stickley has incorporated pattern into other elements of her funky artwork; and there’s a bit of counting too. A debut picture book delivered with panache.

Animals, One Cheetah One Cherry & Flip Flap Pets

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Animals
Ingela P Arrhenius
Walker Studio
This over-sized picture book by Swedish illustrator/designer Arrhenius is sure to have youngsters poring over its gigantic retro-style pages. It features thirty two animals large and small from grasshopper …

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to gorilla, and hippo to frog …

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Every one of the pages would make a lovely poster and it’s hard to choose a favourite animal: I love the muted, matt colours used and the careful placing of pattern; and the lettering fonts and colours seem to reflect the essence of each animal portrayed.

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If you’re looking for something impressive to generate language in youngsters, try putting this book on the floor in your book area and see what happens.
It might also be put to good use in an art lesson for older children.

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One Cheetah, One Cherry
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
Absolutely stunning paintings of wild animals grace the pages of this stylish, smallish counting book. We start with ‘One cherry, one cheetah’ showing a graceful beast with a luscious-looking cherry between its paws and continue, encountering two dogs, three bears, four foxes …

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five elephants, six tigers, seven pandas, eight otters, nine mice, ten cherries – all carefully poised, thus :

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which takes us back (numberwise) to None. The cheetah has feasted on those ten delicious cherries and looks mighty pleased about it.
What a wonderful array of animals and activities. The language too is so carefully chosen: alliteration abounds as here: ’Four fine foxes/ sharing strawberries.’
or, try getting your tongue around this one: ‘Seven giant pandas, with pretty painted parasols.’

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Such delicate patterning on those parasols and lantern. Indeed pattern is part and parcel of every painting, so too is gold-leaf; but that’s not all. The end papers are equally gorgeous, the front being a dance of numerals, orchestrated by the cheetah and the back shows the number symbols in order with animals/cherries alongside.

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Flip Flap Pets
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Axel Scheffler offers a multitude of opportunities to create quirky creatures in his latest Flip Flap rhyming extravaganza. Youngsters can turn the basic ten or so popular pets into a whole host of crazy combinations of feather, fur, scale, shell and more. What happens for instance when you cross a stick insect with a budgerigar? You get a STICKERIGAR of course …

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Try crossing a goldfish with a tortoise – that results in a GOLDFOISE:

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and a snake crossed with a cat gives something pretty irresistible – a cake!
It’s possible to make – so that butterfly on the back cover of this bonkers book informs us – 121 combinations. What are you waiting for? If my experience of previous titles in this series is anything to go by, this new addition to the series is likely to inspire children to set about making their own flip flap books.

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Joys of the Countryside

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1 2 3 A Walk in the Countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This is a companion volume to ABC A Walk in the Countryside also published in association with the National Trust. Here the two small friends, plus dog are taking an autumnal walk by the river, over the hedgerow stile, pausing to look at falling leaves and scudding clouds, squirrels busy collecting acorns.

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Then over the stepping stones to the other side of the river where rabbits play; and on into the pine woods. Next it’s time to pause for a tasty snack – thank you apple tree …

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before stopping again for a spot of fish watching, blackberry picking – yum yum –

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and, as the sun sinks the youngsters take delight in the flock of geese overhead 19 in all. But there’s still more to count – 100 stars, as they make their way homewards ready for snuggling up in a cosy bed.
With a delightful visual narrative accompanied by named items to count, this is a super little book to share with tinies either as a prelude to, or after, their own country counting walk. It’s as well it’s sturdily built to stand up to all the frequent re-readings I forsee for this enchanting country foray. Those illustrations would make a cracking number frieze for an early years setting or small child’s bedtoom.

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Hedgehogs, Hares and other British Animals
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow
This ‘Nature Sticker Book’ goes right through the seasons visiting various habitats from the garden, the forest – underground and above in the spring;

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to the river and open countryside at night. We’re then taken closer up into tall grassland that provides a home for harvest mice, rabbits, grouse and hares, and many wild flowers too can be found. The marine life and the seashore spreads focus mainly on large mammals – whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals although one of the activity spots on this spread invites readers to choose a position for the lighthouse (one is included among the 2 pages of stickers in the “On the beach’ section).
Seasonal changes are evident in the ‘Busy in the autumn’ woodland spread that shows ripened fruits and animals foraging for food to store for winter; and there’s a snowy woodland scene too …

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The final focus is on the reintroduction of some animal species such as beavers, and a playful mention of the possibility of wolves roaming once more. The last spread is a checklist of 28 different species that can be filled in over time.
Nikki Dyson, who illustrated Zippo the Super Hippo, provides 11 gorgeous natural scenes into which she places a plethora of wild animals that, with a touch of playfulness, she imbues with real character. One can imagine children, once they’ve added the appropriate stickers and completed entire scenes, creating their own stories relating to these creatures.

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They might even want to include some of the factual information gleaned from the scientific material provided for each spread.
‘This book is all about mammals …’ says the introduction but it’s about much more: the flora are equally wonderful, as are the birds, insects and other small animals that have found their way into Nikki’s natural locations.

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Patterns, Colours & Cars

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Pattern-Tastic Treasure Hunt
Technicolour Treasure Hunt
illustrated by Nan Na Hvass and Sophie Hannibal
Wide Eyed Editions
If you want to get young children observing, talking and thinking, then these two large format board books are superb. Cleverly designed with tabs down the side and chock-full of exciting things from the natural world, they’re certain to generate discussion and excitement. Pattern-Tastic focuses on flora and fauna that are spotty…

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stripy, spiky, speckled, have a spiral design or are wavy in some way …

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All superb examples of Mother Nature, designer.
Strikingly illustrated and full of counting opportunities too, there’s an invitation on every spread to find the odd one out –whose design breaks the theme.
Technicolour Treasure Hunt gives a spread to each of the primary colours plus pink, green, orange and purple. Each asks youngsters to find the ten named items of the particular colour,

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listing them opposite the question, ‘Can you find all of these eg. red things

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All Kinds of Cars
Carl Johanson
Flying Eye Books
Swedish artist Johanson take an every day item, the car, and puts a whole new spin on it in what is essentially a visual vehicular catalogue. Letting his imagination run riot, Johanson’ s opening spreads are entirely crazy offerings ranging from a ‘marmalade’ car to a blubbery looking ‘obese’ car on the first; then turn the page and we have these beauties:

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I’m not sure what the raison d’être for including the ‘English bus’ here was but assuredly there are some odd passengers aboard.
Next is a spread of fire-related rescue vehicles – real not imagined this time and they’re put into an action setting as are those on the next spread – a building site in this instance.

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This pattern is repeated through the book: two spreads of imagined cars – anyone for a ‘bed’ car?

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I just love the ‘toy’ car …

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but suggest steering clear of that ‘poo’ car – imagine sitting in that PHOAW! …

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I think my very favourite has to be the ‘book’ car but that ‘Mondrian’ car rather appealed to my sense of the ridiculous.

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And so we go on: there’s a farming vehicle spread, a building site, an airport page and a city street scene complete with dog poo collecting bike! As well as further flights of fancy of the car kind. There’s also an alphabetic index and end papers that positively cry out to be coloured in.
I had to use strong persuasive tactics to get this one out of the clutches of a group of 4s to 8s (mainly boys) who got their hands on my copy. I’m sure it will generate a whole lot of creative endeavours from readers. Think of the, dare I say it, FUN you could have with this one in a primary classroom.

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Bunnies & Eggs

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Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!
Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
We first met the main characters of this book in Tim Warnes’ wonderful Dangerous! Now Mole (with his obsession for labelling things) and best pal and fellow labeller, Lumpy-Bumpy Thing, are back in a new story and still busy with those labels it seems.

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One day in the course of their ‘work’ Mole notices an unusual phenomenon – a snow bunny. Rather than be labelled, said bunny bounds away with the L-BT in hot pursuit. He duly returns some time later looking like this …

 

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But when he ignores the warning label on the titfer he unleashes rather more magic than he’d bargained for. Certainly he might have been in ‘Bunny heaven’ but Mole’s attempts to number the buns. so they could enjoy a game of Bunny Bingo were thwarted at every turn and still those bunnies just kept on coming – “97, 98, 99, 100!” And what’s more there was no getting rid of them. The bunnies burrowed everywhere and what was worse, started leaving their calling cards all over the place. That was before they, or rather, one of their number, 54 to be precise, spied Mole’s vegetable patch, in particular this …

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A tussle ensues with Mole emerging victorious and that leads to a mass stampede of the bunny kind

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and the eventual re-capture of the bunnies, albeit with a whole lot of carrot coercion followed by some nifty replacing of the troublesome topper, a spot of hasty labelling and …

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Oh no! Here we go again …
Like the label on one of the bunnies in the story, this book is likely to prove ‘irresistible’ to young listeners who will, if my experience is anything to go by, demand immediate re-readings of this bouncing tale of friendship, misadventure, labels (of course) and the dangers of not paying heed to some of them; and then of course, there are the bunnies … Hilarity abounds.

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We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Unashamedly based on the traditional “We’re going on a bear/lion hunt’, Laura Hughes has created a picture book Easter egg hunt involving a family of rabbits. In their search for the ten eggs hidden in various locations in and around the farmyard they encounter some tricky things to deal with. There’s the field full of noisy lambs, an enclosure of cheeping chicks and then comes that field with the beehives.

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The search therein proves pretty fruitful and there’s a prickly pal to meet; but oh no! The bunnies have disturbed the bees and there’s nothing for it but ‘to go through them’ and keep on going down to the river and …

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Now they’ve found a whopper of an egg but …

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Time to make a dash for it, bunnies.
With all those lift-the-flap surprises to enjoy, ten eggs to discover and keep count of, a somewhat alarming encounter of the hairy kind and a whole host of small details for added interest, this will surely be a winner over the Easter season; and the enjoyment will last a lot longer than one of the objects of that search.

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Warthog / Ten Little Monsters

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Warthog
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
This rhyming tale of young warthog’s wanderings incorporates counting to ten as our forgetful little chap savours a scoop of honey – one (that’s breakfast taken care of) encountering two angry bees in so doing; his wanders then take him to a pool wherein he splashes, finds three pebbles

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which are actually …

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Off goes warthog swishing through the long grass wherein he finds five flowers behind which flutter six butterflies. By now our brave little wanderer is far from home and his mum – a little hungry perhaps? But those seven berries he spies have all been claimed by hungry birds – can you see which of the eight is going without a meal?

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Enjoying the birds’ song, warthog keeps on wandering quite oblivious to the fact it’s now sundown; he’s more interested in the nine monkeys and ten footprints which of course our curious fellow cannot resist following.
No they don’t lead him back home – not quite, although it’s not long before there IS one little warthog hot -footing it right back where he came from and he arrives …

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If you’re wondering why he returned so suddenly and so hastily, then turn back to the first spread and look carefully. And then get hold of this wonderfully interactive, playful counting book and see the rest of the action. Observant youngsters will most likely notice the wily watcher on some of the other spreads as you enjoy the story together.

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Ten Little Monsters
Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
Orchard Books
We’ve had pirates, princesses and dinosaurs; now it’s the turn of monsters to invade the pages of Brownlow and Rickerty’s latest counting extravaganza.
It’s night time but that’s the time for little monsters to wake up and go about their spooking of a castle and its environs. (Not sure why they’ve chosen now to publish a book wherein the characters go trick or treating but never mind): off go the ten on their spooking way until that werewolf lets out his howl …

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and thus begins the one by one decrease in their numbers as those would-be scarifiers encounter a headless knight, a ravenous raven, a large arachnid …

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a raucous, zapping robot, a zombie gang …

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some skeletons (hilarious demolition details on this spread), cackling witches, a grotesque green ghost and then we’re down to just one terrified monster and he alone must summon up all his courage to open the door and …
Well, that would be telling.
So many counting opportunities, so many story telling opportunities, so many visual jokes but most important of all – so much romping, stomping fun.

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Quick Quack Quentin/How Many Legs?

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Quick Quack Quentin
Kes Gr y and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
Did you spot the deliberate mistake in the author’s name? It – or rather a missing A – is really key to the whole sorry situation in this hilarious book from the Field/Gray dream team that all begins when a duck, a duck whose ‘Quack’ has become a mere ‘Qu ck!’, consults a doctor about the distressing condition. But although quick with his diagnosis “… your QUACK has lost it’s a.” said doctor is unable to prescribe anything. So off goes Quentin to the FARM to see if any of the animals can help. They try their best: DOG offers his O, HEN her E, PIG his I and BULL a U

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but none of these sound appropriately duck-like.
Quentin’s next stop is the ZOO – a couple of OOs perhaps? On second thoughts maybe not, but perhaps there might be an animal with a spare A therein.
All the animals are sympathetic but part with an A – not likely! The APES don’t want to be PES.
The SNAKES don’t want to be SNKES nor the CAMELS CMELS. The PARROTS have no intention of becoming PRROTS and those PANDAS don’t want to be PNDAS or even PANDS.

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Poor Quentin, seems he’s stuck with that QUCK or is he? What’s this strange looking creature saying he has a spare A …

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A quacking read aloud, a fun introduction to vowels and a brilliant way of showing children they need to be flexible in their approach to letters and sounds. In my book it doesn’t quite beat Oi Frog! but it comes pretty darn close: those animal expressions are something else.

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How Many Legs!
Kes Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
What begins as a simple question from the boy narrator of this picture book from the hugely talented Field and Gray “How many legs would there be if in this room there was only me?” gradually turns into a chaotic and riotous romp of a party as one after another animal crashes onto the scene at every turn of the page.

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Did I say another animal? Make that more than one on occasion …

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And just when you think it can’t get more crazy, this happens …

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With the addition of a slug, a snail, a maggot and a centipede just to name a few of the gate-crashers keeping up a leg count is pretty tricky.

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In fact I wouldn’t recommend trying it on a first reading – just enjoy the fun and leave computation till afterwards; and anyway the host reveals the answer to the leg question as he deals with the after- party chaos on the final page.
With wonderfully wacky guests splendidly attired, and scenes full of delightfully exuberant eccentricities, this book now out in paperback, is a cracker.

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Playful Books for Little Ones

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Peek-a-Boo You!
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
A frisky cat plays peek-a-boo with a small girl and her ted as it frolics through the peep holes in the pages of this delightful rhyming book. Kitty delights in activities such as jumping into a shoebox

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and overturning a beaker, although perhaps she isn’t quite so delighted by this …

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However, the playful puss has a surprise for the little girl …

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and there’s a surprise finale for readers too.
Great fun to share with the very young. Equally, with its predictable patterned text, this book is ideal for beginning readers and so much more fun that dull reading scheme fodder.

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One Lonely Fish
Andy Mansfield and Thomas Flintham
Templar Publishing
‘A counting book with bite!’ announces the cover of this playful book as we begin with one very tiny fish swimming through the sea watched only, or so it seems, by a couple of crabs from the ocean floor.
Flip the fin-like page and a second fish is revealed now swimming behind the first.

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Continue in similar fashion until nine fish of increasing size swim one behind the other, still watched by that pair of crabs that are now looking decidedly alarmed and turning over one more time will reveal the reason why.

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What follows is a satisfying finale? – Err, that all depends on your viewpoint.
Great fun and full of mathematical potential within and beyond the pages of the book.

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Brown Bear Colour Book
Jane Foster
Templar Publishing
This charming concept book is also an invitation to play hide and seek with Brown Bear – he peeps through the increasingly large die-cut circle on every colour spread. The three primary colours plus orange, green and purple each have a double spread which follows the same form: text on the left-hand side; seven small pictures, plus bear peeping through, on the right. The text too, keeps to a repeating pattern: here is Red …

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In fact pattern is key to the whole thing. The individual objects are beautifully patterned

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and often set against a patterned background in a shade of the featured colour.
As the pages are turned the previous colours are visible through the increasingly large hole on the left hand die-cut circle until the surprise grand finale …

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Those of us who have taught young children /and or/ are parents, will know that the very young do not generally acquire colour concepts from books, rather they develop them through experiences of the real world and interactions with adults. However, this book will certainly help to reinforce ideas relating to colour and is a delight in itself. There is so much to talk about on every spread; and the predictable, repeating pattern of the whole thing makes it a book that beginning readers can enjoy trying for themselves.

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Gobbly Goat
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
It’s lunchtime and Gobbly Goat has a rumbly tum. He wanders around the farmyard in search of something tasty to munch. Ugh! That straw hat tastes pretty disgusting, the rosy apples are way too high and Horse isn’t keen on sharing his hay so what can Gobbly gobble? …

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Told with a rhyming text and with deliciously funny farmyard scenes, this is a tasty treat for toddlers who will delight in pressing that sound button and making Gobbly bleat.

In similarly delightful Scheffler style and also in boardbook format is

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Higgly Hen
Nosy Crow
Here, although Higgly is hungry as the story begins, food is not the main object of her search. No sooner has she begun her food finding walk than her eggs hatch – six in all –

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and it’s those she wanders around the farm in search of. Silly hen; it’s a good thing that the cat, horse, pigs and other farmyard animals are on hand to help with her hunt.

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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.

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