The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily

The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily
Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas
Hodder Children’s Books

I’m anything but a lover of cats – they make me sneezy, wheezy and itchy-eyed but the ginger creature staring out from the cover of this book is totally irresistible and goes by the unlikely name of Tantrum O’Furrily.

What we have here is a story within a story and it all begins one wild and windy night with stray cat, Tantrum O’Furrily dancing across the rooftops with her three hungry little kittens and offering to tell them a story.

Slightly disappointed to learn that stories aren’t edible, they start to listen to their mother’s song. She tells of a small kitten; Smallpaw by name, a very pampered pet living with Mrs Worrykin who, when asked for a story responds that only stray cats – the robbers and fighters – are story cats.

One night Mrs Worrykin forgets to close the catflap and seeking adventure, Smallpaw pokes her head outside into the dark sniffing for a story of her own.

The fox she encounters is more than willing to oblige and begins his tale thus: “Once upon a time there was a delicious little kitten with fur as soft as butter, who was bored of being indoors…

Recognising the similarities with her own story, Smallpaw is intrigued and allows herself be lured outside, bounding right up close to the foxy gentleman who, as foxes do, has his eye on the main chance.

Fortunately for her, there happens to be a stray cat on hand with tiger-like claws and tenacious teeth; she sees off the wily predator …

and gives Smallpaw some timely advice.

Smallpaw does return to her keeper but from then on, Mrs Worrykin always leaves the catflap open. The best of both worlds becomes the order of the day – and night – for, as that wise stray once said, ‘A cat with courage makes her own story.’

Beautifully told by wonderful weaver of words, Cressida Cowell whose modern fable is complemented by Carmelite Prize winning illustrator Mark Nicholas. His superbly smudgy scenes, executed with a minimal colour palette, detail the action with panache.

Journeys with Elephants

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Gracie captivated by Raju’s journey with his mother

Timothy Knapman and Patrick Benson
Walker Books
A mummy elephant opens the eyes of her little one, Raju to the wonders of the world around when she takes him on a long walk. They travel to the river where crocodiles snap, the shadowy forest where snakes slither,

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the tall grass wherein a tiger prowls and climb to the top of a mountain from where Raju sees his whole world before him and the two agree that it’s beautiful. Even then though, Raju’s only question like always, is, “When can we go home again?” But when she has tenderly led him back home, past the tiger, the snake and the crocodiles, her weary offspring wants to know, “When can we do it all again?” As always, this beautiful book’s title is her response.
Patrick Benson’s use of light and shade magically evokes passage of the day and the journey of the elephants through the changing Indian landscapes – landscapes that are aglow with sunlight and finally, moonlight.

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I know not whether he has actually seen such scenes: I have and they definitely are, spot on. Make sure you don’t miss those gorgeous endpapers.
Knapman’s use of repetition serves to add weight to the words of warning and reassuring actions of Mummy elephant who keeps a steadfast vigilance and knows exactly what to do to keep her young one safe at every potentially dangerous encounter.

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A book to visit over and over, as I imagine that mountain-top will be by the elephant characters therein.

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Emily Brown and the Elephant Emergency
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Emily, Stanley and elephant pal, Matilda are whitewater rafting on the Zambezi river in order to investigate some mysterious footprints they hope will lead to the discovery of a new dinosaur species. In case of emergencies, they have a telephone but the trouble is Matilda’s extremely anxious mother insists on ringing to check that her offspring is wearing her wellies (I ask you), keeping warm and not ending up as some creature’s next meal. Moreover, she insists on calling at the most inopportune, moments for ridiculous, non-emergency reasons just when the intrepid explorers are for example, scaling the heights of Mount Everest.
Indeed it’s pretty clear that the only real problem is these constant check-up calls: the phone itself has become a tyrannical nuisance.

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Then Matilda decides to sit out of the diamond search; could she possibly have become ensnared by her own worst fears, or rather her mum’s? …

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And is there another explanation for the sudden absence of that Ri-i-i-ing! Ri-i-i-i-ng sound that has seemed so all- pervasive?
Wonderfully witty and at times, woeful illustrations of the friends, show the energetic characters delighting in their freedom to explore, while the pesky phone is never far from the view. And, I just love that throwaway ending.
Over-anxious parents take note…

If elephants are your thing then you will also like:

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Suzi Eszterhas
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books pbk
This is one of the excellent Eye on the Wild series by an award-winning wildlife photographer. Herein we follow a new born African bull elephant as he slowly grows and develops into a full-grown adult some fifteen years later.
The many aspects of family life are shown, the herd being a matriarchal society wherein all the females work together sharing the care of the young elephants. The photographs – small and full page or double spread – beautifully portray life in the herd. There are in addition some close ups such as one of the tough wrinkled skin, which helps protect the elephant from the baking sun and the playful water-hole scenes are a delight.

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In addition to the straightforward narrative text, there is a final page giving additional facts opposite which is a powerful image of the bull elephant going off alone through the grassy savannah.
Simple but very effective and ideal for helping to instill a love and understanding of the natural world in the young, be they at home or in an early years/younger primary classroom.

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A Bear on a Chair, A Tearful Teddybear

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There’s a Bear On My Chair
Ross Collins
Nosy Crow
There’s a bear on my chair,” declares the grumpy-looking mouse. Well, wouldn’t you be annoyed if you found an enormous white ursine character had plonked itself on your favourite piece of furniture and was refusing to budge despite your best efforts.

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Especially when said bear then proceeds to peruse the paper, attend to his coiffeur and cannot even to be tempted to shift with a juicy pear.
This is just not on – well I suppose it is, if you’re the bear – but our tiny friend is determined to reclaim his seat so scaring is his next move. But …

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seemingly this bear is not for moving. Hold on a minute, do I detect a slight shift …

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so what is all that about?
Completely at a loss, the despairing narrator mouse finally decides to quit the scene but whither do his little paws take him? Well, that would be telling wouldn’t it?
A resounding cheer – and another – and another for Ross Collins and his glorious two hander, or should that be monologue perhaps? Whichever, it’s superb.
The comic timing is spot on and what a gift to the adult reader aloud. This one has had terrific fun sharing it with groups of listeners wherever she can get a chair. And those illustrations speak volumes – I’d love to show you every single one but you’ll just have to get your paws on a copy of the book for that.

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Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear, Emily Brown!
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
In this, the fourth title to feature Emily Brown and her rabbit Stanley, the two are indoors on a wet day playing at camping in the Australian Outback when they hear a PLIP! PLOP! seemingly coming from the toy box. Therein they find a somewhat soggy, very tearful little teddy singing plaintively about her loneliness.

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Emily invites the troubled ted to accompany them on their camping adventure in the hope of cheering her up and off the three go. But does this have the desired mood lifting effect? Oh dear no, so Emily undaunted (as yet) suggests a trip to the Yellowstone Park

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but although Emily Brown and Stanley have a great time bear spotting the grizzlies, black bears and others (despite the lack of other teddies), this too fails to lift the mood of Tearful Teddy.
What about the third attempt? Their south of France, Van Gogh efforts must surely do the trick …

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Goodness me NO! What a misery guts their ursine companion is. Eventually that large black cloud engulfs not only Tearful Teddy, but Emily Brown and Stanley too.
Time for some drastic action, thinks Emily B. Out comes her red brolly with a SWOOOOOOOOOOOSH!! And, there before their eyes up pop …

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a dozen little teddies needing a temporary shelter from their picnic. They explain their initial reluctance to include Tearful Ted in their fun and she tries explaining her lack of smile. Emily Brown of course, in her unflappable way, is ready to help with a ‘rediscover your smile plan’ and all ends smilingly – despite another shower.
Another super read aloud and a real testament to young children’s imagination. It’s great for starting an exploration of feelings indicating that sometimes it’s OK to feel sad, particularly when there are friends to help you cheer up.
My audiences have loved joining in with Tearful Ted’s increasingly long song; some clapped at the umbrella-opening incident and immediately demanded a re-read at the end. Two 5 year olds even left the room singing Tearful Ted’s song.

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A group of 4s to 9s created a teddybears’ picnic for Tearful Ted


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Very Little Cinderella

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Very Little Cinderella
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Very Little Cinderella, with her “lello boots” and “BIG blue scooter” is truly adorable. So too is this the second ‘Very Little’ story to come from the partnership of Heapy and Heap. The basic story is pretty much left intact with Cinderella doing the cleaning, a fairy godmother (aka the babysitter) and a very patient one she turns out to be, an outing to the ball – that’s for the Ugly Sisters of course, not VLC who is left at home distraught, temporarily at least. But I did say the basic plot remains, so our tiny heroine does get to go to the ball, or party as it’s called here. Small she may be, but Very Little Cinderella has an enormous amount of determination, so it’s only after a whole lot of palaver over her choice of attire

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and mode of transport to said party.

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There’s dancing, – lots of it, a midnight-striking clock and a mad dash home which leaves a soon distraught VLC minus one of her ‘lello boots. There follows the arrival of a prince – a Very Little prince clutching a very little boot (and a small bunny), and a triumphant “It fits me!”

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and another meeting of the Prince and Cinderella. But remember these two are both Very Littles so it has to be a play-date and of course, ‘they both played happily ever after.’
Another certain winner for this author/artist partnership. Whither next I wonder…

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The girls in one of the groups I shared the story with were inspired to design new dresses for VLC to wear to the party.


On the subject of wonderful duos, it’s great to see paperback reissues of two stories about one of my very favourite young characters, Emily Brown, and constant companion, Stanley, her much-loved old grey rabbit.
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Emily Brown and the Thing
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books
In the first, young Emily asserts her ownership of Stanley in no uncertain terms when Queen Gloriana attempts to procure him for herself, although she does have a put up with his temporary absence when her majesty’s Special Commandos creep into her bedroom and steal him one night as Emily sleeps.

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The Thing referred to in the title of the second story is a large greenish scriffily-scraffily creature that lands up on Emily Brown’s windowsill one night when out searching for his cuddly. The Thing seeks Emily’s help in his hunt but even when they find the cuddly quite soon, it’s only the beginning of what turns out to be a very disturbed night for young Emily: is there to be no end to the demands that Thing makes on her during the course of an action-packed few hours until she finally discovers the real cause of the Thing’s restlessness.
Wonderful stuff.

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