Choices / Bye, Car

Child’s Play

Using the backdrop of a lido on a summer’s day, this debut picture book explores some of the many decisions children will be faced with in their lives. Relatively few words and engaging playful scenes of a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and one little girl in particular, invite youngsters to consider the possible choices they might make and the consequences thereof.

Some are simple: what kind of ice-cream to buy, should I be kind and share my lunch with somebody else; or much harder – shall I take a dive from the high diving board?

But what I really like about the entire book is that the text never actually says what is happening on the page, allowing the reader/ listener to explore each illustration, discuss what the little girl is doing, how she could be feeling, and perhaps what the consequences of her choices might be.

Teaching children about choices and consequences, and causes and effects is part and parcel of the foundation stage curriculum and beyond as well as something parents are involved in – it’s a part of growing up but sometimes living with the outcomes of those choices is more difficult. This book offers a really good starting point for conversations with a very young child or class of little ones but equally could be used again later on for reflection and further discussion

The book ends with a reminder of everyone’s uniqueness not spoken this time, but hinted at in the final scene wherein the smiling little girl takes centre stage (almost!) beneath which are the words ‘and with every choice you grow!’ It’s definitely one to add to class, school, and home collections.

There are important choices too in:

Bye, Car
Naomi Danis and Daniel Rieley
Child’s Play

Whether or not they understand the green message of this book, youngsters will enjoy seeing the wide variety of cars and perhaps trying to identify some of them, as two young children bid farewell to those passing by. They start by watching from a window the ones travelling along the busy road and then accompanied by an adult, they venture out into the hustling bustling urban streets for further vehicle spotting.
Naomi Danis’ rhyming narrative includes basic opposites such as near/far, and becomes increasingly descriptive – ‘car in a hurry/ car in a flurry’, ‘howling car, growling car’

and is nicely balanced by Daniel Rieley’s alluring, unfussy illustrations that starkly remind us of the way our streets are vehicle dominated. Happily however, come the new day, the walk shows greener alternatives to the pollution-spewing cars as we see an electric bus, cyclists and other eco-friendly modes of transport.

Me and Mister P: Maya’s Storm

Me and Mister P: Maya’s Storm
Maria Farrer, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Oxford University Press

In this latest story, polar bear Mister P washes up on the beach close to young Maya’s home in Lighthouse Cottage. Maya is still getting used to being part of a new family – Mum, Dad, big brother Max and sister, Iris. She now feels safe there but memories of her old life in another country haunt her occasionally.

Maya has formed a special bond with Granny Anne who lives on the edge of the village, but other family members are worried about Gran –her forgetfulness and at times erratic behaviour, seem to be on the increase. Things on the Gran front are going to have to change, says Mum.

So when Maya and Gran discover at the back of a cave, a huge polar bear with a suitcase bearing a label which reads Mister P, 1 Lighthouse Cottages, Maya knows that she now has more than just Gran to worry about. She certainly doesn’t want her parents finding out about the new furry visitor and Gran seems to have taken a shine to him.

But how are they going to provide him with the diet of fish he needs?

However Maya cannot spend all her time worrying about Mister P. There’s a birthday party to be organised too.

No matter where Mister P lands, he always manages to end up as a hero and so it is here. Along the way though the rest of Maya’s family of course, discovers him – first her brother at whose place of work he causes a degree of alarm, then Iris and her parents.

Eventually Mister P gets itchy feet; he cannot stay forever after all; but when he does go Maya knows she’ll never forget him; and her brother gives her a vey special something as a reminder of their time together.

Funny, disquieting at times and tinged with sadness, but readers will close the book with an abiding feeling of warmth and an even greater endearment than ever towards its main protagonist. As always, Daniel Rieley has done a great job with his expressive greyscale illustrations.

Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star

Me and Mister P: Ruby’s Star
Maria Farrer, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Oxford University Press

Mister P is back and now he’s dropped into young Ruby’s already packed life. With absent father, a mother and a little brother Leo to take care of, let alone attending school, her days and nights are pretty jam-packed and there certainly isn’t room in it, or their not very big flat, for a large white furry polar bear.

He’s certainly not what she had in mind when she made that wish for a birthday surprise. The trouble is, having drifted down in a hot-air balloon and landed in the nearby park, it doesn’t look as though he’s going anywhere in a hurry.
Thank goodness then for kindly neighbour, Mrs Moresby, who’s not averse to supplying the odd packet or so of fish fingers.

Activities as diverse as busking (to raise money to repay Mrs Moresby), and skateboarding (Ruby is a fan on account of her father and eager to improve her skills; Mr P. needs four skateboards and he’s pretty inept but determined) feature large and very large.

‘Perseverance, guts, determination, friends’ those are the requisites for Connor to be a skateboarder. They’re also what Ruby deems she needs to survive.

Survive she does and much more, emerging by the end, emotionally stronger, with a greater self understanding and generally an all round better person, thanks in no small part to Mister P. a character that utters not a word throughout the whole story, but also thanks to Mrs Moresby, an understanding headteacher and new friend Connor.

This fine book encompasses a number of themes including empathy, tolerance, acceptance and diversity, all of which are subtly woven into the story that also includes the needs of young carers. It’s beautifully illustrated by Daniel Rieley.

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane / Ellie’s Magic Wellies

Emma Jane’s Aeroplane
Katie Howarth and Daniel Rieley
Templar Publisihng
We meet young aviator Emma Jane as she takes off into the night sky heading so it appears for a distant city with its shining lights. London is her first stop-off and approaching the London Eye in the rain, she spots a fox and takes it aboard.

Before long. ‘Up ahead is something bright – it’s a city’s shining lights …’ Paris is the next stop where having looped around the Eiffel Tower, Emma Jane spies on Notre Dame, a rooster and …’So Emma Jane in her aeroplane, / a fox who doesn’t like the rain, / and a rooster who crows wherever he goes / fly on.’ … towards Venice and thence New York, Beijing and Sydney.

By now the plane looks pretty full and it’s heading straight into a storm; a storm that pitches them right into the churning sea. Are the plane and its passengers, not to mention Emma Jane, destined to be lost at sea or do all those animals possess skills that can be called upon in their hour of need?
Let’s just say that all ends happily, with fond farewells as our pilot drops each of her new friends off in their home city before whizzing off once again …
Katie Howarth’s peppy rhyming tale of travel, significant sights, and friendship without boundaries zips along nicely and is fun to share, all the more so if time is given to linger over Daniel Rieley’s delectably droll illustrations be they spread, single page, double spread or vignette.

Ellie’s Magic Wellies
Amy Sparkes and Nick East
Egmont Publishing
I’ve yet to meet a young child who doesn’t love to splosh around in puddles; it’s certainly so with Ellie Pengelly who has just been given a shiny new pair of wellies by her Auntie Flo who has come to do a spot of child-minding while Ellie’s mum visits the dentist. Having donned her polka-dot winged wonders, off heads Ellie in search of some lovely splash-about in puddles. Having located a particularly large one she leaps in and as she does, gets the surprise of her life. What should appear, courtesy of Ellie’s new ‘magical wellies, but a creature introducing itself as a “Flibberty-Gibberty” – a Flipperty Gibberty out of its puddle just waiting to play.
And play they do; the F.G. seemingly having boundless energy.

(Not sure the creature should be encouraging young Ellie to do headstands though, thinks the yoga teacher in me).
Play over, the two go indoors for a spot of something to eat, or rather, that’s the intention but what happens is something quite different and extremely chaos making.
Can they get the house back to its former tidy state before mum’s return? That is the crucial question…

Perhaps so with a little help from those magical wellies of Ellie’s.
Amy Sparkes’ sparkling rhyming text combines beautifully with Nick East’s equally sparky illustrations to produce a lively read aloud that is likely to induce a whole lot of puddle jumping – ready steady SPLOSH!

I’ve signed the charter  

Me and Mister P


Me and Mister P
Maria Farrer illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Oxford UniversityPress
Arthur is less than happy with his lot: he longs for a normal family wherein he can have his fair share of parental attention. Instead he has to contend with a brother on the autism spectrum towards whom much of his parents’ attention is directed.
Now, sent to his room instead of being able to watch the much anticipated football match on TV, Arthur – with lucky crystal in one pocket and survival tin in t’other – decides to leave home,, for good! But what, or whom should he encounter on the doorstep but an enormous polar bear, Mister P. The bear doesn’t speak but Arthur gleans this from the name on his old brown suitcase, which has a distinct fishy aroma about it and has a label with Arthur’s family address on. Could it be that the creature intends to stay?
He does; and Arthur’s life starts to get a whole lot better– not to mention that of brother Liam and the rest of their family.
Full of warmth and humour, this story is a delight to read, either aloud to a class, or as an individual. Listeners will revel in such scenarios as that when Mister P. endeavours to fit his huge bulk into Mum’s car (hilariously illustrated by Daniel Rieley) …


or that of Mr Craddock’s class endeavouring to discover interesting facts about polar bears while Mister P. reclines on beanbags in a corner of their classroom.


There’s another character who needs a mention too, and that’s Rosie. She doesn’t put in an appearance until about half way through the book but she’s certainly pretty persuasive: “Anyway, our scores are going to improve because now Mister P is going to be our lucky mascot, isn’t he? “ ‘She put her hands together in the praying position.’ “PLEASE.“; and contributes some extremely apposite insights and comments: “See … Mister P knows how to get things sorted.
And a sorter of things is most definitely what Mister P. is – in more ways than one – shades of Nurse Matilda aka Nanny McPhee here.
I’ll say no more other than to urge you to get hold of Maria Farrer’s superbly empathetic book, made all the more so by Daniel Rieley’s wonderfully droll illustrations.

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This is a Serious Book


This is a Serious Book
Jodie Parachini and Daniel Rieley
Faber & Faber
Make no bones about it, this is a serious book; we’re told so at the outset: ‘Nothing silly is allowed.’ Errrm – what’s that donkey doing popping up right on the first spread and almost immediately proceeding to sabotage everything our solemn narrator is trying to tell us? Moreover, he’s got the audacity to emit a bottom parp, then proceed to don ridiculous ducky pjs. and do some showy-offy balancing on a unicycle …


Oh and then, while wearing that ridiculous multi-coloured titfa, he has the cheek to introduce us to a zebra – yes he is appropriately coloured in accordance with the narrator’s ‘a serious book must be in black and white’, but serious? Hmmm! Their efforts at ‘pretending’ don’t look as though they’d fit the serious bill at all.


And what the heck is a snake doing slithering onto the scene? Not to mention the penguin and that troupe of monkeys …
Eventually our long-suffering narrator yields control of the whole book to the invaders …


And guess who – with a few deft strokes – has the last word(s) …
At once, silly and sophisticated, this book puts me in mind somewhat of Bingham and Zelinsky’s Z is for Moose and Circle, Square, Moose and can certainly be appreciated at lots of different levels. Youngsters will revel in the comic portrayal of donkey’s rule-breaking in particular and older readers will appreciate the meta-book style of the whole anarchic thing.

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