Snow Ghost / Snow Woman

Here are two super snowy picture books – the first new, the second, a reissue:

Snow Ghost
Tony Mitton and Diana Mayo
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

In a lyrical tale of hoping and searching, Snow Ghost flies through the snow-filled sky seeking a place that she can call home.
She swoops first towards a town all a-twinkle with its lights in shops and houses; but it doesn’t feel right, so it’s on through the darkness and into the woods. There though she meets shadowy darkness and that too feels unwelcoming.

Windblown to a hilltop it’s impossible to rest with those hostile murmurs telling her to go, the Snow Ghost drifts towards a small moorland farm.

There in the fields are a boy and a girl playing snowballs and seeming full of joy. Now here’s a place which might just afford the welcome that can end the Snow Ghost’s long search …

– a place she can finally call home.

Tony Mitton’s rhyming narrative flows with the grace and beauty of his subject, gliding perfectly off the tongue as you read it aloud. Diana Mayo’s equally lyrical illustrations that almost float over the pages are mesmerising; the colour palette pervades every spread with an ethereal quality, and oh wow! those endpapers are exquisite.

A memorable magical wintry book from cover to cover that’s destined to become a seasonal treasure.

Snow Woman
David McKee
Andersen Press

David’s wry look at the question of gender, Snow Woman, has recently been reissued. It tells of Rupert who informs his dad that he’s building a snowman, only to have his terminology corrected to ‘snow person” by dad. And of Rupert’s sister Kate who before embarking on her snow construction, tells her mum, it’s to be a snow woman. Mum accepts this.

The completed snow people stand side by side duly dressed and are photographed along with their creators, by Mum.

The following morning the snow twosome have vanished, along with their clothes. Kate makes a thoughtful observation about a possible reason and the two decide a to build instead, a snow bear – not a man or a lady -merely a bear, Rupert suggests.

Playful and pertinent still, McKee’s deadpan humour shines out of his illustrations all the way through to that seeming throwaway final line of Rupert’s. Make sure you study all the household décor and other ephemera lying around indoors, particularly the art adorning the walls; it’s hilarious.
This book will surely appeal to both children and adults.

Fergal Meets Fern / Elmer and the Lost Treasure

It’s lovely to see favourite characters returning in these two recent books from Andersen Press

Fergal Meets Fern
Robert Starling

New sibling unsettlement quickly arises when Fergal’s Mum and Dad bring home ‘the egg’. From this emerges a new baby sister for the little dragon and with its arrival, funny feelings start within Fergal. Even nan’s gift of flying show tickets lift his mood only briefly because Fern’s actions really stoke up Fergal’s inner fire.
Then to make matters worse, comes the news that the flying show excursion is off: Dad has to get medicine for Fern who’s become sick.

Inevitably Fergal’s fiery feeling grows even stronger, so much so that he does something to make him the centre of attention, which it does, once Dad discovers his whereabouts.

After a frank Father and Fergal discussion on feelings, Dad shows his son something by way of explanation.

Later on as the two do some yoga side by side, the feelings discussion continues

and eventually Fergal understands that something in him needs to change. Being a big brother is an important role and perhaps it’s one he can undertake successfully and lovingly.

As with previous Fergal stories, Robert Starling conveys this one with sensitivity, humour and considerable charm.

Share with little ones at any time but it’s especially apt if you’re a family with young child and a new arrival.

Elmer and the Lost Treasure
David McKee

The adorable elephant, Elmer stars in what is almost unbelievably, his twenty eighth picture book adventure.

He, along with cousin Wilbur and three other elephants set out on ‘a long, exploring walk’ through the jungle and after a while find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

After a roll down a steep slope with Elmer in the lead – naturally – they discover an entrance to an old forgotten palace and start exploring within, or rather Elmer and Wilbur do. The others meanwhile have their own agenda. What can they be doing?

The palace is incredible with huge domed halls in shades of blue, amazing mosaics, tiles and carvings. But who will find that Lost Treasure? And what is it?

Another absolutely smashing story of everyone’s favourite patchwork pachyderm and his pals, told and illustrated with David McKee’s usual sense of humour and fun, warmth and heart, that is also reflected in his main character.

Elmer’s Birthday

Elmer’s Birthday
David McKee
Andersen Press

After three decades it’s safe to say that Elmer the elephant has become an institution in nurseries, primary schools and families.

This story celebrates his birthday or does it?

The group of elephants he passes on his regular morning walk certainly think he has a birthday the following day and decide to play a joke on him. ‘… let’s act as if we’ve forgotten it …’ they decide intending to produce a celebratory cake at the end of the afternoon.

Off they go to inform his friends and family of their intentions.
The trouble is those elephants don’t pay heed to the responses they receive, dismissing all their ‘buts’ as insignificant.

Indeed not a single animal they speak to is impressed with their trick, but the mention of cake keeps them quiet.

Next morning when he takes his walk, Elmer’s slightly puzzled at the way his friends greet him. Throughout the day the other animals seem to be avoiding him until the end of the afternoon when he’s suddenly confronted by all his friends and family.

Yes, the trick backfires but who can resist the enormous patchwork confection that his fellow pachyderms have baked for all to share, birthday or no birthday.

“ … the cake is a winner,” concludes Elmer before they all tuck in; and a winner is what little ones will think about this shared joke of a tale. I’m pretty sure they’ll ask for second helpings too.

Belinda Brown

Belinda Brown
David McKee
Andersen Press

Belinda Brown is fanatical about bananas, insisting on dining upon them at every meal and in-between times too, even going to the lengths of keeping a spare in her sock should she feel peckish. None of her family or friends shares her ultra-enthusiasm for the fruit; in fact her friendship with best pal, Felicity Jones is terminated thanks to the curvy fruit.

So convinced are her parents that the child is merely going through a faddy phase that they aren’t troubled by this over-indulgence:

it’s left to her Grandma to worry about Belinda’s obsession.
She becomes increasingly troubled until eventually on a walk together, she begs her granddaughter to cut down on the bananas for fear her body should start to mimic the form of same.

Belinda has no wish for her back-bone to take on a banana-shape and so, rather than give up what she loves so much, the girl tries her own method of offsetting any possible curvature that might occur.

The results however, are not quite what she’s hoping for …

Rhyming nonsense from McKee to tickle the taste buds and bring on the giggles. Belinda’s a totally zany character but you’ll also love her small brother Bryan, the balletic, skinny Aunt Sally and the banana-sharing toddler twins, all portrayed in McKee’s signature style.

Friends Return: Oskar and Mo / Alfie in the Woods / Elmer and the Tune

Oskar and Mo
Britta Teckentrup
Prestel
In his first book Oskar the raven loved a whole lot of things; now he’s back with more love. This time it’s directed at his best friend Mo and we discover what the two of them love to do together. After all, unless you’re a solitary individual most things are better if you have a friend to share them with.
They share a favourite place where they go to share secrets. A shared love of stories means that Mo loves Oscar to read to her – good on you Oskar;

they love playing together, whether it’s block building or hide and seek but like all friends they do have the occasional tiff. But it never lasts long because they’re there for each other whatever the weather, night or day, happy or sad, be they close by or far away.
Full of heart, this is a winningly simple portrayal of friendship and a great starting point for discussion with pre-schoolers.

Alfie in the Woods
Debi Gliori
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Little rabbit, Alfie returns for his third story and he’s out walking in the woods with his dad. It’s autumn and the young rabbit is collecting seasonal treasures.
He spies his friends and together they play hide-and-seek among the trees.
The mischievous little creature then starts using the available autumnal litter to transform himself into various other forest creatures: he becomes an owl gliding from tree to tree; a busy, buzzy bee, a hedgehog,

a dozy bear and even a tree.
All this imaginary play is pretty tiring though, so it’s a sleeping Alfie who is carried safely home by his dad after his crazy adventure.
Alfie has become a firm favourite with pre-schoolers and his latest story, with Debi Gliori’s captivating illustrations, is bound to be another winner.

Elmer and the Tune
David McKee
Andersen Press
How annoying it is when you get a tune stuck in your mind and the words just keep on going around and around no matter what you do. That’s almost what happens to Elmer when he’s out walking with his friend, Rose one day. First the tune gets stuck in her head and then Elmer too catches it and can’t stop humming the wretched thing.
So infectious is it that pretty soon all the jungle animals are humming that self same tune of Rose’s over and over. What are they to do?
Time to call upon Elmer. Can he come up with a solution to their problem?

Seemingly he can and it works for all his friends; but what about Elmer?
This is David McKee’s 24th Elmer story and his escapades continue to win him new fans as well as pleasing established ones; the latter, like elephants, never forget.

Elmer and the Race

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Elmer and the Race
David McKee
Andersen Press
The young elephants have become racing enthusiasts so Elmer and Wilbur decide to organise a special race and give the youngsters a week to practise. On race day everyone gathers to watch the nine contestants, each of which is decorated a different colour …

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and all listen to Elmer’s reminder: “Remember it’s not just who is fastest or slowest, but how you run the race” issued before the off.
Elmer and Wilbur then head off to the first vantage point to view the proceedings as Brown takes the lead. An eventful race ensues with monkey tricks sending some contestants off course; cheating leading to an injury …

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a disqualification and finally a winner – that’s Blue. He’s not the only medal recipient however: there’s an award for second place, fastest starter, bravest, kindest, unluckiest contestant as well as two for funniest and finally one for sorriest (also the naughtiest) so every one is happy – one way or another.
I had to read this one three times to a group of 4s to 9s, one of whom said she knew the story already but quickly realised she didn’t; it was the original Elmer book she was familiar with. Clearly Elmer still wields his magic after more than a quarter of a century. Long live Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

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Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale & another salty story

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Captain Falsebeard in a Very Fishy Tale
Fred Blunt
Puffin Books pbk
The fine detail in this one is awesome and truly hilarious in parts. Take for instance the sight of all those evil-looking parrots launching their aeronautical attack (of which more later).
The story tells of two pirates bold, fearsome and sworn deadly enemies, Captain Falsebeard and Admiral Swinetoes by name. For over a decade these pirates have searched the briny blue looking for the Crossbone Treasure and now finally, one of the pair, Falsebeard has it in his clutches and, when we meet him is about to stash the loot safely aboard his ship, the Pretty Polly and partake of a celebratory fishy supper. First though, there’s to be a fish-off competition to catch a creature worthy of the cap’n’s table.
Lines are duly cast and with the competitors concentrating on the task in hand, none of them notices the watchful parrot observer close by.

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This wily creature flies back to the Killjoy to report his discoveries to Admiral Swinetoes, who as you can imagine, is none too impressed. But a plan is quickly set in motion.
Not long after, back aboard the Pretty Polly a sizeable catch is landed and it’s something of a surprise

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and a totally beguiling one.
When Falsebeard discovers the nature of the hoodwinking, an even more cunning plan is ignominiously thrust upon him – or rather before him. One that involves the unleashing of a truly deadly weapon (which is where we came in).

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But does Captain Falsebeard retrieve his plunder?

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Well that would be telling wouldn’t it?
A wonderful rib-tickling yarn of the saltiest variety that will have your audiences calling out for more and demanding opportunities to pore over the individual frames and full pages scenes. Welcome to the REAL picture book scene Fred Blunt: a superbly swashbuckling debut.
Miss this at your peril me ’arties!

Also with a marine theme is

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Mr Benn Diver
Based on the TV series by David McKee
Hodder Children’s Books pbk
Herein Mr B. visits the costume shop and finds himself part of an adventure involving rival submarine crews searching for a sea monster, a mermaid seeking a special present for King Neptune’s birthday and a cunning trick to ensure the king is left in peace to enjoy his birthday celebrations with his pet monster. It certainly kept a lively group of 5s to 7s involved throughout and wanting more.

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Monster Tales

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Love Monster & the Last Chocolate
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins pbk
On his return from holiday, chocaholic Love Monster discovers a large box of chocs by his front door. Who can have left me these he wonders as his mouth waters at the thought of its contents.

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Should he share them with his friends though, is his next consideration especially as there might not be sufficient or even worse, if someone choses his favourite or leaves him only the most disgusting flavor – unthinkable! Best to keep them all to himself decides Love Monster creeping indoors. But then, his guilty conscience strikes and out again shoots our LM to find his pals …

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Their response to his ‘generosity’ however comes as something of a surprise for when at their behest, LM opens the box, what does he find?

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A treat for chocaholics and monster lovers everywhere. Rachel Bright’s Little Monster – this is his third story – is indeed lovable. We all know several ‘Little Monsters’ I’m sure and they too will love to share in his thoughts and deeds. Follow your heart Little Monster.
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Don’t Call Me Sweet!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Angie Rozelaar
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
What would you call a small, pale blue hairy monster with large round eyes and small white teeth that looks like this? – Whatever you do, as the title tells you, never, ever call him sweet. No matter that he accidentally falls into a muddy swamp while practicing stomping moves (then the name is SMELLY), or spatters himself with goo when making or rather messing, bug-eye stew. (SLIMY is the name this time.) Well, get ready to meet that stinky, slimy character as he sets out to do a spot of SCARING …
But what, are those enormous, hairy feet and huge toes?

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Who do they belong to and what are they waiting for?  …
Time to bring out that alter ego little monster.

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Despite his best efforts, this little monster, as created by his author and illustrator, is undoubtedly SWEET. But then that’s the whole point of this charming story. He’s just the kind of creature that small children love to create in their own pictures and models and I have no doubt that hearing this story will lead to a whole host of painting, drawing, collage creating, model-making, storying and more.
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DSCN2051Elmer and the Monster
David McKee
Andersen Press
Elmer seems unperturbed when, on his morning walk, his jungle friends in turn warn him of ‘a monster’ at large in the jungle. The birds, monkeys, tiger, the crocodiles, lion and even his fellow elephants are convinced it’s close at hand; they’ve all heard its fearsome roar. Then suddenly Elmer hears the roar too, very, very nearby. Into the clearing he peeps and there atop a rock sits its perpetrator – sobbing.

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Bloo-Bloo explains all to Elmer and then they both set off to find the other animals so the ‘monster’ can demonstrate his powerful vocal chords.
This time, it’s not just Elmer who has the last laugh – that is shared by everyone.
Young listeners too delight in the silly ending especially, because it provides an open invitation to join Bloo-Bloo in an almighty, resounding ROAR!

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Another winning addition to the Elmer series and a good one with which to join in Elmer’s 25th Anniversary celebrations – ROAR for little Bloo-Bloo and an even louder one for the wonderful ELMER.
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