Einstein the Penguin

Einstein the Penguin
Iona Rangeley and David Tazzyman
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Iona Rangeley’s seasonal debut novel is sheer delight. It begins one chilly December afternoon in the Stewart household when mum suggests a visit to London Zoo.

It’s an excursion like many family outings with disagreement about which animals to look at, things being rushed and time running out. In this instance running out almost before seeing the penguins, almost but not quite for suddenly the children, Imogen and Arthur, spot a small penguin that seems to want them to be its friend.

“Can we keep him?” begs Imogen to which Mum responds by addressing the penguin directly, “And you Mr Penguin, must come and stay with us whenever you like.”

Little does she expect that later that evening what should appear at their front door but said penguin complete with rucksack. There’s only one thing to do thinks Mr Stewart: invite him in for supper and so they do, on the understanding of course that they take him back to the zoo next day.

That’s the intention but the following morning this plan quickly unravels when the zoo report that none of their penguins is missing. Time for a bit of investigating it seems. The siblings discover that penguin’s name is Einstein and that he’s lost his penguin friend, Isaac; but where is Isaac now?

With Christmas drawing ever closer Einstein’s ‘temporary, take-each day-as-it-comes’ stay is extended with the children turning detective in earnest as they determine to discover Isaac’s whereabouts. Next stop is Edinburgh but then what? …

With plenty of suspense, superb characterisation, quirkiness and a compelling plot, this is much more than a Christmas read. It’s made all the more fun by plenty of David Tazzyman’s characteristic scribbly drawings.

I’d love to hear more of Einstein et al.

You Can’t take an Elephant on Holiday

You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday
Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is the fourth in the deliciously daft rhyming ‘You Can’t …an Elephant … ’ series and now the topic under consideration is the holiday-sabotaging potential of the titular pachyderm and a host of other unlikely animals.

Some of the other potentially disastrous combinations are a cheetah at the wheel of a camper van, meerkats doing a round of mini-golf, eating candy floss in the vicinity of a circling albatross, a bison on a pedalo

and venturing into a paddling pool with a lot of piraña fish swimming in wait.

David Tazzyman’s hilarious renditions of those silly scenarios and others of Patricia’s possibilities, along with an achievable crowd-pleasing finale, offer a timely vacation contemplation, virtual or actual, in these ‘green light’, or otherwise, times we’re faced with.

Youngsters will surely enjoy this book as much as the previous ones by this creative partnership and likely be inspired to think up some potentially hazardous situations of their own.

Here’s Elena who says ‘Don’t try a giraffe or a penguin – you won’t be able to pack them away and the security guard won’t let them stay.’

Leo chose the potential consequences of a crocodile as a holiday companion …

Samuel considered the possibility of both a lion and a monkey:

Emmanuelle is definitely against taking a pig: the outcome would likely be no luggage on arrival and then no water in the swimming pool …

I wonder what your listeners will come up with.

The Pet

The Pet
Catherine Emmett and David Tazzyman
Macmillan Children’s Books

Young Digby David is a demanding sort of a boy, especially when it comes to wanting a pet, and happily for him, his dad is an obliging sort of guy, maybe somewhat over indulgent. So when the lad issues one of his urgent stipulations, what does Daddy do (after his hair has turned slightly grey that is) but pick up the phone to the pet shop. Before long there they stand in the shop with Digby insisting on having, contrary to the owner’s advice, the hairiest rodent there. Dad offers double the price and off they go. Digby is a loving guinea pig owner – but for a mere half day, after which the poor creature is left untended in her hutch.
Things continue in similar fashion. Digby wants to better Lily Jean’s cat,

Lola’s frog, and Dipak’s froggy threesome and each time it’s a case of Dad gaining a few more grey hairs, calling the pet shop and making an extravagant purchase.

But then what should catch young mister ‘I WANT’s eye but Gus the gorilla.
Mr David parts with all his cash (is he crazy?) and finally Digby is happy. For a while at least, but then as the novelty wears off, so does the attention Gus is paid.

What does a bored gorilla do? This one decides to make a break for it. And we’ll leave the large hairy creature there …

But what of Digby, you might be wondering. Sorry but I’m going to leave that matter hanging too …

Delivered in jaunty rhyme that reads aloud brilliantly (so long as you can resist the urge to dissolve into giggles), and David Tazzyman’s wonderfully droll, scribblesome illustrations, this is a corker of a cautionary tale showing how crucial it is to take proper care of your pets – whatever they are. Oh! and stop and think before you wish …

Destined to become a firm favourite with both adult sharers and their young audiences.

You Can’t Call an Elephant in an Emergency

You Can’t Call an Elephant in an Emergency
Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

David Tazzyman brings his wit and scribbly artistic enthusiasm once again to Patricia Cleveland’s pretty preposterous suggestions for animal emergency responders and equally zany reasons why none is suitable for the task envisaged anyway.

Thus you should never ‘let a hairy highland cow / operate the snow plough …’

unless you want the gear box ground to pieces that is; and as for calling out the lemming crew to rescue a hiker stuck on a hill – best not to think about it, they’ll likely forget the drill and the whole operation will end in disaster.

Moreover an anteater hasn’t the courage to come to your aid should you be trapped in a dark cave; the cowardly creature will surely wet his pants and you can guess what he’d consume to console himself.

All these as well as the titular pachyderm, a chimpanzee, a sloth, a penguin, a llama, a panda, a chicken and a porcupine are to be avoided should you be in trouble.

What though is to be done with all these creatures if they can’t be employed in the emergency services? Now that would be telling …

Zany animal capers to giggle over with youngsters who will likely be able to make their own silly suggestions too.

You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Digger

You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Digger
Patricia Cleveland Peck and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

After their successful collaboration with You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus, team Cleveland-Peck and Tazzyman return to entertain readers with another selection of silly scenarios involving an array of unlikely creatures all endeavouring to lend a hand, a tusk, paws or perhaps fins, flippers or some other part of their anatomy, all with gigglesome outcomes.

Patricia’s rhyming possibilities or should I say, impossibilities, will surely deter even the bravest of readers from say, letting a polar bear anywhere near their hair with a pair of scissors, engaging an octopus as a dressing assistant,

attempting tooth cleaning in the vicinity of a crocodile, particularly of the hungry kind, or allowing a wolf to read the bedtime story,

while David Tazzyman’s portrayals of the creatures carrying out their self-set tasks are a scribblesome treat of the disastrous – sometimes life-threatening – consequences of ignoring the author’s advice.

Maybe the rejected animals are right – if you can’t join ’em then beat ’em and party instead!

Spencer age 5, who thoroughly enjoyed the book, has come up with two playful ideas of his own.

What Makes me a ME? / Words and Your Heart

What Makes me a ME?
Ben Faulks and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Here’s a diverting book about identity: “What makes me a ME?” Who am I and where do I fit into this world? – these are questions that everyone ponders.
For the boy narrator it’s a mind-stretching poser as he acknowledges that at different times he’s like a whole range of things: sometimes he’s slow like a snail but he’s not slimy and his eyes don’t stand out on stalks.

He doesn’t have a tail so he can’t be exactly like his puppy Monty, despite being full of energy.
Is he perhaps like a sports car; he’s certainly lightning fast, but that’s thanks to his legs rather than wheels.

No matter what he likens himself to, essentially he’s just himself – special and unique.
Faulks’ funny rhyming stanzas documenting the five year old narrator’s search for an answer to his philosophical question provide Tazzyman plenty of space to conjure up some wonderfully comical scenes, and the boy himself with snub nose, specs and bobble hat is cheekily enchanting.

Words and Your Heart
Kate Jane Neal
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Words are powerful things: they can make your heart soar; they can make your heart sink; they can make your heart sing; they can make your heart hurt.
Words can be a force for good; or they can be a force for causing pain.
All this and more is demonstrated through characters Pip and Cat in author/illustrator Kate Jane Neal’s debut picture book.
‘This book is about your heart.
The little bit inside of you that makes you, you!’

So begins this unassuming book that goes on to say ‘the words that enter your ears can affect your heart.’
Her simple, but compelling message is a wonderful demonstration of how we can all contribute to making the world a better place by being mindful of the words we use to, and about, other people.

Executed with minimal colour, the illustrations, together with the empathetic and compassionate text that is orchestrated by means of changes of font, put forward a message too important to ignore.

A book to share and talk about at home, in playgroups and nursery settings, and in schools.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Naughty Naughty Baddies

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The Naughty Naughty Baddies
Mark Sperring and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
One baddie’s bad enough but four ‘Naughty Naughty’ ones is something else, especially if it’s this particular quartet – a motley bunch if ever there was one.

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These NNBs especially enjoy creeping and they excel in same: sometimes, or rather, this time, their creeping leads to a big fat nothing: they simply can’t find a single naughty thing to do no matter how hard they try, or where they look.
So, ideas are discussed and Four’s plan is the favourite. It entails bouncing from their trampoline to their Badmobile and thence into a helicopter, then parachuting over a certain palace and there doing a spot of ‘spotnicking’ which will leave her royal highness’s pooch, er, spotless.
They have plans for putting to use their swag bag of spotty spoils too …

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Can those dastardly deed doers execute their mischief though; or might there be a chance that they’ll be spotted and apprehended in the act of thievery?

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If so, can they talk their way out of trouble and who will get the last chuckle? Um, that one’s easily answered: it’s anyone who is lucky enough to read or hear this wickedly funny book read aloud.
The combination of Sperring’s super-silly story that is brimming over with word-play, and Tazzyman’s terrific, rib-tickling visuals is a fabulous treat for all who encounter the outrageous shenanigans of the awesomely awful foursome. Bring it on baddies!

Time for a Poem

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Jelly Boots Smelly Boots
Michael Rosen and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I’m not sure who has more fun when it comes to Michael Rosen and poetry – the author or the children who read or listen to, his offerings. For this collection of over seventy rhymes, wordplays and musings including a sprinkling of ‘dustbin poems’ he has a new illustrator in the wonderful David Tazzyman; and as always it’s a cause for celebration. Rosen has the unfailing knack of drawing children in to his language meanderings and showing them what pleasures poetry has to offer. Try ‘Question Mark’ for starters …

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or Mm? which begins thus: ‘Can you cancan on a can?/ Can you carwheel on a cart? / Will you whistle in the wind? ? Have you heard it in your heart?

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I suspect this is going to be another of those collections where an adult chooses a poem, reads it to a class or group and is immediately asked for another and another and … Enough said! Try it and see.

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Topsy Turvy Animals
Wes Magee and Tracey Tucker
QED
A plethora of animals pursuing unlikely pastimes are presented by poet Wes Magee in this crazy rhyming world where there are somersaulting tigers, stilt-walking meerkats, a cartwheeling moose and a pair of macaws that must be tired of life judging by where they’ve chosen to perform their ablutions …

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And this poor cat is the unexpected recipient of a very large splat …

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Tracey Tucker animates all this madness and more with riotous, appropriately garish scenes in a variety of settings – icy, sandy, rocky, mountainous, jungly and grassy.
The main messages children will pick up here are: that language is fun; and that if you give full rein to your imagination, anything can happen …

If like me, you believe that nursery rhymes should form the bedrock upon which a child can build a love of poetry, then this beautifully produced book may be of interest.

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Classic Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Dorothy M.Wheeler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Time was that the 29 rhymes contained herein were known by almost all young children starting school or a nursery class; sadly, that’s not so nowadays.
Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell has written the foreword for this centenary publication of rhymes with art work  by Dorothy M. Wheeler whose claims to fame include being the illustrator of some of Enid Blyton’s books such as The Magic Faraway Tree. Her highly detailed watercolour illustrations for this book evoke a bygone era …

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when the rhymes were learned on a mother’s or grandmother’s knee and perhaps sung around a family piano. (The second part of the book contains music for each rhyme.)

Facing the Truth

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The Truth According to Arthur
Tim Hopgood and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The relationship between Arthur and The Truth is in crisis thanks to a deed done – despite his mum’s warning not to – by the young lad, which has resulted in …

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(that’s Mum’s car and big bro’s bike.). Inevitably his friends ask him about the incident and first Arthur BENDS the truth getting him this response …

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Then he S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S it “I was just having a little go on my brother’s bike when an alien asked if he could borrow it … I think he thought it would fly.” to which Lula responds similarly. Clearly more drastic action is required thinks Arthur; but his attempts at covering up The Truth, disguising it and hiding it all fail dismally. Maybe ignoring it altogether will work.

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Seems Frankie is suitably impressed …

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but what about his Mum? “Do you have something to tell me?’ she asks Arthur who is then faced with a moral dilemma. What do you think he did? …
Suffice it to say, Arthur and The Truth are now the best of friends …
The Hopgood/Tazzyman combination works a treat in this, their first partnership book. Giggles aplenty are assured when you read this fanciful fibbing fiction aloud to a group of under 7s. In addition to being a fun story to share, it’s just the thing to kick off a discussion on the topic of telling the truth; and Tazzyman’s wonderfully quirky illustrations are likely to prompt satisfied listeners to imagine and create their own flights of fancy on the busted bike/scratched car theme.

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Prince George and the Royal Potty
Caryl Hart and Laura Ellen Anderson
Orchard Books
Never has a royal baby been the star of so many picture books as young Prince George and now here he is again to share his potty training regime with us. Thus far, the infant prince has, so we are told, presented no problems to his household; he’s minded his ps and qs and always kept himself nice and clean …

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but then comes a day when, despite his dad’s reluctance to rush the lad, his mum tells him it’s time to stop wearing nappies,. And further incentive comes later in the day when he discovers that dragon hunting armour and nappies just don’t go together …

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With the potty-using decision made, George then realises that he has no idea how the thing works.
Next day he still hasn’t gone nappyless and the royal guards are far from impressed when he decides to join them on a march past. Eventually the king is called and it’s from him that Prince George receives sterling advice: “Just choose a good book from the shelf. Then sit on the potty and read it. The rest will come all by itself.” Lo and behold in a few days, the little fellow is a potty ace sporting appropriately trimmed pants and with a portable pot on hand whenever he feels the urge …

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Caryl Hart’s right royal rhyme in combination with Laura Ellen Anderson’s exuberant scenes make for a romping good read.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

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You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus

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You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus
Patricia Cleveland Peck and David Tazzyman
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this fun-filled extravaganza, Patricia Cleveland Peck (now that’s a voice from the past) and David Tazzyman entertain the possible consequences of allowing all manner of unlikely passengers on, or into, a variety of vehicles. The pachyderm of the title would squash the seats quite flat on account of its fat, heavy posterior, a mischievous monkey would ‘snatch your shopping and chuck it about’

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were it to be allowed to sit in a shopping trolley and a camel in a sailing boat …

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– a disaster waiting to happen for sure. The same is true of a whale riding a bike or the favourites of my 5/6year old audiences – ‘a pig on a skateboard

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’Cos he’s so big and fat and looks so funny in his pads and goggles.” ‘
and ‘… never let a bear near an ice-cream van…’ – ’He’s really funny breaking that van door and making all those splats of ice-cream everywhere.”

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Tazzyman’s slighltly scribbly scenes really tickled the fancy of those children.
Re-readings immediately were demanded by another group, some of whom were inspired by the author’s mad musings to create their own scenarios:

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And if by chance you need to find a book to introduce a science topic on pushes and pulls, then this one’s an absolute boon; but that’s just a minor reason to get hold of this madcap musing, the most important being its effect on the imaginations of children.

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Trolls, Toucans and Travels

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Troll Swap
Leigh Hodgkinson
Nosy Crow pbk.
Meet Timothy Limpet. Unlike other trolls, Timothy is nice, polite and tidy, his cave light and dry; a rubbishy specimen is what his fellow trolls consider him. Meet Tabitha Lumpit, a noisy, messy, loopy little girl who likes nothing better than jumping into muddy puddles and making a ‘super-splashy muddy mess’, much to the consternation of her long suffering parents. When these two characters meet, they decide it’s time for operation place swap. Though initially surprised and delighted at the changes, the trolls and parents soon begin to miss the old Timothy and Tabitha. Equally Timothy and Tabitha find their new ways of being, equally dull; time for plan two – operation swap back. So, do all live happily ever after? Not only that but loopily too.
Sporting spotty clothes, and bobbly headgear, the two misfits are a delight.
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The Toucan Brothers
Tor Freeman
Macmillan pbk.
Meet the super plumbers of Tapton, Sammy and Paul. Their skill is unrivalled when it comes to plumbing problems. One day however, a new plumber arrives on the scene, one Flash Rover. He beguiles the townspeople with all his flashy gear, undercutting his toucan rivals and stealing their business. But, before long, this dodgy dealer has a flood on his hands: thanks to all his botched jobs and short cuts the entire town is awash. Then of course, it’s time to call in the real experts and sure enough the talented toucans save the day with their watery wizardry and send the dastardly dog packing to the jubilation of all Tapton’s residents. For sure he’s one dog that won’t be plying his trade there again.
The toucans’ tale truly trips off the tongue as the talented tradesmen turn near tragedy to triumph. There is talent aplenty too in Tor Freeman’s truly funny, action packed illustrations. Every spread is liberally scattered with visual jokes and dotty details. These in themselves will ensure hours of fun for young children even without an adult reader aloud to orchestrate the action.
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Russell, Grunt and Snort
Jason Chapman
Red Fox pbk.
Russell is certain there’s more to life than muddy fields and pigpens so he starts hatching a plan. A plan that involves, an upturned pigpen, some twisted hedgerow twine, some broken branches and some very tricky cliff -edge manouevering but by the following evening he and his two companions are heading off into the sunset. Well, that was what they thought. However, the world outside the farm is much more dangerous that the three pigs had anticipated especially when they start receiving ‘join us for dinner’ invitations. So will the porcine trio end up as pork chops or can they find that perfect place with all the apples and truffles they can eat after all?
The ending does seem rather abrupt but despite that there is plenty to amuse in this tale of misadventure and the illustrations are great fun; the expressions on the faces of both hunted and hunters are superb.
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Eleanor’s Eyebrows
Timothy Knapman and David Tazzyman
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Insulted at being called ‘silly, scruffy, hairy little bits of fluff!’ Eleanor’s eyebrows take off to have a life of their own in the Big Wide World, determined to find somewhere or someone appreciative. They try out various roles including being caterpillars, a magician’s moustache, woolly hand-warmers for lady beetles, tyres on a stick insect’s motorbike, even an exclamation mark on a SLOW DOWN SIGN. None however prove satisfactory. Having frightened off her own Granny, an eyebrowless Eleanor meanwhile, is realizing the error of her ways. She makes various attempts to replace her missing facial features, but to no avail. Time to think seriously about the next move for all parties concerned; time for a spot of signwriting …
All ends happily in this totally crazy tale, which is certain to make your own eyebrows do more than a little twitching. Tazzyman’s illustrations of the assorted quirky characters both human and otherwise perfectly complement the text .
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