Eat Your People!

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Eat Your People!
Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz
Orchard Books
Calling all those who are food defensive, have a picky eater of a child or know one, this book is a MUST for you. No! Make that a must for everyone who enjoys a deliciously funny picture book. Mealtimes will never be the same after consuming Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz’s tale of food-refusing monster, Monty. The young chap is assuredly, no carnivore: people-eating repulses him. So much so that his vociferous protests at mealtime anger his parents …

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but delight big sis. Monica, a real omnivore who guzzles everything on her plate as soon as it’s put before her, and is more than happy to take some tasty tidbits from Monty’s.

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I’ll eat ALL my vegetables!” declares Monty. “But I WON’T EAT MY PEOPLE!” No pudding then declares Mum, which is followed with people prodding by Monty, and an angry comment by Dad. Mum starts counting … “One, two …” In goes a person – gulp – rapidly followed by …

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Nobody is amused; no that’s wrong: Monica laughs so much that orange drink exudes from her nostrils. There follows a spot of negotiating between Monty and Mum during which the latter mentions “an extra big MONSTER-SIZE helping” of Monty’s favourite pud. A deal is struck and … in goes an enormous scooping of ‘crunchy, wriggly, jiggly, sour’ people …

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He’s licked the platter clean so to speak: it’s ready and waiting for the promised pudding … TA-DAH!
What a yummy tale; despite being a confirmed veggie I simply lapped this up and then went back and started all over. The ending is a simply scrummy surprise that is sure to send splutters of giggles through any audience you care to share this with. The telling (largely in dialogue) is spot on, the pacing ditto and Wojtowycz’s illustrations are guaranteed to bring on a side spitting response from all humans, child or adult.

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Board Book Beauties

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What Does Doggy Want?
David Wojtowycz
Walker Books
Clever design, bright visuals, an endearing character and a simple repeating patterned text combine to make a delightfully playful, interactive book for babies. By placing a finger in the hole and moving it up and down, small hands can make the Doggy shake his head to say “NO”

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to various items offered until at last, he gets exactly what he’s been waiting for;

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and then he nods his head affirmatively.
The same formula works for a companion volume

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What Does Monkey Want?
David Wojtowycz
Walker Books
In this instance a series of actions is suggested all of which receives a “No

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(A side-to-side movement is needed this time) because, as we eventually discover, Monkey just wants to …

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In addition to enjoying a simple story, these two books offer the very young opportunities for the development of manipulative skills.

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All Shook Up!
Alain Crozon
Chronicle Books
Manipulative opportunities abound in this playful board book that features animals of all shapes and sizes. You can make the chick flutter its feathers, the butterfly flap its wings up and down,

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the elephant swing its trunk and shake its ears, or the hippo poke out its tongue, for instance.
Primary colours (and black and white) are used to great effect in this rapping, rhyming flap book.

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Chooky-doodle-doo
Jan Whiten and Sinéad Hanley
Walker Books
One Little chooky chick/pulling at a worm. /Clucky cluck, worm’s stuck./What should chooky do?
Thus begins an enormously appealing board book that combines counting fun, rhyme and a delicious final twist. Oh! and there’s teamwork too.

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I love the slightly acid tones and the textural effects of Sinéad Hanley’s amusing illustrations.
Just the thing to share with the youngest listeners.

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Hear it from the Animals

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Bruno and Titch
Sheena Dempsey
Walker Books
Titch waits anxiously in Mrs Pinkerley’s pet shop for a “Big Person” to come along and buy him; it’s been so long – almost a year in guinea pig time already. Now imagine his joy when in comes one small boy and out go one guinea pig and one small boy together. Life at Bruno’s home takes some getting used to however –their tastes are so very different.

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And all those games are positively hair-raising for a small furry rodent but then there are other things that compensate.
Just when the friendship seems to be flourishing though, Bruno starts behaving very strangely; surely it can’t be a getting rid of pet plan he’s hatching worries our small narrator. As a pair of hands reach out, panic seizes Titch but …

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WOW! Bruno’s creation is truly amazing, only serving to prove what a good friend he is; and definitely worth that wait.
So too was the wait for Sheena Dempsey’s latest offering. Her ink and watercolour illustrations are full of fun and feeling and could well prompt young listeners to set to work to create their own pet paradises.
Also with an animal narrator is:

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I’m My Own Dog
David Ezra Stein
Walker Books
I’m my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself’’ asserts the self-assured canine storyteller at the outset and goes on to demonstrate just how he answers to nobody and is totally happy with his lot. Life is just dandy until along comes a particularly annoying itch in an unreachable (for our narrator that is) place on his back. So bad does it become that for all his talk, the bulldog is forced to allow a human hand to come to his aid.

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Then one thing … leads to another … until despite the disadvantage of having to do the cleaning up, a firm friendship is forged.

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Amusing,watercolour and pen and ink pictures created with a mix of thick and thin strokes almost calligraphic style, cleverly add both definition and personality to the two main characters in particular.
Great fun even if, like me, you are not a dog-lover.

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Mad About Mega Beasts!
Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
Orchard Books
A dozen very large creatures introduce themselves in this latest offering from the duo who brought us Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean and Mad About Minibeasts. There are creatures of land and sea, hot places and cold, carnivores and vegetarians; a few are extinct, most very much alive. They might be feathered, furred, scaly or smooth, scary or more friendly, but the one thing they have in common is their sheer size. Thus we meet, among others, Argentinosaurus (currently claimed to be the largest dinosaur), the Siberian Tiger, Python and even a St. Bernard all rendered in glorious technicolour in Wojtowycz’s gleeful illustrations;

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he manages to make even that python look anything but scary. Superb use of the space on the page every time, and with its mix of colourful characters and jaunty rhymes I’m sure this will become as popular as its predecessors in primary classrooms everywhere. Individual readers will delight in spotting those other – tiny – creatures that seem to have managed to find their way into every scene.

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A book to make you laugh, a book to make you cry, a book to make you sing

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Monkey Business
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and David Wojtowycz
Orchard Books
We had the story of Major Trump’s missing knickers: now from the same partnership comes another of those books that quickly reduces early years audiences to uncontrolled giggles. Once again we are on board the ark and Mr Noah has been woken by cries from young monkey, Charlie Chatter who is in desperate need of a wee and has lost his potty. What group of under fives will be able to resist his opening speech?
“ Oh, bother my botty!
            Where,
          oh where,
          oh where
        is my potty?”
The thought of sitting on the toilet is too distressing for young Charlie so Mr Noah calls upon the other animals for some loo loving anecdotes. These win him over but when he finally heads for his bathroom, the door’s stuck fast. Will the result be a puddle on the floor? Fortunately not for it’s Mrs Noah on the other side doing a spot of DIY on the bathroom roof and guess what she had been using to catch all the drips… All’s well that ends well though and Charlie finally enters the little room for some very important and by then very urgent business.
David Wojtowycz’s bright exuberant illustrations are a real hoot and the perfect complement to the rib-tickling, rhyming text; I especially like the story-reading snakes sitting with their heads in books from the bathroom library; they won’t be out in a hurry then.
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The Memory Tree
Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books
Fox has lived a long, happy life with his friends in the forest but one day he is tired and it is time for him to fall asleep – for ever. He goes to his favourite clearing and as the snow falls and slowly covers him, the other animals gather to remember him.

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Owl is the first to share his most precious memory of Fox and then, one by one, Squirrel, Weasel, Bear, Deer, Bird, Rabbit, Mouse and others talk of their favourite memories about Fox. As they do so, a little orange plant begins to peep through the snow and as each animals adds to the story telling, it grows bigger and stronger till in the morning it has become a small tree; and Fox’s friends know in their hearts he is still a part of them. Time passes, the tree grows with each new memory and finally it is large enough to shelter all the animals that had loved Fox: a strength-giving tree of memories and love.
Beautifully told without sentimentality, this book celebrates life, love and friendship. Teckentrup’s  illustrations in suitably subdued colours perfectly capture the sadness of the animals at the loss of their friend and their warmth as they  recount their memories of him. Every turn of the page is a delight.
A tearjerker? Yes if like me you are a bit of a softie but ultimately this is an uplifting book.
Recommended for family reading and a must buy for all primary schools and nursery settings. A lovely book to sit alongside Badger’s Parting Gifts.
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Octopus’s Garden
Ringo Starr and Ben Cort
Simon and Schuster
I defy you to read this book and listen to the accompanying CD without getting the classic number stuck in your brain. Apparently, Ringo Starr wrote it in 1968 when holidaying in Sardinia after a sea captain told him about how octopuses move around the seabed collecting objects. Ringo was taking time out from the Beatles and wanted to escape somewhere; what better place than under the sea?
Back to the book. Here we find a little boy gazing at his goldfish bowl from whence he is transported, along with four of his friends, to a wondrous sub- marine garden. There they ride on turtles, share a story read by their cephalopod host,

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cavort on the pillars of an ancient temple and much more.

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These joyous scenarios and others are brought into being in ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ artist, Ben Cort’s wonderful illustrations. These absolutely bubble over with the kind of exuberant fun that young children take delight in.
Share the story, listen to the song, listen again and your children will be joining in. Then they can follow the story with the book as it’s read aloud by Ringo. There are opportunities for movement too, when the tune is played over at the end.
Everyone loves the idea of a special place where they can take time out from the real world, away from any worries or niggles they might have and away from watchful adult eyes. This book offers an opportunity for you to invite children to think about and discuss the kind of place they would like to escape to.
I’d definitely include this in an early years sea theme collection and possibly leave a copy in an undersea role-play area for children to enjoy once they have had the book read to them. They (and you) will have to be adept at turning the book around on a couple of occasions, as the page layout becomes portrait to deepen the undersea experiences.
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