Good Morning, Neighbour

Good Morning, Neighbour
Davide Cali and Maria Dek
Princeton Architectural Press

It all begins when Mouse decides to make an omelette, the problem being he lacks an egg. Mouse asks his neighbour Blackbird.

Blackbird doesn’t have one but offers flour and the suggestion they make a cake. They both call on Dormouse but instead of an egg, Dormouse provides butter for the cake and suggests they find Mole who has sugar – still no egg however.

Could Hedgehog oblige perhaps. The animals roll up at his home and ask.

No luck; and so it continues as the group adds fruit, cinnamon (for flavour) and raisins to their list of ingredients but as yet not that elusive egg.

Thank goodness then for Bat.

The culinary activities begin with all the animals doing their bit.

Now who can offer the use of an oven? Owl obliges and the cake is duly ready to eat.

“How many slices should I cut?” asks Owl. All who contributed an ingredient must surely get a piece but what about Mouse. Surely he won’t be left out; or will he?

Young listeners and readers will delightedly join in with the growing list of animals as well as the “Good morning, neighbour,” refrain.

Davide Cali’s tale of collaborative endeavour is illustrated in rather charming folk-art style watercolour illustrations that embody the feeling of camaraderie that exists among the forest animals and in the end the ingredients of warmth, friendship and teamwork that contribute towards its making are as important as the edible ones that go into the cake.

A tasty tale and a great lesson in co-operation and sharing that provides plenty of food for thought.

The Truth About My Unbelievable School…

The Truth About My Unbelievable School …
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books

Henry returns in a new story, and on this occasion he’s charged with taking a new classmate on a tour around school. If you’ve met Henry previously, you’ll already know that he’s more than a little inclined to exaggerate. Here though he’s up to something different: “… there really isn’t much to see …” he tells the girl as he shows her the class pet – a gigantic jellyfish. She appears singularly unimpressed, as she does at the sight of the music teacher,

the art class in progress and the maths lesson.

Not even the long tentacles escaping from a part closed door, the short cut to the playground …

or the flying mashed potatoes in the cafeteria cause her to bat an eyelid.
After a few more stops including a Smaug-like den and the principal’s office (reached by rowing boat),

the two arrive back at their classroom just as their teacher is bidding the class farewell. Perfect timing. And then we get a wonderful surprise ending.

(Observant readers may well have noticed the odd clue as to what’s coming already, as well as enjoying the various literary allusions scattered throughout in Chaud’s wryly funny illustrations.)

Keep an eye on Henry’s dog: the animal seems to have muscled its way into the action and is sure to make readers smile.

Delicious fun and another likely winner for Cali and Chaud.

Museums and Machines

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The terrific twosome of The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School fame have combined forces in another zany Henry adventure; and as always he is accompanied by his dachshund pal. This time the protagonist is put on the spot by a question about the class trip to a museum. The lad seems to have been rather tardy in his arrival at said museum and consequently undertaken his own explorations therein. Whether he, or the exhibits were more entertained, one can only imagine. He supposedly got up to all manner of unlikely activities: balloon sculpting for the Neanderthals,

and there was certainly plenty to feast his eyes on. A T.Rex for instance, sculptures, a great whale and a woolly mammoth, lots of paintings –

some abstract art requiring the odd finishing touch here and there, and the museum’s storage facilities needing a bit of reorganisation.
See how many art references you can spot …that dachshund portrait does appear to bear more than a passing resemblance to the famous Mona Lisa. And yes, Henry does eventually catch up with the rest of his class, albeit by some rather risky means.
Pretty off-the-wall stuff; but those who have enjoyed the previous flights of fancy delivered by Cali and Chaud will certainly find plenty to amuse herein.

Winnie and Wilbur Gadgets Galore
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper book of three, re-named, previously published titles featuring the much-loved duo, Winnie and Wilbur in Space, Winnie’s New Computer and Winnie and the Big Bad Robot will surely appeal to those of a mechanical bent.
The first sees the pair hurtling skywards in a rocket and discovering the ‘Purrfect” picnic spot, then having their picnic invaded by a horde of hungry space rabbits. The odd swish of her magic wand produces the ideal fare for the bouncing bunnies; but the voracious consumption of their favourite metallic meal leads to the visitors being without any means of getting back home. Can Winnie’s wand save the day once again?
You’d think after all that excitement in previous adventures involving machines, now renamed for this compilation, Winnie would have learned to stay clear; but her first foray, that involving a misunderstanding on Wilbur’s part, the scanning of her spell books into her computer and a mal-functioning mouse – Wilbur’s doing; and the second, an extremely unfortunate experience with the robot constructed by Winnie in her weekly creativity class at the local library, didn’t deter her at all. Hence her ‘big adventure’ in space.
The magic still holds good, no matter how the stories are packaged.

I’ve signed the charter 

When an Elephant Falls in Love / I Love You

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When an Elephant Falls in Love
Davide Cali and Alice Lotti
Chronicle Books
Davide Cali of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School and The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer fame brings his sardonic wit to an exploration of falling in love, elephant style.
In his straightforward text, he offers, one by one, eight symptoms of this state of being. Alice Lotti portrays each of these ‘foolish things’ with equal wit in her stark, mixed media illustrations. Elephant is the perfect purveyor of the condition as his huge bulk serves to emphasise the daftness of each action …

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He hides whenever he sees her.

And, there’s a tiny yellow bird that pops up as an observer of each scene, further adding to the overall impact of the whole crazy scenario …

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Look by the bowl …

Both young readers and adults will find plenty to make them smile in this, whether or not they recognise the symptoms from personal experience or observations of others, for it’s plain to see that when an elephant falls in love …

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his actions are pretty much those of a besotted human.

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I Love You
Clemency Pearce and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
The all important title message is delivered through Clemency Pearce’s warm-hearted, rhyming text and super-cute, patterned illustrations. With its textual pattern that begins, ‘ When you feel so very small, / when no one seems to care at all, / what can make you ten feet tall? // Three little words …
(turn over) … ‘I love you!’ …

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this cries out to the very young to join in with those three words after each verse is read aloud.
But those recipients of love can also help make others feel better …

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Ideal to share with your toddler, this board book is a delight.
Another board book with the same title is

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I Love You
Dawn Sirett
DK
This is the latest addition to DK’s Baby Touch and Feel series.
Colour photographs of animals, toys and humans …

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each with a finger-sized tactile feature are the ingredients of this chunky little book. Just right for the very youngest to explore.

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Summer Evening/Unbelievable Summer Truth

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Summer Evening
Walter de la Mare illustrated by Carolina Rabei
Faber & Faber
What a glorious evocation of the countryside in summer is this book. Just eight lines penned by one of our best loved poets, have now been made into a glowing portrayal of a group of people delighting in their rural life as the sun slowly sinks over the hills.
We share the red, orange and golden sunset with the Farmer, a woman and two children, a cat and a dog,

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Old Rover in his moss-greened house/ Mumbles a bone, /and barks at a mouse.’
We then see the children following a cat-and-mouse chase as it unfolds inside and out …

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until finally, peace and harmony are restored, the animals all fed and the sun has given way to the moon.
You can almost hear that scintillating shimmering sun and feel that incandescent haze of high summer

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coming off the pages through Caroline Rabei’s scenes in this beautiful synthesis of poetry and pictures.
A ‘must have’ for the family bookshelf and for all early years settings and primary schools.

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The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The summer hols. are over (that really must be a bad dream; they’ve not even started yet: but back to the story). “What did you do this summer?” the teacher – as they always do – asks the young narrator of this crazy tale. Instantly we’re on the beach where the lad, accompanied by his dachshund, finds a treasure map only to have it snatched immediately by a passing magpie. Thus begins a chase which takes boy and dog (and readers) onto a pirate ship …

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and thence into a fast moving adventure involving a giant squid, a submarine …

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a film set with a very helpful actress who assists in the retrieval of the map.

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With the treasure hunt back in full swing so to speak, there follows a trip in a hot air balloon, a foray into the desert, a timely rescue by the boy’s uncle (in his flying machine) who drops his nephew onto a desert island where the pesky magpie (yes, the same one) seizes the map once again.

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Operation map retrieval is thus resumed taking our hero to the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and a snowy land populated by yeti.
Yes, in case you are wondering, the boy does finally discover treasure which, after all that, is something of a let down, although it’s not actually THE treasure but hey! the underwater scenes are still pretty wonderful. (Observant readers won’t miss what the boy does.) And that’s not quite the end of this bonkers book; there’s something of a twist in its tale; something that took place a few months earlier … bringing us back full circle to where we began, and I suspect readers back to the start of the book searching for clues of a visual nature, in Benjamin Chaud’s gigglesome, detailed pen-and-ink illustrations.
Another winner from the Cali/Chaud partnership.

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On the Way to School & Follow that Car

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
If the boy in this hilarious story came into my class with such outlandish excuses for his lateness, and in such profusion, I’d want to celebrate his imagination and award him first prize for creativity. His whole sorry saga is pretty much out of this world, as we are presented with such scenarios as the first “some giant ants stole my breakfast ” through increasingly hilariously, surreal situations such as …

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via a whole gamut of fairy tale meanderings,

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mad cap misadventures and flights of fancy, before our young hero arrives at the school gate, But even then he is forced to travel (ably or not so ably assisted by his uncle’s time machine) back home to pick up his forgotten packpack, only to be confronted when he does make it to his classroom, by his disbelieving teacher who seemingly, is having none of it.

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As the illustrator’s name might imply, this book is hot stuff – sorry about the pun. Those scenes of his are real rib-ticklers and Davide Cali’s droll delivery of the boy’s journey equally so.
A small book indeed; but one that packs a powerful punch.

Slightly less crazy but also involving a journey and food (oh! maybe forget that last bit) is:

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Follow That Car
Lucy Feather and Stephan Lomp
Nosy Crow
Hey, you … yes you!
Mouse needs your help and he needs it now!
He needs to catch Gorilla and he needs to be super-quick!
Are you ready? Then let’s go!
   FOLLOW THAT CAR!
An immediate engagement tactic that and one I doubt many young children would be able to resist.
Off speeds chunky Gorilla in his small car with Mouse on his mo-bike in hot pursuit. But what is the purpose of the chase? Has Gorilla stolen something? is the first thought, but we don’t find out (unless like this reviewer you cheat and read the ending before engaging in the chase. Not something I allowed my group of mixed infants to do, however – not knowing is really part and parcel of the fun.)
So off we go along with Mouse as he manoueveres around that sheet of glass and through the busy streets… past the building site where Gorilla completes a dare-devil stunt… down the car park ramp… over the fly-over towards the railway station. Oh no! Gorilla’s got through but Mouse is stuck at the crossing gate.

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Good job we saw that tunnel, so it’s on towards the farm taking care to avoid any tractors and oh my goodness! now comes a busy market and Gorilla’s drawing further away… and surely those cannot be mountains up ahead? But yes, and a ski resort;

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the end must be nigh…not quite yet though. First there’s a lakeside traffic jam to negotiate. Thank goodness then that Gorilla has to stop to refuel and that’s where we (and Mouse) catch up with him and …

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Off speeds Mouse but – hang on a minute: now why is Gorilla chasing after him?
Well, why should I spoil it for you– you’ll have to get hold of a copy of this fun-filled, action-packed book and find out for yourself.

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