Faces, Faces, Faces /The Princess and the Pony

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Faces, Faces, Faces
Jacqueline & Jeremy Sinclair
Doubleday
Underlying this wonderfully playful book is a message about treating objects respectfully. Its creators have chosen to personify all manner of objects and present the book from the viewpoint of those ‘Faces’. There are kitchen things aplenty How many faces can you find?

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There are bathroom objects: and the good thing is they are always smiling unless we humans mistreat them …

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Because every single item has its own special purpose …

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and wants nothing other than to do its own thing (lateral thinkers like me – don’t go there!!)
And probably best of all are your very own personal things. Well maybe not quite, because out there is a big wide wonderful world full of … FACES …

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Now here’s a challenge: get a copy of this super book and see how many you and your children can count. Happy face counting …

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Inspired by the plethora of faces, some children produced their own ‘faces’ pictures.

And now for something completely different:

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The Princess and the Pony
Katy Beaton
Walker Books
A wicked sense of humour lies at the heart of this debut picture book. It features petite Princess Pinecone who, when the story opens, is eagerly anticipating the ‘real warrior’s horse’ she’s told everyone she wants this year. (Previous birthdays have yielded cosy sweaters.) Somehow though, even after trying their very best, this is what our young warrior receives from her parents …

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Too small, too round, there’s something not quite right about its eyes, it eats all the wrong things and inevitably … farts.

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The question is though, can young Pinecone train said creature into suitably bellicose material in time for the forthcoming ‘great battle’.

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Just doing his best is all our heroine asks of her pony when the battle day arrives and she must face Otto the Awful, meanest warrior of all. What ensues however, is truly surprising, leaving Princess Pinecone ‘flabbergasted, flummoxed, floored!’; the rest of the large cast of characters warmly cuddlesome,

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and the pony with the last word or rather, err …
I suspect this one will become a much-requested book in early years settings and infant classrooms: certainly children will love the comic style art work and the determined little warrior princess; but it’s most likely to be the pony that steals the show.

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Very Little Cinderella

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Very Little Cinderella
Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap
Doubleday
Very Little Cinderella, with her “lello boots” and “BIG blue scooter” is truly adorable. So too is this the second ‘Very Little’ story to come from the partnership of Heapy and Heap. The basic story is pretty much left intact with Cinderella doing the cleaning, a fairy godmother (aka the babysitter) and a very patient one she turns out to be, an outing to the ball – that’s for the Ugly Sisters of course, not VLC who is left at home distraught, temporarily at least. But I did say the basic plot remains, so our tiny heroine does get to go to the ball, or party as it’s called here. Small she may be, but Very Little Cinderella has an enormous amount of determination, so it’s only after a whole lot of palaver over her choice of attire

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and mode of transport to said party.

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There’s dancing, – lots of it, a midnight-striking clock and a mad dash home which leaves a soon distraught VLC minus one of her ‘lello boots. There follows the arrival of a prince – a Very Little prince clutching a very little boot (and a small bunny), and a triumphant “It fits me!”

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and another meeting of the Prince and Cinderella. But remember these two are both Very Littles so it has to be a play-date and of course, ‘they both played happily ever after.’
Another certain winner for this author/artist partnership. Whither next I wonder…

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The girls in one of the groups I shared the story with were inspired to design new dresses for VLC to wear to the party.

 

On the subject of wonderful duos, it’s great to see paperback reissues of two stories about one of my very favourite young characters, Emily Brown, and constant companion, Stanley, her much-loved old grey rabbit.
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Emily Brown and the Thing
Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books
In the first, young Emily asserts her ownership of Stanley in no uncertain terms when Queen Gloriana attempts to procure him for herself, although she does have a put up with his temporary absence when her majesty’s Special Commandos creep into her bedroom and steal him one night as Emily sleeps.

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The Thing referred to in the title of the second story is a large greenish scriffily-scraffily creature that lands up on Emily Brown’s windowsill one night when out searching for his cuddly. The Thing seeks Emily’s help in his hunt but even when they find the cuddly quite soon, it’s only the beginning of what turns out to be a very disturbed night for young Emily: is there to be no end to the demands that Thing makes on her during the course of an action-packed few hours until she finally discovers the real cause of the Thing’s restlessness.
Wonderful stuff.

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Separation

Here are two picture books that I would want to have in any setting where there are young children. Both deal with separation and each has come about as the result of direct experience. Most children will at some time have to face an extended temporary absence of one or other parent. Indeed I can well remember times when my own father (who worked for an airline) was sent on overseas assignments and how much he was missed.

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My Daddy’s Going Away
Christoper MacGregor and Emma Yarlett
Doubleday
The small child alien narrator of this story shares experiences of having an absent father. We hear about preparations and packing, saying goodbye, keeping in touch, staying strong, missing each other, anticipating the return and crossing off the days, getting ready for a welcome celebration and finally, home at last.
The overall tenor of the rhyming text is upbeat – a mix of humour and pathos – and grew out of a poem Lieutenant Colonel Chris MacGregor wrote and recorded before being separated from his own two children during a six-month tour of duty in Iraq in 2007. What comes across loud and clear is that it is love that keeps everything together.

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Emma Yarlett’s alien world is intriguing and seems to be set somewhere between outer space and under water with spaceships, fish and tentacle creatures abounding and the featured family sporting antennae and tails. This makes it somehow a safer place in which to explore the emotions of separation and assuredly, this book offers an excellent starting point for discussion.
The book is endorsed by HRH The Prince of Wales and the author gives ideas, support and things to do as well as further information about what inspired him on http://www.mydaddysgoingaway.com/
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Two Nests
Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone
Frances Lincoln pbk.
A pair of birds sits in a tree as the autumn leaves fall. Betty requests a nest to snuggle in; Paul builds one and the two cosy up for the long winter. Spring brings cherry blossom and a rumbly feeling in Betty’s tum. A few weeks later there is a new baby; Betty sings it a song of love. However, the nest becomes an unhappy place – too small for three and the parents are squabbling. Paul decides to move out and a new nest is built. Now there are three sad birds but Betty sings her little one another song. The message is loud and clear: “WE BOTH LOVE YOU.” The cherries ripen and Baby sprouts wings. Now s/he is able to visit both homes and spend time with each parent.
Jaunty verses and amusing illustrations help make this topic accessible to very young children. Parental separation is not an easy issue and here we have a sensitive treatment presented through the medium of a story that nursery age children can relate to and enjoy. The important message is that no matter where they live, there are two parents who love them and it is those parents, and not their offspring, who are responsible for the separation.
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Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Shopping

Billy the Goat’s Big Breakfast
Jez Alborough
Doubleday
As Nat the Cat prepares a tasty breakfast to share with her friends Billy Goat and Hugo Hare, she is interrupted by the early arrival of a ravenous Billy. Nat leaves Billy waiting and continues her preparations but her pal is unable to resist the temptation to start sampling the food and before long, not only has he slurped all the juice but also taken an enormous bite of the bread – a very gooey mouthful. That’s when the real trouble begins; instead of a rumbling tum, Billy Goat now has a gurgling, swelling one not to mention a very sticky grin. It’s that grin which causes Nat to take her bag and head off to the shops leaving Hugo Hare to listen to Billy Goat’s confession. On her return she discovers Billy wrapped in a coat supposedly cold and tells him to sit by the fire. Well, we know and she knows what will happen then… Time for Billy to own up to his hostess but she knows he has learned his lesson so its time for a belated breakfast and a singsong. (words are provided).
Alborough’s gentle cautionary tale bounces along and his large illustrations are immediately engaging. The expressions on the faces of the three friends, particularly Billy Goat’s, are hilarious. Billy’s Breakfast Song can be downloaded from http://www.jezalborough.com.billythegoat
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Just out in paperback is Jez Alborough’s first story about the three friends, Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile previously reviewed in the March Selection.

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The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet!
Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk.
The McFly’s Christmas pooping dinosaur is back in another rhyming romp. This time, armed with a packed lunch, he accompanies Danny to the Science Museum to see the rockets. They discover one with a door large enough for a boy plus pet dinosaur to go inside. It’s an open invitation and needless to say, the temptation to touch the controls is too great: Intergalactic Mission is under way. Before long the dinosaur’s tummy rumbles in readiness for lunch but where are those packed lunches? Certainly not on board! So begins a disastrous dinosaur feast and not only the controls but great chunks of the rocket itself are consumed, even the moon, Martians and more are munched. Finally, with nothing at all left of their rocket and Danny crying space-suits full of tears, the dinosaur realizes there is only one way to get them safely back to earth. Time for another pooping plan to be put into action right away…
Poo, planets and pandemonium – definitely a recipe for resounding success with small children who will laugh uproariously at the galactic gallivanting of the boy and his pet, hilariously portrayed and documented in tongue teasing verse that will have many adults in fits too.
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Ding Dong Gorilla!
Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books pbk.
In this ‘off the wall’ story, we hear first hand from a small boy what happens when he opens the door, not to the pizza delivery boy who is expected but to an enormous gorilla. Said gorilla barges into the house and proceeds in pursuit of fun, to take enormous liberties creating havoc all over the house and in the garden too. Such activities as crayoning, dressing up and picking flowers not to mention smashing a vase, a window and a chair have given him large appetite, so he sets to work creating even more mess with the blender and ingredients for a chocolate cake. Finally the delivery boy does turn up with the order but guess what – there is a big black hairy shape exiting through the front door clutching a huge cheesy pizza just as a pair of high heeled feet can be seen on the stair.
It’s truly amazing just how much chaos one gorilla or one small boy can create in the time between ordering a pizza and his mother going upstairs to get ready for dinner. Leonie Lord runs riot with wonderful scenes of devastation at every turn of the page; I know a good many mums with young children who will recognize such scenes. Wonderful stuff.
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Spells-A-Popping Granny’s Shopping
Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow pbk.
Supermarket shopping can be rather a bore but that is definitely not the case in this story. The little girl narrator recounts what happens when she accompanies her Granny to stock up on provisions, a granny who just happens to be a witch. Needless to say it’s not long before biscuits are dancing, popcorn is popping and the fish fingers are swimming towards the door. And that’s before the two of them spot a couple of robbers stashing sweets and cakes into a large sack. Time for another wave of granny’s wand and a bit of help from a chocolate bear and then, robbers safely under arrest it’s back home and a tasty meal for two cooked up by one very special granny.
Zany characters, action-packed scenes full of amusing details and a lively rhyming text – just the right ingredients for a hugely enjoyable storytime read.
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