Ava Loves Rescuing Animals / Pedro Loves Saving the Planet

Ava Loves Rescuing Animals
Pedro Loves Saving the Planet

Jess French and Duncan Beedie
Happy Yak

These are additions to the Nature Heroes series where the focus is on a group of friends who love nature and being outdoors: essentially each one is a fact-filled picture book story.

In the first we meet Ava who lives with her grandparents They run an animal rescue centre that provides a temporary home for all kinds of animals, be they pets or wild creatures, large or small.
Accompanied by a tiny white mouse, Ava takes a walk around the centre and its environs as they head to the pet shop to buy hay for the animals soon to be cared for by her grandparents. On the way Ava stops at a pond containing frogs and lots of frogspawn and gives readers information on a frog’s life cycle and introduces some other amphibians.
We follow Ava on her ‘adventure’ during which she meets Pedro, the narrator of the next book,

and a lizard that narrowly escapes being run over by his cycle wheels. The entire walk turns into a fascinating learning journey for readers as they are introduced to various mammals – some of them record breakers, and find out about basic animal groups, ecosystems, habitats and more. Ava also meets another friend, Billy, who narrated Billy Loves Birds. Finally we discover the identity of the creatures that have just arrived at the rescue centre during their absence.

Pedro is an eco-warrior and in Pedro Loves Saving the Planet he and his older brother spend a day in the eco club’s new cabin. They choose to walk to their destination and encounter others who are using planet-friendly means of transport. Then once inside the cabin Pedro talks about renewable and non-renewable energy,

ways of saving water, points out that the cabin is built from sustainable materials, which leads on to a presentation of the 7 Rs (things that everyone should always keep in mind)) and other vital topics such as how to grow your own food, composting, the importance of trees, how to save energy at home, and the joys of being outside in green places.

Both books are illustrated by Duncan Beedie whose amusing art work underscores naturalist/vet Jess French’s informative, enjoyable texts. It’s never too early for young children to start learning about the importance of environmental care and the impact their actions have, both now and for the future. These books are spot on for foundation stage and KS1 class collections.

I Really Really Love You So

I Really Really Love You So
Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

The adorable little bushbaby returns in a new and altogether different kind of ‘Really Really’ tale. Now the narrator has a vital message to impart; but how best to do it? That is the burning question. This particular bushbaby is prepared to go to enormous lengths to demonstrate love for somebody very important.

The possibilities are many and sometimes extreme including scaling the tallest mountain to write a loving message

and wrestling with a crocodile. More down to earth ideas come in the form of a floral bouquet, a magic trick or a model robot; perhaps studying what other animals do to say ‘I love you’ and copying such loving expressions as stamping and stomping

or squawking might work better. Assuredly there are myriad ways, but sometimes far, far simpler and most definitely the best way is … What do you think?

Karl’s first person rhyming text together with Duncan Beedie’s illustrations, which are bursting with humour, make a wonderfully warm, fun story for reading with young children.

Agent Llama Alpaca Attack!

Agent Llama Alpaca Attack!
Angela Woolfe and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

It’s good to see llama super-spy Charlie Palmer in action again with a new mission. Somebody is intent on world destruction using can you believe – a ‘Pasta-Splat Machine’. Already spaghetti-filled streets are being reported as far afield as Delhi and Dublin, schools are shut and the streets awash with sauce.

Grabbing her gadgets from their subterranean hiding place, Charlie revs up her turbo engine and off she zooms, on mission halt that pasta doom, destination a popular beach resort that is currently under attack.

Almost immediately on arrival so too is she, from above and below, but our Charlie is not one to give up as she starts to perform some show-stopping feats.

However, having scaled the heights our agent gets the surprise of her life: I instantly thought of a drama currently showing on BBC tv wherein a politician has his identity stolen, for that is what appears to have happened to our intrepid Charlie Palmer.

There before her, once his disguise is removed, stands none other than one time agent, rogue alpaca Harley Hacker. What Charlie learns next is potentially catastrophic. Can she crack that vital code, halt one billion drones and thus save the solar system’s central star?

Full on drama indeed and I have no doubt young listeners will absolutely love it. Angela Woolfe’s high octane rhyming text trips nicely off the tongue and Duncan Beedie’s comic style illustrations are just brilliant.

No Sleep For Bear

No Sleep For Bear
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

Duncan Beedie’s staring Bear returns in another droll, diverting episode.

With signs of the approach of winter, Bear is eagerly anticipating his long period of sleep, a very long one he thinks. Bear has a proclivity to make lists so the very first thing he does is list requirements for the perfect sleep and having written and ticked off same, he closes his eyes and … stays awake.

That’s not right he thinks as he spends a restless night till bird song reminds him it’s morning. Maybe a long walk might make me sleepy wonders Bear. He walks from sunrise till almost sunset and suddenly notices a Blackbird preparing to sleep by chirping tunefully. Could that work for me, Bear thinks. Soon, from the top of a tree comes a “GRROOWWOO!” followed by a great deal of fidgety fussing until morning comes.
Off goes Bear once more and noticing Badger busy burrowing into his sett for a cosy snooze, our ursine friend decides to try burrowing along behind. Talk about a squash and a squeeze.

Morning comes around again and Bear returns to his cave where he starts another of those lists. While so doing in flutters Bat and hangs itself up head downwards. It’s not one of Bear’s best ideas to try emulating Bat.

Out into the moonlit night he creeps, heading for the pond deeper in the forest. That’s where he comes upon Frog. Bear explains his plight and Frog comes up with an important point, the gist of which he proceeds to demonstrate. Bear copies Frog to the best of his ability, mindfully contemplating the sights and sounds of the darkness until finally he falls fast asleep. Great for Bear but not of course for the other forest dwellers that had been asleep too. Now what?

That would be telling, and Duncan’s last three superb spreads do it to perfection, about these I’ll only say, there’s another list and the need for some patience.

A terrific tongue-in-cheek offering with some fun alliteration to treat young listeners; but equally, adult readers aloud will relish Bear’s bodily contortions and expressions. Oh! those eyebrows – and not just those of Bear.

Bella Loves Bugs / Billy Loves Birds

Bella Loves Bugs
Billy Loves Birds

Jess French and Duncan Beedie
Happy Yak

These two narrative non-fiction picture books are written by zoologist, naturalist and vet, Jess French whose passion for wildlife shines through in both Nature Heroes titles wherein she uses the titular children as narrators.

Bella is an aspiring entomologist who shares a day in her life with readers and it’s certainly a very exciting one with lots of discoveries. Her first task is to collect garlic mustard to feed her caterpillars and then with a few useful bug hunting items she sets out to look for minibeasts and to meet up with some of her fellow nature hero friends.
By following Bella’s interactions with her friends and the additional facts this becomes a learning journey for readers who encounter social insects – ants in particular – a honey bee collecting nectar and others around their hives,

several jumping bugs and then a “fluttery butterfly” (why a non-native monarch?). Their next stop is at a pond, absolutely alive with water creatures on and below the surface; time for some pond-dipping (with an adult close by).
As they go into the forest Bella makes several discoveries – woodlice, a wolf spider with her eggs, and inside her trap she finds a stag beetle and a stag beetle grub. Down comes the rain bringing out the slugs and snails, and then it’s time to head home where something else exciting happens inside her vivarium.
Look out for the spider that makes occasional comments along the way.

Bird loving Billy (in the company of a talking tit) spends a day at forest school, sharing his observations with readers and his friends about the wealth of birds they encounter. There’s a woodpecker, a dunnock nest with several eggs including one of a different colour and there’s great excitement when Billy spies a kingfisher and comes across a beautiful feather to add to his collection.

Eventually he reaches the tit nest box located high in a tree where there are little chicks just preparing to leave the nest.

Bursting with information engagingly presented in the words and in Duncan Beedie’s amusing illustrations, both books should encourage youngsters to go outdoors to investigate and one hopes, appreciate the wonders of nature that’s all around us.

Agent Llama

Agent Llama
Angela Woolfe and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

Let me introduce Charlie Palmer, hotshot agent, awesome spy and fluffy llama. Having saved the world the previous day, said superspy is already engaged on her next mission, when she receives an urgent call from HQ. The Prime Minster’s underpants (banana patterned) have been stolen and Charlie is required to track down the perpetrator of the crime and save the world.

After a nail biting, sorry, hoof biting, plane journey completed with a perfect landing

Charlie rocks up at a posh hotel where she soon encounters an ‘old acquaintance’ Greta Grimm wallowing in the pool and she just happens to be sporting a pair of banana printed shorts. Pant-pinching crime solved.

However, Grimm (aided and abetted by her Goons entourage) doesn’t intend handing them over to Charlie any time soon. Moreover despite our agent’s martial arts prowess, all too quickly she finds herself well and truly trapped. Is there any escape now or is it destination outer space?

Can a spot of lunch courtesy of Charlie’s bag of techno tricks save the day …

Adult readers aloud will likely appreciate the high jinks that characterise spy films while their young audiences will relish the high drama delivered through Angela Woolfe’s whacky rhyming narrative and Duncan Beedie’s bold retro, cartoonish illustrations somewhat reminiscent of 60s glam in places. Love the stylish silhouette endpapers and variety of page layouts that hype up the action.

I Really Really Need A Wee

I Really Really Need a Wee
Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

In Karl and Duncan’s story it’s a little bushbaby who suddenly gets the wiggles and the jiggles, insisting ‘I really, really, really,  REALLY NEED A WEE!’

Yes, we’ve all been there with little ones, when away from home and far from the nearest loo, coming out with the title line. It most certainly resonated with me with regard to several recent outings.

The little narrator’s efforts to distract itself with thoughts of other things only serve to make matters worse …

and its attempts to find a toilet are, shall we say, pretty disastrous.

Finally though, the object of the bushbaby’s desire is in sight, but almost inevitably there’s a long queue – isn’t it always the way?

Then whoopee! The little room is vacant at last – phew! Such relief.

I suspect you can guess how this corking story ends … and it’s wee-ally wee-ally funny. But then with its combination of Karl’s telling and Duncan’s hilarious illustrations one expects no less. I absolutely love the sets of bespoke loos that sandwich the story proper.

I envisage classrooms and nurseries full of giggling infants and staff almost wetting themselves when this is shared, and families with youngsters will absolutely burst themselves laughing in recognition.

Oof Makes An Ouch!

Oof Makes An Ouch!
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

Way, way back in the days of yore when people knew no words other than their own name there lived a little girl called Oof. In the same village lived her best friend, a boy named Pib. They were pretty much inseparable spending their time playing exploring and inventing.

One day while engaged in the latter, Oof comes up with a superb idea and communicates it to her friend pictorially in the sand.
Together they endeavour to lift the required rock – an exceedingly heavy one – but disaster strikes, it slips from their grasp and lands with a thud on Oof’s foot.

OUCH! She utters a brand new word to express just how much it hurts.

The grown-ups are astonished and all are eager to try it out …

In order to vent her anger at the rock, Oof adds “BASH!” to the linguistic repertoire of the villagers and then “Yummy”.

Oof receives great adulation as she and the rock are carried back to her hut, where later she begins work on the stone.
Pib meanwhile is feeling lonely and more than a tad jealous. Come nightfall he feels the need to express his own feelings – physically – and so he does.

Come morning Oof is devastated to discover the outcome of this fury.

Now at last, a remorseful Pib finds he is able to come up with a word that might just be the saving of their precious friendship …

What about that broken stone, you might be wondering, and the invention the two children were working on? To discover the answers you’ll have to grab yourself a copy of Duncan’s smashing story and see. The finale will definitely make you laugh.

Full of wry visual humour, the splendidly expressive digitally created illustrations are rendered in foresty hues and the telling is pitch perfect for sharing with a young audience.

Yet another winner for Duncan.

Stephano the Squid: Hero of the Deep

Stephano the Squid: Hero of the Deep
Wendy Meddour and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

Life for Stefano squid is far from easy. Why is it that the unique characteristics of a squid go unappreciated? That is what Stefano ponders upon.

His fellow deep sea creatures offer reasons relating to his lack of colours, being unbat-like and not being shaped like a hammer …

while the dolphins suggest he should endeavour to look more intelligent; the sea dragon favours looking more leafy and the sea cucumber’s suggestion is to look more vegetable-like.

All the while Stefano is at pains to point out that being a squid makes their suggestions impossible, and when the anglerfish  asks about his weaponry, all the squid can do is to go and hide himself away in a cave.

There he receives some words of comfort from the Sea Cucumber but they are immediately negated by the comments of the limpets.

However, when Sea Cucumber points out one of the diving crew is in trouble, it’s down to Stefano to come to his aid; small and insignificant as he considers himself to be, he just can’t swim away and do nothing.

Rescue mission achieved, or rather,  the little cephalopod and his pal get the surprise of their lives – make that two surprises -when the identity of the rescued diver is revealed; but the second one comes the following day and to discover what that is, you’ll need to get your fins on a copy of this thoroughly immersive book.

Wendy’s telling is great fun but at the same time reminds us of the importance of self-worth and self-belief. Duncan’s terrific undersea scenes are splendidly expressive and comical, and I love his marine colour palette.

There are talking points aplenty once you’ve shared this super splashy story.

Molly’s Moon Mission

Molly’s Moon Mission
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

I have to admit to spluttering with giggles all through this story. From the outset, the idea of Molly the moth attempting to fly to the moon struck me as totally ridiculous but that’s what makes this such a fun book.

Young Molly has an indomitable spirit and despite residing in the back of an old wardrobe, her determination knows no bounds. Her mother’s discouraging words about the slightness of her wings notwithstanding, the little moth trains hard until she’s ready for the countdown to blast off.

After a couple of setbacks due to wrong destinations,

the tiny creature lands up at a lighthouse where at least she receives some words of encouragement for her venture.
Fuelled by same, she relaunches herself skywards until finally …


Moreover, there’s a role for Molly as assistant to the astronauts before they all set off earthwards with the little bug proudly sporting her newly awarded lunar mission patch.

When she finally reaches home once more, she’s greeted by her mum who on learning of her little one’s adventure, responds, “My Molly, the only moth ever to fly to the Moon!” Thus far maybe, but Molly has plans …

From his The Bear Who Stared debut I’ve loved all Duncan’s picture books but with this one he reaches new heights.

The Last Chip

The Last Chip
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

In the light of the recent controversy over rough sleepers in a certain royal wedding town and my concern and distress at the increased number of rough sleepers I observed in Bristol the other day, Duncan Beedie’s latest picture book particularly resonated with me. Actually, the book is set in Bristol and it’s subtitled ‘The Story of a Very Hungry Pigeon’.

Percy is the pigeon’s name and his life on the streets is a tough one. Percy’s patch is the railway station and it’s here that the hungry creature heads at the start of each day in the hope of picking up a few tidbits dropped by commuters.
On one particular morning though, a gang of voracious pigeons has beaten Percy to it. He’s shoved out of the way and ends up with not so much as a single crumb.

With a rumbling tummy, Percy decides to try his luck at the park and off he flies …

only to discover that he’s no match for the greedy ducks that consume everything that’s tossed their way. They certainly have no intention of sharing, so Percy heads to the seaside.
Here too though, he’s insulted and also physically abused by a resident avian, one giant seagull.

In despair, a very weak Percy heads back from whence he came; but dizziness overtakes him and he crash lands onto the city pavement amidst the melee of homeward bound commuters. Dazed and hungry, suddenly, he hears a voice offering him something very special: “Would you like my last chip?

There’s one spot on a street in Bristol that is a whole lot less tough on that particular night.

From his debut, The Bear Who Stared, Duncan Beedie has gone from strength to strength and it’s great to know that 10% of UK profits from sales of this new book will go to The Trussell Trust, which runs some 425 food banks across the UK.
Beadie’s message is a powerful one but he delivers it with a gentle humour and without a hint of preachiness. From his cover illustration, my heart went out to Percy; and the greedy birds, be they pigeons, ducks or that giant seagull, are deliciously nasty characters.
A thought-provoking story that deserves to be shared and discussed widely.

The Lumberjack’s Beard


The Lumberjack’s Beard
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing
Delivered with gentle humour, Duncan Beedle’s new picture book is an environmental fable. Herein we meet Jim – Big Jim Hickory, bristly-bearded, burly tree feller who (after his daily limbering-up, or should that be lumbering-up regime) …


does what lumberjacks do; he takes his axe, heads to the forest and destroys trees.
This activity, he subsequently learns, spells disaster for the forest-dwelling animals: the bird no longer has her new nest, the pine needles and leaves for porcupine’s shelter have gone up in smoke and moving those tree trunks down the river has deprived beaver of his new dam.
Furthermore the alternative accommodation Jim’s providing for these creatures is becoming more than a little troublesome to him.
Time for some felling of a different kind decides our hirsute lumberjack …


which of course leaves its residents homeless once more. Another idea is needed, Jim – a better one this time. And here he goes …


The domestic scenes of Jim and his tenants are hilarious and Beedle renders his superb landscapes in appropriately earthy hues –


as the impact of deforestation is introduced to the very young. The message assuredly packs a powerful punch.


There’s just SO much to think about and discuss with foundation stage and KS1 audiences. This one’s an absolute ‘must have’ for classrooms as well as individual sharing.


The Bear Who Stared

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The Bear Who Stared
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing
Duncan Beedie’s staring bear is sure to bring a smile to your face as he goes around the countryside ogling at the very first thing he sees every day and on one particular morning that just happens to be a ladybird family enjoying their breakfast. I don’t like being stared at when I’m eating and neither do those ladybirds; they tell bear so in no uncertain terms before scuttling off to find a new breakfast spot. Bear however, wanders on, the next recipients of his innocent stare being a mother bird and her fledglings.

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They too angrily send Bear packing and on he goes, rather foolishly poking his head into a badger’s sett. This results not only in a face off with a furious badger, but also a very sore nose.

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Our ursine friend then decides to take a rest beside a pond wherein sits a frog. The two animals eyeball each other

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and then the frog’s comment, “Not much fun being stared at, is it?” results in an exchange wherein bear confesses his staring is really on account of his not knowing what to say to those he meets. After which, on looking into the water, he finds himself face to face with another bear…

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At this point, children will quickly identity the slightly wobbly face that stares back at him and will delight in frog’s final words and departing smile.
And Bear? He still goes on that same morning stroll every day but now he greets other creatures with a friendly, “Hello!” and a big smile.

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And, as you might expect, he’s quick to make lots of new friends and there’s one friend in particular who doesn’t object to being stared at; one who gives as good as he gets!

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Dads and A Digger-Driving Pirate

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Daddy I Can’t Sleep
Alan Durant and Judi Abbot
Picture Corgi pbk
It’s bedtime for Little Panda but he just cannot get to sleep: He can hear all kinds of scary noises. What could be roaring and howling outside their cave in the forest?
Fortunately, Daddy Panda knows exactly how to quell those fears. Taking Little Panda on his back off he goes into the forest and there they hear not scary sounds, but the gentle music of the bamboos,

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see the palm fronds waving bird-like in the wind and smell the sweet aroma of the fresh juicy shoots. Then having collected stem, leaves

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and shoots they head home and after partaking of a tasty treat, Little Panda snuggles down in bed. But before he sleeps there’s a lovely surprise – or rather, two lovely surprises – waiting for him, courtesy of Daddy Panda.

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A warm, reassuring tale with a pair of delightful characters; what a super, empathetic father figure Daddy Panda is. Judi Abbot’s densely coloured illustrations capture the atmosphere of the moonlit forest beautifully and those panda expressions speak volumes. Snuggle up close and share at bedtime or any time.


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I Want My Daddy
Tracey Corderoy and Alison Edgson
Little Tiger Press
There are times when only a dad will do and Arthur is having one of those days. The first time it’s when his castle collapses, then when his knightly activities cause him to come a cropper

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and after that his foray into fishing proves rather too much for the youngster. But happily for Arthur his Daddy is on hand to rescue the situation every time disaster strikes. After such an eventful day the young knight decides from the safety of his super new castle that it is time to inaugurate a very special king to rule over the kingdom and he sets to work creating …


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Share with Dads (and others) especially after one of those days when everything’s been just a bit too much. We can all applaud the fatherly care and consideration shown to young Arthur in this warm-hearted story for the very young.

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Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers
Alex English and Duncan Beady
Maverick Arts Publishing pbk
Brad comes from pirating stock; his Dad is determined young Pirate Brad should go off and join a crew. Brad however, has other plans: rather than fighting and plundering, he longs for a life driving diggers on a building site. Dad wishes win the day and so Bradley packs his bag and boards ship as crew member of the Salty Dog.

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Right from the start though, Brad fails to live up to Captain Blood’s expectations: his compass reading is topsy turvy, sword fights turn him to a quivering, cowering jelly and he takes a terrible tumble landing right in Blood’s bunk.
Begging for a final chance, Brad is presented with a large map and ordered to return with the treasure or walk the plank, so off he rows, fearing for his life. As luck would have it however, he eventually lands up on shore and having found the X begins to dig but …

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Surely our Brad isn’t about to meet his doom? As he keeps saying, “A pirate’s life is not for me,/ I want to drive a digger, see.” Hold on though lad … what did you just say? Off he dashes to the building site.

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But can he persuade those astonished builders to help him out? What do you think? …

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