Friendship / Calmness


Helen Mortimer and Cristina Trapanese
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

These are two additions to the Big Words for Little People series: the first explores what being a good friend really means and the second presents various elements that are associated with feeling calm.
Each of the first eleven spreads takes a key word (or two) exploring it through an engaging scene and an explanatory sentence or two.

For instance part and parcel of Friendship is Respect and that entails accepting and showing respect towards differences.

Share offers examples of what you might share with friends – memories, ideas, treats and especially, time.
The penultimate spread is an affirmation of Friendship itself and then comes a spread aimed at adult sharers giving ten ideas of how to get the most from the book and a final glossary.

Calmness has spreads on quiet, feeling safe, breathing,

what to do about worries, focus, time – ‘Something as simple as walking gives you time to watch and listen while you move.’ I think that’s something we’ve all appreciated during the past year.

Other ideas suggested to induce that sometimes elusive sense of calm are to Pause, Imagine, ways to ‘get past your angry feelings’, Balance and to take a Softly, softly approach.
Calmness also ends within ideas and a glossary.

Both these engaging little books are well worth adding to an early years collection, as well as for sharing with little ones at home. Cristina Trapanese uses a different theme to illustrate each one. Friendship shows children engaged in a variety of art and craft activities while Calmness has an appropriate outdoor setting reflecting the important role the natural world plays in inducing calm. Both contain a wealth of language learning potential.

All Aboard the Numbers Train / All Aboard the Shapes Train

All Aboard the Numbers Train
All Aboard the Shapes Train

Sean Sims
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Based on topics popular with little ones, these two All Aboard titles of a new thematic series are intended to support the early learning goals.
The Numbers Train is in fact a spacecraft that moves through the sky taking six small children and their canine companion on an exploration of the cosmos.

There’s so much to see including rockets, planets, evidence that others have been there too, aliens – of the friendly fun-loving variety fortunately –

and that only takes us as far as number five.

By the time we reach ten the passengers have left their train and are stretching their legs beneath the stars. Back inside again there’s a wealth of number symbols (1-10) on the various levers, dials and other instruments to spot and then it’s time for the countdown before the train leaves for home.

On the return journey there’s an opportunity to count in tens as they whizz past the 100 guiding stars and the penultimate spread maps the entire trip asking ‘Can you remember the numbers we saw on the way?’

No space attire needed on the second ride; the Shapes Train, with its variously 2D shaped windows takes its passengers (and readers) on a journey to the world of playtime, searching for shapes, and the patterns they can create.

We start with circles: ‘There are circles everywhere! The bubbles, balls and bugs are circles.’ says the text. Yes, that is how they’re represented in Sean Sim’s alluring, brightly coloured scene of the train’s first stop but this could be confusing for young learners as foundation stage teachers (certainly this one) would say that bubbles and balls are spheres (3D shapes) not circles (2D shapes).

Other shapes included are squares, triangles,

rectangles, diamonds, as well as semi-circles, ovals, pentagons, hexagons, stars and spirals.

This promises to be a bright, jolly series with lots of learning potential but use the Shapes Train judiciously.

First Words / Animals and Baby Duck / Baby Koala

First Words

Nosy Crow
Here are two new additions to the ‘Early Learning at the Museum’ series published in collaboration with The British Museum.

Once again each title features an assortment of fascinating objects from the museum’s collection, so that in addition to helping children to learn the names of the items featured, the colour photographs introduce them to a range of cultural images from all over the world.

As well as the wonderful Chinese cotton shoes shown on the cover, the amazing objects in First Words include another pair of shoes (Dutch wooden clogs), an aluminium toy bike from India and these …

Animals has creatures great and small from camels to cats and parrots to a polar bear. I was particularly attracted to the Malaysian shadow puppet shown at the centre of this spread …

and the woodcut of ‘two mallards’ by British artist Allen William Seaby,

Both books offer hours of early learning enjoyment and are great for encouraging curiosity and talk well beyond the mere naming of the items.

If you have a toddler, or work in an early years setting, I recommend adding these two to your book collection.

Baby Duck
Baby Koala

illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books

Attractively illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, here are two new additions to the chunky finger puppet series that introduces tinies to a range of baby animals and their everyday lives. Each with an attached plush finger-puppet, these are playful, interactive, help to develop vocabulary and offer a good way for adult and infant to start building a love of books.