Flights of Fancy: How to Drive a Roman Chariot / The Girl and the Dinosaur

How to Drive a Roman Chariot
Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves
Simon & Schuster Children’s

This tenth Albie adventure that celebrates young children and their imagination, begins as he’s out with his mum feeding some horses when the rain starts.

Taking shelter in a barn, Albie comes upon a girl named Julia with her problematic knitting. The next thing he knows is that he is whisked back in time to Ancient Rome and he and Julia are chasing after a runaway chariot.

Having managed to leap aboard as the horses gallop straight for the crowded market, a fearless Julia grabs hold of the reins and steers the chariot clear.

That however isn’t the only thing she wants to do: young Julia is determined to prove to everyone who says they can’t, that girls CAN drive chariots. Can they win races too, I wonder?

Whoever said ancient history is boring?

The Girl and the Dinosaur
Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Just imagine if you had a dinosaur: that is what happens to the little girl Marianne we see digging on the beach of a seaside town on the first spread of this book. Watched by the fisherfolk concerned about her lack of friends, Marianne methodically digs up and assembles (Mary Anning style) a complete skeleton that she names Bony.

Back in bed that night she wishes life into her ‘stony bones’ and in a sky aglow with dreams, awakens a deeply slumbering dinosaur and takes off on its back into a beautiful world of wonder and magic.

The two go first to the sea and then after a dip, visit an enchanted forest alive with fairies and unicorns.

They climb to the top of a mountain, then taking a ‘mighty leap of faith’ soar up and away towards a magical island among the clouds to a very special party for children and their dream world creatures.

However eventually slumbers call, the party must end; and reveries over, it’s time to return to those empty beds.

Thereafter the story comes full circle and we’re back on the beach, only now Marianne is not alone and the fisherfolk are no longer concerned, for the single girl has been joined by lots of other children each one digging for their very own dinosaur.

Hold fast to dreams as you share Hollie Hughes’ lyrical rhyming story and Sarah Massini’s wonderfully whimsical, atmospheric illustrations of the real and dream worlds.

A great snuggle up at bedtime tale that will linger long in the mind and perhaps fuel the dreams of your little ones as, lulled by the soporific nature of the narrative, they too head off to slumberland.

Albie’s 10 Anniversary Blog Tour: How to Catch a Dragon

It’s Red Reading Hub’s turn on the Albie 10th anniversary blog tour and today we have a ROAR of a book as our focus:
How to Catch a Dragon, Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves’ wonderful story that begins with Albie visiting the library to draw a dragon for his homework and takes him off on a fantastical adventure with a young knight.

To celebrate, Albie and his dragon adventure, author Caryl Hart shares five top facts about dragons:

Five Facts about Dragons

1. Dragons appear in stories from all over the world including India, China, Europe, Egypt and America.

2. Some scientists think that, long ago, people found dinosaur fossils and thought they belonged to dragons. Others think the idea of dragons is based on people’s fear of snakes or crocodiles or iguanas.

3. Chinese culture celebrates the Year of the Dragon every 12 years. If you were born between January 2012 and February 2013 then you are a Water Dragon. Chinese dragons are symbols of luck and good fortune and can fly, but don’t have any wings!

4. The How to Train Your Dragon films started out as a series of books written by Cressida Cowell, the first of which was published in 2003. There are now 12 books in the series!

5. Komodo dragons are real creatures that live in Indonesia. They can grow to 3 metres long and eat insects, birds and mammals.

Thanks to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, Red Reading Hub has a copy of HOW TO CATCH A DRAGON to give away.

To enter, follow @jillbennett18  RT the giveaway tweet and tag a friend. A winner will be chosen at random and the publicist will send you your prize book (closing date 12th August UK entrants only please)

Look out next week for the rest of the blog tour; there are going to be lots more fun facts and giveaways.

Look out soon for Red Reading Hub’s review of Albie’s latest adventure How to Drive a Roman Chariot – that sees him whisked away to Ancient Rome where, along with a young girl, he finds himself driving a runaway chariot.

You Can’t Cuddle a Crocodile

You Can’t Cuddle a Crocodile
Diana Hendry and Ed Eaves
Hodder Children’s Books

Why would anyone want to, was my immediate response to the title of this book but said crocodile doesn’t actually make an appearance until quite a way into the story – on Friday to be precise – so let’s go back to the start and meet the family on Monday morning.

There’s our narrator, a fresh-faced boy together with his smiling parents who counter the lad’s claim that on this particular day his sister is a monkey, with a question about the nature of monkeys’ choice of breakfast, and go on to fabricate further fanciful monkey-associated notions.

Come Tuesday, said sister has morphed into a bear whose ursine antics cause early morning chaos in the household.

And so it goes on through the week: Wednesday a camel accompanies mum and boy to the beach; Thursday sees a rainy shopping expedition with a flat-footed, flap, flap, flippered sibling slowing down the journey and causing consternation with the shopkeeper.

Friday it’s the turn of a visit from that crocodile – a decidedly uncuddle-able incarnation, particularly at bedtime story time and on Saturday the unsuspecting postie is scared silly when something roars at him and makes a grab for his sack. He isn’t impressed, preferring the human sibling.

On Sunday, Freya makes a welcome return as herself but suddenly Mum notices the absence of our narrator. What could have happened to him? … Seemingly he has the final chuckle in this tall tale.

Diana’s crazy story coupled with Ed’s zany digital scenes of young Freya’s incarnations and their outcomes, is likely to entertain youngsters in an early years setting or at home as well as providing a gentle introduction to, or reminder of, the days of the week sequence.

The Princess and the Pitstop / Cleopatra Bones and the Golden Chimpanzee

The Princess and the Pit Stop
Tom Angleberger and Dan Santat
Abrams

A princess racing car driver – Yeah! We first meet her as she makes a pit stop with one lap of the race left and is told by her Fairy Godmother that she’s in last place. ‘She might as well give up!’ is the suggestion from our narrator.
This particular princess is not however, a quitter: she’s one determined young woman and so it’s time to hit that accelerator – HARD!

Off she zooms, outstripping various opponents so the cleverly punning commentator tells us, leaving a trail of rainbow coloured exhaust in her wake.

Before long she’s whizzed past scores of nursery rhyme characters, and pretty much every fairy tale character you can think of, (‘She spun out Rumpelstiltskin and butted in front of the The Three Billy Goats Gruff!’ we hear) as well as Beatrix Potter’s Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Rabbit (what happened to Cottontail one wonders), until the only cars still in front are those belonging to the two ugly stepsisters ( I guess Cinderella’s elsewhere engaged) and after a lot of bumping and blocking on the sisters’ part, whoppee! – our princess, who isn’t at all alarmed by a bit of biffing and bashing, is declared the winner.

That however isn’t quite the end of the tale: there’s another competition still to be won and that involves taking a partner.
I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have had her perform solo again, but still, this telling, coupled with Dan Santat’s computer game animation style art work will surely give you an adrenalin rush.
Reading the break-neck speed narration of royalty and racing aloud left this adult reviewer more than a little breathless.
Long live girl power!
There’s another race in:

Cleopatra Bones and the Golden Chimpanzee
Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves
Oxford University Press

When news of the location of a priceless statue, The Golden Chimpanzee breaks, the race is on to get to the spot in the Jungle of Junoo on the shore of Lake Lazoo and secure the treasure.
Can canine explorer Cleopatra Bones, finder of the treasure map showing exactly where the statue is to be found, beat the opposition, in particular the dastardly driver of an armoured aqua-car, Al McNasty, and discover the hidden gold?

Cleo. spies something interesting, a monkey statue assuredly but it’s not a golden one and then suddenly Al McNasty skids to a halt at the base of the statue. He’s convinced the place to look is underground.
Al however isn’t prepared to pick up a spade and dig down deep in the hope of booty: instead he has another plan up his sleeve, one that entails creating a blast.

But when his ruse backfires in no uncertain terms, he inadvertently precipitates a rather exciting waterfall …

A fun, fast moving, rollicking rhyme from Jonathan Emmett accompanied by Ed Eaves’ detailed scenes of zany vehicles that travel over land, through water and air, driven by an array of funky animals is just the thing to keep youngsters on the edge of their seats as they root for Cleopatra and her pals, all of whom, along with the evil-intentioned reptile are catalogued inside the front and back covers.

Dragon Dos and Don’ts

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Dare to Care: Pet Dragon
M.P.Robertson and Sally Symes
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Ever thought of keeping a dragon? It’s probably not top of your list of things to do. Nevertheless Robertson and Symes have compiled a spoofingly delicious manual on how to do just that. There are several considerations including how to dispose of the dung it will produce in profusion –

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before taking that dragon decision tying you together for life. Anatomy (you might want to skip the warty bit, ditto the ‘teeth’ bit, if you are at all squeamish), choice of breed and choice of egg come next – we’re advised that it’s best to begin with an egg and select one that your particular lifestyle most easily accommodates. And hatching can be extremely time consuming …

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Of course, once the thing finally does emerge you’ll need to know about handling, feeding and grooming. Each of these is given its own spread and I suggest reading them with great care: brussels sprouts are a definite no-no and curry’s inadvisable too. And, oh my goodness you’ll need a veritable troupe of tradespeople when it comes to grooming …

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It’s best to know about dealing with ailments in the unlikely event that your dragon falls sick, so that’s taken care of next, followed by exercise.
Now you may well have selected a dragon as companion for the aeronautical opportunities such a creature offers, so a term or two at flight school is a MUST and then, with license under your belt …

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This tongue-in-cheek treat is guaranteed to give you a good giggle, or rather, a whole lot of giggles. And, it’s the perfect picture book for those who claim to enjoy information texts rather than stories.

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Marmaduke the Very Popular Dragon
Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In this, his second story, Marmaduke has become something of a celebrity, so much so that best friend, Meg, sees little of him. Never mind, thinks Meg, there’s the Whizz Cone Tournament coming up, the perfect thing for the best friends to do together. But then Marmaduke becomes even more elusive; surely he couldn’t have found another partner for the tournament could he? That certainly doesn’t look like Meg riding him to victory here …

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Then, come trophy presentation time, Marmaduke isn’t feeling as overjoyed as he ought to and what’s more, he can hear sobbing sounds in the distance. Off he goes to find Meg, offer his heartfelt apologies and make a promise that henceforward, he’ll never exclude her again. That’s the kind of promise best friends always try to keep …

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Fans of Marmaduke and Meg will welcome their return; and applaud Marmaduke for seeing the error of his ways and acting accordingly. Adult mediators of the story have a good starting point for a ‘what makes a good friend?’ discussion.

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Let’s Play

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Ready, Steady, DIG!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ed Eaves
Hodder Children’s Books
As one little boy plays with his collection of vehicles, his playmat becomes the scene for Construction Crew to rumble into action. There’s Connor Crane with wrecking ball to bash and smash, big tough Dumper Dave to haul and heave, Mixer Millie is at the ready,

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followed by Ravi Roller to squash the tarmac and Doug the Digger with that enormous scoop – OOPS!

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He’s got stuck, so now it’s a case of teamwork to heave him out and complete the task …

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before that well-earned rest.

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Ed Eaves transforms the various vehicles into friendly-looking monsters, which, in combination with Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ lively rhyming text, make for a rumbustious read to share with the very young.
Teachers in early years settings may well want to take the opportunity this book offers to add some movement to the story session with the children themselves becoming the various members of the Construction Crew as the story unfolds – after an initial seated reading, that is.
Certainly this is one to add to an early years collection.

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Hedgehugs Hopping Hot
Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
Maverick Arts Publishing
The delightful duo, best friends Horace and Hattie return with their third story and it’s a very sunny day on which we find them attempting to play a favourite hopping game. The trouble is they’re feeling far too hot and the only shady spot doesn’t furnish sufficient hopping space. Their cooling strategies don’t meet with much success either

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and it’s well nigh impossible to emulate frogs when you make so much splash. Hiding under rocks like woodlice will certainly not work, if you want to hop that is …

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and nor will a squelchy mud covering. What about emulating that bird up there on a branch, think the friends but although it’s definitely a cooler place, it’s not suitable for jumping and …

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Hold on though, perhaps down here might be just what those spiky friends need – whatever the weather …

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Gentle humour delivered hedgehog fashion is fun no matter what the temperature: Horace and Hattie are such a joyful twosome; even in the face of all those misadventures they just bounce right back up, and that’s exactly what’s needed for a hopping game too! Lucy Tapper’s beautifully patterned illustrations capture the mood perfectly.

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Fast and Furious; Slow and Steady

Daniel devouring the story

 

Space Dog
Mini Grey
Jonathan Cape
It’s 3043 and deep in space, Space Dog is ready to zoom homewards having completed a lengthy problem-solving mission in the Dairy Quadrant. Supplies are stashed and he passes the time with a game of solo Dogopoly before sleeping.
Not far off however, is Astrocat, zooming in his space saucer, or actually is about to plummet into a thick creamy mire. Then it’s a case of operation rescue – for the Astrocat if not his craft. No time for age old enmity now, it’s go with Space Dog or be stranded.

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Once safely in SS Kennel, the two erstwhile enemies sit face to face for a game of Dogopoly, followed by a tasty snack courtesy of Astrocat. Then, co-ordinates set, there comes yet another distress call …

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And another … Moustronaut has been captured, bound and perilously suspended above a chasm of bubbling fondue by the Cheese Ants.

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With another rescue duly completed – well almost – they have to satisfy that drooling, dribbling look in the Ant Queen’s eyes first. Then it really is time to head for home. Of course, poor Moustronaut needs a bit of tlc first; and there’s a whole universe out there waiting for friends to conquer – together. So, it’s Mission UNKNOWN ZONE – after a round or so of Dogopoly that is.

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Wonderful stuff! This action-packed adventure is bound to appeal to the numerous established fans of Mini Grey and will I’m certain, win her a whole host of new ones. This is overflowing with exciting happenings, visual jokes and verbal ones; and every turn of the page brings fantastic and frenzied features to divert and delight.

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Fast and Furry Racers The Silver Serpent Cup
Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves
Oxford University Press pbk
Playing fair is at the heart of this riotous romp of a ride (or should it be race) that takes place over land, under sea and in the air. Packed full of alliteration and other tongue-teasing phrases to test the reader-aloud, this story unfolds at breakneck speed.
Everyone’s gathered in Furryville for the race and the line up’s an impressive one. BEEP! BEEP! TOOT! TOOT! There’s Roderick Von Rooster in his Hot Rod rocket car, Stephanie Skedaddle in her super stylish boat, Ollie Octolinni in his submarine – a distinct advantage at times. Then we have Baron Billy Blackstripes aboard his super fast steam train, not forgetting Ella Egghart in her aeroplane. Could she perhaps be the winner after all?

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But foul play has struck, in the form of sabotage and who should be emerging from the depths but Al Mcnasty – a ruthless villain if ever there was one and wearing that smug smile too.

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But things are not quite over yet, for out of the ground emerges Max O’Moley just in the nick of time – a thoroughly deserving and honest winner. Three cheers for Max recipient of THE SILVER SERPENT CUP.

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Ed Eaves’ exuberant illustrations really do give the impression of tremendous speed and those vehicles are just the thing to excite and enthrall young listeners.

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Days with Frog and Toad
Arnold Lobel
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is the second of the larger format publications of the classic Lobel Frog and Toad stories. This one offers five more delicious episodes featuring the friends– all an absolute delight – though I might to go for Shivers

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(wherein Frog tells a spooky story) – if I had to pick a favourite; or maybe Tomorrow (we’re all guilty of putting off things we don’t want to do). Then again there’s Toad’s laughable efforts to fly The Kite; and The Hat Frog gives his best pal for a birthday present, to bring a big smile; oh and the final Alone in which Frog goes off to be by himself for a while

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– all equally brilliant and unmissable.
The Frog and Toad books remain unsurpassed in the field of newly independent readers. Three cheers for the two fictional pals and their everlasting friendship.

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Problems, Plans, Perils and Parties

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Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon
Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Marmaduke just hates being different. Unlike the other (purple) dragons his skin is faded orange, his scales stick out and his ears are positively elephantine. Protecting princesses is definitely out of the question, so the other dragons laughingly tell him when he asks for their assistance. However, Marmaduke is not only different; he is also determined. So too is Princess Meg and when she gets herself lost in the deep, dark woods, Marmaduke seizes the opportunity to dash to her rescue.

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When he finally spreads those unusual wings of his, Meg declares them “Fantastically different!” as they shimmer and sparkle in the sky.

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So, does he become her protector? Suffice it to say that although Meg is a strong- minded kind of princess, she does need a friend.
Yes, it’s sparkly and spattered with pink but here is a divergent princess who refuses to fit into a mould and what’s more she accepts and appreciates difference in others. And of course both she and in the end, Marmaduke, show strength of character.
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Shh! We Have a Plan
Chris Haughton
Walker Books
I’ve been a big fan of Chris Haughton since A Bit Lost some four years ago but this, with its intriguing title, is I think, my favourite so far.
Essentially four woolly-hatted friends, nets a ready, (hence the title) spy a colourful bird as they are out walking. The approach of the smallest is a friendly ‘hello birdy’, quickly ‘shhed’ by the others, those with a plan, a catching plan of course. Slowly, they creep, tiptoe, tiptoe … Oops! Missed.
Plan B involves a ladder and a balancing act;

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ready… whoopsie! …
Plan C – these are determined characters – paddling upstream … stretching forwards, ready, one, two, three…

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splash!
Time for a different approach, the little one’s this time; he knows just how to tempt a bird

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or two or … O OHHHHH!
Dry humour, quirky characters, a slightly ridiculous, perfectly paced, skillfully suspenseful tale and distinctive, limited colour palette; add to that an eye-catching typeface, images and shapes – the result? Another Haughton must have –I’d get more than one in fact.
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The Big Blue Thing on the Hill
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing pbk
Howling Hill stand far from the city, a quiet peaceful place during the day, alive with the sounds of foxes, and weasels, boars, badgers and bears, wolves too, each making a characteristic rustle, snuffle, sniffle, growl, or howl. Then one night, there comes a rumble, a ROAR and a dreadful vision atop the hill. Wild speculations on behalf of the frightened animals ensue and off they dash to hide in the Great Forest. Back they creep next morning; the trouble remains. Speculations run wild – “a big blue elephant!” say the weasels, ‘a big blue dinosaur!” is the badgers’ decision. (Echoes of The Six Blind Men and the Elephant here). “It’s a BIG BLUE THING” is the foxes’ correct assertion. All agree however that the thing appears to be awake and should be left till it sleeps.
At dusk the animals return to HOOOWWWLLL – the wolves suggestion this –

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GRROOOWWLL – that’s the bears; HUFF, PUFF, PUSH and SHOVE – the boars try that. But does the Big Blue Thing budge? Not one single centimetre. Burying, a seemingly possible ploy, is foiled when the Thing makes a “WAKING UP” sound. Off flee the animals to consult the Wise Owls. An attack of the BUZZING WHIZZING ZOOMING kind delivered by a BIG BUG FLYING SQUAD ensues as the sun peeks over the Hill.

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Peace and quiet resumes until …

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Foolishly funny: those fearful animals with their troubled countenances and plucky plans are an absolute hoot and the surprise ending has caused much mirth among my young listeners who relished every moment of the tale.
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Two Speckled Eggs
Jennifer K. Mann
Walker Books pbk
Ginger wants to invite the girls in her class to her birthday party, all except one – Lyla Browning. Lyla is different, smelling ‘like old leaves’, carrying a magnifying glass and she’s not much of a talker.

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Ginger’s mum insists she’s included. On party day, the first to arrive is Lyla but once the others come, things begin to go rather differently from Ginger’s expectations. Ava invents new rules for Blind Man’s Buff, Pin the Tail on the Donkey becomes pin the tails on each other and the egg and spoon and Three legged races are disastrous. Moreover, the silver-and gold cake is anything but a hit, except with Lyla, who until then has stayed in the background. Poor Ginger. But then she starts to think that perhaps she’s misjudged Lyla;

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maybe she is actually rather cool.Assuredly her present – a tiny bird’s nest, hand-made and containing two speckled eggs (chocolate caramel-cream and Ginger’s favourite no less) stands out as wonderfully thoughtful and serves as a symbol of a new friendship. Being different is a good thing after all, Ginger decides or perhaps the two of them aren’t really so different anyway.

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How good to see a quietly strong, divergent character such as Lyla ; all the more so as her independence of thought and openness come to be appreciated by Ginger. Jennifer Mann’s slightly scruffy crayon outlines filled with soft waterolours, stand out against the largely white backgrounds of the pages
As well as in their facial expressions, a considerable degree of emotion is conveyed through the artist’s perfect placing of particular characters on the page.
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Farmer John’s Tractor
Sally Sutton and Robyn Belton
Walker Books
Thoughts of the recent floods came right back to me as I started to read this rhyming tale of how Farmer John’s tractor – a rusty orangey-red one kept locked in a shed – comes into its own when the river breaks its banks after a very rainy winter.
Down by the river a car is stuck fast: the family inside shouts for help. They manage to climb onto the roof as a series of vehicles — a speedy jeep, a tow truck,

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and a fire engine, siren blasting — rush to the scene one by one. Each ends up more firmly stuck than the last. Time to see if Farmer John’s ancient tractor, might still be up to the job?
Belton’s muted watercolour pictures are just right for the prevailing wetness of the countryside setting and Sally Sutton’s strong, rhythmic, rhyming text just right for conveying the power of the swirling, twirling, rushing, gushing water and the muscle power of Farmer John and his chugging tractor.
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Dinosaur Roar!
Paul Strickland and Henrietta Strickland
Doubleday Children’s Books
With a host of opposites dinosaur-delivered, but even more importantly, the powerful message that early reading is (or should be) fun, this rip roaring rhythmic rhymer really packs a punch. What young child can resist the lure of Paul Strickland’s roaring or squeaking

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lunch gobbling beasties be they fierce or meek, fast or slow, above or below, weak or strong, short or long, sweet or grumpy, spiky or lumpy …
After twenty years, with its glorious pictures and a cleverly catchy text
this one is still a real winner.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
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