I Spy …


I Spy in the Sky …
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (Brubaker, Ford & Friends)
Information is painlessly and playfully  absorbed as young readers engage in a game of I-Spy in this series; here the focus is birds, the format is the same as for previous titles.
On the right hand side of each double spread is a die-cut peep hole. This offers an up-close view of a portion of a wing of the particular flying creature being ‘spied’ be it parrot, hummingbird, pelican, eagle, owl or other bird. The left-hand page provides a look at the bird in question’s own eye. To aid the guessing there are factual verbal clues relating to food, manner of flying, and colour of plumage whilst a glimpse of the animal’s habitat is presented across the double spread; add to that additional information in the form of speech bubbles, then turn the page to reveal a wonderfully dramatic vision of the bird itself executed in Edward Gibbs’ characteristically bold style.
Buy from Amazon


Maisy’s World of Animals
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
Join an appropriately clad and equipped Maisy and visit such contrasting environments as the icy Arctic, snow-capped alpine mountains, the scorching sandy desert, the hot grassy savannah,


the Oceanic depths, a lush jungle and finally, the freezing South Pole. At each location we are can spot four different kinds of animal (except at the Pole), one or more of which can be moved by a tab-pull or opening flap.
Yes, I’m sure the very young will  be absorbing some basic science concepts but more important, they will be expanding their horizons, increasing their vocabulary and vitally, having fun sharing the book with an adult or older child. How long the movable parts will last in enthusiastic hands, I’m not sure, but I suspect this one, like other Maisy titles, will get many re-reads.
Buy from Amazon


Pip and Posy Look and Say
Axel Scheffler
Nosy Crow
Illustrations from Pip and Posy’s other titles have been reworked into this large format I Spy book. My first thoughts when I saw the title of this one were: Are the publishers/author trying to oust the current phonic obsession that presently holds our nation’s beginning readers in its thrall? Would that they were.
Actually though I don’t think that is the intention (more’s the pity). This is essentially a sequence of playful scenes showing the friends in a variety of locations – the park,


the town, home and garden engaged in those everyday activities that can make special moments for small children. We see them scooting, flying a balloon, peering out at two birds tugging at a worm in the rain, tobogganing, pulling off wellies, playing with building blocks and trains, sharing a snack, dressing up, using play-dough and more. Each double page scene has an accompanying narrative and underneath is a series of eight small, captioned, telescope-view style pictures preceded by an invitation from a minibeast, bird or toy “Can you find these things?” Hence, many hours of enjoyable togetherness with small child, book and adult or older sibling.
Buy from Amazon

Not actually an ‘I-Spy’ book, rather one that invites the very young to count is:


Giraffe’s Jungle Boogie
Liza Miller and Sarah Pitt
Templar Publishing
Giraffe loves to dance but without a tune to follow, she makes it a leg-tangling disaster. Off she goes (seemingly armed or should that be legged?) with instruments in search of a band to keep her on beat. She encounters in turn one elephant – he receives a bell, two monkeys – they get cymbals, three zebras – drums for them


and four lions – they become banjo strummers. But then elephant downs tools or rather bell and the other animals quickly follow suit. Time for some quick thinking and a new plan… Before long there is a reconvened group starring an elephant trumpeter and five jiving giraffes.
Having said this isn’t an I-spy book, it could, with the assistance of an adult mediator, very easily become one. As well as the animals to count, there are all manner of minibeasts, brightly coloured flowers, musical instruments and other items in the landscape to spot and/or count.
With jolly, bright and often amusing, images from Sarah Pitt, paper engineered pop-ups by Jonathan Litton and Liza Miller’s rhyming text, this one should provide lots to engage preschoolers.
Buy from Amazon


Stephen Biesty’s Giant Vehicles
Stephen Biesty, Rod Green and Andy Mansfield
Templar Publishing
This sturdy book (it will need to be) is a veritable feast for the eyes, not to mention the mind. Biesty has chosen eight giant movers to be the subjects of this thoroughly engrossing info-graphic book. The featured whoppers are ‘The Super-Train’, The Giant Jumbo (Airbus A380), The Whopper Chopper (Russian Halo helicopter),


Saturn V, the rocket that powered the Apollo spacecraft, The Caterpillar 797F dumper truck, floating hotel the Oasis of the Seas, the Russian naval submarine Typhoon and the world’s biggest ship Maersk Triple-E.
Countless hours, weeks even, of child (or adult come to that) absorbed in book are assured with this one. In addition to the numerous written facts (provided by Rod Green) visible on the page, lift the flaps – over 40 in all – (Andy Mansfield engineered those) to reveal further informative annotations to Biesty’s mind bogglingly detailed, pen/ink and watercolor washed, illustrations.
I can see it being read to death – literally. Buy to give and buy to keep. It’s an infinitely better way to turn young minds on to science/technology than any endless testing regime.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Witches, whales, washing and wandering

Rich Witch Poor Witch
Peter Bently and Jim Field
Macmillan pbk.
Meet twin witches, poor Rose who provides her services free to the ordinary folks and rich Rita whose wealthy clients include royalty. Indeed it is the King himself who calls asking for help to cheer up the young Princess Anna Lucinda Cecelia Grace who just will not smile. However, no amount of wand wielding and magical trickery makes one iota of difference to the gloomy miss. Before long the whole palace is in utter chaos with drapes aflame and tables trashed but what of the princess? It’s left to butler Mort, to announce not only the arrival of Witch Rose but also the whereabouts of the missing Anna Lucinda. Both are outside playing chase and yes! the Princess has an enormous smile on her face. Magic or what? Definitely not explains Rose; all that the princess needed was someone to play with.
This rhyming tale fizzes and sparkles with energy and the appropriately gaudy illustrations abound with visual jokes.
Buy from Amazon


The Storm Whale
Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Noi lives a rather lonely life in a beach-side house with his fisherman father and their six cats. One morning after a stormy night, he goes down onto the seashore and as he walks he comes upon a small whale left high and dry by the storm. Noi manages to get the whale home and into the bath where he tells it stories about his island life. Concerned about his dad’s reaction to the newcomer, Noi keeps quiet all evening but finally his secret is discovered. Then he has to face the fact that his new friend belongs in the sea and together father and son return the whale to its rightful home.
A gentle tale of loving and caring enough to let go. I love the fact that Noi is shown playing records of Sounds of the Sea and Handel’s Water Music to the whale in the bath. Understated as it is, this warm-hearted book packs a powerful punch.
Buy from Amazon

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
Michelle Robinson & Kate Hindley
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Presented as an instruction manual, a small girl narrator provides a step-by-step guide to performing a very tricky and likely to be, protracted, operation – Woolly Mammoth washing or rather, bathing. Should your mammoth need this treatment, make sure you don your mackintosh and wellies and have to hand: a broom, spooky mask, skateboard, heavy-duty crane, cake, and of course, shampoo. Just make sure the latter doesn’t go in its eyes though. Oh, oh! … for STEP EIGHT: To get said ‘wet woolly mammoth down from a tree you’ll need … a very STRONG trampoline.’ To discover the remaining steps, you’ll just have to get hold of a copy of this delightful book. Beautifully understated, simply told in dead- pan style, the text leaves Kate Hindley plenty of scope to exercise her sense of the ridiculous in both her full-page scenes and smaller comic cut capers.
Buy from Amazon


Maxine Lee
Caterpillar Books pbk.
Meet the fearless Pi-Rat and his mates as they sail the high seas. Seemingly nothing daunts them be it crocodiles, sharks or the darkness but when the brave pirate captain sights a hairy paw through his telescope it seems the hearty crew are about to meet their doom.
The visual clue to the setting of this adventure is the name of Pi-Rat’s craft on the back cover and the first spread. This bath-time tale of the imagination is told almost entirely through speech bubbles and bold visuals that zoom right in on the action. There is plenty to laugh at in the larger than life illustrations inspired by the treasure trove of bath-time and everyday toys; I love the space- hopping and pogo-sticking crew members as they leap and bounce across the crocodile-infested waters. I envisage this one being asked for over and over again.
Buy from Amazon

Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox pbk.
When the boy narrator receives a letter announcing he’s won a prize, off he cycles to run a zoo for the day. And what a strange, chaotic place this turns out to be. Its inmates include the growling Grimblegraw, the dangling Dinglebee, the Morph, Quees, Furry Furbles and horror of horrors, the child gobbling Squirgal, to mention just some of the crazy creatures he encounters. But in our small, prize-winning hero, those recalcitrant rioters more than meet their match.
Crying out for audience participation, this story certainly went down well with several groups of under fives who loved the tongue tingling rhyming text and crazy mock scary monsters.
It’s a good one to stimulate young children’s artistic and verbal creativity: have huge sheets of paper, paints and large pens at the ready.
Buy from Amazon


Dog Loves Counting
Louise Yates
Red Fox pbk.
Louise Yates’ endearing bibliophile Dog returns for a third adventure. Now he’s looking for alternatives to sheep to count, so that he can get to sleep. And the vehicle for his search is of course, a book.; a Big Book of Curious Creatures wherein he discovers all manner of fascinating things to innumerate, beginning with one baby dodo that emerges from a large egg. The two of them continue through the book encountering in turn, a three-toed sloth, … a five-lined skink… to a ten-legged (pincers included) crab and so on to an infinitely grained sandy desert whereupon the the all-important number one is counting stars. And we leave the whole cast star gazing and still counting, until … it’s morning again, the start of another day filled with books, friends and, let’s hope, many more adventures.
This flight of fancy is another winner from the inspirational Lucy Yates. It’s wonderfully imagined, cleverly constructed and brilliantly portrayed through both words and pictures. Moreover, it is likely to make young listeners enjoy counting just as much as the chief protagonist who has already encouraged countless children to become like him, lovers of ‘Books’ and ‘Drawing’.
Buy from Amazon


The Acorn
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (BF&F) pbk.
This wonderfully simple book has lessons a-plenty between its covers – reading lessons and science lessons but more important than those, the whole thing is a real pleasure to share with the very young.
A little yellow acorn falls from a tree, a little acorn with a large purpose. But there is a problem – also large –all manner of hungry forest animals think that an acorn would make a tasty tidbit. Such are the acorn’s powers of persuasion ‘Oh, please don’t eat me now, … I’ll be even tastier later.’ that it manages to escape the jaws of white mouse, orange squirrel, blue bird, grey rabbit, brown boar and red deer. Then the acorn begins to grow, time passes and true to its words, it becomes a huge shelter-giving tree with acorns aplenty. And, in familiar folk-tale, patterned text style, the whole thing begins over again…
Each spread is cleverly linked to the previous one so that every turn of the page serves to move the visual narrative seamlessly forwards. Gibbs’ delightfully scribbly animal images on the forest floor are a treat in themselves, and, there is a further fold-out surprise at the end.
Perfectly predictable, endlessly re-readable.
Buy from Amazon