Best Day Ever / Invent-a-Pet

Here are a couple of recent titles from Sterling Children’s Books

Best Day Ever
Michael J. Armstrong and Églantine Ceulemans

It’s the last day of summer and William has just one goal on his list left: have the most fun ever, and he has a handy fun-o-meter invention to help in his assessment of attempts.

What he hasn’t bargained for though is the non-stop interruptions by his neighbour Anna, she of the incredible imagination. As he pursues his fun-finding in trampolining, art

and scooting, she subverts his every effort by her messy, noisy creative play that scores high on William’s fun-o-meter, in contrast to his own activities.

Eventually however, the boy realises that perhaps a bit of silly, messy, possibly even dangerous play might be the way to go;

and thus with William way out of his comfort zone, a fantastic day ensues and an unlikely friendship between two contrasting characters is forged. Not to mention that a satisfying green light from a certain fun-o-meter also results.

Debut picture book author, Armstrong’s story is a great reminder of the importance of having permeable constructs, and of accepting and celebrating difference.

In her mixed media art Églantine Ceulemans adroitly shows how Anna’s zany, exuberant world gradually impinges upon the matter-of-fact notions of William. There’s a wealth of amusing details, not least the silent, bit-part playing animals to which William seems completely oblivious.

Vicky Fang and Tidawan Thaipinnarong

Katie wants a pet, but not anything ordinary like a goldfish: her pet must be something extraordinary.

One day she finds a strange-looking machine in her living room, put there by her mum with a note saying ‘Hope this helps in your quest to find an extraordinary pet!


Her first input of a football, a blade of grass and a carrot result in a fluffy green creature– cute, but not what she wants.

Several tries later, she still hasn’t got her desired result, although the house is rather inundated with pets. Time to go back to the drawing board and work out how the machine works, decides Katie.

She selects three new items and starts again. After some time she discovers the correlation between size, colour and the third variable. Is this her eureka moment? Not quite.

With persistence, will Katie succeed in her problem solving task and create the pet of her dreams? Perhaps, but first she has to think of a way to deal with the large number of pets she’s already created …

What a fun way to introduce the process of science problem solving – great for a primary classroom STEM collection. Youngsters will love the pets in Tidawan Thaipinnarong’s comical illustrations and her endpapers are a treat too.

Pirate Pug

Pirate Pug
Laura James and Eglantine Ceulemans
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Their latest adventure sees Pug and Lady Miranda holidaying in Pebbly Bay.

They’re just preparing to indulge themselves in a hotel breakfast of some rather yummy jam tarts when in through the window flies a parrot. Showing a distinct lack of interest in the tasty fare on the tray, the bird takes off with a teaspoon.

Thus begins a seaside sojourn, which might be a bit of a challenge, for Pug is scared of water.

Things don’t go too well and before long, the dog is flat out in the vet’s operating theatre on account of an unlucky accident.
Lady Miranda’s comment on his being given an eye-patch to wear sparks one of her good ideas and soon Pug is also sporting a pirate’s hat.

Meanwhile in the town square crowds are gathering for a rehearsal of the Pebbly Bay Parade.
It’s in celebration so the mayor tells Lady Miranda and Pug, of the day the town was freed from pirate rule.

As she’s showing them her special gold chain of office, down swoops that pesky parrot Rio who seizes the chain and flies off with it.

Is Pug brave enough to sail the high seas and join the others on a boat trip across to Finders Keepers Island to rescue the treasured item?

Arch-enemy Finnian and his gang are already on the ocean in their own craft so it looks like trouble is in store.

With the usual brand of charm, humour, fun and frolics, Pug’s fourth book is ideal for new solo readers and a fun read aloud. Make sure you give your audience time to see Eglantine Ceulemans’ engaging illustrations if you share it.

Mae’s First Day of School / No Frogs in School

Mae’s First Day of School
Kate Berube
Abrams Books for Young Readers

I loved the author’s Hannah and Sugar book and this one is equally charming.

It’s Mae’s first day at school and she definitely does not want to go.
En route while her mum enthuses about all the fun things school has in store, Mae worries about all the possible bad things that might happen: the other children won’t like her, she’s she only one unable to write; she’ll miss her mum.

Once at school she hides in a large tree, refusing to come down; but then somebody else joins her; it’s Rosie another reluctant new pupil.

After a while, some of the other children go inside; not so the tree climbers. Suddenly up the tree comes a tall lady, Ms Pearl.

It’s also her first day and she too is worried. Suppose the children don’t like her, supposing she forgets vital spellings; suppose she misses her cat …

As well as her list of worries though, Ms Pearl has some reassuring words for Mae and Rosie. Perhaps rather than becoming tree dwellers they should venture down and go in together for their first day …

A reassuring, first day story that’s perfect for those just starting in a reception class. It’s full of charm and gentle humour; Kate Berube’s expressive illustrations portray those first day nerves wonderfully well.

No Frogs in School
A LaFaye and Eglantine Ceulemans

Pet loving Bartholomew insists on taking one of his animals to school every day. On Monday it’s Ferdinand frog but the creature causes havoc in the art lesson so teacher Mr Patanoose bans frogs.

On Tuesday Sigfried salamander needs company so off he goes with Bartholomew (after all he’s not one of the banned animals). However he too causes classroom chaos and is put on the banned list along with all other amphibians.

Wednesday sees a hamster in the classroom via the pocket on Bartholomew’s bag but the creature gets out and the consequence is a ‘no rodents in school’ rule.

A snake is Thursday’s school visitor and the outcome is a ban on reptiles.

Friday is show and tell day but ‘no pets’ is what Mr Patanoose firmly insists. Now surely it wouldn’t hurt to take Rivka rabbit along would it, thinks Bartholomew.
But can he get away with taking a soft furry mammal for the event? After all he’s something of a rule subverter …

Fun and also informative is this story of classroom chaos and a pet-loving boy who tries to keep one step ahead of his teacher. The energetic illustrations are zany and full of things to enjoy.