Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes
Memory loss and dementia are ever increasing and although adults are well aware of this challenging topic, it’s not easy to open up a discussion with young children about why a much loved grandparent for instance, is unable to remember things. Sharing this beautiful book is a wonderful place to start: it never once mentions the word dementia during the story of Amelia and her Granny and their adventure together.
From the outset we’re told that Granny is forgetful, sometimes being unable to recall where she’s put the marmalade or where she keeps her socks but sometimes forgetting important things like special moments. Amelia is a daydreamer and explorer and this means that she too is apt to be a bit forgetful.
One day while exploring in the forest together they stumble upon a strange place called The Forgettery and decide to investigate.
They receive a warm welcome and Amelia explains that they’ve forgotten their way home. The kindly Memory Keeper invites them aboard a hot air balloon and off they go
eventually arriving at a door labelled with Granny’s name. Inside it’s enormous on account of all the memories it’s storing: ‘Moments of delight, lost and forgotten, fluttering in the room like butterflies.’ Sensory experiences including the smell of fresh bread, the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot and the giddy joy of cartwheeling. Granny chooses her very favourites from among them all
and then they move on to Amelia’s Forgettery. This is a small room and while Amelia is delighting in its contents, they receive a message reminding them it time to head home to dinner.
Back indoors Amelia decides to make an illustrated book of all the memories Granny had collected at her Forgettery and henceforward Amelia would take a photo of each fun thing they did together, to add to the book as a special reminder; a book they could always share.
Granny then adds a final item to their list of special things but it’s one neither of them will need to be reminded of …
Both new memories and all the lost, old ones are stored in The Forgettery so the book can equally be shared as an unusual fantasy adventure showing the special relationship between Granny and Amelia. This is highlighted both in Rachel Ip’s warm-hearted telling and Laura Hughes’ gently humorous, equally warm illustrations reflected in her choice of colour palette and the wonderful details in each of the scenes.
Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads
Laura Ellen Anderson
This has been such a terrific series with smashing characters and I’m sad to learn that it’s the last of the Amelia Fang books; so too will countless young fans of the stories.
In this adventure, (I was laughing out loud by page three) we get to meet Vincent, Amelia’s very stinky, very snotty and very bothersome baby brother. As the story opens Amelia is excitedly preparing to join the gang of friends at Grimaldi’s birthnight celebrations. But then she learns that her mother Countess Frivoleeta (along with others in the household) has been struck down by Frankenflu and if Amelia is to go to the birthnight party then so too must her revolting little brother. A frustrating dilemma, but that much wanted time for herself is about to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Fortunately, Squashy, Grimaldi and Florence are on hand to help with the babysitting but it’s not long before Vincent has done a vanishing act, rolling himself into a mysterious, somewhat threatening land; the place to which all squished toads go. Unless he’s to be toadally and irrevocably lost, Amelia and friends must go after him.
Fortunately they have recourse to that pop-up wardrobe of Grimaldi’s so they’re able to don toad disguises and head to somewhere completely off limits unless you ARE a toad.
Moreover, toads don’t fart …
There’s SO much to relish in this tale: that the friends follow a snot trail; how Amelia truly loves her baby brother despite everything; the way the friends pull together as a supportive team no matter what, sharing their feelings at just the right time; Florence prancing and pirouetting across that cave floor; the terrific character that is Furgus; how much Amelia and other characters learn about themselves and each other during the course of the story, not forgetting, Tagine’s shoe revelation.
And the ending is just perfect – except that it IS the end. Except for Amelia’s favourite memories gallery which is a fangtastic finale.
A complete triumph both visually and verbally for Laura. I can’t wait to see what she’s got coming next.
Thomas and the Royal Engine
This is a TV tie-in book with a cover picture ‘in the Awdry tradition’ and features illustrations (stills) from the Channel 5 Milkshake special episode commemorating Thomas’s 75th birthday. It was broadcast on May 2nd and introduced by Prince Harry who loved the Reverend Awdry’s Thomas and Friends stories as a child.
Thomas the Tank Engine and Sir Topham Hatt aka the Fat Controller are to make a very special journey to London where the Fat Controller is to be presented with an award by the Queen. Thomas has been scrubbed till he gleams and Peep! Peep! off he goes quickly realising he’s taken a wrong line.
Back on track but with a few scratches on his shiny paintwork, on they chuff and soon a large tender engine named Duchess steams up behind, in a tearing hurry. So much so that both Thomas and the Fat Controller are splattered all over with very muddy water.
But there are yet more difficulties to be overcome en route and Thomas ends up having to do some very difficult pushing and heaving before he final reaches London’s Victoria Station.
Have he and the Fat Controller made it on time? And who is the very important passenger stepping out of Duchess’ carriages?
For the countless adults who have grown up with the Reverend Awdry train stories this book will be a nostalgic journey and I suspect they will love sharing it with little ones as much as young listeners will enjoy hearing this new celebratory adventure.
The Sky Guys
Madeleine Rogers and Jason Hook
Cleverly conceived and beautifully designed and presented – a simple rhyming text by Jason Hook and strikingly bold illustrations by Madeleine Rogers – combine to make a book that will attract young readers but more than that, one that will keep those readers engaged throughout. It presents basic information about five bird species – the majestic albatross, the elegant flamingo, the wise owl, the guzzling pelican …
and the tiny hummingbird, each of which is given two double spreads to display itself in all its glory.
Did you know that an owl’s head can turn to face backwards – impressive, or that the hummingbird uses its long beak like a drinking straw to sip nectar from flowers?
And if that’s not enough to bring these wonderful creatures to life, inside the back cover is an envelope containing press out templates of the five birds that are easy to make with a bit of folding and sticking (the youngest fingers might need a little adult support). Then once constructed, these can be used, along with the basic scenery, similarly made, to act out the narrative using the inside back cover as a fold-out backdrop.
What a cool idea for a book that is bound to result in maximum young child-involvement.
Treats for a T. Rex
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Lee Wildish
George embarks on his sixth adventure with his doggie pal, Trixie and he’s hoping to discover a real live T. rex. Off the two fly on a hang-gliding contraption, soaring above cities and far out over oceans to their destination, a volcanic island.
Thereon Trixie spots what she thinks is a ball but turns out to be a huge dinosaur egg. It’s not the T.rex though, but a baby pterodactyl. This is only the first of their alarming dinosaur encounters; but after some tricky teaching by Trixie, the two friends finally find themselves face to face with the object of their search …
Can they pull off one more trick or will George and Trixie become the next meal for that hungry T.rex towering above them?
George already has many young fans who follow his adventures eagerly; this latest will please them and likely win him more. There’s plenty going on in Lee Wildish’s bold, bright illustrations to entertain; and the Guillains’ rhyming text is a fun listen to.
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The dinosaur brigade return for their fifth adventure and they’ve become swashbuckling buccaneers on a secret journey to a distant island to unearth, with the help of their secret map, the buried treasure.
And after a day’s hard work they find the chest and load it onto their ship but then along comes another ship: it’s the dastardly robbing raptors intent on seizing the treasure for themselves. A fearsome battle ensues with clashing, pushing – that’s the dinosaurs; and snapping – that’s the raptors, until eventually one of the ships starts to sink – that’s the raptors’; and they’re forced to abandon ship and leap for their lives.
Do they survive? Who knows; but suffice it to say that the victors are thrilled to find their chest is full of shiny gold. Yo, ho, ho! A chest full of gold.
Fans of the ten versatile Dinosaurs will delight in their latest undertaking and the story should win them some new followers too. It provides plenty of opportunities for noisy joining in with the text and offers a super small world play starting point for early years children.
Pete’s Magic Pants: The Lost Dinosaur
Paddy Kempshall and Chris Chatterton
When Pete discovers a suitcase stored in an old wardrobe one day, he’s amazed to find it’s full of all sorts of magic pants and each pair possesses the power to transport him off on exciting adventures – once he’s put them on that is.
The boy’s donning of a particularly hairy pair of pants results in him being pantsported into a forest where he comes upon first a chicken carrying a large club and a skateboard, and second, an egg out of which hatches a baby dinosaur.
It’s looks like a case of mistaken identity when this babe licks Pete on the nose and asks, “Dada?” Fortunately though, the small chicken declares himself a “good dinosaur finder” and the three set of in search of the real Dino Dada. It’s a search that results in some rather terrifying encounters …
until eventually after a seemingly exhaustive hunt, they stop to rest beside a ‘tree’ …
My only quibble with this action-packed, seek and find tale is that young children might conclude that ‘caveman’ pants taking the protagonist into a forest wherein he discovers a dinosaur egg, means that dinosaurs and cavemen co-existed.
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