No Longer Alone

No Longer Alone
Joseph Coelho and Robyn Wilson-Owen
Egmont

My heart really went out to the so-called shy, quiet little girl narrator of this beautiful story.
Actually however, those who’ve called her either of these are wrong; it’s just that due to events that have gone before she just doesn’t feel like talking or being noisy.

Nor does she feel like running around in the park with her siblings;

instead she wants to be alone, even though her loving, understanding Dad encourages her to try and find the “old you, the get-up-and-go you. The loud –and-active you, the happy you, the you, you used to be,”

Dad’s comments open the floodgates  for an outpouring of feelings as his little daughter opens up about the things that worry her, upset her and make her feel alone.

As the two sit together something shifts inside our narrator and things begin to feel a bit different.

Then slowly, slowly she finds that she can be that chatty self with others as well as when she’s alone; and she can play with her sisters again, sharing feelings and imaginings, alone no more.

Joseph’s beautiful heartfelt, poetic telling is full of poignancy and Robyn Wilson-Owen captures the inherent turmoil and tenderness in the tale with her beautifully textured illustrations of a family whose loss is palpable.

Party for Dads / Molly’s Magic Wardrobe: The Mermaid Mission

Party for Dads
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Ada Grey
Egmont

For this follow-up to their School for Dads, the Guillians have created another joyful picture book and it’s just right for celebrating Father’s Day as well as a Dad’s birthday.

The particular dad in this rhyming tale has no time in the morning for birthdays, barely paying heed to his daughter’s “Come on – it’s time to play! … You should be having fun.”

Instead he dashes out leaving young Anna and the friends she summons to plan and bake for a special surprise evening celebration.

Later in the day, Dads of all kinds arrive and are instructed to cast aside their phones and don fancy gear ready for some fun party celebrations and games both inside …

and outdoors.

Enthusiasm for partying duly fired up, they then start bopping and before long their less than skilful moves are being scored in ‘Strictly’ style.

After that it’s time for Anna’s Dad to embrace the true party spirit, which he does by becoming a stand-in magic bunny when his daughter performs a spot of prestidigitation.

Over indulgence is inevitable after all the playful party-poppering papas tuck in to the feast on the table that culminates in the appearance of …

Then candles extinguished, it’s award presentation time: but will Anna’s dad be a prizewinner?

Fun and a certain amount of silliness prevail in this exuberant book, made all the more effervescent by Ada Grey’s funky illustrations

Molly’s Magic Wardrobe: The Mermaid Mission
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Garry Parsons
Egmont

The second story starring Molly and the enchanted wardrobe she discovered at her Granny’s house sees the little girl’s attention being drawn to a mermaid costume.

Having stepped inside and counted to three, she’s off whizzing down into the depths of the ocean for a new adventure.

Her frolics with mermaids are soon interrupted by snarling sharks claiming ownership of a wreck and swooshing the girl and her new friends down to where more friendly creatures – a turtle and octopus are taking tea.

The mermaids relate what’s just happened and suddenly Molly has an idea. She challenges the sharks to a race, the prize being the shipwreck.

The sharks are confident they’ll be victorious but will they?

Lessons are learned, apologies given and accepted; and after a game of hide-and-seek, it’s time for Molly to bid her new friends farewell.

The Guillains’ magical rhyming tale is complemented by Garry Parsons’ bright, expressive, eye-popping scenes of the sub-aquatic frolics.

 

Flat Stanley / The Flat Stanley Collection

Flat Stanley
Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph
Egmont

I was over the moon to learn that Flat Stanley was to appear in picture book form, especially with Rob Biddulph as illustrator. I could think of no better person for the task and Rob has most certainly pulled it off with aplomb.

Just in case you’ve never come across Stanley Lambchop and his family before, let me introduce them: there’s young Stanley, his younger brother Arthur and their parents Mr and Mrs Lambchop who can be a tad fussy when it comes to matters of politeness and talking properly.

So when a huge pin board hurtles from the wall totally flattening Stanley, they’re more concerned about Arthur’s manner of delivering the news about his brother than the contents of same. Indeed they defer a doctor’s visit until after breakfast.

Happily it’s good news: Dr Dan is reassuring and so the now half inch thick boy can start to take advantage of his lack of girth, though there are snags too.

Next day news of another art theft reaches the ears of Stanley and his dad as they’re out for a stroll.

Stanley has a bright idea that just might help apprehend the thieves and that night it’s put into action: will he pull it off?

Yes Stanley does save the day – or rather the object of the thieves’ desire.

But perhaps being a hero of the extra-skinny kind isn’t all fun and flattery …

I can’t remember how many years ago I first shared the original Flat Stanley book with a class of children but it was certainly a long time back and it’s remained a favourite with me, and many more classes since. Now with this smashing picture book version of the first story, a younger audience can savour the delights of the flat but inflatable, Stanley in the new Rob Biddulph incarnation.

Rob has also illustrated a bumper collection of Stanley Stories:

The Flat Stanley Collection
Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph
Egmont

This chunky volume contains six Stanley books – the first, together with Stanley and the Magic Lamp, Invisible Stanley, Stanley’s Christmas Adventure, Stanley in Space and Stanley, Flat Again!

Guaranteed hours of delicious Stanleyness with plenty of “Hay is for horses, not people” thrown in for extra enjoyment.

Stick & Fetch Investigate: The Wrong End of the Stick / The Naughtiest Unicorn

Stick & Fetch Investigate: The Wrong End of the Stick
Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Elissa Elwick
Walker Books

Top-notch undercover detective duo Sally Stick and her canine pal Fetch return in another set of gigglesome episodes.
In the first, Glass Half Full, we learn that the friends have had to shift their operation to a temporary HQ on account of their stay at artist Uncle Bob’s residence for the duration of Granny Stick’s hospital sojourn.

It’s not long before the detectives have a case: Uncle Bob has lost his glasses and there’s a tasty reward on offer for finding them. But there are glasses, and there are glasses. The particular ones in question have gold rims and although there are glasses aplenty in the house, none have gold rims – or do they.

This is a case of can’t see for looking; but can Sally and Fetch solve it ?

Hmmm! What’s that smell – could it be sausages? …

Bothersome beavers are at the heart of the next case, or so the detectives surmise when they come across a snapped-in-two lamppost on their way back from the library where they’d read about the tree chomping creatures. They find  clues in the form and aroma of baked beans; and see a sign indicating the location of a swimming pool. Sally puts two and one together and off they head to the pool.

Time to go undercover, but will they find a beaver on arrival and if so, can a damming crisis be averted?

Two further cases, equally zany are concerned first with, assisting the police when a spate of bag-snatching breaks out –

there’s a frog and a whiffy man involved here; and the second, a bit of bed-digging that might just happen to yield treasure, of a sort.

Delectably silly, enormously engaging and very importantly, celebrating the imagination, (or maybe just the wrong end of the stick), with its plenitude of comical illustrations by Eliissa Elwick, this smashing little book is perfect just flying solo reading.

The Naughtiest Unicorn
Pip Bird, illustrated by David O’Connell
Egmont

The particular Unicorn School in this story runs during the holidays and young Mira is overjoyed when she receives an invitation to join, especially as her sister is also a pupil and her mum had been too.

Having successfully entered the portal with another newcomer Raheem, Mira meets her teacher and classmates, then enters the hall to learn of the principles on which the school prides itself. She can hardly wait to be paired with her unicorn and at last it’s her turn.

However, the squat, pot-bellied creature, Dave, that is eventually coaxed through the door is somewhat lacking in sparkles, although he does have a twinkle in his eye.

Once in the classroom, Mira hears that there are only two days before they must go out on their first magical quest.

Can she possibly get ready when the recalcitrant creature objects even to being groomed? Do they actually have a totally magic bond?

Things don’t look promising especially as Dave’s penchants seem to be for doughnuts and falling asleep in lessons. Will Mira’s ambitions to go on that quest ever be fulfilled? Perhaps her friends Darcy and Raheem can help …

Just right for newly independent readers, this is a sparky tale that focuses as much on friendship as the glittery world of unicorns, showing that magic comes both from the former and the latter. Humour runs throughout Pip Bird’s telling and is brought out further in David O’Connell’s zany illustrations clearly drawn with a twinkle in his eye. Add to all that a quiz to help readers identify their unicorn type, and some jokes; and those who enjoy the book will be excited to learn that there’s a promise of more to come.

Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea / Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea
Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

Ben Clanton
Egmont

In Unicorn of the Sea. Ben Clanton introduces readers to Narwhal, a self-aggrandising creature.

In the first of three sub-aquatic adventures, while cruising in ‘new waters’ Narwhal encounters a jellyfish and despite doubting each other’s realness, the two interrogate one another, forge a friendship and eat waffles together.

The second tale sees the two involved in forming their very own ‘podtastic’ pod of awesomeness that includes other ocean buddies – shark, turtle, blowfish, octopus and of course – though he’s very nearly left out – Jelly, each of which receives a tusk tooth in honour of the occasion.

My favourite of the three stories is the book’s final one wherein Narwhal introduces Jelly to his ‘favourite book in the whole wide water and probably the rest of the universe too!’ It’s a book without any words or pictures and Clanton provides two blank pages for maximum effect here. Narwhal tells his pal that ‘it’s an imagination book … you’ve got to pretend.’ Brilliant! And so thinks Jelly too for having tried it out, he wants to borrow it right away.

With its splendid dialogue, this is irresistible, sub-aquatic bonkersness of the first order delivered in graphic novel style for young readers. There’s even a silly narwhal song so sing and clap along to.
This twosome is up there with Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, and Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggy.

In Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, Narwhal swathes himself in superhero-ness assuming a secret identity and appointing a sidekick (Jelly Jolt) but despite this, he seems to lack the necessary superpowers, so he thinks. Nonetheless fuelled by waffles – the friends’ ‘super weakness’ – he sets about helping a star(fish) to become a cosmic being. This involves cannon blasting and wishing (I won’t say which, if either, works).

There’s also a comic – no prizes for guessing it’s a waffle-themed one, created by none other than Narwhal and Jelly themselves.

And then in the final tale here, Narwhal finally does discover his very own superpower; it’s a super-important one too, discovered by an act of altruism towards crab.

Once again the whole thing – super sea creature facts and all – is super-brilliant and full of heart. I just love how it effortlessly demonstrates the importance of friendship, of encouragement and that all of us – if we look hard enough –possess a world-improving superpower. With laughs aplenty and the most adorable illustrations, this book is an unmissable gem, not only for young readers, but adults too.

Captain Sparklebeard

Captain Sparklebeard
Timothy Knapman and Sam Lloyd
Egmont

When first we meet young Peg she’s something of a Cinderella character residing with her nasty Step-Great-Grand Auntie who bosses the girl around constantly. So hard at work all day is she that her only spare time is at night. That’s when she reads pirate tales and dreams of escape and adventure. Good on you girl!

One day while out walking with her relation’s cat she discovers a pirate ship has arrived in the harbour. On board is Captain Hairy-Ears shouting about having a treasure map and announcing that anyone who ‘dreams of escape and adventure’ can join his crew.

Seemingly though there are exceptions for when Peg asks him politely she’s turned down on account of her nice manners, her smallness of stature and lack of a beard. Moreover, when the lass informs him that she’s read lots of pirate stories, this is met with derision.

Peg however is not giving up that easily. Back home that night she fashions herself a pirate outfit from curtains and a bushy – albeit rather itchy – beard from the floor brush. Then spying her Step Aunt’s jewels she’d been ordered to polish earlier, she has an idea.

The following morning there’s a brand new pirate boat on the ocean.

When challenged as to her identity, Peg informs Captain Hairy-Ears she’s Captain Sparklebeard, the greatest pirate ever and moreover, she will get to the treasure before he does.

Having cast aspersions about her boat Captain Hairy-Ears sails off leaving the lass to peruse her Big Book of Sea Perils. This volume proves worth its weight in gold for it warns her of the dangers lying in wait between her and the treasure island, hazards of which the other pirates know nothing.

Consequently when they finally arrive on the beach they’re jittering wrecks with nothing going for them save the treasure map.

But Peg still has the upper hand for she’s the only literate one among the treasure seekers.

Furthermore she has something else to reveal that will surprise her rivals.

I’d hate to be a story spoiler, especially of one as much fun as this so I won’t reveal what happens thereafter. That’s for you to discover when you lay your hands on this treasure of a book.

With Timothy Knapman’s wonderfully playful telling that’s full of alliteration and other word combinations that demonstrate to children that language is fun, the indomitable female character and Sam Lloyd’s rumbustious scenes of madness and mayhem on the high seas, this book is a winner.

Brilliant Ideas from Wonderful Women / Little Miss Inventor / Amazing Women Sticker Scenes

Brilliant Ideas from Wonderful Women
Aitziber Lopez and Luciano Lozano
Wide Eyed Editions

Let’s give three rousing cheers for the brilliantly inventive women behind the first car heater, the game Monopoly, disposable nappies, the dishwasher, the domestic surveillance system, Kevlar, maritime flares, non reflective glass, WIFI, one-hand operated syringes,

the submarine telescope, diagnostic tests in medicine, the life raft, windscreen wipers and the E-book.

All these ground- breaking inventions came about thanks to the work of the pioneering, creative spirit of the women featured in this book. Each one has made a significant contribution to science or technology in either the 19th or 20th century and they are each given a spread in this celebratory book.

For several of those included, the invention featured is not their only one. For instance Chicago-born Margaret A. Wilcox is credited with inventing the first washing machine in addition to the car heater discussed here; Hedy Lamarr, in addition to WIFI – surprisingly inspired by piano keys we’re told – invented Bluetooth and GPS. And, Marion O’Brien Donovan went on to invent a number of other things – dental floss, a soap dish that drained and a hanger that could hold up to 30 garments – being some of them.
It will come as no surprise to learn that these women inventors all had to overcome enormous odds to get their work patented and marketed, not least African-American Marie Van Brittan Brown the brains behind the 1966 domestic surveillance system; indeed she (and her husband) weren’t successful in marketing their system although many others made fortunes inspired by the original patent.

Maria Beasley inventor of the life raft did not have her invention taken seriously until the disastrous Titanic sinking. Maria’s life rafts were on the liner but not in sufficient numbers to save everyone.

All this fascinating information and more is included in scientist Aitziber Lopez’s inspiring book.

I love the way, illustrator Luciano Lozano has cleverly incorporated both the inspiration for, and use of each invention, into his amusing spreads.

This is a book I’d certainly want to have in my KS1/early KS2 classroom as well as recommending it for families who want to celebrate with the children, the achievements of women, and that should be every family.

Little Miss Inventor
Adam Hargreaves
Egmont

Adam Hargreaves (son of Roger) has created a new Little Miss and who wouldn’t love a book with a young female inventor?

Little Miss Inventor has a brain brimming over with good ideas; ideas that she transforms into inventions in her garden shed. Her self-imagined, self-built mobile house is chock-full of her awesome inventions and she loves to create useful things for her friends as well as herself.

One day however, her brain power is tested to the limit: she needs to make Mr Rude a birthday present; but what can one give to a person who hurls insults at everyone he meets. Can she think of something appropriate and if so what could it be?

Feminist power with a STEM theme and a laugh out loud finale for your little ones.

Amazing Women Sticker Scenes
illustrated by Isabel Muñoz
Red Shed

This book contains ten illustrated backdrops  by Isabel Muñoz that include basic key information about ten women who have made in their own fields, significant contributions to society through their achievements in aviation, girls’ rights to education, science, literature, sport, women’s rights and architecture.

In addition there are six pages of stickers to add to the relevant scenes. This could be a good way to introduce the numerous sticker-mad youngsters to these wonderful women.