Tag Archives: Egmont

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.

The Light in the Night / The World Book Day Monster

The Light in the Night
Marie Voight
Simon & Schuster

Young Betty absolutely loves the night time for it brings with it the most amazing stories, one of which features Cosmo.
Cosmo is a bear that is terrified of the dark and just when Betty is wishing that she could tell him that he has no need to fear it, POP! There he is.
Together they set off, hand in hand, on a journey of discovery. Led by a firefly they walk into the woods where they find a cave
Betty reassures her friend and they follow the firefly inside towards an inky lake whereon a rowing boat awaits to take them further.
The cave grows ever darker as they go deeper within until they come upon a sign.

Overcoming her own initial fear, Betty does as the sign says. An amazing sight meets their eyes and it’s anything but scary.
Once back outside, it’s Betty’s turn to feel anxious; she makes a confession …

With roles reversed, Cosmo now does the reassuring until the two reach Betty’s house safely once more.
Back indoors over hot chocolate (what else) the two talk of their journey until it’s time for Cosmo to leave.

Betty gives him her lantern and a special message.

In the morning she wonders if it had all been a dream: what do you think? You’ll need a copy of this magical book to find out.

Rising star, Marie Voight’s illustrations are adorable and her two characters totally endearing making this a thoroughly reassuring, warm-hearted bedtime story for you and your little ones as well as a lovely one to share in an early years setting.

The World Book Day Monster
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Ada Grey
Egmont

World Book Day is fast approaching, her school is celebrating but Anna has a dilemma. What should she dress up as?

Dad’s suggestion that they pay a visit to the bookshop proves fruitful and thanks to a helpful suggestion from the bookseller, Anna goes home fired with enthusiasm, carrying a book.

After multiple reads she enlists parental help to make her costume and next day she excitedly rushes off to school to show her friends.

Their response however isn’t particularly positive; they all ask, Anna, what are you?” over and over throughout the day.

Happily her head teacher’s reaction is very different; it was a favourite of hers when she was a child and she’s eager to share the book Anna is clutching with the class.

A magical story time ensues that is much appreciated by all her classmates, which leaves Anna thoroughly satisfied, and so she should be as she demonstrates the power of story to thrill and enchant.

Adam and Charlotte’s rhyming text coupled with Ada’s spirited scenes make for a fun book to share around World Book Day or at any time one wants to attest to the power of a story and the importance of the imagination.

Hugs and Kisses / Love from Pooh

Hugs and Kisses
Sam Hay and Emma Dodd
Egmont

The opening line of the Joni Mitchell’s classic song Both Sides Now popped into my head as I saw the cover of this book bearing the words ‘There are two sides to every story …’

Start from the front and there’s Big Blue Whale feeling, well blue on account of the fact that he’s the only creature in the ocean without someone to hug.
Several kind-hearted sea animals do their best to give him that longed-for hug but the whale’s size is an issue, as is his ticklishness

until he encounters an old shipwreck wherein lies a woeful Wiggly Octopus. Could she perhaps be the one …

Flip the book and we meet Wiggly Octopus in desperate need of a kiss better on account of a bumped head sustained while playing bubble ball. Her long, sucker-covered tentacles are a distinct disincentive to her fishy friends and the starfish she passes and one odd-looking creature merely swooshes right down into the depths away from her.

It looks as though it’s time to hide away in the old shipwreck and feel miserable, all alone and unkissed …

We all love a happy ending but this cleverly constructed book provides, depending on how you look at it, not that, but a happy middle; or alternatively, two happy endings that just happen to take place in the middle.

However, no matter which way you go, there’s a smashing pop-up encounter in the middle of Sam and Emma’s enchanting twist in its tail book.

Just right for Valentine’s Day or any time when someone needs a hug and a kiss.

Love from Pooh
A.A.Milne and E.H. Shepard
Egmont

Read one per day and you have an entire month’s worth of original quotations on the theme of love, from the one and only Pooh Bear. Unsurprisingly being as it’s his greatest love, honey features in a good few. Here’s one entitled ‘Frustrated Love’ to set those taste buds a-tingle: ‘He could see the honey / he could smell the honey, / but he couldn’t quite / reach the honey.

If you want to put a smile of delight on a special someone’s face this Valentine’s Day then this assemblage of delicious A.A. Milne snippets together with some illustrative gems from Ernest Shepard is just the thing (perhaps along with a pot of Pooh’s favourite sticky stuff).

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat / Santa’s High-Tech Christmas / Christmas Gremlins / A Very Corgi Christmas

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat
Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles
Nosy Crow

Such is his fondness for taking a snooze that Santa’s fluffy feline Sammy will drop off pretty much anywhere and dream of accompanying his owner on the Christmas Eve delivery run.

What he doesn’t imagine though when he dashes off to Santa’s workshop, is the manner in which that dream finally comes true. The somnolent cat gets parcelled up and dropped in among the other packages on the back of the sleigh and then it’s a case of “Ho! Ho! Ho! “ and off they go.

However, Sammy isn’t the only extra rider on Santa’s sleigh that night. Two wicked robbers, Mischievous May and Bad Billy are ready and waiting to seize their big chance and help themselves to some of the parcels.

Can Sammy save the day? And what is the special present Santa leaves for his pet moggy under the Christmas tree?

Festive fun aided and abetted by a snoozy feline delivered in Lucy Rowland’s bouncing rhyme with the addition of a good sprinkling of elves and excitement in Paula Bowles’ pattern-rich illustrations.

Santa’s High-Tech Christmas
Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing

Santa has eschewed the old fashioned methods when it comes to transport and keeping account of Christmas parcels; instead he uses a motorised sleigh and stores all his lists on his smart new techno-pad. But disaster strikes as he’s whizzing over the rooftops by means of his rocket-pack; Santa’s techno-device plummets to the ground and he’s faced with a blank screen.

Enter Jasmin, a techno-savvy little girl who is more that happy to give sad old Santa a helping hand by showing him how to access all the information he needs.

Not only that but she comes to his aid in another way too: after all Christmas really is all about giving.

Mike Dumbleton’s jaunty rhyming narrative is given added zaniness by Angela Perrini’s illustrations.

Christmas Gremlins
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Chris Chatterton
Egmont

Oh my goodness, those gremlins are at large again in another of the Guillains’ rhyming romps and now they’re on the rampage creating havoc in the run up to Christmas. It seems they’re determined to get in on the act no matter whether it’s decorating the tree, baking mince pies and Christmas cake (or should that be gobbling same?), wrapping up all the presents (and everything else in sight), singing – more like screeching – carols at the door or popping out of Christmas cards. But that’s only indoors. Further prankish doings are likely outside too: nothing is safe from their mischief so let’s hope they’re well out of the way before Santa arrives.

With more than 50 flaps to lift, this madness and mayhem will keep little ones entertained as they play hunt the mischief makers on every one of Chris Chatterton’s jolly spreads.

A Very Corgi Christmas
Sam Hay and Loretta Schauer
Simon & Schuster

The royal corgis are among those not feeling the Christmas spirit, far from it, all except for young Bella that is. Dazzled by the lights and excited by the hustle and bustle outside she decides to go and join in the fun. Hitching a ride in the back of a mail van, she gets out at Piccadilly Circus where everything suddenly feels overwhelming – too bright, too hectic and FAR TOO LOUD!

As luck would have it along comes London savvy pup Pip offering to show her the sights. A great time is had by both but suddenly as they approach the palace, Pip goes missing. Will Posy ever see her newfound friend again? Perhaps with the assistance of a very special royal couple …

Delivered with an abundance of Christmas spirit, Sam and Loretta’s London tale is a charmer.

Grandpa Christmas

Grandpa Christmas
Michael Morpurgo and Jim Field
Egmont

When one of my very favourite authors and favourite illustrators come together in a seasonal collaboration, the result is, so I anticipated, something special. And this is truly something very special; it’s not just a Christmas book, but one for all times.

Herein, narrator mum Mia tells how every Christmas she shares with her family a letter from her Grandpa, (sent one year instead of a Christmas card or present) kept safe in her diary. The reading of this letter, inspired by visits to his home from a much younger Mia that brought him joy, has become part and parcel of their family day.

Grandpa’s letter tells of his deep concerns about our fragile planet and its wildlife. He talks of the rapid rate at which its precious resources are being depleted and makes a prayerful plea for a new world and time where ‘we grow and eat only what we need … and learn to share all we have, so that no-one anywhere goes hungry again’; a world without pollution

and global warming,

where wild animals live free, and war and waste are no more.

Morpurgo’s poignant words are a powerful antidote to the gross consumerism and waste that the Christmas season has become, and a stark reminder of the original message of goodwill and giving.

Jim Field’s illustrations echo the deep sadness inherent in the text but at the same time bring out both the hopefulness in Grandpa’s heartfelt litany

and the loving bond between Mia and her grandfather.

This treasure of a book is, I think, my favourite Christmas publication of the year.

The Boy on the Bench

The Boy on the Bench
Corrinne Averiss and Gabriel Alborozo
Egmont

Observe young children in a playground, be that at school or in a park: there are many who love to be at the centre of the action and others who lack the confidence and linger on the sidelines watching and wondering how they might join in. That author Corrinne Averiss has done so is evident in her story of Tom, who is one of the watchers.

As the story opens he sits with his dad on a bench in the busy playground.

When Dad suggests that with dinnertime approaching he should take the opportunity to use the equipment, “In a minute …” is Tom’s response as he looks for somewhere he might find a space he can fit into.

One of the children starts playing at being a fireman, soaking the others as they come down the slide.

Tom is amused and clearly would like to join in the fun but still lacks the courage to do so.

It’s only when a little girl’s teddy is stranded atop the climbing frame as a result of the rescue game suddenly switching focus

that Tom leaves the bench and little by little, starts climbing until …

At last Tom has found a friend and that makes all the difference.

So much so that when his dad tells him it’s time to go home, he’s so comfortable in the Tom-shaped space he’s finally found, that his “In a minute!’ reply signifies something totally different.

Gabriel Alborozo too must have been an avid playground watcher judging from his beautifully observed scenes detailing Tom’s transition from nervous watcher to confident participant in the playground activities.

A Scattering of Magic: The Magic Misfits: The Second Story / The Littlest Witch / Lavinia and the Magic Ring

The Magic Misfits: The Second Story
Neil Patrick Harris with Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hilton
Egmont

I hadn’t read the first The Magic Misfits book so in case you’re in the same situation, it tells how young street musician Carter having been taken in after the disappearance of his parents, by his Sly ‘uncle’ Mike, escapes and ends up becoming friends with other variously talented children who together form The Magic Misfits.

This second story continues right on from the first only the focus now turns to Leila Vernon who lives with her two fathers above Vernon’s Magic Shop.

One day out of the blue, a stranger from Dante’s past appears in the shop. The woman, Sandra Santos, aka Madame Esmerelda, was so she says, a friend of Carter’s father.
What though is she doing in Mineral Wells? Whatever it is, it might be that she knows why Leila was placed in an orphanage and by whom. Could it be that Sandra holds the key to these questions?

Scattered throughout this intriguing pacey tale are riddles and puzzles as well as some magic tricks to try and a liberal sprinkling of black and white illustrations by Lissy Marlin.

Carter, Leila and her friends are well worth getting to know, especially for readers who like their stories sprinkled with magic.

The Littlest Witch
Bianca Pitzorno, illustrated by Mark Beech
Catnip

The author of this crazy book is considered to be one of Italy’s best childrens’ writers. It’s a tale of a young man, Alfonso Terribile and what happens when his Great Uncle Sempronio dies.

Alfonso is left a fortune but there is a condition: he has to marry a witch and do so within a year and a month or else his fortune will go elsewhere.

There’s a zany cast of characters including the Zep’s seventh daughter, the infant Sibylla who seems to be behaving in a rather strange fashion. Could she perhaps be the one? Maybe, but there are a lot of other possible contenders too, not least being the spirited Wanda …
Greed quickly consumes Alfonso but will he manage to fulfil his uncle’s criteria? That would be telling; let’s just say that he receives his just deserts.

Mark Beech’s line drawings scattered throughout the book add to the delightful quirkiness.

Lavinia and the Magic Ring
Bianca Pitzorno, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Catnip

Imagine what might happen if you were a little girl and received a ring with a very special power. That is what happens one chilly Christmas Eve, to seven-year-old Lavinia, a modern-day match girl residing in Milan.

Lying in the cold just before midnight dreaming of good things to eat, she’s suddenly awoken by a beautiful lady dressed unsuitably for the cold, asking for a light and professing to be a fairy. Lavinia is nonplussed but agrees and by way of thanks, the witch slips a ring onto her finger, a magic ring that turns things into poo – yes poo!

The girl’s reaction is to try and pull the thing off right away, but the ring is stuck fast.

Now it’s up to Lavinia to use her weird powers judiciously.

There are a lot of decidedly stinky situations in this story so definitely don’t give it to a squeamish child; the rest however will doubtless revel in the ponginess of Lavinia’s mess-making escapades hilariously illustrated by none other than the inimitable Quentin Blake.

Sweep

Sweep
Louise Greig and Júlia Sardà
Egmont

We all find ourselves in a grumpy mood from time to time but for Ed it’s massive.
Ed is in a BAD mood. It had begun as a very small trip induced one but rapidly escalates until it’s blown up into a huge raging storm engulfing everything in its wake.

All the while Ed keeps his head right down, eyes to the ground where so his mood seems to say, are interesting things.

If only he’d chosen to lift his gaze he’d have felt uplifted by the sight of beautiful things, but no. Determined to proceed in this manner, on he goes, Ed and his bad mood.

Finally it’s become so bad, the whole town is in its thrall: no birdsong, no flowers, just a huge blackness.

Now Ed is conflicted: his bad mood still wants him continue in this way but Ed begins to wish the whole thing had whirled and swirled its way into oblivion.

How much longer can he keep this up, especially as fatigue and hunger pangs begin to manifest themselves.
But has he gone just too far? Can he give up this overwhelming bad mood?
Something must change surely?

And sure enough something does. Up springs a new wind, small at first but growing and growing until the world looks different: much brighter, making Ed feel a little foolish. Was it all for naught?

Not quite, for he suddenly spies something before him on the ground,

something that might possibly be a spirit lifter … a bad mood extinguisher that enables him to see the beauty surrounding him. Not only that, he knows he has two ways to look at life; it’s up (or down) to him …

Author Louise Greig delivers another powerful story, rather more punchy than Between Tick and Tock and The Night Box. This one, with Júlia Sardà’s dramatic, sombre hued illustrations feels altogether different, but equally absorbing and finally, uplifting.

Molly’s Magic Wardrobe: Search for the Fairy Star / Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert

Molly’s Magic Wardrobe: Search for the Fairy Star
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Garry Parsons
Egmont

I have to admit that with its pink sparkly cover I was tempted to put this book aside but decided that it was unfair not to bother reading it and I’m glad I did. The Guillain’s rhyming text reads aloud very well –that was no surprise though – telling of an adventure its young protagonist Molly has when she dons a fairy costume found in her granny’s wardrobe and then, in Lion, Witch and Wardrobe style, proceeds to step inside and through to a magical place – fairyland no less.

There she meets a distressed fairy, Flo, who has lost the star from her magic wand.

Molly offers to help and together they begin to search. Their quest takes them inside a castle, through an enchanted wood and into a garden and there are encounters with a giant, a wolf and a witch. These characters are anything but the normal fairytale stereotypes proving friendly (giant),

helpful (wolf) …

and far from wicked (witch) but none has seen the missing star.

The witch does have a wishing well in her garden though.

With the Guillains’ accomplished storytelling, Gary Parsons’ bold, bright scenes of the magical happenings and the added fun of wings and a wand inside the covers of the book for individual magic make-believe, the book’s creators look set to have the start of a winning new series here.

Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert
Morag Hood and Ella Okstad
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

The narrator of this book clearly has a thing for unicorns and a wonderfully off-beat imagination. She introduces us to her charges, all seventeen of them and goes on to explain what hard work they are even to a unicorn expert such as herself.

The creatures need lessons in magic,

in hunting for food and in safety – especially where balloons are concerned.

Even when they shed their horns,

make mess all over the house …

or need protection, no matter what, young Sophie is always up to the job.

Ella Okstad’s quirky illustrative style is perfect for Morag Styles’ first person narrative. Her pictures show much more is going on than Sophie Johnson is aware of and that’s what delights listeners who relish being in the know– mine did at any rate.

Star in the Jar

Star in the Jar
Sam Hay and Sarah Massini
Egmont

Abortive attempts to discover the owner of the extra special treasure found by the narrator’s younger brother result in ‘finders keepers’. The little boy takes his new -found star with him everywhere.

But although the boy is happy, the star, despite its shininess, definitely is not.

That night there appears a message in the sky.

Try as they might though, brother and sister are unable to relocate the star in its rightful place far above them: but then big sis. has a bright idea – a very bright idea and a message is sent to the little star’s astral friends way, way up in the dark.

The lost star is rescued; the boy is sad but then comes a realisation that although he’s lost one treasure, it has been replaced by something even more special …

Full of warmth, this is a lovely story of siblings, friendship and doing what’s right that is perfect for sharing just before sleep but too enjoyable to be restricted to bedtime reading only.

With a plethora of enchanting detail, (including what looks rather like a small velveteen rabbit) Sarah Massini highlights the tenderness of the sister/brother relationship and the problem solving, of Sam Hay’s tale.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Snoring Giant, A Favourite Witch & Knights Galore

The Giant Who Snored
Mike Nicholson and Amy Lewis
Little Door Books
In the hills close by a town lives a gentle giant. He’s a great favourite of the townsfolk especially the children who look forward to his daily visit and the fun it offers …

Everything is tickety boo until the day the giant, suddenly overcome by tiredness, falls asleep during his visit. The loud snores he emits rock the whole town causing absolute chaos on land and sea and driving the residents absolutely crazy.
The hullabaloo must be stopped, announces the mayor offering a reward to anyone who can wake the slumberer. However, despite the best efforts of the blacksmith, the tailor and the chemist, the giant remains sound asleep. Is there anybody who can rouse the snorer? And if so, how?
Here’s a clue as to the who …

As for the how, suffice it to say, it’s pretty disgusting and likely to cause young listeners to emit delighted ‘eeuugh!’s in response; and everything ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
Apart from the very occasional slight creak, Mike Nicholson’s rhyming text slips nicely off the tongue -read it through to get the phrasing right before sharing it though. In combination with Amy Lewis’ digital scenes of the stentorian snores of the giant and their effects, you have the makings of a lively, enjoyable story time session.

Winnie and Wilbur The Naughty Knight
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
In their latest magical escapade Winnie transports Wilbur and herself back in time into a medieval castle where, for a change, her faithful moggie takes the starring role in the grand tournament, with Winnie as a lady-in-waiting.
Can the gallant knight, Sir Wilbur outshoot the famous Sir Roderick in the archery contest? And what happens when the two come face to face in the jousting?

Let’s just say that Winnie has her magic wand neatly stowed away about her person and thanks to a few deft flourishes of her arm, Sir Wilbur cuts Sir Roderick down to size in spectacular fashion, just in time to attend the magnificent banquet in the Great Hall. No need for magic there surely? …
Even after 30 years, Winnie and Wilbur’s magical charm never seems to wear off and it’s especially good to see Wilbur as the star of the show; love those split page layouts especially.
This one brims over with zany humour and is full of potential for primary classroom themes.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: The Dinosaur’s Return
Kristina Stephenson
Egmont
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is back to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first adventure in what I think is story number nine.
When Charlie’s pet cat Envelope unknowingly hatches a dinosaur’s egg, the young knight together with his faithful friends, set out on a quest to return the ‘little something’ to Thunder Mountain.
A quest that sees them sucked into a swirling watery tunnel, diving into the vent of a volcano and more, before landing up on an island and in so doing, precipitating a dinosaur stampede.

All ends happily however with grateful dinosaurs and a spectacular display of fireworks.
Fast moving, fun, full of action and with dino.-sized flaps to explore, Sir Charlie and friends continue to delight.

Muffins for Mummies

Muffins for Mummies
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Lee Wildish
Egmont
All the cakes have mysteriously disappeared from the museum café but never fear: George is on the case with Trixie, his dog; and the lad has stuffed his bag full of yummy-looking chocolate muffins.
Once at the museum, there’s a trail of cake-crumbs for the would-be thief catchers to follow through the shadowy interior and before long they find themselves face to face with a possible suspect, a very angry-looking one at that.
Fortunately for the detectives, said suspect gets stuck and can only watch as they make a hasty escape on a fortuitously placed exhibit …

Suspect number one – ruled out on account of his girth.
Could it instead be the fearsome, net-wielding Roman? He’s definitely not happy about being accused of cake thieving. The cake crumb trail however, leads past him on into the gloom from which lurches suspect number three.

He too is furious at the young detective’s accusation and the latter is forced to make a hasty exit right into the Ancient Egyptian room wherein there stands wide open, a large sarcophagus. A sarcophagus containing …

Oh dear me! It looks as though George is going to be the next one accused of being a cake thief …
Who could that stash have been collected by? THAT is the question …
The answer lies in the title of the Guillains’ fast-moving, action-packed rhyming tale of detective derring-do; the reason for so doing is one you can only discover by getting hold of a copy of same for yourself. George’s amazing museum adventures are deliciously and dramatically depicted in Lee Wildish’s gigglesome visuals.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Dressing-Up Dad / Little Monster’s Day Out with Dad

The Dressing-Up Dad
Maudie Smith and Paul Howard
Oxford University Press
I’m sure most children are embarrassed by their parents from time to time: I suspect the boy in this funny story with its being yourself no matter what theme, feels increasingly that way as he gets older.
Danny’s Dad, like his son just loves to dress-up: I don’t mean in his favourite gear say, his best jeans and T-shirt. Oh no! Danny’s Dad really gets into the swing of the young lad’s fantasy play, donning whatever costume he deems appropriate for the situation in hand. He might become a space rocket, a fearsome dragon;

a wizard at the library, or a snow bear; and at Danny’s themed birthday parties, you can guess who was the most dreadful dinosaur or the dastardliest of pirates …

As Danny’s next birthday approaches, Dad contemplates his attire: should he perhaps be a ladybird, a dragonfly; there are plenty of bugs to choose from. Danny however, has other ideas for his Dad this year. And yes, he does look pretty cool as an ‘ordinary everyday’ dad but can he resist the invitation of Danny’s pals who have decided they want to be chased by a giant caterpillar. I wonder …

There’s a dilemma at the heart of this story and it’s evident in the body language and facial expressions of Danny’s Dad at the party. He’s doing his level best to enjoy being the perfect ordinary father when inside he’s torn: what he really wants is to don a costume and be a bug too; but how can he please himself and at the same time please his son? Paul Howard portrays all this and much more so adeptly in his enchanting illustrations. The presence of Danny’s lively dog wanting in on all the action and managing to creep in to almost every scene adds to the visual enjoyment of Maudie Smith’s captivating story.

Little Monster’s Day Out with Dad
Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt
Egmont
Little Monster is excited at the prospect of a day trip to the fair with his dad, despite the fact that they’re going by car rather than train: that at least is the intention. No sooner on the road though than they’re held up in a traffic jam; when the car breaks down en route, after which the rescue truck gets a flat tyre, one begins to wonder whether they’ll ever reach their destination at all. Thank goodness then, for the bus: and there’s room for all aboard.

Finally they arrive at the fair ground and it seems as though Little Monster might be going to get his longed-for train ride after all …

With its funny, suitably garish Sharratt scenes with their plethora of flaps to lift, large print and sturdy pages, this will please most little monsters about the age of the chief protagonist herein.

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Three Pirate Tales

There appears to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present: these three arrived in a single postal delivery:

The Treasure of Pirate Frank
Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham and Jez Tuya
Nosy Crow
Taking the rhythmic pattern of the nursery rhyme The House that Jack Built, the authors have woven a lovely lilting tale of a young boy set on discovering the hiding place of Pirate Frank’s treasure.
He has a map so show him the way, a trusty ship in which to sail,
To the island with spices and gold and tall mountains all snowy and cold,
On which is a forest with monkeys bold, and a swamp with lilypads topped with frogs.

He must beware of the volcano, spitting out fire,
As he ascends the steps going higher and higher;
then crosses the bridge to the tall palm tree; there to behold – my goodness me!
Who’s this standing atop that chest?

It seems there’s only one thing to do. What would that be if the boy was you?
Jez Tuya’s imaginative perspectives and creature crammed spreads are worth revisiting once the treasure has been found and the tale completed.

Pirates in the Supermarket
Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton
Scholastic Children’s Books
First there were Dinosaurs in the Supermarket; now the place is beset with pirates hell-bent on creating mischief and mayhem among the groceries as unsuspecting shoppers go about the task of filling their trolleys with goodies. They leave plenty of clues but nobody save one small boy is aware of the piles of rubble appearing in the aisles,

the cannon-wielding gang on the rampage, or the piratical accoutrements appearing around the store. Fortunately for all concerned just when it seems things might be getting somewhat out of hand, the aforementioned boy springs into action and before you can say, ‘shiver me timbers’ he has things under control – well and truly so methinks …

Which all goes to show that you need to keep your eyes wide open whenever you embark on a supermarket shop; you never know who might be lurking …
Fun, fast and full of crazy characters, oh and the odd observant one too.; and they’re all colourfully portrayed in Sarah Warburton’s comedic supermarket scenes. What more can a swashbuckling child ask?

Pete’s Magic Pants: Pirate Peril
Paddy Kempshall and Chris Chatterton
Egmont
Another pair of Pete’s snazzy magic pants come out of the suitcase for a wearing – pirate’s stripy ones in this instance – and before you can say ‘Avast’, with a wiggle and a wobble, the lad is off on the high seas aboard the Flying Fowl with Cap’n Ted and his trusty, clucking crew. They’re on the trail of Long John Silverside the most feared buccaneer on the high seas; he who has seized the treasure rightfully belonging, so we’re told to Cap’n Ted and his pals.
Can they escape the jaws of the sharks and the clutches of the soggy-suckered octopus, find their way to where the treasure is stashed and then get past the loutish-looking Long John himself?

Perhaps – with the help of Pete’s brain and the odd touch of brawn thereafter.
Fans of Pete’s previous adventure will welcome this second tale, which is pacey, pant-revealing and full of high drama and I suspect it will capture some new pants followers too.

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Winnie-the-Pooh The Great Heffalump Hunt / Goldilocks and the Three Potties

Winnie-the-Pooh The Great Heffalump Hunt
Giles Andreae
Egmont
My initial thought on opening the parcel containing this book was ‘Oh no! Messing around with Pooh Bear!’ But then I read the rhyming story aloud all the way through and was utterly enchanted: it is Giles Andreae after all and he knows how to write a rhymer if anyone does.

The story simply trips off the tongue rather like that delicious honey that Pooh just cannot resist consuming; even when it’s his very last jar: and it’s supposed to be Heffalump-catching bait in the pit that Piglet has dug in the hope that it, rather than ‘Fresh Piglet(s)’ will become the creature’s next feast.
That jar of honey in our trap.” / groaned Pooh, “it was my last. Oh bother! Double bother! / And if no-one’s listening, / BLAST!

So saying, off goes Pooh, leaving Piglet all alone in bed, pondering on the “horrid, hairy Heffalump” and whether it will indeed, prefer the sweet sticky stuff or “juicy piglets in his tummy.” But then before you can say ‘Heffalump’ it’s time for Piglet to foray into the forest and see what, it anything is in that pit.

Delicious! It certainly left me, and my listeners, hungry for more …

Goldilocks and the Three Potties
Leigh Hodgkinson
Nosy Crow
Even fairy tale characters have to learn about using a potty; young Goldilocks is no exception. Fed up with soggy nappies, she decides it’s about time she began wearing “Big girl pants’ instead. – so long as she has the perfect pair _

Of course, though, wearing pants means remembering to use a potty when you need a wee: that too has to be just right. Then there’s the question of timing: there are occasions when it seems you really need to go but it turns out to be a false alarm; other times you might leave it a little too late …

Sure enough though, Goldilocks soon gets the hang of things making her mum and dad very proud parents indeed.
Just the book to share at home or in a nursery setting, with toddlers embarking on potty training; and equally those just past that stage who will delight in Goldilocks’s toileting activities from their own slightly superior, ‘been there’ standpoint.
There is plenty to amuse in Leigh Hodgkinson’s scenes be they indoors or out in the woods. The infant Goldilocks is an adorable character and that final spread will surely make readers aloud chuckle as much as their young audiences.

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Floss the Playground Boss

Floss the Playground Boss
Corrinne Averiss and Sam Usher
Egmont
Meet Floss, the playground boss; she claims this supremacy on account of residing right next to the playground, but also she remains unchallenged because nobody has the nerve to challenge her.

Thus, she rules the roost issuing orders to all and sundry until a new kid arrives on the block – on the other side of the playground actually. His name’s Peter and he knows nothing of Floss and her bossiness and so he does this …

Guess where it lands: right at Floss’s feet and she’s far from happy about it.

Pete is unmoved by her tirade: all he does after she’s finished her rant, is to laugh. Good on you Peter. Seems he knows just how to deal with tyrannical behaviour “PP2 has been cleared for take-off,” he responds, thus leaving the plane on her runway, so to speak.
What ensues is a simply wonderful little drama with an avid audience chipping in, as, after due consideration, a paper plane is whizzed skywards by a certain female; it loops and swoops, and Floss laughs and whoops; and in the time you can say ‘paper planes’, the sky is full of same …

and the whole tenor of the playground has changed for the better – once and for all. And Floss has dropped her ‘Boss’ handle with a resounding silence …
What a wonderful way of handling tyrannical behaviour and so brilliantly presented through Corrine’s cracking story and Sam’s superb visuals. The child dialogue is so well observed and I love the occasional forays into rhyme Floss employs. Sam’s illustrations too are beautifully observed and full of energy. A real winner of a book that should be read and discussed widely in early years settings and primary classes, as well as shared with individuals at home.

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Noggin the Nog

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Noggin the King, Noggin and the Whale,
Nogbad Comes Back, Noggin and the Dragon
Oliver Postgate & Peter Firmin
Egmont Publishing
I’ve been a huge Noggin fan since I was a child and at one time was the proud owner of a much-cherished complete set of the original The Saga of Noggin the Nog books on which these new editions are based. Sadly, years ago my partner waxed lyrical about them to our plumber and without asking permission, loaned them to him, for his son. To this day I have never seen them again: all I have now are just these two duplicates …

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What we have here are I think, smaller versions of the Early Reader editions, also from the 1960s. In my experience, young children do love collecting little books and so I’m sure these mini Noggins will be a big hit. Noggin himself is goodness through and through. Here are the opening lines of Noggin the King: ‘Noggin was a good king./ He liked to look after his people./ He liked to give them warm socks to wear.

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 He liked to give them good food to eat./ He liked to make sure that they had good roofs on their houses.’ Oh Noggin, we need you now.
Noggin is married to Queen Nooka; he often consults her when he is puzzled over a question and herein it’s a particularly thorny one: “Tell me, Nooka, am I king of the birds as well as king of the people?” She doesn’t answer him directly but together, the two seek, and find, an answer …

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Beautiful.
In Noggin and the Whale, Noggin is celebrating his birthday. Unusually however, he’s not the only recipient of presents: the ever benevolent monarch gives all the children of the town gifts too: things with which to create music …

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However, on this particular birthday, the musical celebrations are interrupted when a whale summarily seizes the boat in which Noggin and the children are playing and lifts it aloft. But that’s only the beginning of this delicious tale. Noggin’s young son Little Knut plays a significant part in saving the day (and shifting the whale) as does Olaf the Lofty (who as he tells us himself, is “very clever”), and the town’s bell-maker helps too.
Nogbad Comes Back sees the return of Noggin’s wicked uncle – banished from the Land of Nog by Noggin, to spend time in his castle to learn to be good. The crucial question however is, has Nogbad really seen the error of his ways? “Now I am Nogbad the Good!” he asserts but Queen Nooka has her doubts. Will he behave if Noggin allows him to take part in the annual animal and vegetable show;

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or will he, once again, show his true colours?
In Noggin and the Dragon, we join Little Knut and his friends when they go on a dragon hunt.

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But are there, or aren’t there – Noggin definitely says there aren’t – any dragons left in Dragon Valley? If not, then what is this …

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For me, Noggin has lost none of his charm: indeed he’s even more adorable and wise than ever. And from a mature adult perspective, bringing so much more to the stories, I can really appreciate the genius of  Noggin’s creators, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.
It’s wonderful that Egmont have brought back these tiny treasures. I’m over the moon.

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Pants and Pirates

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Hooray for Knickers
Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright
Egmont
The very mention of knickers in a picture book is likely to get children giggling and so it is with this one, although other than the title, it was some way into the story before the k word came up at all. The whole thing is based on a kind of cumulative Chinese whispers mix up that occurs when the Royal Butler incorrectly passes on King Grouchy’s order for ‘floats, deck chairs and silky slippers.’ (Items needed to impress his soon-to-arrive guest, Prince Jolly whom he’s invited for a swim at the palace.) What he tells the Royal Footman instead is: “They need boats, black bears and silly flippers.”  The message eventually reaches the ears of the Royal Maid who interprets it thus: “He needs skipping ropes? A funfair? And everyone needs frilly knickers? Oh well, if that’s what the king’s best friend in the whole wide world wants …
It’s more than the royal servants’ lives are worth to ignore orders of King Grouchy, even if they are trying to keep out of his way, so what he says goes. Errm …
Both King and Prince are in for a surprise when they look down from the balcony at the sight that awaits …

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Fortunately both host and guest see the funny side, a friendship is forged and then it’s time to party.

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Comical scenes abound in this crazy caper.

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The Best Pirate
Sue Mongredien and Dan Taylor
Scholastic Children’s Books
Meet the pirate crew: there’s Pirate Dave – big and brave, clever Pirate Nell, Pirate Giles – ace swimmer and the diminutive Pirate Paul. Having set sail Dave, Nell and Giles are immediately busy

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but Paul (not considered a proper pirate by fellow crew members on account of his lack of stature) is deemed too tiny for a task. The same applies once they reach dry land and set off in search of treasure; Paul is left on the ship while the others explore. Will he ever get an opportunity to prove himself a worthy member of the pirate band? Maybe this is his golden opportunity: his shipmates certainly look like they need some help – and fast …

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Told in appropriately rollicking rhyme and humorously illustrated in bold tropical colours, this will appeal in particular to young landlubbers who enjoy tales of the action-packed kind. And there’s a fold-out cover flap with cut-out pirate hat and treasure.

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Bossy Jonathan Fossy
Julie Fulton and Elina Ellis
Maverick Arts Publishing
Meet Jonathan Fossy, a real bossy boots if ever there was one: he’d issue orders to his mum, his neighbours, the whole town in fact. Eventually PC Moran decides something has to be done and at dead of night a plan is hatched. Next morning as he heads off to play, Jonathan sees this …

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On reaching the beach he’s confronted by a gang of dastardly looking pirates one of whom grabs young Jonathan and having hustled him on board as a crew member, produces a rather long list of tasks the lad’s required to complete.

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Seems there’s nothing for it but to get stuck in. There’s washing, scrubbing, sail repairs, deck swabbing, polishing and much more and all the while the rest of the crew jeer at and scorn the lad, issuing threats if he appears to be slacking.
Eventually a somewhat exhausted Jonathan sees the error of his ways: “Being bossy’s not nice, I can see. /I’ve been a real pain, I won’t do it again.” he cries. And then it’s time for the rest of the crew to unmask and set sail back to Hamilton Shady with one altogether reformed character.
Jonathan Fossy is the latest addition to the series of Hamilton Shady inhabitants. The exploits of some of the other residents of the town of ‘over-the-top’ characters have been reissued with new titles and covers, so if you’ve not read their cautionary tales, there are giggles aplenty to be found therein too.

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Environmental Concerns

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The Tree
Neal Layton
Walker Books
There stands a tree – tall and proud – a conifer that’s home to fledglings in a nest, a squirrel family, an owl one and amidst its roots, a family of rabbits. Beside the tree stands a FOR SALE board.
Then come a man and woman, also intent on making a home. The work begins …

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and halts suddenly –

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Tears are shed. Then, it’s back to the drawing board …

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and after a whole lot of measuring, hefting, hammering and painting, the result is …

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Like the humans in this seemingly simple book, Neal Layton’s fable wields a lot of power. In just fifty words and a sequence of gently humorous illustrations, he delivers a vital message about the importance of humans and animals living together and sharing.
This one delivers on so many levels: In addition to sharing it with young (and not so young listeners), I suggest giving a copy to those developers who pay scant regard to the destruction of natural habitats when drawing up and executing their plans.
In addition, it’s a perfect learning to read book that blows mindlessly boring reading schemes right out of the water.

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Where’s the Starfish?
Barroux
Egmont
See the whale – an enormous one and the brightly coloured fish – a whole multitude of them; then there’s the Starfish, the Jellyfish and the Clownfish.

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Can you spot them? Keep turning the pages and you’ll notice something else starting to appear, something undesirable and alien to the ocean. The fish appear somewhat puzzled but turn over again; the rubbish pile has grown and Starfish, Jellyfish and Clownfish are slightly easier to spy.
On the next few spreads larger rubbish items appear – car parts, washing machines, a fridge, TVs, microwaves– all evidence of our thoughtless, throwaway society; but the fish numbers have declined significantly and it’s easier still to spot our three friends.

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Finally whale cannot take it any longer and taking matters into his own hands – or rather – snout – he takes revenge in an altogether satisfying manner.

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Work out for your self – or better, get the book and see for yourself – what happens hereafter …
This, like Where’s the Elephant? is a an enormously effective and affecting lesson on how we harm our precious natural environment: the conservation message is the same though the setting of the story is entirely different.

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Rain / What Will Danny Do Today?

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Rain
Sam Usher
Templar Publishing
The small boy narrator from Snow and his Grandad are back to regale us with another wondrous weathery delight. The youngster cannot wait to get outside and catch raindrops, splash in puddles and look at reflections; but Grandad has other ideas, or rather one idea – “…wait for the rain to stop.” So they wait and wait, and it rains and rains.

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Grandad busies himself with paperwork: the boy reads and imagines …
He imagines voyaging with sea monsters, floating cities with carnivals and musical boatmen …

 

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Then at last, and co-incidentally, Grandad finishes his writing and the rain stops. Time to sally forth, suitably attired, for that voyage …

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until down comes the rain once more, but no matter: there are raindrops to catch, entertainers to watch and an important letter to post.

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After that, it’s a return to dry land with its reward of hot chocolate, warm socks and cosy togetherness.
A splendid lesson in delayed gratification if ever there was one; and another beautiful portrayal of childhood’s exuberance and delight in the great outdoors come rain or shine. Sam Usher’s paintings brilliantly capture the watery world of a rainy day, the boy’s energy, and the loving relationship between child and grandparent: and the way he plays with space on the page is superb.

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More of Sam Usher’s marvellous scenes in:

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What Will Danny Do Today?
Pippa Goodheart and Sam Usher
Egmont
Following on from her You Choose series with Nick Sharratt, Pippa Goodheart joins forces with Sam Usher for another decision-making book only this time the decisions are made on behalf of young Danny.
From the moment he wakes up, Danny is faced with making choices: what kind of clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast,

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how to get to school …

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what lessons he’ll have and who will teach him. Then there are PE activities to decide upon …

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how he’ll spend his playtime and a whole range of art and craft possibilities with which to fill the afternoon: ‘What will Danny make?’ is the question.
Danny’s dad is there to meet him from school and he’s fairly easy to spot as, we are told, he wears a green jacket. Moreover, he’s willing to allow Danny an after school treat and here too it’s for us to decide whether that will be rowing, watching a film or skating. Finally, there’s the matter of bedtime reading and it appears that Danny has made his own choice this time.
This is a great book for getting talk going be it with one child, a small group, or – if you can stand it – a whole class, the majority of whom will doubtless be eager to offer their ideas on Danny’s day.

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Gorgeous detail from the endpapers

Every one of Sam Usher’s scenarios is crammed full of wonderful details and interesting characters, and is sure to generate a great deal of discussion.

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