Gloria’s Porridge

Gloria’s Porridge
Elizabeth Laird and Toby Newsome
Tiny Owl

Elizabeth Laird’s story is a reimagining of an Ethiopian folk tale that begins with the making of some porridge. Gloria tells her cat she’s so hungry that rather than sharing with him as requested, she intends gobbling the whole lot herself. First though she needs to fetch some water to make it less gloopy so off she goes bucket in hand to the stream.

As you might expect the cat can’t resist sampling what appears to be delicious porridge – just a lick from the spoon, he thinks. But in no time the pot is empty. Back comes Gloria with the water and rather than listen to the cat’s explanation,

she grabs the spoon and shakes it at the creature scaring it, whiskers awry out of the house. 

This action sets in motion a chaotic concatenation of events comprising shaking trees, angry bees, a frightened hen, scattered corn and a shouting, meowing, braying, buzzing, clucking, ear-splitting din.

A passing fox pauses to ask what on earth is happening and a protracted explanation ensues to which all involved add their bit. Having listened, the fox then asks a further question. 

The end result is peace and harmony are restored, and apologies are offered and accepted; after which comes the sharing of a new pot of porridge …

Accompanying Elizabeth’s spirited telling, Toby Newsome’s illustrations, inspired by his South African home environment are full of fun and animation. Together, the result is a highly entertaining and enjoyable read aloud story.

The Colour Monster Goes to School / Beautiful Bananas

The Colour Monster Goes to School
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing

It’s the day Colour Monster starts school and he’s rather confused about what to expect as he anticipates what this new place might be like.

His friend Nuna is there to reassure him about what to put in his bag as well as to introduce him to his teacher and new classmates and to accompany him as he discovers the activities on offer that day.

First comes Nuna’s favourite, music, in which Colour Monster is let’s say, an enthusiastic participant though he seems even more enthusiastic about stories …

There are lessons to learn about turn taking, appropriate use of the toilet facilities

and how to eat lunch.
The afternoon comprises some gymnastics – with an additional piece of equipment; followed by a creative session with Colour Monster as the subject.

Come home time, it’s clear that the newbie has had a fun-filled day; but poor Nuna is completely worn out.

If you’ve not come across the Colour Monster in his previous escapades, then this is a great place to start especially if you have little ones starting school or nursery next term.

With her wonderful mixed media illustrations, Anna Llenas’ funny story of the risk-taking protagonist is a delight, reassuring with plenty to giggle over, as the big day draws close.

Beautiful Bananas
Elizabeth Laird and Liz Pichon
Oxford University Press

There are gentle echoes of Handa’s Surprise in this African setting tale of Beatrice, who sets out through the jungle with a bunch of beautiful bananas for her granddad.

That’s her intention, but along the way a giraffe flicks his tail accidentally displacing the bananas and sending them into a stream.

This sets off a concatenation of animal-related mishaps involving a swarm of bees, then some mischievous monkeys,

a lion, a parrot and finally an elephant each of which apologises and provides a replacement gift, with the story coming full circle with the elephant’s offering. It’s a delighted Beatrice who then heads to her Grandad’s home, assuring herself that after all, “Bananas are best.”

There’s plenty to spot in Liz Pichon’s vibrant scenes, not least the tiny jungle creatures

and the pairs of eyes peeping out from among the foliage as youngsters listen to Elizabeth Laird’s amusing story that is still a winner with me 15 years after its first publication.

Grobblechops

Grobblechops
Elizabeth Laird and Jenny Lancaster
Tiny Owl

Many young children imagine monsters under the bed and sometimes use their fear of same as a tactic to delay bedtime.

In this story based on a Rumi tale it appears that young Amir is genuinely scared in case there’s something lurking in the darkness of his bedroom – a terrible huge-toothed, hungry something that growls like a lion.

Dad’s advice is to reciprocate but be even more alarming This precipitates even more fears: suppose the monster’s dad has an even bigger frying pan for whacking than his own dad;

suppose his mum’s umbrella isn’t sufficiently scary and the end result is that the entire family become targets for monster consumption …

Perhaps it’s time for a different approach: Dad suggests he leaves the hostilities to the parents (human and monster) while Amir and the little monster play with toy cars together. It might even lead to a peaceable discussion between the grown ups.

Now that sounds like a very good idea; but there’s one thing Amir is determined not to share with any little monster and that is his precious Teddy.

Finally, having safely tucked the boy into bed with ted, there’s something Dad wants to know and that’s the name of Amir’s monster: the clue is in the title of this smashing book.

Elizabeth Laird puts just the right amount of scariness into her gently humorous telling. Her perceptive observations of the parent/child relationship underscore the entire tale and her dialogue is spot on, ensuring that adult sharers as well as their little ones will relish the story.

Jenny Lucander employs a fine line in her richly coloured, textured illustrations. Their wonderful quirkiness, especially in the portrayal of the monsters makes them endearing rather than frightening while her human figures give the book a contemporary look.