Frog’s Bog / Hugg ’n’ Bugg: The Comb

These are two recent picture books kindly sent for review by the publishers, Graffeg 

Frog’s Bog
Marielle Bayliss and Mariela Malova

It’s a fine sunny morning and all Frog feels like doing is relaxing on a log in the boggy pond. It’s not to be though, for first of all Fox gives him a soaking – albeit unintentionally. Then as he sits waiting for a bug to consume, along comes Dragonfly diving right at him – goodbye tasty treat.

Next Frog tries a boat in a moat, surely nothing can disturb him there. Err, he hadn’t factored in a visit from Kingfisher. Next thing he knows, Frog’s boat is upturned and as for peace and quiet, the day is fast disappearing and poor Frog still hasn’t found any of that.

Come sunset, Frog is in a brook and is ready to join the blackbirds in their evening rendition, never mind all he can manage is a raspy croaking croon. Suddenly this is brought to a conclusion thanks to a woodpecker sending down a shower of wood chippings making Frog depart hastily to the stream to contemplate his disaster of a day. As he speaks aloud of his discontent, he’s heard by the bees. They buzz off to have a few words on Froggy’s behalf with the animals that live nearby.

Can teamwork provide a means of making Frog’s Bog the very best place to be?

Mariela Malova’s scenes of Frog’s frightful day as he tries to find a peaceful piece of water are hilarious 

and make Marielle Bayliss’s rhyming account of his day even more deliciously droll and dramatic.

Hugg ’n’ Bugg: The Comb
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

The unlikely duo messy yeti Hugg, and Bugg, a flea that doesn’t like the cold, return in a new tale set as before in the Himalayas. While out wandering lower down the mountain they discover something small and pink on the snowy ground and suddenly encounter a frightened man who on seeing them, dashes away in fright leaving behind the comb.

Hugg picks up the pink object and tests it in a lock of his hair, moving on to his thicker fur. He likes the feeling and is soon bragging about his new handsome appearance, dubbing himself ‘the most stylish Mummy Nubble Snowman’. Bugg meanwhile is not enjoying the combing and a squabble ensues with Hugg going so far as suggesting the two part company.

Bugg is horrified that a new comb could result in him having to find a new home and proceeds to remind Hugg of what he will miss should they go their separate ways. But then a run-in with some very rude leopards, 

followed by an alarming threat to their home, help Hugg ‘n Bugg see sense, value their togetherness; and as for the comb, it’s still safe among Hugg’s treasures.

Whimsical and whacky illustrations by Eoin Clarke combined with Ian Brown’s fun rhyming text will entertain young listeners at home or in the classroom, and adult readers aloud will enjoy giving a hair-raising performance of the drama.Categories: Picture Books Tags: Eoin ClarkeFrog’s BogGraffegHuggnBugg: The CombIan BrownMariela MalovaMarielle Bayliss

Hugg ‘n’ Bugg Finding Home

Hugg ’n’ Bugg Finding Home
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

High in the Himalayas lives Bugg, a mountain flea. Unlike most of the other creatures living in this chilly location, Bugg does not like the freezing climatic conditions and so decides to search for somewhere warm to shelter. The sight of him bobble-hatted and carrying a load on his back is hilarious. First a lost sock and then a stinky boot, offer temporary accommodation and then he quickly rejects the bat-filled cave. Eventually, after a series of other unsuitable stops, Bugg takes a huge leap, landing somewhere promising at last – in the fur of the Abominable Snowman, aka Hugg. This huge creature introduces itself as “Bummy Nubble Snowman” going on to explain that on account of his looks he keeps himself hidden on the highest ground. Bugg offers to look after the Yeti in return for a home in his warm hair and a deal is done.

A deal that leads to the most unlikely of friendships and some tonsorial treats for Hugg.

Totally crazy and hugely entertaining is this latest Brown/ Clarke collaboration, the first of a new series with a theme of mutual friendship, it offers some vital lessons to young audiences. Ian Brown’s terrific talent for story-telling in combination with Eoin Clarke’s comical illustrations make this a read aloud, which despite its chilly setting, leaves a warm feeling within.

Anyone But Bear / Albert in the Air

Anyone But Bear
Suzy Senior and Dubravka Kolanovic
Scamp Publishing

Fox is excitedly making plans to host a moonlight party. He starts compiling his invitation list – Deer? – tick, Squirrel?- tick. Bear? Definitely not. Off trots Fox still planning in his head when suddenly rocks cascade down the mountainside, some of which smash straight into the party planner.

Fox is left flat out on the path-side unable to move. Several hours later, along comes Deer: help at last thinks Fox now awake and all too aware of his injuries. However, with a look of disgust, Deer turns away and takes an alternative route to avoid passing the injured creature. As snowflakes begin to fall along scampers Squirrel carrying nuts but he too decides not to stop. Seemingly the safety of his nuts is more important than that of a fellow forest creature.

Fox begins to despair but then round the corner comes someone massive, someone with large paws and a hairy scary face. Oh no! Soon though, Fox’s fear dissipates as he sees not the scary countenance he first thought but a kindly caring one. So kind and caring that he takes Fox all the way back home to his den; not only that but Bear brings him sustenance and takes care of the little fox cubs and their parent all through the night. This selfless act is one that Fox will remember always.

Based on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Suzy’s story, with Dubravka Kolanovic’s splendidly expressive illustrations will certainly make youngsters think about the meaning of real friendship.

Albert in the Air
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

Albert the tortoise’s latest adventure sees him first wishing to emulate his winged friends and then, tunnelling his way beneath the garden fence into the next door garden and wandering out into the hubbub of the territory beyond. It’s there, while foraging among the piles of trash that he unintentionally finds that his wish is actually being fulfilled. The wind lifts a balloon entangled Albert skywards and he gets a tortoise-eye view of the sprawling urban landscape beneath him.

Meanwhile back on home territory, the other creatures are missing their friend and enlist the help of the birds to search for Albert. Will they return him safe and sound? 

The answer is yes, with the timely assistance of a bee and he makes his return felt in a rather noisy manner.

An amusing demonstration that the grass most definitely is not always greener and perhaps home is the best place to be. With its humorous ending and stand out illustrations, Albert’s new story is sure to please his numerous fans and will likely win him some more followers too. Don’t forget to peruse the information spread at the back of the book.

Leilong’s Too Long! / Albert Supersize / Rita Wants a Genie

Leilong’s Too Long!
Julia Liu and Bei Lynn
Gecko Press

The endearing brontosaurus Leilong is acting as school bus for Max, Maggie, Mo and their friends, taking care where he puts his massive feet and sometimes pausing to fill up on grass cakes on the way. Despite him always looking out for those he might help 

too many accidents are happening on account of his enormousness and with them, numerous complaints and even fines. Consequently the school has to drop the dino-bus and poor Leilong is devastated. He goes off and hides away. Or so he thinks. Not for long though; perhaps with the help and kindness of his little human friends, there’s a new role for Leilong just waiting to be discovered.
Julia Liu’s text (translated by Helen Wang) and Bei Lynn’s child-like, cartoon style illustrations work in perfect harmony. The details in every spread are a delight – wonderfully expressive and playful. Whether or not you’ve encountered Leilong before, I’m sure he’ll win your heart.

Albert Supersize
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

Tortoise, Albert has big dreams – massive ones sometimes like the time he dreamt he came to the aid of roaring dinosaurs threatened by erupting volcanic action (no, not the type Albert is prone to emit from his rear end). On this occasion though, when he’s aroused from dreamland by his minibeast friends, Albert discovers he must come to their aid too: the roof of their flowerpot shelter is damaged and in need of repair.
Drawing upon his dream, slowly and carefully Albert does the necessary, making his friends very happy. 

“You might have BIG dreams, Albert, but you’re just the right size to help us,” a worm comments.
Full of gentle humour, kindness and creatures, this latest Albert episode told in Ian Brown’s dramatic style and with Eoin Clarke’s hilarious illustrations is every bit as entertaining as ever.

If you’ve yet to meet Albert, I recommend you do so; at the back of the book you can even find out about the real Albert that inspired the author to tell these stories.

Rita wants a Genie
Máire Zeph and Mr Ando

Young Rita’s at it again with those big ideas of hers. Now she wants a being that will, unquestioningly, carry out her every command. Uh-oh! Having contemplated all the possibilities that having a genie at her beck and call would bring, she realises that her latest flight of fancy might not be her wisest after all. For isn’t it so that a genie must obey the wishes of whomsoever rubs the lamp where it lives? …
Andrew Whitson aka Mr Ando transports readers along with Rita to a magical eastern land of golden palaces, peacocks, lush fruits and swirling sand in his scenes for this latest story in the series he co-creates with author Máire Zeph. It’s an important learning journey for the small protagonist and another fun fantasy to share with those around Rita’s age.

Albert Upside Down

Albert Upside Down
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

The latest episode in the life of my favourite tortoise Albert is full of action; not however that of the protagonist – he finds himself belly up after an unfortunate rock climbing episode undertaken in an attempt to reach a tasty treat. During his efforts to right himself the creature gives a big sigh that attracts the attention of a passing worm. Said worm stops to enquire about its cause and is soon joined not only by a second worm but also several ants. Both parties claim to be best at moving large objects and Albert suggests they work together to flip him over.

Before long it seems that the entire minibeast population has come together in the cause of operation Albert. They give it their all as they push and shove, lift and pull but the tortoise remains stuck, legs skywards. Maybe a food luring tactic might do it, but no, though it does serve to attract further attention in the form of a butterfly that offers to assist only to be given the push by a snooty snail on account of being too delicate.

Further shoving, pushing and lifting ensue to no avail so the workers pause for some silent thinking. That silence is broken by the voice of a young worm with a clever suggestion. Under the direction of the chief worm some concentrated team work begins and there’s some movement as Albert rolls slightly but not enough. More weight is required states another worm when suddenly what should return and land gently upon that snooty snail but the butterfly. Now she might just be the one to make all the difference …

And so she does but with Albert now back on his four feet, why are all those who came to his rescue making a hasty dash to put some distance between saved and savers. Hmmm! Seemingly it’s because Albert is his normal self once more and we know what that means …

Ian Brown’s story of struggles and strife, rivalry and ultimately, creative teamwork becomes a truly comic episode thanks in no small part to Eoin Clarke’s hilarious, detailed illustrations. In the style of Tolstoy’s Great Big Enormous Turnip tale that has become a classic, we see how just a tiny bit of additional assistance can make a huge difference.

This is sure to be a winner with young listeners either in the classroom or at home. Don’t miss the final facts page about the real Albert (inspirer of the tale) and his cousins.

Albert and the Wind

Albert and the Wind
Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke

This is a playful story about Albert, a tortoise who struggles to get his message of thanks across to the various creatures that come to his aid, rescuing items of his meal that are blown away by the swooshing wind.

First to help is a bee that proffers the leaf he’s just bumped into on the wing, Albert responds thus, “To make sure it does not blow away again, I am going to sit on it.” Before he can add his words of thanks, the bee has buzzed off.

Other helpers are in turn, a spider, a snail and a worm,

followed by a whole host of other creatures from all over the garden, some of which bring items that hadn’t been part of Albert’s meal.

The wind continues to blow and Albert and his food items are reunited, little by little until the whole meal is ready and waiting for eating.

However, Albert is still concerned that he’s not been able to show any of his helpers how grateful he is. Can he find a way to deliver his words of thanks to everyone at the same time? Ingeniously yes, thanks to the last few items left unconsumed …

This amusing tale ends with a blast that will delight young listeners and I suspect, adult sharers. With a factual page about Albert and other tortoises, and Eoin Clarke’s quirkily humorous, larger than life illustrations of the various helper minibeasts, as well as the protagonist, this is a book that readers aloud will enjoy giving voice to as much as listeners will enjoy hearing it.