Animal Families: Forest, Animal Families: Safari / If I Were a Bear

Animal Families: Forest
Animal Families: Safari

Jane Ormes
Nosy Crow

Little ones can discover the parental names of a variety of animals in two different habitats.

Forest presents for example a ‘mummy fox’ or vixen, a dog (daddy) fox and then if you lift the flap on the recto, you discover some baby foxes or kits.

Interestingly both a female deer and a female rabbit are called does whereas a male deer is a stag and a male rabbit is a buck; their offspring are fawns (baby deer) and like foxes, baby rabbits are called kits.

A boar (male bear) and a sow (female) produce bear cubs.

The pattern is the same throughout with the little ones being discovered by lifting the flaps on each recto.

The final spread has gatefolds opening to showcase the collective nouns for each of the animal families included.

Safari is slightly different in that each of the parent animals (leopards, zebras, lions and rhinos) are referred to as ‘daddy’ or ‘mummy’ and beneath the flaps are hidden ‘baby’ leopards, ‘baby’ zebras and so on while the final spread asks tinies to point out various items such as a pink sun’ or ‘little yellow huts’.

The real strength of both books is Jane Ormes’ striking, screen-printed patterned animal images that all have a textured look about them providing further opportunities for language development.

If I Were a Bear
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot

Through Shelley Gill’s informative rhyming text and Erik Brooks’ splendid, realistic painterly illustrations, the very young are introduced to several kinds of bears, their habits and habitats.

They may be surprised to learn that not only are there black, brown and polar bears, but also rare blue bears and black bears born white, also known as Kermode bears.

Towering Tree Puzzle / Lift-the-Flap and Colour:Jungle & Ocean

The Towering Tree Puzzle
illustrated by Teagan White
Chronicle Books
Essentially this is a sturdy box containing 17 large, easily manipulated, double-sided pieces depicting Spring/Summer scenes on one side and Autumn/Winter ones on the reverse. Each piece shows various woodland animals playing and working together; a whole tree community indeed and the puzzle when complete is over 130 centimetres long. Nothing special about that, you might be thinking but, the language potential is enormous, especially as there is no one right way of fitting the pieces together: this open-endedness also means that if more than one child plays with the pieces, there is a co-operative element too.

The artwork is splendid: each detailed piece, a delight.
Every branch of the tree generates a different story, or rather, many possibilities; ditto the completed tree. Some children like to story about the pieces as they put them into place, others prefer to complete the puzzle and then tell one or several stories which may or may not be connected. You could try a completely open-ended ‘take it in turns tell me about’ game with children sitting in a circle for starters, or perhaps choose a focus, say animals, plants or perhaps, events: the possibilities are many.
I’ve used this marvellous resource in several different settings and each time it’s been received with enormous enthusiasm and the users have shown great reluctance to part with it afterwards.

Lift-the-Flap and Colour Jungle
Lift-the-Flap and Colour Ocean

Alice Bowsher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/ Natural History Museum
In this collaborative publishing enterprise, children can choose from one of two locations to start their colouring in experience. The first is the South American Amazon jungle wherein jaguars hunt, slow sloths dangle, alligators lie in wait for a tasty meal, stick insects and parrots share the lush foliage, and swinging monkeys abound.
In the Ocean they can encounter diving dolphins, and shoals of fish, visit a coral reef with its abundance of sea creatures, notice the seaweed fronds that provide a safe hiding place for fish; and dive right down to the deepest dark depths.
A brief, rhyming text accompanies each adventure gently informing and guiding the young user as s/he explores the location, lifts the flaps and adds colour to the black and white pages – five spreads per book. And the final page of each book has an information paragraph that focuses on the importance of protecting the specific environment.
These will I’m sure be seized on by young enthusiasts, particularly those with an interest in wild life and will one hopes, leave them wanting to discover more about the inhabitants of each location.

If I Were a Whale
Shelley Gill and Erik Brooks
Little Bigfoot
This contemplative, charmer of a board book successfully mixes rhyme and science facts. It imagines the possibilities of being a minke, a beluga playing with icebergs, a pilot whale and then these beauties …

If those don’t suit there’s a tusked narwhal, a blue whale, or a humpback perhaps? There are eleven possibilities in all, each one beautifully illustrated by Erik Brooks who manages to capture the essence of each one in those watery worlds of his.
Yes, it’s a small introduction to a huge topic but this is a pleasure to read aloud, is likely to be demanded over and over, and to inspire tinies to want to know more about these amazing mammals.

I’ve signed the charter  

This is Not a Cat! / Later, Gator!

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This is NOT a Cat!
David Larochelle and Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books
Using only the words from the title, Larochelle has created a book that is absolutely perfect for beginning readers and it’s lots of fun.
We join three little mice as they arrive at school; three little mice each with a chunk of cheese for lunch. Their first lesson is already displayed as they sit down already looking more than a tad bored …

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Now this is an old fashioned school with transmission style teaching – desks facing front so one can perhaps excuse the lack of a security system (but that’s getting ahead of the action). One pupil at least is paying attention as the teacher continues: “This is not a cat.” the assumption being he’s writing notes on the lesson; the other two are already distracted and playing around. No one notices what’s already appearing outside the window, not even the grinning goldfish.
This is not a cat.” … “This is not a cat.” continues the teacher oblivious to the fact that a certain intruder is on the verge of entering …

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Suddenly the whole atmosphere in the room changes as the presence of the visitor is noticed, first by the teacher and then as realisation dawns …

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The pupils flee leaving the intruder to enjoy the spoils left behind, but just who IS that greedy guzzler.
Clever as the text is and it’s undoubtedly so, without the illustrations the book wouldn’t be anything like as funny as it is. Wohnoutka’s cartoon style scenes are full of comic detail: the changing expressions of the goldfish, the antics of the pupils – note the cleverly aimed paper aeroplane, the cheesy shapes chart to mention a few; and of course, there’s the grand finale.
Also fun for those in the early stages of reading is:

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Later, Gator!
Erik Brooks
Sterling Children’s Books
It’s hard moving to a new home especially having to say farewell to all your friends. That’s just what young Gator discovers having moved to a distant neighbourhood with his parents where there isn’t a soul he knows. He decides to write to his old friends telling them how he misses them and eventually back come some letters. Yes, his pals are missing him too but their communications are also encouraging …

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And made him feel a little bit bolder, bold enough to start making a whole new set of friends …

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The text is minimal but the amusing illustrations speak volumes.