No More Peas

No More Peas
Madeleine Cook and Erika Meza
Oxford Children’s Books

Given the chance, young Oliver would restrict his meals to pizza, chips, burgers, cakes and other sweet stuff. However his father insists on giving him carrots – hard ones, broccoli (green and puffy) or a plate of roly-poly peas at dinner times. All of these Oliver donates to the dog.

Time to devise a healthy eating plan, thinks Dad.

Next day off they go into the garden where as Dad informs his son, “I grow vegetables here.” Again Oliver comes up with his usual “YUK!” response. Dad doesn’t give up that easily though and proceeds to tell the boy all about the growing process as well as the wealth of colourful vegetables it’s possible to cultivate. Now Daniel is impressed at the possibility of eating a rainbow: seems as though Dad’s plan is starting to work.

That evening Oliver helps prepare the meal:

there are lots of exciting new veggies to try but what will be the boy’s reaction? Is there at last a vegetable he really truly likes? Happily yes: it’s tiny, spherical and green. So why that title? …

Madeleine Cook’s fun, gently educative story of growing your own vegetables, healthy eating and trying new foods is deliciously illustrated in Erika Meza’s scenes that – like good picture books do – convey so much not said in the words; Oliver’s feelings about Dad’s offerings are superbly captured as are those of the other characters.

Whether or not there’s a fussy eater in your family, (or class) this is a terrific book to share with foundation stage/KS1 children for so many reasons and the classroom potential is enormous.

Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters
Ayisha Malik and Erika Meza
Little Tiger

Lola, Esher, Ayla, Zoha, Zayna, Amelia and Saffah all live in the Forest of Tremendous Trees. Each of them lives in a tree and despite being sisters, they’re very different characters with very different interests. Zayna is a writer, Lola is an artist, Saffah is the musical one, shy Ayla has a technological mind, Amelia loves gymnastics, Zoha particularly enjoys the natural world and Esher is an inventor. Despite being so different, they get along well largely because they have their own spaces wherein to hone their talents.

Suddenly one day they sense change is afoot and lo and behold a large tree appears before them and continues growing becoming the most beautiful in the entire forest.

That night the girls retire to their beds each thinking of the house they could build in the new tree.

Inevitably next morning they all make their way to the tree where each of them puts forward a case for ownership.

Arguments ensue and things get chaotic until they decide the only way to solve the issue is to hold a competition with their beloved aunt as judge.

Despite her reservations the competition is scheduled for the following day but none of them had expected the storm that blows up just as they arrive. Time to take refuge … together.

Could this perhaps be the best learning opportunity that nature could offer the seven sisters?

Read solo or read aloud: there are lessons aplenty in this engaging story that celebrates individual differences, creativity and the joys of community. Having recently enjoyed Ayisha’s adult novel This Green and Pleasant Land I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she also writes for children. Erika Mesa’s mixed media illustrations are wonderfully expressive, full of life and really bring out the girls differing personalities.

No More Babies!

No More Babies!
Madeleine Cook and Erika Meza
Oxford Children’s Books

Sofia finds her baby brother exceedingly annoying. On this particular day he smashes down her amazing brick construction, starts a food fight, makes a terrible din on a drum and just when mum and dad are ready to read her a story, he diverts their attention by needing a nappy change.

After all this, her parents’ news that she’s going to be a big sister again, doesn’t go down at all well. “No more babies!” she yells at her bemused mum and dad who now offer a sympathetic ear. Sofia’s account of the morning follows and then cuddles and lots of special attention for the little girl.

Suddenly Arlo surprises his sister and after that she begins to feel much more positive about him. Despite his continuing messiness, smelliness and slobbering, Sofia decides she loves him very much, telling her parents at bedtime, “Okay, you can have one more baby,” …

There’s a throwaway line surprise finale that will surely make both adults and young listeners laugh when they read this funny book.

With Erika Mesa’s wonderfully expressive illustrations it’s one for families to share when a new sibling is on the way, as well as a good foundation stage storytime read aloud especially if somebody in the group is in a situation similar to Sofia’s; or as part of a family theme.