Journey to the Last River

Journey to the Last River
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Teddy Keen edits a spin-off from The Lost Book of Adventures, an Amazon adventure presented in the form of a scrap book journal belonging to ‘The Unknown Adventurer.’ Smudgy, apparently finger-marked pages and ‘handwritten’ text add authenticity.

Again the written account grips the reader from the start as you learn that the adventurers (the writer, and Bibi who grew up somewhere in the region) are staying in a wooden outhouse belonging to a local villager, preparing for their six week canoe trip into the rainforests. They’ve got the original map ‘borrowed’ from The Geographical Society to help them search for that Last River and discover its secret. The writer hasn’t mentioned this to his companion; instead he’s led her to believe that he’s an artist adventurer.

There’s certainly drama aplenty including an unexpected encounter with a man who draws the supposedly non-existent river in the sand with a stick and Bibi recognises a few of his words including ‘wait’, ’rains’ and ‘guide’ before disappearing again. The two travellers are heartened and eager to continue however.

Continue they do and just over two weeks into their journey they acquire a new crew member, a squirrel monkey that they name Nutkin.

The days pass and the two begin to despair of ever finding what they’re searching for; but then comes the lightning followed by torrential rain.

Suddenly a realisation dawns: perhaps their journey isn’t in vain after all …

Brilliantly illustrated with powerfully atmospheric scenes of the Amazon flora and fauna,

as well as the elemental spreads, there’s a lot to learn from this book with its important final conservation message. Readers will be enthralled by the detail included in both the words and visuals, as well as by seeing the transformative effect the trip has on the ‘writer’.

A superb book that offers huge potential to upper KS2 classes in particular.

Antarctica: A Continent of Wonder

Antarctica: A Continent of Wonder
Mario Cuesta Hernando and Raquel Martin
Prestel

If you’ve ever wondered about taking a trip to Antarctica, then now is your chance if you accept a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from the United States Antarctic Program to accompany a research team on an expedition to the continent of penguins and the world’s lowest temperatures. You’ll sail on an oceanographic research vessel – the Polar Star – bound for the McMurdo Research Station. The subject of this large format book truly is a continent of wonders and it’s exciting to spend time with the researchers and discover what happens during their six month stay.

Many children will have heard about work being done studying the penguins, 

seals and whales that are able to thrive in the harsh climatic conditions, but are less likely to be aware that scientists are also investigating the fossil record of the continent and the secrets of life locked in the ice of its glaciers. There’s also an observatory for astronomers and research continues into the impact of global warming.

Did you know that one of the few open lava lakes is to be found at the heart of this continent, in the crater of Mount Erebus, an active volcano some 12448 feet high? I certainly didn’t. 

There is mention of the first known individuals to make landfall on Antarctica as well as details of the explorers including Amundsen and Scott who tried to reach the South Pole. 

Who owns this incredible area, you might be wondering; the answer is that it belongs to nobody, or rather no country can claim it as theirs; it belongs to everyone, including readers of this book. Thanks to the Antarctic Treaty (1959), this should ensure that international teams of scientists can continue their research for the good of all.

The book’s author, Mario Cuesta Hernando, a journalist with a special interest in adventure and nature, has himself, visited Antarctica and his enthusiasm for his subject is evident in this narrative. Raquel Martin’s dramatic land- and seascapes as well as the animal portraits capture the awesome nature of the continent.

Ideal for budding scientists and school collections in particular.

Books for Tiny Hands

A Tiny Little Story: Farm
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the third title of the series the adorable Baby Boo and his mum pay a visit to the farm. They meet the farmer in his tractor,

a mother hen and her baby chicks, the cow, the sheep, some pigs and a cockerel, each of which greets the visitors with its characteristic sound; and then it’s time to leave.
With its soft, squidgy pages, simple, bold, patterned images and a Velcro buggy strap, this boxed book, like its predecessors, is just perfect for giving to a new mum and her baby.

Animal ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow
Having explored Halloween and Christmas, Jannie Ho’s third ABC book for babies and toddlers features animals large and small, some familiar, others less so, from elephant to narwhal and iguana and owl. One fantasy animal – a unicorn – puts in an appearance too.
Boldly illustrated with just the single word and corresponding letter as text per page, there are talk opportunities aplenty in this sturdily designed little board book. Which ones have long tails? Which have horns? Can your infant think of what noise each animal might produce?
Full of animal fun for sure.

Little Truck
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
In this lovely little board book toddlers share a day in the life of a little pink truck. He’s a fast mover and determined hill climber and is accompanied on his travels by a larger (parent) truck.
The latter is available to give a gentle push up the steep slope …

and when Little Truck enters a dark tunnel, is right behind to ensure he’s not completely lost and is ready to carry the little one when he falls fast asleep.
With a simple text, some of which is addressed to the Little Truck by the larger one, Taro Gomi uses his wonderful minimalist style to imbue both trucks with distinct personalities as well as creating stylised background scenes in contrasting greys, browns and tans.
I love that Little Truck is pink and identified as male in the narrative.

Where’s Mrs Zebra?
Where’s Mr Dog?

Ingela P.Arrhenuis
Nosy Crow
Just right for some playful book sharing time with your baby are these two hide-and-seek board books.
Each one contains five scenes with bold, bright images and an animal that has hidden itself behind an appropriately shaped, brightly coloured felt flap on the spread.
In the first title Mr Rhino, Mrs Gorilla,

Mr Flamingo, Mrs Zebra are hidden or almost so and the final spread has a hidden mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
The same question concludes the second book wherein Mr Dog, along with Mrs Cat, Mr Mouse, and Mrs Rabbit have tucked themselves away behind various objects all waiting to be discovered by tiny hands.
Award winning Swedish illustrator Ingela P. Arrhenius has illustrated both with just the right amount of detail for the very youngest infant.

Guess Which Hand?
Hans Wilhelm and Ilaria Guarducci
Chronicle Books
Here’s a little board book based on the ever popular guessing game after which the book is titled.
On each of eight pages toddlers are invited to guess the location of the item be it a ladybird or frog, a bone or ball, flower or feather, pink fish or blue, banana or peanut, carrot or clover leaves, star or moth, hidden under one or other of the flaps on each animal’s page. Paws, ears, scallop shells,

hats, fluffy tails, wings and eggs are in turn used as hiding places. The objects are moved by turning the interactive wheel at the side of each page so you can play the game over and over with a toddler.
Each bold bright scene offers more to talk about than the guessing game though but that depends on the users.

Playful Pets: Buster and the Baby / Big Box Little Box

Buster and the Baby
Amy Hest and Polly Dunbar
Walker Books
A very boisterous toddler and a lively little dog star in this rumbustious romp of a picture book.
The dog’s called Buster and the infant – a female – is just called baby. Both are charmers and live with baby’s parents in a little red house.
There’s nothing Buster enjoys more than a game of hide-and-seek with the infant,

a pretty hazardous activity when it comes to finding suitable hiding places, from baby’s parents viewpoint, that is.
As for Buster, his heart goes THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! as he waits and watches for baby to come …

CHAAA! out of the shadows like a small thunderbolt right at him with joyful exuberance.
The two of them cavort through the house and garden, and the book, all day until finally, it’s baby’s bedtime. Now it’s her turn to hide and wait …

Engaging textual repetition and exuberant, warm-hearted illustrations make this a lovely one to share with toddlers at any time of day.
A delight through and through.

Big Box Little Box
Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Experience has shown me that young children love to play in and with boxes but cats? Seemingly they too enjoy boxes; though I suppose I should have known, thanks to Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd’s My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.
Certainly it’s the case in this book wherein the moggy character is a real box aficionado exploring the plethora of boxes to be found in his home, be they large, small, fat, thin, flat even. And they come in so many different colours …

and with attractive designs.
Taking things almost literally results in some interesting uses where this feline is concerned …

Now though he’s found a box that something has been having a nibble at; I wonder what that might be.
‘Cat peeks.’ Something squeaks …
Could this be the start of a beautiful new (although rather unlikely) friendship? …

Caryl Hart’s minimal text provides designer Edward Underwood a playful scenario with which to co-create his debut picture book. He does so with panache.

I’ve signed the charter