No Longer Alone

No Longer Alone
Joseph Coelho and Robyn Wilson-Owen
Egmont

My heart really went out to the so-called shy, quiet little girl narrator of this beautiful story.
Actually however, those who’ve called her either of these are wrong; it’s just that due to events that have gone before she just doesn’t feel like talking or being noisy.

Nor does she feel like running around in the park with her siblings;

instead she wants to be alone, even though her loving, understanding Dad encourages her to try and find the “old you, the get-up-and-go you. The loud –and-active you, the happy you, the you, you used to be,”

Dad’s comments open the floodgates  for an outpouring of feelings as his little daughter opens up about the things that worry her, upset her and make her feel alone.

As the two sit together something shifts inside our narrator and things begin to feel a bit different.

Then slowly, slowly she finds that she can be that chatty self with others as well as when she’s alone; and she can play with her sisters again, sharing feelings and imaginings, alone no more.

Joseph’s beautiful heartfelt, poetic telling is full of poignancy and Robyn Wilson-Owen captures the inherent turmoil and tenderness in the tale with her beautifully textured illustrations of a family whose loss is palpable.

B is for Baby

B is for Baby
Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank
Walker Books

Here’s an absolutely cracking circular story that’s simply bursting with love. Atinuke’s verbal narrative focuses entirely on things starting with the letter B as she takes us on a journey through a West African rural landscape.
First though we meet the titular Baby; see her mother Beading her baby’s hair and Baby raiding the Banana basket, toppling in and partaking of some Breakfast.

Brother is next on the scene; in he bops and loads said basket complete with baby, on the back of his bicycle ready to go to visit Baba.

Oblivious to his stowaway passenger, he pedals along the Bumpy road towards Baba’s bungalow.

Passing beneath the Baobab – a Big one – they emerge into an area with fields either side; and a bird from the previous spread is now seen in full view with its gloriously coloured plumage – Beautiful – as is the blue butterfly that flies behind the bike, while ahead are trees filled with baboons.

As they pass under a tree a Baboon grabs the lid from the basket revealing the stowaway baby.

The journey continues with baby handing out a banana to a child leaning from the Bus window as they pause before crossing the Bridge (B is for Bridge) and before long they arrive as their destination: a Bougainvillea surrounded Bungalow outside which waits a happy-looking Baba … ‘B is for … Baba!’

That happiness increases enormously though when he opens the basket …

One shocked brother and an overjoyed Baba.

After all that there’s only one thing to do: sit down together and partake of some yummy snacks – ‘B is for Biscuit!’ as well as some bubbly bottled liquid refreshment; and I bet they polish off the whole lot.

A sensory delight if ever there was one, is this rural ride from one much loved family member to another. (The last two spreads show the return journey, which culminates back where the siblings started, and finally, a relieved-looking mama clutching tight her Baby.) Visually stunning, vibrant and infused with humour, the entire book is bursting with energy, warmth, rich colour and beauty.

A total treat to share and to pore over; an enriching must have for home, nursery or school collections and another terrific Atinuke/ Angela Brooksbank collaboration.

Polonius the Pit Pony

Polonius the Pit Pony
Richard O’Neill and Feronia Parker-Thomas
Child’s Play

Having taught many Traveller children in various London schools, I was thrilled to have this new addition to Child’s Play’s books that feature travellers and their way of life.

This one tells of an erstwhile pit pony that escapes his underground life and gets in with a group of horses belonging to a Travelling family. Initially there’s some reluctance on their part to accept a pit pony: Grandad in particular wants to send him back to his fellow pit ponies but eventually he is persuaded to keep the animal and his granddaughter, young Lucretia volunteers to help look after the newcomer.

Polonius is quick to adapt to Travelling life and the children love him. Now all that Polonius wants is to be thought of as a hero.

One day his chance comes when the entire family has a large order of wooden stools to deliver to the docks in Daddo’s brand new truck, in time to be shipped to the USA the very next afternoon.

Next morning though, when they are due to set off, the family is engulfed in a thick blanket of fog that’s come down overnight. Could there be another way to make that important delivery? Perhaps with Grandad’s cart, so long as they can find an animal willing to brave the thick fog and lead the way to the docks.
It looks as though Polonious’s chance to thank his new family and be a hero has come …

Romany storyteller, Richard O’Neill introduces readers to a wonderful, hardworking, loving Traveller family. With a sprinkling of traveller dialect he roots the family in its culture, an early 20thC industrial countryside, although some of the words are still used today. Readers and listeners will be able to work out the gist of the meaning of the occasional unfamiliar words from the context.
Feronia Parker Thomas’ scenes of a bygone rural life are painted with delicacy and really show the warmth of family feeling for one another and for their animals.

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?
Nicola Connelly and Annie White
New Frontier Publishing

What a wonderful celebration of children, difference and the way the former demonstrate their individuality.

Using a series of questions that centre on four children in a family, Nicola Connelly draws attention to the myriad possibilities that could make each one of us unique: be that eye colour, skin colour, freckles, chin or nose shape; might it be the size of our ears or feet, or our front teeth?

Perhaps it’s our way of jumping super high, our love of dance or singing;

a beaming smile; a particular giggle or wiggle.

We might be good at maths, have an artistic bent, a storytelling prowess,

a particular penchant for some kind of sport,

perform amazing athletic moves, have a bibliographic trait,

exude creativity, or enjoy quiet moments with mini-beasts

No matter what, the author’s bouncing words coupled with Annie White’s exuberant, joyful, slightly whimsical watercolours, are enormously upbeat.

This book cannot fail to make you smile; is a great read aloud and has wonderful performance possibilities.

Let’s hear it for individual specialness.

Blue Monster Wants It All!

Blue Monster Wants It All!
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond
Little Tiger Press

We live in a throwaway, consumer society where the desire for the new, and the notion that the next thing is always better, tend to prevail.
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond have created a timely and eloquent picture book fable that demonstrates the folly of this thinking.
Meet Blue Monster, thoroughly indulged by his parents the never satisfied creature discards them and his new sibling, and takes off with all his money to begin life anew. However although he’s left behind his old life, he’s taken his acquisitive habits with him.

But new hats, cars, luxury palaces, an aeroplane, and a tropical island with amazing animals no less, fail to satisfy.

Even the sunshine itself cannot bring him happiness.
It’s not until he finds himself surrounded by darkness that somehow, in his abject misery, Blue Monster finally realises what he needs for true contentment and well-being. But is it too late?

Jenni Desmond adeptly portrays the monster and his constantly changing moods and emotions – his tantrums, his decadence, his dissatisfaction and his supreme sadness, all of which are part and parcel of Jeanne Willis’ thought-provoking text.
Although we know that the creature has brought in all on himself, you cannot help but be moved by the sight of him in his desolation.
What is most important to you, the latest smartphone or tablet, a brand new car or the love of your family and friends?
Perhaps it takes a powerful picture book such as this, which has as much to say to adults as to children, to make us all stop and think?

I’m BIG Now!

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I’m Big Now!
Anthea Simmons and Georgie Birkett
Andersen Press
Being a big sister can be tough especially when a certain baby brother seems to be getting more than his fair share of adult attention. Here, a big sister tells what happens when she attempts to regain the limelight by playing ‘the baby big girl game’.

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After several attempts at different aspects of ‘baby biggirliness’, our young narrator comes to an important realisation: being a big girl and doing what big girls do, brings her far more satisfaction – even if it involves a fair bit of new learning.

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Moreover, it’s certainly a whole lot more fun …

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and sometimes you can get the best of both worlds …

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The combination of Anthea Simmons’ gently humorous rhyming words and Georgie Birkett’s adorable scenes of family life big-sis style, is a total delight.
This is the perfect book for family sharing when a new sibling arrives although it can most certainly be enjoyed with early years audiences at any time.

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