The Mole and the Hole

The Mole and the Hole
Brayden Kowalczuk
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

It’s kind of dark and boring being Mole if you’re stuck inside your dark hole, never seeing a fellow creature or the light of day.

Try as he might, our Mole narrator finds that however much he digs, there’s always something blocking his exit to the great outside.

“No moles above ground!” comes the cry from the rocks doing the blocking.

Mole muses on the problem: thus far his time spent above ground has always been devoted to playing with friends, basking in the sun and doing his business,

whereafter down he’d go again. A good neighbour most certainly – or is he?

No matter what clever ideas he comes up with – disguise, joke telling or downright lying – nothing succeeds in shifting the determination of those rocks to keep him down under..

Is he now destined to be forever sub terra, he wonders.

Suddenly though there is light at the end of the tunnel and Mole finds himself face to face with …

He beats a hasty retreat but not long after our friend is heard extolling the virtues of his new living place.

What about his new neighbours though: are they equally enthusiastic about their new neighbour? Um …

Disney character artist and now debut picture book author-illustrator Kowlaczuk’s digitally created scenes of Mole’s totally inappropriate, un-neighbourly behaviour and what his neighbours think of it, are depicted with a deliciously dry humour that will delight young listeners. Listeners who will enjoy the fact that no matter what, no matter where, Mole is always accompanied by his best friend and silent participant Grub..
At the same time, the story wherein showing not telling is key, wryly demonstrates the importance of being a good neighbour for all concerned.

A thought-provoking addition to the FL First Editions list.

Flock

Flock
Gemma Koomen
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is the latest in the Frances Lincoln First Editions series of debut picture books and introduces readers to thumb-sized people called the Treekeepers, and in particular one named Sylvia.

Sylvia is something of a loner and despite her role as a nurturer and mender, gatherer and tender, she is almost unnoticeable as she goes about searching for just the right twig or petal to take back to her special secret tree hollow to use in her play.

One spring day, a very windy one, Sylvia discovers a bird in her special hideaway and she decides to look after it. She names it Scruff and soon the creature has found its way into her affections.

She even wants to fly like Scruff and so mustering her courage, Sylvia holds on tightly as the two soar skywards on a journey of discovery.

They spend the day together exploring and encountering new things until as the light fades, Scruff suddenly takes to the wing again

for he’s spied a flock of birds looking just like him. Scruff is lost no longer.

Scruff and Sylvia return to the secret tree hole but Sylvia knows she must bid her new friend farewell.

That though isn’t the end of the story: rather it’s the start of a new chapter, for soon afterwards Sylvia accepts the invitation of another girl keeper to join her and her friends in their play; and as you would expect they love to hear her stories of her adventure in the sky.

Seemingly, Sylvia will never be a loner again.

Wonderfully whimsical and with a slightly Scandinavian feel, Gemma Koomen’s story is enchanting. I love discovering new authors and illustrators so was thrilled to receive a copy of this book. The wildlife details are a delight, making every spread something to become immersed in and I’m sure I’ll be discovering new quirky Tree Keeper activities on each re-reading. It’s certainly the case so far and I’m sure young listeners will want to spend ages pouring over the pages too.

‘A tree keeper adventure’ announces the cover so let’s hope further adventures are to come.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest
Victoria Turnbull
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is an absolutely beautiful, gentle but powerful story of love and of loss.

Umpa’s garden is the young child narrator’s favourite place, filled as it is with flowers and fruit trees. Umpa shows his grandchild how to plant seeds and watch them grow. He also plants stories in her mind, stories of imagined worlds – wonderful new places they can travel to together; places that, fuelled by the imagination can stay with you forever.

Time passes; Umpa grows older

and eventually he dies.

His distraught grandchild grieves, “The clouds had swallowed me whole’ she tells us.

Then one day, she remembers: his legacy lives on …

and he will always be there in her heart and in her memories of those treasured experiences they shared together.

Books and stories have transformative powers: Victoria’s new book is a wonderful reminder of that, showing some of the myriad ways those powers can help to heal, to bond people together, as well as to fuel the imagination. The softness of the story is evoked in her beautiful pastel colour palette, her graceful lines and the fluidity of her images. Do spend time on every spread; there is so much to see and feel.

A book to share and to cherish.

Read to Your Baby Every Day / Hickory Dickory Dock

Read to Your Baby Every Day
edited by Rachel Williams, illustrated by Chloe Giordano
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Editor Rachel Williams has chosen thirty classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes, favourite nursery songs along with the occasional action rhyme for this collection for adult carers to share with babies.

Chloe Giordana has crafted beautiful, intricately detailed sewn accompaniments to the words using a mix of stitching and fabrics that are hand-dyed.

It’s never and I mean never, too soon to introduce babies to rhymes and songs; there’s absolutely no better way not only to bond with a little one, but it’s proven that exposure to the world around through spoken words, rhymes and songs gives young children a head start in education, and not only with respect to language learning and communication skills.

This lovely collection will introduce tinies to the likes of Hey, Diddle Diddle, Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, Humpty Dumpty

and Little Miss Muffet along with Row, Row Row Your Boat, Hush Little Baby and I’m a Little Teapot,

and even both in English and French Are you sleeping?

A lovely gift to give a new parent.

Hickory Dickory Dock
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

A favourite rhyme with all the nursery classes I ever taught is this one that’s now given the ‘Sing along with me!’ format characterised by sturdy sliders and peep-holes. However in addition to singing the song, little ones will love watching the escapades of the mice as the clock strikes one, then two, then three

and finally four, and discovering that by four o’clock there’s not just one but four mice tucked up in cosy beds ready for some shut-eye, having escaped the clutches of the moggy character that has been eyeing them during the past three hours.

Yu-hsuan Huang’s illustrations are a delight with plenty to interest child and adult as they share the book or perhaps listen to the recording from the scanned QR code.

This Way To Treasure Island

This Way to Treasure Island
Lizzy Stewart
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Award winning author-illustrator Lizzy Stewart introduces us to two completely contrasting characters, young Matilda and her dad; he tends to be slow, messy and noisy whereas she is fast, tidy and quiet. No matter how different they are though, they almost always have fun together.

One day at the beach Matilda, in possession of a map, announces that she’s off to find treasure. Her dad, she tells him, can accompany her so long as he agrees to follow the map.

Off they go in an old wooden boat with Dad rowing and Matilda giving directions.

Sometimes, Dad becomes distracted and as a result the two drift far out to sea. Dad’s all for taking short cuts but Matilda isn’t sure. She’s even less sure when the nice big rock they’re circling does this …

Fortunately however, the turbulence takes the boat right close to the shore of their treasure island destination. Thereon more map reading is required and almost immediately the two agree to part company; “We’ll see who finds the treasure first!’ says Dad.

Inevitably without his daughter as guide, Dad is soon totally lost.

Matilda meanwhile, although she finds things a tad on the boring side, continues following the map. Eventually she finds the place where according to the map, she should find the treasure but despite looking under, over and inside things, she can’t find it. Time to return to the boat she thinks.

Dad however is still looking and wondering until …

In case you’re wondering, yes they do discover treasure although perhaps it’s not what they were expecting. And then it’s time to go home, maybe without taking any short-cuts however.

Yet again, Lizzy has created a winner with this. Her characters are convincingly portrayed and their treasure island with its rainbow hued flora and fauna, totally gorgeous.

Rich in classroom potential, this smashing book will be requested over and over.

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

The Dictionary of Difficult Words
Jane Solomon and Louise Lockhart
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

American based lexicographer, Jane Solomon, and UK illustrator Louise Lockhart have collaborated on this compilation of over 400 words, the former providing the easily comprehendible definitions and the latter, the accompanying stylish graphics.

Before the alphabetic section itself are an explanation of what a dictionary is and how to use this particular one, and a spread on parts of speech that also mentions pronunciation.

Then comes the A to Z with two spreads allocated to each letter. Some of the words included are tricky to get your tongue around so the pronunciation guide for each one could prove invaluable, especially should readers come upon a word that’s new to them. I have to say having learnt Latin many years ago did help somewhat, as it did with working out the meaning of the occasional words I hadn’t come across before – yes there were one or two – as well as several, including borborygmus – a rumbling emanating from the stomach- I was glad to be reminded of.

The same is true of kakistrocracy, for obvious reasons.

Did you know that a person (such as this reviewer) who loves solving crosswords (or a compiler of same) is called a cruciverbalist? Now there’s a lovely word to get your tongue around. As is omphaloscopy (otherwise known as navel gazing) and ultracrepidarian (somebody who has big opinions relating to things about which they know nothing). I’m sure we can all think of a few such people.

You might be forgiven for thinking that vomitorium was something to do with throwing up; not so; it’s a passageway people used in ancient Roman times to enter or leave an amphitheatre.

Not all the words are long or tricky to say though: there’s yex, which refers to the act of hiccupping or crying.

I’ll conclude with a word that I absolutely love – lollapalooza – which might be used to describe this book. If you don’t know its meaning then I suggest rather than ‘googling’ it, you get a copy for yourself, your family, or your class. As well as being a celebration of words and the English language, it has the potential for increasing the vocabulary of youngsters who will love to impress others with their word power.

The Butterfly House

The Butterfly House
Katy Flint and Alice Pattullo
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Judging by the number of containers housing butterflies in the various stages of their development my partner has scattered about the place, I rather think my own home at present ought to have the same name as this book, although unlike Katy Flint’s ‘welcome’, it doesn’t have never-ending ceilings, nor does it contain the various habitats she names that provide homes for many of the world’s major butterfly and moth families. I was surprised to learn that these winged creatures make up 7% of all Earth’s forms of life.

We then visit the Hatchery, which explains the life cycle of a butterfly with reference to the Monarch as well as containing a number of unusual-looking caterpillars.

The next two spreads explain the differences between butterflies and moths,

what various adult butterflies like to eat and that caterpillars are fussy eaters usually preferring one particular host plant.

In the subsequent pages over 100 species of moths and butterflies from all over the world grouped in their various scientific families, are displayed in Alice Pattullo’s alluring, finely detailed brush and Indian ink illustrations. Some like the Small tortoiseshell

and the Orange-tip will be familiar to UK readers (and to me as their caterpillars are presently munching away on their food plants in our downstairs bathroom).

To see others such as the Crimson rose swallowtail, the Owl butterfly or the spectacular Luna moth,

you’ll have to visit a butterfly house like that at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire or the one in Stratford-upon-Avon.

No matter where you live or visit, this book is sure to whet your appetite to get to know more about these beautiful creatures.