There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom

There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom
James Sellick and Frann Preston-Gannon
Wren & Rook

What begins as a rant at a mischievous ‘Rang-Tan’ in the bedroom of a small girl as she orders it to depart, is dramatically changed by the creature’s revelation of how human devastation of its rainforest home in south-east Asia has caused it to flee for its life; and all on account of palm oil – a constituent of the items in her room that the animal has been howling at.

Having learned of the irresponsible actions of her fellow human beings,

the girl is fuelled by a determination to do something about this reckless deforestation and so she does.

She writes to chocolate manufacturers

and talks to others about rainforest destruction, enlisting their support in her campaign and ending with a promise to make sure there is a future for animals like her visitor.

After the story there are several pages giving details of the orangutans and their plight; the problem caused by irresponsible destroying of rainforests and over-planting of the palm trees that yield the much-wanted oil, and what we can all do to help save the remaining rainforest habitat in Indonesia. Emma Thompson has written a foreword to the book in support.

Based on the original Greenpeace film that became a recent sensation, James Sellick’s rhyming story speaks powerfully for the cause and has been beautifully re-illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon whose scenes of destruction take readers to the heart of the problem.

A book that should bring to the attention of younger readers the price paid by irresponsible palm-oil production, enlisting more recruits to the green movement.

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon
Frann Preston-Gannon
Templar Books

Shhh! Can you hear that sound? It’s little frog down in the swamp sitting alone quietly singing his little frog song ‘neath the light of the moon.

Coming to a sudden stop he lets out a sigh and deciding solo singing really isn’t fun, hops off to find someone to join in.
He first enlists a friendly humming, drumming crocodile …

but still the tune lacks something so he adds some mice with their ‘la’s some “OH OH OH!” –ing fish, three coo-ing birds (at their own request);

but still the song isn’t right.

Then Froggy happens on a tiny shy bug convinced that her song isn’t worth adding to theirs.

Froggy however speaks thus, “… your song’s unique and important like all the rest. Even small voices count … only you sing your song.”

And so the little bug sings and as she does so, she shines like a bright star .

The voices blend beautifully as the song rises to a brilliant crescendo, the tune permeating every part of the swamp until everything on earth has joined in the singing.

This book delivers such a vitally important message in its celebration of the softly spoken introverts (I remember being such a one as a child, rather than the outspoken woman I now have become.) It’s a book that needs to be shared widely in nurseries, schools and with individuals particularly those similar to the little bug. It also speaks to the socially confident extroverts who may need to be made aware of the importance of leaving space for everyone to have their say.

Told through Frann’s lyrical rhyming narrative and her splendid collage illustrations (I love the way she places images on the page), this inclusive tale is a huge winner in my book.

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree
selected by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow

Wow! this huge, weighty volume is most definitely something to celebrate. Containing 366 nature poems, one for every day of the year, the collaboration between publishers Nosy Crow and the National Trust is a veritable treasure trove.

Fiona Waters wonderfully thoughtful compilation includes something for all tastes and all moods: there are poems, chants, songs and rhymes including a fair sprinkling from the great anon.

Each month contains a mix of the familiar including timeless classics, and a wealth of new offerings to delight and enchant.

185 poets are presented, both contemporary and from past times, mainly from UK based and American poets including Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, William Blake from the UK; and Emily Dickinson, Amy Lowell, my very favourite poet Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings from the US. Alongside are more modern offerings from Charles Causley, Carol Ann Duffy, Richard Edwards, John Agard, Tony Mitton,

Philip Gross, Benjamin Zephaniah to name but a few and from the USA: Aileen Fisher, Jack Prelutsky, David McCord and Myra Cohn Livingstone.

Almost all the poems are familiar to me (no surprise as I have compiled over 30 books of poetry) but I’ve also discovered some new gems such as Adelaide Crapsey’s November Night:
Listen … / With faint dry sound, / Like steps of passing ghosts, / The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees / And fall.
And Snow Toward Evening by Melville Cane:
Suddenly the sky turned gray, / The day, / Which had been bitter and chill, / Grew soft and still. / Quietly. / From some invisible blossoming tree / Millions of petals cool and white / Drifted and blew, / Lifted and flew, / Fell with the falling night.

Frann Preston-Gannon has done an amazing job with her art work: helping to reflect the beauty of the natural world and the changing seasons she provides a fine complement to the poems.

I found this beautifully bound, utterly enthralling book waiting for me on my recent return from India; I’ve been dipping in and out of it ever since, rediscovering old favourites and unearthing some fresh treasures. I suspect I shall continue to do so for a long time yet. It’s an ideal family book, a must for every school and a perfect way to start or end the day (or both).

Come on teachers – what about a poem a day with your class: Fiona has done all the hard work for you.

Dave’s Rock

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Dave’s Rock
Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow
The delightful troglodyte from Dave’s Cave is back with another troublesome scenario; on this occasion it’s rock related rivalry.
Dave love rock, Jon too.
Bigger rock Dave’s; Jon’s rock faster …

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Dave find pretty new rock, err …

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Cavemen fall out. Dave has idea. Dave busy. Jon busy too. New rocks, nice and round:just right for – new game …

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Dave and Jon both happy; friends happy too.

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… friends happy too.

Delivered in similar clipped caveman speak to its predecessor, this is a terrific tale of friendship, falling out and fun from the fabulous Frann Preston-Gannon. The inclusion of the Mark Twain quote, ‘Name the greatest of all inventors: accident’ sets the scene so perfectly.
The deliciously droll visuals are just SO eloquent. Her hirsute humans and their animal audience are simply splendid. The animals’ doodlings in the sand outlined my own thoughts as to the likely use of Dave’s and Jon’s new rocks but seemingly, the era of Homo ludens had a much earlier origin than the twentieth century advent of computer games, right back in the Tertiary period no less.
Perfect for storytime sharing (watch out for a spate of caveman speak thereafter); and equally perfect for beginning readers. A real cracker this!

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A Pandemonium of Parrots & An Acorn

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A Pandemonium of Parrots and other animals
illustrated by Hui Skipp
Big Picture Press
Essentially what we have here in this super book is a series of spreads featuring collective nouns for a dozen or so animals large and small, each one playfully and alluringly illustrated by a talent new to me, Hui Skipp; and embedded within each illustration is a descriptive quatrain (presumably written by Kate Baker), such as this:
With nimble legs and pinching claws,
     they run across the forest floor.
Their gleaming armour shimmers bright,
    while fragile wings prepare for flight.
… as well as questions to answer by exploring what’s depicted on the spread.

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Representing the feathered ones are the parrots of the title, flamingos (a flamboyance), penguins in a huddle and these Hummingbird dazzlers …

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There are tigers – an ambush, a Lounge of Lizards basking in the sunshine …

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       Casually they lie around
slouched on rocks or on the ground.
       Suddenly one spots its prey
       and in a flash it darts away.

and on the river banks ‘An Army’ of frogs – croaking, singing wonders every one. The mammals are represented by a Sloth of Bears, An Ambush of Tigers, A Troop of Monkeys, A Conspiracy of Lemurs …

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and A Caravan of Camels – beauties all.
The final two spreads are a “Did You See?’ array of all the animals with questions, followed by a concluding Who’s Who that gives snippets of information about each animal included.
Altogether this book is a treat for the eyes, an opportunity to learn some collective nouns and a chance to discover a few facts about thirteen fascinating groups of creatures. One for the primary classroom or family bookshelf.

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Because of an Acorn
Lola M.Schaefer, Adam Schaefer and Frann Preston-Gannon
Chronicle Books
This is a simple, but wonderfully effective look at a forest habitat and the interconnectedness of the flora and fauna that are a part of the ecosystem.
Because of an acorn, a tree grows; this in turn provides a nesting place for a bird, an insect-eating one that happens to aid seed dispersal.

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The seed in turn grows, producing a flower that fruits, providing a chipmunk food. A snake with its beady eye upon the chipmunk …

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is in turn seized in a hawk’s talons and when the hawk lands on the branch of, yes, an oak, down comes an ripe acorn and more until ultimately, there’s …

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a forest

Circles and cycles of life are evident in this cleverly conceived, unassuming little book that packs a powerful punch.
In addition to being a super little book to share with a class or group of young children, the fact that the text is simple, patterned, and perfectly matched to the pictures on each page, beginning readers can try reading it for themselves and feel empowered having done so.
There’s so much to see and to discuss in Frann Preston-Gannon’s lush foresty illustrations. UK readers will find some of the animals less familiar and the oak species is different from the British ones but this could be a good talking point.

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Lemur Losing & A Ghost Called Dog

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How to Lose a Lemur
Frann Preston-Gannon
Pavilion Books
“Everyone knows that once a lemur takes a fancy to you there is not much that can be done about it.” Thus begins a delightful child narrated take of what happens when one does just that – to the small boy himself. As our narrator takes a stroll in the park one sunny morning he notices, but does his level best to ignore, the lemur that’s in hot pursuit.

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The lad tries all kinds of escape ruses such as tree climbing and cycling … but nothing seems to work, not even giving them stern looks.
In desperation the boy buys a train ticket but guess what joins him. He takes to the air; but those pesky animals seem to have all eventualities covered, even camel riding …
and trekking through blizzards. Surely the latter will see them off but no.

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Suddenly though, the creatures seem to have gone to ground; the boy is far from home though and has no idea how to get back. Perhaps … well, just perhaps: I’ll say no more and leave it to readers to imagine what happens thereafter
Sheer delight from cover to cover is this board book with its collage style illustrations from rising star, Frann Preston-Gannon whose amusing story is certain to please the very youngest listeners as well as those adults who share it with them.

For older readers:

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A Ghost Called Dog
Gavin Neale
2QT
A family has just moved into a new house. Dad is a writer, working at home and under pressure with a deadline looming, so much of the task of settling in and organizing things is left to Mum, although she has to go to work as well. They have two children: Abby and her competitive, soccer-mad brother, Chris. When wildly imaginative Abby says she sees a rabbit in the shed this is rubbished by Chris; but then suddenly, he starts feeling ice-cold fur rubbing against his skin.
Moreover, there are two mysterious old women: stern, goat-keeping Nora and chatty Daphne, who live in a cottage close by and are showing a great deal of interest in the children. And what is all the talk of potential witches, spirit familiars and warlocks?
So begins a story full of intrigue and danger involving a disappearance (the children’s mother), challenges and dark forces.
Gavin Neale clearly knows something of the interests, or rather obsessions of primary school children, and his story may well hit the mark with readers who like stories with a mix of fantasy and reality, challenge and problem solving.

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To Share or Not to Share

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Dave’s Cave
Frann Preston-Gannon
Nosy Crow
Here stand Dave. Dave have cave. Cave perfect. Animal friends like cave. Dave not happy. Want new cave. Dave go search. Three caves not good – too small, too big, too much noise …

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Two caves nice but Dave no share. Jon no share …

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Dave no happy.
Nice cave?

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It’s definitely a case of east, west, home’s best in this deliciously droll story told in clipped caveman speak and wonderful visuals that say so much more than the spare text Every turn of the page is guaranteed to bring laughs of delight if my audiences are anything to go by, not to mention a whole lot of staccato style speech by way of appreciation.
In addition to being a delight to read aloud, this book is a great one to offer those in the early stages of learning to read. Put this alongside those dull reading schemes – there’s just no competition …

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I Have an Orange Juicy Drink
Andrew Sanders
Fat Fox
A small boy has a delicious juicy drink – a yummy, orangey, tasty one – orange squash one suspects. But when an alien, an elephant and a dinosaur …

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attempt to seize said drink its owner decides to teach the would-be takers a lesson of the squishing kind. Now it may seem that this is somewhat extreme particularly as he uses a garden shed …

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an ocean liner and – wait for it – the moon as squashers or rather, squishers. It does mean however, that our young narrator still has hold of his drink when along comes his brother (plus constant companion of the feathered kind) eager for a share of the juice. And moreover, the fellow knows how to ask properly.

 

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So, three things happen: one – he gets a some of the drink, two – he gets a hug and three – a lesson is learned …

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Squishing, it appears, is rather less damaging than squashing.
Simplicity and sheer ridiculousness are what make this book such fun. With a limited colour palette and minimal text, Andrew Sanders delivers a deliciously neat lesson in manners that will appeal to young and not so young alike. I’m still pondering on how the lesson-giver managed not to choke himself in some of the positions he adopted to partake of that juicy drink.

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