Welcome, Rain!

Welcome, Rain!
Sheryl McFarlane and Christine Wei
Greystone Kids

Directly addressing the rain, a little girl pays tribute to its wonders – the fresh, happy smell, the muddy puddles it makes for splashing in, and the water it provides for seeds and plants to grow.

Moving indoors she says thank you for the tap water for baths, cooking in and washing up, and for making tea. Having paid tribute, the child then moves on deciding as she watches while hugging her dog reassuringly, that, ‘maybe that’s enough for now, Rain. The creeks and lakes are full and the birds are huddled in our trees …’

As is nature’s way, the rain does stop eventually and fun outdoor activities restart, until that is the hot weather becomes too much to bear. Then again comes a change of tone: ‘We miss you, Rain, … and the trees and flowers that drink you up miss you more than we do.’

Coming full circle, the rain returns and I love how the young narrator curled up in bed says, ‘Good night, Rain. You are a bedtime pitter-patter lullaby playing on the roof. … a drip-drop song of raindrops singing in the trees.’

Christine Wei’s beautifully patterned images and her dense hues bring her landscapes to life in Sheryl McFarlane’s upbeat poetic celebration of what is for many of us, an increasingly unpredictable facet of our lives, the rain.

Super Small / The Versatile Reptile

Super Small
Tiffany Stone and Ashley Spires
Greystone Kids

You may be surprised to learn that some of the world’s smallest creatures have awesome superpowers.

The minute oribatid mite can lift more than 1,000 times its own weight. The pygmy seahorses are so good at camouflage that scientists only discovered them accidentally when they brought some coral into a lab to study; then there’s the bee hummingbird that’s able to fly backwards and upside-down – clever stuff!

Did you know that wood frogs are able to survive harsh winter conditions as ‘frogsicles’ – they stop breathing, their hearts stop beating and their bodies make a kind of protective antifreeze and as for those teeny tiny tardigrades, here’s what author Tiffany Stone has to say about them: ‘The tardigrade, or water bear, / is so small that its barely there. / … And bear in mind, although it’s wee, / it’s tougher that you’ll ever be. / Freezing cold or boiling hot— / too much to bear? This bear thinks not.’

Ashley Spires uses her artistic superpower to illustrate each featured creature, making every miniature marvel appear super-confident; and to accompany her poetic descriptions Tiffany Stone provides some side-notes in the form of animal monologues (or dialogue) presented in comic strip style side panels. This is a book that will appeal to animal enthusiasts especially.

So will:

The Versatile Reptile
Nicola Davies and Abbie Cameron

In this addition to the rhyming series in which Nicola Davies presents a look at various animal types, we meet some reptiles.

Reptiles are found in many different parts of the world as the young adventurer in this book discovers in her search. These scaly creatures might be jungle dwellers, live in desert places or swim in the seas among the seaweed, and can vary in size from massive to minute and from endearing to downright grim and ghastly. 

One thing the entire reptile group can claim though, is versatility. 

Abbie Cameron’s accurately detailed, close-up illustrations really drive that point home to readers who will one hopes enjoy coming face to face with such fascinating creatures. This reviewer certainly did.

Perfectly pitched for KS1 readers.

Family and Me! / Wildflower

Family and Me!
Michaela Dias-Hayes
Owlet Press

What a gorgeous celebration of herself, her family and her heritage, the little girl narrator of this rhyming book shares with readers. Feature by feature she presents key parts of herself starting with her eyes – these are just like her mum’s eyes, caring and true; her nose is similar to the beautiful one her Nanny has, which she puts to good use when they cook together . 

From grandad comes her glowing skin, from her aunt dazzling hair to crown her super sense of fashion. Her dad has passed on his super smile and cheeky expression, 

uncle his gentle touch and love of creating art, she has her grandma’s finely tuned ears whereas with his amazing dance moves, Grandpa has passed on his joyful sense of movement and ever dancing feet. 

Thus we see this little girl has dual heritage and she goes on to show off her framed portraits of her Mum’s family that make one half of her and her Dad’s, which provide the other half. How wonderful to celebrate such a super family – nine individuals (plus pets) – who so clearly love one another dearly.
That love shines forth from every single one of Michaela’s gorgeous warm illustrations is so evident and the shared tenderness between adults and child is unmistakeable throughout.

Melanie Brown and Sara Gillingham
Greystone Kids

Newly in bloom, Daisy is happy in her sunny spot in the garden. However her happiness is short-lived thanks to Rose’s hurtful words, “My mama says you’re just a weed, and you don’t belong here.” Poor Daisy’s petals droop even further each time another flower tells her she’s a weed. Sage says that she is a chef’s best friend, Sunflower towers over the garden and has seeds that are good to eat, 

Chamomile makes soothing tea that helps people sleep, and Strawberry Flower produces sweet, juicy fruits to feed people. Then, Sweet Pea shares the information that like Daisy, she wasn’t planted; she too was blown in by the wind and is sometimes called a weed. Up chimes Blackberry Vine imparting the news that despite the delicious fruits she produces, she also gets called a weed. Moreover Dandelion’s seeds are windborne but she calls herself a wild flower that grows wherever the wind drops a seed. 

By now, Daisy’s self belief has been restored. Finally there grows a Milkweed flower, meek and mild; this one introduces itself as a weed but Daisy is ready to speak out against Rose, giving her vital information, “Every plant I met today has something special about them to be proud of, no matter what you may call them.” She also warmly welcomes the newcomer to the garden they all share.

The ‘believe in yourself and love yourself exactly as you are’ and ‘stand up for others against prejudice’ messages are engagingly conveyed for young children in this beautifully simple story where words and pictures work in harmony.

Nature is an Artist

Nature is an Artist
Jennifer Lavallee and Natalia Colombo
Greystone Kids

Nature has many awesome qualities not least of which is its incomparable artistry – its beauty and its incredible variety: that is what this book explores and celebrates.

There is complete harmony between author Jennifer Lavallee’s rhyming text and Natalia Colombo’s striking illustrations of nature – both its manifestations and the green being that leads a group of five children on an exploratory journey through various beautiful natural landscapes showing them the sunrise over some hills; a field alive with buzzing bees and daisies growing in abundance around the trees; the rich colours of summer flowers in full bloom as they begin to scatter the petals. 

Next, resting on a rock at the water’s edge, nature shows itself as sculptor extraordinaire, carving and moulding rocks and clay. Then hidden deep beneath the ground lies evidence of nature’s etchings – those fossil impressions making patterns we all so love to find; 

while with rain and sun together, high up in the sky, nature creates a rainbow: a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colours, a prism up above.

As the children witness each stunning landscape one of their number with nature now as teacher/mentor is inspired to recreate what they’ve seen in art of their own making: one by finger painting, another making a colour paper collage, one sculpts towers in sand; fossil etchings are done by stamping various shapes on a large sheet 

and a rainbow is formed from torn tissue paper pasted on a glass jar and a lighted tealight within to provide the glow.

Whether used in a classroom or at home, those with whom this book is shared should not only develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world but also be motivated to try some of the art techniques the book includes.

This Is Not A Dinosaur! / Drawing Outdoors

This in Not a Dinosaur!
Barry Timms and Ged Adamson
Nosy Crow

The NOT dinosaur that the small boy in this story meets is definitely a versatile creature. Said large green, possibly prehistoric being that appears in the playground offers all manner of exciting, special and useful possibilities as a playmate. It can become pretty much anything and everything from a sign-osaur to a soccer star supersonic-kick-osaur; it might morph into a tonsorial wonder-worker trimming and skilfully styling your tresses,

or a fearsome freebooter sailing upon the ocean deep. One thing is certain: should you decide to befriend this beastie, there are fun adventures aplenty in store; you might even find yourself scaling a mountain, flying through the air

or tip-toeing into a creepy haunted house.

With its wealth of wordplay, Barry Timms’ rhyming text combined with Ged Adamson’s funny, action-packed scenes of a burgeoning friendship add up to a super story to share with young humans, definitely NOT dinosaurs around the age of the un-tailed protagonist, be that at home or in school. I’ve no doubt if you read this with a Foundation Stage or KS1 class, they will imagine themselves into many more playful NOT dinosaur situations. The classroom potential this book offers is huge.

Drawing Outdoors
Jairo Buitrago, (translated by Elisa Amado) and Rafael Yockteng
Greystone Kids

Between two lush green mountains, beside a pure blue river in the middle of nowhere stands a small school. Education is far from dull for its pupils however. Through a girl narrator we hear about one particular day when their teacher greets them with the news that their learning will be done outside and she leads them off with notebooks and drawing equipment at the ready. ‘We are explorers” says the narrator. Even the twins who have already walked a long way to reach school leave their reluctance at the door, motivated by the prospect of an adventure day out.

First into view as they reach the river bank, among the lush vegetation stands a Brontosaurus!

Then, there’s a Triceratops,a Stegosaurus, Pterodactyls, a roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex. Finally, the group sit to eat their snacks on a branch “as big as an Ankylosaurus”.

Then with a wealth of drawings it’s back to that school with ‘almost nothing. A blackboard, some chairs. And … a teacher, and a Brontosaurus that’s as big as a mountain.’

With Jairo Buitrago’s spare, matter of fact text, it’s left to listeners and readers to decide whether the dinosaurs we see in Rafael Yockteng’s landscapes are real or not. Their book pays homage to the imaginative teachers who truly value creativity one wishes all children will meet in their time at school. I’m sure re-reads will the requested after a sharing of this story with young children.