A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth

A Clock of Stars: The Shadow Moth
Francesca Gibbons, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Harper Collins Children’s Books

I read this book in a single sitting and am now eagerly awaiting the second part of what is to be a trilogy.
Imogen (eleven) and her younger sister Marie are a quarrelsome pair with a tendency (particularly on Imogen’s part) for being rude to their mum, their gran and others too.

As the story opens the girls’ mum is about to go out with ‘friend’ Mark, somebody Imogen has taken an instant dislike to, especially when out of nowhere a beautiful silvery moth appears that Mark seems intent on destroying. All this just before Gran arrives to take the girls out to tea.

Imogen follows the moth but it disappears only to reappear while they’re out with Gran and of course, Imogen follows the creature which leads her into a deserted, overgrown garden. There she comes upon a door in a tree and she finds herself in a magical world only to discover that her sister has followed her too.

It’s a world where anything might happen, and there they encounter a boy who insists on calling them peasants and saying he’s Miro, prince of the castle. He does however offer them refuge in his castle and so begins both a friendship crucial to the tale and a terrific, exciting adventure quest wherein the children race against time, pitched against a deadly threat, aided and abetted not only by Miro, but a dancing bear, a hunter of the grumpy kind, the stars in the sky even.

All these characters are superbly brought to life by the author in her richly imagined world, a world made even more wonderful by Chris Riddell’s amazing, detailed illustrations.

Perfectly paced, sometimes chilling, sometimes funny, and including fairy tale elements such as a villainous stepmother a foolish king and stolen treasure, and a magical clock, this is truly a snuggle up under a blanket and relish story by an exciting new writer, that’s ideal for dark evenings and chilly days. Don’t be daunted by the length: the chapters are short and I guarantee you’ll keep telling yourself ‘just one more’ …

Bring on the sequel say I.

The Snowflake

The Snowflake
Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Benji Davies has created yet another heart-warming and absolutely beautiful picture book about on the one hand, a little snowflake and on the other, a little girl, named Noelle. The former, as the story opens, is in the process of falling, albeit rather reluctantly at first. Far below, the second is returning home through the city with her grandpa, Pappie, wondering as she walks about the possibility of snow that night.

As the snowflake falls, she wonders about where she will eventually land and where she truly belongs, but the choice isn’t hers to make as her fate is controlled by the wind that bears her drifting and swirling towards the bright lights as they get ever closer. Both child and snowflake are drawn by a wondrous sight – a large Christmas tree that glistens and sparkles in a window, the one wishing for such a tree for herself, the other wanting to be the star atop that tree.

Then close to home, Noelle finds the perfect little tree of her very own, while far above, the snowflake is still wondering where she might find to land.

Back home, Noelle’s mother gets out the decorations and together with Pappie, the child sets about adorning the little tree. 

Eventually Noelle puts it outside on her windowsill; but goes to bed feeling that the tree is lacking something special. But what? …

A magical, truly memorable, heart-warming Christmassy tale about finding your true purpose. It’s Benji’s art that really steals the show here: it’s full of glorious, festive details on the one hand and on the other, those wintry skyscapes are simply superb. When you share this, like the snowflake aglow on the final spread, everyone will be left with a wonderful glow within.

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Despite her pa, King Lupo’s initial reluctance, young werewolf extraordinaire. (Princess) Lottie Luna, she of the super-speed, super strength and X-ray vision, is allowed to join her classmates on a camping expedition. Also on the trip are Agatha Claws (Aggie) who’s a touch above herself, and Larry who announces on the coach that he’s got a very wobbly tooth and hopes to receive a silver coin from the fang fairy when it comes out so long as she can find where to leave it.

On arrival they have to agree on sleeping arrangements and once that’s done everyone gathers around the campfire for supper followed by a bedtime story telling session. Poor little Larry gets frightened by some of what he hears.

Next morning Lottie discovers footprints close to her tent and even more around Larry’s. Is somebody trying to scare the cub or is it something more sinister? Lottie is determined to find out; but of course, she doesn’t want any of her classmates to find out about her special skills.

After breakfast it’s time for a hike: everyone is put into groups. The aim is to get to the top of High Hill and en route the cubs are asked to find ten or more plant and animal varieties – a chance for Lottie to reveal one of her superpowers by accident if she isn’t careful. Then comes a realisation – Larry has gone missing; it’s time to tell the grown-ups.

They do; and Lottie, Wilf, Marjory and Aggie are sent as a search group sans teacher and as you’d expect, Aggie has equipment for every eventuality in her rucksack. On the way though she storms off after a tiff, so it’s two not one person the others have to look for. Then Marjory reveals something to Lottie which changes things somewhat, but this search is all about teamwork;

and there are footprints to follow. Where will they lead and what about that tooth of Larry’s?

Lottie Luna is a hugely loveable character – suitably dignified and princessy? errr … and this, with its themes of friendship, being true to yourself and forgiveness, is, as one expects of Vivian, another fangtastic story (book 3 in the spooktacular series). Adding to the delights are Nathan Reed’s splendidly atmospheric black and white illustrations that augment the gentle comic feel of the whole. (I love the tiny winged onlookers guarding the page numbers.) Looking forward to the Giant Gargoyle story …

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

The little werewolf princess aka Lottie Luna has a special mission in this sparkling second story: she wants to give her friend Marjory a very special birthday surprise.

Lottie has only been at her school for a few weeks but already she’s loving it and managing to keep her powers under wraps except to her two real friends Wilf and Marjorie.

The problem is that another class member, the self-satisfied Agatha Claws, is always on the lookout for ways to cause trouble for Lottie and now Aggie’s cousin Kiki has just joined the class and is showing signs of being even more unpleasant than her relation.

When Kiki manages to get her hands on a note Lottie has passed to Wilf concerning the birthday plan, things start to get pretty tricky; especially as the success of the plan rests partly on Lottie’s irritating brother Boris doing his bit.

Despite her reluctance to reveal her special powers to others, it seems that there is no other way than to use her super speed,  super sight, super hearing and super strength if Marjory is to have a birthday she’ll never forget.

On this occasion pushing a stuck truck out of a very muddy very deep puddle

and rummaging in rubbish bins are just two of the unlikely activities Lottie has to perform if operation party is to succeed.

There’s at least one surprise action and one welcome departure before the end of this fantastical fun story but I’ll keep those to myself and just say young readers will be gripped as they read of one little werewolf’s unstoppable energy and resolve.

They’ll also be utterly enchanted by Nathan Reed’s blissfully funny illustrations liberally scattered throughout the tale.

Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe / Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day

Alfie Fleet’s Guide to the Universe
Martin Howard, illustrated by Chris Mould
Oxford University Press

Holidays may seem like a distant dream at the present time but there’s no harm in looking forward and we all need something to keep us cheerful. This second Alfie Fleet story will certainly do just that and perhaps keep holiday dreams alive too.

If you’ve not encountered Alfie before, he has sandy coloured hair and awkward knees. In this adventure he and Professor Pewsley Bowell-Mouvemont are soon to open their enterprise the Unusual Travel Agency and are compiling the final few entries to the Guide to the Universe.

Pretty soon though, the two find themselves in trouble as they drop in on other planets that turn out to be anything but welcoming to the visitors.

In addition there’s that motley crew, members of the Unusual Cartography Club with their thoroughly nasty leader, Sir Willikin Nanbiter who is determined to sabotage the Unusual Travel Agency, to deal with.

A brief review cannot do justice to this utterly crazy, twisting-turning story with its wealth of Chris Mould’s brilliant illustrations portraying the fantastical cast of characters;

let’s just say that with its weird words and toilet humour and more, this is a total hoot from beginning to end. Just give it to children who have a particular penchant for unlikely quests and stand well back.

Now I’m off to try that ‘Stuttering Ferret’ pose at Guru Wobbli Rubbalegs Bindobendi yoga retreat way off on Planet Baldy and leave readers to discover for themselves whether Alfie finally succeeds in finding all those whom he seeks and bringing love and peace – well maybe just peace, to the universe.

Also full of fantastic characters but of a rather different kind is:

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day
Dominique Valente, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
Harper Collins Children’s Books

With her second adventure just published it’s time to get acquainted with Willow Moss. Young Willow comes from a family with magical powers. She too has a special power but hers is less impressive-seeming than other family members. Willow, has the power to find lost things.

Then the scariest, most powerful witch in the whole of Starfell appears on the scene and changes things, for none other than Moreg Vaine has chosen Willow to help in a crucial search,

Apparently last Tuesday has disappeared– nobody remembers a thing about it – and almost unbelievably Moreg needs the talents of a finder like her. How on earth can she possibly manage such a thing, especially as failure to track down and return Tuesday to the place it belongs, could have catastrophic consequences for the entire world?

Really, Willow has little choice but to get on board (rather broomstick) and accept the mission. If truth be told though she’s long harboured a desire for a bit of excitement, so it’s bag packed and off they go (accompanied – in Willow’s bag – by lie-detecting cat-like kobold Oswin, Willow’s only friend).

Magical writing of a magical tale – Dominique Valente’s debut has everything younger fantasy lovers could want: humour, fabulous characters including a dragon with an empty egg and trolls, plus there’s a portal cloak (Moreg’s), a splendid compass-like device that can act as guide when tricky moments present themselves and much, much more.. In particular, the wonderful Willow herself – resourceful and determined and lacking in self-belief. And yes, she does finally discover what happened to that lost Tuesday.

The potency of all this textual magic is further strengthened thanks to Sarah Warburton’s cracking illustrations.

This reviewer can’t wait to read more of Willow, and I’m certain that will be the response from youngsters too.

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies / Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies
Becka Moor and Pamela Butchart
Nosy Crow

It’s always a delight to read of the exploits of Class 2R in their school where pretty much anything can happen.

Here we have three new fun, beautifully observed episodes wherein the children allow their imaginations to take flight. In the first story it’s a case of bunnies running riot in the playground: could they be ATTACK BUNNIES and why are they there?

The second tale, has class teacher Miss Riley announcing the imminent arrival of a ‘special guest’. Is the man who sits at the back of the class a TV talent spotter or has he another purpose for watching the goings on of teacher and pupils?

In story number three the children all sign up for violin lessons but their music teacher, Miss Stein looks really spooky. Could she perhaps be a witch – a bewitching witch?

It’s so easy to get sucked into 2B’s zany premises in these enormously enjoyable stories and the final revelations are always delicious.

As ever Pamela Buchart has done a brilliant job illustrating these small sparkling stories. She catches the zaniness of Becka’s tellings SO well making every page turn not only a verbal but a visual treat.

Bring on the next one.

Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Meet Lottie Luna, star of a super new series by Vivian French.
Lottie is a werewolf, but a very special one with extra powers on account of her being born during a full lunar eclipse. Hence she’s super speedy, super strong, has x-ray vision and has super hearing. Oh yes and she’s also a princess on account of her father inheriting a kingdom.

This however means that she’s had to move home to the crumbling Dracon Castle and consequently has to start at a new school mid year. Like many youngsters, Lottie is nervous about this and certainly doesn’t want it known at Shadow Academy that she’s special even if that means not revealing her real self.

Lottie’s class teacher announces a pupil project – to create a design to transform the wasteland behind the school into a beautiful garden and the winning design will be used for the purpose.

Before long Lottie finds she has two friends, and decides that the head of her new school is amazing – a kindred spirit too; perhaps things won’t be so bad after all.

As for the garden design, Lottie is the winner but once the garden creation begins,

more challenges arise – there’s a Bloom Garden saboteur at work.

Now Lottie must do all she can to save the enterprise from road developers; but can she do it? Perhaps it’s time to draw on those superpowers of hers …

Friendship, determination, being true to yourself, courage, resilience and forgiveness are at the heart of this smashing story Vivian has woven.

Nathan Reed has done a terrific job with his black and white illustrations; they’re offbeat and splendidly playful.

More please!

Show and Tell

Show and Tell
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

I’m delighted to tell you that this piece of rhyming brilliance from Rob Biddulph is a February paperback publication – be sure not to miss it if you haven’t got the hardback.

How Rob does it time after time I can’t quite fathom, but the guy is surely a genius when it comes to picture books.

He sets this story in the classroom and he zooms us right there with the opening credits page with its trolley full of named drawers.

Having met the class in question 2L who so we’re told, are ‘excited’ we’re introduced to their teacher Mr Lumsden as he announces what they’ve all been waiting for – a show and tell session. “The child that impresses me most wins a prize,” he says.

Now there’s rabid competitiveness in 2L as is very quickly evident, but things begin quite simply with Adam and his lowly sunflower seed.

This is immediately poo-pooed by another class member as being “BORING!” She has something far superior, so she thinks – a tin of blue spaghetti.

Very soon the event turns in to an ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ competition as the items brought – goodness knows how – begin to escalate. We see a red robot, a racing car, immediately followed by an alligator,

and a space ship complete with alien operator, Zorg. Then we have Big Ben, out-bigged by a flaming volcano

and wait for it – the MOON!

There follows a totally unexpected, added bit of out of this world wackiness, before Mr Lumsden finally picks the winner.

Thereafter comes a brilliant twist that shows us all something really important. On this matter I’ll say no more.

When I was a class teacher, I never had ‘show-and-tell’ sessions for the very reason that Rob has so cleverly and humorously shown and told with his 2L.

Wide Awake / Creature Features:Dinosaurs

Wide Awake
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This is Rob Biddulph’s third in the Dinosaur Juniors series that’s bound to delight your dino-littles.

The stars of this particular nocturnal show are Winnie – the wide awake one and Otto whom she wakes up to tell she cannot sleep.

Otto once roused has a simple plan in the form of a soothing lullaby and it goes like this:

Easy peasy: job done! Not quite; Winnie is still wide awake, so maybe a memory game that requires recalling everything they did during the day … a doddle surely.

But no; wide eyed she remains.

Third time lucky then? Counting sheep never fails … success! One deeply sleeping twin sister. Shame she snores ….

Hilarious, and delivered in Rob’s faultless rhyming and priceless pictorial style, this is the perfect read-to-your-little-ones tale, be it or be it not bedtime; and you certainly won’t find yourself nodding off as you share it; rather you’ll end up hoarse after repeated re-reads. Bring on the fourth book say I.

And if your dino-tinies can’t get enough of their favourite creatures then try:

Creature Features:Dinosaurs
Natasha Durley
Big Picture Press

This over-sized board book is brimming over with prehistoric beasties of the ‘Humongous horns’ variety, as well as those with ‘Terrifying teeth’, ‘Wonderful wings’, ‘Hefty head crests’, ‘Brilliant beaks’, ‘Amazing armour’,

not to mention ‘Fabulous flippers’, exceedingly long necks, ‘Super sails & spines’, ‘Creepy claws’ and ‘Fantastic fur’.

Illustrated with super-bright colours and splendid shapes, these creatures will make your little ones pause and linger over every spread to learn lots of new names, hone their observation skills and learn some dino-facts along the way.


Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books

As a huge Benji Davies enthusiast I was eagerly awaiting Tad and it’s another winner.

Let me introduce Tad; she’s the tiniest, almost a frog, tadpole in the entire pond who can only keep up with her tad siblings by wiggling her tail at double the speed they do.

These little creatures share a problem though, for there’s another resident of their pond; Big Blub is its name and it’s said this great big nasty ancient fish lives in the darkest, murkiest part of the pond and lies in wait to gobble up unsuspecting little wrigglers like her.

Tad resolves not to believe in such a beastie, confining her swimming to the shallow water and hiding behind the plants at sundown – just in case.

Gradually as tadpoles do, Tad and her siblings’ grow legs and lose their tails,

finding large leaves on which to spend the nights. But there seem to be fewer of them about

and then there are just two remaining – oops! One brother gone!

Make that just Tad with her determination to escape the mouth of Big Blub.

It’s no good pretending the predator doesn’t exist any longer; there’s just one way to save herself …

Could her leap into the unknown perhaps herald not only a startling reunion but also the start of a new and exciting, rather different way of life?

This is perfect springtime reading; dramatic illustrations to feast your eyes on and a perfectly paced telling with just sufficient suspense to send small frissons of fear running through your little ones, as they listen to Benji’s delicious tad-tale.


David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books

When a new hatchling penguin going by the unlikely name of Geronimo bursts into the snowy world of the Antarctic he’s fuelled by a determination to become airborne, despite his father’s assertions that penguins can’t fly.

His first attempt sees him plunging headlong into the freezing-cold ocean. Unabashed he relaunches himself, this time using a seal’s enormous belly as a springboard, only to nose dive into deep snow.

But Geronimo isn’t ready to give in that easily: he has the ingenious notion of placing his bottom over the blowhole of a whale. This rather reckless rear end rest results in his needing beak-to-beak resuscitation from his pa.

Thoughts of flight now fill not only his every waking moment but also his dreams – every single night it’s the same …

Eventually, the Emperor emperor penguin instructs his Dad to tell Geronimo once and for all he’s to stop trying. But surely that can’t be the end of his aeronautic antics?

Perhaps not, with the collective brains of the colony working overtime …
After all there is more that one way of looking at things now isn’t there? It’s certainly so if you happen to be a yogi, or at least, like the adult penguins in the story, able to stand on your head.

Totally crazy but then this is David Walliams with his off the wall humour. Tony Ross adds his own brilliant touches of zaniness with a sequence of hilarious spreads of Geronimo’s efforts and the optical delusion that finally makes his dream come true.

Hold fast to your dreams – what a great message for young children.

A Hug is for Holding Me / Mummy Time

A Hug is for Holding Me
Lisa Wheeler and Lisk Feng
Abrams Appleseed

As a father and child stroll together, the former invites the little girl to become a nature observer. ’Look around and you will see / all the things a hug can be.’

The adult likens what they see to aspects of the natural springtime world and the child then responds. They notice a nest of speckled eggs, cocoons:
‘Cocoons are strong / yet gentle hugs, / and then, / surprisingly … // the air is filled with wondrous wings! / Your hug amazes me.’

… flower buds and seashells

during their meander that is lyrically described by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Lisa Feng in attractive stylised spreads of the two humans enjoying one another’s company among the flora and fauna.

Embrace nature, embrace one another, that is the essence of this book to share between parent and child.

In complete contrast is the outing shared by parent and infant in this story where engagement between adult and child appears non-existent :

Mummy Time
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This ironic tale of a mother totally absorbed in a conversation on her mobile while in the park with her toddler is something of a departure for the amazing Judith Kerr.

It certainly isn’t the gentle mummy time story one might anticipate from the cover picture and opening page – far from it.

Almost the entire verbal narrative takes the form of mum’s mobile conversation with a friend as she leaves the house for the park with her little boy for some ‘mummy time’.

Ensconced on a bench, she chats away about a recent party, the people who were there, the food, the changing fortunes for the better of her hosts and the ill-fortune that seems to dog her own life.

Meanwhile, as the pictures show, the toddler is engaged in a real life encounter with a large dog,

a spot of pigeon and duck food sampling, an unplanned dip in the pond, a ride on a swan, a treetop tumble,

a close encounter with a minibeast and a comforting cuddle from that dog again.

Strangely these parallel worlds of mum and toddler collide for mum’s conversation becomes a commentary on the pictorial action so beautifully portrayed by Judith Kerr.

An altogether intriguing book and a side-swipe at the human obsession with mobile phones. ‘Mummy Time’ seems to be just that, not time for mummy and toddler together.

Mini Rabbit Not Lost

Mini Rabbit Not Lost
John Bond
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Mini Rabbit has a particular penchant for cake and seemingly nothing will stop him from getting the vital ingredients he needs to make one. A lack of berries sees him rushing off in search of same with but one thought in his mind ‘Must have cake, cake … cake … cake’.

Turning down offers of help on the way …

the little creature heads down to the beach and off out to sea. What is the fellow thinking? Well we know the answer to that, don’t we.

His search becomes a quest of epic proportions as he traverses dangerous stretches of water, climbs to enormous heights and dangles himself over precipitous ledges.

Far from home Mini Rabbit eventually comes to this conclusion –

That’s when a delicious smell suddenly sends his nostrils into overdrive. He even makes a small discovery that, when he finally makes his way back home, he presents to his Mother. She too has something to present to Mini Rabbit.

It doesn’t quite receive the reception she’d been anticipating though.

This thoroughly delicious story is, unbelievably, John Bond’s debut picture book. He cleverly shows but never tells how on several occasions Mini Rabbit fails to notice berry locations, something observant youngsters will delight in pointing out. They will delight too in the final punch-line, but I won’t spoil it by revealing what that is. Instead I suggest you get hold of a copy of this tasty book and relish the whole thing yourself (along with one or many small listeners of course).

Give Peas a Chance (Dinosaur Juniors)

Give Peas a Chance (Dinosaur Juniors)
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Hurrah! There’s a whole story starring Nancy, one of the Dinosaur Juniors brigade we first met playing a bit part, strumming her guitar in Greg’s Happy Hatchday tale.

Yes that little dino-guy does put in an appearance too in the form of a co-consumer of Nancy’s unwanted peas. The problem being Nancy detests all things green so when she’s called in for her dinner

and told in no uncertain terms that she can’t go out and join her pals until her plate is empty, peas and all, she just has to cook up a quick plan.

As Greg passes beneath her window, Nancy utters these words loud and clear, “Mmmm, peas! / I’d eat them all day long. / Dad says they’ll make me / super strong.

This utterance immediately has Greg salivating and asking for a share, which of course Nancy is only too willing to provide.

A similar thing happens when Sue comes along and her desire, as Nancy knows, is to be super speedy so all she needs to do is alter her pea praising poem to include the words “super fast” and Sue too is at the ready to receive a forkful of the little green veggies.

Chess-playing Otto is likewise attracted to the window and Nancy’s promise of the bestowal of super smartness upon those that consume those little green balls, so he cannot wait for a brain-boosting mouthful.

Now Nancy’s plate is completely clean. Mission accomplished and off she can go to play …

Err, maybe not quite yet, for Dad is about to become the bearer of some good news.

Again a super-stylish Rob Biddulph feast for ears and eyes, not to mention taste buds: those vibrant colours, especially the green hues are just SO appetisingly alluring.

Absolutely brilliant, the prehistoric pals do it once more: I wonder which of the dino-littles will star in the next of the series. Will it be Sue, or Otto; or perhaps Winnie, Wilf, Hector, Martin or Boo? There will be a huge number of fans waiting in eager anticipation after consuming this rhyming treat.

Dinosaur Juniors Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors Happy Hatchday
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books

A new Rob Biddulph picture book is always cause for celebration at Red Reading Hub and so it is with this one which, by all accounts is the first of a cracking new series – no apologies for the pun as this clever rhyming tale begins with the hatching of Otto, Winnie, Hector, Sue, Nancy, Martin, Wilf and Boo.
Oops! I nearly forgot the last out, Greg (short for Gregosaurus); he appears on the scene a whole week after his fellow batchlings.
By that time all the other recent hatchlings have firmly established themselves; some appear to have an artistic bent,

others are chefs, musicians

and, wait for it, balloon inflaters.

Will poor, miserable looking Greg find his place anywhere among the dino-dudes? Can you see the tears?

Perhaps your young audience will by this stage be anticipating the possibility of a surprise finale, if so they won’t be disappointed.

The book is great fun to share with dino-littles at home or nursery: a read-aloud dino-delight splendidly illustrated with lots to explore on every spread including things to count; it’s funny and with its faultless rhyming narrative, oh so re-readable

Boogie Bear

Boogie Bear
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books

The tour-de-force that is Walliams and Ross has created yet another winning picture book, this time starring a resident of the North Pole, a female polar bear.

The creature over-indulges, drops off to sleep and drifts far from home. So far in fact that the sun is sufficiently warm to melt away the ice-berg upon which she’s been precariously balanced and she’s forced to swim for shore, employing ‘her best bear paddle’.

Once on dry land it seems worse is to come in the form of an advancing stampede of decidedly hostile-looking furry creatures of a brown hue yelling about a ‘boogie monster”.

Further undesirable episodes follow including the hurtling through the air of various objects – missiles …

and bears – until suddenly, the ursine residents make a startling discovery.

From then on things turn distinctly peachy for a certain polar bear;

but if you want to find out exactly how the tale ends then you’ll have to get your paws on a copy of this hilarious book. If you’re an adult who loves giving a full dramatic performance when sharing a book you’ll absolutely love this one; if you’re a child who enjoys a rippingly good yarn that will make you wriggle with laughter and that’s brilliantly illustrated, then this is for you.

Uproariously funny as it may be, the story has much to say about embracing difference, acceptance, welcoming, friendship, displacement and more. It’s as much needed now as ever.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Grotlyn

The Grotlyn
Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books

What or who on earth is a Grotlyn?
Well,  it’s certainly the subject of the organ grinder’s song in this story set in a murky Victorian town; and it’s something that keeps young Rubi from sleep as she lies alone in her room one night – the song in her head, and the possibility there’s one around. Or was that scuttling sound merely a mouse?

Others too are not yet slumbering. There’s Sam, perched high among the rooftops, tucking into his supper: he’s disturbed by a rustling sound as something is taken.

Policeman Vickers too is wide awake and in the process of hanging out his washing when …

We have clues now as to the identity of the mysterious Grotlyn; but it’s way too fast for the policeman as it vanishes once more into the shadows with its haul – an odd assortment of bits and pieces. What on earth or in sky could all those things be for?
With its strange noises in the night, Benji Davies compelling rhyming narrative is full of suspense and imbued with a gentle humour and his illustrations are absolutely stupendous. No matter where Davies takes us, be it Sudden Hill, Grandpa’s Island or onto a beach with Noi, we’re always right there with his characters, totally immersed in the story, living each and every moment of the action too; and so it is here, one hundred per cent.


Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins

Sid Gibbons and trouble seem to go hand in hand: first it’s smashing the birdbath with his ball; then forgetting to put the tops back on his pens; his bedroom resembles a ‘pigsty’ and now his dinner is all over the floor. Needless to say, his mum is less than happy. But, none of this is Sid’s fault: no it’s Kevin’s.
And who is Kevin you might be thinking; he’s Sid’s friend. The pink spotted, vanilla furred pal with a single tooth and a tendency for clumsiness who comes through a hatch in his bedroom ceiling when Sid feels lonely, so he tells his mum, who naturally is having none of this ‘make-believe friend.’
Make-believe? Through that ceiling hatch there shines a light – a light of vanilla and pink striped rays: up the stairs goes Sid to be confronted by a truly amazing sight – a magical world filled with strange beasties…

Now though, the boot is on the other foot, so to speak: Sid is the invisible being here and this gives him an idea. Uh-oh!

As a result however, it also gives him an opportunity to question his actions: is it fair to blame your misdemeanours on a friend, albeit an imaginary one?
Time to make reparation – first to Kevin and then to his very own Mum …

All this and more is delivered through Rob Biddulph’s faultless rhyming narrative – a longish one – and his equally superb visuals. For the latter he moves from the monochromes of Sid’s reality to the glorious rainbow hues of Kevin’s kingdom. Fans of the author’s previous works will delight in guest appearances from Fred, the bear from Grrrrr!; Blown Away’s Blue and the occasional Odd Dog dachshund.

And, those beastie inhabitants of Kevin’s world, be they hairy, slimy, leggy or frilly, are splendid. As for Sid, he’s a totally believable character, full of mischief and absolutely adorable – I’m pretty sure I’ve taught him somewhere along the line; many times over in fact.
All this while exploring ideas about imaginary friends and the notion of facing up to the consequences of our own actions, which is so subtly embedded into the tale – genius!

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the playground game? Now thanks to a rib-tickling collaboration between author Daywalt (of The Day the Crayons Quit fame) and illustrator, Adam Rex you can find out.
Daywalt’s telling demands much of the reader aloud in the way of performance power, as he tells in true legend style, of fearsome heroes; first of Rock, invincible champion warrior of the ancient realm of the Kingdom of Backgarden. Dissatisfied by the lack of worthy challengers, Rock travels far and wide in search of an equal in battle: His first adversary is Peg atop a washing line; his second comes in fruit form: he insults a juicy apricot and is immediately challenged to a duel…

but flattening the fruit, brings him no joy.
Meanwhile, in the Empire of Mum’s Study, and in Kitchen Realm, two other warriors, Paper and Scissors are equally at odds with themselves over lack of sufficiently challenging opponents. “Taste my fury, giant box-monster!” Paper yells at Computer Printer before completely jamming up its works …

Scissors at the same time, puts paid to a ‘strange and sticky circle-man, aka tape dispenser, as well as ‘dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets’.

Finally the three warriors make their way to a garage and after three eye-popping rounds, they come to the conclusion that there is an endless circularity to their battles and become fast friends. But we all know the perils of triangular friendships …
Fiercely fast, furious and funny, this will have your audiences crying out for instant re-reads, not least on account of such giggle-inducing cries as, “You Sir look like a fuzzy little fruit bum” – that’s to the apricot; and “drop that underwear” (to clothes peg); as well as Rock’s talk of “no pants” in response to Scissors’ mention of “battle pants”.
The high drama of Daywalt’s text is made even more verbally viciously confrontational by the use of all manner of graphic exuberances and is further heightened by Rex’s superb, action-packed scenes of the battlers set against backdrops of raging thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions and missile firings.
What really makes the whole confrontational epic so engaging for me though, is that in the end, co-operation RULES …

I’ve signed the charter  

Monkey’s Sandwich


Monkey’s Sandwich
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What is your favourite kind of sandwich? I think mine would have to be roast vegetables and hummus, or maybe goat’s cheese and tomato; it all depends in part on how I’m feeling. I certainly wouldn’t relish the crisps, Nutella, bhuja and banana variety one of my teenage friends loves to make for breakfast when home on holiday from her boarding school. Nor would I bother with butter, which is the first thing Monkey helps himself to when he visits still-sleeping Yak’s abode in search of something to fill his rumbling tum very early one morning before the shops are open.
Almost inevitably though, he deems plain old bread and butter boring so off he goes again, helping himself this time to a wedge of slumbering Mouse’s cheese – he does have the courtesy to leave him a “Thank You” note though.


Monkey cannot quite stop himself from adding cucumber, custard and a whole lot of other tasty items to his stack


Jellybeans, chocolate spread and mustard from Flamingo …

until his sandwich is positively towering but even then he just doesn’t seem satisfied. Who actually eats this monstrous repast though? That is the all-important question …


Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox have assuredly concocted an offering to be relished with their toothsome tale of monkey’s mischievous marauding. Michelle’s text is a treat to get your tongue around and Emily’s comical scenes of the cheeky creature helping himself to all those tidbits are to be sure, saporous.
I suspect, like me, you’ll have your audience calling for second and third helpings after a sharing of this one.


Odd Dog Out

Odd Dog Out
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Here’s a splendiferous book about being yourself, happy in your own skin and most important, being an individual unafraid of being different. I was blown right away by Rob Biddulph’s debut picture book, growled in delight at his second offering and this is every bit as good, and better.
As a divergent thinker who refuses to conform I was totally hooked by the time I reached here …

That this small dog just doesn’t quite sing from the same song sheet as all the other dogs …


causes her such sadness she decides to up and leave her home town and strike out alone …

which she does, travelling until she reaches Doggywood. But is this the right place for our canine pal? There certainly seem to be a lot of others looking just like her …

But it’s not being like those same-looking others that convince Odd Dog she’s perfectly fine just as she is; it’s an encounter with another who is totally at home with her own difference that convinces her that her heart and home are right back where she came from. Being happy with who and what you are, is the important thing: let the rest of the world accommodate you and perhaps even celebrate yours and everyone’s uniqueness …

Super-brilliant stuff, Rob Biddulph: you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head with this one. ‘ … blaze a trail. Be who you are.’ What better message to give children, and indeed adults, than this. Cracking rhyming text and illustrations: a MUST have for every family and classroom.


Board Books Briefing

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I Wish I Were a Pirate
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Sarah Ward
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
In a jolly rhyming narrative, a small boy entertains the possibilities of a piratical life sailing the seas, capturing a baddie of two …

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and of course, searching for buried treasure.
Small fingers will have lots of fun working the various sliders …


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and there’s plenty to amuse in Sarah Ward’s jolly nautical scenes, not least the activities of the stowaway mice.

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Cars Go
Steve Light
Chronicle Books
Bright watercolour illustrations accompany the irresistible onomatopoeic outpourings of the eight vehicles featured in this wide format board book.
With an old jalopy that goes CHITTYCHITTY CHITTYCHITTY KKKKTTT SHHPPPTTT SHHPPPTTT, a Monster Truck that goes KR-KR-KR KR-KR-KR- KRRUUUNCH and this beauty …

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You’re guaranteed a wonderfully noisy story session when you share this with early years children; and think of all that inbuilt sound/symbol awareness potential herein.
And, don’t you just love the playful finale …

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Listen to the Jungle
Listen to the Things that Go
Marion Billet
Nosy Crow
This pair of interactive board books with lots of noise making opportunities and amusing animal pictures should provide hours of fun for the very youngest. Lions, a hippo, monkeys, an elephant, pandas and parrots …

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plus a sprinkling of minibeasts and other birds inhabit the landscapes of the former, each being introduced with a single sentence such as ‘Listen to the hippo in the water.’
Each spread has a strategically placed button, which when pressed, makes the animal’s sound.
The Things that Go are cars, a lorry, a bike …

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a train, a boat and a tram and all the drivers, riders and passengers are animals.  
Both books, when shared with an adult, offer plenty of potential for talk about each spread. (And you can discretely turn the sound switch inside the back cover to the off position if you want to.)

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Mog and Me and other stories
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books
For a delightful introduction to the world of Mog for the very youngest, this is just the thing and, with its easy to read text, it’s ideal for beginning readers to share with their toddler siblings.

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Here in four brief stories, we meet not only the forgetful cat herself, but also members of her extended family.

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The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Hueys – usually a peaceable group of characters are having an argument when along comes Gillespie and dares to ask, “What are you fighting for?” but they’re too busy deciding who started it, so he tries again …

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Err …
The humour in this story of escalating conflict is subtle and quite sophisticated. It works well with 4s to 6s but one wonders whether it might go right over the heads of toddlers – the usual board book audience.

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Potties and Pyjamas

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Skip to the Loo, My Darling!
Sally Lloyd-Jones and Anita Jeram
Walker Books
If you’re looking for a ‘potty’ book then look no further; this one’s a cracker.
I have to admit though, I thought the agitated-looking bunny pressing his paws down hard on the balloon on that first spread was attempting to change its shape so he could wee into it. But how wrong was I; he just picks up the string and leads the line of small – and not so small – animals skipping to the loo.

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Close behind come drumming pup, bouncy Kangaroo (he’s hitching a lift in mum’s pouch), a dodo – yes really, a friendly frog,

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piglets, an elephant, and a whole host of others …
And seemingly the whole lot of them are in urgent need by the time they reach the venue

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but it looks like they’ve all made it – just in time, PHEW! Now there’s just one guest missing at that potty party …

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An inset mirror invites readers – the toddler variety I hasten to add – to participate and do as the text suggests, ‘Come on, /come, my darling!/ You come, too!
Anita Jeram’s delectably exuberant watercolour illustrations perfectly capture the upbeat mood of the rhyming text making the whole potty experience something everyone wants a part of.

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Elephant’s Pyjamas
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
When Elephant receives an email inviting him to a pyjama party he’s delighted but then he discovers that his pals all have seemingly perfect pjs,

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whereas his night attire looks decidedly past its best. Taking Llama’s “Just go shopping!” advice, Elephant heads into town but no matter how hard he tries, it seems nothing is quite right for such a large animal.
There’s only one thing for it, our pachyderm must turn down the invitation after all – and, he does.
His friends however, won’t take no for an answer and straightaway operation pyjamas is put into action and come Saturday night when Elephant sits sadly at home,

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there’s a ring on his doorbell …
With Elephant and his friends communicating on line via ZOOGLE, this amusing book is definitely a 21st century story. I love the way Elephant becomes a divergent thinker when he ‘shops around’ for suitable party wear.

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That spread in particular appealed to this reviewer and the audience I shared it with.

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Forever Friends and Families

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When I First Met You, Blue Kangaroo
Emma Chichester Clark
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This is a new edition of I think, the 8th in the Blue Kangaroo series and here Lily, who has recently become a big sister to baby Jack, tells her beloved kangaroo friend how they’d both come into her life. First baby Jack to whom Lily, difficult at the outset though it proved, did her very best to be a good big sis. and then, courtesy of Grandma, Blue Kangaroo himself.

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Full of love, with its inherent themes of families, change and friendship. this book positively glows with colour and overflows with tenderness. If, like me you missed this gorgeous book the first time around, then do get a copy now; no family bookshelf is complete without it (and the other titles in the series). Also reissued along with this one are Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo? and Happy Birthday, Blue Kangaroo!

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Talking of kangaroos, new in paperback is

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Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?
Eric Carle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
In response to the narrator’s initial question, Carle replies, ‘Yes, a kangaroo has a mother./ Just like me and you.’ And so begins a chain of questions and answers, identical except for the name of the animal be it lion, giraffe, penguin, swan, bear, elephant or monkey, The repeat patterned, slightly singsong narrative makes this appealing to the very young and it might also serve as a book for beginning readers to try for themselves. Both will enjoy the characteristic Carle collage illustrations with their bright colours and distinctively textured animal images.

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A final question breaks out of the repeat patterned mould asking, ‘And do animal mothers love their babies?’ To which a satisfying albeit predictable ‘Yes! Yes! Of course they do. Animal mothers love their babies,/ just as yours loves you.’ response follows.
The final page offers a list of the specific names of the animal babies featured as well as the collective noun(s) for each animal group.

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Terrific Twosomes

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I Love You Already
Jory John and Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Goodnight Already duo(s) are back with another rip-roaring winner.
We start with Duck seemingly planning a morning stroll with his best pal and Bear extolling the virtues of lazy weekends at home …

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Before long though Bear’s peace is shattered by a knock at his door and this little buddy isn’t taking no for an answer.
Maybe that walk isn’t quite such a good idea after all though …

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and it seems Bear likes “quiet time by himself’ as much or maybe even more than he likes his chatty neighbour, and is determined to have some quality time to himself no matter what, or where.
Not very much however, for very soon he hears …

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And sees …

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Guess who is starting to feel a little bit of remorse now and then even more when he hears “You don’t even like me, do you, Bear? ” to which he responds, “Nonsense. You’re basically my family. I love you already, Duck.”
Maybe not the best thing you could have said, Bear because …

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That irrepressible, fun loving Duck is the perfect complement to his ursine neighbour who loves nothing better than a quiet day to himself with plenty of books and the odd cuppa.
Super stuff.

On the subject of perfect partnerships, bears, and a rabbit this time, an unmissable book for newly independent and emerging readers is:

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Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits
Julian Gough & Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
I absolutely adored Jim Field’s wonderful Oi Frog! so I couldn’t wait to read this and wow! did I love it. I’ve always thought Frog and Toad were the unbeatable pairing when it comes to perfectly balanced contrasting characters but now along come the all-knowing Rabbit and laid-back Bear; and if this first book is anything to go by, they are about to give those amphibian guys a run for their money.
This side-splitting woodland romp is the setting for a tale of snowballs, snowman building,

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almost-avalanches, cracking ice, a breath-taking escape, a bit of stealing, poo eating – did I just say poo eating? (apparently, in this instance it’s called coprophagia) – not to mention the odd soggy carrot, oh! and there’s this other character I almost forgot to mention too.

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And of course, there’s friendship – who could ask for anything more? Well, other than – next instalment very soon please Mr G and Mr F.
Such a brilliantly seamless amalgam of words and pictures. Roll on The Pest in the Nest say I.

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Two Wacky Tales

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Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
Lou Treleaven and Julia Patton
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Professor McQuark invents a wonderful new gadget, so weird and wacky is it, that she names it Oojamaflip. Then off she dashes to her workshop – aka the shed – and sets to work bringing that design in her head to finished product.

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What is the next thing to do once the Oojamflip is finished? Take it to be displayed at the Science Fair of course, and so with headlights polished, the next stop is the town hall. There is just one snag however and it concerns the relative size of the building’s doors and that of the Oojamaflip;

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so the prof. is forced to leave her machine outside.
Inside there are all manner of wacky inventions: a square balloon maker, a zip up door, an infinitely re-sizeable alien suit and a self-playing flute to name a few and they’re all vying for the judges’ attention to win that first prize. And here comes an announcement …

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Or maybe not – all the visitors are suddenly dashing outside leaving the judges startled and puzzled and there’s only one thing they can do; head outside too and discover what all the fuss is about …

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Seems they’re all pretty impressed with this extra mural exhibit but there’s one thing still puzzling them: “what does this Ooja-thing actually do?” The clue is in the title – I’ll say no more.
Great to see a female in the role of scientist cum inventor: the aptly named Professor McQuark should be an inspiration to all young inventors. Debut author Lou Treleaven’s sparky rhyming story is wackily illustrated by Julia Patton, whose scenes are full of zany details to pore over, and possibly provide some ideas to child inventors.

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Giant Jelly Jaws and the Pirates
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unlike his fellow crew members, new cabin boy Jake is not brave or strong; indeed he has no head for heights, cries at the slightest hint of a scratch and at night, his hammock-mate is a teddy bear. It looks as though Captain Fish-Breath Fred has made an almighty mistake in engaging young Jake. But can the lad manage to prove his worth in the face of a rival pirate crew whose members are intent on getting their hands on the treasure map whereon X marks the spot. Seemingly not, for here’s a rather stinky situation where we see his fellow shipmates about to walk the plank…

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and the cabin boy himself cowering behind some kegs of pop.
Hold on me hearties! What is Jake up to now? Surely it’s no time to be guzzling pop, or is it? …

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If you want to know how this ripping rhyming yarn concludes, you’ll have to get your own copy of the riotous romp and read the rest yourself. It’s certainly true to say ship’s figurehead Giant Jelly Jaws has found his match when it comes to monstrous eruptions; and awash with detail, Ben Mantle’s riotous scenes are suitably salty and swashbuckling.

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What Pet Should I Get?

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What Pet Should I Get?
Dr Seuss
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This slip-cased edition of a never before published Dr Seuss story is in itself something of a treat, especially if you’re a fan of the great Theodor Geisel and I definitely am.
The book’s main characters are the brother and sister from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, the story being narrated by the brother, as the two are faced with a tricky problem when they visit the pet shop to choose just one, and only one, pet. (Back in those days people didn’t go to animal rescue centres and the like to source a pet). In typical Seuss fashion, the children are confronted with all manner of animals – real and imagined – as they struggle to make their ultimate choice. There’s that hand-shaking dog, rather favoured by the brother whereas Kay would prefer the friendly-looking cat …

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The pup or that kitty? Or maybe a fish … no matter what, the order is

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Maybe not some of these beauties though, they might just be pushing the would-be pet owners’ luck just a little too far …

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but faced with so much choice, there’s only one thing to do and that is exactly what big bro does: “I picked one out fast,/and then that was that.”

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But as to the identity of the ‘that’ in question – the ambiguous finale leaves readers themselves to decide what’s in the basket those siblings proudly take back home.
Notes at the end of the book tell of Seuss’s love of animals, in particular dogs as well as how, after her husband’s death in 1991, his wife Audrey found of box of manuscripts, which she set aside at that time. Then, in 2013 along with his secretary Claudia Prescott, she rediscovered that box containing among other things, the manuscript of this story and some uncoloured artwork.
Was this a project that subsequently turned into One Fish, Two Fish? We’ll never know for sure; but what is certain is that here we have another jaunty script filled with crazy creatures that have been lovingly and thoughtfully coloured under the direction of art director Cathy Goldsmith and the result is classic Seuss nostalgia.

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The Big, Big Bing Book/Big Bear little chair

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The Big, Big Bing Book
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This outsize board book, which is adapted from Ted Dewan’s original Bing books, certainly is a splendid BING THING! Clearly it’s designed for group sharing and I envisage small children lying flat on the floor poring over and discussing the plethora of images they find herein.
It’s thematically organized with each of the half dozen double spreads being given over to a different topic. Thus we have ‘Hello Bing! that introduces Bing Bunny’s friends and relations, Bing’s house (and garden)

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that is simply crammed with everyday objects that are part of Bing’s domestic life.
From there, Bing’s world enlarges to encompass the immediate environment – the woods, his street, the park and playground, Amma’s crèche and more.
We also join in with the numerous Playtime activities that absorb Bing and his pals, each of which is illustrated vignette style,

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then there’s a Colours page with Bing’s own ‘Rainybow Song’ and another for Numbers.

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The final spread looks at two more concepts Opposites and Seasons.
Each double spread is packed with details that will assuredly get children talking, enthusing, laughing and learning in a playful, enjoyable way be it at home or at nursery.

Also full of opportunities for language development is:

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Big Bear little chair
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books
Take a comparatively simple size concept – big/small – and turn it into a beautiful, stylish three-story book encompassing the concept but with so much more is what Lizi Boyd does here beginning thus …

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And continuing with …

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and finally, after the butterfly has hatched –

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The second story introduces little bear and moves on to …

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and eventually …

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The bears then come together and another story unfolds and finally we meet the whole cast of story characters.

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Read differently, each page itself could be the starting point for a story that the reader goes on to create.
With its bold, patterned, slightly whimsical illustrations executed with a limited colour palette, no matter how it’s read, this offers an experience full of delight and potential.

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Monster Encounters

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The Bath Monster
Colin Boyd and Tony Ross
Andersen Press
Have a bath or the Bath Monster will come and get you –a monster that lurks beneath the bath slurping up the mucky water – his second favourite food – through a special bendy straw: surely that’s nonsense isn’t it? It’s certainly what Jackson’s mother tells him to get him into the tub every night.
Until one day Jackson decides he’s outgrown his belief in said Monster and he’s covered from top to toe in thick mud. “Go and have a bath now or the Bath Monster will come and get you” warns his mother. But, Jackson is having none of it.

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So what will that Bath Monster have to satisfy his hunger instead? His number one favourite food, of course and seemingly Jackson is about to find out what that is …
Tony Ross’s Bath Monster is a magnificently mucky being and as readers ultimately discover, a creature after Jackson’s own heart. Every one of the illustrations for Colin Boyd’s unlikely tale brims over with delicious humour and I suspect adult readers aloud are going to get as much enjoyment from this one as the young children they share it with. The sight of that small (temporarily clean) boy being dangled unceremoniously above the bath on the first page sets the tone for the whole story

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and the picture of Jackson sitting in the tub in his protective gear is superb.

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Assuredly another Tony Ross triumph and a promising debut story for Colin Boyd.
Before we read the story I asked my audience to imagine a bath monster of their own; here are some of their ideas:

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There’s a Monster in my Fridge
Caryl Hart and Deborah Allwright
Simon & Schuster
‘What’s that hiding behind the door? It’s feet have squelched across the floor …’
so begins this split-page mock-scary visit to a monster-filled house on a hill.
Those who dare defy the KEEP OUT sign will encounter among others, the jelly-eating monster of the title, a glittery witch, a startled vampire …

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twin skeletons in the bathtub and an itchy werewolf …

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With such visual jokes as dancing toothpaste tubes, hairbrushes …

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and alarm clocks, and a surprise finale, this one is definitely a whole lot more fun than fright but worth a read around Hallowe’en nonetheless.
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Love Monster & the Scary Something
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unable to sleep one dark shadowy night, Little Monster lets his imagination run riot when he hears a rustling sound in the garden,

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a sound that seems to belong to something that’s found its way inside his very own house and is pitter-pat …. pittery patting around on its terrible hairy feet with terrible twisterly toenails and scuffling and bumping its way up the stairs.

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And it surely has enormous teeth for crunching …
Suddenly Love Monster decides there’s only one thing to do: be brave and confront the hungry creature, so it’s on with the torch and … What could that be looming in the doorway?

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Turns out it’s just another insomniac seeking someone to share the lonely darkness with – and a very tiny one too.
A lovely funny story about facing your worst fears, especially those relating to the dark with just the right degree of scariness for a bedtime read and great fun for Halloween sharing.

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Exciting  Children’s Books Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October


Ursine Talent: GRRRRR! and One Bear Extraordinaire

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Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Grizzly bear Fred is the star of the show: he’s been Best Bear in the Wood for three years and is unbeatable at growling. Or is he? Well, he’s determined to be champ once again and so training becomes his everything; there’s just no time for friendship, he declares.
Enter Boris, new bear in town reputed to have a GRRRRR to beat all GRRRRs and determined to knock Fred off his throne.

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And, he seems to be taken with nocturnal wandering …

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Come competition morn and disaster has struck, Fred awakes roarless. But despite his strict training regime, it seems he’s not without friends after all. First there’s Eugene a young owl ready and willing to help Fred track down his missing roar.

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A search ensues but it yields a big zilch.
The hour of the contest arrives. Despite being roarless, Fred has his supporters and after three rounds the contest is neck and neck …

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But then comes that crucial round with Boris, having first growl and it looks like a winner …

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That is definitely not the end of this corker of a book, but without spoiling the story finale let’s just say it ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
I just love those bits of throwaway humour in Biddulph’s splendid rhyming text
The sound is so loud that it makes Boris jump –
And look what just fell to the ground with a bump!
which, when combined with his visuals are just priceless. What a talent.

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One Bear Extraordinaire
Jayme McGowan
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Meet Bear, an itinerant entertainer of legendary repute, known for his ‘honey harmonies and twinkle-toed grace.’ One day when working on a new song however, he decides “Something is missing,” and sets off in search of this elusive ingredient. As he travels, he encounters a whole host of musicians one after another and each one joins him “wherever the tune leads”.

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Eventually the ever-growing band discovers a Wolf Pup has tagged along. He too is keen to become a band member but lacks an instrument. Bear offers something from his sack but Wolf Cub just cannot get to grips with any of them …

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and as a last resort Bear suggests the kazoo: “Anyone can play it.” he mistakenly tells the despairing little chap.
But it’s as the others practise in the moonlit campsite that night, that Wolf Cub suddenly discovers he has a vocal talent like no other

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and, it’s just what’s needed to make everything finally sound ‘just right’.
There’s a pleasing musical lilt to Jayme McGowan’s text: ‘he watched the music SWIRL and HOVER across the ridge … ECHO through the canyon … and fill the sky as he and his wayfaring band whooped and hollered their song to the stars.’ But it’s her wonderful illustrations – three-dimensional scenes composed from individual painted cut-outs, that are arranged and photographed in situ – that are the real show-stealers.
A picture book debut of great promise.

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When I Coloured the World

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When I Coloured the World
Ahmadreza Ahmadi
Tiny Owl
I tend to discourage the use of erasers – in school at least – and especially for the very young who all too easily become obsessed with using them, needlessly rubbing out their so called ‘mistakes’. Not so the child narrator of this beautiful fable wherein we see how colour can change the world and the way we look at it. Her judicious use of a single eraser and her box of crayons makes the world a place of joy and peace, hope, playfulness and much more, filling it with red roses, yellow lights, blue sky to play beneath,

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silver rain and drizzle to eliminate the floods, wheat growing green, peaceful light blue, orange spring filled with scented blossom, dark blue for song and dance, purple laughter, gentle breezes of violet, healthy glowing pink for healing, orange for people whose age is immaterial …

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and finally, with another wielding of the yellow crayon …

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I love the way the author has captured the child-like innocence of this wonderful, empowering book. It’s one I can envisage being shared and discussed widely in schools as well as being enjoyed at home and it’s a great starting point for children’s own colourful, world changing artistic creations.

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Fern rubbed out sadness and wrote happiness in yellow “For sunshine so children can dance and sing outdoors.”



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Beth rubbed out despairing and wrote celebrating in red.


Ehsan Abdollahi, the book’s illustrator too has captured that special child-like simplicity in the uplifting scenes that are aglow with wonderfully patterned, richly hued images.
What riches Tiny Owl is bringing to the UK with the publication of such truly beautiful books from Iran. I hope they achieve the wide audience they merit.

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Bing Paint Day
Ted Dewan
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Anyone who knows Bing (and that is countless preschoolers and their parents and carers) will anticipate the outcome of letting the young Bunny loose with a paintbrush, paints and a pot of water. As usual with Bing, things begin fairly calmly and he is busy producing a colourful scene

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but then a tornado hits and …

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It’s a good job that there’s a single colour left and it just happens to be Bing’s favourite orange; so all ends happily in true Bing fashion because as we know “It’s a Bing Thing”.

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A Froggy Tale and A Squiggly One

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Sir Lilypad
Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Simon & Schuster pbk
What a gloriously exuberant celebration of magical happenings and some not so magical too: well, on second thoughts everything about this tale of tiny would-be hero Little Tad and his valiant attempts to gain recognition as Sir Lilypad is pretty magical. It all begins when our pea-sized amphibian reads a book wherein he learns of the amazing transformation from frog to prince by the bestowal of ‘one small kiss from a grateful royal miss.’

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Finding a princess to obtain a kiss and thereby add to his stature then becomes his mission. Off he sets and consults with an ogre, but he is less than helpful and the search continues in forest and field, a witch’s residence and that of a wizard,

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all to no avail. But the quest must continue, stitch, itchy chainmail and soggy sandwiches notwithstanding. Then joy of joys, he glimpses …

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Does this damsel need saving by the gallant Sir Lily? Oh dear me no; and despite his best roaring and sword-wielding efforts, the dragon is at best disdainful and the princess unimpressed.
All is not lost however and after a fantastic show of wailing and beseeching the princess proffers her own words – of wisdom – and more. But who wants to be a story-spoiler, so lets move hastily on a few centuries to the grand finale of this triumphant tale, for that’s ultimately what it is. And a splendid one it is too with it’s dream of a read aloud rhyming text and utterly magnificent scenes of derring-do.
Get this or be sorry: the sword-swooshing, Sir Lilypad will be hot on your trail.

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The Queen’s Spaghetti
Patricia Cleveland-Peck and Tim Archbold
Harper Collins pbk
Queen Nellie and King Jim aren’t your normal royals: they’re not rich and to top up the coffers King Jim works part time at the Royal Mint. Nonetheless, the Queen is a cheerful soul, working in their large garden by day and cooking Jim’s supper on his return from work. On this particular day, feeling especially hungry herself, she decides to rustle up some spaghetti and tomato sauce – one of the King’s favourites too. “Iggly-wiggly spaghettio” she sings as she boils up an enormous pan of the stuff and sets to work on the sauce. Soon however, the pan is overflowing and swelling spaghetti fills all the royal saucepans and it’s slithering all over the kitchen floor. Oh dear me: if there’s something King Jim hates, it’s waste, thinks the Queen as she tries valiantly to feed it to the cat, the dog and even the royal peacock.

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But none of them has more than a cursory taster.
The ducks are more obliging as are the hens and the geese; but there’s still an awful lot to dispose of. Thank goodness then for the royal pigs: pretty soon they …

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A delicious aroma greets the hungry King on his return but what do you think happens when he requests a second helping of the scrumptious meal …

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With a nod to the traditional magic pasta pot tale and a wink to the porridge pot, Patricia Cleveland-Peck has cooked up a tasty concoction with a regal base, a sprinkling of farmyard animals and a saucy finale. All in all, with Tim Archbold’s giggle-inducing accompaniments of the visual variety, this re-issue is destined to tickle the taste buds of a whole new child audience. They will relish the riotous scenes, especially the spaghetti-entwined farmyard fowl, and delight in Patricia Cleveland-Peck’s pleasingly playful textual servings.

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Fast and Furious; Slow and Steady

Daniel devouring the story


Space Dog
Mini Grey
Jonathan Cape
It’s 3043 and deep in space, Space Dog is ready to zoom homewards having completed a lengthy problem-solving mission in the Dairy Quadrant. Supplies are stashed and he passes the time with a game of solo Dogopoly before sleeping.
Not far off however, is Astrocat, zooming in his space saucer, or actually is about to plummet into a thick creamy mire. Then it’s a case of operation rescue – for the Astrocat if not his craft. No time for age old enmity now, it’s go with Space Dog or be stranded.

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Once safely in SS Kennel, the two erstwhile enemies sit face to face for a game of Dogopoly, followed by a tasty snack courtesy of Astrocat. Then, co-ordinates set, there comes yet another distress call …

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And another … Moustronaut has been captured, bound and perilously suspended above a chasm of bubbling fondue by the Cheese Ants.

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With another rescue duly completed – well almost – they have to satisfy that drooling, dribbling look in the Ant Queen’s eyes first. Then it really is time to head for home. Of course, poor Moustronaut needs a bit of tlc first; and there’s a whole universe out there waiting for friends to conquer – together. So, it’s Mission UNKNOWN ZONE – after a round or so of Dogopoly that is.

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Wonderful stuff! This action-packed adventure is bound to appeal to the numerous established fans of Mini Grey and will I’m certain, win her a whole host of new ones. This is overflowing with exciting happenings, visual jokes and verbal ones; and every turn of the page brings fantastic and frenzied features to divert and delight.

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Fast and Furry Racers The Silver Serpent Cup
Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves
Oxford University Press pbk
Playing fair is at the heart of this riotous romp of a ride (or should it be race) that takes place over land, under sea and in the air. Packed full of alliteration and other tongue-teasing phrases to test the reader-aloud, this story unfolds at breakneck speed.
Everyone’s gathered in Furryville for the race and the line up’s an impressive one. BEEP! BEEP! TOOT! TOOT! There’s Roderick Von Rooster in his Hot Rod rocket car, Stephanie Skedaddle in her super stylish boat, Ollie Octolinni in his submarine – a distinct advantage at times. Then we have Baron Billy Blackstripes aboard his super fast steam train, not forgetting Ella Egghart in her aeroplane. Could she perhaps be the winner after all?

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But foul play has struck, in the form of sabotage and who should be emerging from the depths but Al Mcnasty – a ruthless villain if ever there was one and wearing that smug smile too.

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But things are not quite over yet, for out of the ground emerges Max O’Moley just in the nick of time – a thoroughly deserving and honest winner. Three cheers for Max recipient of THE SILVER SERPENT CUP.

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Ed Eaves’ exuberant illustrations really do give the impression of tremendous speed and those vehicles are just the thing to excite and enthrall young listeners.

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Days with Frog and Toad
Arnold Lobel
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is the second of the larger format publications of the classic Lobel Frog and Toad stories. This one offers five more delicious episodes featuring the friends– all an absolute delight – though I might to go for Shivers

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(wherein Frog tells a spooky story) – if I had to pick a favourite; or maybe Tomorrow (we’re all guilty of putting off things we don’t want to do). Then again there’s Toad’s laughable efforts to fly The Kite; and The Hat Frog gives his best pal for a birthday present, to bring a big smile; oh and the final Alone in which Frog goes off to be by himself for a while

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– all equally brilliant and unmissable.
The Frog and Toad books remain unsurpassed in the field of newly independent readers. Three cheers for the two fictional pals and their everlasting friendship.

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Families, Families, Families

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Families, Families, Families!
Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
Picture Corgi pbk
Family units come in many kinds and all are celebrated in a series of portraits each one aptly framed to give it a real photograph feel. Each one is displayed – in a fitting manner, either hanging against a  themed background, or in a couple of instances standing on a shelf alongside ornaments of the same kind.

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This truly is a reassuring and realistic look at families in all their diversity: parents may or may not be married, children may be adopted, a family might include stepbrothers and sisters, children may live with a single parent – mother or father,

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some have two mums or dads, sometimes grandparents or an aunt provide the family home, there may be a plethora of pets, siblings might be many or none.
Warm, funny, accepting and all embracing, the love shines through from every entry in the portrait gallery The rhythmic rhyming text bounces merrily along culminating in the all important

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A great way to introduce a discussion about diversity at school or at home.
The gentle humour of the photographic animal illustrations gives a fresh lively look to this important topic while also offering a distancing device for the human children who share this book with a supportive adult.

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Aren’t You Lucky!
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Red Fox
Just the thing if there’s a new baby imminent or just arrived in a family,is a new edition of a “New baby Story’ first published over 20 years ago. Not my favourite Anholts’ new baby book – that’s Sophie and the New Baby – but a delightful and equally reassuring one nonetheless. It’s a sensitively done, first person narrative told by an older sibling. Used to being an only child, the little girl eagerly anticipates the arrival of a new brother or sister but once her new brother arrives, she soon discovers he is going to take a lot of getting used to. Happily though her understanding mum voices a wish for someone who could help her with the baby and before long our narrator discovers a whole new big sister role for herself.

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Isn’t he lucky!” are the words uttered by family friends and the book’s final ones; so too are the young children given this charming Anholt classic at just the right time.

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Action Movie Kid
Daniel Hashimoto, Mandy Richardville and Valerio Faberge
Keywords Press
I know one person who has one of these –endlessly energetic, bright, fearless and imaginative – actually she has two, but only one called James.
Kept busy by his numerous adventures,

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Action Movie Kid somehow manages to find the time to help his family – he’s a well-meaning boy is James …
And his mum is frequently known to utter such things as …

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One evening AMK hears strange sounds emanating from the basement and when he bravely investigates, discovers inside the washing machine, a portal to another dimension. From the gooey depths emerges an alien slime monster – an extremely slippery customer with a seemingly insatiable appetite.
When things get too much, assistance is called for


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and that is exactly what they do – having hastily transformed themselves that is.

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Then mopping up missions complete and enemy sent back where he belongs, it’s time for … bed!
Great literature this certainly isn’t: great fun it assuredly is, particularly if you are an AMK with a big imagination and love comics, and I know a whole lot of those.

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Trish Cooke and Alex Ayliffe
Harper Colliins Children’s Books
Watch young children – they rarely walk , rather they run, skip, jump, whizz and generally dash madly around.
This is an exuberant and charming book about a brother and sister and the joys of general charging around – a favourite activity–

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and about finding some more peaceful, but equally enjoyable things to do when the dashing about has to be curtailed temporarily as it does when Hurricane Kieron falls and hurts his leg. It’s then that he discovers that he can make his paintbrush zzzzooooommm around on paper instead. And what wonderfully whooshing, creative fun he and later Ria, have too:

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not to mention the odd hurricane.
Share this one with those around the age of Kieron and Rush Around Ria – if you can manage to catch them and sit them down for long enough that is. With those bright, jolly action-packed illustrations and a whole host of deliciously noisy action words and other exuberant sounds to join in with, you should manage to have more than a few peaceful minutes of reading pleasure.

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Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne
Walker Books
Did you know that it’s the emu dad that takes the role of carer for his young? I didn’t. Once his female mate has laid her final egg in the nest the pair built together, she leaves the male to hatch and rear the fledglings. How he does so and much more about that and other animals of the Australian landscape emus inhabit, is related in this absorbing narrative information book.

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The descriptive language Claire Saxby uses is exciting and superbly crafted: ‘gangly, with stippled heads and ribbon stripes, the chick surveys the forest.’ And Graham Byrne provides gloriously textured, scratchy/splodgy storytelling illustrations that truly convey the eucalyptus forest setting of the narrative.


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This book is a celebration of a particular aspect of the natural world and a wonderful way of conveying information about it.

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Spotty Friends, Mischievous Meerkats

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Spotty Lottie and Me
Richard Byrne
Andersen Press
Joey is a small boy with a big imagination; he also has chicken pox and that combination is the cause of his problem. His mum tells him he is still infectious but can play with a friend so long as s/he’s a spotty one; so after a bit of thinking, off goes Joey to find a poxy pal. However, his playful overtures are spurned by spotty being

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after spotty being …

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and it’s a very tearful Joey who returns home. He’s not sad for long though… knock knock: someone’s at his door. It’s Lottie and joy of joys – she too has chicken pox. And what dotty, spotty fun the two have for the next few days

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until they’re declared spotless and able to mix freely.
So why are all those, now friendly animals still wary of Joey’s face?
The author/artist clearly has a playful sense of humour that manifests itself particularly strongly through his visuals. I love the way for instance that the games Joey and Lottie play are all strategically placed in the very first spread, and the finale is a real hoot.

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A joy to share with young listeners whether or not they are spotty: those who happen to be suffering like Joey will be especially appreciative. So too will learner readers who, amused at the antics herein, are tempted to tackle this story for themselves. The shortish, witty text is such that those near the beginning of their reading journey will be able to read the words after an initial sharing with an adult.

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That Naughty Meerkat!
Ian Whybrow and Gary Parsons
Harper Collins
Meet a family of meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert. There’s Mimi, Skeema and Little Dream (they’re the young kits) and their Uncle Fearless. Then there’s Radiant (in the nursery) with her new babies, Bundle, Zora, Quickpaws and Trouble (watch that one). You can imagine how happy an exhausted mother Radiant feels when Uncle Fearless offers to take care of her babies for the day and that’s despite warnings of how mischievous those little ones are.
So off goes Radiant for a dig and off march Uncle Fearless – “proud chief … stern and wise!”, closely followed (in response to his ‘follow me’ order) by the four babes. And that’s the first and last order they all comply with. From then on not only Trouble

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but all the others start showing their true natures.

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It’s fortunate for Uncle Fearless that those three young kits show up offering some help just then and even more so that they stick around despite Uncle Fearless’s assurances that he can manage just fine on his own. And they certainly demonstrate their understanding of what babies like to do very effectively – play …

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leaving Uncle Fearless keeping guard. But that’s not quite the end of the story – I won’t spoil that but let’s just say that teamwork is the order of the day, or should that be, evening?
Anticipating the antics of those mischievous baby meers is part and parcel of the enjoyment of this entertaining tale. Gary Parson’s light-hearted portrayals of the high-spirited infant meerkats and that sudden dramatic change of mood (enough said) is the ideal complement to Ian Whybrow’s chucklesome, tongue-in-cheek text.

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Ursine Antics by Night and Day


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Goodnight Already!
Jory John and Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Parallel but opposing viewpoints quickly come head to head in what must surely be to many adults at least, a familiar scenario – the pull and push between two characters whose body clocks have entirely opposing rhythms. Herein it’s an exceedingly sleepy-looking Bear and his neighbour and supposed friend,

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Duck who is full of (caffeine-induced?) energy and has “never been so awake.”
I can’t wait to sleep. Here we go … yes…” yawns Bear as he pulls up his covers.
Uugh oh! There in the moonlight stands his feathered pal demanding entrance.
Having barged his way in Duck is determined to get Bear to “hang out” and suggests all manner of fun-filled activities. “Want to play cards? … Watch a movie? … Start a band? … Make smoothies?” … (What is this guy thinking of?) “Talk all night? … “Read books to each other?” (Now there’s a thought.) Each of these suggestions meets with a resounding “No.” from Bear and Duck eventually gets the message and departs. So, does our ursine friend finally get his well-earned shut eye? Errm …

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This time Duck is after cooking ingredients “… some sugar?” – “No.” Butter? “No.” … Is there to be no end to Duck’s requests? New neighbours will have to be the order of the day, or rather night, an increasingly grouchy Bear decides, returning to the safety of his quilt. Did I say safety? Oops!

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But safety it certainly is not, for Duck at least.

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Finally losing it altogether, Bear sends Duck packing and heads off back to get that well earned slumber. Well, not quite …
My audience groaned at the final ironic comic twist but it was clearly a groan of satisfaction and hastily followed by demands to ‘read it again’, then ‘one more time’. Of course I obliged, eager as they to let that superb tension be played out over and over in this wonderful book, at the heart of which is perfect textual comic timing, pace and counterbalance, the latter being so beautifully portrayed by Benji Davies. His visuals, which alternate between the vivid yellow of the occasional scene at Duck’s residence, and the somnolent shades of Bear’s surroundings, and brilliantly mirror John Jory’s shifts in pace and energy, are equally good. The combination of the two is an amalgam that’s pretty near perfect in my book.
Here are a couple of pictures of Duck from five year olds who loved the story –


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they obviously saw him as a very colourful character.

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Big and Small
Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press pbk
Friendships can be formed between the most unlikely, completely different characters A large bear – Big, and a tiny white mouse – Small, are best friends and decide to spend a day adventuring in the great outdoors. During the course of their play Small seeks help from his friend on several occasions – a stubbed toe OUCH!, some tricky stepping stones,

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a troublesome bee at lunch time and a hole that interrupts his roll; and each time Big is happy to oblige. After a fun-filled day, the friends head for home and snuggle into their cosy beds. Then however, comes a spot of role reversal: “A little help, please!” calls Big who cannot sleep.

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The idea that friendship can involve a responsibility of care is embedded within this story told through a combination of jaunty rhyming text and bold, bright visuals.
I like the fact that both author and artist engender a zest for life and enjoyment of nature – the endpapers featuring insects that appear during the course of the story help in the latter.
Share with those just starting out on forming friendships.

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The Queen’s Orang-Utan – one for Comic Relief

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The Queen’s Orang-Utan
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This is a real laugh out loud book and in buying it readers will be contributing to Comic Relief, for both the author and publisher will donate all their profits to the charity.
Herein a supremely bored monarch makes what everyone else deems an outrageous birthday present request – or should that be, demand: ‘ “For one’s birthday one would very much like … announced the Queen … “One’s own orang-utan!” ‘. And of course, what her majesty demands her majesty receives – with riotous consequences: consequences that not only relieve HRH of the tedium of entertaining even the most boring of guests to Buck. Palace

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but also enable her to escape her monotonous existence forever.

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Wonderfully anarchic – wickedly expressed both verbally and visually.

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Silly Things – Frog and Toad Together & My Mum’s Sayings

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Frog and Toad Together
Arnold Lobel
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Frog and Toad are two of my all time favourite characters; I’ve loved them for more years than I care to remember. In fact they featured in Learning to Read with Picture Books, a short book I wrote as a young teacher and what I said then still holds: Here it is – ‘This is a book no child learning to read should miss, and sets a standard by which we should judge all the books we offer to children at the crucial in-between stage (before completely assured, wide reading.) It contains five short stories about easy-going Frog, who is the ideal complement to the volatile Toad. The List (my favourite story) is a hilarious sequence in which Toad’s day is brought to a complete standstill when the wind whisks away his precious ‘list of things to do’. As always Frog is there to save the day.
The green and brown illustrations capture the humour of the text to perfection.
A book to read over and over again.
In the other four short stories Toad discovers that growing seeds is much harder than he thought, the friends test their will power, discover they’re not as brave as they hoped and Toad has a scary dream. This new edition is picture book size in contrast to the original much smaller I Can Read format, which looked much more like a ‘grown up’ book. I hope this doesn’t mean it won’t reach its intended audience: it’s such a great book and so good to see it back in print.

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My Mum Says the Silliest Things
Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett
Walker Books pbk
This is another title in the same vein as My Dad Thinks He’s Funny and My Dad Still Thinks He’s Funny. Here the elder of two brothers shares with readers some of the oft-uttered comments his mum addresses to him (and countless other adults make to children) –

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things said in all seriousness often, though the response is likely to be giggles, eye-rolling or shrugs from the recipient, all of which we get from the narrator. Every spread (except the finale) presents seemingly daft pronouncements and the title of the book either concludes or opens the scenarios, “When I’m noisy Mum says she can’t hear herself think. When I’m grumpy, Mum says you could land an aeroplane on my bottom lip” each of which is illustrated in quirky mixed media style.


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Jellett wittily encapsulates the textual wordplay and the idiosyncrasies of the English language.

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All in all, a fun tribute to mums – it would make an amusing offering for Mother’s Day or a birthday provided the mum in question has a good sense of humour. Smiles to the ready …

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Testing Situations with Mouse, Penguin Blue and Rhinoceros

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All Mine
Zehra Hicks
Macmillan Children’s Books
It’s lunch time: Mouse is just about to embark on his cheese sandwich when down swoops Seagull, pinches it,

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flies off and scoffs the lot. Mouse is far from pleased; he reprimands the thief for his bad manners and dashes off in search of something else to eat. Imagine how he feels when down swoops that greedy Seagull again and proceeds to polish off Mouse’s entire packet of crisps.

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The tiny rodent is anything but happy and both he and Seagull are still in need of sustenance. So will Seagull manage to gobble up the delicious looking confection that stops him dead in his tracks? It’s time for Mouse to draw on his resources if he’s to outwit that marauding bird and satisfy his hunger pangs, and that he does very cleverly.
That foxy-looking ‘puppet’ is just great and looks almost exactly the kind of thing young children make from scrap materials.

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That Zahra Hicks uses a stick for painting (combined with photography) to create her illustrations fascinated my audiences. I love her child-like simplicity and the way for instance, she has added the lower jaw to the fox.
A tasty book through and through. Who’s for cake?

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Blown Away
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins pbk
This seemingly simple, perfectly crafted tale is the thoroughly uplifting picture book debut from Art Director of the Observer Magazine, Rob Biddulph. By an interesting co-incidence, my copy arrived in the post on Sakrant, the day of India’s kite flying festival.
Far away in the Antarctic, Penguin Blue is test flying his brand new kite. The wind is particularly strong and before long our supposedly flightless friend finds himself airborne. Penguin pals Jeff and Flo, Wilbur (seal) pegging washing on his clothesline, and Clive, (polar bear) out fishing in his inflatable dinghy, attempt to help

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but they too are swept aloft and way across the ocean until they spy far below,
A tiny island, lush and green/(A colour that they’ve never seen). “The trees look soft, we’ll be all right./Hello jungle! Goodbye kite!” – the author’s rhyme is spot on as well as his design. Down they cascade into a jungly landscape full of friendly animals.

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However, unused to the tropical heat the friends long for home so it’s fortunate that Blue is the creative type. They can make use of the resources to hand and the same element that brought them there: all that’s required is another large gust of wind

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and the travellers are on their way, albeit with a stowaway.
Safely home and a warm welcome, but their visitor finds the climate far from comfortable;


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it’s as well then that Blue just happens to have a spare kite …


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Preposterous Rhinoceros
Tracy Gunaratnam and Marta Costa
Maverick Arts Publising pbk
The jungle animals are far from happy; King Lion has lost his voice and that means no bedtime story unless they can find another story reader. Rhinoceros is eager to step in; the others doubt his ability but reluctantly agree to let him try. When confronted with a book however, Rhinoceros is stymied; seemingly he’s misunderstood how the reading process works – the words don’t just speak themselves from the page and his key doesn’t unlock that text either. And shaking the book is disastrous.
Off goes Rhino in search of some storytelling advice. Both Drama Llama and Techie Toucan offer useful suggestions “Just open it and dive straight in,” (Llama) and “Just open it and get stuck in,”

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from Techie.
But Rhinoceros takes both literally with disastrous, or rather as Sly Salamander tells him, “preposterous” consequences.

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Nor does her own explanation “… They just need to be READ!” prove any more fruitful. But finally with Salamander’s help,

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Rhinoceros cracks the code and is ready to deliver his first bedtime tale – even though by that time, King Lion’s voice is fully restored.
The interaction of the verbal and visual definitely works well with young audiences. This chain of misunderstandings herein had my listeners, who are themselves learning to read, in fits of giggles
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Don’t forget February 14th ibgdposterlarge

Reindeer Romps with Ruby, Rudey and St. Nick.

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The Naughtiest Reindeer
Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin
Disaster has struck at the North Pole:
Rudolf the reindeer was lying in bed with a runny red nose and an ache in his head.
‘I’m sorry,’ he groaned. ‘I just can’t pull a sled. You’ll have to ask my sister Ruby instead.’
The only trouble is Ruby is anything but a popular choice with the other reindeers: “Not Ruby! Please!” is the unanimous verdict. But like it or not, high-spirited Ruby is what they get.

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Things go pretty well to start with but then boredom kicks in and Ruby starts getting ideas: ideas that result in mayhem at house after house and a very stressed Santa, so stressed in fact that on his return, he discovers he’s missed out one of the house.. Time for Mrs Claus to spring into action, but where is Ruby?

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Oh no! She too has been forgotten. When she finally gets to the house rectify Santa’s error, it seems that Santa had paid them a visit after all.
This hilarious rhyming tale has the rhythm of the Clement Clark Moore classic Twas The Night Before Christmas and veritably gallops along. It’s great fun to read aloud, superb entertainment for young audiences who relish Ruby’s tripping, tangling antics, particularly her drinking from the toilet at 26A and with a surprisingly satisfying ending I can see this becoming one of those favourites that’s brought out every Christmas at home or school. The magic starts right on the front cover with that sparkly, tactile tree and I just love those off beat ‘corky’ reindeer characters Nicki Greenberg has created.
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If you want an illustrated version of the classic poem try:


The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clark Moore and Richard Johnson
Picture Corgi pbk
Richard Johnson’s illustrations are a-glow with festive magic. His interior scenes give a feeling of seasonal warmth that sharply contrasts with the beautiful snowy landscapes of St Nicholas’ journey and I particularly like the beribboned borders that frame some of the verses.
Buy from Amazon

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Rudey’s Windy Christmas
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk.
Most humans know the consequences of over indulging in Brussels sprouts: not so Mrs Claus. Santa?

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One can’t be sure; but definitely not his reindeer and in particular Rudey who sets off on the Christmas rounds with a tummy full of the little green objects. Guess who fed him those. The result? Suffice it so say, the air is polluted with Rudey’s windy emanations much to the amusement of the other reindeer. Indeed they laugh so much at the plethora of toots that they quite run out of steam. The sleigh comes to a halt in the USA. And there’s only one way to get it air bound again –

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over to Rudey and his turbo-charged rear.
Delivered via a jaunty rhyming text and comical illustrations. Those reindeer certainly have a twinkle in their eyes and on their return to the North Pole, they are greeted by Santa’s elves who have something to say about the quality of the air there too. Mufflers please…
I imagine giggles galore hereafter.
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I Want: Bernard, Mine! & The Crocodile Under the Bed

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Rob Jones
Beast in Show Books
What would you do if you heard of a large, red-eyed scary-looking dog whose teeth were huge and his paws the size of your head? Run a mile maybe: I’d definitely keep well away. That’s certainly the reaction wild hound Bernard receives from the local villagers who are convinced he has designs on one of them as his next meal. Not so however; all this sadly misunderstood canine is after is strawberry jam and lots of it. So, watch out for any you might have.

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The rhyming text and wacky illustrations are really part and parcel of an integrated, mock-scary whole, tasty, treat. Just the thing to share on a chilly wintry day, this is a small book but one that makes a big impression. A debut for author/illustrator, Rob Jones, and for Beast in Show Books, I look forward to what they have to offer in the future.

Buy from www.beastinshow.com/books

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Sue Heap
Walker Books
This utterly charming book about possessiveness and sharing centres on a small girl, Amy who likes to keep her treasured possessions – her blankie, her bear, her bunny and her bird very close to her. So, when the twins want to join her play she immediately tries to assert her ownership of her favourite things. To no avail though; Zak and Jack are equally determined. Then along comes Baby Joe clutching the toy bird. Amy takes possession.

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Her cries of “MINE” result in a very sad looking Joe but it takes some wise words from the twins to trigger a minor crisis of conscience on Amy’s behalf and soon peace and harmony reigns – well harmony anyway, Amy fashion.

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I love the way Amy manages to come up with a compromise solution that suits all parties while still giving her the upper hand and the way the emotions of the children are beautifully portrayed and mirrored in the expressions on the faces of bird, bear and bunny.
A must have for all early years setting and families with very young children.
Buy from Amazon

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The Crocodile Under the Bed
Judith Kerr
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Young Matty desperately wants to go to the party but he’s poorly. Very disappointed, he’s left in Grandpa’s care with a party blower and the promise of some birthday cake. Suddenly he hears a voice but it isn’t Grandpa’s. No, it belongs to an enormous crocodile that emerges from under his bed offering to remedy the situation. So, with a toot from Matty’s party blower they take off to a very special destination – the King’s birthday party no less. This King isn’t the human kind though, he’s a handsome lion;

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and with Chimpy on hand to look after him, Matty is ready to try some of the rides on offer. There’s a ‘rip-roaring’ tiger ride, a bouncy chimp ride and an enormous slide

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with a surprise at the end. After all the excitement, there’s crocodile waiting to fly him home just in time before the rest of the family returns.

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We found our own crocodile to fly us to a storyland party too

Their party, he learns had been a washout but they have brought him some cake albeit rather soggy. “… you really didn’t miss anything,” dad tells Matty …
An enchanting story from the wonderful Judith Kerr who originally started this tale as a follow-up to her classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea – a superb stimulus for children’s imaginations: so too is this one.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:


Bears Don’t Read!

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Gracie found the perfect place to read this super-duper story

Bears Don’t Read!
Emma Chichester Clark
Harper Collins Children’s Books
George, an immediately endearing bear, is bored. Something of a philosopher, he’s convinced there must be more to life than fishing, chatting and going over the same old stories. The question is, what? One day he chances upon a book lying under a tree: a book that just happens to feature a bear. This bear however is living life to the full and that fires an ambition in George: he must learn to read.
Despite discouragement from his siblings, George (a bear after my own heart) goes to town, full of determination to discover new stories and find someone to teach him to read. Imagine the response of the townspeople to see a huge grizzly bear among them: panic ensues and before long George is surrounded by police.

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Thank goodness then for plucky young Clementine who recognizes her very own book, thus saving the day for our ursine friend. A learner reader herself, Clementine invites George to become a co-learner and fortunately for both, her mother a sensible type, agrees to the plan and thus it is that the new friends continue on their reading journey together. George becomes a resident in Clementine’s family summerhouse and every day after she returns from school, Clementine teaches George what’s she’s learned. Finally after a lot of hard work, joy of joys, George is able to read from cover to cover his very own book.

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Apart from being a wonderfully satisfying story, this book has so many positive messages about reading, the most pertinent, the vital importance of reading aloud to learners is demonstrated by the chief of police who comes to read poetry to George.

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Then there is the fact that George doesn’t find reading comes easily to him but with the help and support of an understanding, patient teacher, he eventually succeeds; that, and of course, his own determination to learn. And, what better parting message than this final line, ‘And for George – that was just the beginning.’ I also love the bookplate at the start, which hints at that final denouement.
Beautifully illustrated, richly detailed and executed in a range of shades ranging from bold and bright to slightly more gentle in the outdoor sunny scenes and there’s a gorgeous glowing moonlit scene. Emma Chichester Clark has made clever use of collage in this book – for the trees and other flora, butterflies, clothes and the frames

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for some of the smaller single page scenes, to mention just some.

Find and buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch
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Spread a Little Happiness

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Hooray For Hat!
Brian Won
Andersen Press pbk
If, like Elephant, you ever wake up feeling grumpy then this is definitely the book for you. When said pachyderm awakes in a very bad mood he discovers a parcel on his doorstep. Perfect timing; its contents have an immediate mood lifting effect. “HOORAY FOR HAT!” he cheers and off he goes to show Zebra, but Zebra too has the grumps,

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until that is Elephant gives him a hat. Guess what they say …
There are several other grumpy animals that day and there follows a kind of cheer-spreading domino effect. Before long Turtle, Owl, Lion all have hats but why is Lion still looking glum? Giraffe is poorly, he explains. “What can we do?” Young audiences will supply the answer forthwith …
Great art work: I love Won’s slightly whimsical style. He has used contrasting light and dark to effect with animals emerging from dark backgrounds (Turtle his shell, Owl his tree trunk and Lion his cave) into brightness as they join the ‘hat-fest’. And how well Elephant chooses each time – a party hat for Zebra, a wacky broad-brimmed panama for Turtle, a mortarboard for Owl,

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a crown for Lion.
Great message – no matter how you feel – embrace the day and with simple acts of kindness you can spread goodwill and cheer.
Great ending –

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Moreover, with its patterned language, predictability and bold clear print, learner readers will soon be able to take over and read the whole thing for themselves and I’m sure they will, over and over with great delight.

Great debut; I look forward eagerly to the next book.

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Roman Milisic and A.Richard Allen
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
The pristine town wherein this story is set is hoping to win the ‘Tidiest Town Competition’ for the third year running. That is before the pernickety mayor notices an oversized flower in one of the beds, complains out loud and is overheard by Fussy Great Ape. His delicate touch fixes the flower but in so doing, he trashes the whole flowerbed.

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CUPPA COCOA! APES-a-GO-GO!” he calls and thus begins a concatenation of repair and destruction as ape after ape responds to the call: there’s Mucky Great Ape, Sopping Great Ape, Thumping Great Ape, Sweeping Great Ape. Then who should turn up but Baking Great Ape, experienced in disaster fixing and what better way to fix this particular disaster than with an enormous chocolate cake. Mmmm! Before long, the mayor and all the townsfolk are tucking in and having a great time. Meanwhile those apes are busy setting the town back to rights – well almost. But who is going to clear up after the party wonders the mayor – Smashing Great Ape perhaps?

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Completely crazy: as those apes pile disaster upon disaster, their capers cannot fail to lift your mood . I can guarantee that if you share this one with a class of infants the whole lot will soon be shouting that ape-summoning refrain with you and that call might well spread out into the playground and beyond.
Order with a slice of chocolate cake for complete satisfaction and feast your eyes on those ape-filled retro illustrations.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:


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The Squawks
Ruth Thorp
Raw Mixture Publishing
Meet the Squawks – a troop of birds of many different shapes and sizes, mostly blue with an occasional red or yellow feathered one. These happy-go-lucky creatures get up to all manner of crazy antics such as telegraph wire teetering, dancing

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and keeping fit. Avoid them though in squally weather and when they engage in board games; that’s when their tempers become frayed.
With a limited colour palette and a plethora of tongue tingling words, Ruth Thorp has created a playful picture book that demonstrates to young listeners that words are fun – fun to hear, fun to mess about with, fun to write and fun to invent. I love the way the print twirls and swirls across some of the pages in harmony with the Squawks. Just the thing to help foster a love of language for its own sake.
Buy from http://www.thesquawks.co.uk/

Dance with Frances, Play with Bing

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Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance
Birgitta Sif
Walker Books
Frances Dean just adores dancing: even when sitting in school she finds ways to dance with her feet or fingers. Best though she loves to dance outdoors, where she feels the wind and hears the singing of the birds, so long as nobody is watching that is. The thought of people’s eyes on her make her freeze up. Then one day the birds (fans of her dancing) lead her to a smaller girl with a wonderful voice

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and that night Frances Dean lies awake thinking of how the girl was able to share her beautiful song. Next morning when she wakes to bird song she is reminded of her own love of dancing. Off she goes into the great outdoors to practise while no one is around. Gradually as she spins and leaps she begins to lose her inhibitions and shows, first the birds, then other animals and finally, other people, her moves. Before long – oh joy – not only the singing girl, but also an old lady and many others have joined her in a celebration of dance.

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A book to bring music to your heart and movement to your body, I found it hard not to throw aside my laptop and leap around in sheer delight along with Frances Dean et al. at the sight of that final spread.
Wonderful, dreamy landscapes, quirky, sparky individuals – human and animal – and a powerful message to be yourself are some of the joys contained herein.
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Bing Make Music
Ted Dewan
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
Round the corner,
Not far away,
Bing’s been bongo-ing all day.

Get out your saucepans, spoons, tubes and keys, even your rice tub and bell, oh and Bing and Flop have a music box thing too. Then get ready to join in the glorious cacophony with the friends as that rice goes shaka shaka, keys go jingle jing, a tube goes woona woona, a bell goes dingle ding.
But oh-oh! Bing is getting just a trifle over excited with that spoon. We need to warn him, “Don’t go bongo, Bing.” Too late! BASH! – one broken music box.
A quick mend and then, it’s time for a song. Hurrah!
Who can resist Bing’s exuberance and Flop’s readiness to forgive his friend? Equally irresistible is this opportunity to join in and shake, rattle and bang along with the friends (once you’ve shared the story without additional noises perhaps).
Great for developing sound awareness too.
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Count with Abigail and Pete


Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press pbk
Glorious images and colours of Rayner’s silkscreen illustrations evoke the African savannah setting of this story wherein giraffe, Abigail has to go to great lengths to pursue her favourite hobby – counting. The trouble is her numerical targets just won’t stay still:


Ladybird scuttles away, the leaves on the tree get gobbled up, Zebra is in constant motion and Cheetah’s splotches are a definite no – he’s way too fast.


Then kindly Ladybird suggests a field of flowers and all her pals pitch in to help with the count. Their counting skills however, are less developed than Abigails’ so a lesson ensues; but it proves a very long one. So long in fact that night is falling by the time their skills are sufficiently honed but Abigail is not one to give up easily, especially when the night sky is full of twinkling stars –


and they are most definitely not going anywhere in a hurry.
The lovely shapes, patterns and contours of the animals’ bodies make them become real characters in their own right: in particular Abigail’s stature and grace are magnificently portrayed and one cannot help but admire her persistence.


Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Eric Litwin and James Dean
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This book is my first encounter with Pete, the laid back, sleek blue character who always remains upbeat no matter what. Even when as here, the four groovy buttons he loves, pop off his favourite shirt


and roll away one by one. As he says – or rather sings – “Buttons come and buttons go.” Despite the loss of the last button he doesn’t get upset. Why not? Because our feline friend realises that he still has his very own belly button and that too is worthy of a song.


Such a positive message for children, wrapped up in a quirky colourful caper of a story. And, there’s that mathematical element too: this engages the very young in counting, counting down from four to zero, and the idea of subtraction.If you want to sing along with Pete you can find his song and more at www.harpercollins.co.uk/Petethecat


Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch



David Mackintosh
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Mum’s announcement of “a surprise at dinner tonight” sends Leo and his big narrator brother into a frenzy of escalating speculation about what it could possibly be.


Quickly those possibilities grow from crinkly chips through tickets to The Amazing YoYo Super Show, a backyard swimming pool to a prize fortnight’s holiday in Hawaii all expenses paid.


This latter idea takes hold and before long seemingly everyone has been told about the family’s good fortune.


Home go the brothers to pack their holiday things but what’s that Mum is shouting …
PIZZASurely not. What about that celebratory free time outside everyone at school was awarded in honour of the prize? How will the boys face everyone again?
Off to the bedroom goes our narrator. Before long though, Leo who has told his parents all, is at the door shouting about a “different surprise”.


A surprise that demonstrates that what you have already – a family who can laugh together – can indeed be sufficient to make you feel lucky.
Another of David Mackintosh’s books wherein he uses humour to make a serious point. The quirky, slightly surreal mixed-media illustrations are genuinely funny and the manipulation of fonts and integration of text within the pictures is inspired. Great stuff!

Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

It’s Time for Bed


Max and the Won’t Go To Bed Show
Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton
Harper Collins pbk
Take your seats for a star-spangled performance by young Max who is giving a presentation of his world famous, death-defying PUTTING OFF BEDTIME FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE SHOW. Drum roll. Said show comprises a handful of amazing feats, trick one being a disappearing act. No not Max but a cup of milk and a cookie v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y,


followed by the second trick – the taming of a savage beast (aka Brian the family dog).
Oops! Whose is that hand pulling our young magician up the stairs? Quick! Another trick is called for – THE GREAT DISAPPEARING BOY TRICK. But where has our star gone?


Applause called for here…
Hastily followed by trick number four: the FLOATING PYJAMA TRICK (possibly thirty minutes worth of entertainment here). Not tonight maybe. Don’t leave yet though: Max still has more magic up his sleeve, or rather … under the bed, within the wardrobe… inside the toy box.
Before attempting his grand finale – daring to demand not one but ten bedtime stories (huge round of applause for this one I suggest) – he gets two and then … yawn… curtains, lights dimmed… good night everyone.
This book requires not so much a reading more a performance (with numerous curtain calls and encores I suspect). It’s cleverly constructed, beautifully controlled (with additional manipulation of the text through the use of various fonts and integration of words and pictures)


and bursting with energy and humour. The illustrations too abound with energy and humour: despite his diminutive stature Max is certainly a larger than life character portrayed as a cute cuddlesome infant, albeit a supercharged one. In contrast, all we see of his parents are the occasional limbs helping their offspring on his way to the inevitable.


It’s clear that Sarah Warburton greatly enjoyed herself, playing to the gallery by appropriately patterning various items of clothing, furniture and bedding, not to mention the wallpaper and more.


A double act winner delivered with panache and pizzazz.
For bedtime reading? Well, that all depends …


Harry and the Monster
Sue Mongredien and Nick East
Little Tiger Press pbk
A scary monster invades Harry’s dream one night. The following night he’s reluctant to go to bed in case it makes a return visit. “Try imagining him with a pair of pink pants on his head,” suggests Mum. The monster returns, Harry imagines;


the monster is furious frightening Harry once again. The jelly plan – Dad’s this time – for Wednesday has a similar effect, so does Mum’s monster tickling plan on Thursday; in fact that only inflames the monster’s temper more. So what about Dad’s plan for Friday night? Perhaps even scary monsters are scared of furious mums …
With a not-too-scary monster, repetition and suspense, together with funny illustrations,


take for instance a jelly-spattered monster, or one with prickles in his bottom and sporting Christmas tree decorations, this is one to make small children giggle at bedtime or any time.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Holidays Far and Near


Wanda and the Alien Go Camping
Sue Hendra
Red Fox pbk
Wanda and her alien pal embark on their fourth adventure – camping. Their camp site however, is not the original earthly one planned; that’s far too wet and rainy. Instead the alien takes Wanda in his space rocket to his planet and it’s there they set out to find a suitable place to pitch their tent. Even that however, doesn’t match up to expectations, certainly not Wanda’s anyhow. She finds fault with all the possible spots they visit –


too noisy, too quiet, too wild. Oh dear, can it be that the alien’s planet is entirely unsuitable too. But what about those clouds up above; could they possibly fit the bill?
Seemingly so.


Cloud camping is just perfect; they can invite their other friends and the rain will not interfere at all.
One cannot help admiring the alien’s perseverance and Wanda’s endeavours not to hurt her best friend’s feelings. Indeed the sight of Wanda and her alien friend always brings a smile to my face, as in my experience, it does to many a preschooler. Here, I am sure the multitudes of aliens in alien city with their Day-Glo striped apparel and varying number of eyes, and the cloud camping possibilities will particularly appeal.
Sue Heap’s delightful images are just the thing to stimulate some modeling activities with coloured soft dough, ‘Fimo’ or similar; don’t forget the googly eyes though.
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I Heart Holidays
Clara Vulliamy
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
This is a happy book all about MARTHA – that’s me! Come and see my BRILLIANT new suitcase!


Who can resist these opening lines of the third story featuring Martha and her bunny brothers. Young Martha is busy packing all manner of items into her case in preparation for her seaside holiday and finally the entire family is ready.


Off they go in Bluebell, their camper van and after a long tedious journey it’s on with those swimming togs and a mad dash for the sea. Brrr! Not for long though; Pip objects strongly so Martha devises another activity and then it’s time for a picnic lunch – with the obligatory sandy sandwiches. Time to go in the sea now? More objections from Pip so …
After lunch there’s burying Dad in the sand,


ice-creams, the starry sunglasses rescue operation and a sandcastle building competition with the inevitable trashing and then finally … our young narrator has had enough. She heads seawards – alone. Not for long though for pretty soon (despite the downpour) those pesky bunny brothers have joined her for a glorious romp and guess what:

I love the retro VW camper van, the shell face (so typical of young children),


the portrayal of Dad being covered in sand, the exuberance of Martha and her brothers when the sun finally shines … pretty much everything that Clara Vulliamy has included in this seaside romp.
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Catch That Plane!
Sally Sutton and Sylvie Currin Korankova
Walker Books
We join a family in holiday frenzy as they rush to the airport, chase to check-in, dash to departures,


scoot through security, trot down the travelator, jog down the aerobridge and finally, board their plane.


Then it’s a peep through the window, buckle up that seat belt, engines roaring, racing down the runway and they’re off up … up… away! The holiday has well and truly started.
There are echoes of Walking in the Jungle, albeit at a faster pace, in this first person account by a boy setting off on his holiday with his Mum, Dad and younger sister. It’s probably more narrative information that a real story but there’s plenty to interest here with the sights and sounds of the airport and the playful, jaunty rhyme, plentiful alliteration and more. And, just in case it isn’t obvious from the context, there is a final ‘Facts’ spread explaining the terms used in the text.
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Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Conflict and Resolution



Nina loves the idea of odd socks

Two Giants
Michael Foreman
Walker Books
How wonderful to see that Walker Books have brought back a Foreman story first published in the 1960s – one of his very early titles.
We meet two giants, great friends who live in a beautiful country where they make the birds sing and some even nest in their beards. Friends, that is, until one day they discover a pink shell and then oh dear, both want it for personal decoration. There follows a huge falling out,


stones are thrown, a flood comes and the giants find themselves on opposite sides of a cold sea. In a continuous winter, the fight carries on; rocks are hurled, each giant scoring multiple hits and all the while their anger is growing. The thrown rocks become stepping stones for Sam, armed with huge club, to visit a sleeping Boris. Boris however wakes and a world shaking, club-waving charge takes place.
Just in time though the two notice their footwear (muddled in the scramble to escape the flood) and standing stock still, remember the old days of friendship but not what the fight was about.


Time for a reconciliation … clubs tossed aside, the giants return to their islands, the sea recedes, wild life returns and before long all that separates the two mountains is a beautiful tree-filled valley where the seasons come and go once more and peace and harmony reigns. Guess what the friends now do as a reminder, no matter what …


It’s interesting to see how Foreman’s style has evolved over the years. For this gently humorous fable he has used paint and torn or cut paper collage to build up the scenes.
A book that is likely to appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous, particularly those, and I do know some, who like to wear odd socks.
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There is arguing too in this Hueys story newly out in paperback:


The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk
The usually peaceable Hueys are having an argument; what is it all about? One of their number, Gillespie wants to know but his question merely provokes further squabbling among the others. He asks again, “What ARE you fighting about?” Hmm – good question but can they come up with an answer?


Maybe distraction is a better form of conflict resolution in this situation …


oh have we come full circle here? Bzzz…
You need to start reading this hilarious book before the title page where the cause of the argument is visible; thereafter it becomes transformed into a bird, a flying teacup, a winged horse, even a flying elephant as the squabble escalates until Gillespie steps in and points out something that is lying lifeless on the floor.
Simple but certainly not simplistic is the manner in which Jeffers has depicted the Hueys and their trouble. The course of the argument is presented in speech bubbles and shown contained within a cloud above the Hueys’ heads


– very clever and a highly effective means of representation.
Assuredly one to have on the family or classroom bookshelf for those inevitable times of conflict, although once read it will quickly become an oft requested,
any time story.
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Cantankerous King Colin
Phil Allcock and Steve Stone
Maverick arts publishing
When King Colin wakes up feeling cantankerous he finds himself getting into all manner of minor conflicts with his wife Queen Christine.


Rosa and Nina sharing in King Colin’s cantankerous behaviour

She tries ruling against eating a ‘yucky and mucky’ breakfast, his refusal to wash his hands after using the loo, and his wearing of a shirt stinking of the previous night’s dinner.
Every time Queen Caroline said, “You can’t …”, King Colin’s response was the same: “I can,” and of course, because he was king, he could and he did. Hmm…silly, dirty, smelly King Colin. A sulky Colin decides to go for a horse ride. Imagine his displeasure then when he discovers his favourite horse, Pink Nose unsaddled.
More conflicts ensue during the ride and a furious Colin returns to the palace where, you’ve guessed it, he causes more upsets


until his roars of “I can!” are overheard by somebody who has the power to overrule our grumpy, crazy, lazy naughty monarch; it’s none other than Great Queen Connie. Guess where she sends her badly behaved son.
A humorous story illustrated in cartoon style with appropriately garish colours to match Colin’s over-the-top character and told through a patterned text; children will relish Colin’s somewhat disgusting habits and enjoy joining in with the Queen’s ‘ You can’ts ’ and the oft repeated, ‘ “I can,” said King Colin … because he was king.’ They could also offer suggestions as to how the king could mend his undesirable ways and present them in poster form perhaps.
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Numbers, Counting and Dragons


The Hueys in None the Number
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Those ovoid characters, the Hueys are back and this time they have a mathematical poser. The problem essentially is this: “Is none a number?


So begins a numerical discourse wherein one is added to none and so on until the two conversing reach double figures.


Spectacular, when they’re all together, remarks one of the pair and goes on to say, ”But when you take them all away … you get NONE.” No prizes for guessing what the other one says in response… (there are four words in the sentence and it’s a question.)


Here we go again!

Each counting number is illustrated in Jeffers’ own wonderfully quirky style and an explanatory sentence, seemingly spoken by the Huey who has adopted the teaching role, is written beneath, above or alongside the picture as a caption, together with the corresponding number printed large. Wait a minute though, there’s more to it than that: every illustration is a small story in itself with lots to explore and discuss: take number 5 for instance where readers can help Rupert choose himself a hat,

or number 8 where a party gift is the object of a guessing game.
This hilarious book is simply brimming over with potential – mathematical, story-telling, artistic and more.
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Have You Seen My Dragon?
Steve Light
Walker Books
Starting from a hotel entrance, a small boy searches high and low for his lost dragon – all over the city in fact. As he moves around he ponders on the possibility of discovering said dragon in a variety of unlikely places such as on the bus,


quenching his thirst up on the water towers,


at the book stall,


on the underground even. Having made a thorough (so he thinks) search, the dragon’s owner comes back to the place where he’d supposedly left him and lo and behold, what is that sitting up on a roof in lantern bedecked China Town?


In fact what really seems to be happening is that the dragon is leading the boy on a journey of exploration around the city.
Steve Light has used a minimal text to narrate the story told mostly through his finely detailed, mainly black and white illustrations.
This fascinating book is also of course, rich with opportunities for counting, not only the particular items in the captions but also the people, cars, buildings, architectural features and much more besides.
Children will love spotting where the dragon has hidden himself on each spread and I envisage many being inspired to make maps and their own detailed drawings of particular features or indeed a whole city – real or imagined.
A group might even try using the map as a starting point and collaborating to build a three dimensional model.
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Once Tashi Met a Dragon
Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin Murdoch Books
There’s a dragon that is responsible for bringing the rains; that’s what the inhabitants of Tashi’s village all believe even though they don’t agree on where he lives; and, as his grandma tells him, that dragon is busy, “Cooking up rain, big lashing whooping roaring rains that wash away all the dirt and dullness of the year, and make the air sparkle like a million diamonds.
One year though, the dragon does not appear – there’s a terrible drought and outbreak of fires. Tashi determines to find out what has become of this ancient dragon.
Thus begins his adventure involving a white tiger, a visit to a golden palace and a story


and singing session with a sad little dragon whose mother is in a deep, demon-induced sleep.
As a result, the rain-bringing dragon is awoken, Tashi is granted a wish for his troubles, the dragon opens her mouth, blows wispy dragon words and down comes the rain at last.


Thereafter, the young hero is flown back to his awaiting Grandmother in his newly greened village home.
If you haven’t come across Tashi before then this book is a good introduction to the bold, fearless little fellow who is always ready to take on new challenges. His adventures are recounted with lashings of figurative language and atmospheric watercolour pictures and make for interesting story sessions.
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Monster Tales


Love Monster & the Last Chocolate
Rachel Bright
Harper Collins pbk
On his return from holiday, chocaholic Love Monster discovers a large box of chocs by his front door. Who can have left me these he wonders as his mouth waters at the thought of its contents.


Should he share them with his friends though, is his next consideration especially as there might not be sufficient or even worse, if someone choses his favourite or leaves him only the most disgusting flavor – unthinkable! Best to keep them all to himself decides Love Monster creeping indoors. But then, his guilty conscience strikes and out again shoots our LM to find his pals …


Their response to his ‘generosity’ however comes as something of a surprise for when at their behest, LM opens the box, what does he find?


A treat for chocaholics and monster lovers everywhere. Rachel Bright’s Little Monster – this is his third story – is indeed lovable. We all know several ‘Little Monsters’ I’m sure and they too will love to share in his thoughts and deeds. Follow your heart Little Monster.
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Don’t Call Me Sweet!
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Angie Rozelaar
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
What would you call a small, pale blue hairy monster with large round eyes and small white teeth that looks like this? – Whatever you do, as the title tells you, never, ever call him sweet. No matter that he accidentally falls into a muddy swamp while practicing stomping moves (then the name is SMELLY), or spatters himself with goo when making or rather messing, bug-eye stew. (SLIMY is the name this time.) Well, get ready to meet that stinky, slimy character as he sets out to do a spot of SCARING …
But what, are those enormous, hairy feet and huge toes?


Who do they belong to and what are they waiting for?  …
Time to bring out that alter ego little monster.


Despite his best efforts, this little monster, as created by his author and illustrator, is undoubtedly SWEET. But then that’s the whole point of this charming story. He’s just the kind of creature that small children love to create in their own pictures and models and I have no doubt that hearing this story will lead to a whole host of painting, drawing, collage creating, model-making, storying and more.
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DSCN2051Elmer and the Monster
David McKee
Andersen Press
Elmer seems unperturbed when, on his morning walk, his jungle friends in turn warn him of ‘a monster’ at large in the jungle. The birds, monkeys, tiger, the crocodiles, lion and even his fellow elephants are convinced it’s close at hand; they’ve all heard its fearsome roar. Then suddenly Elmer hears the roar too, very, very nearby. Into the clearing he peeps and there atop a rock sits its perpetrator – sobbing.


Bloo-Bloo explains all to Elmer and then they both set off to find the other animals so the ‘monster’ can demonstrate his powerful vocal chords.
This time, it’s not just Elmer who has the last laugh – that is shared by everyone.
Young listeners too delight in the silly ending especially, because it provides an open invitation to join Bloo-Bloo in an almighty, resounding ROAR!


Another winning addition to the Elmer series and a good one with which to join in Elmer’s 25th Anniversary celebrations – ROAR for little Bloo-Bloo and an even louder one for the wonderful ELMER.
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