Bad Nana Older Not Wiser

Bad Nana Older Not Wiser
Sophy Henn
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This is the first book in what is to become a series and it’s mega-talented Sophy Henn’s debut as a writer of profusely illustrated younger fiction. It certainly looks as though she had great fun creating the three wickedly funny episodes narrated by young Jeanie, age 7¾ about the outrageous exploits of the grandma known to the family as Bad Nana; she of the black dress, pointy black shoes and gigantic earrings, who carries a walking stick – not necessarily for that purpose – and a massive handbag crammed with everything from emergency knicker elastic to stinky fish paste. All this and more, including things about Nana’s friends and acquaintances

and some of her past escapades, we learn in the first part “Things You Should Know’.
One of Bad Nana’s favourite locations is the park and part two of the book tells of Bad Nana’s extremely mischievous way of dealing with the plethora of “DO NOT” signs put up all over the park by the new and inordinately officious park keeper; and then goes on to recount what took place when a sweet wrapper just happened to drift from her hand and land in front of said park keeper.

Bad Nana lends a hand in the final and longest part. She somehow manages to get herself engaged as a school-trip helper when Jeanie and her class visit the local history museum, probably THE most boring museum ever.
Not so however, when a certain trip-helper decides to well and truly bring local history to life by inserting herself into one of the displays.

The whole episode is utterly hilarious and had this reviewer spluttering with laughter all the way through.

Sophie’s distinctive narrative voice in tandem with her splendiferous artwork makes for a stonklingly good chapter book for primary readers whether or not they cut their teeth on Pom Pom and her other picture book characters.

Here We Are

Here We Are
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Oliver Jeffers is one of my favourite author/illustrators and Here We Are, his latest book, is simply exquisite.

Created for his new baby son and suffused with parental love and a gentle humour, Oliver speaks, seemingly directly, to the infant.

He talks of the intriguing, bewildering and fascinating wonders of Planet Earth and all that’s on it and above it – the land, the sea, the sky, space, humans, animals, day and night.

Much needed, perfectly timed, and pared back to the essentials, his message is one that resonates: kindness, tolerance and respect not only for our planet – ‘Make sure you look after it, as it’s all we’ve got.’; but for one another whoever we are, wherever we are, ‘People come in many shapes, sizes and colours. We may all look different, act different and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people. … there are lots of us here so be kind. There is enough for everyone.

That’s what really matters. It matters for us here and it matters for people right across the globe especially now when so many countries are in turmoil of one or another kind.

This is a vital picture book, awesomely illustrated in Oliver’s inimitable witty way – a classic–to-be, for every family, early years setting, school collection and library. And it’s an absolutely perfect gift for any baby who has recently arrived on our bewilderingly marvellous planet.

Sunk!

Sunk!
Rob Biddulph
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Yet another Biddulph bobby-dazzler and it comes in the form of a second Penguin Blue (from Blown Away) adventure.
Donning pirate gear, Penguin Blue, along with his penguin pals, Jeff and Flo, and polar bear, Clive, set out, armed with a map, on a nautical treasure-seeking trip.

Pretty soon though, they find themselves in trouble and have to abandon ship.

The result being, they land up on a tiny island and come face-to-face with an old sea dog who seems eager to make their acquaintance: “My name is Captain Walker Plank. / Been stuck here since my galleon sank.” The very galleon that Blue and his piratical pals had recently discovered on the ocean bed. Are they all to be stuck on the same tiny island now? Of course not: Blue knows just what’s needed …

Then, lo and behold (cue audience join in) “THAR SHE BLOWS!” … Off they go, and it’s homeward bound, with something much more precious than that gold they’ve bagged.

I’ll unreservedly second that final ‘Fun times with/ buddies, new and old. // That’s treasure worth/ much more than gold.‘ comment as the pals feast their eyes upon their wonderful new play equipment.
A deliciously swashbuckling, rhyming saga, dazzlingly illustrated and with Biddulph’s signature style design brilliance. Treasure indeed. What more can a story reader ask for?
A must for the family bookshelf; ditto, anyone who works with young children.

I’ve signed the charter 

Caterpillar Dreams

Caterpillar Dreams
Clive McFarland
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What a wonderfully positive message concludes Clive McFarland’s superbly uplifting tale of having the courage to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. That is just what Henri the Caterpillar does as he first dreams some big dreams, and then determines to follow his dream to see the world beyond his garden home. His minibeast friends do their best to discourage him: “Seriously, Henri, an adventure? Sounds exhausting.” is Slug’s comment but happily, Toad is on hand to offer encouragement: “Here’s the thing with dreams, Henri. If you don’t chase them, they always get away.” Wise words indeed. Thus it is that our stripy creature, aided and abetted by Bird, Mole and Fish starts out on his ‘amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventures.‘ Having crossed a wall, a road and a lake,

Henri discovers a giant hot-air balloon; but before he can climb to the top, he starts to become encased in a cocoon. Surely his dreams aren’t about to be thwarted before lift off? Young audiences familiar with Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, will know the seeming setback is only temporary. Far from being robbed of his dream, his metamorphosis allows Henri to take flight and travel anywhere he wants; and what he wants is to go to “The most amazing, incredible, impossibly possible place of all.” …

Inspiring, – don’t you love Henri’s politely determined help-seeking persistence as he appeals to Bird, Mole and Fish? What dauntlessness: what a journey; this scene reveals the scale of same, and allows audiences to enjoy the sight of those facilitators again.

Clive’s crisp, mixed media, digitally assembled collage pictures, with those wonderful characters and delectable details, make the whole thing a complete charmer of a book that quietly packs a powerful punch.

I’ve signed the charter 

Bear With Me

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The Bear Who Went Boo!
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Harper Collins Children’s Books
I put this book down in a classroom belonging to nine year olds and it was eagerly seized on by one girl who’d been attracted by the author’s name splashed across the cover. She sat silently reading it to herself, then excitedly called some of her peers and saying ‘Listen to this, guys.’ began reading it aloud to them. ‘Can you read it?’ they asked and so I was given the book and proceeded. The group loved it: ‘It’s hilarious,’ one said and ‘he (little cub) really asked for it.’

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That about sums things up.
Essentially, this performance stars a cheeky little polar bear residing at the top of the world who enjoys nothing better than creeping up on his poor unsuspecting fellow creatures and letting out an enormous “Boo!” He pays no heed to his mama’s “How would you like it if someone went boo to you?” and when a TV crew arrives to make a film of the animals, he continues with his boos. He boos the wrinkly walrus as he’s topping up his tan for the camera, the puffins as they preen their feathers, with disastrous results for the birds and the killer whales working on their synchronised swimming routine.

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Then along comes an altogether different creature – one unknown to little cub – and he’s about to film a snowy owl. Of course, the booing bear lets loose with one final …

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Needless to say its recipient is far from pleased and he’s not fooled by little cub’s claim to be a member of the penguin species either, so it’s a case of TV show filming cancelled.
Off flies the helicopter taking with it the film crew – next destination the Antarctica – leaving behind some very angry would-be famous TV stars and a somewhat downcast little cub.
But even after being treated to a dose of his own medicine and ending up looking like this …

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our irrepressible young chief protagonist just has to have the very last word and you’ll know what that is …
What a tour de force this Walliams/Ross team is: indeed just as irrepressible as little cub himself.

 

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How to Hug with Hugless Douglas
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
The famous hugging bear is back with lessons in – you’ve guessed it – hugging and it’s altogether generous hearted of him, as he and his pals are engaging in a hugging contest. Still that’s Douglas for you and as he says, “Some of the nicest hugs are with your friends.” But, you can hug pretty much anything, one way …

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or another.
There are prizes for all manner of hugs and huggers; but will Douglas win anything? What do you think? …
An exuberantly warm-hearted board book for apprentice huggers of all shapes and sizes.

Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

Beasts and Baskets

Picnic
John Burningham
Jonathan Cape
There are echoes of the wonderful Mr Gumpy’s Outing in Burningham’s latest book. Boy and girl invite sheep, pig and duck to join them for a picnic. Their search for a picnic place proves protracted. They are chased by bull and have to hide in the woods, the wind whisks sheep’s hat away, pig drops his ball and duck loses his scarf. When all the items are retrieved they share the picnic basket spread and after fun and games the tired picnickers return to boy and girl’s house on the hill and bed.
Burningham’s peerless pictures in crayon, ink and watercolour and his spare, clear short sentences with engaging questions are in perfect balance within the empty spaces of each page.
Buy from Amazon

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Big Book of Beasts
Emily Gravett
Macmillan
Emily Gravett has a co-creator for her latest offering; it’s Little Mouse (from a Big Book of Fears). Said rodent proceeds to edit her efforts throughout, daubing, nibbling, scribbling and generally interfering with every spread. As the author attempts to present ten animals pictorially with accompanying verse, Little Mouse offers his own take on each one. So, he proceeds to silence the lion’s roar, placing mittens over its claws, swat the worrying wasps with a specially pressed newspaper, and put dainty high-heeled shoes on the feet of the rampaging rhinoceros; but can he avoid being swallowed by the crushing Boa-Constrictor? Seemingly so, for after one final confrontation, what do we find fleeing across the final end-papers but a small, white, paint-spattered mouse?
Purists may be left aghast at mouse’s defacement but the rest of us will revel in this ingenious, truly interactive creation with its mini book of origami, wasp-swatting newspaper, healthy teeth guide, flaps to open and holes throughout.
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The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train
Peter Bently and Steve Cox
Hodder Children’s Books
This adventure starts when a mouse – a skitter-scattery one – living in the stationmaster’s house, steals a piece of cheese and is seen by Carruthers the cat. The mouse is trapped, escapes and is hotly pursued by Carruthers but as he crosses the track, the cat takes a tumble getting his tail stuck in the rails. The minutes tick by and a large red steam train is speeding ever closer, Carruthers promising to chase him no more, begs the mouse to stop the train. Can that tiny creature get back and warn the stationmaster before the train makes mincemeat of his much-loved moggy? Suffice it to say that by the end of the day there is a third resident in the stationmaster’s house, and now he’s entirely welcome.
This rhyming tale, like the train positively races along and one can almost hear the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the track echoing when reading the book aloud. There’s some delicious alliteration too and the tension builds as the stopwatch counts the minutes to ten o’clock when the train is due.
Full of humour and pathos, Steve Cox’s bold bright illustrations mirror the gathering pace and tension of the text. For additional fun, spot Cat and Mouse among the cogwheels, clocks and pipes of the endpapers.
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The Lion and the Mouse
Nahta Noj
Templar Publishing
Cleverly interactive die-cuts really make this version of one of the most retold of Aesop’s fables distinctive.
Standing out against the flat colour backgrounds, composite, collage-style cut-outs help build up the bold images which are truly striking. Jenny Broom’s retelling too is noteworthy and further enlivened by variations in the font size, and weight with lines of print sometimes following the outlines of the illustrations.

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A great book for the primary classroom or for individual sharing.
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Little Evie in the Wild Wood
Jackie Morris and Catherine Hyde
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
One afternoon, wearing red and carrying a basket, Little Evie sets off alone into woods. Following the path ever deeper, her senses alert, she emerges into a clearing and there encounters a great black she wolf. Shades of Red Riding Hood; but, Evie has been sent by her Grandma to find the wolf and share with her seven blood-red jam tarts. After their meal, as the sun sets, the wolf carries Evie on her back to the edge of the wood where she can see the cottage and her waiting mama.
It’s not so much the story, but the manner of the telling that is so striking. Its lyrical, powerfully atmospheric, eerie haunting quality draws you right in from the start creating an air of wonder and mystery.
Visually wonderful too, Catherine Hyde has used acrylics to conjure soft-focus woodland scenes suffused with glowing sunlight, which intensify the air of mystery.
Truly, a book to enchant young and old alike.
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The Day the Crayons Quit
Oliver Jeffers and Drew Daywalt
Harper Collins
Have you ever thought about the crayons you give children to use; did you know for example that they have feelings? No? Well, this hilarious book/story by the brilliant Jeffers (no prizes for guessing which medium he has used) and debut author, Daywalt might make you think again.
Duncan wants to do some colouring but when he goes to use his crayons, he discovers a bundle of twelve letters all of which contain strong words of admonition for the would-be artist.
Red complains that he is even has to work on holidays, Purple is upset that Duncan won’t keep his colour within the lines, Beige is fed up with playing second fiddle to Brown, Grey is demanding a break from colouring large animals, White feels empty and Black doesn’t want to be limited to outlines, Green is happy with his use but wants Duncan to settle a dispute between Yellow and Orange over which is the rightful colour of the Sun, Blue is bothered that he is almost completely used up and Pink thinks she is being discriminated against because Duncan is a boy. And finally, Peach doesn’t want to leave the crayon box because Duncan has peeled his label off leaving him naked.
Needless to say, this wonderfully wacky, creative picture book has plenty of colour particularly after Duncan takes on board all the crayons concerns. I’m not convinced that Beige will be entirely happy though.
Don’t miss this one.
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Eddie and Dog
Alison Brown
Little Tiger Press
Eddie lives close to an airport; he spends time watching the planes and dreaming of adventures in faraway places. One day he spies a small dog in a basket on the luggage carousel and invites him to play. The two briefly enjoy some adventures together but on their return home, Eddie’s mum sends his new playmate to a more suitable home. Next day however, dog is back and despite further attempts to send him packing, Eddie’s determined canine pal returns. Moreover he has a plan: a clever one involving a rooftop space whereon he and Eddie construct a garden compete with lawn, topiary, a tree-house and more.
I like the fact that imagination, determination and perseverance win the day in this story for which Alison Brown’s illustrative style creates the illusion that the characters and objects have been created with a modeling medium.
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