Omar, the Bees and Me

Omar, the Bees and Me
Helen Mortimer and Katie Cottle
Owlet Press

One of my favourite weekend walks takes me past a goat willow or pussy willow tree that my partner and I call ‘the buzzing tree’. In spring it’s alive with bees and you can hear them busily working long before you reach the tree. You can almost hear a similar buzz emanating from the cover of this new picture book.

Said buzz is set in motion when newcomer Omar takes a slice of his mum’s special honey cake into school for show and tell. He talks of how once upon a time back in Syria his grandpa who grew apricot trees and jasmine, was a keeper of bees.

This sets teacher Mr Ellory-Jones thinking and before long the members of his class have decorated the entire corridor outside their classroom with paper jasmine flowers and the children are pretending to be buzzy bees. He also tells his pupils about the importance of bees and of growing bee-friendly flowers for them to feed on. The children’s questions prompt further explanation and during playtime, having observed the greyness of her surroundings, Maisie (the story’s narrator) comes up with a wonderful idea. “We should make a REAL bee corridor … All the way from our school to the park next to my grandad’s garden. He’s got a beehive!”

With the backing of their teacher, the class order packets of wildflower seeds. Seeds they sprinkle into envelopes with growing instructions, requesting recipients to put the pots on their windowsills.

Next day operation delivery is carried out and then the waiting starts.
When spring finally arrives, there’s evidence that people have done as asked …

and by the time summer comes two good things have happened. Maisie and Omar have become best friends and there are wild flowers in abundance stretching from school to park. Grandad too is thrilled to have an abundance of bees in his garden.

A new school year starts and now it’s Maisie’s turn to talk at show and tell: her chosen object – a jar of honey from her grandad’s bees. Hurrah! Can you guess what Omar brings into school to share the following day … (There’s even a recipe included).

With themes of sustainability, the environment, intergenerational relationships, and connectedness, this is a smashing book to introduce young children to the importance of protecting and enhancing the natural world, in particular our precious bees.

Katie Cottle’s inclusive, mixed media illustrations complement the story beautifully: she captures the mood and feeling of the classroom, street and garden perfectly.

Friendship / Calmness

Friendship
Calmness

Helen Mortimer and Cristina Trapanese
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

These are two additions to the Big Words for Little People series: the first explores what being a good friend really means and the second presents various elements that are associated with feeling calm.
Each of the first eleven spreads takes a key word (or two) exploring it through an engaging scene and an explanatory sentence or two.

For instance part and parcel of Friendship is Respect and that entails accepting and showing respect towards differences.

Share offers examples of what you might share with friends – memories, ideas, treats and especially, time.
The penultimate spread is an affirmation of Friendship itself and then comes a spread aimed at adult sharers giving ten ideas of how to get the most from the book and a final glossary.

Calmness has spreads on quiet, feeling safe, breathing,

what to do about worries, focus, time – ‘Something as simple as walking gives you time to watch and listen while you move.’ I think that’s something we’ve all appreciated during the past year.

Other ideas suggested to induce that sometimes elusive sense of calm are to Pause, Imagine, ways to ‘get past your angry feelings’, Balance and to take a Softly, softly approach.
Calmness also ends within ideas and a glossary.

Both these engaging little books are well worth adding to an early years collection, as well as for sharing with little ones at home. Cristina Trapanese uses a different theme to illustrate each one. Friendship shows children engaged in a variety of art and craft activities while Calmness has an appropriate outdoor setting reflecting the important role the natural world plays in inducing calm. Both contain a wealth of language learning potential.

Kindness / Moo-Moo, I Love You

Kindness
Helen Mortimer and Cristina Trapanese
Oxford Children’s Books

This is one of the publisher’s new ‘Big Words for Little People’ series that aims with carefully selected ‘feature’ words embedded in a short narrative,, to help young children develop an understanding of how by means of words, they can best deal with their emotions and first experiences.
Kindness starts with a welcoming word – ‘hello’ perhaps and a welcome smile to help newcomers feel at ease.
Sharing,

Giving, Understanding (especially another person’s feelings), Listening, Helping, Caring (for the natural world as well as other people and ourselves), Being thankful, Loving (by reaching out with kind words and actions), Taking turns, being Thoughtful, showing Kindness are each given a double spread illustrating the action with stylised youngsters and a brief descriptive text.There’s also a final spread giving helpful guidance to adult users and a short glossary.

A useful addition to a preschool setting for both personal, social and emotional development, and language development, or for family use.

Moo-Moo, I Love You!
Tom Lichtenheld and Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Abrams Books for Young Readers

What a delectably adorably moo-vingly mood-uplifting way to tell your little one how mooch you loove them, is this moo-cow monologue (almost) directed at her little moo (who actually has the last word – or actually, four words).

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s word play is crazily comical and exuberantly expressed, becoming even more comical when combined with Tom Lichtenheld’s thickly outlined cow characters clearly relishing being in each other’s company as they share their love of pizza, popcorn and farm hu-moo-r;

the adornment of their residence so it morphs into a moo-seum …

and a moo-se moo-ve-ment. Ma moo even states her readiness to launch herself loo-nar-wards to express her fondness for her little moo.

This crazily moo-ving manner in which a moo-ma shows her infant moo how much it’s loo-ved could also work as a valentine, especially if your partner’s into word play and you think they’d find it a-moo-sing.