Tiny and Teeny

Tiny and Teeny
Chris Judge
Walker Books

On the outskirts of the bustling buzzing Glengadget, in a shiny red apple lives Tiny with her pet Teeny.

Tiny spends the weekdays helping others

and by this particular Friday evening, she’s so tired that before she even gets indoors she falls fast asleep dreaming of flying through space.

As she slumbers disaster strikes her home, squishing it absolutely flat.

Despite being given a room in the Grand Hotel, Tiny misses her old home.

Now though it’s payback time: the following week all Tiny’s friends rally round and come Friday a truly wonderful surprise awaits …

which all goes to show that by working together a small community can make a big difference.

Simply bursting with love, is this itty-bitty story, with its enchanting spreads packed with quirky details and antennaed characters doesn’t bring a huge smile to your face then I’ll eat a whole watermelon (and they’re one of my most unfavourite fruits).

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters
Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Amulet Books

This is the first of a new chapter book series from the Beaty/Roberts partnership that gave us engineer Rosie Revere, scientist Ada Twist and Iggy Peck, architect.

Now these three have become a team calling themselves The Questioneers and they have plenty of calls on their time and brains. That’s thanks to Rose’s much-loved Aunt Rose and her spirited friends, the Raucous Riveters who built B-29 aeroplanes during World War 2. These women are unstoppable but one of their number, June, has broken both her wrists in a motor scooter accident. Unless somebody – ie Rosie – can find a way to help her, she won’t be able to participate in the forthcoming art competition.

Into action leaps our young engineer aided and abetted by Ada and Iggy, using all kinds of paraphernalia, and after a few false starts, the Paintapalooza is finally ready – just in time for the Art-a-Go-Go.

This affectionate, lively tale is full of things to make newly independent readers smile – not least being the raucous bunch of indomitable Riveters, as well as important lessons about the role of the imagination in problem solving and the importance of resilience in learning.

Clever design gives the book a STEAM feel and Roberts’ zany illustrations are terrific fun.

Little Wise Wolf

Little Wise Wolf
Gijs van der Hammen and Hanneke Siemensma
Book Island

Little Wolf is renowned for his wisdom and it makes him proud. He’s so busy studying that he has no time to answer the questions of others.

One day he receives a visitor: it’s the king’s crow bearing a message from his highness. The king is ill and believes that only Wise Wolf can make him better.

Reluctantly he agrees setting out next morning on his bicycle. The other animals are concerned about the distance Little Wolf must travel.

The journey is very long and the terrain hilly. Little Wolf abandons his bike and watched by several pairs of eyes, continues on foot.

Come nightfall he’s exhausted, cold and very hungry; but even worse, he’s lost. On the point of despair he notices a light in the distance. It’s coming from the campfire outside a tent and bubbling away is a pot of soup.

Sated, Little Wolf falls fast asleep.

Next morning another surprise awaits: it’s the other animals. They encourage Little Wolf to continue alone and eventually, totally worn out, he reaches the castle gate and after some persuasion, enters the king’s bedchamber.

A single spoonful of Little Wise Wolf’s herbal medicine is all that’s required to cure the patient.

The grateful king makes him a tempting offer but his decision to turn it down and return to his friends, whom he acknowledges have much to teach him, shows that Little Wolf now truly does deserve to be called wise.

Wise words too from the author: for a bibliophile it is all too easy to become engrossed in books and decide one is too busy for other things and that spoke to me; but what I enjoyed particularly was Hanneke Siemensma’s art.

Using a largely muted colour palette, she portrays the red-booted lupine’s journey to real wisdom in a series of wonderful spreads, each of which offers details to amuse and delight. In addition to the standout red wellies that draw the eye immediately, there is a white dotted line tracking the path Little Wolf takes. Peer into the depths of each scene and you’ll discover much more.

Up the Mountain

Up the Mountain
Marianne Dubuc
Book Island

Old Mrs Badger is a kindly soul residing at the foot of a small mountain. She loves to walk and does so every Sunday, climbing up to the top of the mountain and sometimes stopping en route collect things such as mushrooms for a friend

or to help one in need.
One Sunday she comes upon a little cat eager to accompany her on her journey though he lacks the confidence. Fortunately Mrs Badger knows just the thing to make the challenge easier for Leo

and so the two continue climbing together.

Her companion is inquisitive and quick to learn; Mrs Badger encouraging, wise. and generous with her wisdom.

Finally they reach their destination.

There follow many Sundays when the two friends climb together and gradually week by week, month by month Mrs Badger starts to grow weary on their walks and now it’s erstwhile mentee Leo’s turn to take on the mentoring role.
Then comes a day when Mrs Badger doesn’t feel strong enough for an uphill hike so Leo heads off alone. And so it continues with the cat bringing back treasures to share with Mrs Badger.
Eventually the mountain has become Leo’s but then one day that too changes: now Leo has a new friend with whom to share all that natural beauty.

Marianne Dubuc’s moving cyclical tale has a quiet beauty that holds readers in its thrall throughout, and demonstrates so touchingly the power of intergenerational friendships. Her scenes, both intimate and expansive, are superbly detailed and beautifully textured, and her colour palette spot on for the rural setting.

Mr Tweed’s Busy Day

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Mr Tweed’s Busy Day
Jim Stoten
Flying Eye Books
Mr Tweed is a dapper dog on his daily walk to town. En route he meets and comes to the aid of, all manner of members of his local community searching for various lost creatures or items. Little Colin Rocodile has lost his new kite.

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Turning the page reveals a park spread full of almost surreal scenery and all manner of animal characters depicted in purple, orange, green and blue hues.
Thus a pattern is established: one double spread presenting the problem followed by another with the scene to search for the lost items, a search readers will enthusiastically undertake in Stoten’s various whimsical locations.
Mrs Fluffycuddle has lost her 2 kittens, Mr McMeow’s 3 pet mice have escaped in – of all places – the library …

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After which there are 4 goldfish, 5 arrows – those shot by Big Bear Bob somewhere in the woods, 6 pineapples (a prickly matter) but of course Mr T. is quite up to finding those too; after all, they’ve just got to be in that busy market.
Oh my goodness, now what can be the matter with tearful Little Penny Paws?

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Oh no! The wind has whisked away the bunch of flowers she’s bought for her mum and 7 flowers are floating somewhere on the river …

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Young Billy Webber’s socks are also a victim of the wind so 8 of them need spotting, as do the 9 balloons belonging to Pingle located somewhere among the rides at the fair.
Job done, Mr T starts heading home. Then who should come running up but Pete Weasel and seemingly now the helpful dog himself has one more search to undertake – at the street party the grateful folk he’s assisted are throwing for him as a ‘thank you’; and there are 10 surprise presents all for him, to be located.
There’s a kind of ‘Where’s Wally?’ feel to this with an added counting element. Mr Tweed is an enthusiastic helper and of course his tasks are – ultimately, thanks to the reader – rewarding. Readers in turn are rewarded by the fun of the search and find aspects, as well as the sheer wackiness of the whole book.
Hours of visual exploration and further hours of potential talk herein, especially if groups of children together participate in the search.

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The Wish Tree

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The Wish Tree
Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham
Chronicle Books
When I taught reception age children we’d sometimes have a wish tree as part of the classroom environment, perhaps for the International Day of Peace or as part of an RE theme. Of course it wasn’t a whole tree, just a branch that had broken off and been collected for the occasion. Now here’s a storybook character wanting to find a wish tree in the great outdoors. His brother and sister dismiss the idea but with his trusty ‘Boggan’ for company, Charles sets out into the snowy world on his quest to find one.

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Up hill and down they search, venturing into the woods where they stop to help various animals and make some new friends;

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but try as they might, they cannot find a wish tree. Evening is nigh and the searchers are weary; they can go no further. But then something truly wonderful and magical happens as Charles and Boggan’s kindnesses are rewarded.

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His newfound friends help him on his way and when he wakes up, he sees before him a snow-laden pine tree. Charles writes a wish, ties it to the tree and then he, Boggan and the animals partake of a seasonal feast together.

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As the moon glows in a star-filled sky, Charles and Boggan finally make their way home to bed and perhaps to dream.
The snowy scenes have a subtle pinkish glow that radiates the wonderful warmth of the story despite the chilly outdoor setting. Openheartedness and friendship win through in this subtle tale of determination and tenacity.
With its in-built repetition that offers listeners opportunities to join in with those ‘La-di-da-di-da-daaaa’s of Charles and Boggan’s ‘Whishhhhh’ songs, this is a lovely book to share as temperatures drop and the nights draw in. I love the magical elements and the way gaps are left for readers and listeners to fill for themselves.

Snowstorm Sorties

 

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Snow Bear
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From my first view of the cover, I fell for Snow Bear in a big way; he’s adorable but this is no sentimental story and Snow Bear is one determined character. He’s seeking a home, somewhere warm where he can snuggle up away from the raging icy blizzard. His forest wanderings take him to a fox’s den,

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and an owl’s nest up in a tree …

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but both are fully occupied, so lonely and shivering, Snow Bear trudges onwards till finally he comes upon somewhere that looks more promising – a small farmhouse.

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‘A chilly breeze ruffles the fur on his cheek,/ so Bear tiptoes in as the door gives a creak. / Inside it is warm, for the fire burns bright./ and Snow Bear can see by its flickering light.’
In sneaks Bear and there he comes upon a small girl, equally alone and in need of someone to hug. Having shared same, they snuggle up for a story, a fireside snooze …

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and eventually, head upstairs, for a ‘midwinter nap’ – friends together.
Tony Mitton’s rhyming tale has just the right degree of pathos and reads aloud well; and Alison Brown’s illustrations rendered in acrylics and I think, pencil, are sheer delight. Shaggy cushion-like Bear (thumb-sucking in the final spread), in particular, but also Fox with that pointy nose that to me, resembles the front of a jet plane, and startled-looking ‘tufty gruff Owl’ are splendid.
With the contrasting themes of loneliness and friendship at its heart, this tender, timeless story is just the thing to bring a warm glow to a chilly winter’s day or night.

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One Snowy Rescue
M Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Little Tiger Press
Little Hedgehog has a whole series of stories all his own, his friends are there too of course. Here he stars in another snow-filled adventure – more and deeper snow in fact than our prickly pal has ever seen before. So much that a snowdrift surrounds his house and he has to dig himself out. Exhausted having done so, the kind-hearted creature’s first thoughts are of his friend Mouse and off he goes to see how she’s faring. But despite his careful tread, he soon finds himself tumbling …

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into a huge snowdrift.
It’s fortunate for him then that Little Hedgehog happens to be wearing his floppy red hat –

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just the thing for a rescue-wanted signal. And equally fortunately, who should happen along at just the right moment but Rabbit who heaves him out …

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and the two continue together but get lost. Fox comes to the rescue this time, but even that is not the end of the story for soon, another rescue is needed. Badger joins the team having been alerted by that trusty red hat again and finally, led by Badger, the object of their search – Mouse and offspring – together with the friendly entourage, head home for supper in the silvery moonlight. How versatile that hat is …

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A warm-hearted tale about putting the needs of others first, with the spiky hero, bold and resourceful as ever heading the cast of characters in a finely paced, festive foray that is delightfully depicted in Tina Mcnaughton’s bold, bright snowscapes.
Also from Little Tiger Press, newly in paperback and reviewed last year is:
The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Here is Emmanuelle lost in the wonderful magic of a determined penguin, Wellington, and his snowy garden.

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