Winter Lullaby / Wonky Donkey’s Big Surprise

Winter Lullaby
Dianne White and Ramona Kaulitzki
Walker Books

At the approach of winter when the air is crisp and cold, Mama Bear tells her little one that it’s time for bed but Small Bear notices Mouse and Chipmunk are still wide awake and busy; so too are Skunk and Hare.

Patiently acknowledging her offspring’s “But why must I?”, Mama explains that each one is preparing for a long winter sleep: Mouse is rushing to rest in her soft grassy nest and Chipmunk is storing nuts then he too will hibernate; Skunk will soon slumber underground and Hare will spend winter in a hollow log.

However Small Bear also spots Badger and Old Racoon, both still awake too, so he holds firm to his “But I don’t want to go inside … Why must we hide?”

Mama then promises that come the spring, they’ll both wake up and find their world green again, just waiting for them to play together once more. Finally Small Bear accepts that it is time to snuggle up warm with his mother and let the night sing them lullabies until they both fall fast asleep and slumber all winter long.

Told in rhyming couplets and through Ramona Kaulizki’s scenes of the final autumnal days giving way to winter’s bluish-silvery landscapes, this is both a lovely reassuring pre-bedtime tale and a simple explanation of hibernation for adults and little ones to share, snuggled together just like Mama Bear and her cub.

Wonky Donkey’s Big Surprise
Craig Smith and Katz Cowley
Scholastic

One morning wee Dinky Donkey is hugely excited and that’s because her pa Wonky has promised her a very big surprise. Rather than tell his little one what to expect, Wonky turns the whole surprise thing into a guessing game explaining that behind the big green door is where she’ll find her surprise. The guessing begins – “Is it warm?, “Is it washable?” … “is it witty? …

By the time Wonky has acknowledged “Sometimes it’s even whiffier than your dad!” Dinky cannot contain herself any longer. She leaps up and dashes to the door: now what could possibly be wonderful, wrinkly, wiggly, witty, weird, whiskery, washable, warm, whiffy and wise? WOW! What a lot of w’s to describe just one thing. Now what could it possibly be? It’s certainly something that will make Dinky and young listeners feel warm all over.

The story is delivered in Craig Smith’s characteristic playful, spirited rhyming narrative and Katz Cowley’s strokeable illustrations wherein the focus is on, not Wonky, but his endearing offspring.

A Bear is a Bear

A Bear is a Bear (except when he’s not)
Karl Newson and Anuska Allepuz
Nosy Crow

The adorable looking bear in this book appears to be suffering from amnesia as to his true animal form, brought about by forgetting that come December he’s supposed to be snuggled down inside his cave for the long winter hibernation.

Instead the ursine creature is bumbling around pondering possibilities: might he perhaps be a bird …

Oops no! He can’t fly and as for fitting in the nest – forget it!

If not that, then maybe … a moose? Lack of antlers and an aversion to dry grass quickly put paid to that notion.
What about a dancing prancing fox or even a squirrel? Those don’t feel quite right either.
Stuck up in a tree, bear ponders: “I’m not a squirrel – /they climb too high. // I’m not a fox – / but I gave it a try. // I’m not a moose – / I don’t know why. // And I’m not a bird. / I cannot fly. // So what, oh what / on earth am I?

As snowflakes whirl around his head that Bear should really be in bed, especially as he is now suffering a bad attack of the grumps to go with his memory loss.

Suddenly realisation dawns … and off he goes to sleep till spring. Sweet dreams! Spring isn’t too far away.

Now, look who’s come a knocking to greet their friend …

BEAR!
Karl’s rhyming text takes the form of Bear’s internal monologue as he wanders hither and thither in his state of forgetfulness, and with its repeat refrain and cumulative structure, it’s a great ‘join in with’ read aloud.

To render her mixed media scenes of the increasingly wintry forest and its animal inhabitants, Anuska Alleppuz has used a carefully considered, beautifully textured palette that really makes readers feel they’re with Bear every step of his journey – the highs and the lows – both physical and mental.

The Very Long Sleep

The Very Long Sleep
Polly Noakes
Child’s Play

Polly Noakes’ latest picture book is essentially a delightful extended joke.

Meet four animal friends Fox, Chipmunk, Marmot and Bear who decide to set up home together. They enthusiastically set about so doing but there is a snag: three of said animals hibernate come the arrival of winter’s frost, something they fail to tell Fox.

Inevitably he is disappointed that none of the others stays awake to share his specially prepared food; he himself is unable to sleep and feels extremely lonely.

Then one day the deliveries start. First it’s a parcel for Chipmunk; next comes a package for Marmot;

and that is followed some weeks later, by a large item for Bear.

Fox is the only one not to receive something through the pigeon post. He waits; his boredom increases: surely a little peep wouldn’t hurt, he thinks.
All of a sudden …

Now what could all that noise mean? …

Illustrated with warmth and humour, this is lovely and potentially rather noisy read aloud to share snuggled up together, especially after a woodland walk. I’d suggest mugs of hot chocolate to sip along with it.