Where’s Baby?

Where’s Baby?
Anne Hunter
Walker Books

In this delightfully playful book whose story really begins on the front endpapers, Papa Fox searches for his little one. “Have you seen Baby, Mama Fox?” he asks on the first page and the response, “Why, Baby must be somewhere, Papa Fox” leads the male parent off, walking stick in paw, searching high and low in the countryside – up in the tree, inside a log, over the hill, down a hole, under the water and around the bend.

In each location he comes upon a decidedly un-foxy animal. Some respond politely to his question “ Ba-by! Are you … up in the tree?” for instance …

Whereas others such as a grumpy skunk with its “I am inside the log, but I am not your baby. Go away!” are rather rude and on occasion Papa Fox gets the shock of his life.

Totally at a loss, back goes Papa Fox empty pawed; and by this time if your audience hasn’t already yelled out, “Behind you” at the top of their voices they certainly will when he reaches Mama Fox again. Once reunited, it’s down to Baby to utter a final throwaway line …

Inevitably this will lead to cries of ‘Read it again” and you – like that Papa Fox, will happily oblige.

There’s so much to love about this hide-and-seek book: the dramatic irony of the whole tale; the entirely speech bubble text with its question and answer format; Anne Hunter’s superb, finely drawn pen and pencil, cross-hatched illustrations with that limited colour palette that grace every spread, the fact that youngsters will perceive that Mama Fox is playing along with her offspring and the unobtrusive lesson in prepositions.

Simple literary entertainment of the first order, methinks.

Everybunny Count! / abc

Everybunny Count!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books

Since making friends in Everybunny Dance, ’Fox and bunnies like to play, / all together, every day.’ And their chosen game for this particular day is hide-and-seek.

The bunnies do their countdown and the hunt for fox commences. The first finding is a single badger soon followed by two bunnies spotting two birds: ‘Everybunny count to TWO!’

The search continues. Three bunnies spy three frisky squirrels; four find four ladybirds.

The pond is a fruitful place for fresh discoveries: five diving bunnies see five ducks while among the sticks, six bunnies find six frogs. ‘Everybunny count to SIX!’
Next stop is the carrot patch – just the place for a crunchy carrot nibble. It’s getting late and eight bunnies are anything but observant in their haste …

By now those bunnies are feeling sleepy as they form a line and count to NINE! (sheep) and then hurrah! There among the trees, close to his den is Fox.

There’s another surprise however for at the count of ten what should appear but ten little fox cubs and a proud mother.

It’s time to dance …

Ellie Sandall’s rhyming text with its infectious repetition ‘Everybunny count to …’ bounces along as beautifully as the bunnies. Add to that her deliciously playful pencil and watercolour illustrations (children will delight in occasional glimpses of Fox along the way) that lead to this …

and we have a counting book story that’s full of fun and sure to result in echoes of the animals’ “Let’s play hide-and-seek again.”

abc
Aino-Maija Metsola
Wide Eyed Editions

Learning the alphabet is just a part of this new addition to the Learning Garden series. Young children can have fun not only naming the objects for each letter of the alphabet but also enjoying the various patterns, shapes and bright colours that are part and parcel of every page.

There are numerous opportunities for language learning, depending on the child’s interest and the skill of the adult sharer. You might for example, chose two or three of the letters and illustrated objects, and use them to make up a story together. The sturdy pages mean that this little board book should stand up well to the enthusiastic use it’s likely to get in a nursery or family.

Books for Tiny Hands

A Tiny Little Story: Farm
Lisa Jones and Edward Underwood
Nosy Crow
In the third title of the series the adorable Baby Boo and his mum pay a visit to the farm. They meet the farmer in his tractor,

a mother hen and her baby chicks, the cow, the sheep, some pigs and a cockerel, each of which greets the visitors with its characteristic sound; and then it’s time to leave.
With its soft, squidgy pages, simple, bold, patterned images and a Velcro buggy strap, this boxed book, like its predecessors, is just perfect for giving to a new mum and her baby.

Animal ABC
Jannie Ho
Nosy Crow
Having explored Halloween and Christmas, Jannie Ho’s third ABC book for babies and toddlers features animals large and small, some familiar, others less so, from elephant to narwhal and iguana and owl. One fantasy animal – a unicorn – puts in an appearance too.
Boldly illustrated with just the single word and corresponding letter as text per page, there are talk opportunities aplenty in this sturdily designed little board book. Which ones have long tails? Which have horns? Can your infant think of what noise each animal might produce?
Full of animal fun for sure.

Little Truck
Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books
In this lovely little board book toddlers share a day in the life of a little pink truck. He’s a fast mover and determined hill climber and is accompanied on his travels by a larger (parent) truck.
The latter is available to give a gentle push up the steep slope …

and when Little Truck enters a dark tunnel, is right behind to ensure he’s not completely lost and is ready to carry the little one when he falls fast asleep.
With a simple text, some of which is addressed to the Little Truck by the larger one, Taro Gomi uses his wonderful minimalist style to imbue both trucks with distinct personalities as well as creating stylised background scenes in contrasting greys, browns and tans.
I love that Little Truck is pink and identified as male in the narrative.

Where’s Mrs Zebra?
Where’s Mr Dog?

Ingela P.Arrhenuis
Nosy Crow
Just right for some playful book sharing time with your baby are these two hide-and-seek board books.
Each one contains five scenes with bold, bright images and an animal that has hidden itself behind an appropriately shaped, brightly coloured felt flap on the spread.
In the first title Mr Rhino, Mrs Gorilla,

Mr Flamingo, Mrs Zebra are hidden or almost so and the final spread has a hidden mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
The same question concludes the second book wherein Mr Dog, along with Mrs Cat, Mr Mouse, and Mrs Rabbit have tucked themselves away behind various objects all waiting to be discovered by tiny hands.
Award winning Swedish illustrator Ingela P. Arrhenius has illustrated both with just the right amount of detail for the very youngest infant.

Guess Which Hand?
Hans Wilhelm and Ilaria Guarducci
Chronicle Books
Here’s a little board book based on the ever popular guessing game after which the book is titled.
On each of eight pages toddlers are invited to guess the location of the item be it a ladybird or frog, a bone or ball, flower or feather, pink fish or blue, banana or peanut, carrot or clover leaves, star or moth, hidden under one or other of the flaps on each animal’s page. Paws, ears, scallop shells,

hats, fluffy tails, wings and eggs are in turn used as hiding places. The objects are moved by turning the interactive wheel at the side of each page so you can play the game over and over with a toddler.
Each bold bright scene offers more to talk about than the guessing game though but that depends on the users.

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek
Anthony Browne
Doubleday

There are search and find picture books aplenty and then there is Anthony Browne’s game of Hide and Seek, which is in an altogether different class: a class of its own. And it’s actually Anthony Browne’s 50th picture book of his career.
Herein the search is for a missing dog, Goldie, belonging to sister and brother, Poppy and Cy, or rather it isn’t. The search is actually that of Poppy for her brother in the game of hide-and-seek they decide to play in the woods as a distraction from their sadness over Goldie’s disappearance.
Cy duly hides himself; Poppy counts and then confidently commences her search.

(By now observant readers will have noticed some surreal additions to the children’s woodland surroundings.)
Seemingly Cy has hidden himself rather too well, for Poppy has trouble locating him thanks to several false leads. Her little brother meanwhile, is getting increasingly desperate for a wee, not to mention chilly and downright scared.

Is his mind beginning to conjure up some of the more disturbing images hidden in the woods as he hears the sound of something approaching?
There’s more than one surprise in the final spreads of this rich and absorbing story; and for readers perhaps, the most unexpected surprise is the open-ended finale …

But then Browne always poses questions and invites speculation way beyond the simple narrative of the written story.
(The last page lists eighteen objects the author has ‘hidden’ throughout the book.)
For me, having access to woodland is an essential part of being human. To enter a wood is to journey back in time: it sharpens the senses; we hear, see and smell differently and our imagination too is expanded. It puts us back in touch with our primeval selves. Anthony Browne invokes that same experience between the leaves of this spell-binding book.

Playful Pets: Buster and the Baby / Big Box Little Box

Buster and the Baby
Amy Hest and Polly Dunbar
Walker Books
A very boisterous toddler and a lively little dog star in this rumbustious romp of a picture book.
The dog’s called Buster and the infant – a female – is just called baby. Both are charmers and live with baby’s parents in a little red house.
There’s nothing Buster enjoys more than a game of hide-and-seek with the infant,

a pretty hazardous activity when it comes to finding suitable hiding places, from baby’s parents viewpoint, that is.
As for Buster, his heart goes THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! as he waits and watches for baby to come …

CHAAA! out of the shadows like a small thunderbolt right at him with joyful exuberance.
The two of them cavort through the house and garden, and the book, all day until finally, it’s baby’s bedtime. Now it’s her turn to hide and wait …

Engaging textual repetition and exuberant, warm-hearted illustrations make this a lovely one to share with toddlers at any time of day.
A delight through and through.

Big Box Little Box
Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Experience has shown me that young children love to play in and with boxes but cats? Seemingly they too enjoy boxes; though I suppose I should have known, thanks to Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd’s My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes.
Certainly it’s the case in this book wherein the moggy character is a real box aficionado exploring the plethora of boxes to be found in his home, be they large, small, fat, thin, flat even. And they come in so many different colours …

and with attractive designs.
Taking things almost literally results in some interesting uses where this feline is concerned …

Now though he’s found a box that something has been having a nibble at; I wonder what that might be.
‘Cat peeks.’ Something squeaks …
Could this be the start of a beautiful new (although rather unlikely) friendship? …

Caryl Hart’s minimal text provides designer Edward Underwood a playful scenario with which to co-create his debut picture book. He does so with panache.

I’ve signed the charter  

Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day / Papasaurus

Kiki and Bobo’s Sunny Day
Yasmeen Ismail
Walker Books
Meet Kiki and Bobo. They’re super excited on account of a trip to the seaside; the perfect place to spend a sunny day they think. Off they go in the bus where Kiki eagerly anticipates a swim in the sea: Bobo, in contrast does not.
He doesn’t want the ice-cream Kiki buys either, despite his friend’s best efforts.
Undaunted, she suggests that dip in the sea. This is greeted by a series of stalling activities: rubbing on sun cream,

collecting seashells and sandcastle constructing, until finally the indulgent Kiki is rewarded, not by an enthusiastic change of heart on Bobo’s part: rather he tearfully admits that he’s scared of sea swimming.
Three cheers for Kiki: she has just the thing for reluctant swimmers and she’s ready to let Bobo have that, and equally important, to take hold of his hand as they enter the water.

So, overcoming the fear of water – tick; being a super-duper friend and helping a pal in his hour of need – tick. Those are the important outcomes of a seaside sortie so delightfully orchestrated through Yasmeen Ishmail’s characteristically adorable illustrations – littered in this instance with flaps to open – and a straightforward text that in the main, comprises the dialogue between Bobo and Kiki.
Another winner for Yasmeen Ismail.

Papasaurus
Stephan Lomp
Chronicle Books
Using a similar question and answer style employed in Mamasaurus, Lomp has Babysaurus participating in a game of hide-and-seek with his Papasaurus. When it’s Babysaurus’s turn to be the seeker, he can’t find his Papa. His “Have you seen my papa?” is directed to first Stego, and subsequently Anky, Mosa, Velo and Edmont,

all of whom respond by referring to attributes of their own papas. None though can match up to Papasaurus in the eyes of his little one and eventually he pauses his search on top of a large hump in the landscape to consider where his father might be;

and lo and behold …
The dinosaur characters are rendered in bright colours making them stand out starkly against the sombre shades of the prehistoric landscapes they inhabit and it’s thus that Lomp creates the possibility of hidden danger as the infant dinosaur forays into the unknown perhaps for the first time.
Lots of fun to share with young dino. fans, in particular those youngsters who with a parent fairly near at hand are beginning to make those first forays into the wider world.

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Board Book Shelf 2

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Mix & Match Animal Homes
Mix & Match Colours

Lo Cole
Walker Books
Innovative design – a tiny book within a small one – is key to these two board books for the very youngest. In Animal Homes, six habitats the (African) plains, the desert, the jungle,

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the sea, the forest and the Arctic are visited with four animals per spread and a fifth is waiting to be discovered in the inset smaller book.
Colours has a spread for each of the primary colours plus green, pink and orange each of which has eight or nine brightly coloured objects both large and small (although relative sizes aren’t explored) and the inset book has the pages of the six colours which children need to match to the colours of the objects on the surrounding larger pages.

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Vocabulary development and colour concepts are the main learning opportunities offered in these playful little books.

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Where’s Mr Lion?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
A handful of wild animals – Mrs Giraffe, Mr Crocodile, Mrs Elephant and Mr Lion are the subjects to search for in this board book. With its felt flap hiding places and a final hidden mirror, toddlers will have lots of fun manipulating the flaps to reveal and missing animals which have in fact only partially managed to conceal themselves behind the various brightly coloured objects. This of course adds to the enjoyment, as does the repetitive patterned nature of the text.

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Cheep! Cheep!
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
In the latest addition to the Can You Say It Too? series Sebastien Braun involves readers in a trip around the farm and surrounding area where five animals have hidden themselves behind a clump of flowers, a gate, a basket, a stable door and a clump of reeds.. Once located, toddlers can emulate the ‘Cheep! Cheep!’, ‘Baah! Baah!’ ‘Meew! Meew!’, ‘Hee-haw! Hee-haw!’ and ‘Quack! Quack!’

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of the baby animals. Involving, noisy fun made all the more so by Braun’s gently humorous visuals.

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Flora and the Chicks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, the balletic star from Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguins and Flora and the Peacocks now performs in an almost wordless counting book for a younger audience. The young miss, suitably clad in her red jump suit, more than has her hands full with the nest of hatching chicks emerging one after the other. As each new chick breaks out, the book counts, the numeral being revealed when the page-sized folds are opened out, or as one turns to the next spread to follow the action,

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until finally all 10 chicks have hatched, the mother hen has her full brood and Flora sits for a well-earned rest. Then come the only words ‘The End’ aptly heralding the show is over. The tottering first steps of the chicks provide a nice contrast to Flora’s graceful swoops, lunges and stretches as she attempts to round up the fluffy yellow hatchlings. Lots of fun and deliciously re-readable.

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Lucy Ladybird / Where’s Mrs Ladybird?

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Lucy Ladybird
Sharon King-Chai
Templar Publishing
This is a re-issue and it’s good to see Lucy Ladybird back in circulation once again.
Ostracised by the other ladybirds, the despondent creature takes off and soon meets Fred Frog. He pays her a morale-boosting compliment and gives her one of his green spots. As she continues to fly all through the seasons, her encounters with Carla Caterpillar, Felicity Fish and Bella Bird yield further compliments and three additional spots …

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after which Lucy returns home feeling like a true ladybird, albeit a variegated one. Will she now fit in with the other ladybirds?
Actually no but something much more exciting happens instead and before long a change has come upon the entire community …

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With its themes of difference, acceptance, sharing and friendship this is a super story to share with early years listeners and if my experience is anything to go by, immediate re-readings will be the order of the day.
This one’s rich in potential not only for discussion but creative work – I’ll leave that to your imagination. Sharon King-Chai’s paintbox hued, mixed media illustrations have certainly sparked off a whole plethora of activies, both artistic and other, whenever I’ve shared the story. Vive la difference, say I.

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Where’s Mrs Ladybird?
Ingela P.Arrhenius
Nosy Crow
Toddlers will delight in this brightly coloured hide-and-seek board book wherein four minibeasts are hiding behind felt flaps, one on each spread, except the final one whereon they watch the revelation of a mirror just waiting to be looked in.
The single sentence question and answer per double spread follows the same pattern, for instance …

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and that makes the audience two-fold: beginning readers can enjoy sharing the book, perhaps with younger siblings.

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Mother Fox and Her Cubs

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Mother Fox and Her Cubs
Amandine Momenceau
Thames & Hudson
Snow has fallen overnight and a mother fox is greeted by bright sunshine: time to check on her quartet of lively cubs, she decides. The cubs are in a playful mood and a game of hide and seek is on the agenda. Mother Fox searches and eventually, one by one, discovers the whereabouts of her mischievous offspring.

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Night falls and, game over, it’s time to return to the den. Which one of her cubs will secure the coziest spot? Well, they all look pretty snuggled to me …

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This simple story is transformed into a piece of picture book magic – a theatre almost – by debut artist, Amandine Momenceau. Using a limited colour palette, the artist creates a stark wintry landscape.
Her cut out shapes, die cuts and split pages serve to create and re-create the landscape, and allow readers to manipulate the story at their own pace.

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Particularly engaging is the large mother fox-shaped page used to stage a ‘look, he’s behind you’ episode

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The voice of Mother Fox forms most of the text, with occasional interjections from the cubs drawing the reader into the action right from the outset.
I’m sure this is a book that will be read over and over; the weight of paper used should ensure that it can withstand the many re-readings it deserves.

Hiding Heidi

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Hiding Heidi
Fiona Woodcock
Simon and Schuster
Young Heidi has a special talent: she’s able to blend in with her surroundings – effortlessly and very successfully …

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She’s a natural camouflager which is particularly useful when it comes to a game of hide-and-seek with her friends.
At her birthday party you can guess what Heidi wants to play – and off she goes to hide …

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A search ensues but Heidi’s just TOO good – all her pals find is some delicious ice-creams.
The party continues and finally Heidi’s friends discover where she is – right at the end though. and they duly depart leaving their host to do a spot of pondering.
Next day when the gang meet up, there are some different activities on the agenda and each one of the friends is able to shine at one game …

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or another …

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Fiona Woodcock’s picture book debut surely allows her artistic talents to shine: this is a real corker. Those beautifully textured, subtly coloured pages and the wonderful characters thereon, make for captivating scenes at every turn of the page. I can’t wait to see what follows. Meanwhile, this one’s perfect for one-to-one sharing and reading with a class or group.
I can envisage children being inspired to experiment with the art of camouflage using some of Fiona’s picture making techniques such as printing, and using stencils, blow pens, paints and more.

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Have You Seen Elephant?

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Have you seen Elephant?
David Barrow
Gecko Press
Ever thought of playing a game with an elephant? If you do, just make sure it’s not hide and seek …

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or if there’s no option then don’t let the elephant be first to hide. That’s the mistake the boy makes in this debut, corker of a book from David Barrow. It’s one of those stories where children are in the know almost from the outset and relish so being: they, like the boy’s dog can see all elephant’s hiding places and good as he insists he is, that elephant does choose some pretty ridiculous, albeit creative spots.

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But that’s the fun of it for audiences.
There is visual hilarity in abundance: in some ways elephant is rather like a toddler when it comes to hiding places – if he can’t see the seeker then he can’t be seen. But then that’s the way this book works: we all have to suspend our disbelief and play along with elephant just like one does with a toddler.
Barrow comically times his painted visuals to perfection: every spread is bang on in this respect, as is his use of light and shade. I love the somewhat restrained/muted colour palette with those orange,

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pink and purple hues.
Great family portrait endpapers – make sure you compare front and back. Make sure too that you keep your eye on what the dog’s up to; oh, and watch out for this character:

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he also has a special talent when it comes to games … so he says.
Love it, love it, love it! Assuredly a book to enjoy over and over (and with its minimal text), one beginning readers can, after an initial sharing, try for themselves.
I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what’s next from this extremely talented newcomer who is incidentally, the winner of the Sebastian Walker Award for the most promising children’s illustrator 2015.

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