Humperdink Our Elephant Friend

Humperdink Our Elephant Friend
Sean Taylor and Claire Alexander
Words & Pictures

Storyteller Sean gives the impression he’s spent time standing behind the heads of young children, observing carefully, so he knows what they’d do should a playful pachyderm burst through the door of their playgroup.
That is just what happens in this book and straightaway the children attempt to accommodate him in their play, be it dressing up, hairstylists …

hide and seek or something more energetic. No matter how hard they try though, things keep ending in disaster.

The children then change tack asking Humperdink what he likes to play and before you can say, ‘come outside’ he’s led the little ones outside for some exceedingly satisfying elephant-stomping, stamping and stumping,

followed by elephant riding right into a jungly place that’s perfect for …

After all that romping Humbert is ready to settle down into something equally creative but rather less energetic; though of course, he and his new friends are always up for a jungle foray.

The joyful exuberance inherent in Sean’s telling is wonderfully echoed in Claire Alexander’s scenes of the characters’ imaginative play. Clearly she too spends time observing little ones – their joie de vivre, their intense concentration on whatever they’re engaged in, and the way their open hearts are sensitive to the feelings of one another, empathetic and full of love.

Perfect for story time in a playgroup or nursery and at home with little ones, this is a book that’s bound to be requested over and over.

Mabel and Sam at Home

Mabel and Sam at Home
Linda Urban and Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam and things look pretty chaotic from the viewpoint of the siblings.

To keep out of the way of the grown-ups they embark on a series of adventures related in three chapters. The first is ‘On the High Seas’ and here Captain Mabel and First Mate Sam set out in the good ship Handle With Care. Bossy sis. gives the orders as they go sailing on the high seas, a dangerous voyage full of pirates, whales and sea serpents

until they spy some friendly landlubbers, after which it’s “All ashore” for some tasty pizza.
‘At the Museum’ has curator Mabel showing Sam new ways of looking at old familiar things: the dialogue here is especially wonderful with Mabel “Behold“ing at every opportunity as she introduces the various artefacts to her brother.

Finally, after supper the two become astronauts blasting through space heading for Planet Perfecto and for this they need to be especially bold, “Space Bold” Astronaut Mabel declares, “Space Bold is bigger, because space is bigger.

Linda Urban’s entire text is a delight – funny, full of charm, reassuring and cleverly structured so as to embrace the kind of things that cause young children moving day anxieties; and before the end, the children are feeling upbeat about the move with Mabel concluding that their ‘new planet was surprisingly homey’.
Hadley Hooper’s illustrations (created with printmaking techniques and Photoshop) are, like the siblings’ adventures, wonderfully imagined, both in their rendering of the children’s adventures and the portrayal of the somewhat frazzled parents at the end of the book.
Just right for sharing with a child or children moving home.

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing
Hiawyn Oram and Birgitta Sif
Walker Books

Snowboy likes to spend his time playing imaginative games with his animal companions. Greenbackboy is riddled with greed. He persuades Snowboy to join him in a ‘better game’ he calls KA-CHING. The game entails cutting down all the forest trees in return for KA-CHING, which seemingly, can be used to get anything they want. With one tree left standing however, the enormity of what they’ve done strikes Snowboy and with the aid of his Cloak of Many Uses, he manages to hide the last tree.
Not satisfied with his ill-gotten gains, Greenbackboy drags his reluctant fellow player off to the oceans, their next target for exploitation.
With all the fish netted Snowboy again has second thoughts and manages to release two of their catch overboard, unnoticed by his companion.

But strongboxes filled with KA-CHING and mountains of tinned fish give no protection from the ravages of a storm that brews up, sweeping the tinned fish into the empty ocean to go to waste.
Snowboy has had enough.

Leaving Greenbackboy with his treasure, he, his Ice Troupers and Polar Bear King trek back across the wasted land, finally reaching that last tree.
Could it just be that with tender loving care, the tree can become their saviour?

Hiawyn Oram’s unusual story has a powerful ecological message: a fable about greed and exploitation of natural resources, it’s a timely reminder of what is happening to our planet.
Birgitta Sif’s beautiful illustrations have a muted luminescence and bring a touch of quirkiness to what is essentially a dark tale.

How to Find Gold

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How to Find Gold
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Viviane Schwarz has definitely struck gold with her latest offering. It stars a pair of adorable characters, Anna, a small girl with a wonderfully fertile imagination, and her pal Crocodile – an all round down-to-earth good guy – who acts as a kind of steadying influence in the relationship, proffering such wise words as “That would be dangerous and difficult,” to Anna’s opening suggestion, “LET’S FIND GOLD,”. Indeed it’s the quality of the deadpan exchanges between the two, as much as the quest itself that make this book such a winner.
Once the plans have been made, maps duly drawn …

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and location possibilities weighed up …

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the next consideration is transport: that one is easily dealt with …

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and the adventure is then truly under way
There follows another priceless exchange: “Where are the ship-sinking mountains?” Anna asked. “Where are the monsters?”
Underwater, “ said Crocodile.
How about holes?”
They are sunk with the ship,” said Crocodile.
Ah,” said Anna. “Finding gold is difficult.”
Very,” said Crocodile.
Not dangerous though,” said Anna.
Ha!” said Crocodile. “How about over there, where the sea is boiling and the clouds are like a tower and the fish are in the air?
A great storm!” said Anna. “There will be gold!
Hold on tight,” said Crocodile.
Anna is duly rewarded for her confidence. They do find gold, at the bottom of the deepest, darkest ocean imaginable …

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and what do they do with the spoils? Telling would ruin the wonderful finale which rounds this off in stupendous style, in a superb demonstration of what early years educators, parents of many young children (and this book’s creator) know: it’s the process, not the product that is most important in an undertaking such as this.
Like all good picture books, this one leaves readers with possibilities to entertain: “Is Crocodile ‘real’ or an imaginary friend?” being one. Your young audiences will doubtless come up with others.
The author provided further episodes to her wonderful There Are Cats In This Book. If anything calls for a follow up (or two), this brilliant book assuredly does.

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