The Same But Different Too / Goodnight World

The Same But Different Too
Karl Newson and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Similarities and differences are highlighted and celebrated in this joyful and engaging rhyming book that uses both human and animal characters to demonstrate examples throughout a busy, fun-filled day from breakfast time to bedtime.

In between come a look at differing heights, climbing skills,

play activity preferences, age, dentition, position, speed and much more; and it’s particularly heartening to find that everyone shares the love of a story session.

Karl’s upbeat words in combination with Kate’s vibrant, zany artwork create a great picture book that’s perfect for family sharing and for foundation stage settings.

With the emphasis on embracing differences it’s a super book to open up discussions about such issues as inclusivity and acceptance. Every spread offers much to talk about and enjoy, helping to highlight how our differences make each and every one of us special and unique.

Goodnight World
Nicola Edwards and Hannah Tolson
Caterpillar Books

Ideal for bedtime sharing is this presentation of the ways of saying “Goodnight” in a dozen languages as well as in English.
Nicola Edwards rhyming narrative takes us through the bedtime rituals of different families as the little ones are hugged, have a bath, brush their teeth, tidy up toys,

perhaps listen to a phone message from a loved one far away,

and share a bedtime story …

Some tinies are just so tired they need carrying up to bed already fast asleep, while others bid each other “Goodnight’ or in German “Gute nacht”.

Others will have trouble falling asleep and need to count sheep before dreams come.

No matter what though, come nightfall, little ones everywhere go to bed having said “Goodnight” or perhaps used the Mandarin “Wān an”, the Russian “Spokoynoy nochi”; the Italian “Buona note”; the Finnish “Hyvää yötä”; or maybe they said “Usiku mwema” (Shahili); “Buenas noches” (Spanish), the Arabic “Tisbah ala khair”; the Hindi “Shubh raatri” or the French “Bonne nuit”.

Safe in their beds under shared moon and stars, everyone finally falls asleep.

In her bold naïve style, inclusive illustrations Hannah Tolson shows all these different bedtime scenarios as they unfold in various places.

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon

In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon
Frann Preston-Gannon
Templar Books

Shhh! Can you hear that sound? It’s little frog down in the swamp sitting alone quietly singing his little frog song ‘neath the light of the moon.

Coming to a sudden stop he lets out a sigh and deciding solo singing really isn’t fun, hops off to find someone to join in.
He first enlists a friendly humming, drumming crocodile …

but still the tune lacks something so he adds some mice with their ‘la’s some “OH OH OH!” –ing fish, three coo-ing birds (at their own request);

but still the song isn’t right.

Then Froggy happens on a tiny shy bug convinced that her song isn’t worth adding to theirs.

Froggy however speaks thus, “… your song’s unique and important like all the rest. Even small voices count … only you sing your song.”

And so the little bug sings and as she does so, she shines like a bright star .

The voices blend beautifully as the song rises to a brilliant crescendo, the tune permeating every part of the swamp until everything on earth has joined in the singing.

This book delivers such a vitally important message in its celebration of the softly spoken introverts (I remember being such a one as a child, rather than the outspoken woman I now have become.) It’s a book that needs to be shared widely in nurseries, schools and with individuals particularly those similar to the little bug. It also speaks to the socially confident extroverts who may need to be made aware of the importance of leaving space for everyone to have their say.

Told through Frann’s lyrical rhyming narrative and her splendid collage illustrations (I love the way she places images on the page), this inclusive tale is a huge winner in my book.

Monty and the Poodles

Monty and the Poodles
Katie Harnett
Flying Eye Books

Whether or not you’re a dog lover, you’ll find it hard not to be enchanted by Monty and Ginger, stars of Katie Harnett’s new picture book.

Monty is a stray living on the north side of town, Ginger a pampered poodle residing at Poodle Mansions on the opposite side.

One day the two meet in an art gallery, and thus begins an unlikely friendship.

When Monty sees Ginger’s home he really wants to live there too.

Ginger likes the idea but there’s a problem in the form of Miss Lillabet. This battle-axe enforces a strict ‘Poodles Only’ policy at the Mansions.

Ginger enlists her fellow poodles in operation transformation,

but will their crafty canine ruse have the desired effect?

Poodle Mansions certainly does gain a new resident …

but perhaps a rule governed life, albeit a peachy one, isn’t for everyone, or rather, every dog.

Is there maybe another way for the two friends to be together …

Told in a direct manner, celebrating difference and inclusiveness are at the heart of Katie Harnett’s humorous story.

Rich in pattern and with a flattened perspective, her playful pictures, which range from full double spread to vignette, give a cinematic feel to the book.

Katie has created another winner with this one.

Want To Play Trucks?

Want To Play Trucks?
Ann Stott and Bob Graham
Walker Books

It’s autumn: Alex and Jack meet at the playground sandpit nearly every morning.
Alex enjoys playing with dolls of the pink sparkly clothed variety; Jack enjoys playing with trucks, especially the wrecking kind.

So what happens when Jack invites Alex to play trucks? A compromise ensues as Alex suggests, “Let’s play dolls that drive trucks.”

While their carers – parents one presumes- sit chatting, the boys play amicably together until Jack’s “You can’t wear a tutu and drive a crane,” announcement, halts things.Tempers flare briefly

but fizzle out when Alex realises that all that’s required is a quick outfit change for the truck driver.

The wonderful details in Bob Graham’s watercolour scenes that pan in and out of the play action, add much to Ann Stott’s light, spare telling. The latter relies on the story’s premise resting on what, one hopes, is a completely out-dated sexist viewpoint about who should play with what.

Be sure to take time over the interaction between the two seated adults; there’s much to wonder about there too,

in addition to thinking about what’s going on between the two main characters, the denouement of which is based on their shared passion for large, dribblesome ice-cream cones.

With messages concerning the importance of allowing children free rein in their imaginative play, compromise and inclusivity, this is a book to share and discuss either at home or in an early years classroom.

Need more suggestions for your children’s reading? Try Toppsta’s Summer Reading Guide

The Only Way is Badger

The Only Way is Badger
Stella J Jones and Carmen Saldaña
Little Tiger Press

Which would you rather have, complete conformity or fabulous friendships? I know which I’d choose every time but not so the main character in Stella Jones’ super story. Badger is a separatist and has started posting ‘BE MORE BADGER’ type signs all over the forest causing consternation among the other woodland animals.

Supposedly to make matters easier for his so-called friends he presents a list of activities, badger-like digging being number one.
This immediately eliminates ungulate Deer, and Badger sends him packing most unceremoniously.

Requirement number two is fitting through the doorway of Badger’s sett. In go Racoon, Skunk, Squirrel and the other small creatures. Outcast, and over the wall are large bummed Bear and massive-antlered Moose.

So it continues with further ejections: those of Hedgehog, Bunny and Beaver for their badger-barking attempts.

Of the remainers Racoon and Skunk pass muster on account of their black and whiteness whereas the colourful birds, butterflies and bugs become persona non grata.

Badger is now revelling in his monotonously coloured surroundings; not so Racoon and Skunk especially as they hear  happy sounds issuing from behind that wall and spy Badger wielding a paint brush standing beside paint cans that match his colours.

By the end of the day Badger’s task is complete but as he stands solo among the trees a thought strikes him: what has he done?

There can only be one way forward here …

Hurrah for difference; long live divergence and inclusivity; oh and learning from your mistakes too as yes, Badger does finally see the error of his ways in this timely picture book.

There are just SO many ways this can be interpreted depending on what you bring to the story eloquently illustrated by Carmen Saldaña. The gentle humour of her scenes, in particular the expressions and body language of the animals speak volumes.

A book that’s absolutely perfect for a community of enquiry discussion in schools and should be shared and celebrated as widely as possible. I certainly intend to do both of those.
In addition pairs of children could co-create story boxes or dioramas using the book as a starting point; there are puppet possibilities, ditto hot-seating and MUCH more.

Along Came A Different

Along Came A Different
Tom McLaughlin
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

What is a ‘Different’? Well that all depends on your perspective. If you’re a Red then it could be a Yellow and vice-versa.

Suppose however, quite unexpectedly, a Blue happens along into ‘your’ territory sporting a blue bow tie, twanging a blue guitar and slurping a blueberry shake, supremely happy in its blueness, then what? It might well mean trouble and dare I say, separatism. BIG TROUBLE indeed, and by the look of things, a complete loss of joie de vivre.

Maybe it’s time to come together and draw up some rules …

The resulting isolation of each group appears to be working – temporarily at least but then a whole host of ‘different’ differents appear on the scene – friendly ones; could that be the start of a change of heart?

It might, but wait for it: how about a ‘really different different’ with an all-embracing attitude to life and living, maybe that could really make a difference …

Time to tear up that rule book guys!

Tom McLaughlin has surely created a fable of our divisive times. How much better we’d all be to take notice of the message of this wonderful picture book that blows the horn for inclusivity, difference and friendship everywhere.

It should be read, pondered upon and discussed and then trumpeted by all who value positive relationships across the world.

Baby Bird

Baby Bird
Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka
First Editions
First Editions is a new ‘sub-imprint’ of Lincoln Children’s Books that is entirely devoted to debuts and this book is one of its first.

‘Birds are born to fly’, thinks Baby Bird but this little bird was born with one misshapen wing that fails to develop fully and so when the other hatchlings are ready to leave the nest Baby watches them take flight but, try as s/he might, Baby’s efforts to follow them end in disaster.

Determined to learn to swoop and soar like the others, the little creature keeps practising, refusing to give up until suddenly a monstrous face appears from the shadows and there is, not a monster but another bird calling itself Cooter.

Cooter offers to assist Baby by becoming a buddy and the two spend the afternoon endeavouring to get Baby airborne, all to no avail and although Cooter tells Baby that he’s having fun, the fledgling most definitely is not.

The friendship is further tested when Cooter tells Baby something exceedingly distressing that precipitates a fall, a rescue and a revelation.

What follows changes the entire mood; it’s something called Coot Scooting and from then on, Baby’s outlook on life and flying is altogether different.

Baby Bird embodies the spirit of determination against all the odds in this tale of friendship, self-acceptance and inclusivity.
Both author (who sadly did not live to see the book’s publication) and illustrator’s portrayal of the fledgling is uplifting and inspiring.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Great Big Body Book

The Great Big Body Book
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Everybody has a body and every body is different: this fact is acknowledged and celebrated in the latest Great Big book from the Hoffman/Asquith team.
Starting from those of babies, they introduce young readers to the bodies of new- borns …

toddlers, children, teenagers and adults, young, middle aged and old.
Spreads focus on such topics as gender in ‘Boy or Girl’ wherein it’s good to see ‘… a few don’t feel completely comfortable in the body they were born in and not everybody fits neatly into a “boy” or “girl” box. That’s OK – just be yourself!’
No matter which of the seventeen spreads one explores, we encounter both visual and verbal examples of the overarching premise that ‘bodies are both similar and different:’ We are all more alike than different’ one speech bubble reminds us: moreover we all develop at different rates and some are better at doing one thing than others;

but we all learn an amazing amount throughout our lives.

Emotions, as well as the physical aspects of bodies without and within, are considered and there’s a feline intruder that appears in every spread comparing and contrasting humans and cats.
Ros Asquith’s cartoon style illustrations are amusing, empathetic and all encompassing.
You really couldn’t get more inclusive than this book when it comes to the topic of bodies. It’s just right for sharing and discussing at home or in school.

I’ve signed the charter  

Can I Join Your Club?

Red Reading Hub is thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this cleverly inclusive book

Can I Join Your Club?
John Kelly and Steph Laberis
Little Tiger Press
Children are inveterate club creators (often calling them gangs); and club joiners. There’s the book club, the gym club, dance club, drama club, art club and so on: after- school clubs are numerous and in my experience, extremely popular. Adults too are big club joiners. The trouble is, the issue of insiders and outsiders often rears its ugly head causing upsets, resentment and sometimes, worse: discrimination and prejudice for example.
John Kelly’s wonderful story of Duck’s efforts to become a member of a club – any club – be it Lion Club, Snake Club or Club Elephant find him wanting: he receives a resounding ‘Application DENIED!’ in each case.
Down, but definitely not out, Duck knows just what he must do. He sets up his very own club: one where every single applicant is welcome – Good on you Duck. And best of all, he calls it, eventually, OUR CLUB.

Drum roll for Duck. Acceptance and friendship rule.
How beautifully Kelly takes the issues of inclusivity and the vital importance of embracing diversity and weaves them into this funny book. As someone who is in despair about current issues such as BREXIT, the treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, not to mention Trump’s wall, this is truly a timely parable. This could be seen as a wake-up call for one and all.
Steph Laberis’ animal characters are a treat to behold: the specs they sport in this scene are so ridiculously spectacular.

Almost every scene simply crackles with energy; there is deliberately, the odd exception though – not a lot of dynamism here …

I now hand over to the book’s author to talk about the way he works:

Where do I work? And how do I work? With John Kelly author of Can I Join Your Club?

I work from home.
But the truth is that I work in lots of different places.

I work sat bolt upright in front of my desktop computer, but also slouched on the sofa with my laptop. I draw with big pencils on a drawing board perched on my dining room table, yet I scribble tiny doodles with my favourite fountain pen in a Moleskine sketchbook. I write leaning against the kitchen worktop, hunched over a cup of coffee in a cafe, wrapped up warmly on a park bench. I construct plots, characters and rhymes best in a hot bath, in the shower, laid flat out on the floor with my eyes closed, or walking a friend’s tiny Jack Russell (called Luna) round the park.

My writing work falls roughly into two modes of working.
Rhyming books and Non-rhyming books.

Rhyming books tend to start with a general idea: i.e. ‘What if a dragon was raised as a knight in armour?’
I then just begin jotting down random rhyming couplets that make me laugh or, by a bizarre combination of words, spark some other silly idea.
When I’ve got enough of those (about 40-50) I’ll see if it’s possible to roughly cut them into some kind of order. That order will then (fingers crossed) suggest some kind of story. I then start filling in the gaps with more new couplets. This will then suggest even more silly ideas which, in turn, suggests more stupid plot ideas. I then need new couplets, and the process goes on, and on, and on…

After an indeterminate time (anything from three weeks to two years) I end up with a working story outline. So then I go through it doing everything to make the rhymes as amusing as possible. Then I polish it over and over until I’m not clever enough to make it any better and send it to my agent.
She emails me back saying, “That’s great!” or “That’s awful!” In which case I start again.

Non-rhyming books are a bit different.
They still start with a general idea: i.e.‘What would happen if a Bear checked into a 5 star hotel to hibernate?’
But then I’ll just jump straight into writing in my sketchbook, trying to work out what the story is actually about. I often do drawings as I go along – not because I’m intending to illustrate it myself – but because it helps me find the meaning of certain scenes. It’s like having my own pet actors who can act out scenes to see if they work or not. Sometimes the actors are much cleverer than me and they’ll come up with something I would never have thought on my own.
Eventually I have enough to attempt a rough draft. Then it becomes very similar to the previous method of working. The big difference with non-rhyming books is that I act them out in my kitchen, which I’m sure is enormously amusing/irritating to my neighbours.

I do school visits and have learnt that what works on paper doesn’t always translate out loud. So I’m now a big believer in performing each draft of my texts. I don’t think it’s until I’ve read something out loud, in a silly voice, that I get a sense of whether it works – or not. It’s got to the point now where when I’m writing I’m always thinking, ‘How this will sound?’ in front of a hall full of 150 kids.

(I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall when John is acting out some of those drafts of his.)

I’ve signed the charter

The 5 Misfits

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The 5 Misfits
Beatrice Alemagna
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Let’s hear it for the misfits – five of them as served up by the hugely talented Beatrice Alemagna. This motely quintet somehow manage to reside together in a tumbledown house despite – or perhaps because of – their shortcomings.
Misfit number one is a holey individual …

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Number two is neatly folded, concertina style …
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The third is feeble – floppy, tired and sleepy …

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The fourth is an upside downer

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and last and least, the fifth is a complete catastrophe and probably best forgotten.

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Enter stage left the Perfect One with an amazing hairstyle and sporting stylish pantaloons.

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This faultless being proceeds to interrogate the residents of the lopsided house making them feel even more worthless – well actually no. Maybe that was his intention, with his talk of ideas,

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but the result is something altogether else.
Alemagna’s tongue-in-cheek allegorical extravaganza is delivered with wit and panache. Inclusivity and finding your own unique inner self are two of the themes that emerge loud and clear from this wise and thought-provoking offering.
Philosophy for primary children is creeping onto the curriculum in more schools (and not before time). Here’s a great starting point for a ‘community of inquiry’ style discussion with sevens and above.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2