There’s an Alien In Your Book

There’s an Alien in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books

Just out in paperback is the latest in the series wherein different characters invade a book and the book itself becomes part and parcel of the story-telling device.

The Fletcher/Abbott team were on to a good thing when they created that monster a couple of years back. Now in the fourth interactive extravaganza it’s the turn of a little alien and it arrives on account of its spaceship crash-landing on the first page in a cloud of smoke.

With the spacecraft appearing to be broken beyond repair, it’s up to us (adult and child together) to try and get the little creature back home where he belongs – but how?

Certainly not by pulling a scary face – that only serves to make him sob and need some TLC. Instead we can jiggle and wriggle the book in various directions

and if that isn’t successful, maybe try imagining various earth animals so our visitor knows he doesn’t belong.

Or is there perhaps an alternative solution altogether?

With bright, zany illustrations from Gregg Abbott, its themes of difference, acceptance and friendship,

this fun book is a great share with an important message that is never too early for little ones to begin to think about.

This is Frog / Let’s Find the Tiger

This is Frog
Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee
Caterpillar Books

Rainforest dwelling Frog (a tree frog) needs help with everyday life and little ones can help him by following the author’s suggestions throughout the story.
Occasionally though the outcome is somewhat unexpected as when having followed him up the page, we discover Frog now upside down, but happily he can use those sticky feet to stay attached to the branch.
When he has a brief attack of forgetfulness as a swarm of yummy-looking flies are blown in his direction, he needs readers to show him how to use his tongue, and then to stop all but the one he’s savouring from buzzing away.

If Frog’s not careful he’ll be the next meal of a toucan who most definitely hasn’t come along for a friendly visit – a loud croak will warn our Frog though, along with a deft hand movement.

There’s more to do however, when monsoon rains come splashing down, especially as our Frog friend, being a tree frog isn’t enthusiastic about swimming, so help is needed to ensure that he ends the day’s adventure safe and sound on his branch to recover for his next round of froggy fun.

With a spattering of playful language throughout and a plethora of interactive opportunities for little ones to perform, Harriet Evans’ narrative should keep them interested throughout.

With occasional cutaway pages, Jacqui Lee’s amusing illustrations of Frog in his lush habitat make for a fun book to share with the very young, and along the way they might absorb a few Tree froggy facts.

Let’s Find the Tiger
illustrated by Alex Willmore
Caterpillar Books

In this seek-and-find, peep through, felt flap board book, little ones are invited to find Tiger. The playful creature has hidden away somewhere in the jungle wherein live lots of other creatures some of which when almost completely hidden away behind the flora or even in the water, might at first glance be the animal they’re looking for.

But the supposed long stripy tail, sparkly white teeth, curly whiskers,

and striped curvy objects are not Tiger.

Could the dark, tucked away location be its hideaway?

With an engaging question and answer, repeat refrain narrative and Alex WIllmore’s colourful jungle scenes to explore, this is both fun and gently educative.

The Boy and the Bear / This Book Just Stole My Cat!

The Boy and the Bear
Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
Nosy Crow

It’s not much fun playing alone as the little boy in this story knows so well; he longs to have a friend to share in such games as hide-and-seek and catch.

One day as he sits alone, he spies a paper boat floating towards him; on it is the brief message, BOO! Could perhaps it be from the best friend he so longs for? Messages are exchanged and a meeting arranged.

Bear however isn’t exactly the kind of best friend he so desires. Nevertheless he does invite the bear to play hide-and-seek. The game is not a success, neither are the other activities they try.

Bear however does have other positive qualities that are revealed one morning in autumn. The two then embark upon a collaborative project –

one that once complete results in a special time together.Time doesn’t stand still though and as autumn gives way to winter, Bear has to depart leaving the boy with a realisation of all that he’s lost. But not lost forever: come the spring boy spies not one but three message carrying paper boats …

Tracey’s enchanting tale of the joys of establishing and maintaining a special friendship is illustrated in Sarah’s equally enchanting spreads that show how the friendship develops across the seasons.

A lovely book to be shared over and over.

This Book Just Stole My Cat!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

A certain book seems to have an insatiable desire for furry creatures (and other items on occasion): first it consumed a dog and here it’s become a cat thief. Poor Ben, for it’s his cat that’s gone missing, followed shortly after by Bella who has kindly offered to help in the search.
Along comes a rescue vehicle and guess what …

That leaves only Ben (and a tiny fluffy rodent) to proceed with the rescue mission: Ben however doesn’t last much longer.

Not long after, a message appears requesting the reader’s assistance: tickling seems to be a possible rescue facilitator for said book is bound to respond to a dose of tickly fingers by emitting a rather forceful sneeze.

Yeah! Success! There’s only a slight issue that needs to be sorted now …

Another fun, interactive tale of Ben and Bella for little ones; it’s great for beginning readers too.

Hungry Bunny

Hungry Bunny
Claudia Rueda
Chronicle Books

We first met Bunny on the ski slopes and now the cute little rabbit returns with a very rumbly tummy. However, there’s a snag: the yummy-looking rosy apples hanging ready to sate that hunger are out of reach.
This is where readers can help, first by shaking the book to try and dislodge said fruit; then blowing on the page to unwrap Bunny’s leafy wraparound.

Oops! Yes that works but the sudden breeze causes our friend’s scarf to blow up into the tree just above grabbing height.

Ah-ha! Bunny has a plan. If we carefully position the ribbon inserted in the page, it becomes a climbing rope: clever thinking Bunny.

Now you can sit on the branch and throw juicy apples into the strategically placed cart. Then yes, we’ll surely grab the scarf once more and hold it tight while you slide down.

If readers were thinking that’s all the assistance Bunny requires, well it’s not.
There’s some book-tilting required to get the cart rolling down the hill; a bit of playful rocking it back and forth.

Yippee! That launches cart and Bunny skywards for a spot of aerobatics –

great fun, but out come all the apples.

No matter; life’s full of thrills and spills and that ribbon comes in useful again – this time as a means of crossing a gorge.

Is Mum bunny ever going to get those apples to make a deliciously tasty pie? What do you think?

There’s a delicious autumnal feel to this slice of life Bunny-style: outlined in charcoal, there are the rosy apples of course, the cart has a pinkish hue and certain imperatives are printed in matching red, and both the background, Bunny’s jacket and other items are rendered in yellowish tones.

To add to the appetising nature of the telling, our rabbit friend has dropped some choice idiomatic phrases into the narration, ‘I upset the apple cart’ being one.

Very effective as an interactive tale, and enormous fun to share.

I Say Ooh You Say Aah

I Say Ooh, You Say Aah
John Kane
Templar Publishing

Ooh, aah, you’re really going to have some fun with this one; it’s a very bossy book – John Kane’s first – that keeps on telling you to do things. Daft things like saying ‘aah’ when you hear an ‘ooh’; patting your head when you see red, or saying ‘underpants’ at the sight of an ant (and then proceeding to admonish you for so doing). I ask you.

And there’s this daft donkey in the book, (apparently he belongs to the author) and he’s called, can you believe, ‘Ooh’.
(Did I hear you just say ‘Aah’?)

The stupid creature insists on prancing about with a pair of spotty bloomers on his head; now why would that be?
Apparently they’re the property of someone else, so he says. The creature really ought to know better.

There’s no real story here, nor is it intended for self solo reading: essentially it’s a kind of crazy pantomime of a book that only works if the listener or listeners play along and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the performance.
Thus far, all mine have done so with enormous enthusiasm, and demanded immediate reruns.

I’ve signed the charter  

Firefly Home

Firefly Home
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The second interactive picture book from the Clarke and Teckentrup duo features another creature from the natural world, a little firefly called Florence, and she’s got lost.

It’s up to readers to help her find the way back home. There’s a problem though: there are so many flashing lights in the night sky that Florence follows lots of false leads.

Young listeners, more worldly wise than the little firefly will revel in anticipating the bright moon, the lighthouse beam,

the moving train and the brightly illuminated buildings in the city before the respective pages are turned, as well as responding to the verbal instructions given to help Florence on her long flight in search of her firefly friends.

The yellow used in Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations glows so intensely that I found myself wanting to check to see it there was a hidden battery somewhere.

A potential story-time favourite for early years listeners for sure. And shared one to one, it’s totally absorbing: each of my listeners has followed Jane Clarke’s instructions with gusto and been thrilled to be instrumental in Florence finally finding her way back to her friends.

Now in paperback is their Neon Leon, which I absolutely loved and used frequently last year always with enthusiastic responses.

I Want To Go First!

I Want To Go First!
Richard Byrne
Oxford University Press

I’ve never quite understood the obsession with being first in a line but it’s something that seems to take hold of children almost from the minute they start school – that’s if they’re made to line up anyway – a teachers’ obsession, often fuelled by parents, and one I dislike intensely.
The whole ‘going first’ thing can make for a fun story though and Richard Byrne exploits its potential for creating humour in his latest interactive picture book.
We join five funkily attired elephants, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Elton, Elgar and Elphie as they’re about to embark on ‘the long march to the watering hole at the back of the book’.
Elphie, the smallest of their number, is always the one that brings up the rear.
On this occasion however, he’s had enough of being last and asks to go in the front of the line. As usual though the response comes, ‘ … the littlest always goes last’.
Elphie isn’t prepared to walk at the back and instead he enlists the help of readers to help him with his plan of action. Help that involves first, shouting …

followed by hissing,

wobbling the book, squeaking and other noise making; all of which serve to get him to second place in the line right behind Elgar, just as they reach their destination where it looks as though we’re about to be rumbled …

Oops! The water hole is already occupied. Now what? Perhaps that squeak-squeak noise might come in useful after all … Could it even make the other elephants rethink their first in line criterion.
Enthusiastic orchestration and demands of ‘again’ were my listeners’ responses to this sizeist tale with its playful attempt to alter the status quo.

What’s Next Door?

What’s Next Door?
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow

Carter the crocodile from Open Very Carefully appears to have got lost and landed up between the covers of a book, -this book – and he needs our help to get home. He’s not above issuing threats either, judging by the sign he’s clutching.

Much better to do as he (and the narrator) request; we certainly don’t want him getting cantankerous: those barbed teeth of his look pretty scary.
This will entail exercising drawing and thinking skills, and a bit of pushing and shoving, together with some deft manipulation of the book itself, as Carter requires -heaving, blow drying, having his tummy rubbed to warm him up and fanning to cool him off, before he finally arrives back home, safe and sound.
Nicola O’Byrne talks directly to the reader in her engaging, chatty style narrative but despite her best efforts and those of readers, the croc. ends up in some totally inappropriate places en route – a salty sea,

a chilly snowy landscape and a scorching desert .
Carter’s progress through the various doors and the die-cut pages of the book itself, are documented in the author’s superbly expressive scenes that show Carter’s reactions to all our efforts,

along with some animal friends he acquires during the course of his adventure.

My Museum / Crocodali

My Museum
Joanne Liu
Prestel
Here’s a thoroughly cool little wordless book by Joanne Liu, an illustrator/artist I’ve not come across before.
Max pays a visit to an art museum. It’s full of paintings and sculptures, each one an important work of art. Where better to go for a bit of art appreciation?
Max however, wonderfully divergent and imaginative child that he is, quickly discovers that there’s a whole lot more to see and enjoy than what the curators have put on display.
Art is everywhere, if you know how to look; and if you know how to look, you can also be a creative artist. That’s the message that shines through in each and every action of our young protagonist as he wanders among the grown-ups who are absorbed in the various exhibits, discovering art through the windows, on a burly man’s arm,

by changing his viewpoint, and by seeing the potential in other unlikely places …

He even explores ways of making his own …

A delight through and through.

Crocodali
Lucy Volpin
Templar Publishing
There’s a touch of Hervé Tullet in Lucy Volpin’s latest story. It stars Crocodali, who greets us, more than a little reluctantly, as we enter his studio.
The self-confessed ‘most talented artist in the whole wide world’ is about to start on a new painting but is having a little bother getting his canvas positioned. That’s when he decides to enlist the reader’s help.
Before you can say ‘masterpiece’ he has us tilting, tipping, shaking …

and rubbing and even blowing on the book,

as we become co-creators of his latest work of art. It’s bound to be stupendous; or is it?
Engaging, interactive, humorous and delightfully messy.