Lottie Loves Nature: Bee-ware!

Lottie Loves Nature: Bee-ware!
Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown
Five Quills

In this second adventure young nature enthusiast and would-be wildlife presenter Lottie Boffin is engaged in a minibeast survey for her favourite TV show when she encounters Noah Parfitt who lives next door. Noah’s dad is anything but a lover of small wriggly, squishy creatures on account of the mini golf course he’s developed in his garden. So when Lottie and Noah burst in on his recreational activity in their search for minibeasts that might need rescuing, he’s far from pleased. Even less so when he’s flapped and buzzed by a bumblebee looking for a flower, of which there’s a distinct lack in the Parfitt garden.

Then to make matters much worse, Lottie’s insect attracting activities result in bees swarming in a tree in her garden that overhangs Mr Parfitt’s and he’s so furious he calls the pest exterminator.

Lottie’s mum calls a beekeeper who arrives almost simultaneously.

Now all Lottie has to do is to persuade Mr Parfitt to send the pest exterminator away and allow the bees to be collected and moved to a safe new hive.

Interspersed with Jane Clarke’s lively, humorous story are pages about insects, especially bees, from Lottie’s nature notebook

and some things readers can do (as well as notes of Noah’s whose interest lies elsewhere and who sees things through a different lens). In addition to the main narrative, this is a great way to get readers interested in the natural world and the delights it has to offer through first hand experiences.

With equally lively, humorous illustrations by James Brown this is a smashing book to foster curiosity about wildlife and the environment, either at home or school. Like their previous Lottie story, there’s plenty of parrot poop courtesy of macaw Nacho and Lottie’s energetic dog Einstein to add to the fun.

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy / Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant

Here are two young fiction titles with ecological themes:

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy
Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown
Five Quills

I’d not met nature-obsessed Lottie Boffin in the Al’s Awesome Science series but was excited to make her acquaintance now in her very own-eco adventure series for young solo readers.

In a cleverly and carefully constructed story so that youngsters learn a lot about the natural world as they read, Jane and James include a wealth of information (verbal and visual) via such scrapbook pages,

activities and experiments about such things as ants, worms, the frog life cycle and other froggy facts, hydroponics, potential pond residents and visitors, and creating a wormery.

Lottie, inspired by her favourite wildlife TV show presenter, Samira Breeze, decides to make a pond in her back garden using an old dustbin lid, in the hope that frogs will come and inhabit it and perhaps, if she writes up and sends in her nature notes to the programme, she might even win the opportunity to be a presenter on ‘Every Little Thing’.

However, new next door neighbour, Mr Parfitt with his pristine fake grass putting green is definitely not going to be enthusiastic about Lottie’s plans and he’s far from happy about her pet parrot but maybe she can enlist the help of his son Noah who aspires to become an inventor and programmer of robots. That’s when he made sure that his dad’s back garden is totally minibeast free and it will help him keep fit.

With Mr Parfitt’s ant infestation (on a special cake for a special visitor) to contend with,

not to mention a lively dog, and a plethora of parrot poop, will Lottie succeed in her environmental enterprise?

I look forward to Lottie’s Bee adventure coming early next year. So too, I’m sure will newly independent readers who meet her in this first Lottie Loves Nature book.

Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega
Little Tiger

There’s a decidedly chilly feel to the third Mermaid’s Rock adventure.

When Marina announces that she is to accompany her father to the Arctic so he can do his walrus research, her friend Kai is not happy. However Kai’s mum says she can stay with them so long as Marina’s father, Tarak, is agreeable. He is, and she does.

Before he leaves, Marina gives her father a bag of stones, each with an M on and he promises to keep in touch by dropping one each day through the whirlpool. In the meantime there’s the ‘most talented pet’ competition for Marina and her friends to think about.

On the sixth day of her father’s absence, when Marina goes to look for the stone, there isn’t one, nor the next day. Marina and her friends grab some necessary supplies and via the whirlpool, Operation Arctic Rescue is under way.

They soon discover that the ice has begun melting uncustomarily early, spelling danger. Can they find Tarak and get him to safety before it’s too late?

Newly independent readers, especially fans of the series will likely devour this story in a single sitting, enjoying Mirelle Ortega’s black and grey illustrations along the way, and afterwards can learn something about one of the important ecological issues our planet is facing.

Board Books and a Squidgy One

Baby’s Very First Faces
illustrated by Jo Lodge
Campbell Books

With its mirror, crinkly pages and high contrast images and patterns, this hand-washable book is just the thing to share with a new baby. It features in turn a daddy, a mummy, and a baby. In case you are reluctant to take it out of your home, there is a Velcro strap that can be attached to a buggy while you’re out and about.

Where’s Baby Chick?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Spring’s well and truly in the air: the ideal time to introduce toddlers to some new life with this latest hide-and-seek book. Tucked away behind the felt flaps on the brightly coloured, patterned spreads are Baby Bunny, Baby Lamb, Baby Kitten and Baby Chick. The final spread contains a mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
Simple interactive delight to share with your little one.

Bake a Rainbow Cake!
Amirah Kassem
Abrams Appleseed
A veritable explosion of colour is the outcome of artistic baker Amirah Kassem’s board book extravaganza.

She gives the essential step-by-step two word instructions at the top of each page, beneath which is a jazzy illustration with either a tab to pull, a wheel to turn or a flap to lift as you ‘Pour it!/ Mix it!/ Colour it! / Bake it!’ and so on until, once the frosting has been applied, it’s time to lavish on the sprinkles and wish. Then turn the page to the final …

Short and VERY sweet! Irresistibly so in fact. Mmm! Yum, yum. Yummy! Second helpings please, will come the cry from the little ones you share this tasty board book with.

Old Macdonald’s Things That Go
Jane Clarke and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a whole lot more sounds than moos and baas down on Old MacDonald’s farm: the farmer has a passion for noisy vehicles, by all accounts.
His car vrooms; his tractor chugga-chugga chugs; the combine goes rattle-swish everywhere. He even has a bus that beep-beeps its way around full of jolly animals.

Seemingly he has extensive farmland for there’s a swoosh-swooshing motor boat and it appears he’s fortunate in having a fire truck on hand to deal with accidents of the incendiary kind, ‘nee-nawing’ into action when things get a bit over-heated.

But there’s even more; I’ll let you work out what choo-choos across the fields and what zoom-zoom’s into the air.

Each of Migy Blanco’s jolly digital spreads shows the farmer and his animals joyfully dashing around in one or more of the vehicles, before the two penultimate tongue-twisting spreads, before the 50’s-looking vehicles whizz towards the finish line. If you can actually slow down though, there’s plenty to pore over in every scene.

Jane Clarke’s rowdy spin off from the classic nursery song will surely have little ones giggling as well as singing along. One wonders what else Old Macdonald might have down on that farm of his; or maybe he could take a holiday and experience all manner of seaside sounds.

Board Book Miscellany

Goodnight, Rainbow Cats
Barbara Castro Urio
Chronicle Books

The setting is a big white house wherein sleeps Little Red Cat. How do we know this? Because on the recto we see a die-cut window coloured red, while opposite on the verso is a Little Green Cat about to cross the book’s gutter and enter the door of the house. And the text bids ‘Goodnight, Little Red Cat.’

When the page is turned it’s evident that the Little Green Cat is now inside and Little Yellow Cat (from the verso) will be next to enter.

All the while the narration is presented in a conversational style above the awaiting cat. For instance we read, ‘Up to a room in the big white house!/ Goodnight, Little Yellow Cat. / Look who is waiting outside. / It’s Little Brown Cat! / Where are you going, / Little Brown Cat?’ (Each new cat is introduced with its own colour font which will help little ones predict what colour window will appear next in the house.)

When all twelve cats are safely indoors and asleep in the big white house it’s time to bid ‘Goodnight, rainbow cats!’A fun bedtime wind down for little humans and one that’s sufficiently strongly built to stand up to the frequent readings youngsters will likely insist on.

A to Z Menagerie
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books

With wonderfully quirky illustrations some of which have lovely touches (the horse wears ‘high-tops’) Suzy Ultman has created a distinctive board book picture dictionary with a pullout tab highlighting each letter.

Every page features one letter that fills up with colour when its tab (placed halfway down the edge) is pulled; for instance the C becomes a caterpillar and O an owl.

The vocabulary is interesting and will likely introduce young users of the book to new words such as axolotyl, challah, iguana, pennant and zooplankton, as well as including some vocabulary you might expect.

The whole alphabet is introduced by a page inviting little ones to “look and touch’ and there’s a concluding A to Z asking users to choose a favourite discovery.
Idiosyncratic, gently educational and great fun.

Now for two Nosy Crow titles new in board book format both of which were smashing picture books previously featured on this blog:

Neon Leon
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup

A book about a chameleon that’s great for audience participation and features colours, counting, camouflage and different environments.

There’s a Bear on My Chair
Ross Collins

This features a little mouse upon whose chair a huge bear has placed his bottom and it’s clearly going to be a difficult task to get him to shift it. So much so that the little rodent narrator decides that the only solution is to quit the scene and let his paws take him elsewhere.
Wonderfully droll illustrations and a superb monologue in a small package for small hands.

At the Beach, On the Farm, In the Forest, Under the Ocean
illustrated by Nancy Bevington
Catch a Star Books

Four Can You Find? board books designed to encourage the very youngest to learn new words are illustrated by Nancy Bevington. Her brightly coloured, amusing images of animals, plants and the occasional human are clearly labelled.

Of the eight double spreads in each book, the first seven are introduced by a sentence such as ‘Under the ocean there are …’, or ‘At the beach there is … ‘ and the final one asks ‘Can you find all the things under the … ? inviting users to turn back and look again at the previous pages.

Adults/infants can play other games such as finding all the things with wheels in the Farm book; there’s plenty of potential for extending the use of each book depending on the interest of the little one involved.

Leap Frog

Leap Frog
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The latest in Jane and Britta’s series of stories that offer maximum audience participation features a little tree frog named Felix. Felix has got lost near the pond, far from his home in the jungle trees.

The tiny creature appears easily frightened by the strange noises, the first being the ‘Plip! Plop! Plip! Splosh!’ of the turtle. She though is nothing to be alarmed about; the friendly creature merely wants to watch the sunset and we’re ready to reassure him with our, “Don’t worry, little frog, / there’s nothing to be scared of.”

These words of encouragement are to be repeated each time Felix hears a scary sound and there are encounters with a beetle that’s just walking across the foliage;

a troupe of cheeky monkeys a-nibbling their ‘nutty night-time snacks’ and dropping the shells with a ‘Crack! Crunch! Clatter!’; and a slithery snake to be seen off with some clapping and shouting.

The branching tree beside that on which a woodpecker taps provides young listeners with some counting practice as the little frog, aided by his sticky toes, climbs up and up.

Having reached the top, Felix hears yet another sound, and it’s getting nearer. What could be making that ‘Hop! Hop!’ hopping noise … ?

The textured, jewel-like colours of Britta’s scenes with the leap-off-the-page fluorescent green of Felix’s back and lower limb parts are perfect for holding the attention of little ones as they enthusiastically respond to Jane’s irresistible instructions and questions on every spread of this noisy, fun-filled story.

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.

The Tickle Test / Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit

The Tickle Test
Kathryn White and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press
Tickling has been the topic of picture books on previous occasions but there’s never been one wherein a tiny mouse is being tested for a job in the ‘Tickle Squad’. The little animal is charged with test tickling all kinds of creatures, great and small, while established members of the squad look on and comment on each and every ticklish encounter.

Did I say ‘creatures great and small?’ Maybe I should add here that each one is a pretty formidable proposition be it the jiggling, wriggling bear; the stinky gorilla, the parping pachyderm,

or even the sniggering snake.
I’d rather he than me when it comes to tackling the jaggy-toothed croc. and I’d beat a hasty retreat when it comes to the final challenge – that’s if you aren’t partial to a spot of tickling particularly from an enthusiastic mouse anyhow.
Kathryn White’s rhyming narrative in combination with Adrian Reynolds’ rib-tickling visuals make for a fun read aloud. Love the endpapers too!

Beware though of finger-fidgets on behalf of your listeners as they try hard to resist testing their own tickling skill on those around them during the story.

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit
Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer
Five Quills
Sky Private Eye has another case to solve when she answers the call of the Little Old Man who reports anxiously, “Our Gingerbread Boy is missing!” Before you can say ‘biscuit’, Sky and her trusty companion, Snuffle are off on the scooter to the source of the call. There they learn that gingerbread lover, Foxy Loxy is in the vicinity and are given permission to search the Boy’s bedroom. It’s there Snuffle discovers a crucial clue concerning new running shoes, which Sky immediately links to the forthcoming Fairytale Olympics.
The race is on: can they track down Gingerbread Boy before Foxy Loxy gets to him?

Furthermore will the sudden shower of rain reduce the runner in training to a soggy heap?
The recipe is akin to the previous case: cupcake baking, a deft move on Sky’s part …

and a thoroughly satisfying finale. Whether or not you met Sky in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma, then do so now. The chief ingredients: Jane Clarke’s toothsome telling and Loretta Schauer’s appetising artwork, wield their magic again.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma / The Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma
Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer
Five Quills
There’s a new independent publisher – Five Quills – on the block, with a new series introducing Sky, a young detective and resident of Fairytale Town. She has a cupcake making business that doubles up as a detective agency and a canine assistant called Snuffle.
In this tale we meet her as she’s busy with an order for her ‘Just-in-case Cupcakes’ when she receives an emergency call from Little Red Riding Hood reporting the absence of her gran. Before you can say cupcakes are us, Sky has gathered her necessary accoutrements, and is off on her scooter, on a rescue- grandma mission.
Aided and abetted by her Map Nav, she quickly locates Granny’s house and is greeted by a fraught-looking Red Riding Hood. Once inside though, it quickly becomes apparent that far from becoming the Big Bad Wolf’s breakfast, Granny has decided to take a vacation. Seemingly though, once the two set off in pursuit, it appears that she might have been followed: that’s certainly what the evidence attached to a bush suggests.
Lo and behold, when they arrive at Fairytale beach whom should they spy through Sky’s trioculars but …

And it looks as though that lupine character might have designs on Granny after all. Time to don some disguises, Sky decides. Can she get them all out of a very sticky situation with a spot of ‘Carrycake Kit, Bake it Better!’; not to mention a few deft moves with a wooden spoon …

and the odd Just-in-Time Cupcake?
The tale’s telling is terrific fun and with illustrations by rising star, Loretta Schauer, that are full of hilarious details, this series looks set to be a winner. There’s even a cupcake recipe at the back of the book.

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin
Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard
Picture Corgi
When Kittie Lacey closes her shop and heads off for a vacation courtesy of Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Tours,

she’s hoping for a bit of rest and relaxation but almost immediately on arrival, she realises that is not to be.
First, she has to help Aladdin, with a very low budget, find a very special present for Princess Jamelia. The following day however, Aladdin is nowhere to be found. A search takes Kittie out into the desert where she discovers he’s been duped by the wicked Ibeneeza and is trapped underground. Worse still, the plan is to force Jamelia into marrying the trickster. It’s up to Kittie and Aladdin – once she’s rescued him – to use their wits and all their resources to put a stop to the evil intentions of Ibneeza. Can they do it? Perhaps with the help of the dusty old lamp that Aladdin has discovered in the cave where he was imprisoned.

Kittie is a determined character and likely to have one or two ideas up her sleeve – or in her bag …
Kittie Lacey has a band of enthusiastic young followers already; I’m sure this latest adventure will win her more, as well as delighting her established readership.

I’ve signed the charter  

Neon Leon

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Neon Leon
Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
If you want a fun, maximum audience participation story to share with your early years listeners then look no further; Jane Clarke’s tale of chameleon, Leon, is all that and more. You might need to put on your sunglasses though for Leon is, shall we say a chameleon that stands out from the crowd. No matter where he goes with his companions, be it the green leafy jungle, the sandy yellow desert …

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or the ‘big, grey, rocky mountains, no matter how hard he tries, even with the help of listeners instructions, he stays very visibly, Day-Glo orange.
Come nightfall, Leon returns, with the other chameleons, to the jungle. Dark it may be but there’s no chance of sleep for any of them with that brightness emanating from Leon. Feeling very sad, he sets forth in search of somewhere he can fit in. His first spot looks promising but then hunger calls the birds …

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so the dejected-looking creature hurries off once more, to …

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This certainly looks the perfect place but there’s something missing, something that can make Leon even happier …
Colours, camouflage, counting, different environments, and above all a thoroughly enjoyable story, make this a great read aloud especially if you have dealings with fives and under. Britta’s Leon really does stand out from the crowd and from her wonderful collage style, patterned backgrounds. I love those differing designs on Leon’s fellow chameleons too.

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From Small Beginnings ….

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Who Woke the Baby?
Jane Clarke and Charles Fuge
Nosy Crow
Using the narrative structure of The House that Jack Built as a basis, Jane Clarke has penned a wonderful rhyming tale set in the jungle early one morning. But what has woken that baby who’s ‘smelly and yelly and all forlorn.’? Well, Hippo yawned, Zebra fussed, Lion roared, Crocodile snapped,

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Frog croaked and Bee buzzed. And what about that stunningly coloured butterfly that just happened to float along and land gently on the particular flower occupied by Busy Bee …
If nothing else, it’s certainly caused a change of mood in that baby gorilla, no longer forlorn but full of delighted giggles and gurgles, as it watches the dancing butterfly in the sunlight.

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The story reads aloud beautifully and Fuge’s eye-catching illustrations convey the changing moods of the various animals with verve and a droll, at times befittingly languid, humour.
This should be a real winner with early years listeners.

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Emily’s Balloon
Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books
What a quiet, gentle unassuming book but such a delight is this story about a little girl and her balloon. We follow the course of the interplay between the  child and the balloon during the course of a single day, as the girl becomes ever more enchanted by the object that has assumed the role of friend. Once her mother has devised a tethering device, the girl and balloon enter a special world of their own as they play in the yard.

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But then their blissful idyll is interrupted by a sudden gust of wind that whisks the balloon aloft depositing it in the branches of a tall tree. Try as she might, Emily’s mother is unable to retrieve it and it’s a very sad little girl who sits at the dinner table contemplating what might have been …

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Despite her mother’s promise to get a ladder and rescue the balloon in the morning, Emily goes to bed worrying about her precious object until, through her bedroom window, she spies its comforting moon-like presence glowing outside in the darkness.
This is one of those books that really stays with you, so tenderly realized are those moments shared between Emily and her balloon, and Emily and her mother …

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conveyed through the sparely worded text and enormously eloquent drawings executed in minimal colours. Each and every vignette speaks volumes about the precious vulnerability and innocence of early childhood and the way children can get enormous pleasure from very ordinary everyday objects.

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Dinosaur Pursuits

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Dylan’s Amazing Dinosaurs The Spinosaurus
E.T.Harper and Dan Taylor
Simon & Schuster
Dinosaur-loving Dylan is back with another adventure – his third – and once again, he consults his Grandpa Fossil’s Dinosaur Journal with Wings, his toy pterodactyl by his side. The page about Spinosaurus is the launch-pad for their next dino mission and the objective is to discover the purpose of its spiny sail.
Off they go, but as they glide above the swampy jungle, disaster occurs; Dylan’s rucksack plunges down through the trees …

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and double disaster – it’s seized by the jaws of a Spinosaurus no less.
When the creature catches sight of Dylan and Wings, it’s time to put operation swamp monster into action forthwith.

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Story spoiler I won’t be; so if you want to know whether Dylan regains his rucksack and its precious contents from the Spinosaurus and finds out what it uses that spiny sail for, then get hold of a copy of this action-packed, vividly coloured book for yourself.
With a removable cardboard Spinosaurus included, I’m pretty sure, the new Dylan adventure will help him win more friends as well as satisfying those he already has.

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Yikes, Ticklysaurus!
Pamela Butchart and Sam Lloyd
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
When Brontosaurus and his pals feel in need of something to relieve their boredom, Ticklysaurus suggests a game of Tickle Chase. What better excuse can an adult reader aloud have for tickling a young audience than that? (Fortunately however, my 4s and 5s didn’t emulate Bronto’s excited wee though.)

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There’s a whole lot of tickling, wiggling and giggling in this madcap romp and a bit of splashing too; but what happens when the mischievous tickler finds himself face to face with that scariest of all dinosaurs? Will he dare to tickle a T.Rex? Erm… would you?

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Those brightly coloured dinopal depictions are just the thing to inspire young listeners to create their own dino-representations in two and three dimensions having listened to Pamela Butchart’s rhyming text.

 

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How to Bath Your Little Dinosaur
Jane Clarke and Georgie Birkett
Red Fox
For the very youngest dinosaur lovers, this is a series of instructions on changing the appearance (and the mind) of the cute-looking but very mucky little dino that is reluctant to get himself cleaned up. Seemingly, the small child involved knows just what to do already as he fills the bathtub, pours in lashings of bubble bath, then drops in a rubber duck and squirty fish before …

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Then of course, that little creature is enjoying himself so much that there’s only one way to get him out again

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And then a big hug in a cosy towel is the order of the day – or evening perhaps.
With Jane Clarke’s gentle rhyming text and super-cute illustrations by Georgie Birkett, this is just the thing for very young listeners. Their slightly older siblings who have begun to read for themselves may well be happy to employ their reading skills and share with baby brothers or sisters.
Equally delightful, also in board book format from the same team is:
How to Tuck in Your Sleepy Lion 

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perfect bedtime reading for the very youngest.

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