Follow Me, Flo!

Follow Me, Flo!
Jarvis
Walker Books

Anything but a follower of the rules, young ducky Flo prefers to do things in her own divergent way and so it is when she and Daddy Duck set out to pay a visit to Auntie Jenna’s new nest.

Daddy lays down some ground rules from the start – ‘FOLLOW ME all the way. No chasing or hiding’ and then off they go with Daddy inventing a song to help keep his little one on the straight and narrow: “We’re off to somewhere new./ So stick to me like glue.// FOLLOW ME, FLO!/ Come on, let’s go!/ We’re sure to be there soon.// Follow me UP… . // Follow me DOWN… . / Look straight ahead and NOT AROUND!”

Inevitably it isn’t long before Flo begins to feel this song isn’t right for her.

Instead she invents her own much more exciting version and so pleased with same does she become that she fails to realise that she’s strayed right into the path of a certain Roxy Fox with other things on her mind than singing.

Fortunately however, Jarvis’ ducky ditty takes an unexpected turn for Flo remembers in the nick of time, the words of her Daddy’s song and is back on the right track, even managing to earn some praise from her pa and all ends happily.

It’s all in the eyes with Jarvis’ delectable images of young Flo’s recalcitrant romp that young humans will relish, especially those with a streak of rebellion, and that’s pretty much all of them; they might even learn an important lesson along the way too.

Adult sharers will love to give voice to this rollicking read aloud with its liberal sprinkling of accompanying minibeasts adding to the delights.

Pick a Pumpkin

Pick a Pumpkin
Patricia Toht and Jarvis
Walker Books

Bursting with mellow fruitfulness is this second offering from Patricia Toht and Jarvis.

We join a family as they go to the pumpkin patch to take their pick from the plethora of orange, white and speckled green fruits of the vine.

Then after a pause for some seasonal treats en route they return home with a loaded van ready to start carving.

And so they do, amassing the appropriate tools just in time for the arrival of a whole ‘pumpkin carving crew’ who are ready and willing to join in the fun.

It truly is a hands on, tactile experience as, once the tops are removed, hands are plunged inside to grab the innards as they pull at ‘Lumpy chunks. Sticky strings. Clumpy seeds. Guts and things.’

Then comes the really artful part; carving the faces for a wonderful array of creations with their frowns, grins, smirks and snarls, eerie, or angry or forming a kiss.

After that it’s time for decorations, donning costumes, taking those carved faces outside and with adult help lighting the lights that transform mere pumpkins to grinning, glowing jack-o-lanterns ready to stand guard as you venture forth to join in the fun.

With its easy on the ear, rhyming narrative and Jarvis’ scenes all a-glow with rich autumnal colours, what better way to kick off those Halloween celebrations than with a reading of this magical book with youngsters?

Mary Had a Little Lamb & This Little Piggy / Little White Fish, Little White Fish has a Party, Little White Fish is So Happy

Mary Had a Little Lamb
This Little Piggy

Jarvis
Walker Books

Jarvis has taken as his starting point for these board books the opening lines from two nursery rhymes and from them created one with colour connections, the other with a counting twist.

So yes, Mary did have a white-fleeced little lamb that decided to follow her. But then so too did an orange tiger, a pink dancing hippo, a cool red monkey, a tiny purple mouse, a snapping green crocodile and a yellow giraffe.
Where though are they all going in Pied Piper fashion, making a merry din before boarding a bus takes them all to their destination

and a treat…

One little piggy went to market, so the rhyme says and Jarvis does too. Rather than staying home however, two more make a mess of parking their car; three get themselves in a terrible tangle when learning to knit; four get struck by the fitness craze. Block your ears when five make music.

Six scoff all the spuds, seven try their trotters as dancers, eight become super pigs but nine –phoah! pongy piggies all.
At least when ten get together they can all agree, somewhere muddy is the best place to be.

With Jarvis’ funky animals cavorting across the pages, lively little ones are going to love these neo nursery rhymes as they absorb the colour connections and join in counting the piggies. Above all though, they’re terrific fun.

Little White Fish
Little White Fish has a Party
Little White Fish is So Happy

Guido van Genechten
Catch a Star

These board books featuring Little White Fish can be read just for fun, but each has an inherent educational element.

In the first, the little fish (not strictly speaking white for he has a rainbow stripe along his back), has lost his mummy and is feeling sad. In his search he encounters other differently coloured sea creatures – a red crab, an orange starfish a yellow snail, a green turtle, a large blue whale, a purple octopus. Clearly none of these fits the bill but what about a large fish that also sports a rainbow across her back …

In the second book, the little fish celebrates his second birthday with a party to which he invites his friends that all arrive in pairs that show opposites; for example a small sea urchin and a big one,

a long sea snake and a short one, a sad dolphin and a happy one. (We discover why one is sad on the final spread that shows all twelve guests).

The third book introduces positional vocabulary (prepositions):  when his Mummy comes to get him, Little White Fish bids farewell to his playmates – snail in the shell, frog on the rock, crab behind the rock etc. then swims away in front of his mum assuring the others he’ll be back to play the next day.

With their simple narratives and vibrant sea creatures that stand out against the predominantly black backgrounds, all three are a delight to share with very young children either at home or in a nursery setting.

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles

Spike The Hedgehog Who Lost His Prickles
Jeanne Willis & Jarvis
Nosy Crow

Suddenly finding yourself without your defences isn’t something anybody would want to happen, but it’s the fate of hedgehog Spike who awakes one morning to discover that all his prickles have fallen out overnight. The unfortunate fellow is spineless, completely bare no less. “I’m in the nude. How rude!’ he says. “What will the neighbours think?’ And off he goes in search of something to wear that will cover his embarrassment.

He dons a paper lampshade and sallies forth only to have rain render it useless

and expose his nether regions to the amusement of all around.
Having fled to the woods he comes upon, of all unlikely things, a china cup and plate – the latter being a perfect bottom cover. But then the cup/hat tips and the poor creature trips; you can imagine the fate of his new outfit.

Badger has things to say about his lack of spikes next, but before long Spike finds a sock, albeit a rather whiffy one, but it serves as a smock. Little does he know however, that as he wanders merrily on his way, the thing is slowly unravelling and yet again he’s the butt of some unwelcome comments.

Blushing, our spikeless pal dashes on until he spies a bunch of balloons of all hues. Now he’s the object of the other animals’ admiration as he floats off skywards.

The sun sinks, the moon rises and Spike drifts until he’s made two circles of the world.

Suddenly he sees his home once more below, he waves and …

Now why might that be? It certainly looks as though it’s time to celebrate …

This book is an absolute treat to read aloud; not only does Jeanne Willis’ rhyme flow without a single spike, but Jarvis portrays the entire journey in his own inimitable brilliant way and there are SO many wonderful details to linger over. The colour palette is splendidly summery but this is a tale to share at any time; and its finale is an absolute hoot.

A winner through and through.

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry
Jarvis
Walker Books

Come with me to Coral Reef City, home to the most flashy, dashy array of fish you could imagine. It’s also home to Terry. Terry has no dazzling scales or funky fins to flaunt. He does however have two good friends, Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail with whom he lives and plays.

The three and their games of Dodge-a-Dolphin, Shark Speed and Hide-a-Fish are shunned by the tropical fish on account of their drabness. Terry’s pals try to cheer him up but he still hankers after that dashing, flashing life.

A plan is needed and next day, with the help of his friends, operation transformation Terry is put into action.

Now he verily outshines everything else in Tropical City.
At last he’s one of the fishy dazzlers and much too busy with his new acquaintances to bother with Steve and Cilla.

One day however, Eddie the Eel arrives on the scene and Terry’s life in is great danger. What can he do to escape becoming an eel’s next meal?

There’s only one way to find out: get your fins on a copy of Jarvis’ tale of friendship and sea changes and read the rest of this piscine picture book.

Jarvis never fails to delight: his deep-sea adventure is certainly one to dive into.

Hello Hot Dog!

Hello Hot Dog!
Lily Murray and Jarvis
Lincoln Children’s Books

There’s been a fair sprinkling of food-centred picture books of late – pizza and sausages immediately spring to mind and now comes this tasty offering which takes the form of a conversation seemingly between a busy bee and an indolent hot dog.

We first encounter the latter as it languishes on some “comfy bread, with some corn and a couple of fries” apparently totally oblivious of the approaching ketchup bottle nozzle.

Suddenly as splodges of the red stuff splatter in his direction the lazybones realises what his fate is, at any second, to be. It’s time to ‘Run, Hot Dog, run!’.

Lack of limbs forces the fellow to come up with a somewhat complicated escape plan only to realise almost immediately that triple backflips are not his forte and that his demise is looming ever closer …

As a set of human gnashers close over the bun Hot Dog makes a desperate roll, extricating himself from the bread and flying through the air…

Freedom at last or dog’s dinner? Which is it to be?

Totally ridiculous but this will make you splutter with delight – it’s certainly been the case with every one of my readers, along with cries of AGAIN!

With its spare conversational text and hilarious Jarvis illustrations, in addition to being a terrific read aloud, this is a great book to share with those in the early stages of reading, with the adult acting as Hot Dog and the child as his aid to escape.

Get Christmassy

Pick a Pine Tree
Patricia Toht and Jarvis
Walker Books
There’s a real glow of seasonal joy to this rhyming journey of a pine tree from a tree lot to pride of place as a sparkling family Christmas tree.
A family visits the snowy tree lot, chooses a tree and takes it home on top of their car.

Once indoors, space is created, the tree trunk trimmed and when the tree is safely standing, out come the decorations ready for when their friends arrive to join in the fun of adding all the fairy lights, baubles, tinsel and finally to complete the transformation, right at the top, the star.

From its opening ‘Pick a pine tree / from the lot – // slim and tall / or short and squat. / One with spiky needle clumps, / scaly bark, or sappy bumps.’ Toht’s text bounces along beautifully – just right for a Christmas storytime session and a perfect antidote to the plastic ‘take apart’ trees that have become so popular in recent times.
Jarvis’ mixed media illustrations have a lovely vintage feel to them and there’s a wonderful magical final scene.

Let it Glow: A Winter’s Walk
Owen Gildersleeve
Wide Eyed Editions
Cut paper collage scenes glow with 5 white lights  as a boy walks home on Christmas Eve clutching a parcel. At each page turn the lights softly shine illuminating a fair, carol singers, a snowy hillside with sledgers, a frozen lake on which skaters swirl and then the exterior and interiors of the boy’s home.
Told through rhyming couplets, and presumably intended to be shared in soft lighting, Gildersleeve’s spreads offer plenty of talking points in addition to the twinkling lights.

Red & Lulu
Matt Tavares
Walker Books
With a USA setting this dramatically illustrated, touching tale tells how a pair of cardinals becomes separated when their tree home is cut down and taken to New York City Rockefeller Centre to be its Christmas tree with Lulu, one of the pair trapped inside.
Red returns from his search for food to discover his home gone and with it his partner.
Superb spreads, some wordless or almost so, then follow his search for her, the birds’ reunion and eventual relocation in a park.

Search & Find: A Christmas Carol
retold by Sarah Powell, illustrated by Louise Pigott
Studio Press
Here’s a novel take on the ever-growing ‘spotting’ books: it’s the second in a series of classic tales to be given a search and find adaptation by Studio Press.
It’s not so much a retelling of the Dickens’ story, rather it’s an unusual way to encourage young readers into the world of Dickens and this tale in particular, especially around the festive season.
The characters are all there and waiting to be spotted in various scenes – fourteen in all.
There are four ghost spreads including The Ghost of Jacob Marley (with a spendidly spooky door knocker) the Ghost of Christmas Past and The Ghost of Christmas Present; two parties to visit – Mr Fezziwig’s and the one at Fred’s house; a rather grim graveyard scene and more.
Engaging and fun.

Mrs Mole, I’m Home!

Mrs Mole, I’m Home!
Jarvis
Walker Books
Walking along the canal path this morning near my home I noticed unusual mole activity and immediately thought to myself, that Mr Mole of Jarvis’s must have recently popped up along here. How does the guy do it? Jarvis I mean, not Mr Mole – coming up with one superbly funny picture book after another in rapid succession. Back to Mr Mole: the creature is exhausted after a hard day’s work at Gordon Ratzy’s and eager to get home to his wife and children; the problem however is that he’s unable to find his specs. – ANYWHERE!

No matter, he thinks to himself, “I ought to know my way back home by now!
Off he burrows and … Up he pops calling out to announce his presence to his family. It’s a wrong call however, with rabbits not moles greeting him. So off he burrows again and the same thing happens when first he lands up at the residence of the Owl family demanding a “kissy kissy” from his little ones;

then bumping into the penguins in the Antarctica; and next the crocs in their swampy commorancy. Oops! Better move out of there fast before you become crunching matter for Croc’s dinner, Mr Mole. Good job you can’t see those jagged teeth they’re brandishing at you.
After all that burrowing and popping up in the wrong places, Mr Mole is near despair but then ‘Sniff – sniff … Something familiar!’ causes his nostrils to tingle – worm noodles!
There’s only one place that aroma could be coming from; and so it’s ‘Up he popped!

Explanations as to the delay inevitably amuse his offspring and a promise is made never by lose those glasses again. But …
With its glorious throw-away final scene, this story is utterly hilarious from cover to cover – literally: there’s even a wonderful visual pun on the back cover and that eye-chart title page is priceless. In-built repetition of ‘Up he popped!‘ and ‘And off he burrowed …‘ cry out for audience participation; and this is an absolute gift for readers aloud: just make sure you give your audience plenty of time to enjoy the wit in every one of Jarvis’s scenes.

I’ve signed the charter 

I’m in Charge!

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I’m In Charge!
Jeanne Willis and Jarvis
Nosy Crow
It’s patently obvious who rules the roost in the rhino family, not daddy rhino, nor mummy rhino; it’s little rhino and he surely knows exactly how to make his presence felt as he goes around doing such dastardly deeds as scattering the meerkats, startling Giraffe and squashing Baboon’s banana – well the meanie refused to share; he even has the audacity to barge Elephant in the bottom. “I’m in charge!” is definitely the order of the day.

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But who has executive control of the mango tree and its delicious fruit? That is the all important question and it’s one that feisty little Rhino has the answer to, at least he thinks he does and it’s certainly what he assures Pygmy Mouse despite what the little creature has to say.

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Could it be that the belligerent beast is about to change his mind however …

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… a hundred beefy wildebeest … came charging down the hill.

Jeanne Willis and Jarvis deliver the message about learning to share superbly well. Jeanne Willis’ lively rhyming text bounces along beautifully and Jarvis’ savannah-glow illustrations of the bossy beast and his challengers holds up a mirror to infant behaviour with panache and humour.
So cleverly titled, this is perfect for sharing be it at home or in an early years setting.

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Odd Bods & an Animal Alphabet

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Odd Bods
Steven Butler and Jarvis
Puffin Books
We’ve all got our little quirks and foibles, and this is just what is celebrated in Butler and Jarvis’ crazy A to Z of weird and wonderful child characters. Let me introduce a few, starting with these two:

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With those never-trimmed nails, Duncan’s certainly not somebody I’d want to encounter. Then there’s Franklyn; now he would be pretty useful on occasion …

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Iris’s special skill is something I once got given a detention for at school, when eating, or rather not eating, my disgusting school lunch. Now that proves I was (and still am) something of a wild child

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I blame the quality of the cutlery though I’m sure the adults here would say it’s all down to those children.
Let’s mention a few more: there’s Kitty who loves nothing better than to flash her knickers, bogey-filled Larry and leaking Mathilda. Skipping a few letters takes us to Stanley though heaven knows where he might be now …

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Will is something of a yogi …

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and Yasmine is extraordinarily adept at fishing on account of her slight stickiness, which takes us almost to the end; and that’s where we’ll say farewell to the whole crazy cast …

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Take a long look and see how many you can identify already. For the rest, you’ll need to get hold of your own copy of this hoot of a book and enjoy encountering each and every character yourself.
And teachers, you don’t need me to point out the tremendous classroom potential of this one.

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Animal Alphabet
Kay Vincent
Button Books
Alliterative alphabet fun is what we have in this retro style A to Z of creatures great and small. Each animal has its own double spread and there’s an adjective starting with the same letter to describe it. Thus Bb ‘busking bear’ shows a banjo-strumming brown bear playing to a couple of birds. Here’s another musical animal …

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and a rather sporty one …

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Kay Vincent manages to give each and every animal a real personality in her stylised depictions.
This one’s definitely a visual treat but at the same time there’s plenty of space for youngsters’ own flights of verbal fancy: What is that ‘jolly jellyfish’ with the yippee flag celebrating for instance? Or, how is the xylophonist X-ray fish able to play under water and what is the music? Each letter offers storying potential – an added bonus and one that makes this more than just an ordinary animal alphabet book. And, if that’s not enough, the removeable dust jacket becomes a mini frieze to adorn your early years writing area, or child’s bedroom, perhaps.

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Jungle Jaunts

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Alan’s Big Scary Teeth
Jarvis
Walker Books
Alan is one big scary creature or so he’d have us believe. It’s certainly true that he’s descended from a long line of scary alligators and his reputation for scariness is legendary. His daily routine involved a whole lot of polishing (his scales), sharpening (his nails) and brushing – those huge gnashers – followed by a spot of frightening-face practice.

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Then ready to scare the world, off he’d saunter jaws a-snapping, teeth g-nashing and the result was, as you might expect, fear and terror all around .

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That’s how things went day in day out and then Alan would head home to the swamp for an evening of crossword completion and relaxation. And that’s when we’re let into a secret –perhaps young listeners have already an inkling of what’s about to be revealed …

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although I’m pretty sure they’ll have no idea of Alan’s pre-stashing “Good night teeth. Thweet dweams my theary thnappers,” nightly bidding.
Then one morning as he’s out doing a spot of wood collecting, Barry beaver spies a dozing Alan and seeking safety behind the nearest bush, is surprised by something looking decidedly familiar.

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Oh-Oh! – looks like you might have been rumbled Alan. Maybe there’s a deal to be struck though …

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Good thinking guys: Alan now has not just one, but three thoroughly reputable daytime occupations – gardener, hairdresser and dentist; and a very important nocturnal one too.

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A jungly jaunt that’s sure to bring Alan-sized smiles to the faces of listeners (not to mention the occasional adult reader aloud) and I love those vibrant, energetic scenes and some of the small details are real giggle-inducers.

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Giraffe on a Bicycle
Julia Woolf
Macmillan Children’s Books
Monkey is a complete novice when it comes to bike riding so it’s fortunate that when he discovers a bicycle one day, his friend giraffe is on hand to demonstrate his cycling skills. Pedalling straight takes a bit of getting used to though, even with an ‘expert’ in the saddle

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but as we all know …

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And off go the cyclists on a jaunt deeper into the jungle, collecting a whole host of additional ‘passengers’ or rather hangers on, as they go

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… gradually gathering speed till they’re literally ‘Whooshing’ along until

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Seems that monkey’s warning cry came too late to avert disaster; and now the bike’s in urgent need of repair. No! Make that reconstruction guys. And reconstruction is exactly what those animals embark on but pretty soon the job’s done. Ta dah! Good as new? …

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A wonderfully exuberant debut picture book from Julia Woolf: both words and pictures are full of fun. With a smattering of alliteration, the tension-building text keeps listeners on the edge of their saddles as they anticipate the inevitable outcome of the overload.
Make sure you take a close look at the end papers; there’s a whole other story going on there.

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Polar Exchanges

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Poles Apart
Jeanne Willis & Jarvis
Nosy Crow
Polar Bears live at the North Pole, penguins at the South Pole and never the twain shall meet, or do they?
One day a penguin family, the Pilchard Browns, get themselves lost en route to a picnic spot. The trouble was Mr P-B’s instructions had been wrong – now does that sound a familiar family scenario? – with the result that, as the story opens, they find themselves drifting towards …

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The dialogue is a hoot: “This is the North Pole, my friends,” said Mr White. “The South Pole is 12, 430 miles that way.”
So, I was a few miles out,” shurugged Mr Pilchard Brown. “Anyone can make a mistake.
Don’t think of it as a mistake,” said Mr White.”Think of it as a big adventure.” …
Mummy says we should always follow our dreams,” said Peeky.
Daddy says we should always follow him,” said Poots.
Mr White is elected to guide the picnickers to the South Pole and thus achieve his own dream. Off go the adventurers over land and sea until they reach …

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The US proves exciting but it isn’t home, nor the right place for a picnic, so on they travel, the next stop being England. However, although the place has its charms, home it isn’t, nor an appropriate picnic spot so Mr White takes the party on to Italy. Pog has to hold on to his wee urge as they take a gondola ride along the canals of Venice.
The next port of call is India – dazzling for sure but again, not home

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so off they go to Oz, a ‘bonzer’ place but not home and … well you know the rest.
Their journey continues until finally they reach the South Pole and there Mr White joins them for that long anticipated picnic. After a while though, the polar bear feels the pull of the North Pole and so, he walks all the way back to his home.
A great adventure was assuredly had by all; but that’s not quite the end of the story for a surprise awaits our North Pole dweller …

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but even that isn’t the end …
With its patterned text, largely in dialogue this wonderfully preposterous tale is tremendous fun to share with a class or group of under sevens. Mine were soon joining in the repeat refrains with great enthusiasm.

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Penguin’s Big Adventure
Salina Yoon
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Penguin has an idea: he wants to be the first of his kind to set foot on the North Pole. Having packed his rucksack and rolled his map, (sporting as ever, his orange scarf) off he goes on his travels. En route he passes some of his friends and relations busy with their own world record preoccupations

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and eventually reaches his destination. But his celebratory shouts of ‘Hooray!’ meets with silence: and Penguin feels lonely and scared.
There follows an encounter with Polar Bear and the two spend time together adventuring and exploring.

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That however, is only part of the story for the purpose of his friends’ activities is made clear when they appear in a hot air balloon to take him back home with them.
Fans of Penguin and his adventures will enjoy this latest episode though I suspect some of the visual references alluding to previous Penguin stories will go over the heads of those who are making his acquaintance for the first time.
As always, Salina Yoon’s bold, bright illustrations have a quirky cuteness about them.

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Exciting Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition in Piccadilly from 23rd to 29th October

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