Milo’s Monster

Milo’s Monster
Tom Percival
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

In the sixth of Tom’s wonderful Big Bright Feelings series the green-eyed jealousy monster appears.
Milo loves to spend time with his best friend and neighbour, Jay. But then a new family moves into a house opposite the boys and Milo watches a girl dashing about in her garden. That same afternoon when Milo calls for Jay he learns that he is across the road with Suzi.

Inevitably Milo feels left out and that manifests as a funny squirmy feeling in his tummy. The same thing happens the following day: suppose Jay doesn’t want to be his best friend any longer. That awful feeling gets stronger and stronger until right before Milo’s eyes is A GREEN-EYED MONSTER.

Thereafter said monster invades all Milo’s thoughts; the thing just won’t leave him be and Milo decides he will ignore Jay and Suzi. Instead he sulks and skulks away from everyone except the monster

until one day Suzi stops him. From what she says, Milo knows that it’s time to get rid of that horrible lying monster once and for all. A battle of wills between attacker and attacked ensues and at last, realising the truth, Milo apologies and is free to have fun, not just with one friend but two.

This compelling story offers a great way to show young children that jealousy can make you feel really miserable. It’s a wonderful book to start a circle-time discussion and perhaps look at ways to help deal with feelings of jealousy that everyone has from time to time.

Ebb and Flo and Their New Friend / The Tale of the Tiny Man

Ebb and Flo and Their New Friend
Jane Simmons

Jane Simmons’ books with their gorgeous, soft focus, painterly illustrations, were very popular with foundation stage classes in my early teaching days and it’s good to see Graffeg reintroducing Ebb and Flo to a new generation of young children.

For those unfamiliar with the characters and their adventures, Ebb is a dog and Flo a young girl. They live near the sea and are constant companions. As this story opens the two of them are sitting in their boat with Ebb in her favourite spot in the bow when suddenly her place is usurped by a large bird. Flo urges Ebb to accept the visitor as a friend but Ebb is anything but accepting of the newcomer with its frequent ‘beep, beep, beep’ sounds. 

As the days pass even Granny takes to Bird, giving it some of Ebb’s favourite snacks. 

Ebb wishes Bird gone and the following morning, to Flo’s disappointment, the wish has come true.

However, it quickly becomes an instance of you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, for Ebb finds herself missing Bird and that beeping, especially when as the summer days pass, they see reminders on their journeys along the river. 

Then one day, Ebb hears a familiar sound: could it be …

This gentle exploration of change, jealousy and the challenges of accepting a new friend into an established group, will resonate with many young listeners who will likely look forward to hearing more about Ebb and Flo in the other titles Graffeg will also publish.

The Tale of the Tiny Man
Barbro Lindgren (translated by Julia Marshall), illustrated by Eva Eriksson
Gecko Press

This is a re-illustrated classic tale from Sweden originally published over thirty years ago. It tells of a tiny and sad man who lives a very lonely life ignored and sometimes mistreated by other people perhaps because ‘he was too small and possibly a bit slow.’
One day as spring approaches he attaches a note to a tree ‘Friend Wanted’ and giving his name and address. For ten days he waits, sitting on his doorstep by day, and crying at night on account of the blackbirds’ song. Then on the tenth night he’s dozed off only to be awakened by a large and playful stray dog.
Little by little over the next few days, the tiny man’s kind actions gain the animal’s friendship and trust. It moves in to share the man’s house, his food and even his bedroom. 

When they’re out and about, the dog protects the tiny man from bullies.

By summer life together is happy for both tiny man and big dog. Come the following spring however, a cheerful little girl comes along and she too makes friends with the dog causing the tiny man to feel left out and hurt. 

Convinced he can’t compete with the little girl, full of sorrow the tiny man wanders off into the woods. For seven days he roams alone; meanwhile dog and child sit on the steps wondering where the man has gone. On the eighth day the tiny man returns to find on his doorstep, a dejected dog and an equally dejected little girl. Can it be that this friendship can accommodate three? Is there room in dog’s heart for two human friends and in the tiny man’s heart for the dog and the girl?

With its themes of loneliness and friendship, this beautifully told and illustrated story looks at various emotions including empathy, loneliness and prejudice. Whether read alone or aloud, there’s much to think about and one hopes, talk about with family members and/or classmates.

The New Baby / Marigold & Daisy

The New Baby
Lisa Stickley
Pavilion Books
In her third book, big sister Edith – not very big but bigger than she was last year – gives readers a month-by-month account of the first year with her baby brother Albert.

He arrived, so she tells us, in a basket one January day, very tiny and making his presence felt with loud, I’m hungry ‘Waaaaaaa’ sounds followed sometime later by ‘teeny windy pops’.

As the year progresses Albert takes pleasure in watching the movement of a home-made mobile dangling above his cot; befriends the rattly Gerald Giraffe;

increases the volume of his bottom sounds and produces lots of very stinky nappies; and adds raspberry blowing and ‘slurpy sloppy’ to his repertoire.

By the summer he’s beginning to sit up and in August begins the messy process of eating baby food.

Big sis. gives him a very gentle go on the swings in September; then in October he becomes a fast crawler and in November an ever faster one especially when he’s set his sights on there’s a tower to demolish.

December sees Albert take his first tottering steps, wobbling his way around penguin style.
Then it’s time to celebrate his first birthday. Who wouldn’t love this special little brother with all his funny noises? Edith most certainly does.

I’m sure there were times when our young narrator felt jealous of the attention others were giving baby Albert but she doesn’t tell readers about it; rather Edith concentrates on the fun side of having a new sibling keeping her chronicle up-beat and accompanying it with a plethora of sound effects along the way.

As with previous Edith stories, Lisa Stickley’s collage style illustrations have a fresh child-like quality that makes them entirely appropriate to accompany her young narrator’s voice.

An enchanting book: it’s perfect for sharing with early years audiences and likely to spark off lots of my little brother/sister discussion.

That transition from only child in the family to big brother or sister can be a difficult time for young children so if you want something portraying that you might try:

Marigold & Daisy
Andrea Zuill

Life is pretty good for Marigold until the birth of baby snail sister Daisy.

Daisy is a real pain, stealing the limelight and following her older sibling everywhere. Marigold feels left out and resentful,

particularly when Daisy ruins her favourite toy and goes off to be on her own.

However when she finds herself in a sticky situation, guess who comes to her rescue. Perhaps having a little sis. isn’t so bad after all.

Wonderfully expressive pen-and-ink and watercolour illustrations document this quirky story with a gentle humour. The plethora of speech bubbles add to the fun.

All At Sea

All At Sea
Gerry Byrne and Faye Hanson
Walker Books

This wonderfully warm story is subtitled ‘There’s a new baby in the family’ and chief protagonist, young Liam certainly has his very own way of dealing with the arrival of a new brother.
He plays out his feelings using the small world hippo family – a daddy, a mammy, two little hippos and a tiny, baby hippo – his parents give him when they come back from the hospital bringing with them a new baby brother for him and his slightly older sister.

First he puts the baby hippo in the mouth of a hungry crocodile to be gobbled up. The following evening the tiny hippo is squashed under an elephant’s foot …

and on the third night it ends up down the loo, supposedly swept over a waterfall when out swimming with the rest of the hippo family.

All these actions however result in Liam having bad dreams …

and ending up sleeping in his parents’ bed with them.

On the third night though, something else happens too: Liam has a change of heart not only about the baby hippo, but more importantly concerning a certain Baby Brother.
The following night all is well both with the hippo family and Liam’s.

This is a fine addition to the new sibling genre and an ideal picture book for a young child with, or about to have, a new baby in the family.
It’s beautifully told, the dialogue both child and adult, is spot on and Faye Hanson captures the inherent warmth of Gerry Byrne’s tale, and the emotions of Liam and his mum in particular, in her superb, textured illustrations. Her colour palette – predominantly sepia, violet, inky blue – give the whole story a slightly dreamlike quality.

Few picture books I’ve seen – and that’s a lot – capture the mixed emotions of a young child with a new sibling so perfectly as this one.

Flora and the Peacocks


Flora and the Peacocks
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora, so I believe, has already starred in two previous picture books though this is my first encounter with the diminutive dancing delight. Herein she encounters a pair of preening peacocks who proceed to use their gloriously coloured tails in tandem with her fan, mirroring her every move until one, the rather more curious of the pair, crosses the gutter and approaches the girl. Thereafter we have a paired dance on the verso and on the recto, something of a solo drama. Eventually however, we have this …


After which Flora reaches out (here readers can lift the tails or lower them as the fancy takes them).


What then follows is a tug of war over her fan,


orchestrated by readers moving an arched page (we know threesomes can be problematic where friendship is concerned) until the delicate fan becomes two pieces and Flora flounces off-stage in despair


leaving the birds to work out a solution – which they duly do – with an amazing fold-out finale that more than makes up for the disaster and places a smiling Flora centre stage in a dazzling display of iridescent beauty and bewitchment.
Beautifully choreographed by Molly Idle, this breath-taking, wordless pas de trois is a real virtuoso performance, both on stage and off, that will have readers transfixed and wanting encore after encore. And don’t you just love the way those wispy willow fronds form a kind of proscenium arch for the whole show.

Those who particularly enjoy wordless picture books may also like:


Dog on a Train
Kate Prendergast
Old Barn Books
This wordless debut picture book begins with a boy dashing downstairs and dropping his hat in his haste to leave the house. His dog spots said hat and chases off down the road after the boy, all the way to the tube station.


‘Dogs must be carried’ says the sign at the turnstile and as luck would have it, a girl comes along and takes Dog down the escalator onto the platform.


Dog then boards an underground train, makes the journey, is jostled by crowds, almost loses the hat and finally catches up with the boy and gives him the hat.
Kate Prendergast’s detailed drawings are beautifully executed in soft pencil, with just the red and white stripes of the boy’s hat and red and white details on his trainers standing out, giving a splash of colour on every spread and drawing the eye to the main characters. The pacing of the story is cleverly managed by the use of whole page, double spread, split page and comic strip images.


A warm story about friendship and determination: wonderful for developing visual literacy.

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