Time to Move South for Winter

Time to Move South for Winter
Clare Helen Welsh and Jenny Lovlie
Nosy Crow

This gorgeously illustrated book follows the migratory journey of a tiny Arctic tern from the chilly northern climes to a warmer location in the south where it will spend the winter.

During this flight we also encounter several other creatures also moving south for winter. The first are whales, then as the tern flies over land it follows the tracks of caribou also seeking a warmer place. Also taking flight is a flock of geese riding the wind on their giant wings, wanting to find a summery lake location.

Next, as it flies over the coast the tern sees a turtle looking for jellyfish and summer in the ocean

and moving upwards once more the tiny tern finds herself surrounded by Monarch butterflies on the move to their mountain forest destination in Mexico. After a rest the tern takes flight eventually sighting a colony of fellow black cap terns that have also moved south for the winter and are now nesting. Time at last for our tiny winged traveller to rest in the sun on the shore of the Antarctic for the next few months before returning to start her own family back in the north.

With additional factual information at the end of the lyrical main text, map and Jenny Lovlie’s gorgeous textured, detailed illustrations, this is a lovely narrative nonfiction book to share with young listeners at home or school.

The Wide, Wide Sea

The Wide, Wide Sea
Anna Wilson and Jenny Lovlie
Nosy Crow

Skilfully woven together are wild swimmer and author Anna Wilson’s lyrical narrative and Jenny Lovlie’s gorgeous detailed illustrations in this picture book with a vitally important message about plastic pollution.

Gran and the child narrator love to visit the sea together, spending time exploring the flora and fauna along the shoreline and seeing what treasures the waves have thrown up. Most exciting though is their sighting of a seal: the child imagines being a seal too

and when it disappears, sits watching the sea birds until a violent storm blows in and Gran says it’s time to head home.

Next morning the beach looks awful – ‘Wild, Broken. Messy.’ and strewn with litter. The sky ‘sulky dove-grey’ and the air ‘quiet and frowning.’ Who or what has created this havoc? And can it be fixed? …

Happily yes in this story; but what really needs to happen is every one of us must accept their responsibility for plastic pollution and, for the sake of the environment, sea creatures such as the seal especially, take their rubbish home.

Published in collaboration with The National Trust who protect over 700 miles of wild coastline in the UK this is a must have book for primary classes to share, discuss and act upon its message.

The Boys

The Boys
Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie
Little Tiger

From the same team as The Girls, is this, a companion book that presents the story of an enduring friendship between Tam, Rey, Nattie and Bobby who we first meet as toddlers playing together and alongside one another on the beach. Their interests differ: Tam expresses himself through art, Rey makes music, Nattie is bookish and a storyteller while Bobby likes to find out how things work and share his discoveries with the other three. In short they make a great team.

Inevitably though things change as the boys grow and develop: their interests take them in different directions and there’s even an element of competitiveness between two of them. Now it’s individuality that matters most;

but as adults having gone through successes and some of life’s milestones, that need for one another reemerges: those early bonds have been stretched but have always remained strong and become even stronger than ever.

In her narrative Lauren presents friendship from infancy to adulthood as dynamic and respective of individuality while Jenny Lovlie’s illustrations are absolutely splendid – inclusive and full of warmth.
I’d strongly recommend sharing and discussing this in primary and early years classes as well as among family members and between friends.

Kitty and the Twilight Trouble / Mirabelle Breaks the Rules

Oxford Children’s books do some cracking series for new solo readers: here are the latest books in two of those – thanks to OUP for sending for review: 

Kitty and the Twilight Trouble
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie

This is young Kitty’s sixth adventure and as the story opens she’s super excited at the thought of visiting the funfair with her cat crew. One of the crew, Pixie is super excited too for she has a cat new friend, Hazel. An introduction is arranged with Kitty for that night but it’s Figaro that turns up with a message from Pixie and Hazel, the latter claiming that she’s a Cat Superhero with her own special powers and important work to do.

It’s a rather dispirited Kitty who looks through her bedroom window into the velvety, moonlit sky contemplating the funfair. Suddenly into view come two cats skipping across the rooftop sporting matching scarves, and Kitty’s encounter with them leaves her feeling even less upbeat.

The following afternoon though, her parents keep their promise and take her to the funfair but once there, what should she see but Pixie and Hazel. As she watches them Kitty sees not superhero behaviour but feline foolishness and nastiness. Suddenly however, Kitty has other important things to attend to. Figaro reports that he’s seen a nest of baby birds that are in great danger. Guess who almost sabotages the entire rescue effort?

But that isn’t all, for back in bed that night Kitty receives another urgent message from Figaro. The supposed feline superheroes are stranded. Now it’s up to Kitty to use her own superpowers.

Yet another magical nocturnal story from team Paula and Jenny that will enthral young new solo readers. There are a considerable number on my radar who eagerly await each new Kitty story.

The same is true of another young character, Mirabelle who is also delightfully different and stars in …

Mirabelle Breaks the Rules
Harriet Muncaster

Mirabelle, cousin to Isadora Moon, is half witch and half fairy. and as a new term starts at Miss Spindlewick’s witch school, her parents are hoping to receive better reports than before.

Mirabelle’s best friend, Carlotta has brought her a present from her holiday abroad – a bottle of shimmery multi-coloured magic dust which Mirabelle puts into her pocket. The snag is that its label is printed in a different language.

As the first lesson gets under way, Mirabelle volunteers to collect the ingredients for a colour changing potion from the store cupboard; most of these too she puts into her pocket. The potion mixing gets under way but before long something very untoward starts happening in the cauldron the two friends are sharing. Pretty soon the entire room is in chaos. Uh-oh! trouble again for Mirabelle.

She does her upmost to stay on the right side of Miss Spindlewick right up to the last lesson of the day with happens to be some loop the loop practice in the forest. Looping the loop is one of Mirabelle’s favourite things to do and she can’t resist flying over, rather than under the trees per the rule. Could she be heading straight for another disaster …

Mirabelle is a character whose mischief is the result of her struggle with rule keeping, rather than wrong intentions. Her first person narration endears her to readers right from the start and Harriet’s portrayal of her in those purple and black illustrations ensures that she looks every bit as enchanting as she sounds.

Kitty and the Great Lantern Race / Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit

The welcome return of favourite characters in two series from Oxford University Press

Kitty and the Great Lantern Race
Paula Harrison and Jenny Lovlie

At the annual lantern festival young Kitty, superhero in training, returns in a fifth adventure, ready to enchant young solo readers with her nocturnal catlike superpower.

Kitty is pleased with the lantern she’s created for Hallam City’s Festival of Light but as the parade is just beginning, a mysterious burglar is at work among the crowds. Having spied a shadowy figure, Kitty knows that she’s going to have to call on her feline superpower as she turns investigator.

Now her mission is to prevent the festival being spoiled and without the assistance of her firework fearing cat crew, she must summon all her superhero skills and bravery to chase the fast-moving thief.

As always Paula’s words and cast of cracking characters, combined with the plethora of Jenny’s arresting two-coloured illustrations are a delight. This tale of friendship, family, building self-confidence and being brave is an ideal read for Kitty’s countless established followers, as well as others just starting out on chapter books.

Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit
Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

There’s a crisis in Bumbleford. For a whole week, somebody has been slowly but surely stealing the town’s entire stock of biscuits. Make that two crises for now Roly-Poly Flying pony Kevin, stands accused of the crime of stealing said biscuits – all the evidence seems to point in his direction – despite his not remembering eating the biscuits, which he surely would have, fig rolls and all.

The only ones left anywhere (and that’s in the next town), are some speciality Sprout Squashies, good for you but tasting disgusting and fart-inducing, especially when sampled by a certain RPF pony.

To avoid arrest, and hence removal from Max and family, poor Kevin is forced to go on the run – or rather the wing – from the local police constabulary. With Kevin already being dubbed as the Biscuit Bandit, it’s the Horse Prison for him unless Max and Kevin’s friends can help find clues to clear his name.

The search is on: can they unearth the real culprit (not forgetting the biscuit stash) before the police track them down?

Once again team Philip and Sarah have created a hilarious and enthralling adventure – a whodunnit – with its wealth of wordplays and asides, ensuring that readers giggle their way right through to the final reveal.

Never let it be said that Sprout Squashies don’t have their uses.

Kitty and the Treetop Chase

Kitty and the Treetop Chase
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

Kitty’s parents have invited their friends the Porters to visit. With them comes their son Ozzy who is Kitty’s age. “I sure you’ll find you have a lot in common,” Kitty’s mum assures her daughter.

That night the two children have a sleepover in Kitty’s tree house and during the night a tapping at the window wakes Kitty. It’s Katsumi asking for her help on account of the frenetic canine-caused chaos at the bakery. Now, even though Kitty’s somewhat unsure about Ozzy, she must share the secret of her cat-like superpowers with him. She’s more than a little surprised when he announces that he too is a superhero; a fact confirmed by Ozzy’s owl friend Olive.

Kitty, her cat Pumpkin, Ozzy and Olive, accompanied by Katsumi, venture forth across town to The Sticky Bun Bakery to find out exactly what’s been going on.

Little by little in the course of their investigations,

Kitty and Ozzy realise that two heads are better than one and they become a proper team. It’s pretty tricky though when both young superheroes find dogs claiming to belong to the bakery.

Like the previous ones, Paula’s fourth adventure of Kitty and her feline friends is pitch purr-fect for new solo readers; and now with the friendship forged between Kitty and Ozzy, not forgetting Kitty’s cat crew and Ozzy’s owl squad, the superheroes seem set fair for further adventures as a team.

As always Jenny Lovlie’s adorable illustrations contribute to the overall magic of the book; and there’s a final Super Facts About Cats spread for readers with a particular penchant for moggies.

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble / Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble
Paul Morton
Five Quills

Meet Bug Belly, he of ingenious plans, a clever kit bag and super cool gadgets; sounds a together kind of frog doesn’t he. There’s a snag though: Bug Belly has an almost insatiable appetite. Not a particular problem you might be thinking but how will he deal with that as well as the task of babysitting hundreds of taddies and froglets for a whole day while their parents attend a conference?

Seemingly not very well, for before long he’s faced with rescuing his charges from a rapidly draining pond and the reason for this is known only to the care-giver and his belly (readers of course are in on the secret).

Can he come up with a super-ingenious plan – probably his most clever ever – to evade the jaws of the ferocious pike Old Snapper and Heron of the razor-sharp beak

not to mention one Sneaky Snake that might just be snooping around?

Let’s just say DUCK POO and leave you to discover its significance.

Hilarious antics, splendidly portrayed and related in Paul Morton’s spluttersome storytelling prose: URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP! Froggy fun it surely is and perfect cheering-up fodder for new solo readers. It’s a great read aloud too – you can really give it some belly.

Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

I can almost hear the cheers from young solo readers for girl during the day, cat at night, Kitty, as she returns in a third adventure with her feline side kick Pumpkin.

As the story opens Kitty is excited to discover that the sunflower seed she planted as part of the school garden design competition is sprouting leaves and is showing it to Pumpkin when Pixie appears talking of an established garden across the city that might provide some inspiration for Kitty’s own design.Kitty cannot resist the opportunity to see this garden and quickly dons her superhero suit.

Following the scent of flowers, the three adventurers venture forth and discover a wonderful rooftop garden alive with wonderful aromas, beautiful trees and gorgeous flowers including seven huge sunflowers.

Her companions are mightily impressed by the catnip bush and it’s this that results in their presence being discovered by an irate tortoiseshell cat whose peaceful evening they have disturbed. The friends’ enthusiasm for things botanical persuades the grumpy Diggory to allow them to explore and he shows them around Mrs Lovett’s amazing creation, even inviting them to return.

So excited is Pixie that she cannot keep the news of the wondrous place to herself and next evening they return to find the place overrun with cats behaving in a thoroughly undesirable fashion.
Before long, Kitty and her pals have a huge task on their hands – to repair the damage the unruly frolickers have done before sunrise.

Can they rise to the challenge when they have a whole gang of recalcitrant cats to deal with, Kitty’s going to need all her powers of persuasion to get that gang on side to help.

I love the way Paula Harrison almost unobtrusively weaves nature’s wonders into this urban adventure; there are subtle lessons for young readers about re-using and recycling planted in her tale too. From its gorgeous cover by illustrator Jenny Lovlie, this is a delight through and through. The illustrations within are fab too, especially those of the garden.

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue & Kitty and the Tiger Treasure

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue
Kitty and the Tiger Treasure

Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

These are the first two of a proposed new six book series starring Kitty, a young superhero in training. Kitty’s mum is gifted with cat-like superpowers and Kitty longs to be just like her; the trouble is she’s frightened of the dark.

Her opportunity to try out her own powers comes sooner than Kitty anticipated in Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue.
One night when she’s wearing her superhero outfit there comes a scratching at her bedroom window. It’s Figaro the cat requesting her mother’s help and because of her attire, he’s convinced Kitty too is a superhero.

When there’s an emergency what can she do but remember her mother’s words “Don’t let fear hold you back. You’re braver than you think,” and follow him across the rooftops to the clock tower from where very strange sounds are coming.

An exciting moonlit rescue ensues and Kitty ends up with a brand new tiny feline friend and family member.

In the second story, Kitty is eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s trip to the museum to view the priceless Golden Tiger Statue reputed to have the power to grant wishes, but cats are not allowed and Pumpkin is keen to go see it too. There’s only one thing to do, thinks Kitty as she and the kitten snuggle up together at bedtime and so begins their second moonlit adventure.

Off into town they go but before you can say ‘precious’ Kitty finds herself accused of being a criminal. So when she sees through the museum window a canine thief at work, paws on the Golden Tiger, it’s down to her and her feline friends to give chase, find the culprit, rescue the treasure and return it to the museum before its absence is discovered.

No easy task. Kitty can use her super powers that are growing stronger day by day but it seems the spaniel isn’t working alone. Can she find out who else is involved and put things right before midnight strikes?

These absorbing stories with their young female protagonist plus  several feline characters, and a wealth of smashing illustrations,  are just right for new solo readers. My tester read each book in a single sitting …

and was inspired to ponder on the possibility of having her own super power –

“My superpower would be that if people are fighting or at war I could make them become friends’.       Emmanuelle age 6

The Girls

The Girls
Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie
Little Tiger

When four little girls meet under an apple tree, little do they know that the friendship they form will over the years, grow and deepen into one that lasts into adulthood.

We follow the four through the good times and the down times,

with the girls sharing secrets, dreams and worries as they grow into women

and by the end readers feel they too share in this friendship so well do they know the foursome.

There’s Lottie the adventurous one; full of ideas, Leela; practical Sasha and Alice, the one who is always able to make them laugh.

We’re really drawn in to this wonderfully elevating account of long-lasting female friendship that Lauren describes and Jenny Lovlie so beautifully illustrates.

Like friends everywhere, these four are totally different in so many ways but no matter what, transcending their differences, is that enduring bond between them symbolised by – what an apt metaphor it is – the growing, changing tree that embodies strength, support and above all, permanence.

Here’s hoping that all the young readers who encounter Lottie, Leela, Sasha and Alice within the pages of this inspiring book will, like those characters, find not only reassurance and emotional strength but the joys of true friendship in their own lives.