Monsieur Roscoe On Holiday

Monsieur Roscoe On Holiday
Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books

Jim Field has clearly been doing a fair bit of sitting on his own sit-upon, as he’s both author and illustrator of this picture book. The aim (as well as to entertain) is to set youngsters on a journey to becoming bi-lingual as they join the enormously endearing Monsieur Roscoe and his goldfish, Fry, for a holiday.

First comes the packing – always a bothersome task – and then with luggage loaded behind, it’s onto his bike and away through the big city to the railway station to catch the train.

It’s a close call, but fairly soon it’s time to meet up with Eva for a spot of camping. Learning to put up a tent courtesy of your rabbit friend, once you get to the campsite isn’t the best idea Monsieur R. even if you have come with all the gear.

Next morning Monsieur Roscoe and Fry bid ‘au revoir’ to Eva and board a bus bound for the ski slopes where there’s a rendezvous with another friend, Stan. Seemingly our canine holidaymaker has hidden talents …

The next destination appears a whole lot more peaceful. Caro is certainly happy to see her friends and even allows Monsieur Roscoe to take the wheel of her speedboat but it’s evident that a certain dog needs to hone his steering skills when it comes to watercraft.

The penultimate stop is the seaside where Jojo and Didi eagerly greet the new arrivals. After a splash dans la mer comes the last leg of the journey and a meet up with Dougal duck for a spot of indulgence at the busy village café.

However, even the most charming of travellers must go home eventually, and so it is with Monsieur Roscoe and Fry. Assuredly they’ll have lots to tell their friends back in their home city and who knows, perhaps after a good night’s sleep the two of them will start thinking about their next adventure …

Jim introduces youngsters to plenty of common French words and phrases in the course of this story of the delightful duo. Every double spread has a wealth of humorous detail to explore and giggle over; Fry is an absolute hoot

and there’s even a seek-and-find element to the whole thing, for on the final page are lists of items to spot at the six locations featured.

Bravo Monsieur Field – un livre divertissant et éducatif.

Oi Puppies!

Oi Puppies!
Kes Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Chidlren’s Books

YAP! YAP! YAP! YES! YES! YES! The long anticipated Gray and Field new ‘Oi … !’ episode Oi Puppies! is finally here and it was definitely worth the wait – expectations exceeded yet again!

It appears that the dog might have bitten off rather more than he can chew when it comes to the plethora of pups he’s rashly undertaken to puppy-sit. Certainly his pals the cat and the frog are not impressed with their mischief.

We all know from previous experience as the cat points out, that puppies should sit on guppies, but “These puppies are really badly trained” admits the dog.

Thank goodness then for the frog. With a deft manoeuvre he produces his mobile and makes a call to …

Puppies with names require tailor made seating apparently and so the fun begins as one by one each cute little canine creature is paired with a suitable seat as befits its name.

The dog is practically dumbfounded; cat momentarily silent while the frog looks mighty pleased with himself. But it doesn’t do to gloat.

The pups are certainly sitting comfortably now but that’s not quite the end of the story. Perhaps personalised perches can produce problems from time to time …

Nineteen puppies, each with a distinct personality – that’s no mean feat even for Jim Field – and the sight of the whole motley crew sitting there as though butter wouldn’t melt is absolutely superb.
Stupendously silly nonsense that only this partnership can provide: if you’ve not read any of the others I recommend getting the lot and reading them in order although this one works perfectly in its own right.

Grandpa Christmas

Grandpa Christmas
Michael Morpurgo and Jim Field
Egmont

When one of my very favourite authors and favourite illustrators come together in a seasonal collaboration, the result is, so I anticipated, something special. And this is truly something very special; it’s not just a Christmas book, but one for all times.

Herein, narrator mum Mia tells how every Christmas she shares with her family a letter from her Grandpa, (sent one year instead of a Christmas card or present) kept safe in her diary. The reading of this letter, inspired by visits to his home from a much younger Mia that brought him joy, has become part and parcel of their family day.

Grandpa’s letter tells of his deep concerns about our fragile planet and its wildlife. He talks of the rapid rate at which its precious resources are being depleted and makes a prayerful plea for a new world and time where ‘we grow and eat only what we need … and learn to share all we have, so that no-one anywhere goes hungry again’; a world without pollution

and global warming,

where wild animals live free, and war and waste are no more.

Morpurgo’s poignant words are a powerful antidote to the gross consumerism and waste that the Christmas season has become, and a stark reminder of the original message of goodwill and giving.

Jim Field’s illustrations echo the deep sadness inherent in the text but at the same time bring out both the hopefulness in Grandpa’s heartfelt litany

and the loving bond between Mia and her grandfather.

This treasure of a book is, I think, my favourite Christmas publication of the year.

The Way Home for Wolf

The Way Home for Wolf
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

Fiercely independent, little wolfling Wilf considers himself big, strong and tough, so when it’s time for the wolves to find themselves a new cave, he’s eager to lead the way. “One day,” comes the response from the others.

Their journey through the snowy arctic tundra is a struggle for all members of the pack but despite his strong will, Wilf struggles to keep up finding the gap between himself and the adults growing ever larger until exhausted and out of breath, he loses his way in a blizzard. Too proud and indeed hoarse to howl for help he’s forced to spend the night alone beneath the stars.

Suddenly the ice beneath him shatters sending him cascading into the chill inky depths.

Rather than the end he fears, Wilf finds himself being rescued by a sea unicorn (narwhal) that takes him safely back to shore.
From there a host of other arctic animals, large and small, assist the little creature

until finally he’s reunited with his pack.

Thankful to all his rescuers, Wilf makes them a promise, “If ever I meet one who’s strayed off their track, / I’ll help them along by guiding them back.”

Wilf’s journey, both emotional and physical is truly testing, indeed too much for the young wolf to cope with alone.

Rachel Bright’s narrative style, at times poetic and at times matter-of-fact, allows young humans to come to an understanding that there are times when asking for help is exactly the right thing to do; and that team work is as important as going it alone, often more so.

Jim Field’s illustrations rendered in hues of indigo, white, cream, purple, silver and brown have a luminosity that invokes a sense of awe and wonder, making the arctic tundra a truly beautiful mystical place imbued with its own natural magic. I absolutely love the way the essence of the animals is shown in the aurora borealis both when Wilf is lost and when he’s safe once more.

A beautiful book to share and to return to, over and over.

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!

Oi Duck-Billed Platypus!
Kes Gray & Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books

Seemingly Frog’s work is never done, at least when it comes to finding suitable places upon which animals can rest their situpons.

Now he’s faced with not just the creature from the title but a whole host of other animals all wanting to know upon what they can sit and even worse, each one has a name that’s impossible to find a rhyme for – try hedgehog, say. Well perhaps the spiky creature could sit upon er, Frog. Ouch! I suspect that’s completely out of the question though. And kookaburra – hmm! Surely there must be another way of approaching this impasse. And happily there is!

Frog is a genius! “… what’s your first name?” he asks the duck-billed platypus. “Dolly,” comes the reply. Easily sorted.

Then, with moral support from his pals – the dog and the cat, our amphibious friend rapidly comes up with places upon which another twenty or so animals can park their bottoms.

That leaves just the matter of Geraldine the kangaroo …

I think this book has ousted any of the other Oi titles to become my very favourite of the seemingly effortless, utterly priceless. rhyming gems Kes Gray produces. Brilliant as they are though, they wouldn’t be quite so fantastic without Jim Field’s side-splitting illustrations.
Unmissable!

Oi teachers, think what terrific fun you could have with your classes …

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

The Squirrels Who Squabbled
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

From the duo who gave us The Lion Inside and The Koala Who Could comes another winning story, this time featuring two greedy squirrels one of which has done the unthinkable –failed to collect food for his store – and consequently, with winter fast approaching, his cupboard is completely empty: that’s Spontaneous Cyril who lives his life firmly in the here and now.

Squirrel number two is ‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’. He’s a wily one and has already amassed a huge stockpile of goodies.
By the time Cyril realises his partying habits have put him in a bit of a plight, all that appears to be left is a single pine-cone. This potentially fruitful object might just save him from starvation but he’s not the only one with his eye on the main chance. Bruce too has set his sights on one final addition to his stash.

With this potential treat delicately lodged in the twist of a branch and two would-be gatherers scurrying madly up the tree trunk, things are not set to go well and before you can say ‘slow down’ the cone is dislodged from its niche in the spruce and has gone tumbling down the hill with the two adversaries in hot pursuit through the forest.

What follows is an out and out scrimmage between Cyril and Bruce over a single treasure, that must surely end badly, as the object of their desires cascades into the water and well, I won’t say where it ends up for fear of being a story-spoiler.

This is truly a cracking book, delivered through Rachel’s perfectly paced rhyming narrative that like the cone, bounces over the pages with increasing speed, accompanied by Jim Field’s deliciously detailed illustrations executed in a softly glowing autumnal palette, and absolutely wonderful characters – not only the main ones but the bit part players too.
A truly delicious read aloud no matter what the time of year, especially with its themes of the importance of friendship and the folly of petty fights.

Oi Cat!

Oi Cat!
Kes Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books

Frog is a stickler for the rules – his rules in particular – which is unfortunate for Cat whose turn it is to have his own book. Sadly though, for the feline at least, it’s been decreed that he, and all cats now ‘sit on gnats’.
Imagine the bites, imagine the itching, imagine the scratching of a very sensitive part of his anatomy. Ouch!
Inevitably Cat’s distress results in all kinds of possibilities being proffered by the other animals: were he a pony he could sit on macaroni, suggests Dog. This does not go down well with Cat who objects to his bottom being anyone’s business but his own.
Dog though is full of good ideas, all of which are rapidly negated by the frog on account of their not rhyming with cat.

And even when he does deliver the goods, that dastardly amphibian is quick to point out that bats – be they of the cricket, baseball or softball variety – are already allocated to, erm …

Still though, the dog keeps on trying and even changes tack, suggesting ‘mog’ as an alternative handle for the put upon cat. Now there’s a thought … Doesn’t that word rhyme with a certain extremely assertive creature beginning with f?
But that’s a no go area isn’t it? Surely there must be plenty of alternatives …

Someone’s going to regret that utterance.
I keep on thinking with every new addition to the Oi…! series that they can’t get any better, but then along comes another and I have to say, this one, with its splendid elevating finale, is as close to ‘purr-fect’ as you’re likely to get.
Top that, Kes and Jim …

Rabbit & Bear The Pest in the Nest

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Rabbit & Bear The Pest in the Nest
Julian Gough and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
After the first wonderful Rabbit & Bear book, Bear’s Bad Habits, from this duo I did wonder whether the second could possibly be as good. The answer is definitely yes, every bit as brilliant and every bit as uproarious. Here’s a sample of the delights of the dialogue:
‘ “What?” asked Bear. “I’m angry! And I want to be calm! So I’m angry that I’m angry!” …
Why did you kick yourself?
Because I’m annoyed with myself!” said Rabbit. “Because I can’t change myself
But you can change your thoughts,” said Bear.
Change my thoughts? What’s wrong with them? My thoughts are PERFECT,” said Rabbit.
But your thoughts are making you unhappy,” said Bear.
No!” said Rabbit. “The world is making me unhappy! I must change the world … Stupid world! Change!” …
Maybe you could just think about the world differently,” said Bear. “Maybe you could … accept it
Accept! Accept!” said Rabbit … “What’s accept mean?
Saying, well, that’s just the way it is,” said Bear. “Not try to change it.
No!” said Rabbit. (a creature after my own heart; don’t an awful lot of us feel like that right now with everything that’s happening around us?) Bear though, is entirely right when she tells her pal, “Your brain is getting into a fight with the World.
As you’ll have realised – if you weren’t already aware from book 1 – these two characters are pretty much polar opposites with cantankerous Rabbit and reasonable, reasoning Bear.
What in particular though, in this tale, has made Rabbit so tetchy? Only that he’s been woken from his slumbers by a TERRIBLE noise and his place of repose (Bear’s cave) is full of light. No, it’s not thunder and lightning as he fears however, but Bear snoring and Spring sunlight illuminating the cave.

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That’s just the start of things though: worse is to follow. There’s an intruder in his burrow – not the snake he feared but still not wanted …

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and newcomer to the valley, Woodpecker’s ‘BANG! BANG! BANG!’ is utterly infuriating.
Thank goodness then for Bear and her words of wisdom. She has a wonderfully tempering effect on Rabbit and although he won’t, despite what he says, remain “Calm and Happy and Wise forever!” he does now at least have some coping mechanisms: for Bear’s snoring anyway “Mmm, maybe I should think about it in a Different Way. … Yes! I shall stop thinking of it as a Nasty Noise. I shall think of it instead as a nice, friendly reminder that my friend Bear is nearby.” And suddenly the sound, without changing at all, made Rabbit feel all happy and warm. (Must try that one.)
As well as so much to giggle over, Gough give his readers (as well as Rabbit) plenty to ponder upon in Bear’s philosophical musings about the manner in which they react to things: perspective is what it’s about essentially. Field’s visuals are equally sublime in the way they present both the humour and pathos in the relationship between the two main characters, and the situations they are involved in.

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A brilliant read for newly independent readers, but also a great read aloud: adults will enjoy it as much as listeners I suspect.

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The Koala Who Could

The Koala Who Could
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books
Some of us find it harder than others to step outside their comfort zone; one such is koala, Kevin. This enchanting, cuddlesome creature is totally change averse and has three things – relaxing in the sun, clinging on and napping, and munching on a leaf-bun down to a fine art. Technically I suppose that’s four but for the sake of the story let’s not quibble. Our Kev. is ‘King of the Staying-Still Kings’. Put another way, he just stays put high up in his tree.
Down below the other animals race about enjoying themselves and making a lot of noise – it all seems far too large and strange for him, and despite invitations from the likes of Wombat,

and encouragements from the dingoes and kangaroos, nothing can shift cling-on Kevin. Occasionally he might have ideas about joining in but it never happens; his life just stays the same day in, day out.
Then one day something happens that undermines his whole raison d’être. Can Kevin finally let go of his safe, or now decidedly unsafe, existence?

The answer lies in just two little words.
I loved Bright and Field’s previous offering The Lion Inside with its African landscapes. Now we have a tale set in Australia, land of the eucalyptus trees that Kevin is so firmly attached to. What delectable scenes Jim Field has created to accompany Rachel Bright’s catchy, fun to read aloud, rhyming narrative. Kevin is a real heart-stealer; he might do nothing much, but his changing expressions as captured by Field, are a whole comedy in themselves. There’s so much more to delight though –the animated antics of the other animals, and the delight on the faces of one and all on the final page – that pretty much sums up the whole thing …

What are you waiting for? Join the new Kevin and give it a go.

Oi Dog!

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Oi Dog!
Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
My delight on opening the parcel containing this was indescribable: could it possibly be as side-splittingly good as its predecessor Oi Frog! though? That was the burning question in my mind as I began reading and it certainly gets off to a good start – for the dog that is. He has a squishy, squashy PLURPPPPPPPPPPP-producing cushion beneath his rear end: the frog of course is far from happy. The cat is quick to remind them of the rules: “Cats sit on mats, frogs sit on logs, and dogs sit on FROGS!” Whereupon the frog announces a rule change (can you blame him?) “From now on dogs sit on logs not frogs!” he asserts and thus he starts off a hilarious concatenation beginning thus …

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of assigning sit-upons in response to dog’s seemingly endless questions, for in turn, bears (that’s stairs); slugs – errm: “Slugs will sit on plugs (not on mine they won’t!), … “Slugs will sit on plugs, flies will sit on pies, crickets will sit on tickets and moths will sit on cloths.” (watch out for eggs then!)

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Next come leopards – I’ll leave you to guess that one on the frog’s behalf and pass on to cheetahs – tuck in everyone – unless like me you’re a veggie …

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At this stage the dog somewhat condescendingly announces “You’re really getting the hang of this,” giving the frog fresh impetus to pronounce on pigs, gnus, boars (a terrific Jim Field boating scene); then whales – brilliant dialogue here: “Whales will sit on nails,” said the frog. “I’m not sure the whales will like that,” said the dog. “They don’t have to like it,” said the frog, “they just have to do it.”
The dog then enquires about dragons and off the frog goes again … (there’s a tasty bit of word play on the vehicle upon which they must sit).

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Clearly he’s on a roll as there follow pronouncements on mice, kittens and puppies. Whereupon the dog wants to know about crabs and here we go again, this time with a glorious musical seat being assigned to hornets which after more banter leads to,
and elephants will sit on smelly pants!” and the dog’s instant gasping rejoinder, “Elephants aren’t going to sit on smelly pants!” at which the frog merely smiles and states, ”They are now.”
That seems to bring the discourse to a halt momentarily; and then the cat comes in reciting the whole litany of seating arrangements only to be brought to a halt by the dog’s question …

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And the frog’s answer? That’s yours to work out (hint: it doesn’t rhyme with frog); or better still, get your own copy of this cracking book and discover what he says. Suffice it to say that frog really does have the last laugh (and the best seat!).
STU-PEN-DOUS! I think perhaps the Gray/Field team have, between them, managed to out-dog Oi Frog with Oi Dog! It’s absolutely un-missable and another splendiferous send up of the prevailing phonics obsession in infant classrooms; or looked at another way: a brilliant lesson in rhyme.

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Quick Quack Quentin/How Many Legs?

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Quick Quack Quentin
Kes Gr y and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
Did you spot the deliberate mistake in the author’s name? It – or rather a missing A – is really key to the whole sorry situation in this hilarious book from the Field/Gray dream team that all begins when a duck, a duck whose ‘Quack’ has become a mere ‘Qu ck!’, consults a doctor about the distressing condition. But although quick with his diagnosis “… your QUACK has lost it’s a.” said doctor is unable to prescribe anything. So off goes Quentin to the FARM to see if any of the animals can help. They try their best: DOG offers his O, HEN her E, PIG his I and BULL a U

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but none of these sound appropriately duck-like.
Quentin’s next stop is the ZOO – a couple of OOs perhaps? On second thoughts maybe not, but perhaps there might be an animal with a spare A therein.
All the animals are sympathetic but part with an A – not likely! The APES don’t want to be PES.
The SNAKES don’t want to be SNKES nor the CAMELS CMELS. The PARROTS have no intention of becoming PRROTS and those PANDAS don’t want to be PNDAS or even PANDS.

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Poor Quentin, seems he’s stuck with that QUCK or is he? What’s this strange looking creature saying he has a spare A …

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A quacking read aloud, a fun introduction to vowels and a brilliant way of showing children they need to be flexible in their approach to letters and sounds. In my book it doesn’t quite beat Oi Frog! but it comes pretty darn close: those animal expressions are something else.

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How Many Legs!
Kes Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
What begins as a simple question from the boy narrator of this picture book from the hugely talented Field and Gray “How many legs would there be if in this room there was only me?” gradually turns into a chaotic and riotous romp of a party as one after another animal crashes onto the scene at every turn of the page.

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Did I say another animal? Make that more than one on occasion …

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And just when you think it can’t get more crazy, this happens …

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With the addition of a slug, a snail, a maggot and a centipede just to name a few of the gate-crashers keeping up a leg count is pretty tricky.

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In fact I wouldn’t recommend trying it on a first reading – just enjoy the fun and leave computation till afterwards; and anyway the host reveals the answer to the leg question as he deals with the after- party chaos on the final page.
With wonderfully wacky guests splendidly attired, and scenes full of delightfully exuberant eccentricities, this book now out in paperback, is a cracker.

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Terrific Twosomes

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I Love You Already
Jory John and Benji Davies
Harper Collins Children’s Books
The Goodnight Already duo(s) are back with another rip-roaring winner.
We start with Duck seemingly planning a morning stroll with his best pal and Bear extolling the virtues of lazy weekends at home …

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Before long though Bear’s peace is shattered by a knock at his door and this little buddy isn’t taking no for an answer.
Maybe that walk isn’t quite such a good idea after all though …

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and it seems Bear likes “quiet time by himself’ as much or maybe even more than he likes his chatty neighbour, and is determined to have some quality time to himself no matter what, or where.
Not very much however, for very soon he hears …

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And sees …

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Guess who is starting to feel a little bit of remorse now and then even more when he hears “You don’t even like me, do you, Bear? ” to which he responds, “Nonsense. You’re basically my family. I love you already, Duck.”
Maybe not the best thing you could have said, Bear because …

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That irrepressible, fun loving Duck is the perfect complement to his ursine neighbour who loves nothing better than a quiet day to himself with plenty of books and the odd cuppa.
Super stuff.

On the subject of perfect partnerships, bears, and a rabbit this time, an unmissable book for newly independent and emerging readers is:

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Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits
Julian Gough & Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
I absolutely adored Jim Field’s wonderful Oi Frog! so I couldn’t wait to read this and wow! did I love it. I’ve always thought Frog and Toad were the unbeatable pairing when it comes to perfectly balanced contrasting characters but now along come the all-knowing Rabbit and laid-back Bear; and if this first book is anything to go by, they are about to give those amphibian guys a run for their money.
This side-splitting woodland romp is the setting for a tale of snowballs, snowman building,

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almost-avalanches, cracking ice, a breath-taking escape, a bit of stealing, poo eating – did I just say poo eating? (apparently, in this instance it’s called coprophagia) – not to mention the odd soggy carrot, oh! and there’s this other character I almost forgot to mention too.

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And of course, there’s friendship – who could ask for anything more? Well, other than – next instalment very soon please Mr G and Mr F.
Such a brilliantly seamless amalgam of words and pictures. Roll on The Pest in the Nest say I.

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The Lion Inside

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Emmanuelle relishing the encounters         between Mouse and Lion

The Lion Inside
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books
A wide, dusty savannah. One rock, two occupiers: beneath ‘in a tinyful house,  

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Lived the littlest, quietest, meekest brown mouse.’: atop, an enormous, toothsome creature with a roar to beat all roars, Lion.

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So very wee is the mouse that his life is one of frequent squashings and being overlooked.

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Lion meanwhile lives a life of constant adulation.

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How that tiny brown creature wishes he could be more like King Cat. Perhaps a roar would win him some friends. But who can be his roaring teacher?
Fearing for his life, the mouse summons up all his courage and ventures forth into the night to scale the heights towards the slumbering lion,

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until …

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But what is forthcoming in response to mouse’s request to be taught how to roar isn’t quite what he’d expected …
Mouse’s bravery and subsequent discovery is a game changer for both parties: mouse discovers his true voice, and lion? He still roars but it’s with laughter now. And they both know, as the finale to this super-dooper story says, ‘no matter your size. We all have a mouse AND a lion inside.’
With its vital message about ‘being the change’ and a tuneful text that reads aloud like a dream, this book is truly, all heart. Jim Field uses close-ups and a variety of viewpoints and perspectives to dramatic effect making both wide-eyed, wide-eared mouse and bristle-maned lion with his cavernous jaws appear larger than life and truly awesome.
Two great new partnerships: mouse and lion, and Rachel Bright and Jim Field.

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Unexpected Arrivals

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George and the Dinosaur
Felix Hayes and Sue Heap
Brubaker, Ford and Friends (Templar)
When George’s passion for excavation results in his unearthing a dinosaur egg, little does he know that its contents – a perfect creature no less – will have such a voracious appetite. Insatiable in fact, for not only does it consume the furniture, TV, fridge and everything inside, down goes a garden tree, the paddling pool, even the tiny mouse in George’s care belonging to Class 2. From then on things go from bad to worse: the dino. swallows both George’s parents, two sweet old ladies, cars and larger vehicles – quite literally everything. Finally only George remains; so what does the dinosaur do? Well, it opens those terrible jaws and SNAP!
Of course we all know what happens when a digestive system gets over-loaded; it makes lots of gas and …

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Moving in and out of rhyme, the text reads aloud beautifully as one would expect – it’s written by Gruffalo actor Felix Hayes and he should know.
But, when he cleans his treasure he finds …
the gems are stones, dirt and dust.
The sword is a spoon all covered in rust.
The leg is a root, cracked and dried.
But the egg’s still an egg
With something inside.
George puts the egg in the cupboard under the stairs.

Sue Heap’s mixed media illustrations are full of amusing details and show much more than is said in the words:
Young audiences will particularly enjoy spotting the whereabouts of the items burped out by the dinosaur on the final spread; and Hayes’ final sentence leaves space for children’s own flights of fancy.
Buy from Amazon

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What Makes a Hippopotamus Smile!
Sean Taylor and Laurent Cardon
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
It’s not every day that a hippo comes to visit but when one does – or should that be, if, then take the advice of the small girl narrator of this funny picture book. Open wide the door,

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play a splashy-sploshy game, then give him a warm bath with silly toys thrown in to make him laugh, after which you should share a very large crunchy salad, freshly harvested, naturally. Oh, and make sure when it’s time to bid your new best friend farewell that you do so in style – a little dance might be appropriate. That’s if you want him to come again, of course. Err …

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It’s all in the interplay of Sean Taylor’s playful words (which sometimes rhyme) and the comical scenes created by Laurent Cardon using mixed ink techniques and digital art. Herein, it’s the antics of the bit players, largely froggy,

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as much as the hippo’s (mis)behaviour that make the scenes so amusing. Then, there’s that almost throwaway last line and don’t forget to take a look at the endpapers with those telltale footprints too.
Buy from Amazon

 

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Gracie is amused at the animals’ antics

There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes
Michelle Robinson and Jim Field
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk.
Just like many children, Eric, the narrator of this story and his brother Dan have been saving cereal box coupons for a free gift; here ‘it’s a ‘Free Lion’ on offer. They’d bought so many boxes of cornflakes it took a year’s pocket money to pay for them and forever to cut out the hundred coupons needed. With said coupons duly sent off, the children wait, anticipating the fun they’ll have with the lion.

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A week later nothing has arrived although numerous others have their lions – real ones. Monday comes again and with it a delivery truck. Out steps – wait for it – a huge grizzly bear, the only trouble being it’s sent next door in error; well not quite the only trouble: Mr Harper’s back yard is trashed too.

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Complaints are made and the animal replaced but, not with a lion (they’d run out of those) but a crocodile. More complaints … another replacement animal  …

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a face to face encounter with the cereal people … compensation of the packet kind … furious children’s faces … some serious thinking …

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Mmm yes, the alternatives do have their advantages and after all, lions are just so common nowadays.
Well what about the next offer then? Err
This totally crazy tale, which brings together for the first time the talents of Michelle Robinson and Jim Field, is a joy to read aloud. The former has caught the conversational style of a young boy narrator beautifully. The latter’s wildly energetic illustrations are crammed full of delicious details to pore and giggle over.
Definitely destined to become a story time favourite.
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Upside Down Babies
Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press pbk
There is a wonderful, surprise twist at the end of this funny rhyming tale of a world turned upside down when ‘the earth went blue and the sky went brown.’ On this fateful topsy-turvy day, all the baby animals find themselves with the wrong mums. What is Mummy Cow to do when confronted with a Lion Cub demanding meat in the middle of a field?

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And baby Rooster’s dawn greeting of “Cock-a doodle-dee!” definitely does not go down well with a sleepy Mummy Owl trying to get some shut eye in her tree.

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With its bold, bright, wonderfully expressive pictures of the consternation all round and a text that trips off the tongue, ‘Baby Bunny bounced into Squirrel’s drey./He clung to a branch with his claws all day.’ this is one to share with the under sixes and will assuredly prompt many an encore to the huge enjoyment of readers and listeners alike.
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Oi Frog!

 

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Dolci, not the gophers on the sofa, amused at the various places the animals sit.

Oi Frog!
Kes Gray and Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books
When Frog complains to Cat about being asked to “Sit on a log!” (they’re nobbly, uncomfortable and give you splinters in your bottom.) he instigates a whole lesson on sitting correctness. Mules sit on stools, gophers on sofas, parrots on carrots … “It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about doing the right thing.” bossy Cat informs him emphatically from the comfort of his mat and so it goes on with the stroppy feline determined to keep Frog firmly in his place “… gibbons sit on ribbons, lambs sit on jams,

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bees sit on keys and pumas sit on satsumas.” What a mine of vital information Frog has gleaned during this dialogue; but there’s one obvious animal that’s been omitted from the rhyming litany, …

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Guess what he asked that dictatorial Cat next.
As someone who is in despair at what is currently going on in many infant departments in the name of teaching reading, I absolutely loved Kes Gray’s hilarious rhyming tale, which is such a brilliant (unintended?) send up of the whole phonics obsession.
Joy of joys; (I wanted to leap off my bum and grab the nearest mum and yell take a look at this brilliant book). Good old Frog determined to make his voice heard and not be made to stick to someone else’s rules; well yes, it sort of back-fired on this occasion but I bet he’s up and questioning again pretty soon; he’s definitely not one to be kept down.
It’s nigh on impossible to choose a favourite image from among Jim Field’s terrific teeterings, but among my most loved are bees on keys and pumas on satsumas, so brilliantly juxtaposed,

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and lions on irons – ouch!
Glorious.
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Witches, whales, washing and wandering

Rich Witch Poor Witch
Peter Bently and Jim Field
Macmillan pbk.
Meet twin witches, poor Rose who provides her services free to the ordinary folks and rich Rita whose wealthy clients include royalty. Indeed it is the King himself who calls asking for help to cheer up the young Princess Anna Lucinda Cecelia Grace who just will not smile. However, no amount of wand wielding and magical trickery makes one iota of difference to the gloomy miss. Before long the whole palace is in utter chaos with drapes aflame and tables trashed but what of the princess? It’s left to butler Mort, to announce not only the arrival of Witch Rose but also the whereabouts of the missing Anna Lucinda. Both are outside playing chase and yes! the Princess has an enormous smile on her face. Magic or what? Definitely not explains Rose; all that the princess needed was someone to play with.
This rhyming tale fizzes and sparkles with energy and the appropriately gaudy illustrations abound with visual jokes.
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The Storm Whale
Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Noi lives a rather lonely life in a beach-side house with his fisherman father and their six cats. One morning after a stormy night, he goes down onto the seashore and as he walks he comes upon a small whale left high and dry by the storm. Noi manages to get the whale home and into the bath where he tells it stories about his island life. Concerned about his dad’s reaction to the newcomer, Noi keeps quiet all evening but finally his secret is discovered. Then he has to face the fact that his new friend belongs in the sea and together father and son return the whale to its rightful home.
A gentle tale of loving and caring enough to let go. I love the fact that Noi is shown playing records of Sounds of the Sea and Handel’s Water Music to the whale in the bath. Understated as it is, this warm-hearted book packs a powerful punch.
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How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
Michelle Robinson & Kate Hindley
Simon and Schuster pbk.
Presented as an instruction manual, a small girl narrator provides a step-by-step guide to performing a very tricky and likely to be, protracted, operation – Woolly Mammoth washing or rather, bathing. Should your mammoth need this treatment, make sure you don your mackintosh and wellies and have to hand: a broom, spooky mask, skateboard, heavy-duty crane, cake, and of course, shampoo. Just make sure the latter doesn’t go in its eyes though. Oh, oh! … for STEP EIGHT: To get said ‘wet woolly mammoth down from a tree you’ll need … a very STRONG trampoline.’ To discover the remaining steps, you’ll just have to get hold of a copy of this delightful book. Beautifully understated, simply told in dead- pan style, the text leaves Kate Hindley plenty of scope to exercise her sense of the ridiculous in both her full-page scenes and smaller comic cut capers.
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Pi-Rat!
Maxine Lee
Caterpillar Books pbk.
Meet the fearless Pi-Rat and his mates as they sail the high seas. Seemingly nothing daunts them be it crocodiles, sharks or the darkness but when the brave pirate captain sights a hairy paw through his telescope it seems the hearty crew are about to meet their doom.
The visual clue to the setting of this adventure is the name of Pi-Rat’s craft on the back cover and the first spread. This bath-time tale of the imagination is told almost entirely through speech bubbles and bold visuals that zoom right in on the action. There is plenty to laugh at in the larger than life illustrations inspired by the treasure trove of bath-time and everyday toys; I love the space- hopping and pogo-sticking crew members as they leap and bounce across the crocodile-infested waters. I envisage this one being asked for over and over again.
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Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo
Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie
Red Fox pbk.
When the boy narrator receives a letter announcing he’s won a prize, off he cycles to run a zoo for the day. And what a strange, chaotic place this turns out to be. Its inmates include the growling Grimblegraw, the dangling Dinglebee, the Morph, Quees, Furry Furbles and horror of horrors, the child gobbling Squirgal, to mention just some of the crazy creatures he encounters. But in our small, prize-winning hero, those recalcitrant rioters more than meet their match.
Crying out for audience participation, this story certainly went down well with several groups of under fives who loved the tongue tingling rhyming text and crazy mock scary monsters.
It’s a good one to stimulate young children’s artistic and verbal creativity: have huge sheets of paper, paints and large pens at the ready.
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Dog Loves Counting
Louise Yates
Red Fox pbk.
Louise Yates’ endearing bibliophile Dog returns for a third adventure. Now he’s looking for alternatives to sheep to count, so that he can get to sleep. And the vehicle for his search is of course, a book.; a Big Book of Curious Creatures wherein he discovers all manner of fascinating things to innumerate, beginning with one baby dodo that emerges from a large egg. The two of them continue through the book encountering in turn, a three-toed sloth, … a five-lined skink… to a ten-legged (pincers included) crab and so on to an infinitely grained sandy desert whereupon the the all-important number one is counting stars. And we leave the whole cast star gazing and still counting, until … it’s morning again, the start of another day filled with books, friends and, let’s hope, many more adventures.
This flight of fancy is another winner from the inspirational Lucy Yates. It’s wonderfully imagined, cleverly constructed and brilliantly portrayed through both words and pictures. Moreover, it is likely to make young listeners enjoy counting just as much as the chief protagonist who has already encouraged countless children to become like him, lovers of ‘Books’ and ‘Drawing’.
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The Acorn
Edward Gibbs
Templar Publishing (BF&F) pbk.
This wonderfully simple book has lessons a-plenty between its covers – reading lessons and science lessons but more important than those, the whole thing is a real pleasure to share with the very young.
A little yellow acorn falls from a tree, a little acorn with a large purpose. But there is a problem – also large –all manner of hungry forest animals think that an acorn would make a tasty tidbit. Such are the acorn’s powers of persuasion ‘Oh, please don’t eat me now, … I’ll be even tastier later.’ that it manages to escape the jaws of white mouse, orange squirrel, blue bird, grey rabbit, brown boar and red deer. Then the acorn begins to grow, time passes and true to its words, it becomes a huge shelter-giving tree with acorns aplenty. And, in familiar folk-tale, patterned text style, the whole thing begins over again…
Each spread is cleverly linked to the previous one so that every turn of the page serves to move the visual narrative seamlessly forwards. Gibbs’ delightfully scribbly animal images on the forest floor are a treat in themselves, and, there is a further fold-out surprise at the end.
Perfectly predictable, endlessly re-readable.
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