Millie’s Missing Yawn

Millie’s Missing Yawn
You Jung Byun
Pavilion Children’s Books

We’ve probably all, in the UK at least, had trouble sleeping these past few weeks on account of the heat, so perhaps it’s one of those kind of sultry nights for young Millie. Sleep eludes her despite carrying out her usual warm bath, putting on of favourite pjs, sharing of her favourite book and the bestowal of a goodnight kiss on teddy Milo. What’s missing is her yawn, she tells her ted, and the two spring out of bed to start a search for it.

Dozy dog Barley certainly hasn’t seen it, neither have equally sleepy moggy Cucumber and pigeon Douglas.
Millie decides to look further afield, calling on Lady Liberty, the Moai Heads

and Mona Lisa. Even from the penguins her query receives a sleepy ‘’Oh no, sorry”; they’ve spent all day skiing, sledging and snowball making.

Hippo is eager to show off his own gaping yawn but hasn’t seen so much as a glimpse of Millie’s. Ditto the Great Sphinx.
If that world trip with all its yawners hasn’t got your listeners doing enormously wide AAAAAAHHHHs then nothing will. But what is Millie to do? Seemingly there is only one thing;

but her lunar voyage too proves yawnless, at least for her, although the bunnies certainly appear ready for some shut eye.

Feeling defeated, Millie decides to return home and as she lies back tucked up safely in her bed once more, contemplating the night sky and those she’s met, no doubt your audience will be able to predict what happens next …

This superbly soporific story is full of yaaaaawing characters all beautifully portrayed by the author You Jung Byun whose illustrations are full of lovely patterns and textures. Aaaahhhhh, I feel another yawn starting to engulf me …

Ocean Meets Sky

Ocean Meets Sky
Eric & Terry Fan
Lincoln Children’s Books

Everything about this, the second Fan Brothers picture book, is absolutely superb: the jacket, the cover, the endpapers, the paper used and of course, the story and illustrations.

It’s a magical tale of young Finn who, inspired by memories of his grandfather’s sayings, his voice, and his stories – stories of a far distant place where ocean and sky meet – on what would have been his ninetieth birthday, builds a boat in his honour.

Then, imagination fuelled by those stories, the boy sets off on an amazing dream of a voyage. A voyage aided by a huge golden fish that tells him it knows of the place he seeks: “It’s high and low … It’s up and down and very far.” and offers to show the way.

The journey takes Finn through such wondrous places as the Library Islands populated by bibliophile birds; (love that there’s a copy of The Night Gardener tucked in one of the piles of books)

then, after landing to explore an island of giant shells, they travel onwards crossing a sea of dancing jellyfish until eventually they reach their destination, perhaps,

whereupon the boat lifts towards the sky (or had the water fallen away?) and the boy drifts through starry, steampunkish spreads whereon hot air balloons, zeppelins, submarines, a giant whale, float following the fish towards the full moon. There, a transformation takes place.
Smiling back at him benevolently, illuminating his farewell, is a face Finn knows so well.

Then comes a voice summoning him home from his dreaming. It’s his mother calling him (with echoes of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are) for dinner– Grandpa’s favourite dumplings.

The Finn Brothers vision of eternity is, in this affecting story, one that offers a bereft boy some healing from his sadness, leaving him able to face forwards, full of wonder. ‘It had been a good day for sailing.’

Elegant scenes grace every spread providing much to explore: observant readers/listeners will notice that an early picture of Grandpa’s room is filled with treasured objects that become part of the dream sequence.

The Long Island

The Long Island
Drew Beckmeyer
Chronicle Books

This is an enigmatic debut picture book – a modern fable essentially – that will I suspect, have as many interpretations as there are readers.

We follow a group of five friends as they contemplate and then endeavour to visit the other side of the island they live on.

They set out in a canoe only to discover the far side is ‘too rocky to land on’; one of the crew is lost overboard. Four encounter vegetation ‘too dense to cut through’ where big cats stalk and the explorers’ number is reduced to three.

The trio construct a slide down which they eventually slither in so doing losing another one of their number

leaving the remaining two to discover they are unable to get back from whence they came.

The elaborate edifice they co-construct eventually attracts outsiders who start destroying the beauty of the place

and as the book concludes we see just a single one of the original five setting out alone …

This is a long book with a kind of circularity, richly illustrated in textured crayon, which raises many questions, leaving readers to ponder and to try and draw their own conclusions. It would be an interesting one for community of enquiry discussions, be that with primary or secondary age children, or with students in college.

Friends for a Day

Friends for a Day
Neal Layton
Hodder Children’s Books

Oh, oh, this is achingly adorable, a real treasure of a book that is both poignant and joyful by the absolute master of sublime, scribbly artwork, Neal Layton who is a self confessed lover of bears. As I started to read it I thought hey, this is a bit familiar and then realised it is actually a reincarnation of Bartholomew and the Bug published almost fifteen years ago. Nevertheless, those children I shared it with back then are all grown up now and it’s exciting to think it’s once again available to a whole new generation of listeners.

Bartholomew is a laid back bear who lives an undemanding existence atop a mountain although occasionally contemplating the world down in the valley with its twinkling lights: maybe one day, he thinks to himself.

However that day comes a lot sooner than he’d anticipated: enter Bug. This tiny creature is in urgent need of Bartholomew’s assistance. Whatever the reason for the hurry, it’s pretty clear that Bug cannot go it alone and so the bear and bug set off together for the bright lights.

What a truly epic adventure this turns out to be (117 miles of travelling)

and all the while Bartholomew’s tiny pal seems to grow ever more eager to reach their destination.

The two finally arrive at the big city in record-breaking time and it truly is a surprising sight but where are all those lights?

Before long Bartholomew discovers just what all the hurry was for as thousand upon thousand of wonderful bugs of all shapes and sizes wing their way into the neon lights that come on only when darkness falls.

An awesome time is had by all but then comes the moment –it’s full of poignancy – when Bartholomew realises that his job is done and it’s time to bid farewell to his tiny pal.

Yes, some days are never forgotten and some books likewise. This is one of those, and like all special stories, it leaves plenty of gaps for child audiences to fill.

A Different Dog

A Different Dog
Paul Jennings
Old Barn Books

When I taught children in KS2, Paul Jennings was one of our favourite authors. His short stories from Unreal, Uncanny, Unbelievable etc. and with younger audiences,The Cabbage Patch Fib, were always much requested both as class read alouds and for individual consumption.. I’ve not kept up with his output of late but was instantly drawn into this one and read it in a single sitting.
It’s a novella, quite unlike any Jennings’ I’ve read before and for such a short book, it spans a great many themes including poverty, loss, cruelty, bullying, trauma and its effects, determination and resilience.

The boy narrator is something of a loner; he doesn’t speak and is tormented by other children. The story opens with him dressing himself in his mother’s pink parka, adding a black bin bag on top and setting out to take part in a charity fun run, determined to win for his mother’s sake especially.

En route to the venue in treacherous weather, the boy sees a road accident and although he is unable to save the driver of the van, he is determined to see the dog to safety.

His subsequent journey, both physical and mental is gruelling yet ultimately uplifting.

Compelling and tersely written – every word counts –this is a book to hold you in its thrall even after you’ve put it aside. Geoff Kelly’s black and white illustrations are atmospheric and powerful.

This is a book that deserves to be shared and discussed widely in school, at home, by teachers and other educators, those who work as speech-language pathologists, (I was interested to learn that the author has worked in this field) and in particular, it offers rich potential for a ‘Community of Enquiry’ type discussion.

I’ve signed the charter  

Chalk Eagle

Chalk Eagle
Nazli Tahvili
Tiny Owl

The power of the imagination is crucial for so many reasons. I’ve spoken and written about its importance in education in many places and on numerous occasions, including from time to time, on this blog. Sadly however, the education policy writers in our government seem not to place much value upon it.

However, one never gives up on something so vital and it is wonderful to have Tiny Owl’s on-going championing of wordless books as one means of promoting the education of the imagination. Equally it was exciting to hear on a recent The Life Scientific programme, a woman mathematician, Eugenia Cheng, speaking about the importance of the imagination in maths.

This wordless picture book by Iranian artist Nazli Tahvili is the perfect vehicle to get the imagination soaring and for me the eagle in flight is a wonderful symbol of creativity unleashed.
A rooftop vantage point is just the place to broaden one’s horizons and make free with chalk on tiles, which is what the young protagonist does herein having watched an eagle flying overhead.

Boy and eagle join forces

and soar over town and country, sea and mountain in his imagination and in Nazli Tahvili’s screen-print illustrations.

The colours she has used are, so we’re told, influenced by the blue skies, and green rice fields that surround her northern Iranian home.

A book to open up and let your mind go free with child and eagle: in particular, I’d like to give it to a group of teachers or teachers in training and see where their discussions/imaginations fly.

Firefly Home

Firefly Home
Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow

The second interactive picture book from the Clarke and Teckentrup duo features another creature from the natural world, a little firefly called Florence, and she’s got lost.

It’s up to readers to help her find the way back home. There’s a problem though: there are so many flashing lights in the night sky that Florence follows lots of false leads.

Young listeners, more worldly wise than the little firefly will revel in anticipating the bright moon, the lighthouse beam,

the moving train and the brightly illuminated buildings in the city before the respective pages are turned, as well as responding to the verbal instructions given to help Florence on her long flight in search of her firefly friends.

The yellow used in Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations glows so intensely that I found myself wanting to check to see it there was a hidden battery somewhere.

A potential story-time favourite for early years listeners for sure. And shared one to one, it’s totally absorbing: each of my listeners has followed Jane Clarke’s instructions with gusto and been thrilled to be instrumental in Florence finally finding her way back to her friends.

Now in paperback is their Neon Leon, which I absolutely loved and used frequently last year always with enthusiastic responses.

Gary

Gary
Leila Rudge
Walker Books

Gary is a racing pigeon. He eats, sleeps and dreams of adventure just like the others that share his loft; but, on race days, because he cannot fly, he’s left behind organising his scrapbook of travel mementos collected by his fellow pigeons. He listens avidly to the adventures of his friends as they talk of flight paths and wind directions on their return, noting down what they say in that precious scrapbook.
One night Gary and scrapbook accidentally fall from the loft into a travel basket and are taken, along with the others, to the city the next day.
He watches as the other pigeons take flight and race off into the sky, homeward bound,

leaving him all alone wondering if he’ll be forever lost in the city.
Unable to fly, he might be, but Gary does have a fully functioning brain and his scrapbook. It’s to these that he turns in his hour of need; and little by little with the aid of the book’s contents, he plots his way home, arriving with lots of exciting new mementos for the scrapbook

and a wonderful adventure story with which to regale his flighted friends.
Like Gary, Leila Rudge brings her text full circle, albeit with a slight twist, subtly showing how his differences are also sometimes, a gift. Good on you Gary for doing something amazing and doing it your way.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a wonderful story to share and talk about, and an inspiration for anyone who needs a little boost when it comes to self-belief.

The Real Boat

The Real Boat
Marina Aromshtam and Victoria Antolini
Templar Publishing

The little paper boat has ambitions – big ones. As he floats on the pond, he hears a duck talking of ‘real boats sailing on the ocean’ and decides that just like the other ‘real boats’, the ocean is the place to be. Prove himself he must by leaving the safety of his home surroundings and heading off into waters unknown.
Getting to his destination though, that is going to be tough. Many of the river boats whose help he seeks – the rowboat,

the motorboat, the riverboat and the barge – are singularly unhelpful.
The tugboat however is encouraging and assists him down to the harbour.
There the paper boat is mesmerised by the tall cranes,

the cars coming off the ferry and the lights of a huge passenger liner.
Further help and encouragement though, come from a fishing trawler in whose wake the tiny paper traveller follows as they venture further and further out on the ocean waves.
Then a fierce storm breaks battering the little paper boat and separating him from the friendly trawler. Is all lost for the intrepid journeyer?

Not quite: in fact all ends in a totally unexpected and highly satisfactory manner for the tenacious little adventurer.
From its brilliant cover you know you’re in for a real visual treat with this one: it’s wonderfully tactile and intricately detailed. Then there’s the number of pages: it’s twice as long as the usual picture book length, one of several I’ve seen of late; just the thing to snuggle up with and relish along with a hot chocolate on these long wintry evenings.
Lyrically told and with illustrations that are arresting and demand exploration for their artistry and technique, this modern fable is a thoroughly rewarding read.

The Prince and the Pee

The Prince and the Pee
Greg Gormley and Chris Mould
Nosy Crow

Deeds of derring-do really cannot be done if you’re crossing your legs.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve just gotta go – right? Not so in this hilarious tale of holding on against the odds.
Prince Freddie is summoned from his holiday by his trusty steed, Sir Rushington. Crumbly Castle is under attack from a dragon and there’s no time to lose.
Off they go and before long, Freddie gets that tingly “I need to pee” feeling which is made decidedly worse by the rhythmic ‘Up and down’ motion of the horse’s gait. Distractions fail to distract from the constant urge and suddenly, down comes the rain

and inevitably its plinkety plink serves to exacerbate the need.
Several stops later, all abortive on account of an ogre, then a princess in a tower and finally a long queue at the loo …

they reach their destination with the prince now absolutely desperate.
There before him stands a very large, very fearsome dragon; but there’s no stopping the young prince who charges forward completely surprising the dragon, over the drawbridge, through the castle gates to find the privy.

His long-delayed micturition not only brings relief to the prince, but saves the day by extinguishing an unexpected conflagration.
Gormley’s deliciously suspenseful telling is guaranteed to have audiences in fits of laughter and Chris Mould’s illustrations are utterly brilliant. He captures to perfection the diminutive prince’s journey and his ever-increasing discomfiture.
There’s the sight and sound of water, the up and down motion in the saddle while riding Sir Rushington and the false hopes of some relief every time he thinks he’s found a likely spot to go; all ratchet up the pressure on the poor prince’s bladder.
Priceless!

I’ve signed the charter  

Me and My Dad

Me and My Dad
Robin Shaw
Hodder Children’s Books
It’s small wonder that the little girl narrator of this wonderful book has such a powerful imagination: it’s due in no small measure to the fact that, ‘the best bit’s at the end’ Not the end of the book although that is also true; the end referred to in the story is at the end of the road, the end of their journey; the place where a father and daughter are heading when they set out together. That though is getting ahead of the story.
To reach their destination, they walk through an alleyway with a puddle that might well have crocodiles in; then continue beneath the brick viaduct carrying the railway line with its rumbling, roaring trains; past the castle-like house wherein dwells a sleeping princess just waiting for her prince to come.

Mrs Pot’s plant shop causes the walkers to halt briefly for a sneaky peep inside …

and then come the pet shop and the ironmongers with its old metal bins on sale – perfect for blasting off into space … In fact every single place father and daughter pass sends the little girl off on another flight of fancy until at last, the end IS in sight – Buntings Bookshop and Café awaits. Hurray! Now it’s time for a delicious hot chocolate and a snuggle-up read together: what better way to end a walk.

With it’s irresistible join in phrase this is an utterly enchanting read and one of the very best father and child books I’ve seen in a long time. Animator, Robin Shaw’s detailed scenes have a soft luminescence about them, which is perfect for the fusion of the real and the imagined he conjures up.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Home for Gully / Through the Gate

A Home for Gully
Jo Clegg and Lalalimola
Oxford University Press
Gully is a long-suffering resident of the park; long-suffering because every morning his makeshift home is swept away by the keeper. This should no longer be tolerated, decides the scruffy dog that happens along one morning, introduces himself as Fetch and claims to be returning Gully’s stick. Fetch calls a meeting of his 412 resident fleas and thereupon they decide to assist the seagull in a search for a more satisfactory place of residence: one “that doesn’t get swept away, where my feet are warm and dry, and my tummy is full” is the bird’s desire.
They leave the relative peace and quiet of the park …

and head into the city where, after being shown the door of a smart hotel, they come upon the seemingly stuck-up Madison who offers her assistance as city guide. The three circumambulate the whole city before ending up at the library for some R and R. Make that R, R and R for therein they meet rat, Zachary.

On learning it’s a home rather than a book they’re seeking, Zachary leads them out and eventually, to a likely spot. Then with Gully safely installed, the other three head off into the darkness leaving their pal to his new warm, dry abode.
Next morning however, all is not quite hunky-dory with Gully. What good is a home if he doesn’t have others to share it with thinks our feathered friend …

There is a wonderful vintage look to Jo Clegg’s warm-hearted, funny story, thanks to Lalalimola’s delectably droll illustrations. These she packs with diverting visual (and verbal) asides that cause the reader to pause for a while and spend time exploring every spread. This is an artist I shall watch with interest, as I will the author.

Through the Gate
Sally Fawcett
EK
A little girl narrator, unhappy about a move to a new house, shares her step-by- step transformation from feelings of sadness and loss, to those of joy and satisfaction. The process is recounted as she travels with initially, downcast eyes, in a plodding manner to and from her new school; then after a week, the plod gives way to a mooch and the sighting of wild flowers growing through cracks in the pavement. Another week passes and she changes to an eyes-forward wander and hence, more awareness of the positives the environment offers …

The following week our narrator is ready to look all around her as she walks and thus, one becomes two walkers to school; and thereafter, things are altogether different.
Concurrent with the little girl’s changing feelings as new opportunities manifest, we see the new house gradually becoming a wonderful new home; but those aren’t the only changes: a lone bird on a bare tree builds a nest, finds a mate, eggs are laid, and life begins anew as three fledglings appear, just in time for blossom to burst forth on the tree.

Look closely at the spreads and you’ll notice a cat that plays a bit part in the whole transformation; delicate details of plants which, like the rest of the girl’s surroundings, change from shades of grey to full colour.
Sally Fawcett orchestrates this lovely story of change, hope and resilience superbly using a patterned text in tandem with subtly changing scenes of the girl’s actual and metaphorical journey.

I’ve signed the charter  

Our Kid

Our Kid
Tony Ross
Andersen Press
What an intolerant teacher ‘Our Kid’ has, responding to his lateness by sending him to the ‘Naughty Corner.’ (I have strong feelings about naughty corners/steps but won’t pursue the topic here). The Kid has an enormously fertile imagination and so, following his dad’s “Go straightly to school, Our Kid. Don’t be late again.” he tells how he took the shortcut along the beach, which led to hoof dunkling,

an encounter with a dinosaur pirate-chasing submarine driven by fish …

which resulted in the loss of his homework-containing schoolbag and trousers; followed by a rendezvous with an enormously helpful elephant who eventually dropped him at the school before he ‘kerlumped’ off: hence the kid’s tardy arrival.
However, just as the errant pupil has finished his tale and been admonished for his making up of “total and utter nonsense” the classroom tenor takes a sudden unexpected turn. The school, after a considerable degree of turbulence, is invaded by three creatures asking for “Our Kid” and proffering some objects …

To relate what ensues thereafter would spoil this fantastic story so let’s just say, the teacher has something of a change of heart, which leaves our protagonist bounding home joyfully after a thoroughly uneventful day at school. Did I say at the start Our Kid has an enormously fertile imagination? Actually, I may have been just a teensy bit wrong on that score.
This cracking tale put me in mind somewhat, of Cali and Chaud’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School but its manner of telling is completely different. Ross’s off-beat use of language is both inspired and playful: I absolutely loved ‘shoffled’ ‘bumpeeded’ ‘felumpingly’, ‘boomdered’ and ‘glumbtious’ to mention just some of the wonderful words he sprinkles throughout the kid’s saga. Equally brilliant are each and every one of his watercolours. The expression of utter joie-de-vivre the narrator shows as he dunkles his hooves in the seawater; the way he clambers up the elephant’s trunk to reach the howdah on its back;

and the nonchalance of the teacher as he hands back Our Kid’s unread homework are beyond brilliant; which in fact, applies to the whole book.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Covers of My Book Are Too Far Apart / Harvey the Hero

The Covers of My Book Are Too Far Apart
Vivian French and Nigel Baines
Picture Squirrels
Huh! Reading’s rubbish!” So says the angry-looking boy on the first page of this lively, enormously engaging, cartoon-style book. It tackles the ‘reluctant reader’ issues precisely and wittily; and the anti-reading comments will most likely be familiar to those of us who are teachers, as well as a fair number of parents.
Each ‘grumble’ is allocated a spread with a host of pro-reading people countering the moan with their own positive idea. Thus, the ”I don’t have time to read. I’m too busy!” guy is offered: on the bus, just before sleep, in the bath, instead of tidying a room, as an accompaniment to doing something boring such as shopping, and while the dinner’s cooking as possibilities.
The most important thing that Vivian French and Nigel Baines do is to make this a truly inclusive book with an extremely wide range of characters being featured: there are those who want to read but don’t find it at all easy …

but possibly my favourite spread starts with the opener “Pictures are for little kids” …

It’s great too that reading is interpreted broadly to include comics (love the superhero advocate who puts in an appearance at every possible opportunity); audio books, eBooks, picture books (at any age or stage) but most important of all is – and it’s the reason that every primary classroom should have at least one copy of this –

‘Reading isn’t a competition! It’s FUN!’

that and another fact many teachers tend to forget – that reading, at any stage, is a highly personal process: one size DOES NOT fit all. Inspired and inspiring both.

Harvey the Hero
Hrefna Bragadottir
Nosy Crow
Would-be superhero, Harvey is thrilled to be attending a book signing of Superhero Steve. But after the event, Steve drives off leaving his cape behind: Harvey resolves to follow him to the Big City and return the cape.
The Big City though is a bustling place and Harvey needs help – a map perhaps …
Seemingly he’s inadvertently helped in the apprehending of a thief …

In fact, during his search for Steve’s house, Harvey is responsible, unwittingly, for extinguishing a fire; and rescuing a little bunny.

Then, having returned the cape to his hero, Harvey returns home and gets the surprise of his life: could his dream of superherodom really be coming true?
Young superheroes and would-be superheroes of the human variety will delight in this tale of misadventure and applaud Harvey’s final rise to hero fame. Like Baxter’s Book, Hrefna Bragadottir populates her second story with a host of whimsical animal characters whose activities make both children and adults chuckle.

I’ve signed the charter  

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 

Tiger Tiger

%0a

Tiger Tiger
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
I randomly opened my copy of Jonny Lambert’s latest offering at this spread …

%0a

and instantly knew I was in picture book paradise. That strutting Tiger looking so disdainful while an excited Cub is endeavouring to interest him in the colourful butterfly he’s just spotted on a plant, is a portrayal of supreme scorn if ever there was one.
At this point Tiger has, more than a tad reluctantly, taken on the role of Cub-sitter and is far from happy; all he had on his immediate agenda was a peaceful snooze. Cub however, has bamboozled his carer into a ‘very slow stroll’, which the former interprets as dashing, darting and having – dare I say it – FUN. Tiger however considers it way too hot for exploring and deems it not worth the effort anyhow, there being a distinct lack of anything of interest.
With such scornful dismissals as “Humbrum” and “Puffle!” the adult continues leading the way through the jungle, all the while urging the cub to stay close. Gradually though, Tiger’s tone begins to change to a slightly more indulgent one as they see first, romping baby rhinos,

dscn0005

and then Pangolin; and all the while his charge is taking risks climbing to enjoy a better view of the creatures they pass …

%0a

Unexpectedly, Tiger begins to get playful and even admits to having some FUN; in fact he’s positively enjoying the jungle trail, laughing and leaping and bouncing with his “little friend”.
As somebody who firmly believes in the educative importance of play for the young (and not so young), this cracking story, which celebrates playfulness and the exhilaration young children find, and generate, in the world, is a massive winner with me. Undoubtedly it will equally delight young audiences who join Tiger and Cub in their jungle adventure.
Jonny has created this story to celebrate 30 years of Little Tiger Press; assuredly he has done himself, his publisher and his audience proud with such a terrific book.

localbookshops_nameimage-2

Love Matters Most

dscn9590

Love Matters Most
Mij Kelly and Gerry Turley
Hodder Children’s Books
Why is the bear staring into the night,
at a world that is turning shimmering white?

With that opening question we join a mother bear as she leaves her warm sheltering cave and ventures out into the frost-filled night air on a stormy night in search of something. Surely not gold in such frozen terrain, nor those berries,

dscn9591

though they look so delicious glowing ruby-red on the bushes.
Could it be the magic glow of the forest calling?

%0a

Will she pause to catch salmon or see a snowflake become a teardrop or watch in wonder as the stars splinter the sky? Yes, these are all wonderful, but it’s none of these; there’s something much more important she needs to find, which is why that bear is following footprints.
Searching and following them on and on until at last, joy oh joy!

%0a

Mother and cub are finally reunited and both know for sure what matters most; it’s love.
Mij Kelly’s gentle poetic text is music to the ear and really draws listeners right in to the bear’s chilly world as she journeys across the snowy landscapes so wonderfully portrayed by Gerry Turley. He brings stark beauty to every scene and the impact of words and pictures together send shivers of pleasure up the spine.
Look out for the little yellow bird that accompanies the mother bear on her journey leading her forwards all the way and watching that tender finale.

WNDB_Button
localbookshops_NameImage-2

Raven Child and The Snow Witch

Raven Child and the Snow Witch
Linda Sunderland and Daniel Egnéus
Templar Publishing
Right from its textured sparkly cover, there’s something of a Russian folk tale feel to this magical, chilling story of love, loss and bravery, from debut picture book author, Linda Sunderland, and illustrator Daniel Egnéus.
Travel with me over frozen lakes and shimmery mountains and through the Forest of a Thousand Eyes to the Snow Garden, home of young Anya and her parents. Despite her chilly surroundings, Anya is kept warm by the dress of feathers woven for her by her friends the ravens whose language she has learned. On the first day of spring Anya’s mother sets out towards the glacier on a mission to collect gentian flowers, her daughter’s favourites, accompanied only by the ravens.

 

Anya and her father remain at home and after a while, the child falls sleep and dreams. She dreams of hearing her mother’s voice telling of her capture by the Snow Witch and this is followed by terrible news from one of the ravens that had gone with her mother.
Anya tends him and listens to his story. What he tells her has father and daughter setting out next morning on a frightening and dangerous journey together in search of Anya’s missing parent.

 

It turns out though, as the two learn during the course of their journey, that Anya’s mother is not the only person missing: a whole village’s children have been stolen away. Anxious not to waste time waiting for the villagers, Anya, accompanied only by the raven she’s named Broken Wing and Half Tail (a fox rescued on the way) travels on, until finally they come upon tell-tale signs that their search has brought them to the right place.

%0a

Deep inside the glacier, Anya must confront her deepest fears; but is she a match for the Snow Witch? Can she rescue her mother and the children from the clutches of the evil woman …
Totally enchanting from cover to cover, this book will grip you right from its introductory verses to Anya’s final flight with the ravens. Daniel Egnéus’ haunting scenes of icy and snowy landscapes and Anya’s encounters with the animals she befriends are spell-bindingly beautiful.

 

Message in a Bottle

There have been several personalised books launched in the past couple of years and as far as I know this is one of the most recent. Here, established picture book author Tom Percival joins forces with Finnish book publisher/illustrator Tuire Siiriainen in a project for adults and children together and the outcome is:

%0a

Message in a Bottle
Tom Percival and Tuire Siiriainen
Blueberry & Pie
Meet Kiki, a Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper who longs for adventure. When a bottle containing a message is washed up on the shore of her island home, it seems she’s being offered an opportunity to fulfil her dearest wish, to travel and see the world beyond her own tropical environs. Kiki resolves to deliver the message – bottle and all.
Now what this message is, and who is to receive it, is where the personalised part comes in: the giver of the book presumably already having decided upon its recipient, now creates the message that Kiki finds. This can be written in English or one of the other European languages offered: French, Polish, Luxembourgish or German. The message can be one of those suggested by the publisher or composed entirely by the sender of the book.
References to the recipient and their address are made throughout the story helping to heighten the engagement as Kiki’s journey progresses. That’s getting ahead of things though, for Kiki has no idea which way even to start flying.
With assistance – or not – from a somewhat confused clackety-clawed crab …

img_2845

a whale, a grizzly bear, a plover with no sense of direction, a sailfish, a troop of monkeys who squabble over the bottle, and a wise owl, Kiki and bottle meander their way across the globe from her Pacific island via North and South America, the Atlantic, Africa and Europe to England’s shore, and finally, onto the windowsill of the recipient’s bedroom.

img_2846

For Leo, only just four, this was the climax of the book. Having been riveted throughout the story, absorbed by the vibrantly coloured, cartoon style illustrations, and excited at the references to his address and name throughout, as well as listening avidly to the message in the bottle, he was less engaged with the final part about Kiki’s return home.
Older recipients of the personalised book will I suspect, be fascinated to discover Kiki’s Kids online club where, by clicking on the interactive map, they can find out more about the fourteen animals from the story.

To order your own personalised copy of the book visit the Message in a Bottle website.

Arthur and the Golden Rope

%0a

Arthur and the Golden Rope
Joe Todd-Stanton
Flying Eye Books
From the trailing golden rope on the cover of this beautifully produced book (it is Flying Eye after all) you know you’re in for a treat. From the enormous beast snarling at you even before you start reading, you know there’s going to be much to excite. It’s a wondrous tale of myth and magic – the first of a series so I understand.
We begin in the family vault of one Professor Brownstone, who is a kind of custodian cum storyteller and indeed it’s he who acts as the narrator of the very first tale in his treasured collection, that of Arthur “the unlikeliest of heroes.”

%0a

Arthur was an Icelandic boy independent, brave and always up for a challenge. Which is just as well, for having been accused of being a meddler and probably responsible for his town being terrorised by the monstrous black wolf Fenrir, the lad embarks on a dangerous quest to visit the hammer wielding Viking god Thor to enlist his help in saving the town from total freeze-up.
That’s only the beginning though. A deal is struck …

%0a

and Thor dispatches Arthur on a challenging mission to secure two vital ingredients needed in the creation of the Golden Rope of the title, an object necessary to overcome Fenrir and rekindle the town’s fire.
Sumptuously illustrated, rich in detail and a fusion of graphic novel, picture book and comic, this is a true celebration of the power of story, the oral tradition and in particular myth to grip the reader and hold them spellbound. It’s so cleverly executed in the way it moves from wordless comic strip …

%0a

to intricately detailed spread with Arthur teetering on ladders as he does his research, there’s even a spell emanating from an open book on the floor …

dscn8804

It’s a book for pausing and losing oneself in the detail of the visual images and then letting the direct telling move us forward to what comes next.
For those readers wanting something sophisticated without too much text Arthur’s tale is pure gold. For those who enjoy a great story, ditto. Let’s just say, Joe Todd-Stanton and Flying Eye (yet again!) have struck gold with this one.

WNDB_Buttonlocalbookshops_NameImage-2

D is for Duck / P for the Perfect Picnic

DSCN8054

D is for Duck!
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books
We start with magician, Duck, doing a spot of prestidigitation on the opening spread resulting in …

%0A

followed pretty rapidly by …

DSCN8056

and a King Lion. He is summarily shoved out of sight Narnia style; though what should emerge from the bottom drawer but something equally, or even more, dangerous: it’s very large, has spikes all along its back and often breathes err – well in this case, stars …

DSCN8058

There’s only one thing to do and Duck does it PRONTO, with a flick and a swish, causing said ‘something’ to up and vanish: which is not quite the end of this superb alphabet story; the only words of which follow a strict alphabetical order pattern, with the odd aside, stage direction, or spot of direct speech (also in perfect timely alphabetical place). Oh, there’s a speech bubble strategically placed too. And the finale? That you’ll just have to discover for yourself – it’s pretty cool, is all I’ll say on the matter.

DSCN8059

A show-stopping, dazzling rendition by Melling and of course, Duck: not to be missed. Book your tickets NOW!

DSCN8436

The Perfect Picnic
Ciara Flood
Templar Publishing
The enormously talented Ciara Flood has followed her terrific Those Pesky Rabbits with another winner and it’s just perfect summer reading.
Meet best friends Squirrel and Mole, a terrific twosome despite being totally different (a bit like Lobel’s Frog and Toad): Mole is the laid back one whereas finicky Squirrel insists everything is done ‘just so’. So when they decide to go on a picnic, Squirrel wants it to be – that’s it – ‘the most perfect picnic ever’.
No butter on the sandwiches!” insists Squirrel (I’m with you there Squirrel) and of course, butter-loving Mole obliges.

%0A

Finally, with picnic bag packed perfectly, the pair head off with guess who carrying the load but …

%0A

First stop the meadow but that’s too sunny; the cornfield in contrast is too shady …

DSCN8440

(By now your audience will probably be shouting to the pair as they shed more and more items through the hole in the snagged bag.) The bench’s too busy, they have the hill to themselves but Squirrel decrees that too windy; and the river, cave and beach don’t pass muster either.
Eventually Squirrel comes to a halt: seemingly the ideal place has been reached at last (take a look at the map at the back) and it’s then that Mole makes THE discovery – OH NO! (Superb Edvard Munch moment).

DSCN8441

Happily all is NOT lost, thanks to a host of animals the friends have encountered along the way: and yes the food’s not quite as perfect as it was at the outset but hey –sometimes make do and mend can turn out to be pretty dam near perfect …

DSCN8442

Bursting with subtle humour and oozing with awesome touches and delectable details, this is genius at work. The whole thing’s as pretty near perfect as anyone could imagine and it’s absolutely bound to be demanded again and again (that’s my experience anyway). Most will find their mouths watering at the scrummy, squelchy strawberry cake; my preference though is for Mole’s jaw-stretching sandwich or that unassigned slab of what looks like my favourite, coffee cake.
Ciara’s colour palette (computer photos don’t do justice to the quality) exudes sensations of summer sunny days lying back and soaking in the warmth.  Picnic hampers out and off you go – don’t forget the book though.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

15 things NOT to do with a Granny/ Big Bug Log

DSCN8045

15 things NOT to do with a Granny
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The young children in this latest “Not to do’ guide have the whole topic of grannies pretty much sorted and they’ve drawn up a set of ‘simple rules’ for us all, a kind of ways to keep granny happy list. Now the teacher part of me might want to argue with the fact that they start with a whole lot of Don’ts rather than stating at the outset, the kinds of behaviours that are desirable; but then these littles have not, I suspect, begun attending nursery let alone school as yet, so instant forgiveness is the order of the day. And anyway, this small girl and her even smaller brother are just so adorable –tiny charmers no less. I’m sure their two grannies savour every moment they spend with their grandchildren. So what do the children suggest: First, no hiding an elephant in your granny’s bed – as if!
Second is food related: jelly beans on toast for breakfast are a definite no no and putting leftover spaghetti into a gran’s handbag is totally unthinkable …

DSCN8046

The same goes for using her pants as head gear or giving your ted. a makeover with the contents of her make-up bag.
They strongly advise against taking her on in a skateboard race; certain birthday presents are off the agenda as is interrupting her karate practice.

%0A

Grannies tend to hate loud noises, particularly when they’re lost in a good book; and when it’s your turn for a story, don’t completely overwhelm her …

%0A

Grans are to be shared, but never swapped. That pretty much deals with the NO NOs but what about the Do’s?
Walking together is good, listening – definitely, playing ditto, singing, hugging, helping – likewise. But most important of all …

DSCN8050

A wonderfully playful little book: Holly Sterling’s scenes of grans and grandchildren bring delight at every turn of the page. It’s perfect for littles to give their grans and vice-versa. A must for families with young children and for all early years settings. Grans do so much in the way of child-care and many families have come to rely on their goodwill in order to survive Grans deserve celebrating.: so, let’s hear it for all grans everywhere and for the book’s creators, Margaret and Holly – a great team.

DSCN8090

Big Bug Log
Sebastian Braun
Nosy Crow
This is a log-shaped board book that’s absolutely crammed with details and brimming over with humour. It stars young Bugsy Bug who is endeavouring to visit his gran who lives somewhere within the log, but he doesn’t know the right way. Young listeners can help Bugsy on his journey to her home by some puzzle-solving, maze following and clue solving. There are numerous doors to open, speech bubbles to act out, and even a wonderful library to visit – full of bookworms – as you might expect.

DSCN8092

It’s a good thing that there are so many helpful bugs on hand to assist Bugsy too, by giving him instructions and directions. After a lot of twists and turns, the little creature does eventually track down his Granny and a delicious surprise awaits him after all that effort.
This little book is superbly interactive and sure to keep littles involved and absorbed for ages. My only quibble is the bee’s assertion on the back cover: “We think this book is perfect for 3 to 5 year-olds!” I’d put it down to 2s and above.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Moose on the Loose & Some Monsters

DSCN6961 (800x600)

There’s a Moose on the Loose
Lucy Feather and Stephan Lomp
Nosy Crow
When Moose leaves his rural residence and heads for the big city, it’s not long before everyone therein knows there’s a MOOSE ON THE LOOSE. First port of call is the fire station through which he dashes, catching a fireman’s bucket on his antler as he goes. From there he visits a department store full of shoppers where he adds a wellie boot to the bucket on his antler and a shop assistant joins the fireman in the chase.
Imagine the mayhem a loose moose in a busy library can cause, especially when there are several book-filled floors but our moose isn’t hanging about here, particularly as he’s somehow managed to add a dictionary to the items attached to his antlers and now the librarian too is in hot pursuit. There’s no stopping our moose though as he dashes on, galloping madly through the museum, speeding through the supermarket, hurtling through the hospital, careering through the castle, sploshing through the swimming pool …

DSCN6963 (800x600)

sprinting through the school collecting all manner of objects upon those antlers and increasing the number of pursuers at each location. Then, he goes bounding through an apartment block …

DSCN6967 (800x600)

and up onto its roof where it seems his presence, though not that of all his pursuers, is awaited. Oh NO! Now it looks as if our rampaging moose has forgotten something; he certainly doesn’t seem full of the party spirit …

DSCN6965 (800x600)

Uh-oh – there he goes again …

DSCN6966 (800x600)

My readers were immediately sucked in to the action and eagerly dashed through the book following the footsteps of moose and then immediately turned back to the beginning and spent a considerable time exploring each detailed, action-packed spread. It’s absolutely full of comic scenarios such as the elephant having a hair do, the music lover in the library …

DSCN6962 (800x600)

and the impending trolley disaster on the supermarket ramp and if you are looking for a book that generates interactive talk between young children, then this one is definitely a good bet.
It has all kinds of potential in the classroom; for mapping, counting, positional vocabulary and more but most important, it’s enormously entertaining. I had to beg my copy back out of the hands of a group of enthusiastic children, and that surely speaks for itself.

DSCN6889 (800x600)

Monster & Son
David Larochelle and Joey Chou
Chronicle Books
We share in fun and games monster style as all manner of dads and their offspring engage in such activities as throw and catch …

DSCN6890 (800x600)

chase and tag, tickling, fishing, making music …

DSCN6892 (800x600)

building a hideout, telling jokes, piggy back riding and occasionally pausing for a snack.
These are the daytime activities of the mock-scary creatures –ghosts, ghouls, yetis, werewolves, dragons and the like – that inhabit this book. When the night comes and the moon shines bright, it’s no surprise to discover that their bedtime rituals are pretty much the same as those of humans – filled with love and gentleness – ahhhh!
In addition to the innocent-sounding rhyming narrative running through the book, there are stories aplenty to be found in Joey Chou’s digital illustrations rendered in suitably subdued hues. Indeed, it’s the mismatch between what is said and what is seen that is key here: The dragon laughter is such that it sets a castle blazing; the snack being gorged on is a car, the occupants of which look on helplessly …

DSCN6893 (800x600)

and the sea serpents’ ball game is causing boats to founder and capsize.

Use your local bookshop      localbookshops_NameImage-2

Creativity is THE Thing

Here are four books that are a true testament to the power of creativity and
the imagination:

DSCN1506

Ike’s Incredible Ink
Brianne Farley
Walker Books
Would-be author Ike is a blobby looking being with straggly (spindly) limbs who, having read all manner of incredible stories, wants to write one himself. He sits himself down, very briefly, and then the displacement activities begin: finding that favourite pen, calling up a friend, vacuuming (he must be desperate) but still things aren’t right. Ink is the missing something Ike decides, his very own ink. Thus begins a search for the special ingredients – shifty, shady, mysterious shadows, soft, floaty feathers from the Booga-bird, and a round, velvety ‘something’ from the dark side of the moon (that one involved constructing and flying a rocket). These – and what magical sounding items they are – Ike stuffs into his big bag and then it’s back to reality for some very messy mashing and mixing and then at last the vital ink is ready.

DSCN1510

So too is the author who, with problem solved, finally finds his ideas begin to flow: his process has become the story.
Anyone who has ever tried writing will immediately recognize Ike’s procrastinating tactics and that important period when ideas and possibilities need to gestate, float around in your head or just ‘be’ for a while. Educators take note!
Farley’s spare, quirky illustrations executed in ink – of course – and digital collage using a limited colour palette are ideal for this off-beat adventure.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1512

The Nowhere Box
Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
Sam’s younger brothers are a pesky nuisance, derailing his train set, demolishing his brick constructions and following him wherever he goes. Enough is enough, George decides and sets off in search of a place where they cannot follow: a place called Nowhere. And how does he get there? In the way that most young children can, if they have a very large cardboard box and various other assorted items of junk, plus scissors and pens – via his imagination. Before long George has ridden on a switchback,

DSCN1509

zoomed through space in a rocket and sailed the seven seas of Nowhere. But no matter how amazing, magnificent, and fantastic it might be, there’s a distinct lack of enemy pirates, dragons, anyone at all in fact. Perhaps not such an exciting place after all, thinks our would-be adventurer and maybe those little brothers might have some uses after all.
A great debut for Sam Zuppardi. Playful, and quirky; the mixed media illustrations beautifully capture the creativity of young children. I shall certainly be on the lookout for his next book.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1507

Journey
Aaron Becker
Walker Books
It’s virtually impossible to do justice to this amazing wordless book in a short review. Essentially, a little girl, lonely and ignored by her busy parents, takes up her red crayon and draws herself into a magical journey through a door she draws on her bedroom wall and out into a forest illuminated by strings of glowing lights and lanterns. With her crayon she draws a boat that takes her down river to a castle where further adventures begin;  adventures involving a flying balloon, a purple bird, a rescue and much more. It would spoil the wonderful tale if I continue but suffice it to say there’s a wonderful ending involving a surprise encounter.
There is a brief nod to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon and a wink to Anthony Browne’s Bear stories in that the crayon is used to draw the adventure but this Journey is much more complex and symbolic. Here the crayon unleashes the girl’s imagination as she makes a scooter, a door in the wall, a boat, a hot air balloon and a flying carpet. Once the adventure starts, the girl moves from a sepia toned world into one of colour and brightness: worlds wherein her feelings are palpable as she experiences loneliness, cruelty and danger and finally finds joy.
There is an element of steam punk too, which gives the book a wide age appeal.

DSCN1511

In fact there is so much for anyone and everyone here: adventure, danger, sadness, joy, beauty, wonder, and most important of all, creativity and the imagination. All these are so brilliantly encompassed within this amazing story. Truly it is the JOURNEY not the destination that is so important as Becker has so powerfully shown. Each double spread can be the starting point for a personal flight of fancy and where any one person’s journey will take them as s/he follows this story is, well, another story and another …
I think this has to be my FAVOURITE EVER wordless picture book.
It’s a must for anyone who believes in the importance of the power of the imagination.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1471

Mr Wuffles!
David Wiesner
Andersen Press
If ever there was a fussy moggy, it’s Mr Wuffles. This black and white cat rejects all the specially bought toys and then he comes upon a very interesting looking object. This is in fact a miniature spaceship containing not one but five little aliens resembling robed grasshoppers. But, after a rough play session courtesy of Mr W. their spacecraft is in need of repair so the aliens go off searching for suitable materials. The watchful Mr Wuffles spots their move and is all set to pounce when his attention is diverted by a flying ladybird. His prey make their escape under the radiator and there make a kind of alliance with the resident insects. Despite a language barrier, the two groups manage to communicate through pictorial representation

DSCN1508

and eventually, thanks to a co-operative effort, an escape is engineered. ‘Oh, Mr Wuffles!’
This near wordless masterpiece is completely absorbing. It needs careful attention to follow the action and to appreciate the wealth of detail Wiesner has so cleverly embedded within the comic strip sequences. Ingenious.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookseller: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch