Jeremy Worried about the Wind

Jeremy Worried About the Wind
Pamela Buchart and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Young Jeremy is a worrier par excellence – we all know one I’m sure. Risk averse he surely is, and a highly sensitive little chap to the extent that he avoids pretty much anything and everything from overly crunchy crackers to dinosaurs …

and squirrels to shoelaces. His biggest worry though, is the wind.

One day he meets and befriends Maggie – she of the untied shoelaces and “What’s the worst that could happen?” attitude. Immediately Jeremy decides that she’s in need of care and protection. Taking her under his wing, he teaches her all manner of ways to stay safe.

Then comes that hugely wildly blustery day when Maggie inevitably decides to throw all caution to the wind. Out she dashes with Jeremy in hot pursuit (or maybe a cold sweat). And that’s when he finds out about the delights of living dangerously.

Bursting with zany humour, Pamela’s text will lift your spirits – it’s a great read aloud likely to help even the worst worriers among your audience to unwind a tad, (and perhaps offer a warning word or two to any Maggies sitting alongside); while Kate’s splendidly expressive scenes of the perils – possible and real, excitement and effervescence, will enchant and entertain. Make sure you slow down when you get to the wordless spreads so your listeners can savour every single tiny detail.

Ridiculously brilliant in every way.

The Littlest Yak

The Littlest Yak
Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Despite her prowess at clip-clopping up slippery cliffs and her wonderfully curly, whirly woolly back, little Gertie yak is unhappy on account of her lack of “bigness’. She longs to grow up great and tall, when she assumes, her horns and hooves will be impressively huge.

Her mum assures her that ‘bigness’ can take a variety of guises but Gertie remains impatient to assume a larger form.

To that end she embarks on a ‘growing-up’ regime: a diet of healthy veggies and vigorous physical exercise as well as mental training, thanks to her extensive library.

None of which have the desired effect.

Then all of a sudden as Gertie is near to despair, there comes a cry for help from the yak herd. The teeniest, weeniest is stranded in a perilously precarious position on a cliff edge.

Now is the time for Gertie to make use of those super-grippy hooves of hers and so she does. Onto her back leaps the teeny weeny yak and down the mountainside they both go, to safety and a congratulatory crowd.

Later, wrapped up warmly under the stars, might just be the time for one little yak to realise that she’s just right as she is.

Debut picture book author, Lu Fraser’s rhyming text flows beautifully, making it a super read aloud; and she has the perfect illustrator in Kate Hindley whose funny details – look out for the bird characters – add gigglesome delight to many of the spreads. Love those bobble hats, blankets, scarves and other items of warm clothing worn by the yaks. Perfect for this heartwarming tale.

Conjuror Cow / Where’s William’s Washing?

Conjuror Cow
Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt
Macmillan Children’s Books
Although Julia Donaldson’s rhyming in this lift-the-flap- book is impeccable, Conjuror Cow’s magic skills are decidedly lacking as she makes several abortive attempts to produce a white rabbit from her top hat, a cake, a trap door in the floor and a snazzy table cloth,

before Nick Sharratt’s vastly amused mouse and pig onlookers give her the instructions that finally lead to a surprise revelation.

As you would expect Nick’s illustrations are alive with his trademark zany humour. Who can fail to fall for the charms not only of Conjuror Cow but also the team of bit part players?

Fantastic fun for toddlers and readers aloud too.

Where’s William’s Washing?
Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster

What a delight to be back in Treacle Street on a breezy summery afternoon. William Tripehound is taking advantage of the breeze to dry his washing but all of a sudden, WHOOSH! The wind whisks the contents of William’s washing basket and the clothes he’s just pegged onto the line up and away.

The search is on aided and abetted by young listeners who will love to help lift the flaps and discover the whereabouts of William’s red striped apron, his checked trousers, his socks,

and his underpants.

Happily, thanks to audience assistance, by the end of the story William has all his washing back save one item, the new use for which is just too ideal to reclaim, and the pooch is more than happy to serve yummy pie and gravy teas as thank yous to all the Treacle Street helpers.

With her playful text and delectable, slightly retro, detailed illustrations the third visit to Kate Hindley’s Treacle Street is every bit as enjoyable as the previous ones.

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland
Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley
Macmillan Children’s Books

Demonstrating the true meaning of Christmas, this is a marvellous mix up of two classics– Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas.

It begins thus: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, a dark snowy night / When St Nick and his reindeer were just taking flight.’

Debut picture book author, Carys Bexington manages to sustain the jaunty rhyme unfalteringly throughout the tale. Therein she gives Santa aka St. Nick a turn to go adventuring down the rabbit hole when he responds to the plea of the Princess of Hearts who sends a letter begging for a Christmas present after her parents have said no.

Having made their way down the royal chimney St. Nick plus reindeer come upon a decidedly unseasonal scene and disturb the Queen of Hearts. She, we learn hates Christmas because as a little princess, her Dear Santa letter missed the last post on account of the White rabbit’s tardiness and so she was presentless.

As a consequence, presents, along with tinsel, mince pies and good cheer are all banned.

Now though, at long last, it’s time to deliver that gift to the erstwhile little princess.

Can St. Nick succeed in restoring the ‘Happy’ into Christmas? Perhaps, but only if her royal grumpiness, the Queen of Hearts responds positively to Rudolph’s assertion, that alluded to at the start of this review.

A full cast that includes the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, are depicted in Kate Hindley’s absolutely priceless scenes of seasonal mayhem and festive frolics, each of which is bursting with delicious details and Kate’s own brand of brilliance.

The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore and Roger Duvoisin
Scallywag Press

If you are looking for a version of the classic Clement Clarke Moore seasonal poem this year then I’d wholeheartedly recommend this superbly designed one first published in 1954.

Its tall, slim shape and size is perfect chimney shaped design and here we follow Santa – portly and with an enormous beard – as he alights on the rooftop and slides down the chimney of the narrator’s residence (in how many homes would that be possible nowadays?).

Observant readers who are familiar with Duvoisin’s creation for Louise Fatio’s The Happy Lion will spot the striking resemblance of one of the soft toys left as a gift, to said lion.

Retro brilliance this!

Be More Bernard

Be More Bernard
Simon Philip and Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster

Bernard is a bunny; he does bunny things like nose twitching and ear pricking and he digs lots of deep holes. In fact whatever his fellow bunnies do, Bernard does likewise.

In his dreams though things are rather different; he dreams of decidedly un-rabbity things. But how long can he keep up his pretence of being just like the other bunnies?

One day he decides to eschew the bunny poo baps his fellow rabbits are eating. ‘I can’t do this any more’ he decides.

Little by little Bernard starts to do his own thing, largely ignored by the others until that is, the day of the annual bunny ball when, shock horror, a divergent bunny rolls up!

Ignoring cries of “You can’t wear that!” and “We’re all the same!’ Bernard struts his stuff with joyful abandon, disco dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

Amid the cries of consternation, there’s one little bunny, Betsy, who loves his daring to be different and it isn’t long before Bernard isn’t the only risk taker on the dance floor.

Then comes the big reveal …

which all goes to show that the best possible choice is to be true to yourself whatever that may be.

Long live individuality and difference: that is what is so splendidly conveyed in Simon Philip’s cracking story narrated with such delicious humour by Bernard himself.

Kate Hindley brings out that humour with her splendiferous scenes of the protagonist’s transition from rule adherent to rule breaker, from follower to leader, from ordinary bunny to bunny extraordinaire. Make sure you peruse every spread carefully or you’ll miss the wealth of captivating detail in every one.

Blooming brilliant!

Marcel’s Parcels / Prima’s Missing Bunnies

Marcel’s Parcels
Prima’s Missing Bunnies

Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster

These are the first of Kate Hindley’s lift-the-flap board book stories set in Treacle Street.

Marcel the elephant stars in the first title and youngsters accompany him on his post round. His trolley, we discover when the flap is lifted, is loaded with lots of parcels so he has a busy time ahead.

His first delivery is to Prima Pavlova’s dance school with some much needed gear for their next performance.

The next stop is to unload a very large parcel for William at the pie shop,

followed by a wheel delivery for Arabella at Grease Monkeys Garage.

What about the final parcel; it’s addressed to the resident of the very last house in the street: now who could that be? …

We’re back at Prima Pavlova’s dance school for the second story and it’s the evening of the bunnies’ very first performance. There’s a big problem though: all the star performers have gone missing and Prima is in a terrible state. So much so that she needs the help of readers to search for them.

It’s a search that takes us high and low to the café, the prop shop, the orchestra pit

and finally the dressing room. How could they do such mischief on that important night? The audience are ready but can the curtain go up on time?

Kate’s characteristic quirky, patterned illustrations packed with wonderful details, along with her interactive narrative, ensure that little ones will demand these stories over and over, and eagerly anticipate further visits to Treacle Street.

The Same But Different Too / Goodnight World

The Same But Different Too
Karl Newson and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Similarities and differences are highlighted and celebrated in this joyful and engaging rhyming book that uses both human and animal characters to demonstrate examples throughout a busy, fun-filled day from breakfast time to bedtime.

In between come a look at differing heights, climbing skills,

play activity preferences, age, dentition, position, speed and much more; and it’s particularly heartening to find that everyone shares the love of a story session.

Karl’s upbeat words in combination with Kate’s vibrant, zany artwork create a great picture book that’s perfect for family sharing and for foundation stage settings.

With the emphasis on embracing differences it’s a super book to open up discussions about such issues as inclusivity and acceptance. Every spread offers much to talk about and enjoy, helping to highlight how our differences make each and every one of us special and unique.

Goodnight World
Nicola Edwards and Hannah Tolson
Caterpillar Books

Ideal for bedtime sharing is this presentation of the ways of saying “Goodnight” in a dozen languages as well as in English.
Nicola Edwards rhyming narrative takes us through the bedtime rituals of different families as the little ones are hugged, have a bath, brush their teeth, tidy up toys,

perhaps listen to a phone message from a loved one far away,

and share a bedtime story …

Some tinies are just so tired they need carrying up to bed already fast asleep, while others bid each other “Goodnight’ or in German “Gute nacht”.

Others will have trouble falling asleep and need to count sheep before dreams come.

No matter what though, come nightfall, little ones everywhere go to bed having said “Goodnight” or perhaps used the Mandarin “Wān an”, the Russian “Spokoynoy nochi”; the Italian “Buona note”; the Finnish “Hyvää yötä”; or maybe they said “Usiku mwema” (Shahili); “Buenas noches” (Spanish), the Arabic “Tisbah ala khair”; the Hindi “Shubh raatri” or the French “Bonne nuit”.

Safe in their beds under shared moon and stars, everyone finally falls asleep.

In her bold naïve style, inclusive illustrations Hannah Tolson shows all these different bedtime scenarios as they unfold in various places.

The Knight Who Said “No!”

The Knight Who Said “No!”
Lucy Rowland and Kate Hindley
Nosy Crow

Ned had always been a biddable, obedient little knight complying with each and every one of his parents’ wishes,

and always come nightfall running indoors to hide from the dragon as she swept through the sky. One night as he watches the dragon from the safety of his bedroom window, Ned wonders if, like himself, the dragon is lonely.

Next morning – the day of the tournament – a change has come over the lad. A firm “No” is his response to every request from his parents and the townsfolk alike. When the dragon whooshes through the sky and lands at Ned’s feet, he accosts the creature, inquiring about her lack of roar.

The dragon’s response brings about a mood shift in Ned …

and thereafter, an unlikely new friendship is forged.

Lucy Rowlands’ rhyming text bounces merrily and faultlessly along, providing join-in ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ opportunities for listeners who will delight in Ned’s sudden attack of recalcitrance and its final outcome. Kate Hindley documents the whole saga with wonderful scenes of days of yore village life capturing not only Ned’s mood changes, but also the dragon’s and the bit part players’ characters, absolutely splendidly.

A potential storytime favourite, methinks.

The Lost Penguin

The Lost Penguin (An Oliver & Patch Story)
Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Oliver made two new friends in Oliver and Patch, one canine and one human.
In this sequel, the three of them are pretty much inseparable during the day time although in the evenings Oliver and Patch return to Oliver’s flat and Ruby to her house.
Their favourite place to spend time together is the city zoo and it’s there that they see Peep.
Peep, so Sandy the zookeeper tells them is a newly arrived rescue penguin. The friends put his sad look down to the fact that he misses his old home.
The following day when they return to see Peep again, he’s nowhere in sight. Quickly they inform the zookeeper and a search begins.

Children will enjoy spotting the little penguin’s resting places in various locations that Ruby and Oliver fail to notice.
Eventually the friends discover the little creature’s whereabouts aboard a canal boat;

but on arrival back at the zoo, discover it’s closed for the night.
A squabble ensues over who is to look after Peep overnight, after which Ruby and Oliver realise that both Peep and Patch have gone missing.
Where can they be? There’s a long night’s wait ahead but will they find the two missing animals again next morning?

The ups and downs of friendship and the difficulties of settling into a new environment are explored in this reassuring tale.
Kate Hindley provides plenty of amusing details to linger over in every spread so this definitely isn’t a book to hurry through despite the urge to discover what has happened to the missing Peep.

I’ve signed the charter  

They Came from Planet Zabalooloo!

They Came from Planet Zabalooloo!
Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
Sean Taylor does crazy stories supremely well and this one surely tops the pops for craziness.
Three aliens, inhabitants of the planet Zabalooloo head to earth in their spaceship and they have a mission. There’s the brainy one, that’s Zoron our narrator; Bazoo, the strong one and Zob, prone to hyper-exuberance and crazy wiggle-woggle dancing.
Their aim is to be the first to capture a “BIG-SIZE thing” by means of their supersonic-sucker with special shrinker nozzle and take it back to their own planet. Quite a challenge judging by the relative size of the aliens and their prey, Undaunted and with supersonic sucker at the ready, the three creep up behind the creature ready to strike.

But then Bazoo wants to stop for a photo shoot. PHOOAH! Big mistake! Followed by rapid retreat back to spaceship.
Maybe they’ll have more success with MEDIUM-SIZED thing. Or maybe not …

Surely nothing can go wrong capturing a SMALL-SIZED thing; after all it would still be a first for their planet.
But even aliens from Zabalooloo cannot resist feeding our earthly ducks and it’s a case of love at first sight for both Zoron their intrepid leader and the target duck.

So is their mission doomed to failure or could there perhaps be another way of capturing their prey?
Sean Taylor’s deliciously zany text, some of which is rendered through colour-coded speech bubbles, is full of utterances guaranteed to make you splutter with laughter. Take this one for instance ‘I am COMPLETE BIG-GOB NINCOMPOOP WITH PANTS ON INSIDE OUT!
Perfectly complementing Taylor’s words are Kate Hindley’s sublimely silly, intricately detailed visuals of the diminutive Zabaloolooian explorers and their tin can craft complete with steering wheel and party area, going about their mission.
Human explorers of the pages will find many more small-sized things including a wealth of insects hovering on, and buzzing around, the various kinds of plants liberally scattered throughout the terrain of the aliens’ hunting ground.
Epic!

I’ve signed the charter  

You Must Bring a Hat

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You Must Bring a Hat
Simon Philip and Kate Hindley
Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
Most of us get excited when we receive invitations; however, this particular one received by the young boy narrator of this story …

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causes the lad a deal of consternation: he doesn’t own a hat. The shops are sold out – completely …

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What’s the little fellow to do? Ermm: maybe a monkey sporting a hat might be a good place to start –

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even if the creature won’t part with his titfa.
Off goes the boy (with ‘hat’) to the venue where there is what seems to be a particularly jobsworth type of fellow on the door. “Sorry Sir, but we’re under strict instructions not to let in any hat-wearing monkeys … unless they are also wearing a monocle.” I ask you … What this doorman does and says thereafter, leads to a succession of supremely silly situations involving piano playing,

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tutu wearing, cheese slicing (or not) and more until our narrator can finally take no more …

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That isn’t entirely all though: what comes thereafter is ALMOST unbelievably, stupendously ridiculous and it will have children (and a fair few adult readers aloud,) splitting their sides and almost wetting themselves in delight.
What a nexus of hilarity Simon and Kate have created here. Every word of Simon’s has seemingly been weighed for maximum impact; and every scene just exudes wonderfully wacky details of the hatty, and hatless, Hindley kind.

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Hat’s away and get your copy forthwith; you’ll surely love it like I did. STU-PEN-DOUS!

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Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!

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Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!
Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
No self-respecting dog, even a little one, wants to be fed heart-shaped Mini Puppy treats or addressed thus, “Ickle Pickle Woof Woof”, “Incy Wincy Cupcake!” or “Choochie Pooh!”. And as for being kissed and then unceremoniously deposited in a handbag along with a packet of those Puppy Treats …

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well that just about tops the list in the embarrassment stakes for a little dog. It’s even worse when one’s owner stops in the park on the way home from the supermarket and there are other dogs dashing around doing ‘proper dog things.’

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However, things suddenly take a turn for the better when one of their number, Chief, instigates a spot of rebellion on the part of the pampered pooch; and it’s not long before he’s playing all kinds of games, the best of which appears to be this …

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All too soon though it’s time to go and what our canine narrator hears is the totally cringe inducing “Off we go OOPSIE BOOPSIE CHOOCHIE POOH!”; but home time for the other dogs is signalled by equally awful calls.

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Seems they too have to put up with similarly embarrassing owners although whether those owners feed their pooches Mini Puppy treats is something readers and listeners will have to decide for themselves.
Those I’ve shared this with delighted in Sean Taylor’s narrator and fully endorsed his sentiments over his owner’s humiliating behaviour.
Kate Hindley gives the whole canine crew real personalities in her hilarious portrayals and I love the way she shows everything from their ground-level perspective.

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Some portraits of the canine narrator

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Oliver and Isabel: New Homes, New Friends

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Oliver & Patch
Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster pbk
I’m no dog lover, but nevertheless quickly found myself falling for Patch – he’s a total charmer. So too is young Oliver – new to city life and feeling out of sorts – who comes across the soggy animal while out exploring his new surroundings in the rain. Oliver (who misses his country pals) and Patch are soon firm friends.

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Despite Oliver’s best efforts, for he picks up on Patch’s wistfulness, nobody comes forward as the owner of the small white dog described in his FOUND posters.

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Then one drizzly morning, Oliver and Patch’s explorations take them into what for the boy at least, is unknown territory. Hot on the heels of Patch who has suddenly broken free of his lead, Oliver finds himself in a tiny park confronting a girl all clad in red and he knows at once …

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All is not lost however, for although Ruby is indeed Patch’s owner, she is more than happy to embark on a new friendship.

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Each and every turn of the page elicited “aaahs” and not only from my audience (the butcher’s shop scene didn’t do it for my vegetarian self though); Kate Hindley’s illustrations exude playfulness and convey so beautifully, the characters’ feelings as well as extending what we hear in Claire Freedman’s well-crafted, touching text.

 

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The Girl with the Parrot on her Head
Daisy Hirst
Walker Books
Young Isabel, the girl with a parrot on her head seems perfectly happy spending her time with friend Simon;

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but then Simon moves away leaving poor Isobel with hate in her heart. Even the parrot moves off to perch elsewhere, until that is Isabel ‘felt quiet inside, and decided to like being on her own.’ Back comes the parrot and Isabel’s need for friends is replaced by a system. In no time at all she has (with a little help from her feathered companion) sorted all her belongings into boxes. The parrot however has nocturnal worries about those boxes, in particular the wolves’ one. Isabel too, despite her bravado, has concerns about the relative size of one of the wolves and the system.
Imagine her sense of satisfaction then when she comes across the perfect wolf box while out on her scooter. There’s a snag though: the box is already occupied.

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It’s occupant, Chester, is more than willing to discuss other possibilities than the use he’d had in mind but quickly rules it out as a wolf-container. Instead, the two tell the large lupine about the ideal place for him, whereupon he’s off right away leaving Isabel and her new friend to their own creative devices. Oh! And the parrot becomes an honorary astronaut too.

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Daisy Hirst presents a child’s loneliness as a consequence of her friend moving away in a straightforward text and allows her illustrations to do much of the talking and to reveal much of the emotional content in a gently humorous manner while still leaving gaps for readers themselves to fill. Her seemingly simple child-like images of the young characters at play rendered in bold blocks of paint, alongside outlined, uncoloured images that stand out starkly from the white page and occasional pages where somewhat muted shades of blue predominates,

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make for visual interest at every turn of the page.
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Worst in Show and more of Stanley

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Worst in Show
William Bee and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
Albert has a special pet, Sidney – a monster no less and to prove just how special he is, Albert is entering him in the ‘BEST PET MONSTER IN THE WORLD! COMPETITION” to be televised live from the studio. The competition has five rounds: Sidney scores a grand total of zero: he doesn’t have any warts let alone hairy ones,

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he’s unable to hover, is virtually without parasites, his farts are almost fragrant and his breath barely warms a sausage. ‘GOODNESS THE EMBARRASSMENT!’ How much can Albert take?
But listen –surely that isn’t Albert and Stanley’s names on the announcer’s lips during prize giving …

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Finally, as the two make their way home, Albert concludes that Stanley’s particular qualities are just not those appreciated by the show judges; he’d much rather have a sweet smelling, large-sized, cuddly; lovable best friend after all.
William Bee’s tale is monstrously mad and enormous fun – just the thing to appeal to children’s sense of the ridiculous. Clearly it had that same appeal for Kate Hindley too; her illustrations are wonderfully whimsical. Crammed full of deliciously disgusting details – the monsters and their hangers-on; and with delightfully droll human characters – the judges, camera crew, Albert and other pet owners, each camera shot and off-stage scene is a feast for viewers of this unlikeliest of contests. That final fold-out scene is a bravura performance in itself.
An inspired collaboration this.

More from William Bee in:

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Stanley’s Café
William Bee
Jonathan Cape
Multi-talented hamster, Stanley has donned his chef’s hat and with the help of friend, Hattie, is busy at work in his café. The first customer is Myrtle; she’s come for breakfast. Before long though it’s lunch for Charlie and Gabriel – yummy pancakes with lashings of syrup. Then Stanley has to go out for fresh supplies: he’s baking a special birthday cake for his pal Little Woo.

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Happy Birthday, Little Woo. Shame about the washing up.

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More from Stanley and friends in:
Stanley the Builder
Jonathan Cape
When Myrtle buys a plot of land she asks Stanley to help build her new house. Out comes his bulldozer to clear the ground, and then he has to dig out the foundations. Charlie’s on hand to help with the cement after which they both get on with the bricklaying, roof tiling and fitting windows.
A coat or two of paint and the job’s done: two tired workers, one happy Myrtle.

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Once again, William Bee’s Stanley is set to delight youngsters with his machines, tools and implements. As they enjoy the stories – which they undoubtedly will – preschoolers will absorb lots of information relating to Stanley’s activities both from the straightforward, descriptive texts and captivating, clear illustrations.
I wonder what he will turn his paws to next?

Find and buy from your local bookshop:

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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.
Buy from Amazon

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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.
Buy from Amazon

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.
Buy from Amazon

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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.
Buy from Amazon

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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