Zoom: Ocean Adventure & Zoom: Space Adventure / Where’s My Peacock?

Zoom: Ocean Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Sam Rennocks
Zoom: Space Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Susanna Rumiz
What on Earth Books

These are two titles in a new board-book non-fiction series for curious toddlers.

In the first we meet Noah and join him and his turtle on an ocean adventure as he takes his boat out to sea, dons his diving gear and plunges into the water.

His first location is a coral reef, a good place for a game of hide-and-seek with some fish. Next stop is a seagrass meadow with its seahorses, dugongs and a wealth of other creatures, some of which emerge from the kelp.

Danger suddenly looms in the shape of a hungry great white shark from which Noah must make a hasty escape by climbing into his submarine and diving down to the darkest depths.

There’s also a sunken pirate ship with treasure and more to discover as Noah heads for the Antarctic and an iceberg with penguins atop, made all the more dramatic by its large die-cut shape,

Indeed die-cuts are a feature of every spread and with their clever placing each one offers a different view depending on whether the page is turned forwards or back.

The Space Adventure is Ada’s and begins with her (and her cat) boarding her rocket ship and awaiting the countdown which is delivered through wordless die-cut illustrated pages shaped as the numbers 5 through to 1.

Then the rocket blasts off skywards towards the moon, docking at the International Space Station to make a delivery and for Ada to perform some urgent repairs before making a lunar landing to collect scientific samples.

Thereafter, the rocket explores the Solar System viewing all the different planets before heading home once more.

Characteristic of both, rather longer than average board books are: the surprise pop-up on the penultimate spread, the wealth of visual details in Sam Rennocks and Susanna Rumiz’s vibrant illustrations, the die-cut pages, the relatively short narrative and the fact that both Noah and Ada actually experience their journeys through their imagination.

Sturdily built, these are well worth putting into a nursery collection or adding to your toddler’s bookshelf.

Where’s My Peacock?
Becky Davies and Kate McLelland
Little Tiger

In their latest touchy-feely, hide-and-seek board book, thanks to Becky Davies’ simple repeat patterned and Kate McLelland’s alluring patterned art, toddlers can follow the trail of footprints and discover a long tailed lemur, a feathery owl and a brightly hued toucan before locating the dazzling tailed peacock that has almost, but not entirely, hidden himself away.

Tactile fun for tinies and the possibility of learning some new vocabulary.

Make Time for a Board Book

Where’s My Llama?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger

Capitalising on the current vogue for all things llama, Becky Davies has written a board book. Herein a llama has gone missing and it’s up to little ones to follow the trail of brightly coloured footprints to track her down.

Along the way tiny detectives will encounter a long-necked Giraffe, a cute tailed fox

and a long-eared rabbit, all of which have similar characteristics to the llama.
But where is the errant ungulate? Rest assured her fluffy tail will finally give the game away.

With its final flap reveal, Kate McLelland’s alluring scenes – each with a touch and feel animal body part – on softly patterned pastel backgrounds, simple descriptive text with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my llama?’ to chant, there’s plenty to keep the attention of tinies throughout this touch and feel, search and find book.

Maisy’s Science
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Toddlers’ favourite mouse Maisy is in investigative mode in this STEAM First Words tabbed book.

Out and about, she encounters some very windy weather that is perfect for kite flying; seasonal snow as she feeds the birds; enjoys a relaxing break from vegetable gathering to enjoy watching the minibeasts close by. Then it’s time for a bit of seed watering – perhaps she’s planted sunflower seeds – followed by observing some seasonal changes.

The arrival of her friends gives an opportunity to look at various parts of their bodies and hers and once she’s alone again, she and cuddly Panda can investigate a variety of textures; make some rather noisy musical sound with her percussion; don her painting apron and experiment with her paints, perhaps trying colour mixing and after all that activity it’s time to sit and read a book (or choose from one of the other learning tools shown on the opposite page).

Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!
Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter
Abrams Appleseed

This is a fun, rhyming tale of an energetic would-be little ninja whom we first meet looking terrified of the rather large family dog.

Creeping away, he comes upon his younger brother happily playing with a balloon. Not for long though. With a deft ‘chop’ Ninja  removes the balloon from little bro., then proceeds to snatch his chocolate-chip cookie and with a further chop – delivered with his foot this time – destroys his block-built castle leaving the long-suffering toddler howling.

A change of heart caused by an unseen force calling ‘Ninja, Ninja, would you stop?’ sees our Ninja then pause and help to reconstruct the building before whizzing off once more into the great outdoors.

It’s there that he receives his comeuppance, discovering – much to his surprise – that little brother is actually a highly observant pupil. Time to join forces it seems, for two Ninjas may well be better than one, certainly when it comes to scheming.

There’s a slight retro feel to Tad Carpenter’s bold, bright scenes from which the black-clad Ninja leaps out – literally! I can see little ones joining in, enthusiastically chanting along with adult readers aloud of debut author, Todd Tuell’s staccato text, as they turn the pages.

Board Books Matter

Board books form the bedrock of children’s reading – or rather one hopes they do; but not all new parents appreciate their potential and their importance. Thanks to Little Tiger, here are some new titles. The first is already published the others will be early in February.

Where’s My Unicorn?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger
Right from a very young age, there seems to be a magnetic attraction between young children, (girls mostly) and unicorns, so I’m sure this textured book will please.

Its first spread shows the rear end of a hoofed animal that has left a trail of footprints as clues to follow through the pages until the missing unicorn is found on the final spread hiding in plain sight.

On the way little ones encounter a mermaid with a colourful tail, a flamingo with soft fluffy plumage and a narwhal with a magical horn.

Tactile hide-and-seek fun for tinies who can enjoy the search as well as joining in with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my unicorn?’ Becky Davies provides the words, giving a sentence about each creature; Kate McLelland has created the alluring visuals.

What Can You See: On the Farm?
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

As well as providing an introduction to what might be seen on a farm, and something to count on each spread, this, the first of a new ‘spot and count’ series provides plenty to interest little ones in Maria Perera’s jolly scenes of farm life.

First we visit the farm shop where different kinds of delicious-looking vegetables are on sale. Lunchtime is an opportunity to watch the sheep being fed; the pigs too need feeding and fruit trees near their sty supply a wealth of apples when they’re ready for eating.

The farm also has a duck pond alongside which is a weeping willow; there are several different kinds of birds to see in that scene.

Later in the year, the combine harvester gathers the wheat from a field where lots of small creatures have made their homes; and finally it’s teatime and the farmer collects eggs from the barn where there are hens, cows while other animals scamper along the rafters.

Toddlers can by means of the die-cut visuals, acquire some facts, do some counting and develop their observation skills, using Kate Ware’s words as guidance.

I Can Do It!
Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir
Caterpillar Books

Try teaching preschool and reception age children and you’d be amazed how many 4/5 year olds start school unable to dress themselves properly. I know parents find it easier when they’re rushed in the mornings to dress their youngsters but essentially this is deskilling children. Much better to set time aside to help them learn in a playful manner to cope with zips, buttons, poppers, laces and Velcro type fastenings themselves.

This robust board book with Patricia’s text and Hilli Kushnir’s enticing illustrations will be a boon in this respect.

Using five little children as models, the narrative provides an introduction to each fastening with instructions on how to work it, and asks each time ‘Can you fasten the …? alongside a bold, bright illustration of a child wearing the item needing to be done up.

One boy fastens shirt buttons, a little girl zips up her hoodie,

another boy does up the hooks and loops fastening on his coat; a child closes the popper on a backpack and finally a little girl has lace-up shoes to tie up on her trainers.

Fun, instructive and I assure you, early years teachers will be truly thankful if your child can manage all the five fastenings.

What Do I Do? What Am I For?

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Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do?
Kate McLelland
Hodder Children’s Books
Young blackbird Pip is yet to identify what makes him special, so off he flies into the big wide world on a mission to find out. It certainly isn’t standing in the river waiting for fish like Heron; Pip’s legs are way too short.

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Nor is it staying up all night looking for mice like Owl, so what about nest building in the sand? Definitely not that with such a tiny beak as Pip has. And seed pecking Pigeon style in a crowded place is a definite ‘No’ too.
Pip’s efforts to be like sand-digging Puffin, seed-pecking Pigeon, the swooping falcons, chattering parrots and waddling ducks are all disastrous

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and it’s a very downcast blackbird that flies back to the nest on the branch.
As he sits despairing of ever finding something at which he can excel, Pip sings to himself – so he thinks. But his song attracts the attention of all the other birds and it’s then that he discovers he had a special talent all along; it was just a matter of finding it.

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New kid on the block, Kate McLelland’s tale of self-discovery is one that needs to be shared and discussed with all young (and perhaps not so young) children). Her beautiful prints make every turn of the page a delight for audiences and adult readers aloud alike.

Finding out about yourself is also part and parcel of this story:

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A Big Surprise for Little Card
Charise Mericle Harper and Anna Raff
Walker Books
Little Card is the unlikely chief protagonist of this picture book and when we first encounter him he’s living with all kinds of other cards: there’s Wide Card – a postcard, price tag Round Card, Tiny Card a ticket for a shiny toy, Giant Card, a folder for important office work, Long Card –yet to be assigned a role, and Little Card, ditto. Then a letter arrives summoning Little Card to birthday card training. At last he’s to ‘be’ something and next day off he goes to learn how.

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One day on his return from school, Long Card greets him with the news that due to a mix up he isn’t to be a birthday card after all and the following morning off goes our Little Card to an imposing building to discover his new identity. He’s to be a library card, something he finds very exciting especially when he meets young Alice, his new owner.

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Thus begins a journey of discovery wherein the two new friends explore the many fascinating activities that the library has to offer – games, story time and snacks as well as all those amazing books-

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and Little Card breaks into song – albeit in his quietest voice – before the two of them head home together. And the best thing of all is that unlike once a year Happy Birthdays, ‘Happy Library Day’ is every day but Sunday.
The mixed media collage scenes capture the exuberance of Little Card and his justifiable excitement about the whole library experience.
A fun introduction to the wonderful possibilities on offer behind the doors of our libraries, those of us who are still fortunate enough to have one that is.

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