Tag Archives: kindness

Dave The Lonely Monster

Dave the Lonely Monster
Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Dave lives all alone in a retirement cave; his only companion is his guitar.

Back in the day – the bad old days to be precise – Dave had been a huge pest rampaging and roaring wherever he went.

Until that is, the townsfolk, tired of his mess making, exiled him to Echo Rock where he spends the next sixty years, just him, his knitting, the odd poetry book and his old instrument upon which he strummed the night away.
By day the local knights would taunt him and try to engage him in combat, but of fighting Dave would have no part.

One day his slumbers are disturbed, first by a flying cabbage that hits his nose, then a beetroot biffs him in the eye and an aubergine whizzes past.
Out from behind a bush emerges a tiny knight wielding a carrot. “Prepare to meet your doom!” he cries.

Somewhat nonplussed, Dave challenges this lad who calls him a fiendish monster, pointing out that proper knights do not speak so, and that monstrous beasts, like others, also have feelings.
Realising the error of his ways, Percy apologies, a pledge is taken and a firm friendship forged.
The two have the time of their lives

while back in town, on account of the lack of exciting action, boredom and grumpiness have set in. Monster-bashing is what they need, the townsfolk decide.

Can young Percy persuade them otherwise, armed as they are with fistfuls of mouldy fruit and veg.?
Surely there must be a better way to liven things up and bring fun back for those would-be assailants of Dave’s. He certainly thinks so …

Rollicking rhyme that beats out a heart-warming tale of music and friendship – that’s Anna Kemp’s – and delicious olde-worlde scenes of bygone times that might have been but never were, on account of the crazy mix of knights of yore, Dave’s 60s style bass guitar, mini-skirts and dance moves, not to mention a hells angels wooden Harley style bike complete with side car (those are all part and parcel the super scenes created by Sara Ogilvie)  – combine to make a super read-aloud romp with an important message.

Out with rebel-rousing and war; long live love and peace.

This book will have to be one of my ‘secret story-teller’ choices for the autumn term.

How Rude!

How Rude!
Sarah Arnold
Otter-Barry Books

When Pig, out driving his sports car, spies Mole with a huge box at the roadside, he kindly stops and offers him a lift.
His deed precipitates a chain of action and reaction that begins when he asks Mole what he has in his box. “None of your business!” comes the firm reply. Pig responds thus …

Pig’s pals are sympathetic calling Mole’s reply rude but they too are eager to discover the contents of that box so first they investigate.
Then they speculate

until back comes Mole clutching a key.
He unlocks the box and dashes inside, shutting the door behind him. “How rude!’ say the friends, stating their intention to shun Mole and his box.

Suddenly the door bursts open and a paw beckons them to enter. In go the friends and Mole slams the door shut after them.
Fun over, he looks around for further amusement but nobody is there.

From the box however, music, laughter and song issue forth and as you’d expect, Mole wants to know what’s happening within.

“None of your business!’ comes the response and this time it’s Mole’s turn to feel left out. How rude!

When he unlocks the door, an accident occurs as everyone bursts out, then it’s a case of apologies all round; and a fun time for everyone ensues. HURRAH!

A thoroughly enjoyable story full of expositions and some fun onomatopoeic sounds for listeners to join in with, lively endearing characters both animal and human, and lots to ponder on and discuss about kindness, forgiving, sharing and getting on together: all in all a super book for class, group or individual sharing.

I’m the Biggest / I Can’t Sleep!

I’m the Biggest
I Can’t Sleep!
Stephanie Blake
Gecko Press

Young rabbit, Simon has now grown considerably – he even stars in his own show on Milkshake 5 ,and here is engaged in a spot of sibling rivalry over the relative increase in height of the two brothers: Casper has grown a full 2 centimetres more than big brother Simon. Needless to say the latter is far from happy, exclaiming “No way,” in response to his Mum’s pronouncement. He even accuses her of giving Casper more food.

Having been chastised by both parents, he’s positively a-boil with fury and swearing revenge.

However, while engaged in a game of footie with his pals in the park later in the day, he spies Casper being bullied by a boy from his class.

‘Serves him right!’ is his initial reaction but then comes a change of heart. Perhaps he is still the BIG brother after all.

Good fun as all Simon titles are, especially for those grappling with being a big brother.

However, I prefer I Can’t Sleep! which I missed first time around. This story focuses on the positive – the comradeship between the two brothers.
Having both spent the day in the garden erecting a ‘MEGA GIGA-NORMOUS’ hut, when it’s bedtime Casper realises that he’s left his special blanket outside in the hut. Needless to say, he can’t possibly sleep without his blanky. It’s time for big brother to don his superhero gear and brave the dark.

It’s cold and damp as his little feet ‘pitter-pat’ run through the night, and pretty scary when he encounters a huge and hungry monster but he makes it back home clutching what he went for

and only too willing to regale his adventure to Casper till morning.

Stephanie Blake’s bold, bright illustrations are deliciously expressive showing just how the characters feel, her language too is enormously engaging and fun. Here she cleverly reveals the way in which big bro. is clearly in charge and little bro. eager to be his pupil.

Goat’s Coat

Goat’s Coat
Tom Percival and Christine Pym
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Alfonzo is a goat with a brand new, dapper coat; wearing it makes him feel on top of the world. He also has a kind heart so when out strutting his stuff in his stylish garment and he comes upon a family of homeless frogs in need of help Alfonzo is faced with a dilemma.

Altruism wins: the frogs sail off in a new blue boat; Alfonzo walks on in a cuffless coat.

But then he discovers a trembly cat, her tail in a trap. A bandage is required to stem the blood …

Soon the cat’s tail is covered: the goat’s nether regions anything but.

Further encounters with a panic-stricken hen …

and shivering hedgehogs leave the benevolent Alfonso alone and entirely coatless. Snow falls as night approaches.

Will the goat freeze without his coat?

Tom Percival’s rhyming cuddle of a tale is the perfect antidote to the current political climate demonstrating so beautifully that happiness lies not in possessions or self-interest but in friendship and selflessness. Christine Pym’s illustrations for his heart-warming story capture the feelings of helper and helped perfectly, injecting appropriate touches of humour along the way.

Here We Are

Here We Are
Oliver Jeffers
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Oliver Jeffers is one of my favourite author/illustrators and Here We Are, his latest book, is simply exquisite.

Created for his new baby son and suffused with parental love and a gentle humour, Oliver speaks, seemingly directly, to the infant.

He talks of the intriguing, bewildering and fascinating wonders of Planet Earth and all that’s on it and above it – the land, the sea, the sky, space, humans, animals, day and night.

Much needed, perfectly timed, and pared back to the essentials, his message is one that resonates: kindness, tolerance and respect not only for our planet – ‘Make sure you look after it, as it’s all we’ve got.’; but for one another whoever we are, wherever we are, ‘People come in many shapes, sizes and colours. We may all look different, act different and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people. … there are lots of us here so be kind. There is enough for everyone.

That’s what really matters. It matters for us here and it matters for people right across the globe especially now when so many countries are in turmoil of one or another kind.

This is a vital picture book, awesomely illustrated in Oliver’s inimitable witty way – a classic–to-be, for every family, early years setting, school collection and library. And it’s an absolutely perfect gift for any baby who has recently arrived on our bewilderingly marvellous planet.

A Home Full of Friends

A Home Full of Friends
Peter Bently and Charles Fuge
Hodder Children’s Books

Peter Bently does rhyming narrative with aplomb and it’s once again the case here.
Kind soul, badger Bramble doesn’t quite know what he’s letting himself in for when he offers Scuffle the dormouse, toad Tipper

and Boo the hedgehog a bed for the night when they’re made homeless by a storm. Rather that’s all he thinks he has to contend with as he hurries home concerned about his messy sett, stretching his supper to feed four and there only being one bed.
Bramble busies himself making preparations: makeshift they may be but entirely adequate for a badger and three pals.
His thoughts are interrupted by a loud knock at his door and the sight that meets his eyes is more than a little shocking. Three entire families are standing on his doorstep …

Fortunately though, they’ve brought with them everything they’ve managed to salvage from their wrecked homes and it’s not long before, with full bellies, they’re having a wonderful time playing games and sharing a bedtime story

before snuggling up for the night.

Warm-heartedness shines out of Charles Fuge’s beautifully detailed scenes which, together with Bently’s text, make a read aloud book with a compassionate message which is particularly pertinent given recent weather disasters and the ever increasing numbers of displaced people in various parts of the world.

Counting with Tiny Cat / The Fox Wish

Counting with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books
Tiny Cat is an energetic bundle of mischief with a particular penchant for red wool. At the outset there isn’t any but then yippee! A ball of the red stuff rolls right along. That quickly becomes TWO! THREE! FOUR! Which is all the creature can really juggle; but still they keep coming.

Clearly Tiny Cat’s counting skills have yet to develop further, though oddly the feline’s vocabulary encompasses ‘ABOUT A DOZEN– emphasis on the about here I should add.

Still though, the creature’s appetite for the red stuff isn’t satisfied: ‘LOTS’ leads to a very greedy ‘AS MANY AS YOU CAN GET’ but even that isn’t sufficient. SOME EXTRA gives way to …

Will the frisky thing ever realise that enough is enough?
A wonderful visual comedy with a delightfully playful star: Tiny Cat most definitely commands the performance, and viewers will definitely demand instant encores.

The Fox Wish
Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books
A small girl – the narrator – and her younger brother return to the playground in search of the skipping rope left behind earlier. There’s no sign of their rope but they follow some sounds of laughter and in the clearing, come upon, not the friends they’d anticipated. but a group of foxes enjoying a skipping game.

Doxy, foxy, / touch the ground. / Doxy, foxy, / turn around. / Turn to the east, / and turn to the west, / and choose the one that / you like best.
The children decide the foxes are less adept skippers than they on account of their tails and Luke lets out a giggle. Fortunately the foxes aren’t offended: instead they approach the children and ask for some coaching. Soon animals and humans are playing together happily, taking turns to hold the rope ends. When the little girl’s turn comes to do so, she notices the name, painted on the handle.

It’s her name, but also happens to be that of one of the foxes; and, the little creature has assumed it now belongs to her because of a wish she’d made.
Does the little fox’s wish come true: what does the little girl decide to do?
A wonderful, slightly whimsical tale of empathy, altruism and kindness, and a delightful portrayal of the way young children so easily slip between fantasy and reality, told with sensitivity that is captured equally in Sakai’s glowing illustrations and Aman’s words, which in their direct simplicity, echo the voice of a child. Such exquisite observation.

I’ve signed the charter 

The Elephant’s Umbrella

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The Elephant’s Umbrella
Laleh Jaffari and Ali Khodai (translated by Azita Rassi)
Tiny Owl
Elephant, a kindly pachyderm, is always ready and willing to share his prized possession, a brightly coloured umbrella, with his fellow animals whenever the need should arise.
One day though while the elephant is taking a nap, the wind whisks his umbrella away and it ‘gives’ it to the leopard.

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There’s a proviso however issued by the umbrella: ‘If I become yours … Where will you take me when it rains?’ Leopard’s far from satisfactory response causes the umbrella to continue on its wind- born journey … towards a bear. Bear too wants to take possession …

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but his “I’ll take you to the bees … I’ll take their honey. And then I’ll sit under you and eat all that honey by myself.” response to the same question, has the umbrella again chasing the wind.
It begins to rain …

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and the umbrella searches for the elephant, finds him and the two are re-united. You can no doubt imagine what happens next …
This seemingly simple, mild tale has much to say to us all; themes of selfless concern for others, humanitarianism, compassion, empathy and kindness spring to mind immediately. No doubt readers and listeners will come up with more suggestions. As ever, Tiny Owl has provided a beautiful and thought-provoking book that deserves a place on family bookshelves; and it’s a gift for discussion in early years and primary school departments, particularly those that have “Community of Enquiry’ sessions on the curriculum.
Ali Khodai’s use of a lush palette in his illustrations is perfect for the jungly, rainy setting of the tale.

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Scruffle Bear, Ellie, Cyril Squirrel and Love

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There’s Only One Scruffle
Robert Dunn
QED
Almost all children have a favourite soft toy and so it is with Ellie: she and her bear Scruffle are inseparable. Her parents cannot understand this Scruffle obsession – after all he’s patched, has an eye missing and is more than a little stinky! That reminds me of  ‘Bobby’ a bear I’ve kept ever since I was a very young child in Pakistan many, many years ago.
He must be replaced decides Ellie’s mum and presents her with this … Now you don’t need me to tell you how Ellie feels about this, nor will you be surprised at what she does next …

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Mum remains upbeat, trying to cajole Ellie and persuade her to give the newcomer a try. Ellie decides a walk might help her think and off she goes with new bear on her mind. He’s also on her mind as she assists Grandad with the gardening …

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and while she paints Scruffle a picture. By now, new bear is looking a little less like new and smelling well – disgusting! Not fit to be played with Ellie declares handing Scruffle to Mum who’s still wondering what her daughter sees in him. Could it perhaps be that two smelly bears could be accommodated in Ellie’s household? What do you think? I think a wash is definitely the order of the day …
Young children will immediately empathise with Ellie, giggle over her treatment of new bear and have plenty to say about the ending. The story’s a good one to prompt discussion about favourite toys, as well as coping with change and showing love.

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Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cyril is a lively creature and also very inquisitive; the thing he spends most time pondering on is love: What is it? “Can I find it and keep it? Do I need it?” he wonders. He decides to write a list of questions on the subject to ask his friends Carrie Crow, Dan Deer, Ramon Rat and Dafiya Dormouse, but none can supply answers. Instead, Dafiya suggests Cyril goes to look for love and having left an explanatory note and taken a few supplies, off he goes next day.
On his journey he encounters a bird that is amused to hear what Cyril is searching for and offers a demonstration of its version of love – ‘being held by a warm wing’.

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Other creatures provide different love suggestions: rabbit demonstrates with a warm smile, and with a “Buzzzzzzzzzz,” bee provides a ‘soft, soothing sound’. All these expand Cyril’s understanding of love and on his notepad he writes ‘Some of us have different maps to find love.’
Other animals he comes across further add to his list of ideas – that of Poppa Hedgehog demonstrating how sometimes love can be a bit puzzling …

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until eventually Cyril heads home where his friends are waiting, eager to find out about his quest. It’s in their reception of him that Cyril finally comes to know a crucial fact about that all-important word: that seemingly small acts of love can have a huge impact;

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and not only for those on the receiving end, I suggest.
There are many beautiful picture books on the market with love as an inherent theme. This one, with its cartoon-style illustrations and in-built questions is likely to promote lots of discussion among youngsters and will, I hope help to enlarge their understanding of such a vital concept. To that end there are some suggested activities and a guide for adults on the last two pages. Written by an expert on trauma, parenting and related topics, this is definitely one for the early years shelf in nurseries and for children’s centres.

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Noggin the Nog

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Noggin the King, Noggin and the Whale,
Nogbad Comes Back, Noggin and the Dragon
Oliver Postgate & Peter Firmin
Egmont Publishing
I’ve been a huge Noggin fan since I was a child and at one time was the proud owner of a much-cherished complete set of the original The Saga of Noggin the Nog books on which these new editions are based. Sadly, years ago my partner waxed lyrical about them to our plumber and without asking permission, loaned them to him, for his son. To this day I have never seen them again: all I have now are just these two duplicates …

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What we have here are I think, smaller versions of the Early Reader editions, also from the 1960s. In my experience, young children do love collecting little books and so I’m sure these mini Noggins will be a big hit. Noggin himself is goodness through and through. Here are the opening lines of Noggin the King: ‘Noggin was a good king./ He liked to look after his people./ He liked to give them warm socks to wear.

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 He liked to give them good food to eat./ He liked to make sure that they had good roofs on their houses.’ Oh Noggin, we need you now.
Noggin is married to Queen Nooka; he often consults her when he is puzzled over a question and herein it’s a particularly thorny one: “Tell me, Nooka, am I king of the birds as well as king of the people?” She doesn’t answer him directly but together, the two seek, and find, an answer …

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Beautiful.
In Noggin and the Whale, Noggin is celebrating his birthday. Unusually however, he’s not the only recipient of presents: the ever benevolent monarch gives all the children of the town gifts too: things with which to create music …

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However, on this particular birthday, the musical celebrations are interrupted when a whale summarily seizes the boat in which Noggin and the children are playing and lifts it aloft. But that’s only the beginning of this delicious tale. Noggin’s young son Little Knut plays a significant part in saving the day (and shifting the whale) as does Olaf the Lofty (who as he tells us himself, is “very clever”), and the town’s bell-maker helps too.
Nogbad Comes Back sees the return of Noggin’s wicked uncle – banished from the Land of Nog by Noggin, to spend time in his castle to learn to be good. The crucial question however is, has Nogbad really seen the error of his ways? “Now I am Nogbad the Good!” he asserts but Queen Nooka has her doubts. Will he behave if Noggin allows him to take part in the annual animal and vegetable show;

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or will he, once again, show his true colours?
In Noggin and the Dragon, we join Little Knut and his friends when they go on a dragon hunt.

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But are there, or aren’t there – Noggin definitely says there aren’t – any dragons left in Dragon Valley? If not, then what is this …

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For me, Noggin has lost none of his charm: indeed he’s even more adorable and wise than ever. And from a mature adult perspective, bringing so much more to the stories, I can really appreciate the genius of  Noggin’s creators, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.
It’s wonderful that Egmont have brought back these tiny treasures. I’m over the moon.

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Tufty/The Grumpy Pets

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Tufty
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Subtitled ‘The Little Lost Duck who Found Love’ this story starts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace where we meet a family of ducks and in particular the youngest, Tufty who we are told ‘always struggled to keep up.’

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The Royal residents of the palace – the Royal Duck and Duckess – (looking decidedly like the feathered residents) feed the duck family when they take their lakeside perambulations and keep them entertained with grand parties in the palace ballroom.

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With winter fast approaching, it’s time for the ducks to fly south to warmer climes Father Duck announces, and very soon, they’re on their way. Unable to keep up, Tufty is left behind and flies down to a subway on a traffic island where he discovers a kindly homeless man. The man takes Tufty back to his makeshift shelter in a hollow tree and there he looks after him …

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right through the long winter months.
Come spring, Tufty is much bigger and stronger and one day he sees his family overhead flying back to their lake in the palace grounds. Tufty joins them and as the number of ducks on the palace lake increases day by day, he notices one particular little duck that takes his fancy. Soon after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods where the kindly man warmly welcomes them.

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Foreman’s glowing watercolours are unfailingly wonderful, particularly in their portrayal of the contrasting scenes of the lush green palace grounds and the high-rise blocks of the city skyline; and the rainy urban roundabout and the peaceful hollow chestnut tree abode of the man beside the small lake.
Readers and listeners will warm to the plight of left-behind Tufty and the kindness of the man who gives him shelter and food, despite having very little of his own.

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The Grumpy Pets
Kristine A. Lombardi
Abrams
When a mother takes Billy and big sister Sara to Perfect Pets, the animal rescue shelter, it’s in the hope that it will give her somewhat disagreeable son something to smile about. Seemingly everyone else, including Sara, has managed to find their ideal pet …

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but young Billy remains decidedly sombre.

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Off he goes to look around the place, a place that seems full of happy animals, not his thing at all. But then he hears ’BARK!’, ‘GROWL!’, ‘Hisssss!’ which leads him to …

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and in particular one that’s ready to give as good as it gets and more …

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resulting in an “I’ll take him!” from Billy who knows when he’s met his match. Thus begins, one suspects, as we see boy and dog heading home, a wonderful friendship that will bring a whole lot more smiles where Billy is concerned.
Populated by endearing characters human and animal, this is a warm-hearted story of mutual rescue that is most likely to appeal to pooch lovers and those who sympathise with small, sometimes grouchy boys.

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