The Long Way Home / Dirty Bertie: Bees!

These are 2 new Stripes Publishing books that are just right for newly independent readers: thanks to Little Tiger for sending them:

The Long Way Home
Corrinne Averiss and Kristyna Little

Baby elephant Otto likes nothing more than adventuring with Nanu and he’s thrilled when Nanu announces they are to spend a day climbing right to the top of Lion Mountain. Old she might be, but Nanu is extremely wise; she’s also brave and bold and shares Otto’s enthusiasm for exploration.

As they prepare to set out Nanu reminds the little elephant what an explorer needs to remember at all times but from the outset, Nanu seems to be having a forgetting kind of day. First she leaves the fruit out of the backpack and then she forgets the name of their destination and once they reach the top of the mountain it transpires that she’s actually left the backpack behind.

All those things are relatively easy to remedy but then as they start back down, it’s evident that Nanu has forgotten the way home and instead has been taking them into the depths of the forest.
Now it’s up to young Otto to remember everything his Nanu has taught him about being ‘a great elephant explorer’ and endeavour to get them safely back home.

Corrinne’s story is a wonderfully warm one that demonstrates pachyderm style, the importance of both family relationships and memories. A warmth that is brought out beautifully in Kristina Little’s gorgeous illustrations: who could resist falling for Otto and Nanu?

Dirty Bertie: Bees!
Alan MacDonald, illustrated by David Roberts

There’s never a dull moment when young Bertie is around and if you were to collect every one of the books regaling all his misdemeanours, they would fill an entire shelf.

This one presents three more. The first relates what happens when Bertie’s taste for the delicious honey he splurges onto his breakfast toast leads him to entertain ideas about becoming a bee keeper like his neighbour, Mr Monk with whom Bertie has previously had the odd run in. That sounds like trouble to me … and sure enough it is.

Story two sees Bertie and his Gran doing a spot of Great Aunt Morag sitting while his parents are otherwise engaged.

Surprises come thick and fast when the three of them head for the park where a nerve-wracking day unfolds.

In the third episode Bertie’s mum wins a journalism award with dinner and an overnight stay for two at a four-star hotel hotel as part of the prize. Just imagine the potential for trouble when Mum manages to bag another couple of tickets for Bertie and his sister Suzy to accompany them. But why does Bertie insist on taking his own duvet? A lively occasion really doesn’t describe it …

With its hilarious illustrations liberally scattered, new solo readers will devour this in a sitting; the episodes make fun short reads aloud too.

Ori’s Stars

Ori’s Stars
Kristyna Litten
Simon & Schuster

Far, far out in the deepest darkest depths of space lives a lonely being going by the name of Ori.

In an attempt to keep warm, Ori rubs her hands together and in so doing creates a beautiful shimmering entity that she names star. So delighted is she that she continues creating star after star.

Suddenly into the light that she’s created around her something moves, reaching out for one of her stars.

Ori is somewhat taken aback but agrees to teach Bella, the newcomer, how to make a star too.

It’s not long before many, many more things appear from the darkness congregating around Ori and Bella and all eager to become star-makers.

Together they create incredible coloured starscapes all around …

But then Ori considers the possibility of other lone entities far out in the inky black feeling the same loneliness that she had once felt.

Knowing the joy of friendship, she persuades her friends to join her in an endeavour that will ensure that no-one need ever feel alone in the dark.

Can she succeed in dispelling that fear of isolation and replace it with friendship across the entire universe?

How much we all need to emulate Ori and her newfound friends by reaching out to others during these seemingly dark times. This beautifully told and illustrated story of reaching out to others is just perfect to share with little ones at any time but especially just before bed.

I’ll Love You …

I’ll Love You …
Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten
Andersen Press

I doubt little ones these days are familiar with the phrase used on the opening page of this rhyming book, ‘I’ll love you till the cows come home’ but they’ll love the silliness of the whole thing. There are already countless books whose theme is the love a parent has for a child but this one is altogether zanier, without the saccharine sweetness that many of the sub’ Guess How Much I Love You’ kind have.

The nine verses each tell the reader they’ll be loved until … with each of the scenarios becoming increasingly outlandish. ‘I will love you till the frogs ride past / on big-wheeled bikes going superfast … // in a circus for seahorses, shrimp and bass. / I will love you till the frogs ride past.’

Or ‘till ‘ the deer dance by’ (sporting dapper top hats); till ‘ the geese flap down’ (with gourmet marshmallows);

till ‘the ants march in’ and then some, for there’s no end to this love.

The litany concludes as all good just before bed tales do, in a sequence of perfect bedtime scenes.

The catchy rhythm of Kathryn Cristaldi’s telling combined with Krystyna Litten’s portrayal of the animals’ exuberant activities make this a wonderfully silly way to assure your child they’re forever loved.

Alternatively, with Valentine’s Day coming up you might also consider it as an altogether different way of telling that special someone, ‘I’ll love you forever.’

Norton and Alpha

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Norton and Alpha
Kristyna Litten
Simon & Schuster
From the creator of Blue & Bertie comes a wonderfully whimsical tale of robot, Norton. Norton is an inveterate collector of ‘interesting things’; things that he used in the construction of his amazing inventions. Then one day he comes upon a small nameless item that he employs in what he calls Project Alpha and from then on, Norton has a constant companion to help with his collecting. Alpha has a nose for digging deep and unearthing all manner of marvellous things, such as the baffling object he discovers one Tuesday morning …

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Determined to learn more about it, the two eventually manage to extricate it from the ground and take IT home to Norton’s abode.

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Exhaustive tests prove fruitless and finally Norton tosses the object – now distinctly the worse for wear – out of the window. All that remains of their experiments is one very tiny round thing, something Norton decides to keep just in case …
Several days pass and on Friday the conditions are right for another treasure hunting foray. They run to open the doors and the sight that meets their eyes is truly …

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You need little imagination to decide what they spent that day collecting and it mattered not that they knew not what IT was.
What a joyful story, what endearing characters; and Kristyna Litten’s restricted colour palette is altogether apt for her otherworldly story.

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