The Jackie Morris Book of Classic Nursery Rhymes

The Jackie Morris Book of Classic Nursery Rhymes
illustrated by Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books

This is a wonderful new edition of Jackie Morris’ selection of forty nursery rhymes. In her introduction Jackie talks of their crucial importance and vitality in our modern digital world.

Of those included here, some will likely be familiar: there’s Ride a Cock-Horse, Hickory, Dickory Dock, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep and Sing a Song of Sixpence, for example;

whereas others – The Hart and the Hare, To the Bat and All the Pretty Little Horses, for example might be new discoveries.

The entire book has a dream-like, timeless quality to it thanks to the exquisite watercolour paintings that grace every spread. It’s virtually impossible to choose a favourite but on this day of writing and sweltering heat, I was drawn to the absolute tranquillity of Baby’s Bed’s a Silver Moon.

There’s humour, the beauty of the natural world, surprises and more; in fact pretty much everything you could wish for in a book that’s an absolute treasure, not just for the very youngest, but for anyone who loves art and language.

Sadly many young children nowadays don’t have that bedrock of nursery rhymes that we nursery and reception class teachers tended to take for granted when little ones began school decades back; but giving a new parent a copy of this stunningly beautiful book might just start a child off on a journey of becoming a lover of words, stories and reading.

A Handful of Animal Board Books

The Safari Set
The Jungle Crew
The Polar Pack

Madeleine Rogers
Button Books
Here we have the first three board books to be added to the Mibo series and they’re some of the best board books I’ve seen in a long while. Each one features a different natural location and all have rhyming texts and some brief, attractively presented snippets of information inside the back cover.
The Safari Set takes us to the dusty, sun-scorched African plains where lions laze, giraffes graze

on high-up leaves, elephants roam, zebras flash past and hippos wallow for hours in the cool water.
In the dappled, leafy jungle we encounter members of The Jungle Crew: a troop of lively monkeys, screeching macaws with their dazzling plumage,

a fearsome-looking tiger stalks, toucans chomp on tasty fruits and tree frogs hop, and drop (when it’s time to lay eggs).
Members of The Polar Pack live in either the far north or far south; many are under threat and need protection. The South Pole is home to Emperor penguins: mighty-tusked walruses, polar bears,

huge-hooved reindeer and snowy owls reside in the North Pole.
Superb, beautifully patterned illustrations and rhyming texts that are a pleasure to read aloud make these top quality little books for the very youngest.

Really Feely Baby Animals
Really Feely Farm

Polly Appleton and Dawn Sirett
A host of animals (5 per book) introduce themselves and invite toddlers to participate in a variety of sensory experiences such as ‘Rub my tufty fur. Then choose a shiny red apple for me to eat.’ or …

Feel my fuzzy feathers. And touch my smooth, pointy beak.

A kitten, a playful puppy and a baby rabbit also want to be similarly explored in Baby Animals.
In Farm Animals we meet first a chicken, and go on to encounter a sheep, a piglet, a duckling …

Feel my soft, fluffy tummy. And touch my smooth, shiny beak.

and a calf.
In both books the photographic images on each recto really seem to leap out from the page, heightening the whole visual experience. On the baby rabbit page for instance, its whiskers glisten as the light catches them. However it isn’t only the animals that are tactile; every item on the page provides a lovely feely experience and a whole lot of language learning possibilities.

Story Box

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Story Box
Anne Laval
Laurence King Publishing
Open up Story Box and you will find a set of twenty double-sided jigsaw pieces – a mix of beginnings, middles and endings – that can be arranged and rearranged to tell a whole host of different stories. In her engaging illustrations, Anne Laval has provided details that allow for users to take the story in a variety of directions depending on the way their imagination works at any particular time.
You might choose to start with a king standing with a princess in a castle turret: the king is waving but to whom? And what about the young princess; she’s gazing in another direction – what are her thoughts?
Turn the piece over and there are three characters – a man, a woman (holding a hen) and a boy: are they parents and a son? Farm workers? The boy is smiling? Why might that be?
Take another piece – an inbetween one, maybe this … Ahh! Might it be an alternative version of Jack and the Beanstalk perhaps …

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or you might choose to send the boy off on his horse on a quest of some kind.

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There are all manner of fairytale characters he could encounter – a witch, dwarves (seven of them), a wolf clutching what one child thought was a shuttlecock but on closer investigation decided it’s a pepper pot (but could it be a sprinkler with something else inside?)

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Oh! and there’s this pink rabbit – large here …

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but not in other scenes: again he offers all manner of possibilities …
The witch’s house, the castle, the woods, a cave, an ice-ream van even, supply background for scenes to unfold as a story progresses.

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With such fairy tale motifs as a sword, a beanstalk, a basket of rosy apples users may want to stay close to the familiar or alternatively, let their imaginations run riot before finishing up with one of the half dozen endings available. Here are three of them …

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This is a great classroom resource that can be used across a wide age range from nursery up. Its potential depends only on the setting and of course to a certain extent, the creativity of the teacher and children using it. It is absolutely brilliant for developing speaking and listening skills, for building co-operative skills, for storytelling and writing, (maybe with an adult scribing) for drama, as starting points for art and craft in two or three dimensions – the possibilities are enormous.
If there are children learning English as an additional language in the group, an adult could tell a story pausing to ask the children to look for the appropriate card piece, gradually building a chain as the narrative progresses.
Alternatively a small group could be given several pieces each and sitting in a semi-circle, take turns to add a piece to the tale supplying the narrative to accompany it.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, the contents of this box cries out to be played with. ‘Narrative’ says Barbara Hardy, ‘is a primary act of mind’; here is a resource to get started with.

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The Big, Big Bing Book/Big Bear little chair

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The Big, Big Bing Book
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This outsize board book, which is adapted from Ted Dewan’s original Bing books, certainly is a splendid BING THING! Clearly it’s designed for group sharing and I envisage small children lying flat on the floor poring over and discussing the plethora of images they find herein.
It’s thematically organized with each of the half dozen double spreads being given over to a different topic. Thus we have ‘Hello Bing! that introduces Bing Bunny’s friends and relations, Bing’s house (and garden)

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that is simply crammed with everyday objects that are part of Bing’s domestic life.
From there, Bing’s world enlarges to encompass the immediate environment – the woods, his street, the park and playground, Amma’s crèche and more.
We also join in with the numerous Playtime activities that absorb Bing and his pals, each of which is illustrated vignette style,

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then there’s a Colours page with Bing’s own ‘Rainybow Song’ and another for Numbers.

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The final spread looks at two more concepts Opposites and Seasons.
Each double spread is packed with details that will assuredly get children talking, enthusing, laughing and learning in a playful, enjoyable way be it at home or at nursery.

Also full of opportunities for language development is:

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Big Bear little chair
Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books
Take a comparatively simple size concept – big/small – and turn it into a beautiful, stylish three-story book encompassing the concept but with so much more is what Lizi Boyd does here beginning thus …

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And continuing with …

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and finally, after the butterfly has hatched –

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The second story introduces little bear and moves on to …

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and eventually …

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The bears then come together and another story unfolds and finally we meet the whole cast of story characters.

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Read differently, each page itself could be the starting point for a story that the reader goes on to create.
With its bold, patterned, slightly whimsical illustrations executed with a limited colour palette, no matter how it’s read, this offers an experience full of delight and potential.

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