David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales / Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard

These are two special gift editions with Christmas in mind

David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales
written by Lynn Roberts-Maloney
Pavilion Books

This sumptuous edition brings together three of the brother and sister team’s fairy tales previously published as separate books, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. Lynn’s texts written with enormous verve and David’s magnificent illustrations that set each of the stories in a different era combine to re-energise tales from way back making readers experience them with fresh eyes, ears and hearts.

For Cinderella we’re transported to the art deco 1920s, age of flapper girls and glamour, where Greta’s (aka Cinderella) stepsisters, are Elvira (the wicked one) and Ermintrude (she’s exceedingly dim).

Her fairy godmother is a fashionista and her stepmother is a stone cold-hearted bullying female who immediately evicts Greta from her room giving it to her own offspring instead.

Rapunzel is set in the 1970s when platform shoes were all the rage. The beautiful miss in this version has a red-haired stunner as its star and she resides in a tower block flat, (or rather is imprisoned by her Aunt Edna who owns a ghastly pet crow).

Edna insists that safety is the reason for her niece’s current incarceration, and she uses occasional gifts of second-hand records and magazines to placate the girl, promising to show her the city sights once she’s older. Said aunt is employed as a school dinner lady, one who almost force feeds her charges with such ghastly fare as lumpy custard. Enter stage left, young Roger, lead singer of the school band. Could he be the one to rescue the red-haired damsel?

Sleeping Beauty has an entirely female cast, a 1950s vibe and a science fiction loving young lady Annabel who on her first birthday, falls under the evil spell of spiteful witch Morwenna, and wakes many more years later than the sixteen she’d first thought.

If you know somebody (or several people) who love fairy tales, then buy them this totally brilliant book: I’m going to have to invest in several copies this season. And, KS2 teachers just think of the potential this offers in the classroom.

Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child
Oxford University Press

This bumper book with superbly spirited, full-colour illustrations by Lauren Child (who better to illustrate this Pippi 75th anniversary edition?) is an ideal present for a lively child with an inquiring mind, and a cracking way to bring Pippi, fellow residents of Villa Villekulla, monkey, Mr Nilsson and her horse – the one she can lift with her super strength – (strictly speaking he lives on the veranda), and her next-door friends, Annika and Tommy, alive to a new generation of readers and listeners.

The episodes herein include that where Pippi gets a trifle carried away when she goes on a shopping spree with a pocketful of golden coins. The consequences are pretty unlikely (unless you’re Pippi) with a bit of bother over a false arm and whether or not the particular shop is self-service. She also gets carried away in the sweet shop buying rather an excessive amount of sugary confectionery, and uses her common sense in the pharmacy.

Another time there’s an addition to the school role, though only briefly; Pippi also livens up the school outing;

has an encounter with a rather large ’kitty’, she gets shipwrecked and almost leaves her ‘more organised’ Villa Villekulla life and sails away with her father to live a thoroughly disorganised one.

Hours of pleasure visual and verbal, lie between the two covers of this gift edition.

The Goody

The Goody
Lauren Child
Orchard Books

We’ve probably all met them – the goody goodies; but Chirton Krauss is by all accounts, ‘the very goodest’. He even does good things without being told. He consumes his least favourite vegetable, broccoli, washes his hands thoroughly after using the loo and goes to bed on time without so much as a murmur.
His sister Myrtle on the other hand is anything but a good child. She never cleans out the rabbit hutch when it’s her turn – why would she when Chirton will do it for her?

Nobody invites her to parties any more and she’s been told she’s not good so many times, she now has a reputation to live up to. Moreover their parents have given up trying to make her do the good things her brother does without question.

But then he does start to question: why should Myrtle not have to eat her veggies and why should she be allowed to stay up late watching TV, stuffing herself with choco puffs and dropping them all over the floor?

Maybe, just maybe, being a goody isn’t actually so good after all.

Could it be that a change is about to come upon our erstwhile goody, goody boy? And what about Myrtle? Might changes be afoot in her too? …

Delivered with Lauren Child’s unique humour and charm, and her idiosyncratic illustrative style she presents a smashing ‘goody versus naughty’ story that demonstrates how important it is for children to be allowed to be themselves and to be kind.

Whatever way youngsters present themselves to the world, they’ll love this book with its wonderfully textured art, credible characters and wry look at family life Krauss style.

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy
Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Browne, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Lauren Child
Walker Books

Now in paperback, here’s a truly special gem of an anthology subtitled ‘Let your imagination soar with top tips from ten Children’s Laureates’. It brings together the ten awesome authors and illustrators who have held the title (given in celebration of their outstanding achievements) and first awarded to Quentin Blake in 1999.

To open, Michael Morpurgo explains how the original idea of the role (each person holds it for two years), was first thought up by himself and Ted Hughes, the then Poet Laureate.

You might be especially interested in poetry, rhyme and wordplay, if so head first to the sections from Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson. Michael in Poetry Belongs to Everyone talks about playing around with a word to create a poem. Julia Donaldson’s Plays to Read and to Write discusses one of her own plays that she based on the Aesop’s fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, offering a fun, lively 6-parter

If you’d rather be playful in the visual sense then Anthony Browne’s The Shape Game could be your starting point: having talked about how to play it, he showcases some examples from 3 other famous illustrators to whom he gave the same shape to play as the one of his own shown in the book. The potential with this one is endless. Probably that is the case with most of the chapters however.

In The Only Way to Travel, Quentin Blake writes with reference to  Dahl’s stories, about how when illustrating someone else’s texts it’s important to ‘put yourself inside their story’ and capture the atmosphere before diving in and drawing those fabulous illustrations of his.

More about how other fabulous illustrators approach their drawing and what provides their inspiration comes from Chris Riddell –

make sure you check out his brilliant cartoons of all ten Children’s Laureates in the final section – and Lauren Child.

How fantastic and moving is Michael Morpurgo’s Find Your Own Voice that tells children how to do so in ‘I Believe in Unicorns’.
I thoroughly enjoyed too, Malorie Blackman’s Taking a Word for a Walk using SEA as her example,

before she moves on to discussing from whose viewpoint a story is being told when one writes.

If you want to inspire children to let their imaginations soar, then you really, really must have a copy of this cracker of a book in your home or classroom; not only will it do just that, but it will also ignite or add fuel to a passion for reading, writing and illustrating. (BookTrust, which manages the Children’s Laureate gets 50p from every sale.)

Canine Capers: A Dog with Nice Ears / My Secret Dog / Safari Pug

A Dog with Nice Ears
Lauren Child
Orchard Books

Another deliciously funny, wonderfully whimsical Charlie and Lola story from the current Children’s Laureate is sure to delight countless readers both young and not so young.
Herein Lola’s current obsession is dogs; she can talk of nothing else and would like one more than anything. “More than a squirrel or an actual fox.
In turn, she pretends to be one, pretends Charlie is one and pretends she has one.
There is a slight snag however: her Mum and Dad will agree to a rabbit – Dad will even take her to the pet shop to buy one – but they’ve stipulated, ‘ABSOLUTELY NO DOGS!’
Nevertheless, it will come as no surprise that Lola remains utterly convinced that she will leave the pet shop with the dog of her choice, and goes on detailing her specific requirements for same. Requirements that include “nice ears

a bushyish tail like a fox” and “It must absolutely do barking.

Lola-isms such as these are an absolute hoot for adult readers aloud.
I won’t spoil the ending but let’s just say that it concludes highly satisfactorily with the naming of Lola’s new pet.
With Lauren’s trademark mixed media, droll illustrations this is a canine caper par excellence.

My Secret Dog
Tom Alexander
Jessica Kinglsey Publishers

In a first person narrative account a little girl relates the trials and tribulations of having a pet dog and trying to keep it a secret from her mum who has decreed they don’t have room for a dog.
It begins when the cute-looking stray dog follows her home and she allows him in, initially just for something to eat.
Her mum is out and by the time she returns, the little girl has the dog safely hidden in the cupboard.
A sleepless night follows and then it’s time for school. Another challenge especially when the dog, after behaving well all morning, decides to demolish a scarf and pair of gloves, and then leaves a deposit in someone’s wellies.
Thereafter things decline rapidly until finally the narrator is forced to reveal her secret.
There follows a mother/child chat where keeping secrets is discussed and mum also explains why the dog cannot remain with them.

All does end happily though and there’s a wonderful final twist to the tale.
Simply told and illustrated, this engaging story will have readers smiling, perhaps even laughing, at the young narrator’s antics.
Discussions about keeping secrets and the consequences of one’s actions might well take place in a classroom setting after the book has been shared. Equally so at home where it can also be helpful for any parent whose child wants a dog in inappropriate circumstances.

Safari Pug
Laura James, illustrated by Églantine Ceulemans
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

In the third adventure starring Pug, the dog is awoken one night by screams from Lady Miranda who goes on to inform him that there’s a lion in the bedroom.
A search follows and housekeeper, Wendy, assures them there is no lion and offers to stand guard overnight just in case.
Next morning Lady Miranda decides Pug must prove to Wendy that he’s not scared of lions and declares a visit to the local safari park to confront one, is necessary.
On arrival the ticket seller refuses to allow their sedan chair inside the lion enclosure, deeming it totally unsafe, and diverts them to the Animal Adventure land.
Thus begins a crazy adventure involving meerkats, penguins, monkeys and yes, there’s even a rare white lion cub named Florence and a decidedly dodgy character by the name of Arlene von Bling who seems to be showing more than a little interest in the lion cub.

Humorously written, and illustrated throughout by Églantine Ceulemans whose art work is equally funny, this is a super book for readers just starting out on chapter books.

Fun with Numbers

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One Thing
Lauren Child
Orchard Books
The author tells us the idea for her new book came because she ‘loves the way little children start counting almost before anything else’ and she assuredly brings a deliciously creative and exciting slant to the topic of numbers with the help of Charlie and Lola. Mum is taking them to the shops and they are allowed to choose one thing – one thing each that is – and they have TEN minutes to get ready:

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so, in comes the idea of numbers in relation to time …

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and addition, and possibly multiplication.
But they haven’t even set out yet for Lola has already become distracted – albeit with counting the dots on her dress.
Finally they’re on their way but of course, once again Lola is side-tracked and it’s ladybirds that have captured her attention; she’s full of questions: “How many shoes would fifty or twenty-seventeen ladybirds need, Charlie” … “What about socks?” (potential for some audience calculation after the story perhaps?). On they go past the water meadow –

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lots of birds to count there and up on the telegraph wire.
If you’re wondering if they ever reach the shops , the answer is yes, eventually after a lot more procrastination, well counting I suppose.

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And yes they do each choose one thing – kind of – and guess who has nothing to show for her choice by the time they all reach home once more.
Numbers and counting in real life situations is by far the best way for young children to begin to develop mathematical concepts: well done Charlie (and Lola) for finding lots of fun ways to do this and well done Lauren Child for crafting a wonderfully funny story wherein they (and listeners/readers) can learn so much about numbers. Every spread is rich in potential and could well be the starting point for an interesting session for early years educators who might be challenged to see what maths potential (apart from the obvious) they can find at every turn of the page.
Great fun and a brilliant way to promote the ‘maths (in particular numeracy) is exciting ’ idea to young children.

Another book that promotes the idea of numbers being exciting while at the same time fostering in children of all ages creativity and interest in design is:

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Numbers
Paul Thurlby
Hodder Children’s Books
Newly in paperback is graphic artist Thurlby’s creative, wonderfully thoughtful and thought provoking book illustrating numbers – numbers 0 to 9

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and then ten, twenty, thirty, forty

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etc. through to one hundred.
The artist speaks of his style in the book’s preface as‘retro-modern’ and his work reminds me of vintage railway posters …
I particularly love the way he so cleverly and wittily takes each number and incorporates the digit(s) into the scene illustrated opposite …

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Some of the striking (humorous) number representations will mean much more to older children/adults

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than to very young children learning to recognize the numerals (I’ve yet to discover a child who really has learned to recognize 0 to 10 by using counting books). Indeed this whole enterprise is much more about art and creativity than numeracy: I’d love to have some of these illustrations on my own walls.

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Double? More? Too Much?

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Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!
Atinuke and Lauren Tobia
Walker Books
When Anna Hibiscus discovers that the ‘big bump’ is twin brothers, she knows that she’s in for some “Big Trouble” as her cousin Chocolate puts it. What it means immediately though is that none of the family seems to have time for her any more; they’re all far too busy with extra work that’s a result of the two newcomers. Uncle Sam is busy making food for Anna’s mum; her Grandmother has been up all night and now needs to sleep and her aunties are baby minding.

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Poor Anna Hibiscus finally loses her temper and shouts, which sets the babies off bawling and she herself dissolves into tears. Oh Dear! It’s then that Papa finally takes notice of her and explains the implications of Double Trouble: sharing is now the order of the day.
Eventually though, people do pay her attention  and then it’s the turn of that big sister to become a comforter.

 

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It will take time for young Anna Hibiscus to learn how to accommodate those newcomers, and she has to learn to take turns for her mother’s hugs and sometimes even share them with others…

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I’ve loved all the Anna Hibiscus stories: this one too is a real delight and it’s absolutely perfect for those with a new baby in the family or anyone anticipating a new arrival. Those gorgeously warm-hearted illustrations are just the business.

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More!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press pbk
In most very young infants, the acquisition of a new word is a cause for celebration. However when young Alfie rhino adds “More!” to his vocabulary the result is destruction,

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and all manner of excesses, some dietary, others very noisy or messy or, on occasion, something rather more desirable.
So when he is invited to a fancy dress party he gets more than a little carried away with the design of his costume

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and despite its amazingness, it has distinct disadvantages when it comes to joining in the party fun especially at cake-sharing time …
Fortunately though having more than just a few friends is one thing that does work in his favour, and all ends happily.
The young charmer is sure to win further friends with his latest romp: as always it is delivered with appropriate verve and exuberance in both words and pictures. Share with Alfies and other littles of the human variety and I suspect they’ll straightway ask for MORE!

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No More Cuddles!
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
Despite living alone in the forest, Barry suffers from a surfeit of cuddles: he’s literally smothered by them and it’s all a bit too much.
A disguise might do the trick, he thinks to himself; but it just isn’t scary enough.

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Angry growls and scowls don’t work either; something more drastic is required seemingly. So Barry advertises for a relief cuddler and finally along comes one that meets the job description perfectly. Even then though, the animals continue to hurl themselves at Barry and he finds himself hurtling into a mucky swamp and it’s there that he gains a bit of well-earned respite.
Exuberant scenes and a decidedly cuddle-able main character, not to mention a host of delightful bit part players, are the chief ingredients of this warm-hearted story.

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Hubert Horatio
Lauren Child
Puffin pbk
Child prodigy, Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent, (referred to as H by his ultra-rich, but forgetful parents) starts to call the tune right from his early infancy. He cannot however do anything about the fact that the nightly cup of cocoa he and his parents share is always cold by the time the lad has climbed the numerous flights of stairs to the parental bedroom. Despite this, life jogs along happily for Horatio until one day his parents throw a party and the jelly runs out halfway through. Very odd, thinks Horatio but that is only the start of the family’s woes and before long he realizes that his parents are financially embarrassed, to say the least.
The young lad takes the initiative and money-making plans intended to refill the family coffers are soon put into action. But Mr and Mrs Bobton-Trent continue to party and live the high life

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until a frustrated HH decides downsizing is their only option. The family moves to a new home – 17b Plankton Heights – and there surprisingly, Horatio’s mum and dad settle quickly and woopy-do – because of the short distance to walk, everyone’s cocoa is still warm by the time it arrives at the parental bedroom.
Highly entertaining with wonderfully whimsical, richly patterned collage-style illustrations, Hubert Horatio is truly a force to be reckoned with.

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