Super Duper Penguin Slide

Super Duper Penguin Slide
Leonie Lord
Walker Books

There’s a pleasing kind of circularity about this tale of a penguin family’s epic journey, big ones at the front, small ones behind.

From the start it’s evident that this lot are well-organised and polite too, with their tickets at the ready to board the bus when it finally arrives at the stop, and the readiness to let those in great haste get past on the escalator. Such deeds still enable the penguin brigade – mum, dad and five little ones – to board their train in the nick of time as it begins to ‘Chugga chug, choo choo’ its way across the varying terrain until – disaster!. The train pulls to an untimely halt and an announcement is made.

Looks like it’s time to draw on another of those penguin propensities – persistence.

A phone call to a goat soon gets them out of trouble and finally they reach their destination. Now at last, it’s time for some fun and it’s downhill all the way … almost.

Full of fun characters – silent bit part players as well as the main cast and supporting nesting guinea pigs – Leonie Lord’s scenes both large and small contain a wealth of amusing details to giggle at as readers follow the flippered family on their journey with its highs and lows.

Sofa Dog

Sofa Dog
Leonie Lord
Alison Green Books
When it comes to the sofa, the canine narrator of this book reigns supreme: the only person he’ll allow to share it is the aptly named, young Sophie, his ‘human’. Hence his name, Sofa Dog.

Seemingly others, be they animal or human are unaware of the territorial rule; they too want to share the springy seat. And it seems the doorbell is never going to stop ringing.
Before you can say, “Budge up, Sofa Dog!” there are a couple of cats from next door, three aunties – all avid knitters,

friend Polly plus pony, a host of rabbits, Grandpa (from Bavaria) with his orangutan oompah band, and a panda; and they’ve all piled onto the sofa.
Hang on though, there’s an additional guest, a very tiny one that’s managed to sneak in unnoticed. Now what could that be? And why has everyone suddenly started scratching?
Is this perhaps an opportunity for Sofa Dog to regain his rightful place on the sofa? It can’t be much fun sitting outside all on his own, now can it?

Utterly crazy, and bursting with zany characters to delight both readers aloud and listeners. Leonie Lord portrays every one of them, and the chaos they create, with great panache.
Who can resist falling for the charms of the exuberant Sofa Dog in particular, though I did rather fall for the drum-playing member of Grandpa’s Bavarian band too.

I’ve signed the charter  

Pets and Problems

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Lottie Potter Wants an Otter
Jeanne Willis and Leonie Lord
Harper Collins Children’s Books
An otter certainly isn’t the most likely of animals for a child to want but it’s the pet of choice for young Lottie Potter. So off she goes with a hop and a skip into town.

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Mr Trotter has a wide range of otters available – spotty, potty, snotty, swotty, tie in a knotty, or hot from Lanzarote. Seemingly there’s something for all tastes here.

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Somewhat overwhelmed, Lottie turns to the shop-keeper for expert advice. He duly selects, a purchase is made and off goes Lottie with her otter. However, said animal isn’t quite the perfect pet she’d anticipated; it’s an absolute rotter through and through, even having the audacity to bite her bot. …

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Who could possibly blame her for taking it right back to the shop and demanding a refund? Well, that may have been her plan but it’s one that’s well and truly thwarted causing Lottie to rid herself of the unwanted animal elsewhere,

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and go seeking an altogether more suitable creature for her next pet. Err …
The jaunty rhyming extravaganza is illustrated with zestful scenes of otters cavorting, climbing and carousing, and Lottie’s one in particular, causing chaos. Leonie Lord’s otters are guaranteed to make you and your audience giggle as much as Jeanne Willis’ otterly dotty words.

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Hiccups!
Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Book
Hiccups seem to come on all too easily, but getting rid of them, well that’s another matter. And that’s the problem facing young Ruby but the hiccups aren’t hers; it’s her dog Oscar that’s Hic! Hic! Hiccuping …
Ruby however is full of ideas and it’s as well she’s not one to give up easily. They try dancey-dancing,

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jumpity-jumping, slurpity-slurping …

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not to mention twirly-twirling and hoppity- hopping all to no avail. Not even munchy-munching or wielding a magic wand halt the hics. But Ruby has one more idea up her sleeve – one that involves a complete change of garb and this time … silence from Oscar. But maybe hiccups are catching after all err …
Great potential for audience participation herein – let’s hope the hiccups are simulated not real though or you might find yourself having to try out some of Ruby’s remedies. Ruby and Oscar are both thoroughly engaging characters – cute but also spirited, and their relationship is beautifully captured in Holly Sterlings’ scenes large and small.

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Bothersome Bedtimes: Max at Night and Whiffy Wilson

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Max at Night
Ed Vere
Puffin Books
It’s Max’s bedtime – long past it in fact and he’s very sleepy, but having performed his ablutions and started his round of goodnights, he can’t snuggle down just yet. The moon is nowhere to be seen and he must bid it goodnight.

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Off he goes outside to try and get a different view. There are stars aplenty but still no visible lunar presence so he tries going a little higher. No sign of the moon still and no sound from the sleeping canine. There’s a tall, tall tree that might help though.

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The only response to Max’s “Goodnight tree… Do you know where I can find Moon?’ is a rustle. Oh dear Max, seems you’re having a frustrating time.
But undaunted ,our lovable feline goes ever higher – up the tallest building and then the highest of high hills where he receives just a whistle in the wind. Ah ha!
Max is at the end of his tether: “Mooooooooon! Where are yoooouu?” he howls and hearing his call, that wind blows and blows and blows and suddenly there from out of the clouds emerges …

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After a rewarding lunar encounter, it’s a very tired but very happy Max that climbs all the way back down and finally up his own stairs to …

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I think he earned that sleep and so did my audience of 4s to 7s who shared the story with me: the indomitable Max got a round of applause – for his perseverance I suspect as well as to express their satisfaction with this super follow up to Max the Brave.
A wonderful colour palette – warm and atmospheric, Ed Vere’s wit and off-beat illustrative style, and an increasingly endearing protagonist make this another winner for Max and his creator. Great endpapers too.

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Whiffy Wilson the wolf who wouldn’t go to bed
Caryl Hart and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books
This is another treat featuring lively lupine, Wllson and the ever-helpful Dotty. Herein young Wilson wolf is more than a little averse to bedtime; he’d far rather be playing one of his many musical instruments,

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singing at the top of his voice or doing one of the numerous other important jobs he loves to do, like lining up his cars or building with his blocks.
Looks as though it’s down to his friend and neighbor, Dotty to teach him about the importance of rest and relaxation – after a spot of tidying up that is.

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And in pretty much no time at all, the canny young miss has Wilson fed, bathed and in his PJs with teeth brushed, ready for a bedtime story. DSCN5590 (800x600)

But the best thing of all is that after a wonderful night’s sleep, there he stands on Dotty’s doorstep with a special ‘thank you’ breakfast treat …

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A fun rhyming story to share at bedtime – or just before – particularly with those youngsters who, like Wilson, come up with all manner of delaying tactics when it comes to getting ready for bed. If you’ve not met Wilson before do take this opportunity to do so with this latest episode. Leonie Lord’s spirited illustrations are full of humour and playfulness.

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Don’t miss the Children’s Book Illustration Autumn Exhibition at Waterstones, Piccadilly 23rd-29th October

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Tricky Times with Albert and Whiffy Wilson

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Albert and Little Henry
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
There’s a touch of the Not Now Bernards about the latest Jez Alborough offering. It features young Albert who has a particular prowess for storytelling, regaling his parents with his flights of fancy.

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Until, one day there’s a new arrival in the family. “I can’t listen to a story now, … Little Henry needs his bath.” and “Not now, Albie, I’m trying to get Little Henry off to sleep,” is what he hears or “Why don’t you tell us a story later?” from his weary Dad and Mum.
When Albert does as he’s bid and goes to his room to wait for ‘later,’ a strange feeling comes upon him …

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Nobody notices his sudden lack of stature and at Little Henry’s celebration party it’s the same story.

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An angry Albert heads for his bedroom leaving others firmly on the opposite side of the door. Then Mum leaves a special present for him bearing three important words and after that things begin to change – for the better this time. Albert is restored to his former size and those creative juices start flowing once more…
Albert clearly shows how the arrival of a new brother or sister can make a child feel small and insecure. His woeful expressions and temper tantrum are beautifully visualized in Alborough’s adorable scenes or sibling jealousy.
For me, it doesn’t quite have the allure of Where’s My Teddy? and sequels but Albert is sure to find a place in the hearts of any family facing the potential emotional upheavals of a new baby.

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Whiffy Wilson The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Go To School
Caryl Hart and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books pbk
Whiffy Wilson is introduced to the delights of school when he reluctantly allows his friend and playmate, Dotty, to lead him by the paw to the door. From there though she has to use a little bit of force to get him into the reception class. Before long however, she has initiated him into the delights of painting, playdough, and mathematical activities; and then it’s time for lunch and a game of soccer. At this, Whiffy proves something of a star and makes some new friends too.

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The afternoon is spent in some co-operative model making – hard work despite Wilson’s comment, “All we’ve done so far is play!

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followed by storytime.
It’s a contented Wilson who accompanies Dotty home and next morning he’s up and ready for some more school delights but there’s a shock in store …
This hilarious rhyming story (it’s great to read aloud) went down really well with my audience of young children who have already discovered the delights of school. These ‘old-hands’ loved the visuals and immediately recognized the young wolf’s initial fears and laughed delightedly at the comic ending.

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Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Shopping

Billy the Goat’s Big Breakfast
Jez Alborough
Doubleday
As Nat the Cat prepares a tasty breakfast to share with her friends Billy Goat and Hugo Hare, she is interrupted by the early arrival of a ravenous Billy. Nat leaves Billy waiting and continues her preparations but her pal is unable to resist the temptation to start sampling the food and before long, not only has he slurped all the juice but also taken an enormous bite of the bread – a very gooey mouthful. That’s when the real trouble begins; instead of a rumbling tum, Billy Goat now has a gurgling, swelling one not to mention a very sticky grin. It’s that grin which causes Nat to take her bag and head off to the shops leaving Hugo Hare to listen to Billy Goat’s confession. On her return she discovers Billy wrapped in a coat supposedly cold and tells him to sit by the fire. Well, we know and she knows what will happen then… Time for Billy to own up to his hostess but she knows he has learned his lesson so its time for a belated breakfast and a singsong. (words are provided).
Alborough’s gentle cautionary tale bounces along and his large illustrations are immediately engaging. The expressions on the faces of the three friends, particularly Billy Goat’s, are hilarious. Billy’s Breakfast Song can be downloaded from http://www.jezalborough.com.billythegoat
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Just out in paperback is Jez Alborough’s first story about the three friends, Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile previously reviewed in the March Selection.

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The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet!
Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk.
The McFly’s Christmas pooping dinosaur is back in another rhyming romp. This time, armed with a packed lunch, he accompanies Danny to the Science Museum to see the rockets. They discover one with a door large enough for a boy plus pet dinosaur to go inside. It’s an open invitation and needless to say, the temptation to touch the controls is too great: Intergalactic Mission is under way. Before long the dinosaur’s tummy rumbles in readiness for lunch but where are those packed lunches? Certainly not on board! So begins a disastrous dinosaur feast and not only the controls but great chunks of the rocket itself are consumed, even the moon, Martians and more are munched. Finally, with nothing at all left of their rocket and Danny crying space-suits full of tears, the dinosaur realizes there is only one way to get them safely back to earth. Time for another pooping plan to be put into action right away…
Poo, planets and pandemonium – definitely a recipe for resounding success with small children who will laugh uproariously at the galactic gallivanting of the boy and his pet, hilariously portrayed and documented in tongue teasing verse that will have many adults in fits too.
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Ding Dong Gorilla!
Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord
Orchard Books pbk.
In this ‘off the wall’ story, we hear first hand from a small boy what happens when he opens the door, not to the pizza delivery boy who is expected but to an enormous gorilla. Said gorilla barges into the house and proceeds in pursuit of fun, to take enormous liberties creating havoc all over the house and in the garden too. Such activities as crayoning, dressing up and picking flowers not to mention smashing a vase, a window and a chair have given him large appetite, so he sets to work creating even more mess with the blender and ingredients for a chocolate cake. Finally the delivery boy does turn up with the order but guess what – there is a big black hairy shape exiting through the front door clutching a huge cheesy pizza just as a pair of high heeled feet can be seen on the stair.
It’s truly amazing just how much chaos one gorilla or one small boy can create in the time between ordering a pizza and his mother going upstairs to get ready for dinner. Leonie Lord runs riot with wonderful scenes of devastation at every turn of the page; I know a good many mums with young children who will recognize such scenes. Wonderful stuff.
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Spells-A-Popping Granny’s Shopping
Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger
Nosy Crow pbk.
Supermarket shopping can be rather a bore but that is definitely not the case in this story. The little girl narrator recounts what happens when she accompanies her Granny to stock up on provisions, a granny who just happens to be a witch. Needless to say it’s not long before biscuits are dancing, popcorn is popping and the fish fingers are swimming towards the door. And that’s before the two of them spot a couple of robbers stashing sweets and cakes into a large sack. Time for another wave of granny’s wand and a bit of help from a chocolate bear and then, robbers safely under arrest it’s back home and a tasty meal for two cooked up by one very special granny.
Zany characters, action-packed scenes full of amusing details and a lively rhyming text – just the right ingredients for a hugely enjoyable storytime read.
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