Tom’s Magnificent Machines

Tom’s Magnificent Machines
Linda Sarah and Ben Mantle
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

This is a totally awesome picture book that celebrates the very special relationship between young Tom and his father. It also celebrates their inventiveness and resilience in the face of difficulties.

We first meet the two as they zip around their lakeside home with dad pulling his son in a small, simple vehicle they’ve fashioned from bits and pieces.

Gradually however their inventiveness escalates and their home becomes chock full of weird and wonderful whizzy, whirry, hovering machines: life is peachy.

Then unexpectedly, Dad loses his job and with it, so Tom thinks, his smile and his propensity for inventiveness.
Gloom descends and the old machines lie forgotten. Then comes even worse news: they can’t afford to keep their home. Tom is devastated. Taking his trolley-bike he sets off to do some thinking.

Suddenly he has an enormous, hope-filled idea. Back home Dad appears relatively uninterested but finally Tom gets his message across and Dad smiles for the first time in many days.

A great deal of creating, testing, fixing and more ensue until beyond anything anyone could have imagined, they’re ready to open ‘The Museum of Vehicles Made From Things Not Usually Used For Making Vehicles.’
Visitors pour in, and wonder and laughter fill their establishment. Life is once again peachy as Dad says they can stay in their home.

Life does sometimes have a way of throwing disasters in the way of some unlucky people, and so it is for Tom and his Dad.
One night a whirlwind destroys their dream house, scattering its contents and leaving just rubble.

Despite his ‘badly-hidden sad’ Dad however mentions rebuilding;

Tom has other ideas. Off he goes once again on his bike; and returns with a brilliant new suggestion. It’s pure genius and one that will work no matter what the elements throw their way.

Linda Sarah has such an amazing way with words; her story is sheer delight to read aloud: coupled with Ben Mantle’s stupendous scenes of the highs and lows of life as shared by Tom and his dad, the result is a terrific book to share, and share and …

The Secret Sky Garden

The Secret Sky Garden
Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers
Simon & Schuster

Funni loves to visit the disused rooftop airport cark park, coming almost every Saturday to fly her kite or play her recorder but always she feels a lack of something.

She can imitate the notes from the airport tannoy, the whine from the engines of landing planes and the music of the bells in City Square, but something else is needed. Something visual perhaps?

Funni decides on operation transformation and each week for the next three months she brings a sack of soil and collects up all the litter until eventually, the entire surface is covered with soil.

Then it’s time to plant seeds and wait …

Now in addition to flying her kite and making her music, Funni has the flowers to tend but even so, still she feels something is missing.

Then the very first visitor arrives …

What happens thereafter will make your heart sing: I won’t reveal what that is, but suffice it to say it involves a flourishing of flowers aplenty, and friendship, a city soundscape with beautiful music, kite flying and thanks to Fiona Lumbers’ glorious floral scenes, the most gorgeous colours you can imagine.

Linda Sarah’s Funni is an enchanting child and her story, although sparely told is pitch perfect for her themes and has touches of poetry.

With its inherent creativity motif this is altogether an uplifting book that will delight both children and adults alike.

Friendships Tested

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Olive and the Embarrassing Hat
Tor Freeman
Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar) pbk
I think this has to be my very favourite of the Olive series. If you’ve ever been given a present you feel a fool wearing then this one is definitely for you.
Olive is given a hat that is anything but stylish by her best pal Joe and he sports one to match – almost. When the two walk out together their other, so called friends, make fun of their offbeat headwear until eventually Olive can take no more and she dumps her offending article in the rubbish bin.

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Her drastic action however, is seen by Joe, who now feels affronted and off he goes. Time to make amends thinks Olive, but how?
Our ever resourceful feline quickly puts her signwriting skills into action and steps out ready to sock it to the world

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and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, well only Joe and there he comes…
No more will Olive be the butt of anyone’s jokes.

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What a triumph.
Both words and pictures brilliantly explore the boundaries of friendship in this hilarious story; the hat disposal sequence is absolutely priceless.

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Another winning shot from Olive and her creator, Tor Freeman.

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On Sudden Hill
Linda Sarah and Benji Davies
Simon & Schuster pbk
Best friends Etho and Birt spend countless hours in each other’s company, much of it on Sudden Hill where they entertain all manner of flights of fancy as they sit inside their respective cardboard boxes. No matter whether they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts or pirates they are always ‘Big’ friends with a two-by-two rhythm. Then one Monday along comes Shu; he too has a box and wants to join their play.

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Etho agrees; Birt keeps quiet. The three play but Birt is not happy and one night he trashes his box. No more visits to Sudden Hill for him despite invitations from the other two; instead he sits at home drawing, missing his best friend and their play together.
Then one day there’s a knock on Birt’s door and Shu calls him to come and see what they’ve made for him. Imagine his delight at what is waiting outside– an amazing “Monster Creature Box Thing”, Mr Climbfierce by name. And where better to take it than up Sudden Hill; moreover, it’s just perfect for three – Birt, Etho and Stu.

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Now Birt loves their three-by-three rhythm.
A tender, insightful look at the challenges and rewards of accommodating a third person into a best friends scenario. The spare, straightforward manner of Linda Sarah’s telling is a perfect fit with Benji Davies’ expressive paintings. Their muted colours echo the reflective nature of the story and capture so well the joys and small tribulations of childhood.

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Jerome Keane & Susana De Dios
Orchard Books
Anyone who has ever spent time with young children will recognize this:
Horse and Fox, both bored, both notice, seemingly simultaneously, an egg shaped object and both claim ownership – no surprises there. … “But I saw it first,” said Horse. “No mine,” said Fox. “I saw it first.” “Didn’t,” said Horse. “Did,” said Fox. “You really didn’t,” said Horse. “Really did,” said Fox. (Such a familiar scenario and so well observed.)
Impasse – something’s gotta give guys.

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A realization dawns – “KIND OF SHARING?” Great idea; but then …

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Perhaps not after all –

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Wonderful characterization, the dialogue is spot-on, stylish, and very funny, superbly expressive illustrations complete the package.

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Close Encounters


First Words and Pictures
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Frances Lincoln pbk
From the opening spread, this whole book is an irresistible invitation to join the lovable Chimp and Zee on a joyous extravaganza of language learning and fun.


We see the chimps as they explore the contents of the dressing-up basket, have something to eat, visit Jungletown – look carefully and you’ll see what they are up to there, try all manner of vehicles, explore the possibilities of a pet, wield paintbrushes dipped in brightly coloured paints,


introduce different kinds of weather, fill each and every day with alliterative activities, learn to count to ten, romp about in the bathtub and finally snuggle up with a book at bedtime –


what better way to end a day?
All this is presented through amusing rhymes, with the final sentence on each double spread being a child-involving question, and wonderfully detailed, witty and often, action packed illustrations large and small. Guaranteed hours and hours of pleasure for toddler and adult together lie within (even on) the covers of this one.
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The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000
Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Big Picture Press
Printed on sturdy card pages to withstand the heavy handling this is likely to receive, is this unusual picture book that puts the reader in charge of the direction of the story; indeed they become one with its inhabitants.


A large cast of characters participate in the seven futuristic scenes, indoors and out, which include a rock concert, a rocket race and naturalistic locations such as a water park. The identities of the various characters are developed as one follows each from the apartments scene in the first spread to the various busy settings in the city and its environs.


It is enormous fun to visit this multi-hued civilization, so cleverly crafted and portrayed by the Mizielinska/Mizielinski partnership. For those who like full-on visuals from which to create their own dramatisations,, this is a must-have book.
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Mi and Museum City
Linda Sarah
Phoenix Yard Books pbk
Meet Mi; he resides in a tiny blue hut in the middle of the River Weary in the middle of Museum City. All the buildings save Mi’s home are museums. The place is dull to put it mildly and Mi is very lonely; but two things save him from utter depair – his pebble collection and the sounds made when they fall onto different surfaces, and STARLIGHT.
Then one day when out hunting for additions to his collection, Mi hears a different kind of sound, one that fills him with happiness. He follows it to its source and discovers a Big, Tall Thing playing on an enormous single stringed instrument, the most wonderful music he’s ever heard. Thereafter things change, not only for Mi but also for Yu, for that is the musician’s name and also later, thanks to Yu’s wonderful music, for the Mayor of Museum City



and ultimately for the whole city. All manner of marvellous museums begin to spring up all over the place; there’s the Museum of Donkeys that Roar, the Museum of Rain (that houses three billion raindrops), the Utterly Irrevelant Museum of Creatures that do not Exist and have Never Existed, the Museum of the White Bits on Waves and many, many more, each one created by a quirky resident of the city.


All this of course, results in a whole new wonderful way of seeing the world, or rather life, for Mi who becomes, at the end of each and every day, a visitor to the very best place of all: the Museum of Starlit Benches Arranged at Different Heights for Pebble-Dropping and other Fun Things and guess who sits there beside him? Yu of course. Amen to that!
What a wonderfully uplifting and crazy experience it is to visit Museum City along with Mi, not forgetting Yu too. It’s absolutely brimming over, well actually perfectly contained within the covers of this joyous book. Moreover, there is a large fold-out map of Museums from A to Z attached to the inside back cover – another fine feature. If you are fascinated by the minutiae of life then lose yourself within the pages of this one; you’ll feel different when you emerge.
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