Snooze / The Whales on the Bus

Here are two fun picture books that will ensure very noisy storytime sessions

Snooze
Eilidh Muldoon
Little Door Books

Courtesy of Eilidh Muldoon’s wide-eyed (mostly) owl, what is offered here is a splendidly soporific explanation of how to ensure the best sleep ever. Mmm!

It all begins well enough with our strigine narrator locating a comfortable, peaceful place for slumbering … errr?

– a place wherein you can snuggle and appreciate the surrounding silence – so long as other avians aren’t anywhere around, that is.

Darkness is highly desirable and some soft background music often works wonders

– so long as that’s all you can hear; so maybe it’s wise to check out the location in case of caterwauling felines and yapping pooches. And if your neighbours are not aware of your desire to sleep, a polite request to keep the volume down would be appropriate.

That should mean, that at last it really is slumber time; aaaah!. And once you’ve had that wonderful sleep why not do as our narrator suggests and let one of your pals try using the book too. Sweet dreams …

The clever combination of tongue-in-cheek text and wryly amusing, beautifully executed illustrations make for a splendid debut picture book from Eilidh Muldoon. Whether or not it works as a bedtime story, I’ll leave you to discover.

The Whales on the Bus
Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Expect a great deal of enthusiastic noise and lots of action when you share this with little ones. It’s an open invitation to choo, choo, zoom, zoom. dive, loop-the-loop, quack, quack, beep, roar,

yo, ho ho, slip and slide, float and even perhaps whisper nighty night along with the bus riding whales, crane train passengers, skiing bees, jeep driving sheep, submarine diving seals, gliding piloting tiger, truckload of ducks, skating snakes

and the other adventurers in Katrina Charman’s joyful animal extravangaza.

Using the tune of the nursery favourite ‘The wheels on the bus’ and showing each in turn of Nick’s zany scenes of the (largely) cacophony-creating creatures you can have an absolute whale of a time with a class of pre-schoolers when you read this.

Slightly older children could have terrific fun creating their own verses to add to those composed by Katrina and then illustrating them. Bring it on, say I.

One Button Benny and the Gigantic Catastrophe / Bad Cat!

One Button Benny and the Gigantic Catastrophe
Alan Windram and Chloe Holwill-Hunter
Little Door Books

Young robot Benny returns for a new adventure (hurrah! I hear fans shout) and now the Cool Cat competition is fast approaching so, like all his friends, Benny has to get his moggy Sparky super shiny and sparkly for the big event – having done the wretched washing up, that is.

Disaster strikes though, for the next morning every single one of the cats has disappeared. An exhaustive search of the town reveals only a note on the ground: the cats have all been kidnapped.

This certainly warrants the pressing of Benny’s (only to be used in pukka emergencies) red button assures his mum.
Having duly done the deed, something unexpected happens: Benny’s button opens like a door, disgorging two rolled pieces of paper.

There’s only one thing to do if Benny and his friends are to get their pets back safely and that’s work together following the instructions on the paper

and Trojan Horse style, build an enormous scrap metal cat in which to hide and wait for the return of the alien kidnappers who will surely come and steal this massive cat once they hear about it.

And sure enough they do. Fortunately all this cat-napping has made the aliens sleepy and once back on their own planet they fall fast asleep leaving the rescuers to find their missing moggies.

Things don’t go exactly to plan thereafter but I’ll leave Benny and his friends being chased by the wobbly alien cat stealers and you to get hold of a copy of Alan (author) and Chloe – illustrator’s – wacky tale of teamwork, forgiveness and dish washing to discover what happens subsequently.

Bad Cat!
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow

Nicola O’Byrne’s feline character Fluffykins may have a cute sounding name but this moggy is anything but cute. Indeed he creates a chain of havoc as he knocks down a vase of flowers, tangles up the knitting, unwinds the loo roll, plays havoc with the venetian blind, leaves a large puddle on the floor and that’s not all.

Now I’m not a cat lover, nor am I familiar with cats’ behaviour, but it appears from his expressions that in his boundary pushing actions, Fluffykins knows exactly what he’s doing despite his owner’s warnings and chiding. On the other hand it might just be playful oblivion. In this story Nicola O’Byrne leaves it open for readers to make up their own minds.

With a text addressed directly at the mischievous moggy and so much white space around the action, this latest offering is certainly something altogether different from her previous books.

Young listeners will probably relish Fluffykins sheer devilment; this ailurophobic reviewer certainly would steer clear of his abode.

How Billy Hippo Learned His Colours / Molly’s Circus

Two new picture books from Little Door Books, kindly sent for review

How Billy Hippo Learned his Colours
Vivian French and Hannah Foley

Billy Hippo has learned swimming but he now needs to learn his colours because he wants to give his dad a special birthday present – something pink as his siblings suggest.

The trouble is Billy has yet to learn his colours.

Nevertheless he sets out looking for pink flowers along the path beside the river.

There are flowers aplenty, of a variety of colours, as the parrot he meets is quick to tell him.

Gradually though with the bird’s help, by a process of elimination Billy does come to know what the colour pink looks like;

but does he succeed in finding the right colour flowers for his dad? I wonder …

Children learn their colours through a variety of experiences, just like Billy and Vivian French ’s story will help in that learning process. So too will Hannah Foley’s bold bright illustrations, made all the more fun by the presence of a pair of mischievous-looking frogs that follow Billy in his search, one clutching a pink flower.

You can download a free audio-book of the story along with some songs from the publisher’s website.

Molly’s Circus
Esther Kent

A little girl (the narrator) dons her boots and goes off out to play, followed by her harassed-looking mum.
Once in the garden the child views her surrounding and then lets her imagination soar as she announces, ‘There’s a CIRCUS in my garden.’
The washing line becomes a high wire; there are clowns, trick cyclists and a ‘trapeze in the trees.’

A troupe of acrobats performs under the direction of the ringmaster extraordinaire – Molly – who gets a little bit carried away …

Happily though, mum is on hand to provide exactly what’s needed.
Debut picture book creator Esther Kent’s exuberant, detailed artwork fizzes with energy and glows with warmth; every spread is a wonderful reminder of how children are able to transform the mundane into something magical.
You can find Molly’s Circus song from the publisher’s website.

What Not to Give an Ogre for his Birthday / Caveboy Crush / Iguanas Love Bananas

What Not to Give an Ogre for his Birthday
Will Hughes
Little Door Books

Stanley and Martha love buying birthday presents for people and always manage to find just the right thing; but when it comes to their new neighbour, Len the friendly ogre, the task is shall we say, a challenge. The usual things – a bike, clothes, a theatre trip or a pet don’t really fit the bill and a ride in a hot air balloon would be somewhat problematic.

Can the two come up with an idea that could make Len’s birthday the best he’s ever had?

This story of determination and friendship is the first of the Little Door Debuts imprint and it appears as though the publisher has found a new talent with Will Hughes, whose scribbly style illustrations are great fun, putting me in mind slightly of Quentin Blake’s work.

Caveboy Crush
Beth Ferry and Joseph Kuefler
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Here’s a sweet story of a first crush Neanderthal style.

Meet caveboy, Neander, who falls for the ‘most beautiful girl in the prehistoric world’ short, hairy Neanne, who is perfect in every way. His parents accurately diagnose the problem when he becomes all moony.

Armed with flowers picked from The Field of Bees, Neander rushes off to try and woo the little cave-girl but …

and there she isn’t.

The disappointed caveboy decides a grander plan is needed but this too is a dismal failure of the CRUSH kind and Neanne decides her wooer is just a little a bit crazy.

Could it be a case of third time lucky perhaps …?

A fun tale with splendidly expressive illustrations should make for an enjoyable, somewhat noisy storytime as youngsters enjoy the opportunity to let rip with a CRUSH or two during the telling.

Iguanas Love Bananas
Jennie & Chris Cladingbee and Jeff Crowther
Maverick Publishing

I suspect the authors of this crazy rhyming narrative about animals and their food predilections are fans of Kes Gray & Jim Field’s ‘Oi!’ picture books.

In this story we meet all kinds of creatures, large and small, dining on their favourite foods much to the consternation of the humans from whom they steal or otherwise procure such things as fajitas – that’s cheetahs; sausage rolls – the water voles raid a picnic basket for theirs; vindaloos, though these are seemingly paid for at the take-away, but the people on whom they sneeze on account of the spices are less than impressed.

I’m unsure how the manatees got hold of a crate of blue cheese but the end result is constipation, so we’re told.

I have to say though, that I’m with the guy on the final page who is the only one relishing Brussels sprouts. Yummy!

Jeff Crowther clearly enjoyed himself creating the illustrations for this culinary romp; his scenes of all those animals stuffing themselves are full of gigglesome details.

Daddy Frog and the Moon / Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief

Here are two new picture books from Little Door Books; thanks to the publisher for sending them for review:

Daddy Frog and the Moon
Pippa Goodhart and Augusta Kirkwood

Pippa pens a tale of paternal love frog style, in her sweet story wherein a father frog sets out to find something to show his baby froglet just how much she is loved.

Baby Frog though is more interested in being shown how to squiggle and even when presented with a perfectly round stone, all she asks is that he shows her how to swim. Not content with his first offering, Daddy goes off searching again but the flower wilts and Baby is eager to learn hopping. Once again, she’s left to perfect the skill herself while Daddy seeks further proof of his love for her.

By now he’s searching by moonlight. But not even with his gigantic leap can he reach the moon.

No matter, for what he does find is something much better: Baby Frog, and she has some exciting news to share …

Warmly told by Pippa using plenty of dialogue and repeat join-in phrases; and with Augusta Kirkwood’s beautiful, textured scenes of the pond, its flora and fauna, this sweet story is ideal for human sharing around Father’s Day and any other day too.

Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief
Emily Dodd and Giulia Cregut

When Rosie squirrel discovers her stash of nuts has been raided and almost all are gone, she and always hungry, Charlie, decide to become Crime Squirrel Investigators. The clue is in the shells and off they go on the thief’s trail.

First stop is Dora Dormouse but she’s soon eliminated, as are Tappy the woodpecker and Squeaker the wood mouse.

Throughout  their investigation, Charlie has been trying to tell Rosie something and finally, he gets a chance to speak. What was it he wanted to tell his friend?

All ends happily with the friendship intact, and a plethora of hazelnuts to feast upon.

Rosie is quite a good detective when it comes to identifying nutshell clues and young listeners/readers will enjoy anticipating what is coming when Charlie eventually speaks out.

Equally they’ll enjoy Giulia Cregut’s amusing illustrations, which bring out the inherent humour in Emily Dodd’s telling.

Both books have additional material – audio versions and songs – that can be found at the publishers website. 

 

Magna Cow / A Campfire Tale

Magna Cow
Barry Hutchison and Cate James
Little Door Books

Brisket is a cow, an unusual one with especially curly horns, a particularly frizzy tail and, when it’s dark a faint glow emanates from her. Odd though these features might be, there is one that makes her even more extraordinary, she’s magnetic.

It’s this magnetism that causes Magna to create havoc at the cows’ camping trips,

bring about the dismantling of their treehouse and appropriate the cutlery at a party.

Consequently when the big day of the Moove to the Music dance competition comes around, Brisket is banished to the top of the hill while the other bovine beauties strut their stuff.

Suddenly disaster, in the form of a trundling tractor moving downhill, is about to strike. The dancing cows are too busy prancing and pirouetting to notice what’s happening. Only Brisket from her hilltop vantage point sees the danger: can she save the day?

Cate James daftly depicts this bonkers, but fun tale, about mooving metal, bovine bother and friendship from Barry Hutchison, with appropriately crazy-looking cattle and their shenanigans.

Specially written songs can be downloaded from the publisher’s website.

A Campfire Tale
Sarah Glenn Marsh and Ana Gómez
Sterling

The first night away from home, be it a sleep over or as in this story, a camping trip, can be a scary thought for some children and it appears so with Dragon too.

The child narrator though offers to act as his buddy. Assuming he’ll be a great companion, she takes him swimming, sailing and involves him in the whole gamut of camp-related activities,

even a puppet show; but all go pretty badly to say the least.

Perhaps it was a big mistake to take on the Dragon as her buddy especially as the other campers now seem to be avoiding them.

Come the evening, Dragon is a disaster when he attempts to help with the tent pitching and insists on listening to ghost stories, despite being scared stiff of same, but the last straw is his effort to get rid of a spider, which only serves to inflame the situation.

The narrator sends him packing and in the morning, there’s no sign of the scaly character.
The campers search for him in the woods but quickly get lost; what’s more they hear something growly in the distance.

Could this be an opportunity for Dragon to redeem himself perhaps?

The bold, bright illustrations by Ana Gómez are comical and engaging, showing the feelings of both Dragon and narrator.

Try and Say Abracadabra! / How Billy Hippo Learned to Swim

Try and Say Abracadabra!
Maria Loretta Giraldo and Nicoletta Bertelle
Ragged Bears

It’s spring; all the little birds are learning how to fly and having a great time so doing. All that is except Little Owl who, despite support from teacher Mrs Pigeon, is left standing on his branch terrified.
Tortoise comes along and encourages him suggesting he use the super magical word ‘Abracadabra’

but when Owl tries, the word comes out wrong and he crashes to the ground.
Two attempts under Mouse’s direction fail to achieve more than a little flutter and then along comes Hedgehog with his suggestion that owl shout the magic word as loud as he can and …

Success!
Now the grateful little creature is ready to pass on the secret of his success to a baby frog that’s afraid to jump …

The power of Giraldo’s never give up message is artfully portrayed in Bertelle’s mixed media, digitally worked illustrations of the endearing characters.

How Billy Hippo Learned to Swim
Vivian French and Hannah Foley
Little Door Books

All hippos LOVE swimming!” So says Billy Hippo’s dad in response to his son’s declaration that he doesn’t like swimming. The water’s too cold and too wet; Billy is convinced of that.
Other members of his family try their hardest to encourage him to join them in the water but Billy stands firm on the river bank.

However Billy’s family aren’t the only ones aiming to get him swimming. Two frogs have, all the while, been watching the whole situation unfolding and scheming up their own plan. With the strategic placing of a well-chosen item or two, they cause Billy – as Hannah Foley shows in this splendid slapstick sequence –

to hurtle into the water and after a deal of glugging, not to mention swirling and wallowing, Billy announces, “I love swimming.”

Simply told in a direct manner that leaves Hannah Foley plenty of room to fill in the details in her fun-filled illustrations, this is a good bet for little ones who have a reluctance to take the plunge.
You can down load a free audiobook and songs from the publisher’s website.

A Snoring Giant, A Favourite Witch & Knights Galore

The Giant Who Snored
Mike Nicholson and Amy Lewis
Little Door Books
In the hills close by a town lives a gentle giant. He’s a great favourite of the townsfolk especially the children who look forward to his daily visit and the fun it offers …

Everything is tickety boo until the day the giant, suddenly overcome by tiredness, falls asleep during his visit. The loud snores he emits rock the whole town causing absolute chaos on land and sea and driving the residents absolutely crazy.
The hullabaloo must be stopped, announces the mayor offering a reward to anyone who can wake the slumberer. However, despite the best efforts of the blacksmith, the tailor and the chemist, the giant remains sound asleep. Is there anybody who can rouse the snorer? And if so, how?
Here’s a clue as to the who …

As for the how, suffice it to say, it’s pretty disgusting and likely to cause young listeners to emit delighted ‘eeuugh!’s in response; and everything ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
Apart from the very occasional slight creak, Mike Nicholson’s rhyming text slips nicely off the tongue -read it through to get the phrasing right before sharing it though. In combination with Amy Lewis’ digital scenes of the stentorian snores of the giant and their effects, you have the makings of a lively, enjoyable story time session.

Winnie and Wilbur The Naughty Knight
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
In their latest magical escapade Winnie transports Wilbur and herself back in time into a medieval castle where, for a change, her faithful moggie takes the starring role in the grand tournament, with Winnie as a lady-in-waiting.
Can the gallant knight, Sir Wilbur outshoot the famous Sir Roderick in the archery contest? And what happens when the two come face to face in the jousting?

Let’s just say that Winnie has her magic wand neatly stowed away about her person and thanks to a few deft flourishes of her arm, Sir Wilbur cuts Sir Roderick down to size in spectacular fashion, just in time to attend the magnificent banquet in the Great Hall. No need for magic there surely? …
Even after 30 years, Winnie and Wilbur’s magical charm never seems to wear off and it’s especially good to see Wilbur as the star of the show; love those split page layouts especially.
This one brims over with zany humour and is full of potential for primary classroom themes.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: The Dinosaur’s Return
Kristina Stephenson
Egmont
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is back to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first adventure in what I think is story number nine.
When Charlie’s pet cat Envelope unknowingly hatches a dinosaur’s egg, the young knight together with his faithful friends, set out on a quest to return the ‘little something’ to Thunder Mountain.
A quest that sees them sucked into a swirling watery tunnel, diving into the vent of a volcano and more, before landing up on an island and in so doing, precipitating a dinosaur stampede.

All ends happily however with grateful dinosaurs and a spectacular display of fireworks.
Fast moving, fun, full of action and with dino.-sized flaps to explore, Sir Charlie and friends continue to delight.

One Button Benny

One Button Benny
Alan Windram and Chloe Holwill-Hunter
Little Door Books

Benny’s planet is populated by robots; robots of all shapes and sizes, and each with an array of multi-functional buttons. Benny though is different: he has just a single, central button, a large one bearing a warning that it’s only to be used in an emergency,
The little robot is taunted by his fellow robots who love to show off their button-activated skills.

Longing to press that button of his, Benny looks everywhere for emergency opportunities, but without success.
Then one morning, while pondering his button’s possibilities, he glances outside and sees something is amiss.
In the street it’s panic stations: overnight there’s been an invasion of collectors.
These are small, green aliens that travel the galaxy in search of shiny metal to toss into their massive crunching machine and fashion it into teapots – yes teapots! And it looks as though this is to be the fate of the entire population of Benny’s planet.

Emergency!
There’s only one thing to do in an emergency …

Now it’s Benny’s chance to save the situation. Can he do it? Can he prevent the threatened mechanical mayhem?
Robots, aliens and space are amusingly combined in this sc-fi. tale for early years audiences who will enjoy the metallic characters and have a good laugh at the unlikely teapot fetish of the alien invaders.
Chloe Holwill-Hunter portrayal of a metallic world populated by anthropomorphic robots executed predominantly in burnished shades of greys, black, blue and tan are distinctly otherworldly and have a strangely fascinating appeal.

I’ve signed the charter  

At Sea with Captain Cranky & Mayday Mouse

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Captain Cranky & Seadog Steve
Vivian French and Alison Bartlett
Little Door Books
Captain Crankie lives with his canine pal Seadog Steve beside the sea. They spend their days taking villagers and visitors to watch seals and dolphins in the Mary Rose, and their evenings together in their tidy home. However, the locals are a messy lot: they leave all kinds of rubbish lying around spoiling the look of the place and upsetting the captain. Enough’s enough, he decides and he and Steve drag and haul all the rubbish back to their house, load it into the Mary Rose and set off out to sea where they jettison the lot overboard, leaving it to sink down into the depths. Before long though, there is a whole lot more rubbish …which also ends up in the same place deep under the waves much to the consternation of mermaid Millie. She resolves to speak to Capain Crankie and next evening she’s there waiting atop a rock as the Mary Rose heads out with another cargo of rubbish. Before long Millie is leading the Captain and Seadog Steve on a deep sea dive to see the results of the Captain’s thoughtless dumping.

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What’s to be done? It seems Seadog Steve might have a good idea up his sleeve…

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The result of the villagers’ fishing expedition is certainly some unexpected hauls; but it’s not long before everything has been put to a new and exciting use and everyone is happy.

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An important environmental message is embedded in this charming story. It’s told in a straightforward manner that is easy to read and easy to absorb without being simplistic, by Vivian French; and through Alison Bartlett’s richly coloured, detailed illustrations.

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Mayday Mouse
Seb Braun
Child’s Play
I really love Captain Mouse’s spirit of determination and optimism in the face of adversity. She sets out in her walnut shell boat one sunny day with an important mission – to deliver her brother’s birthday present. Her friends bid her “Bon voyage” warning her to keep watch for “big waves and watery perils” and instructing her to shout “MAYDAY” should she need their help. Mouse however is convinced all will be well; but then the wind drops. Undaunted, she whistles a sea shanty three times and lo and behold, back comes the wind and off she goes again with the wind getting stronger and stronger …
Suddenly, down comes the rain, the boat starts filling with water and a storm blows up …

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tossing mouse and boat into the air and towards a crashing sound and ‘a dark and dangerous cave’.
Quick-thinking Captain Mouse steers past only to find herself about to crash into some large rocks and the next moment …

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What is it that Mouse is thinking? Surely not “This is the end of me!” as she hurtles onto a small sandy island where, cold and exhausted, she’s soon fast asleep.

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Is she going to be left stranded or will she eventually reach her brother and deliver that birthday surprise? It’s fortunate then, that she keeps her cool, remembers her resourceful friends’ instructions and …

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Here they come with everything needed for a quick repair to her boat and off they go.
There’s a lovely musical finale that delighted my audience and had them joining in with the birthday greetings .

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Despite the very damp interlude, this is a thoroughly heart-warming story with a plucky little heroine. Good on you Captain Mouse. Did you spot the polluting object in that final scene? It was certainly a hazard for our heroine.

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Finding a Way

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Don’t Wake Up Tiger!
Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
Author/audience complicity is crucial to making this delightful story work: right from the opening ‘Shhh! Tiger is asleep and we mustn’t wake her up.’ youngsters are drawn into the plot: a plot that entails getting Frog, Fox, Tortoise, Mouse and Stork plus a bunch of balloons past Tiger without waking her.

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The balloons play a vital role: Frog uses one to float him right over, but we have to play our part with a bit of nose stroking to make sure Tiger stays asleep. Fox certainly needs our help too or he’ll land right on the sleeper …

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Phew! That’s two past and Tortoise goes next: gentle tummy stroking is required for his safe passage across a nearly waking Tiger; and Mouse’s crossing needs the assistance of a lullaby and a spot of rocking – not the boat – but the book or more accurately, Tiger. She’s safely over but her balloon is adrift. Last comes long-legged Stork but OH! NO! Mouse’s drifting balloon is dangerously close to her beak … Breath-holding anticipation by audience before …

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One very startled, wide-awake Tiger. What’s next? Surprise! For Tiger perhaps though maybe not listeners; think balloons, think sing along for a very special day …
Great fun to share – for both children and adult readers aloud.

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A Puppy’s Tale
Alan Windram and Chloë Holwill-Hunter
Little Door Books
Georgie is a small puppy with a lively interest in things around her. So much so that one day while out walking she strays from the path in pursuit of a bouncing frog. Her attempts at jumping like the frog are unsuccessful and suddenly, the frog jumps off home.

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The same thing happens when she encounters a hopping rabbit and a scuttling red squirrel; she cannot hop like the rabbit, or run fast like the squirrel. None of the animals stay to play with Georgie. Tired and lost, she sits and cries, watched from above by a kindly blackbird. After hearing of Georgie’s failed attempts to emulate the other animals, the blackbird offers to help her find the way back to her own home …

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With its patterned text and action words to join in with, this gentle tale of friendship is a good one to offer those just starting to read for themselves, as well as to share with early years groups who will enjoy the opportunity to jump, hop and scuttle like the animals Georgie meets and Chloë Holwill-Hunter amusingly portrays.