Nibbles: The Monster Hunt

Nibbles: The Monster Hunt
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press

Uh-oh! Emma Yarlett’s Nibbles, the monster is on the loose again and he’s managed to find his way into a little boy’s bedroom where quite clearly, he’s been indulging himself with the furnishings and his favourite fodder, books. Not just any books however but the boy’s very favourite information book.

Time to get on his trail before he destroys the whole thing completely and creates mayhem in so doing.

What follows is a breathless chase that has boy and monster hurtling through space,

dashing past dogs and cats, gallivanting into the realms of artistry, cascading into colour mixing,

diving into a counting book, where thanks to some quick thinking on Nibbles’ part, the boy and the monster narrowly escape the flaming jaws of the dragon that has been in hot pursuit since Nibbles inadvertently set him free in the art section.

So much for preventing hayhem!

Full of fascinating snippets of information, jokes, speech bubbles, flaps and holes – of course, holes – readers will relish this latest adventure of the monster with a wicked grin and voracious appetite. There’s surely something to satisfy all tastes and a wide age range in this one.

Nibbles Numbers / Little Fish and Mummy / Where’s Mr Duck?

Nibbles Numbers
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press

Emma Yarlett’s little yellow book-eating monster Nibbles is back and now he’s got his teeth into a board book. One might think that chomping through card would be a challenge too far but no. Once released the little fellow immediately starts sinking his gnashers into the pages and even has the audacity to nibble into the numerals leaving fairly sizeable holes.

Moreover he’s sabotaging our counting practice and just when we think we’ve cornered the little munching rascal, he makes a dive for it and disappears through the final spread, only to emerge on the back cover with a satisfied grin on his face.

Smashing fun and what a delight to be able to introduce my favourite little monster Nibbles to a younger audience.

Little Fish and Mummy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

The latest Little Fish book is narrated by none other than Little Fish who is particularly excited about sharing with listeners a ‘Mummy Fish and me’ day.

This special day is spent on lessons in swimming and bubble blowing, splishing and splashing with all the other fish, a game of hide-and-seek just with Mum and a look inside a deep down cave.

What better way to end such a great day than with a round of kissing – ‘Kiss, kiss, kiss!’

Irresistible if you know a little one who’s a fan of Lucy Cousins’ endearing spotty Little Fish, and I certainly know a lot of those.

Where’s Mr Duck?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

The latest felt flap hide-and-seek board book in this deservedly popular series is set around the pond. In its environs little ones can discover Mrs Butterfly, Mr Frog,

Mrs Worm, Mr Duck and finally as the creatures look on, him or herself.

With its characteristic question and answer format, a wealth of opportunities for developing language, bold bright art and satisfying conclusion it’s no wonder the series is such a success; this one will be as popular as its predecessors.

Scaredy Bear

Scaredy Bear
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press

What’s BIG and HAIRY and cause for alarm in the deep, dark forest? According to Little Bob’s mother (rabbit) one bedtime, it’s a terrible creature with a roar like thunder, huge scary teeth and long, equally scary, claws.

Little Bob however, wants to find out about this creature for himself and so waiting until his mum is fast asleep, he arms himself with an extra pointy carrot and creeps out into the forest: a forest that in the moonlight looks considerably more scary than it does by day.

Having narrowly dodged a hunting owl, he dives into a huge bush only to discover it isn’t a bush at all but an enormous ursine creature. He tells the creature about the BIG HAIRY; they introduce themselves to one another and having decided to become friends, the two Bobs Big and Little, continue the search together.

When Bear, now hungry, asks about Little Bob’s carrot, he’s told it isn’t for sharing but instead the little rabbit intends sticking it up the Big Hairy’s nose. Ouch!

This prompts Big Bob to comment on Little Bob’s unexpected bravery. “How can you be so brave when you are so small?” he wants to know. ‘Because,” comes the whispered response, “I’m big on the inside.” He also tells Big Bob that he too must have a big bear hiding within if only he could let it out.
By this time Little Bob too is feeling hunger pangs so his pal goes off in search of food. Suddenly from behind leaps a very hungry fox.

Now Big Bob needs to find that inner big bear in time to save his friend from becoming fox’s supper. He lets out an enormous …

and that gives the game away well and truly.

When Little Bob finally realises who his saviour is, can the two of them sort things out between them without the little rabbit having recourse to that carrot of his? Or could there perhaps be a better use for it …

Steve Smallman’s lovely story about finding your inner strength and making a special friend is a great reminder that we can all be brave no matter our shape or size so long as we have the confidence to draw on our inner resources.
Caroline Pedler’s moonlit woodland scenes are aglow with tension and she captures the animals’ changing feelings wonderfully.

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?
John Kelly and Steph Laberis
Little Tiger Press
My immediate answer to the title question would be, ‘move out straighaway’. That is precisely what the human characters in this funny story do eventually, but that is getting way ahead of the action.

The whole sorry saga begins one Sunday when the boy narrator’s parents finally agree to their son becoming a pet owner. He’s overjoyed but undecided as to what kind to choose.

Monday morning sees him dashing off an ad. to go in the local paper.

Come Tuesday the responses start arriving, and by Wednesday the lad is inundated.

Dizzying confusion reigns.

On Thursday an animal invasion begins … which very quickly becomes a total take over and that’s despite Dad’s heartfelt “No more animals!” order.

Eventually in desperation the family decamps to the garden: surely that must be a haven of peace and tranquillity? ….

Now it’s Mum’s turn to insist: They’ve all got to go!” That does the trick: women rule OK!

Feeling a little sad at the animals’ hasty departure, the would-be pet owner admits that perhaps none of the applicants was quite the right pet for him. But then he comes across one letter that he’d previously over-looked, albeit a rather whiffy affair. Could this finally be THE one? Its writer certainly does appear to have a winning way with words.

A hilarious tale that will delight those with a penchant for pets especially; but those less keen on sharing their home with a feathered or furry friend will equally be tickled by the pet problems encountered by this particular family, as so amusingly related by John Kelly and visually documented in Steph Laberis’s zany scenes of mischief and mayhem animal style. The animals’ letters in particular, are a real hoot.

Where in the Wild

Where in the Wild
Jonny Lambert and Poppy Bishop
Little Tiger Press

Poppy Bishop gets poetical in her passion for wildlife and its protection in this visual and verbal evocation of the world’s animal habitats and how crucial it is to save these wonderful wild places from further destruction by human actions.

She takes us to meet creatures of the land and sea as we visit nine different faunal homes, the first being the river where otter speaks out.

We also spend time in the tropical rainforest alive with screeching monkeys, beautiful butterflies and other insects and a leopard introduces itself.

The hot savannah comes next, home to elephants, leopards, vultures, bats and scorpions: here a tunnelling meerkat tells of his digging prowess.

Scorpions are also found in sun-scorched desert regions, the next stopping place; home also for snakes, mice, lizards and the camel that describes its flat feet.

Next to cooler climes and a beautiful woodland inhabited by roosting jays, a bluetit sings about its home and diet,

and badgers roam both here and on grassy plains.
Thereon too reside wolves, buzzards, deer and other birds of prey.

Evergreen forests, the Arctic tundra and oceans are the three final locations, each with its own array of wonderful creatures large and small.

Strategically placed die cuts and a related question cleverly provide a link between habitats on each spread.

The last page and inside back cover are a rhyming plea for readers to act as advocates, speaking out for and doing whatever they can to save these precious places and their creatures; and short paragraphs about special adaptations, destructive human actions and a last plea to care for what we have for the sake of the animals.

Heartfelt, beautifully illustrated with Jonny Lambert’s fantastic collage style art, this is I hope, a book that will stir young readers and adults alike to play their part in the preservation of our precious planet.

The Only Way is Badger

The Only Way is Badger
Stella J Jones and Carmen Saldaña
Little Tiger Press

Which would you rather have, complete conformity or fabulous friendships? I know which I’d choose every time but not so the main character in Stella Jones’ super story. Badger is a separatist and has started posting ‘BE MORE BADGER’ type signs all over the forest causing consternation among the other woodland animals.

Supposedly to make matters easier for his so-called friends he presents a list of activities, badger-like digging being number one.
This immediately eliminates ungulate Deer, and Badger sends him packing most unceremoniously.

Requirement number two is fitting through the doorway of Badger’s sett. In go Racoon, Skunk, Squirrel and the other small creatures. Outcast, and over the wall are large bummed Bear and massive-antlered Moose.

So it continues with further ejections: those of Hedgehog, Bunny and Beaver for their badger-barking attempts.

Of the remainers Racoon and Skunk pass muster on account of their black and whiteness whereas the colourful birds, butterflies and bugs become persona non grata.

Badger is now revelling in his monotonously coloured surroundings; not so Racoon and Skunk especially as they hear  happy sounds issuing from behind that wall and spy Badger wielding a paint brush standing beside paint cans that match his colours.

By the end of the day Badger’s task is complete but as he stands solo among the trees a thought strikes him: what has he done?

There can only be one way forward here …

Hurrah for difference; long live divergence and inclusivity; oh and learning from your mistakes too as yes, Badger does finally see the error of his ways in this timely picture book.

There are just SO many ways this can be interpreted depending on what you bring to the story eloquently illustrated by Carmen Saldaña. The gentle humour of her scenes, in particular the expressions and body language of the animals speak volumes.

A book that’s absolutely perfect for a community of enquiry discussion in schools and should be shared and celebrated as widely as possible. I certainly intend to do both of those.
In addition pairs of children could co-create story boxes or dioramas using the book as a starting point; there are puppet possibilities, ditto hot-seating and MUCH more.

The Worry Box

The Worry Box
Suzanne Chiew and Sean Julian
Little Tiger Press

It must surely be a symptom of our troubled times that there’s been a spate of recent picture books on the theme of anxiety, and the mental health of young people is constantly under discussion, due in no small part to the prevalent pressurised education regime, a legacy of a certain politician currently championing the dreaded BREXIT.

The most recent of such books to come my way is The Worry Box wherein we meet the worrisome Murray Bear along with his big sister, Milly.

It’s waterfalls with their potential for ‘bigness’ and loudness that present the first of Murray’s worrying possibilities. Fortunately though, his fears in this respect are allayed by Milly as they make their way home.

Back inside Milly introduces her coping tool, a worry box, to her sibling, explaining how it works. They make one for Murray and they head off to meet their friends at that waterfall.

Once there Murray remembers to use his special box when he starts feeling worried about climbing a tall tree.

After a fun-filled afternoon, the mislaying of Milly’s backpack delays the friends and they’re not ready to leave until sunset. It’s then that Lara reveals her worries about the dark. Now it’s Murray’s turn to offer reassurance, a helping paw and co-use of his special box until they’re safely home,

after which the sibling bears stand in the moonlight contemplating their amazing day together.

Enormously reassuring for all little worriers is Suzanne Chiew’s story while Sean Julian’s gorgeous illustrations of the verdant natural landscape setting make you want to pause on the dragonfly littered riverbank, refreshing waterfall and scale the tree along with the animal characters so beautifully portrayed herein.

When I taught KS1 children we’d often have a worry tree (branches standing in a container) in the classroom. Children wrote their worries on leaf-shaped coloured paper, hung them from the twigs and then every day or so, those that wanted to shared what they’d written with the class. A discussion could arise or the mere act of hanging up the leaf often worked on its own. After sharing this book, children might create their own worry box for use at home or the class could make a communal one that is used in a similar way.

No matter what, a shared reading will help listeners let go of their concerns and enjoy embracing new challenges.