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.

When the Bees Buzzed Off!

When the Bees Buzzed Off!
Lula Bell and Stephen Bennett
Little Tiger Press

Bees play a vital role in the natural world and now the creators of this picture book are helping to put the message across to young children through a ‘play along’ story.
On a warm sunny day in the garden there’s consternation among the other minibeasts: the bees are nowhere to be seen; without them how will vital pollination take place?
A decision is made: three of the bravest and cleverest, Snail, Beetle and Worm, set off on a bee search. They stop at the vegetable patch, the woodpile and the pond but of bees there is no sign.

Suddenly, having gone through a gap in the fence into the woodland nearby they hear a familiar, much welcome sound. In a clearing full of flowers are the objects of their hunt ready to explain why they’ve had to move elsewhere.

With its plethora of speech bubbles, Lula Bell’s gently humorous story will help young children understand how important bees are. In fact the bees themselves do much of the talking but they’ve hidden themselves away under flaps in the illustrations for readers to find. Stephen Bell echoes the humour in his busy mixed media scenes of the natural world in and around the garden.

I hope that children will do what those bee-hunting bugs do at the end of the story and plant some bee friendly seeds in their gardens; or perhaps create a bee-friendly patch in their school grounds.

Look Out, It’s a Dragon!

Look Out, It’s a Dragon!
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press

It’s always a pleasure to open a package and discover a new Jonny Lambert picture book. This, his latest, is something of a departure in that it stars a mythical, rather than a ‘real’ animal although there are plenty of the latter herein too.

Without further ado let me introduce Saffi. She’s an atypical dragon who isn’t interested in capturing princesses, nor in crushing castles, and she’s had quite enough of bottom-bruising rocky mountains. So off she flies in search of a more hospitable environment in which to live.

That is just what she thinks she’s found when she lands rather ungracefully in a sunny woodland. The forest animals however, think otherwise and start fleeing for their lives.

Suddenly Saffi hears a squeaky “Oi! Knobbly knickers! You can’t stay here!” from behind her. It’s Mouse expressing an opinion held by all the forest inhabitants on account of her fiery dragon nature. The dragon does her best to persuade the little creature otherwise and has almost won him over when disaster strikes in the form of a twitchy nose that ends in a very forceful sneeze that scares Mouse …

and damages Warbler’s plumage.

Saffi sets off in pursuit only wreaking more havoc …

until the animals have had enough and the poor well-intentioned dragon is sent packing in no uncertain terms.

Later though, something happens that puts the forest animals and their habitat in real peril.

Who can save them now?

A drama that embodies themes of prejudice, friendship, the dangers of stereotyping and bravery.

Gentle humour pervades the dragon-dominated, mixed media illustrations although even the very tiny participants make their presence felt strongly in the unfolding drama. As always in Lambert’s books, body language is superbly done throughout.

Your heart really does go out to Saffi in her attempts to find a new home so you will be happy to learn that there’s a dragon template that can be used for children to create their very own Saffi character. I’d suggest making a whole diorama and suspending the dragon somewhere therein.

I’ve signed the charter  

Blue Monster Wants It All!

Blue Monster Wants It All!
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond
Little Tiger Press

We live in a throwaway, consumer society where the desire for the new, and the notion that the next thing is always better, tend to prevail.
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond have created a timely and eloquent picture book fable that demonstrates the folly of this thinking.
Meet Blue Monster, thoroughly indulged by his parents the never satisfied creature discards them and his new sibling, and takes off with all his money to begin life anew. However although he’s left behind his old life, he’s taken his acquisitive habits with him.

But new hats, cars, luxury palaces, an aeroplane, and a tropical island with amazing animals no less, fail to satisfy.

Even the sunshine itself cannot bring him happiness.
It’s not until he finds himself surrounded by darkness that somehow, in his abject misery, Blue Monster finally realises what he needs for true contentment and well-being. But is it too late?

Jenni Desmond adeptly portrays the monster and his constantly changing moods and emotions – his tantrums, his decadence, his dissatisfaction and his supreme sadness, all of which are part and parcel of Jeanne Willis’ thought-provoking text.
Although we know that the creature has brought in all on himself, you cannot help but be moved by the sight of him in his desolation.
What is most important to you, the latest smartphone or tablet, a brand new car or the love of your family and friends?
Perhaps it takes a powerful picture book such as this, which has as much to say to adults as to children, to make us all stop and think?

Oliver Elephant / It’s Christmas!

Oliver Elephant
Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens
Nosy Crow
Armed with a list of people to buy for, Noah, his mum and little sister, Evie-May sally forth to the large Christmas shop; Noah with his beloved Oliver Elephant tucked under his arm.
Once inside, Mummy shops while Noah and Oliver play happily until disaster strikes when Oliver dances into a large jug full of baubles …

That disaster pales into insignificance though when it’s followed soon after by another one.
Having finished their shopping mum takes them all to a café and as they are leaving Noah notices that Oliver is no longer with them.
Back to the big shop they dash but a search reveals no sign of his precious toy.
Does Evie-May perhaps know anything about his disappearance?
Fear not: all ends happily although they do have to dash back inside yet again to make one final purchase …
Beautifully told in Lou Peacock’s faultless rhyme and accompanied by Helen Stephens’ gently nostalgic, superbly expressive illustrations – her characterisation is great– this is just right for sharing after a hectic bout of Christmas shopping with your little ones.

 

It’s Christmas!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The big day is almost here and super-exuberant little rhino Archie is full of the Christmas spirit.
He improves Dad’s Christmas biscuits, and, not content with Mum’s new decorations, redecorates the Christmas tree; but that’s not all; his ideas keep on coming. Having seen Granny and Grandpa’s Christmas jumpers, he decides his own festive jumper needs some sprucing up.
This results in a resounding …

after which mum gives him a very important role as ‘snow watcher’. Bored by the distinct lack of snowflakes though, Archie comes up with his own way of making it snow which precipitates further disasters.
Will the family ever get themselves sorted out in time for Christmas morning?
As always, young Archie knows just how to steal the show and amuse his audience be they young listeners or adult readers aloud.

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express

Last Stop On the Reindeer Express
Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford
Little Tiger Press

Christmas is often said to be about wishes.
For most people what makes Christmas really special isn’t presents or festive food, it’s family. For Martha though, an important part of her family won’t be at home for Christmas: her dad is far away and can’t make it back.
For this little girl, the Christmas sparkle feeling suddenly plummets when she hears that the card she’s made him won’t get to him in time. If only he weren’t so far away, she wishes.
As she walks dejectedly home through the Christmas market she comes upon a strange-looking post box with a door but no posting slot.

Suddenly she finds herself embarking on a trip aboard the Reindeer Express being whisked away through forests; then over chilly seas, a city whose streets are lit by paper stars …

and snowy mountains, to a small snow-covered lodge.
What will she discover within?
Can she deliver that card in time for Christmas?

With mentions of cinnamon, sugar and smoky wood,  Maudie Powell-Tuck evokes traditional sensory seasonal delights while also showing the importance of family love, a love that transcends time and place and is always there.
Karl James Mountford’s mellow colour palette, his attention to detail, those fabulous scenes both indoors and out, cutaway peep-through pages and flaps, all contribute to the enchantment of this Christmas jewel of a book.
From cover to cover, a real winter-warmer: perfect for the chilly days in the lead up to Christmas at home or in school.

I’ve signed the charter

Hibernation Hotel / Still Stuck

Hibernation Hotel
John Kelly and Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger Press

This book really made me think of winter, starring as it does, a bear, who despite it being past hibernation time, is still wide awake.
Bear’s sleeplessness is all down to his over-crowded cave but it looks like he’s thought of a solution.
A phone call later, followed by a drive in his jalopy and he’s checking in at a smart hotel in the mountains. The perfect place for some uninterrupted shut-eye, especially as he’s asked the receptionist for a March 1st wake-up call.

How wrong could Bear be? Noisy, partying guests, an over-soft bed, and heavy bedding are far from sleep-inducing, and the TV shows just upset him.
Perhaps an empty tummy is the cause of his insomnia; room service should soon fix things …

And fix things it does, entirely satisfactorily; only not quite in the way Bear anticipated.
Kelly & Brenlla’s enormous ursine character with his fascination for hotel freebies, fixtures and fittings, is a peevish delight.

In that luxurious alien environment he discovers that creature comforts can come in unexpected forms.
Just right for a pre-bedtime giggle with little ones, especially those who need a bit of help dropping off.

More bedtime shenanigans in:

Still Stuck
Shinsuke Yoshitake
Abrams Books for Young Readers

It’s time for a bath and the independent-minded toddler protagonist refuses help with getting undressed. Good on you, little one. But then, almost inevitably thinks the experienced nursery teacher part of me, his shirt gets stuck – well and truly so.
This sets the infant off on a surprisingly upbeat contemplation of the challenges of ‘stuckness’ and their problem-solving solutions – being thirsty for example …

Then there are the possibilities of friendship with other similarly stuck individuals: that could be lots of fun …

Coldness starts to invade his thoughts so the lad has another go at extricating himself, starting with his trousers – a valiant effort but definitely not a success.

Eventually Mum appears, disrobes the boy and lugs him off (wait for giggles at the bum views) to the bathroom.
But then, come the pyjamas – hmmm. What could possibly go wrong?

Yoshitake’s dead-pan text combined with wonderfully observed, cartoon comic, digitally rendered visuals make for a chucklesome pre-bedtime share for adults and infants.

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press

Hurrah! Nibbles the book-eating monster returns in a new story and once again the help of readers is enlisted to try and catch him; this time because the little monster is in danger of becoming a dinosaur’s next meal.

First he invades the Triceratops chapter from where he beats a hasty retreat when hotly pursued by not one but ten ‘hot-headed’, big bummed, stompy-footed creatures.

From there he moves to Diplodocus territory wherein the danger is from accidental consumption by the residents whose herby treat he sinks his gnashers in to.

Watch out for super-powerful Diplodocus parps, Nibbles!

The little monster’s definitely not out of danger yet: intruding upon dozing velociraptors is tantamount to suicidal.

However a hole in the page indicates Nibbles has made it out alive; but there’s worse to come.

So is that the end of our favourite book monster? Errm – let’s just say, it’s fortunate that, despite first appearances, a certain T.Rex is not totally omnivorous …

Goodness, gracious – great balls of fire!

Like Nibbles’ debut picture book, this one is totally engrossing and given the topic, the dinosaur details, the flaps to explore, the plethora of jokes and speech bubbles scattered throughout the illustrations, it’s likely to appeal across a wide age range.
I’ve had to read it dozens of times already to satisfy the demands of ‘Again!’ by enthusiastic listeners whose ages range from two to seven.

Moon

Moon
Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger Press

Gorgeous collage style moonlit scenes grace every spread of Britta Teckentrup’s latest ‘peek-through the pages’ book wherein we travel the globe following the moon through one complete cycle.

As it waxes, we visit a woodland, a desert landscape, a snowy puffin rookery; sea birds using the moon to migrate to warmer climes, and a tropical jungle.

The full moon shines upon a southern beach where turtles have arrived to lay their eggs.

Under the waning moon, field mice hunt for food and ‘The ocean ‘sparkles, bluey- green, / Lit up by a magical scene,‘ – an ocean whose waves are influenced by the lunar cycle.

Bears standing on a mountainside; giraffes and elephants resting in the cool nocturnal grasslands; penguins huddling together for extra warmth beneath a snowy sky …

and finally, a row of houses, complete the waning moon landscapes.

Patricia Hegarty’s lilting rhyming couplets provide a gently soporific, textual accompaniment to Teckentrup’s nocturnal homage to the natural world.

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission / Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase / Animazes

Dinosaur Detective’s Search and Find Rescue Mission
Sophie Guerrive
Wide Eyed Editions
In his plane, which looks more like an inflatable toy than anything capable of carrying a dinosaur, famous Dinosaur Detective sets forth on a mission: to find five missing items as requested by the likes of a dog, a princess, a teacher and a distraught wife, hidden somewhere in eleven different locations including what looks like a Medieval European village, an underground cave network, atop a mountain,

a funfair, a forest, a completely crazy-looking outer space neighbourhood and a city.

It’s difficult to know where to start each search as your eyes keep getting drawn to features of interest – mine did anyway – and some of the spreads are so densely packed, it’s mindboggling, and easy to get absorbed in the surreal nature of the whole thing rather than the task in hand. It’s just as well there’s an answer spread at the end.
Dinosaur Detective’s plane transforms into a kind of tank (to find the missing toad) and a flying saucer – another fun feature.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Totally Wild Chase
Lomp
Little Tiger Press
Herein we meet natural history explorers Wilfred and Olbert and follow them on a quest to discover a new animal and thus win the coveted Nature Discovery Prize. And when an unidentified butterfly just happens to float through the window, they decide their chance has come. Off they go in hot pursuit but who will be the one to claim the prize?
Their journey has them dashing through forests, diving into oceans, crossing deserts, and wild grasslands,

scaling mountains and delving into tropical jungles …

as they battle to reach the butterfly first.
In the end teamwork wins out and mission complete, they claim their trophy.
The whole adventure is perilous and it’s something of a task to keep track of the two competitors and their antics en route – almost being the next meal of a lion, or being engulfed by ice, for instance – but the whole crazy drama is totally engaging, full of funny moments, things to search for, and of course, wild animals.
Wild too are Lomp’s hilarious, cartoon-like illustrations, full of daft doings and silly speech bubbles making every spread a treat to linger over.
Action-packed they surely are!

Animazes
illustrated by Melissa Castrillión
Big Picture Press
This unusual book of mazes follows the journeys of fourteen animal migrants from Antarctic krill and Monarch butterflies to Humpback whales and Mali elephants.
For some of these creatures such as reindeer, finding food is the reason for their journey; for others, such as Rockhopper Penguins, it’s to seek a suitable environment for the survival of the next generation.
In tracing their journeys, the aim is to discover the one safe path for each animal and in so doing, readers will discover a host of fascinating facts about the creature. Did you know for instance that Mali elephants all pass through one narrow passage, The Porte des Éléphants on their migratory travels? Or that Wildebeest participate in the largest mass migration of mammals on earth?

It’s Katie Howarth who provides these and the other interesting snippets of information that support Melissa Castrillión’s intricately detailed illustrations through which the mazes are woven.
Absorbing, fun and educational.

Tiny Tantrum

Tiny Tantrum
Caroline Crowe and Ella Okstad
Little Tiger Press

Temper tantrums are part and parcel of being a toddler and the little girl in this story is no exception.

Indeed she seems to have got the whole tantrum thing down to a fine art causing windows to wobble, jelly to shake and birds to fall from trees and all because mum has requested that she put on her coat.
Enter one purple hairy monster with talk of a freezing bottom and hence no fun and before you can say ‘chilly bum’, the little miss has donned her coat and is meekly following her mum.
All is fun and cuddles until back home at lunchtime. Then comes tantrum number two: it’s broccoli induced. Fortunately there just happens to be an apron- wearing monster to advise on improving the taste of veggies too; and it works like magic.

Those are not the only tantrums Tiny throws during the course of her busy day, but each time it happens there’s a monster on hand with timely advice.
Come bedtime though, Tiny has four very lively monsters to put to bed. Can she gain the upper hand and get them to take one final bounce, right into bed and stay there?

She’s certainly had some good training.
Ella Okstad’s portrayal of the capricious infant shows her ticklish temperament to great effect in an offbeat colour palette, and Caroline Crow’s rhyming narrative is just right for sharing with tinies especially those of a tantrum-prone nature.

I’ve signed the charter  

Stick! / That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!

Stick!
Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
The joys of finding and playing with a stick are explored in an unassuming tale of a small boy and his dog as they take a walk together. There are so many pleasures such a simple, natural object can yield including a game of throwing, retrieving, use as a tapping instrument, an aid to balancing, a corn swisher, a drawing implement …

a mud stirrer, or a floater. Such a versatile find.

All in all a delightful celebration of playing in the great outdoors told through a brief, straightforward text and rendered in vibrant scenes that have a slightly retro feel.
Quite simply, a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the importance of free play with natural objects.
With its minimal text closely matched to the illustrations, it’s great for those just starting to read as well as for sharing with the very young.

That is Actually MY Blanket, Baby!
Angie Morgan and Kate Alizadeh
Little Tiger Press
Many young children form an attachment to a blanket or other soft toy from which they become virtually inseparable; so it is with Bella the small female protagonist in this story. Her ‘Blanket’ has been everywhere Bella has and absorbed a good few spills, smells and a whole lot of dirt in the course of their adventures together.
Then along comes a new baby brother, an adorable creature but what a crier. Bella tries all kinds of diversion tactics but suddenly something catches New Baby’s attention. New Baby has a lovely new blanket of his own, a cosy stripy one that should do the trick as a pacifier but no: he prefers Bella’s muddy, painty, stinky one and doesn’t want to let go.
Bella doesn’t act in haste though, snatching her blanket back as many youngsters probably would; rather she encourages her tiny brother to use his own pristine blanket in all kinds of messy activities in the hope it might in time become as much loved as her own.

Until then, who knows: perhaps her patience, loving words and sharing compromise will do the trick?

Endearing characters steal the show in this unusual take on a new sibling.

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Fairy Tale Pets

Fairy Tale Pets
Tracey Corderoy and Jorge Martin
Little Tiger Press

Bob and his dog Rex live a happy life in their neat abode but Bob needs a job. Being an animal lover he decides pet-sitting is just the ticket and advertises his services all over town.
The following day business is booming but not with the cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters Bob had been anticipating. Oh dear no!
First comes a golden-haired young miss with a baby bear that needs minding while she’s on her hols.

Next to call is Jack (who insists on paying with beans) and his goose Gabby. Not the comparatively easy task Bob anticipated and before long eggs are flying around all over his once tidy home. That however is actually after the arrival of client number three with her billy goats, and you certainly don’t say no to someone looking like that.

Just when it looks as though matters can’t get any worse, along come three little pigs with their oh so ‘friendly’ um, ‘puppy’. Who are they fooling?
Certainly not young listeners, who by now will be positively squealing with delight.
It’s not difficult to guess what that so called puppy does, which leaves an exasperated Bob without a home or job: he quits pet-sitting and who can blame him; it’s far too hazardous.

That just leaves those beans …
Talk about fairy tale frenzy; Tracey Corderoy’s text is a treat for both listeners (who will enjoy spotting all their favourite characters) and readers aloud.
Laughs aplenty are assured in Jorge Martin’s zesty, slapstick depictions of the mayhem caused by the stream of outlandish animal arrivals at Bob’s residence.
Full of potential following a classroom sharing; but most important, a thoroughly fun-filled picture book.

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The Only Lonely Panda

The Only Lonely Panda
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press

Deep in the forest, a lonely panda sits among the bamboos longing for a friend. He sets his sights on another panda; but how to go about making friends with her, that is the thorny question.
He spends time observing his fellow forest animals: first the flamingos who befriend one another through a graceful dance. Panda’s efforts at fluffy flamingo dancing however don’t quite pass muster; in fact they’re a total flop.
So what about emulating those bouncing sifakas? Surely being springy like those bouncy creatures can’t be difficult and it’s bound to impress the other panda …

Well, maybe not!
Nor can he manage that majestic booby walk like the strutting blue-footed birds, without losing sight of the object of his desire.

And that peacock is in no hurry to part with any of his tail feathers; so Panda will just have to make do …

until the rain comes that is.
It’s a very despondent panda that plods off to eat his dinner all by himself. But then … Perhaps this is the opportunity he’s been looking for: carpe diem, lonely Panda …
What a gorgeous production this is. Its metallic silver ink finish really makes the gorgeous glowing colours of the forest animals stand out.
Jonny Lambert uses the space on the page with supreme artistry: every spread is skilfully choreographed in what seems like a virtuoso performance of an animal ballet.
Moreover, thanks to Jonny, I’ve now made the acquaintance of two animals new to me – the blue-footed booby and the sifaka. His story, with its important message, reads aloud beautifully but it’s those visual sequences that linger long in the mind.

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Everybody’s Welcome

Everybody’s Welcome
Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott
Caterpillar Books
In our increasingly troubled times, picture books such as this, with its strong inclusivity message, are more important than ever.
It came about as the result of a strong desire on the part of Tom Truong of Caterpillar Books in reaction to the shattering news that the UK had voted to leave the EU, to produce a book for parents like himself to share with young children that embodied ‘ideals of refuge, inclusivity and friendship’.
Currently living in Stroud, a town that since the Syrian crisis, has adopted the catchphrase ‘Everyone welcome in Stroud’ I felt immediately drawn to this poignant, political tale of empathy, acceptance and collaboration.
We start the story with mouse standing in a forest clearing, dreaming of building ‘a great big happy house’.

It’s not long before mouse is joined by a frog who has lost his pond and has nowhere to go. Together they start constructing and before long are joined by some runaway rabbits fleeing from an eagle; they are only too willing to help with the project. Next to come is a misunderstood brown bear; he has much to offer the enterprise and is welcomed with open arms.

Building continues apace with more and more animals coming to join in and a spirit of co-operation rules throughout.
What this allegorical rhyming story shows so clearly is that despite superficial differences, we all have much to offer one another. With open arms, open minds and open hearts we can embrace our fellow humans in a spirit of co-operation and unity.

Greg Abbott’s animal illustrations, with his use of cut down pages, really do bring out both the woefulness of the displaced animals, and the spirit of collaborative bonhomie as each one is welcomed, accepted and a new open community is formed.

A thoughtful Emmanuelle whose final comment on Everybody’s Welcome was  “We all need to be kind.”

I’ve signed the charter  

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat / Happily Ever After: Little Red Riding Hood

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat
Becky Davies and Caroline Attia
Little Tiger Press
Move over Big Bad Wolf, you have a rival. A favourite traditional tale is given a contemporary spin with the pigs being replaced by pugs and the big bad wolf by a much less threatening creature, unless of course you are a member of the canine species; in which case it’s your arch enemy, a Big Bad Cat.
The young pugs go by the names of Bubbles, Bandit and Beauty and when the space in the kennel they share with Mother Pug becomes a tad inadequate, they’re dispatched into the big wide world and there to build homes of their own. Their mother fills their rucksacks with snacks, warns them to watch out for the rampaging cat; ensure their houses are sufficiently strong to withstand any moggy onslaughts; and off they go.
It’s not long before Bubbles has stopped, built a flimsy straw house and had it whirred and whooshed to the ground by a certain feline character.
Bandit too builds an insubstantial house: his stick construction soon meets a fate similar to that of his brother. This time however, the weapon of house destruction is, wait for it … a leaf blower.
That leaves Beauty, who has the sense to engage a team to assist in her house construction …

and it’s completed just as her brothers appear warning of the imminent arrival of the fearsome Big Bad Cat.
Unperturbed, Beauty decides it’s time to put plan B into action …
What happens thereafter sees the frustrated house destroyer finally gain entry to Beauty’s brick house …

only to have her victory turn sour in more ways than one. It’s great to see female Pug, Beauty with the brains to be the saviour of her brothers despite her silly pink attire.
Caroline Attia sprinkles her mixed media scenes with much that will make readers smile: photographed pugs digitally adorned with bows, bags, bandanas and blouses populate an animation world of mischief and mayhem.

Happily Ever After: Little Red Riding Hood
Celeste Hulme
New Frontier Publishing
Illustrator Celeste Hulme gives the classic fairy tale a modern twist in her rendition of a favourite tale. Herein Little Red Riding Hood cycles to the shops with her mother and wears her little red coat to school to keep her warm: a coat that she’s been sent as a birthday present by her Grandma. The little girl doesn’t ride her bike through the woods to visit her sick grandma though; she walks alone, meets the wolf and willingly reveals to him her destination. The wolf duly runs to Grandma’s, gains entry, pushes the old lady into a cupboard …

and takes her place in bed.
The traditional exchange about big eyes, big ears and big teeth takes place with the addition of ‘what big arms’ and ‘what big legs you have’ and it’s with those that the wolf leaps from his sick bed intending to dig his claws into the child. Red Riding Hood however is too quick for the beast; she crawls under the bed, dashes to the cupboard and releases her grandmother. In so doing she releases so we’re told, ‘the avalanche’.

This particular lupine creature is something of a coward for he howls, turns tail and beats a hasty retreat, never to be seen again.
If this sounds totally un-scary – there’s certainly no gobbling of gran, nor the need for a woodcutter – some of the illustrations show the wolf as a huge menacing beast, particularly this one of his shadow looming threateningly as he enters Grandma’s house…

In fact lupine shadows are used to great effect in several scenes; there’s one in the woods where Red Riding Hood is completely overshadowed by the beast.
Certainly a book to add to a Red Riding Hood collection in the primary school, as well as one to share at home.

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Under the Same Sky / This Is How We Do It!

Under the Same Sky
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books
I’m a big fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work especially her books with cut out pages so I eagerly anticipated this one. With its theme of connectedness, it’s absolutely beautiful.
We live under / the same sky … / … in lands / near and far.’ So begins the lyrical text, which accompanies superb, soft-focus animal images set against natural backgrounds.
Hugely impactful with its spare narrative and its strategically placed die-cuts on alternate recto pages, through which we see  elements of scenes of universally shared games, feelings,

hopes and dreams, this is uplifting and full of hope. Timely, and exactly what is needed when our world seems to be growing increasingly intolerant, fractured, and with too many people focusing on differences rather than what binds us all together – our common humanity.

Fuelled by this powerful and lovely book, let’s seize every opportunity, transcend those differences and come together for the ultimate good of everyone.
Share, ponder upon, delight in and discuss: it’s a must for every family, early years setting and KS1 classroom collection.

This is How We Do It
Matt Lamothe
Chronicle Books
Children are the focus of this fascinating book, children whose ages range between seven and eleven; children from seven different families, backgrounds and diverse situations tell their own stories. Let’s meet, Romeo (Meo) from Italy; Kei from Japan; Daphine from Uganda; Oleg from Russia; Ananya (Anu) from India, Kian from Iran and the eldest, Peruvian, Pirineo.
These narrators share information about their particular homes, their families, their clothes – in particular what they wear to school; breakfasts, lunches and evening meals (each meal has a separate spread); mode of travel to school.

We meet their various teachers and see how they learn (almost all classrooms looks very formal). Each child shows how his/her name is written …

We also see the children at play, helping at home and finally, sleeping.
Yes, there are differences, each country, each family is unique; but the most important message is that no matter where we are from, we all have similarities: we eat meals, we play and we go to school (at least those children we meet do) and all under the same sky.
At the end of the book we meet all seven families in photographs; and there is a final glossary, an author’s note on how he came to create the book and the endpapers have a world map showing where the children (and author) live.
This predominantly pictorial presentation celebrates our commonalities and our uniqueness. With world travel a commonplace nowadays, the book offers a great way to expand children’s horizons giving them insights into particular ways of life in addition to those in countries they might themselves visit.

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One Happy Tiger/ Colours: A Walk in the Countryside / My Little Cities: London

One Happy Tiger
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
What a delight to have Augustus back and between the sturdy covers of a wonderful board book. Everything about this is splendid from the look and feel of that cover through to Augustus’s sublime smile as he watches the movements of his ten friends on the final spread.
In between, he starts off sitting alone and then we see a sequence of encounters with 2 bugs (beetles I think); 3 birds with bright plumage; 4 ‘floating butterflies’;

5 dragonflies hover above his head. Augustus then bounds off leaving 6 large footprints and moves through a rain shower dancing with 7 ‘plump raindrops’ …

relaxes to watch 8 bees; splashes into the pool to tease 9 fish before clambering out to dry off in the sun and greet his friends all together.
This is a board book, (based Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and His Smile), that looks, apart from its sturdy card pages like a real picture book; and its shape is truly satisfying too. Adults will get as much pleasure as the toddlers they share this one with.

Colours: A walk in the countryside
Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow
Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this is another delightful countryside walk wherein readers accompany two toddlers on a joyful nature ramble; this time, it’s colour-related. We join the children as they exuberantly run down a slope surrounded by green – look closely and you’ll see a cricket and a butterfly on the plants. They stop to observe a ladybird on a grass stem in a poppyfield; then notice an orange-tip butterfly by a stone wall; a group of ants attracts the attention of the boy while the girl views a black bird through her binoculars. Their walk continues apace till picnic time, when they have a snack before moving on, all the while keeping their eyes open for interesting sightings such as …

A veritable paintbox of twelve colours and an entire rainbow are part and parcel of their rural ramblings. Awe and wonder for tinies: if this doesn’t inspire an adult to take their young infant out into the countryside on an observation walk, which may or may not mirror that of the children in this lovely little book, I’d be very surprised.

My Little Cities London
Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli
Chronicle Books
Board the bus and take a tour of London. Ten of its famous landmarks are featured in this board book although none is named until the final spread whereon there is a ‘cast in order of appearance’ style briefing about each one depicted. The whole thing is beautifully presented, the text being in rhyming couplets; and the font changes on each spread.

Concepts such as new/old, many/few, soft/hard (rain) are introduced in relation to The Tower of London, the Shard, Trafalgar Square (many pigeons), the Natural History Museum (few dinosaur skeletons), and the two final spreads show wonderful illuminations – the London Eye

and Big Ben – against the night sky.
Altogether a class act, with so much to see and so much to talk about: that’s London. Author, Adams, and illustrator, Pizzoli, have, for toddlers, done it proud.

I’ve signed the charter  

Can I Join Your Club?

Red Reading Hub is thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this cleverly inclusive book

Can I Join Your Club?
John Kelly and Steph Laberis
Little Tiger Press
Children are inveterate club creators (often calling them gangs); and club joiners. There’s the book club, the gym club, dance club, drama club, art club and so on: after- school clubs are numerous and in my experience, extremely popular. Adults too are big club joiners. The trouble is, the issue of insiders and outsiders often rears its ugly head causing upsets, resentment and sometimes, worse: discrimination and prejudice for example.
John Kelly’s wonderful story of Duck’s efforts to become a member of a club – any club – be it Lion Club, Snake Club or Club Elephant find him wanting: he receives a resounding ‘Application DENIED!’ in each case.
Down, but definitely not out, Duck knows just what he must do. He sets up his very own club: one where every single applicant is welcome – Good on you Duck. And best of all, he calls it, eventually, OUR CLUB.

Drum roll for Duck. Acceptance and friendship rule.
How beautifully Kelly takes the issues of inclusivity and the vital importance of embracing diversity and weaves them into this funny book. As someone who is in despair about current issues such as BREXIT, the treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, not to mention Trump’s wall, this is truly a timely parable. This could be seen as a wake-up call for one and all.
Steph Laberis’ animal characters are a treat to behold: the specs they sport in this scene are so ridiculously spectacular.

Almost every scene simply crackles with energy; there is deliberately, the odd exception though – not a lot of dynamism here …

I now hand over to the book’s author to talk about the way he works:

Where do I work? And how do I work? With John Kelly author of Can I Join Your Club?

I work from home.
But the truth is that I work in lots of different places.

I work sat bolt upright in front of my desktop computer, but also slouched on the sofa with my laptop. I draw with big pencils on a drawing board perched on my dining room table, yet I scribble tiny doodles with my favourite fountain pen in a Moleskine sketchbook. I write leaning against the kitchen worktop, hunched over a cup of coffee in a cafe, wrapped up warmly on a park bench. I construct plots, characters and rhymes best in a hot bath, in the shower, laid flat out on the floor with my eyes closed, or walking a friend’s tiny Jack Russell (called Luna) round the park.

My writing work falls roughly into two modes of working.
Rhyming books and Non-rhyming books.

Rhyming books tend to start with a general idea: i.e. ‘What if a dragon was raised as a knight in armour?’
I then just begin jotting down random rhyming couplets that make me laugh or, by a bizarre combination of words, spark some other silly idea.
When I’ve got enough of those (about 40-50) I’ll see if it’s possible to roughly cut them into some kind of order. That order will then (fingers crossed) suggest some kind of story. I then start filling in the gaps with more new couplets. This will then suggest even more silly ideas which, in turn, suggests more stupid plot ideas. I then need new couplets, and the process goes on, and on, and on…

After an indeterminate time (anything from three weeks to two years) I end up with a working story outline. So then I go through it doing everything to make the rhymes as amusing as possible. Then I polish it over and over until I’m not clever enough to make it any better and send it to my agent.
She emails me back saying, “That’s great!” or “That’s awful!” In which case I start again.

Non-rhyming books are a bit different.
They still start with a general idea: i.e.‘What would happen if a Bear checked into a 5 star hotel to hibernate?’
But then I’ll just jump straight into writing in my sketchbook, trying to work out what the story is actually about. I often do drawings as I go along – not because I’m intending to illustrate it myself – but because it helps me find the meaning of certain scenes. It’s like having my own pet actors who can act out scenes to see if they work or not. Sometimes the actors are much cleverer than me and they’ll come up with something I would never have thought on my own.
Eventually I have enough to attempt a rough draft. Then it becomes very similar to the previous method of working. The big difference with non-rhyming books is that I act them out in my kitchen, which I’m sure is enormously amusing/irritating to my neighbours.

I do school visits and have learnt that what works on paper doesn’t always translate out loud. So I’m now a big believer in performing each draft of my texts. I don’t think it’s until I’ve read something out loud, in a silly voice, that I get a sense of whether it works – or not. It’s got to the point now where when I’m writing I’m always thinking, ‘How this will sound?’ in front of a hall full of 150 kids.

(I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall when John is acting out some of those drafts of his.)

I’ve signed the charter

Tiger Tiger

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Tiger Tiger
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
I randomly opened my copy of Jonny Lambert’s latest offering at this spread …

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and instantly knew I was in picture book paradise. That strutting Tiger looking so disdainful while an excited Cub is endeavouring to interest him in the colourful butterfly he’s just spotted on a plant, is a portrayal of supreme scorn if ever there was one.
At this point Tiger has, more than a tad reluctantly, taken on the role of Cub-sitter and is far from happy; all he had on his immediate agenda was a peaceful snooze. Cub however, has bamboozled his carer into a ‘very slow stroll’, which the former interprets as dashing, darting and having – dare I say it – FUN. Tiger however considers it way too hot for exploring and deems it not worth the effort anyhow, there being a distinct lack of anything of interest.
With such scornful dismissals as “Humbrum” and “Puffle!” the adult continues leading the way through the jungle, all the while urging the cub to stay close. Gradually though, Tiger’s tone begins to change to a slightly more indulgent one as they see first, romping baby rhinos,

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and then Pangolin; and all the while his charge is taking risks climbing to enjoy a better view of the creatures they pass …

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Unexpectedly, Tiger begins to get playful and even admits to having some FUN; in fact he’s positively enjoying the jungle trail, laughing and leaping and bouncing with his “little friend”.
As somebody who firmly believes in the educative importance of play for the young (and not so young), this cracking story, which celebrates playfulness and the exhilaration young children find, and generate, in the world, is a massive winner with me. Undoubtedly it will equally delight young audiences who join Tiger and Cub in their jungle adventure.
Jonny has created this story to celebrate 30 years of Little Tiger Press; assuredly he has done himself, his publisher and his audience proud with such a terrific book.

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Hyde and Squeak

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Hyde and Squeak
Fiona Ross
Little Tiger Press
Meet Squeak, inveterate competition enterer, and Granny with whom he shares a residence, as they learn of Squeak’s latest win …

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What emerges – literally – from the parcel is something green, wobbly and decidedly whiffy; it’s no wonder Granny puts it straight into the bin.
During the night Squeak cannot resist creeping downstairs and sampling the goo. Big mistake! In no time at all he’s turned into an enormous monster mouse with an insatiable appetite …

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If this isn’t bad enough, the following morning after Granny has disposed of the previous night’s mess and set out to buy supplies, another prize is delivered and the whole things starts ALL OVER AGAIN! This time however, there being absolutely zilch to eat, Squeak is forced to turn scientist cum inventor. Move over Professor Branestawm.

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Back comes Granny who is dumfounded by the sight that meets her eyes. She immediately puts in a report to the constabulary and learns that similar things are happening all over the town.
Can Granny save Squeak from the monster’s clutches? That is the question …
For the answer, you’ll need to get hold of a copy of this super-silly book and find out for yourself. Watch out for any lurking goo and beware of jelly.
Fiona Ross’s crazy comic-book style spin on the Jekyll and Hyde classic will have young listeners revelling in the messy mayhem and the massive, munching, mouse-machine. They’ll also relish the opportunities to ‘PARP! POOF! and PING!’ along with Hyde, then ZAP along with his machine.
If you work with early years children, I suggest making some green dough and inviting some creative jelly making (strickly no eating!) and perhaps a session of Mega Munch Machine building. The possibilities are endless, just like Squeak’s appetite for competitions.

Paws McDraw

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Paws McDraw
Connah Brecon
Little Tiger Press
This is subtitled ‘The Fastest Doodler in the West’ so let’s meet the ace doodler himself. Seemingly he’s taken a leaf – or several – out of that white bear of Anthony Browne’s books. This is not in any way to undermine the one under review; it’s a super-duper, full of laughs, story.
Reputedly, Paws McDraw (love that name) is able to draw his way- with a few slick squiggles – out of any danger.

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Now though his skills have been called upon by the bunnies and he’s about to face his toughest challenge yet. One of their number, Timmy is in deep trouble – literally – at the bottom of a well and it’s down to Paws (and his pencil) to effect a rescue – which he does pretty smartly and off go the bunnies to celebrate, carnival style. Soon everyone is having themselves a ‘rootin’-tootin’ time’ and filling their faces with cupcakes. All of a sudden though, who should show up but the Rascally Raccoon Gang demanding that the revellers hand over all the yummy-scrummy cupcakes.

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Can Paws possibly stop those dastardly cupcake rustlers with a few deft doodles …

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or has he well and truly met his match with this evil threesome? Seemingly they have got jail busting down to a fine art …

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Will a spot of prestidigitation do the trick perhaps? It’s certainly something that bunnies absolutely love, so we’re told, along with cupcakes that is, and there is assuredly a rather scrumptious finale …
A right rootin’ tootin’ riotous read if ever there was one. Bursting with delicious details, and with a plethora of speech bubbles, and simply teeming with bunnies, Connah Brecon’s illustrations, like his hero, deserve three resounding cheers. Hip, hip CUPCAKES! Hip, hip CUPCAKES! Hip, hip CUPCAKES!

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There’s No Such Thing As a Snappenpoop

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There’s No Such Thing as a Snappenpoop
Jeanne Willis and Matt Saunders
Little Tiger Press
I already know bits of this snappingly stupendous story off by heart after a week of reading and re-reading it with various groups and individuals. It features two brothers, Little Brother and Big Brother, and there’s a Snappenpoop involved too – despite the contrary assertion of the title. Much of the telling is through dialogue; it’s between the two siblings and essentially, Little Brother asks Big Bro. if he can play, with a promise to do anything Big Bro. asks in return; and Big Bro. issuing ridiculously impossible demands such as “Go and fetch me a unicorn.

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Then having a good laugh behind his brother’s back as Little Bro. sets off to procure whatever; and then being forced to eat his words so to speak, as his small sibling returns with each item requested. Of course the inevitable must be delayed for a long as possible and so after every successful search, Big Brother dreams up one or another reason for the unsatisfactoryiness of, in turn, the unicorn (it’s the wrong kind – too small); the lion with wings (the colour’s wrong).
Long-suffering Little Brother is prepared to travel far and wide, even through time and space …

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to achieve the desired end, as when he’s asked to fetch a dinosaur. How’s this for spot on comic timing and dialogue: “Go and fetch me a triceratops instead, “ said Big Brother. “Any particular size or colour?” asked Little Brother. “Big and brown,” said Big Brother. “OK, that narrows it down,” said Little Brother and off he runs, returning some time later with guess what – a big, brown triceratops.
Now, Big Brother is in a fix but he still wants to make playing together conditional: “You must fetch me a Massive Spiny Snappenpoop,” he insists. “Imagine the scariest monster times a million!
Whether he does or whether he doesn’t, is mine to know and yours to wonder, as our hero sets off into the menacing darkness …

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Yes, there’s a dark twist in this tale; but I’ll say no more on that subject.
Let’s finish by saying that Little Brother does get to play, though who with and who not with, is also mine to know and yours to discover – once you’ve got your hands on a copy of this magical book.
Jeanne Willis is a storyteller extraordinaire and debuting as a picture book artist, Matt Saunders’ visuals are the ideal complement –wonderfully detailed, full of atmosphere …

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and picking up on the subtle humour of the verbal telling superbly well.

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The Great AAA-OOO!

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The Great AAA-OOO!
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
I’ve had to read this so many times in quick succession on several occasions that I’ve been rendered almost permanently hoarse – hopefully only a temporary trouble! Just gotta stop all that AAA-OOOing or my voice box will pack up completely and then I’ll be chasing after the brilliant Jonny Lambert demanding compensation for damages… But it is just SOOO brilliant and such STUPENDOUS fun – a crackingly great read aloud – that it makes everything worthwhile.; five packs of throat sweets not withstanding.
Better get on and explain what all the fuss is about. Fuss it certainly is for Mouse, on his way home through the dark rackety wood hears, guess what … AAA-OOO! AAA-OOO! AAA-OOO! Here we go … Owl thinks Mouse is responsible:
Twaddle, not I! ” hooted Owl.
If it was not you, then who,
tu-whit tu-whoo, is making this
awful AAA-OOO?
Mouse thinks it was Owl but it’s gotta have been somebody so who ? Certainly not Bear; he’s convinced it’ s one of the others … but there it goes again AAA-OOO! AAA-OOO!

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KNOCK, SMACK, THWACK.’ That’s Moose demanding to know if one of the three is the perpetrator of the din. Hot denials follow and another howl. By now jitters and chitters have begun to set in: There’s a mention of a monster – “boggley-eyed and blue” – is Mouse’s suggestion. “Or hairy and scary … with big claws.” – that’s Moose’s offering, to which Bear adds … “huge teeth that chomp, gnash and chew!” Owl is having none of it; monster indeed. But then comes an enormous “AAAAA-OOOOO!
Dove joins those on the branch and then Bear scoops up whimpering Wolf Cub from below. There are mentions of a pie,

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“A pie?” roared Bear.”Save yourselves! Follow me!”

followed hastily by a whole lot of scrambling higher up the tree, which is starting to show signs of stress. A resounding crack! echoes through the woods and catastrophe …

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Oh-oh! the culprit is revealed, apologies proffered and an explanation provided, followed by a mighty hug – Bear to Wolf Cub and a promise – ditto.
Finally peace, harmony and sleep reign over the rackety wood until …
My latest rendering of this corker of a tale resulted in a largish group of 5s to 9s going around a school AAA-OOOing with great gusto, so much so that I felt duty bound to ask them to damp down their howls or we’d all be in trouble. If that isn’t testament enough to the quality of this tale, then nothing is. Dare I say, it’s a howlingly, show-stoppingly, way beyond magnificent, book.

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The Messy Book

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The Messy Book
Maudie Powell-Tuck and Richard Smythe
Little Tiger Press
After reading the opening two or three spreads of this book I was convinced its creators must have been flies on the wall in my home at some time. Here’s how it starts …
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As the story progresses though – and brilliantly, the whole thing is delivered entirely through speech bubbles and hilarious, very messy visuals – it becomes apparent that it’s about much more than merely tidying up your own space. Environmental pollution is its central theme, as cat proceeds to shove the mountain of mess from land …

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to sea …

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much to the disgust of the other animals: dog, elephant, giraffe, the creatures of the ocean, a pair of penguins, oh, and there’s a fox there somewhere too. Yes, we all agree with cat, tidying up can be pretty boring and ways of livening up the whole process present all kinds of exciting possibilities …

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For some of those concerned anyway …

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Oh, oh! It looks like we’re back where we started again but what is all this about hats? Where there are hats there’s usually a party and where there’s a party there’s usually rather a lot of mess … Here we go again …

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Already I’ve had a bit of a rant in other places about the kinds of books that ought to be given to children in the early stages of becoming readers (NOT dull scheme fodder). This is a perfect example of a great book for those in the fairly early stages.
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Now! / Say Hello/ Kiss Goodnight

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Now!
Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
The older little Archie gets, the more demanding (albeit adorable); well maybe he was always VERY demanding but ‘Now’ is a word more frequently used by adults in my experience. Moreover, his constant demanding of same, always tends to end in minor catastrophes – for others mostly…

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though he does sometimes have to learn from his over-eagerness …

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When holiday time looms – ten days away to be precise – Archie finds it hard to contain himself; ten days is an enormously long time to wait. Dad comes up with an idea …

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and a few distractions to help time pass quickly.
Eventually the big H-day dawns and suddenly Archie has changed his tune; “Wait!” he cries. “We can’t go NOW!” …
To discover why Archie is demanding a delay, and to learn if they ever do get that promised plane trip

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and holiday, you’ll need to get hold of a copy of this beautifully funny book. Yet again the Archie/Tracey Corderoy/Tim Warnes amalgam works its magic.

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The little rhino’s always a winner in my book.

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Say Hello
Kiss Goodnight
Jane Cabrera
Templar Publishing
These two charming little books provide lots of opportunities for the very young to join in with the various baby animal sounds (not forgetting, a human one) and some actions too.
In Say Hello we do just that, first greeting the sun and the day itself …

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and then once they’re awake, greetings can be exchanged with Chick, Piglet, Puppy, Frog, Calf, Bunny, Lamb, Bee (I love this buzzy being) …

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and finally, a Baby “Goo Goo”.
Kiss Goodnight starts by bidding ‘Goodnight’ to the Moon and proffering a kiss to all the ‘Sleepy babies’: Fox … isn’t he adorable?

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Owl, Bat, Mouse, Kitten, Bear, Hedgehog, Wolf and Baby. Shh!
As with all Jane Cabrera’s books, pattern plays an important part: here it’s gorgeous patterned backgrounds against which she places the subjects addressed in the simple, patterned texts  and the brush-stroke patterns on the faces.
Perfect for sharing with the very youngest listeners and ideal too, for slightly older beginning readers to try for themselves. (And far superior to dull early scheme fodder.)
I love the near, but not perfect, symmetry of the various faces …

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and I can see youngsters, inspired by the illustrations, attempting to create similar faces for themselves and perhaps making them into masks.

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Bear Washing and Bed Bouncing

DSCN7467Do Not Wash This Bear
Sam Hay and Nick East
Egmont Publishing
The particular Dad in this story – so the child narrator tells us – is a disaster area when it comes to doing the washing; titchy T-shirts, pink vests and disappearing socks being examples of the consequences. So, there is a kind of inevitability of mishap when he decides his son’s somewhat stinky ted is in need of a wash. “DO NOT WASH THIS BEAR’ states the label but Dad pays no heed and soon …

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What happens when the cycle finishes and Bear emerges is NOT good. Seemingly the creature has undergone something of a personality change. First there’s this:

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raspberry blowing Bear

And before long there are bubbles all over the bathroom and the bedroom’s full of snow.
Then, when Dad coming upstairs meets Bear bounding down, this is the result …

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Back comes Mum and, having stated the obvious, hangs the errant Bear on the line, which does the trick where mischief making is concerned.
Bear may be back to normal (albeit much cleaner), but …

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The crazy capers herein are sure to be appreciated by the young but equally this one will make the many adults who have had washing disasters, smile too. Nick East’s spirited illustrations capture the shenanigans beautifully and his characters – Bear and human – are charmers.

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There’s a Bison Bouncing on the Bed!
Paul Bright and Chris Chatterton
Little Tiger Press
There’s a big brown bison bouncing on the bed and its great fun, so much so that Aardvark, Chipmunk and Beetle join him. OOPS! All that bumping and thumping …

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will surely lead to one thing – and it does…

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Recriminations follow but oh my goodness! Seems there was someone else in that bed all along – that, or it’s moving on it’s own. Out comes Grizzly Bear and he certainly hasn’t got a smile on his face as he orders immediate repairs.

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But repairs are not the only things about which he issues instructions: there’s something else he wants the bouncers to do – once they’ve fixed the bed of course …
The combination of jaunty rhyming text and giggle-inducing scenes are certain to delight young bed bouncers especially (and that’s pretty much all young children.) My listeners were quick to join in with the rhyme and demanded an immediate re-read. Adult readers aloud – perhaps bedtime isn’t the best time to share this very lively story.

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One Lion, One Tiger – Two Terrific Tales

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A Hungry Lion
Lucy Ruth Cummins
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Wow! Subtitled ‘a dwindling assortment of animals’ this one’s a humdinger: droll, dark – very dark, and a real twister of a tale.
‘Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears and a bunny with un-floppy ears, a frog, a bat, a pig, a slightly bigger pig, a woolly sheep, a koala, and also a hen.’ Here they all are looking happy enough …

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(I’d count them if I were you.)
Turn over a couple of times and things seem to have changed somewhat : that line up doesn’t look at all like it did … Hmm!

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After a third ‘Once upon a time’ it’s dwindled to a turtle, a pig (the regular- sized one) and the floppy-eared rabbit. One more page turn leaves just A HUNGRY LION and er, that turtle. Oh, oops! It’s just the lion now and he’s about to exit stage right. But on goes our valiant narrator as we’re plunged into darkness followed pretty quickly by …

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Don’t speak too soon though – didn’t I just see that lion with one paw on the light-pull again: then omg …

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That however, is not quite the end or rather, there is an alternative way to finish this meta-tale of mischief and surprises…
Wonderfully and sharply witty, Cummins’ subtle, slow burning, dead-pan narrative voice(s) cry out to be read over and over and … and her mixed media illustrations are equally, to be savoured. In combination, they’re pretty near perfect.
This reviewer’s certainly hungry for more, as are all those – young and not so young – I’ve shared this tasty treat with.

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Augustus and His Smile
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger Press
There seems to have been something of a richness of tiger picture books this year but nobody captures the tigerishness of tigers better than Catherine Rayner: nothing is more quintessentially TIGER than her paintings of Augustus. The landscapes – grasslands, mountains,

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oceans and deserts
– through which Augustus moves in search of his lost smile are beautifully suggested rather than detailed, leaving space for children’s imaginations to work, and so it is with her carefully chosen words. Words such as ‘He pranced and paraded through the largest desert, making shadow shapes in the sun.’

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The message in this lovely book is one that everyone needs reminding of from time to time: wherever you are, open your eyes to nature’s beauty and you will surely find something to bring on a smile.
I can hardly believe it’s a decade since this beauty first appeared: it’s certainly lost none of its appeal.

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Nara and the Island & Squish Squash Squeeze

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Nara and the Island
Dan Ungureanu
Andersen Press
The small girl narrator of this story lives with her dad on a tiny island, ‘so small, you can’t lose anything’ is what he tells her. Across the water some way away is another island and sometimes the child sits looking at it from her special secret hiding place. As she sits staring she imagines getting across …

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but then one day her dad discovers her hiding place and with repaired boat, the two embark on an adventure. Dad’s quest is to find the legendary Big Fish, his daughter’s mission to explore the shores of the other island.

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Once ashore though, the girl feels overwhelmed by the strange sights and sounds around her but then she meets a boy, Aran.

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The two compare their respective homes – hers so small and quiet, his so wild and noisy – and find they share the need for a hideaway of their own. Aran then offers to share his with his new friend.
The lightened colours of Ungureanu’s scenes have a subtle other-worldly quality that add a touch of magic to the whole undertaking and the final “I think I’d like that.” comment of the girl narrator

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opens the way for readers’ imaginations to take over.

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Squish Squash Squeeze
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
When Mouse arrives at his new home it looks nigh on perfect for his needs, there’s even a piano. But suddenly there appears a large and very growly bear who is not at all keen on sharing the space, indeed claiming …”there’s NO ROOM HERE, not even for a mouse!” Undaunted, Mouse continues unpacking his belongings and inviting the bear to help. Off he goes, skipping upstairs, only to find himself confronting another enormous creature occupying the bathroom …

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But he’s not the final surprise: as Mouse continues finding places for his belongings, another animal makes an appearance.
Seemingly there is only one thing to do and that’s share a cuppa …

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albeit with a bit of a wiggling and jiggling. But then from under the floorboards, there comes a RUMBLE-THRUMBLE-THUMP! followed shortly by a tumble, tumble BUMP! (that’s Mouse) and a satisfying surprise that seemingly solves everyone’s space problem once and for all.
With a repeat refrain for listeners to join in with and some opportunities for roaring and snapping too, there’s plenty to entertain early years audiences, not least the satisfying fold-out finale, though every one of Jane Chapman’s spreads provides plenty of gigglesome details.

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Goodnight Tiger/Little Hoot

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Goodnight Tiger
Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes
Little Tiger Press
It’s the middle of the night and Emily is still wide awake; but what is the cause of the BELLOWING, STOMPING, TRUMPETING and GROWLING that’s stopping her from sleeping? It’s not animals out in the street escaped from the zoo, nor anything under the bed, or in amongst her clothes and toys – she’s checked those possibilities; my goodness, that commotion is actually emanating from the animals on her wallpaper. They too, so they tell Emily, are unable to sleep. So she climbs into the wallpaper and thus begins a lesson – or rather several –on getting ready for bed, as the young miss takes them through a routine of bathing themselves, having a goodnight hot chocolate drink …

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snuggling up with a cuddly bear and a lullaby rendition. But even after all this, there’s only one tired being and it certainly isn’t any of the animals. Did I just say routine though? What actually happened was tiger caused a rumpus at the water hole; the drink was truly disgusting, the bear bolted and the lullaby became a raucous chorus …

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Hold on though, what’s that Emily is clutching?

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Could this be the answer to the animals’ insomnia and finally, her own …
Well, yes and no: it certainly works for some …

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With a satisfying final twist in the tale, this book is enormous fun to share at bedtime (though maybe not if there happens to be jungly paper on your child’s bedroom walls) or indeed at any time. Emily is a delight as are the creatures whose nocturnal world she temporarily enters. I can see this one becoming a much requested, just before bedtime favourite.

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Little Hoot
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
Little Hoot is generally a happy little fellow. He enjoys school, loves playing with his friends and will even do the practice routines his Mama Owl asks him to. But there is one thing he absolutely hates and that is staying up late. “All my other friends get to bed so much earlier than me!” he complains. Yes, he actually said that and what’s more, decides that when he grows up he’ll let his offspring go to bed as early as they want. He’s definitely not a night bird, this one despite papa Owl’s “Rules of the roost.” But off he duly goes for one hour more play …

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and it seems to be an especially long time when it comes to the last ten minutes …

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Having done his owly duty at last, he whizzes off to bed without even waiting for a bedtime story. Now that is not so good, Little Hoot.
This enchanting story will appeal to adults as much as to the young children who will delight in the irony of Little Hoot not wanting to stay up late. The tiny day birds I shared it with also loved the bed jumping and fort building in particular. My favourite scene however was that wonderful pondering practice …

 

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Adorable.

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Nibbles The Book Monster

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Nibbles The Book Monster
Emma Yarlett
Little Tiger Press
Emma Yarlett creates metafictive magic and mayhem with her latest character – a certain munching, crunching book monster, aka Nibbles, no less. He inhabits – or is supposed to inhabit – the book of the title but because of his particular penchant for all things literary …

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he’s chomped his way out and is already starting to invade …

 

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You can imagine the reaction of that bear trio when they arrive back from their walk to discover …

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But the little blighter has hastily removed himself from the scene and is visiting another cottage having first procured a cloak of a telltale hue.

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Seems he’s managed to make rather a hit with one of the characters there and totally transformed another. But oh dearie me, somebody in that book isn’t at all impressed with our show-stealing invader so he’s done another runner – in a vertical direction this time… and there made his mark in rather an indelicate spot (or should that be ‘bot’?) before hot footing it, or actually being escorted (thanks to that golden goose) right back where he started …

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Err …

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Well you can’t keep a good nibbler down – or in, can you? A cracking book through and through … and through… and …
Emma Yarlett’s best yet methinks.

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Some book monsters imagined by listeners before we shared the story.

 

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Mood Musings

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Smile Cry
Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft
EK Books
This ‘Beginner’s book of feelings’ is really two books in one. We share reasons to smile courtesy of three pals – a cat, a piglet and a rabbit who have many things that bring on an upbeat, break into a smile feeling. There’s that ‘cosy under blanket smile’ – we all know that kind; the rather embarrassed ‘what to do now smile?’ – adults will be very familiar with this one; and the totally satisfied ‘ate all the pies smile

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I think my favourites though are the ‘walking in the forest smile’

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and the ‘quiet with the nightlight smile’

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Turn the page and you’ll find the final ‘wrapped in a cuddle smile’ … and that’s the time to flip the book

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and share some tear-jerking moments with our friends.
Who doesn’t feel a bit tearful at the ‘ice-cream plopping down

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and we all empathise with rabbit’s ‘Perhaps it’s lost cry’ and that ‘Goodbye cry”; and what about this one …

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It probably all depends, (though the gorgeous illustration almost brings tears to the eyes.) Jess Racklyeft has done a brilliant job imagining and illustrating Tania McCartney’s situations. Every single page brought a big smile to the face of this reviewer but then who could resist smiling over the tickle treatment or that totally satisfied, just stuffed my face smile of the three pals (not forgetting monkey).
Perfect for sharing with young children at home or in an early years setting. It’s certain to generate a great deal of discussion and is bound to bring on a whole lot of smiles; not too many tears though, I hope.

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The Very Grumpy Day
Alison Edgson and Stella J Jones
Little Tiger Press
What begins as a ‘perfect day’ for Mouse at least, soon becomes anything but as the kind-hearted creature goes off to deliver a yummy looking cake to his pal Bear. Bear meanwhile has grumped off in a foul temper upsetting every animal unfortunate enough to cross his path as he stomps on his way creating a chain of havoc in his wake.

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Eventually everyone in the clearing is in a mood as bad as Bear’s and to make things worse, the rain starts to fall.

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Thank goodness then, for Mouse’s offering, which Bear discovers on his return home; it sets off a second chain of action and reaction. This time though, everyone ends up with a big smile

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and the day concludes happily with sunshine and a story …
A gently humorous tale that demonstrates how easy it is to infect others with your bad mood and how much better to spread happiness instead; it’s just a matter of looking on the bright side. Alison Edgson captures those changing moods beautifully in scenes large and small.

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Bunnies & Eggs

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Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!
Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
We first met the main characters of this book in Tim Warnes’ wonderful Dangerous! Now Mole (with his obsession for labelling things) and best pal and fellow labeller, Lumpy-Bumpy Thing, are back in a new story and still busy with those labels it seems.

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One day in the course of their ‘work’ Mole notices an unusual phenomenon – a snow bunny. Rather than be labelled, said bunny bounds away with the L-BT in hot pursuit. He duly returns some time later looking like this …

 

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But when he ignores the warning label on the titfer he unleashes rather more magic than he’d bargained for. Certainly he might have been in ‘Bunny heaven’ but Mole’s attempts to number the buns. so they could enjoy a game of Bunny Bingo were thwarted at every turn and still those bunnies just kept on coming – “97, 98, 99, 100!” And what’s more there was no getting rid of them. The bunnies burrowed everywhere and what was worse, started leaving their calling cards all over the place. That was before they, or rather, one of their number, 54 to be precise, spied Mole’s vegetable patch, in particular this …

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A tussle ensues with Mole emerging victorious and that leads to a mass stampede of the bunny kind

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and the eventual re-capture of the bunnies, albeit with a whole lot of carrot coercion followed by some nifty replacing of the troublesome topper, a spot of hasty labelling and …

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Oh no! Here we go again …
Like the label on one of the bunnies in the story, this book is likely to prove ‘irresistible’ to young listeners who will, if my experience is anything to go by, demand immediate re-readings of this bouncing tale of friendship, misadventure, labels (of course) and the dangers of not paying heed to some of them; and then of course, there are the bunnies … Hilarity abounds.

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We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Unashamedly based on the traditional “We’re going on a bear/lion hunt’, Laura Hughes has created a picture book Easter egg hunt involving a family of rabbits. In their search for the ten eggs hidden in various locations in and around the farmyard they encounter some tricky things to deal with. There’s the field full of noisy lambs, an enclosure of cheeping chicks and then comes that field with the beehives.

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The search therein proves pretty fruitful and there’s a prickly pal to meet; but oh no! The bunnies have disturbed the bees and there’s nothing for it but ‘to go through them’ and keep on going down to the river and …

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Now they’ve found a whopper of an egg but …

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Time to make a dash for it, bunnies.
With all those lift-the-flap surprises to enjoy, ten eggs to discover and keep count of, a somewhat alarming encounter of the hairy kind and a whole host of small details for added interest, this will surely be a winner over the Easter season; and the enjoyment will last a lot longer than one of the objects of that search.

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Flipping and Sliding

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Peekaboo A to Z
Peekaboo 123
Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger Press
We meet all kinds of animals large and small between the covers of these two lift-the-flap board books; and there’s one particular creature that makes multiple appearances in both; more of him later.
The alphabet book has an animal introducing each letter on the flap; lift this to reveal an alliterative sentence …

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Did you spot the intruder?
Some double spreads manage to feature three animals, or should that be four? We seem to have a persistent ‘other’ here too.
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And he’s getting rather impatient …

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When we finally reach the relevant page for the grand appearance – guess what, all our friend can do is …

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There’s alliteration too in the counting book. The whole thing takes the form of a race, the Animal Antics that has a line-up which includes ‘Two turkeys on a tandem’, ‘Three gorillas in a gondola’ … ‘ten seals on a surfboard’ and look who else has found himself a special commentator’s role …

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After 20 the numbers per vehicle increases in tens until 50 and then there’s a victorious leap by …

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For me, these books are really all about having fun and enjoying the playful language; the educational alphabet and counting aspects very much take second place to the excitement generated as young children investigate what’s hidden beneath each of the flaps (it’s a good job they are fairly sturdy as I envisage heavy use by enthusiastic little hands).

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Safari
Surya Pinto
QED
In this ‘slide and play’ book four wild animals introduce themselves through three statements relating to their particular characteristics and then ask, ‘Who am I?’ The answer being found or confirmed by manipulating the three sliding parts on each spread …

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to complete the picture of the animal in question – elephant, lion, giraffe or rhino.
With the exception of occasional touches of a single bright orange colour, the whole experience is in bold black and white graphics.
Finger fun for pre-schoolers and an inspiration for older siblings to try creating sliders for themselves.

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Little Why

Red Reading Hub is delighted to have the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for this debut picture book.

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Little Why
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
A delightfully direct down-to earth narrative with delicious alliteration, exciting-sounding repeat refrains to join in with, deliciously droll collage style illustrations, a charmingly inquisitive main character, and with a vital message and celebration of individuality and uniqueness at its heart -and it is really all heart – this smashing book really is presented from the viewpoint of its chief protagonist, the adorable Little Why.
And, according to its creator, Jonny Lambert, it all started with a tiny felted creature and some doodles …
As he follows behind the Elders, baby elephant, Little Why just cannot keep in line. He’s constantly being side tracked by the sight of other amazing animals of the African savannah. Take Wildebeest and his special spiny-spiky horns for instance; Little Why must have a pair like that to give him great charging powers and make him appear super-duper scary.

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But his request for wildebeest-like horns is met with a swift and emphatic “NO!“ and when he asks “Why?”,Keep in line!” is all the response he gets.
The same thing happens when he spots Giraffe’s long-lofty leggy legs – just the thing to make me ‘super-stretchy tall’ to reach those tasty topmost leaves, thinks Little Why. But this request is treated in the same manner as the first.
By now my audience were ready to join in here, eagerly shouting NO! and the other repeat lines, as soon as Little Why spies Cheetah with that “speedy-spotty, fuzzy fur”.
But then, still not back where he should be, despite the best efforts of the gallant, feathered, silent player, what’s this about to confront our intrepid explorer of animal attributes?

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Surely that little, or rather huge, surprise is sufficient to keep Little Why on track?
Perhaps, but he still doesn’t seem satisfied with his lot. “If only I had … “ he says sulkily but this round of wishful thinking is brought to an abrupt halt by his mother,

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and this time his request to STOP! receives not one but two explanatory responses. Firstly the animals have reached their destination,

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but much more important is mother elephant’s final reassurance” “You don’t need … You’ve got fantastic flipflappy ears, a super-squirty trunk and … you’re special just the way you are.”
Much enjoyed by all I’ve shared it with, (audiences of 5s to 9s) Jonny Lambert’s debut solo picture book is definitely a winner.

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Some of my listeners imagined what Little Why might look like with some additional attributes…

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With Lots of Love

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I Love You More and More
Nicky Benson and Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger Press
Warm and reassuring is this litany of endless love, which celebrates a very special relationship between an adult bear and its cub, while at the same time introducing a host of other endearing animal characters …

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as the two journey together through woods, up hills and down, to a waterfall

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and river, then pausing to look upwards at the star-filled night sky,

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big bear assures the little one “You are beautiful in all you do,
And in all the words you say …
I love you, baby, more and more
   With every precious day.”
And just how precious those shared times are is evident in Jonny Lambert’s stylish collage style illustrations and Nicky Benson’s gentle, lyrical rhyming words.
Just the thing to snuggle up and share with a loved one at bedtime or any time of day.

Equally delightful is the small format:

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Love …
Emma Dodd
Nosy Crow
Herein a mother rabbit and her little one spend the day together talking, resting, sheltering …

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and sometimes, savouring the moment …

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as the young rabbit learns from those inevitable mistakes

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and mother rabbit realises that the world is even more wonderful now that she can share it with her little one.
Chock-full of love, this is perfect for sharing with tinies (and perhaps not so tinies) at bedtime, in the daytime, any time you want to pass on some tender magic Emma Dodd style.

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Small Matters

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I’ll Never Let You Go
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
An inexhaustible supply of love no matter what, is something everyone needs, particularly in those early years when everything is new and exciting; when you’re finding out about the world around and testing those boundaries …

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when things don’t go just right and you get in a tizz…

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When you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or ready for sleep. Then again when it’s time for an adventure or you need to feel that little bit more brave …

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An understanding adult is on hand to share those moments with his or her unique brand of unconditional love as Smriti Prasadam-Hall’s gentle rhyming text tells. Alison Brown’s scenes beautifully capture the highs and lows these little ones experience in this celebration of love and life as shared between adult and toddler animal style.

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Hug Time
Patrick McDonnell
Orion Children’s Books
Meet Jules, an endearing kitten with an enormous globe-trotting mission. What’s behind this tiny feline’s massive adventure you might be wondering? The clue’s in the picture (and the title of course). ‘He wanted to give the whole world a hug.’
And to ensure that he fulfils his intentions, the little fellow’s first job is a ‘Hug To-Do List’.

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Thereafter it’s a case of starting with those closest to him then off he goes over land,

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and sea …

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First port of call is Africa with its elephants, chimps, giraffes, hippos, baobab trees even.
India is the next destination where stillness and determination finally bring rewards but there’s no time to waste with wombats and wallabies still to be hugged. Then comes the North Pole, a lonely place …

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but just in time there’s a polar bear offering – guess what. And then it’s time to head home to bestow a special hug to Doozy, the one he loves best of all.
Delivered in rhyming couplets and through a series of wonderful illustrations (the book’s real strength), this story of universal kindness and unconditional love really does demonstrate how one simple act can make a massive impact. How splendidly McDonnell portrays each animal’s reaction to Jules, be it benevolence, surprise, delight, or downright indifference, in those small watercolour pictures.
Right now in these troubled times, there’s no need to undertake a globe trotting journey such as Jules’; but we certainly need to embrace his sentiments to all those, who for one reason or another, are in desperate need of some warmth and kindness.

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Hush-a-Bye Bunny
Holly Surplice
Nosy Crow
It’s almost little Bunny’s bedtime. First though there’s milk and supper to be eaten, followed by ‘a ‘Rub-a-dub, scrub-a-dub, /Down to your toes.’; then a game of peekaboo and into those pyjamas for a snuggleup with Teddy. Best of all though are those magical moments with a storybook

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and off with the light.
So what can possibly be troubling that baby bun who doesn’t want to let go of Mummy?
No matter what comes, her reassuring words are ready to help,
Hush-a-bye bunny,
Now tell me your fears.
I can hug away worries
And kiss away tears.”
And of course, she does just that before finally putting her loved one back into bed and turning down the light.
Tender moments shared through suitably soft watercolour illustrations and a lilting lullaby. It’s perfect just before bedtime reading to share with your tiny or tinies, particularly when there might be moments of separation anxiety before lights out and a bit of extra comfort is required.

For even younger ones:

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Goodnight Baby!
illustrated by Sarah Ward
Little Tiger Press
One of the ‘To Baby, With Love series’, this one bids goodnight to all manner of soft toys as they prepare for sleep: there’s Bunny and Lion, Penguin and Mouse,

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Giraffe and Bear, not forgetting little Pup. They’re all ready in their pyjamas for a snuggly bedtime story with Elephant before everyone is tucked up ready for “zzzzzzzzzz”. Shh! Don’t wake them till morning when they’ll all be up and ready for a game of:

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Peekaboo Baby!
There are plenty of things to hide under, behind and maybe inside, or even have a little nibble on, which is fine so long as you don’t get caught in the act. OOPS!

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With a flap on every double spread and a surprise ending this companion board book is just the thing for a playful session with your baby.

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Operation Rescue!

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Intergalactic Ed and the Space Pirates
Ella Denton and Jamie Littler
Oxford University Press
Just behind Ed’s bedroom wall, safely hidden by a panel, lies his Intergalactic Operations Headquarters so when through his bedroom window, Ed notices the troubled-looking moon, it takes almost no time for him to alert his cat Sputnik , grab his Turbo Torch and backpack, don his spacesuit, step into the Space Transporter Capsule and zoom off into space.

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Before long, into view comes the largest spaceship in the galaxy –the Interplanetary Plunderer no less. And what’s that? A gang of pirates intent on a dastardly, almost unbelievable plan: to steal the moon itself. Can Ed, with his knowledge about the lunar landscape not to mention the relative size of the moon vis-à-vis Jupiter’s moon Ganymede foil the plot, especially in the face of threats from the ghostly galactic crew? …

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Let’s just say, that the marauding crew hadn’t quite reckoned on the guile of Ed’s faithful Sputnik and his beguiling feline footwork …

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With Jamie Littler’s frenetic, cartoon style illustrations, this far-fetched frolic with its sprinkling of facts, will definitely appeal to those who like their action fast, furious and full of fun.

Much gentler but also involving a dramatic air-born rescue and teamwork is

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Badger and the Great Rescue
Suzanne Chiew and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger Press
When Badger and his pals discover some bits and pieces lying abandoned in various places, they are quick to put them to good use: a washing line for Mouse, a new shed for Hedgehog and then there’s that large piece of red and yellow cloth. It would be ideal for a tent, a hammock and perhaps a kite – once the friends have shared it fairly that is.
Then all of a sudden, down swoops Bird with news of a little mole stranded in a tree …

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And that little mole knows just what the ‘trampoline’ offered for him to leap onto is a part of. Then it’s time for the friends to abandon their original creative plans and work together on operation repair and rescue.

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Snowstorm Sorties

 

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Snow Bear
Tony Mitton and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
From my first view of the cover, I fell for Snow Bear in a big way; he’s adorable but this is no sentimental story and Snow Bear is one determined character. He’s seeking a home, somewhere warm where he can snuggle up away from the raging icy blizzard. His forest wanderings take him to a fox’s den,

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and an owl’s nest up in a tree …

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but both are fully occupied, so lonely and shivering, Snow Bear trudges onwards till finally he comes upon somewhere that looks more promising – a small farmhouse.

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‘A chilly breeze ruffles the fur on his cheek,/ so Bear tiptoes in as the door gives a creak. / Inside it is warm, for the fire burns bright./ and Snow Bear can see by its flickering light.’
In sneaks Bear and there he comes upon a small girl, equally alone and in need of someone to hug. Having shared same, they snuggle up for a story, a fireside snooze …

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and eventually, head upstairs, for a ‘midwinter nap’ – friends together.
Tony Mitton’s rhyming tale has just the right degree of pathos and reads aloud well; and Alison Brown’s illustrations rendered in acrylics and I think, pencil, are sheer delight. Shaggy cushion-like Bear (thumb-sucking in the final spread), in particular, but also Fox with that pointy nose that to me, resembles the front of a jet plane, and startled-looking ‘tufty gruff Owl’ are splendid.
With the contrasting themes of loneliness and friendship at its heart, this tender, timeless story is just the thing to bring a warm glow to a chilly winter’s day or night.

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One Snowy Rescue
M Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Little Tiger Press
Little Hedgehog has a whole series of stories all his own, his friends are there too of course. Here he stars in another snow-filled adventure – more and deeper snow in fact than our prickly pal has ever seen before. So much that a snowdrift surrounds his house and he has to dig himself out. Exhausted having done so, the kind-hearted creature’s first thoughts are of his friend Mouse and off he goes to see how she’s faring. But despite his careful tread, he soon finds himself tumbling …

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into a huge snowdrift.
It’s fortunate for him then that Little Hedgehog happens to be wearing his floppy red hat –

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just the thing for a rescue-wanted signal. And equally fortunately, who should happen along at just the right moment but Rabbit who heaves him out …

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and the two continue together but get lost. Fox comes to the rescue this time, but even that is not the end of the story for soon, another rescue is needed. Badger joins the team having been alerted by that trusty red hat again and finally, led by Badger, the object of their search – Mouse and offspring – together with the friendly entourage, head home for supper in the silvery moonlight. How versatile that hat is …

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A warm-hearted tale about putting the needs of others first, with the spiky hero, bold and resourceful as ever heading the cast of characters in a finely paced, festive foray that is delightfully depicted in Tina Mcnaughton’s bold, bright snowscapes.
Also from Little Tiger Press, newly in paperback and reviewed last year is:
The Magical Snow Garden
Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman
Here is Emmanuelle lost in the wonderful magic of a determined penguin, Wellington, and his snowy garden.

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Toddler Christmas Books

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Santa’s Reindeer
Tom Duxbury, Matilda Tristram and Nick Sharratt
Walker Books
Over-peppering of his pre-delivery supper soup by Santa causes extreme nasal irritation of Reindeer and …

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ATCHOOO!

But can they retrieve it in time to deliver the presents when Polar Bear wants it to button up his his onesie, Robin thinks it might be a tree decoration, Seal needs it to practice tricks for the Christmas show, sending it flying into Arctic Fox’s stocking

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and when he empties it out, the nose vanishes. Hold on though, what’s that in Penguin’s fruit salad?

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Could it possibly be …
A fun idea, hilariously captured in Nick Sharratt’s suitably silly seasonal scenes, complete with a squeaky nose. What better novelty for a Christmas Eve romp?

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Is It Christmas Yet?
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger Press
This is a lovely, squashy-covered board book version of Jane Chapman’s jolly tale.
Young Ted is beside himself with excitement charging round the house yelling.
Is it Christmas yet?” he repeatedly asks Big Bear who is getting to the end of his tether at the frequent question.

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However, the preparations continue at a pace – a slow one – as they work together wrapping presents, search for a suitable tree – easier said than done resulting in a very tearful Ted.

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But happily, team work fixes the problem and finally Big Bear carries his exhausted little one up to bed as it is at last very, very nearly CHRISTMAS!
With a decidedly upbeat text full of delicious words (HEAVED, HUFFED, PULLED, PUFFED and “TOO SPIKY…” “TOO THIN…“)

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and sounds (zzzzzzzzzzzzpft! SNAP!, NOOOOOOO!) to join in and perhaps act out), this is perfect for sharing with over-excited toddlers, (especially those who keep asking the same question as Ted) as Christmas draws ever closer. Adults will surely recognize the feelings portrayed by Big Bear in the deliciously humorous illustrations; and it’s good to see a single Dad coping so well with the high spirits of Ted.

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Bizzy Bear Christmas Helper
Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
A seasonal board book offering featuring the popular Bizzy Bear who herein, has been enlisted to aid and abet Father Christmas, First he has to help in the workshop, then there’s the sleigh to be packed, after which it’s ‘up and away!’ delivering toys to all the sleeping animals.

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With the usual ingredients: brief rhyming text, jolly pictures and sliders to push and pull plus the added festive fun, this is just the thing to share with the very youngest during the run up to Christmas.

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Jingle Bells
James Lord Pierpont and Pauline Seiwert
Walker Books
This is a sturdily built rendition of the seasonal favourite song with teddies riding the sleigh pulled by a pony, with rabbits bounding along beside, badgers greeting them as they slow down; and a whole host of other woodland creatures joining them as they sing and sleigh slowly towards the candle-lit Christmas tree where they look skywards and see another sleigh pulled by reindeers …

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If that’s not enough to captivate the very young, then there’s a button to press and they can sing along with the music.

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This Little Piggy Went Singing
Margaret Wild and Deborah Niland
Allen & Unwin
In their follow-up to the delightful This Little Piggy Went Dancing, the highly regarded Australian picture book creators Wild and Niland come up with a Christmas sequel. Herein, the super-cute five little piggies are busy with their seasonal preparations. They sing and make music, shop, create …

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and post cards and party.
There are candy canes …

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and cakes (of the fishy variety), baubles and bedtime stories, not to mention plum pudding, and pineapple, gingerbread and more …
In ten verses Margaret Wild offers musical alternatives to the ‘wee-wee-wee’ with more upbeat ‘vroom vrooms’, ‘plink, plonk, plunks, ratta-tat-tats, jingle-jingle-jingles’ … and a final

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… all the way home.
Do join those porcine frolics so cleverly rotated so that a different piggy has none each time, in Deborah Niland’s lively, playful , action-packed pictures. And look out for that mouse friend who makes his presence well and truly felt in every spread.
Seasonal enchantment for the very young (and those who read or sing it aloud to them).

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Tree

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Tree
Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty
Little Tiger Press
This glorious celebration of nature and the seasonal changes it brings is presented through the focus of a single apple tree standing in a forest.
I’m a huge fan of Britta Teckentrup’s work and in this instance she makes ingenious use of die-cuts that increase in number as we move towards midsummer and then decrease to the single owl’s look-out as midwinter comes around once more, disappearing completely in the final two spreads.
The story begins as the forest is gripped by the icy chill of midwinter; no animals are visible save the single owl peeping from its hole in the tree trunk and watching …

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As winter gradually gives way to spring, shoots begin to peep through, leaves unfurl and bear cubs frolic. Then slowly more animals appear, nesting birds and more can be seen in the tree’s branches:

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birdsong fills the air showing summer’s on its way with its bees, butterflies and ripening fruit.

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Then come the glowing colours of autumn and the animals start to prepare for the coming of another winter when once again it’s time to take shelter.
Not only do we follow scenes of the changing seasons but also the changes as day turns to night

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in this superbly crafted book.
Patricia Hegarty’s lyrical text takes the form of rhyming couplets that are a real pleasure to read aloud and have the effect of making the reader slow down to allow for listeners to savour not only the gorgeous scenes as they subtly change, but the words themselves.
One thing is certain, no matter what the season, this is a book to treasure.
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Pirates Ahoy!

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Are You the Pirate Captain?
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
The ship’s a-ready, the deck swabbed, even the crew’s had a wash but there’s still something stopping those pirates setting sail: what ever can it be? Even the best pirate ship is no good without a pirate captain – a giant squid consumed the previous one – so, the search is well and truly on. First Mate Hugh, with his trusty telescope, is on the lookout for a worthy successor:
               A buccaneer
           Who will strike fear
         In every sailor’s heart.
Several misidentifications later – a coat-hanger for a hook,

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a brolly for a parrot …

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a shopping list for a treasure map, but surely the chap sporting pirate gear must be the one.

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Not quite but he does help the crew find a solution to their leadership dilemma and then it’s a case of brains to the fore …
    ‘He diddle-he and a hey diddle-hey,
     Weigh the anchor, we sail today!
     Hey diddle hey and a he diddle-ho,
       Hoist the flag … and off we go!’
With its jaunty rhyming telling and gigglesome visuals, this swashbuckling tale, complete with sea shanty is likely to appeal to would-be young sea dogs especially those who enjoy a book where things are not quite as they seem.

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Dolci absorbed in the piratical doings

Pirates in Pyjamas
Caroline Crowe and Tom Knight
Little Tiger Press
There seems to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present and now here’s first time author Caroline Crowe answering the question ‘Do pirates wear pyjamas when it’s time to say goodnight?/ Do they have a skull and crossbones, are they stripy, black and white? that two small children are pondering.
The answer is seemingly, where pirates and pyjamas are concerned, pretty much anything goes

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as we see when we join Captain Grotbeard and his crew aboard the Leaky Parrot as they perform their ablutions, then step into their night attire. Before retiring for the night however there’ll probably be the obligatory pyjama party, not to mention the odd spot of pillow fighting.
All this action calls for a nightcap though …

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And finally, it’s time to bed down for some shut-eye wherever you are.

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Tom Knight illustrates the nocturnal frolics illuminating the rhyming text with verve and humour, adding chucklesome details here and there.

Finally, a reissue of a classic piratical tale from over fifty years ago is:

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Captain Pugwash
John Ryan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
This is the very first of what became a popular series of picture books featuring Pugwash the pirate captain, his arch enemy Cut-throat Jake and Tom, the cabin boy: the latter being the only person able to do the important jobs aboard The Black Pig – sailing the ship, working the compass and making tea.
In this adventure we discover what happens when Pugwash attempts to seize the treasure stashed aboard the ship belonging to Cut-throat Jake and is taken prisoner and made to walk the plank by Jake and his crew.
As becomes the norm in subsequent stories, it’s really down to trusty young Tom to save the day and the Captain. …

 

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Great stuff.

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Hooray For Small Girl With Big Imaginations

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Lion Practice
Emma Carlisle
Macmillan Children’s Books
In this warm-hearted story that celebrates the imagination we meet Laura: she has a penchant for practice, pretty much any kind of practice so long as it involves being big and/or noisy.

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So when her mother suggests she should practise being something small and quiet, Laura is having none of it – no way; her sights are set on something rather different.
But what is all this about you might be wondering. Her parents certainly don’t appreciate it.
Well, perhaps Laura just wants to be in the limelight because…

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Maybe she’ll settle for being a little lion after all – it does have its compensations

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and there’s always tomorrow for this resilient little miss …
Emma Carlisle is an emerging talent. Her free flowing illustrations have the uninhibited spirit of the unselfconscious artist one images Laura herself would be.
I look forward to what comes next…

Another small girl with a large imagination is featured in debut author Jenna Harrington’s:

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Katie McGinty Wants a Pet!
Jenna Harrington and Finn Simpson
Little Tiger Press
The great day has finally arrived: Katie McGinty is big enough to have a pet

 

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– but this tricky miss doesn’t want a common or garden hamster, cat, or dog. Oh no! What she has set her heart on is something much more exciting  …

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And seemingly she’s thought things through pretty carefully as she demonstrates to her perplexed parent on their walk to the pet shop: “Don’t be silly Daddy! … He’ll eat pizza and fish fingers and spaghetti with us at the table … “ is her response to his concerns about the lack of grass in their garden and of course, their bath isn’t large enough. “I’ll have to wash him at the swimming pool!” she informs him.
Dad tries to let her down gently as they reach their destination but he hasn’t quite anticipated the very special bargain on offer …

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Finn Simpson’s exuberant scenes show much more than is said in the words. He captures the gentle playful humour of Jenna Harrington’s deliberately straightforward delivery, much of which is dialogue, extending and embellishing it with laugh out loud fantasies.

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Whiffs, Pongs and A Foiled Robbery

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Poo in the Zoo
Steve Smallman and Ada Grey
Little Tiger Press pbk
Young children simply revel in all things slightly whiffy; I know one two year old girl who became fascinated by the various poos she saw in the countryside even saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to the sheep droppings in a particular spot.
This poo-centred picture book is an absolute hoot – or rather, toot, if you like that kind of thing and I’ve yet to find a four or five year old who doesn’t. (So long as it isn’t their own of course). Herein we meet Zookeeper Bob who is finding his muck-shovelling duties rather too much as he goes around collecting all the dollops, drippy droppings, plummeting splats, steamy pongy pats and ducking from Monkey’s speedily tossed poops.
When he goes to clear Iguana’s mess, the creature gives him the slip, escaping to create havoc around the café as it gobbles everything in sight including some sparkly fireflies (‘he fancied something light’ you see.)

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Imagine the surprise when next the creature plops a poop: a glowing extra-terrestrial poo, thinks Bob. News quickly spreads, and the zookeeper receives a visit from a fellow poo collector who simply has to have the Iguana’s illuminated wonder. Will Bob part with it though? Well, let’s just say that he no longer has to do that poo-picking up for himself thanks to …

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This rhyming super-stinker just cries out to be read aloud; indeed it only really works if you do. Ada Grey’s scatological scenes induced howls of delighted laughter from my audience of 5s to 10s, several of whom wanted to paw over the pages for themselves

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after the immediate re-read they all demanded.

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Rex and the Crown Jewels Robbery
Kate Sheppard (illustrator)
Walker Books pbk
This amusing canine caper is loosely based on a real historical event that happened in 1671, during the reign of King Charles ll. It tells how scruffy mongrel, Rex, excavates a litter bin chock full of deliciously stinky rubbish and finds himself somewhere totally unexpected…

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… where his nose detects a wonderfully meaty aroma, which of course, he must follow. It takes him to an old tower wherein he spies some shiny objects closely guarded by …

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But there’s a dastardly plan afoot to steal those shiny objects aka The Crown Jewels. Can the two dogs foil the plotters and save that priceless crown, orb and sceptre?
There follows a frantic dash and much more until eventually Rex finds himself back more or less where he’d started on Tower Green.
Funny, fast and full of comical scenes that are sure to appeal to young time travelling enthusiasts especially.

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Sir Scallywag and the Battle of Stinky Bottom
Giles Andreae and Korky Paul
Puffin Books
King Colin has another mission for six-year old Sir Scallywag – to locate the giant Golden Sausage – an object that could confer immortality on the king so he’s heard. The probability is that said sausage is located in the centre of Lake Stinkybottom, a truly malodorous place. Off rides bold Sir Scallywag on his trusty steed, deep into the woods and beyond, to the troll-infested swamp where, in the gloaming he locates the sought article. Outnumbered one hundred to one though, can the young knight outwit the troll king and his army? Yes; and he does duly deliver the glowing object to the royal kitchen but that’s not quite the end of this madcap rhyming romp of derring-do …

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It’s great fun to read aloud;Korky Paul’s hilarious action-packed scenes are an absolute riot and brim over with witty details.

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