Together

Together
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger

Deep within the forest, hidden among the shady leaves, a tiny face peers through the foliage. It belongs to a baby gorilla that feels totally alone in the world, a world that feels strange and a little threatening.

But then along with the downpour of refreshing rain and the smell of something to eat that wafts on the breeze, comes something different, something huge and very …

So thinks the little one. But it’s not so for despite appearances, the creature reaches out with unexpected tenderness, extending a soft paw of companionship and friendship in a hitherto scary world.

Now no matter what each day brings forth, be it beauty and magic,

or shadow and sadness, there’s always the joy and comfort of togetherness.

Jane Chapman’s illustrations are incredible, both in their lifelike portrayal of the two gorillas and in the sensitive way they convey the sense of connectedness between them.

That sense of connectedness is what all of us crave probably more than anything else in these pandemic times. This beautiful, heart-warming story is a wonderful portrayal of how reaching out – may be not physically but in what ever ways are possible – can make all the difference.

Superhero Baby!

Superhero Baby!
Patricia Hegarty and Alex Willmore
Little Tiger

Here’s a fun story that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level.

In the dead of night, long past bedtime for little ones, there’s one of their number who’s still wide awake and ready to launch herself into action; and so she does when there’s a burst pipe in town.

With job duly done she’s back in her cot alongside her twin brother’s long before mum wakes her next morning.

She then spends the day putting her ‘baby power’ to good use as she performs one heroic act after another never pausing to take a nap.

There’s somebody though, who is far from happy about all the attention this diminutive superhero is receiving as she whizzes around with her seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, testing her powers to their limits.

Would-be superhero little ones will surely delight at watching the drama unfold through Patricia Hegarty’s rhyming romp that has an unexpected twist in its tail, and Alex Willmore’s instantly appealing, telling pictures where one pair of eyes in particular speak volumes.

Poo in the Zoo: The Great Poo Mystery

Poo in the Zoo: The Great Poo Mystery
Steve Smallman and Ada Grey
Little Tiger

At the end of the first story, Poo in the Zoo, Zookeeper Bob’s enterprise had enabled him to buy a super-duper pooper scooper robot.

This technological wonder, Robbie by name, with his poop hoover, makes Bob’s job considerably easier and on this particular night as he and the animals bed down for the night, all is well at McGrew’s Zoo.

The next morning however, everything changes. There’s poo absolutely everywhere and Robbie has disappeared. Disaster!

Then suddenly a tweed-clad woman riding a ‘pooper scooter’ zooms up announcing she’s ‘here to save the day!” Her name is Arabella Slater and she claims to be the number one poo investigator when it comes to dealing with number twos.

Immediately she leaps into action locating all manner of poo piles and then she notices some stray bits of wire. The hunt is on as all the zoo residents follow a trail

that leads them through the woods and into a glade where they come upon …

Bob then realises what has happened. But is it all over for Robbie or can Arabella live up to her claim and “save the day”?

Steve’s funny rhyming text bounces whiffily along as he regales this dung-filled drama, which Ada Grey hilariously illustrates with zany scenes of the poo-filled zoo and its environs.

Share this with a group of early years listeners or just one, and I’m pretty sure the immediate response will be “read it again!”.

Zoom: Ocean Adventure & Zoom: Space Adventure / Where’s My Peacock?

Zoom: Ocean Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Sam Rennocks
Zoom: Space Adventure
Susan Hayes, illustrated by Susanna Rumiz
What on Earth Books

These are two titles in a new board-book non-fiction series for curious toddlers.

In the first we meet Noah and join him and his turtle on an ocean adventure as he takes his boat out to sea, dons his diving gear and plunges into the water.

His first location is a coral reef, a good place for a game of hide-and-seek with some fish. Next stop is a seagrass meadow with its seahorses, dugongs and a wealth of other creatures, some of which emerge from the kelp.

Danger suddenly looms in the shape of a hungry great white shark from which Noah must make a hasty escape by climbing into his submarine and diving down to the darkest depths.

There’s also a sunken pirate ship with treasure and more to discover as Noah heads for the Antarctic and an iceberg with penguins atop, made all the more dramatic by its large die-cut shape,

Indeed die-cuts are a feature of every spread and with their clever placing each one offers a different view depending on whether the page is turned forwards or back.

The Space Adventure is Ada’s and begins with her (and her cat) boarding her rocket ship and awaiting the countdown which is delivered through wordless die-cut illustrated pages shaped as the numbers 5 through to 1.

Then the rocket blasts off skywards towards the moon, docking at the International Space Station to make a delivery and for Ada to perform some urgent repairs before making a lunar landing to collect scientific samples.

Thereafter, the rocket explores the Solar System viewing all the different planets before heading home once more.

Characteristic of both, rather longer than average board books are: the surprise pop-up on the penultimate spread, the wealth of visual details in Sam Rennocks and Susanna Rumiz’s vibrant illustrations, the die-cut pages, the relatively short narrative and the fact that both Noah and Ada actually experience their journeys through their imagination.

Sturdily built, these are well worth putting into a nursery collection or adding to your toddler’s bookshelf.

Where’s My Peacock?
Becky Davies and Kate McLelland
Little Tiger

In their latest touchy-feely, hide-and-seek board book, thanks to Becky Davies’ simple repeat patterned and Kate McLelland’s alluring patterned art, toddlers can follow the trail of footprints and discover a long tailed lemur, a feathery owl and a brightly hued toucan before locating the dazzling tailed peacock that has almost, but not entirely, hidden himself away.

Tactile fun for tinies and the possibility of learning some new vocabulary.

Mermaids Rock: The Floating Forest / The Time Travel Diaries: Adventure in Athens

Mermaids Rock: The Floating Forest
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega
Little Tiger

This is the second title in Linda Chapman’s Mermaids Rock series featuring some animal-loving mer friends. They have formed their own special Save the Sea Creatures Club, their aim being to come to the aid of animals in trouble.

As the story starts Coralie and Dash enter a whirlpool and find themselves in a wonderful forest with sea lions. Therein Coralie discovers among the fronds a bottle containing what looks like a rolled up message.

On returning to her friends she learns from Marina (whose dad is a marine scientist) that the place she’s just visited is a kelp forest. The others are eager to see it too so they schedule a visit the following day.

In the meantime Naya manages to open the bottle; inside is a map with a rhyming message.

Next day with 4 clues to solve, operation treasure hunt begins.

But one of their classmates, the sneaky Glenda is determined to find out what the others are up to and starts watching their every move.

The following week when the club members return to their search they discover that the kelp forest has been destroyed leaving the animals unprotected and in great danger.

Saving them becomes much more important than the treasure hunt but can they do it before it’s too late?

Mirelle Ortega’s expressive illustrations add further interest to the narrative and help break up the text for newly independent readers.

After the story are pages with information about the kelp forests and the animals living there, as well as some marine-related jokes.

A tale that’s ideal for young nature-lovers and environmentalists who like their adventures bubbling with mermaid magic.

For slightly older readers, also the second in a series:

The Time Travel Diaries: Adventure in Athens
Caroline Lawrence
Piccadilly Press

With her outstanding, expert knowledge of classical history and superb storytelling skill, Caroline Lawrence immerses readers in ancient Athens circa 400BCE when her heroes Alex and Dinu, on a luxury holiday in Athens, time travel – at the behest of Solomon Daisy – to the time of Socrates. Unbeknown to the boys, Dinu’s younger sister has followed them through the time-travel portal and is also swept up in the adventure.

It’s no time at all before having arrived at the Temple of Athena, Alex and Dinu are taken by the Scythian archers – the equivalent of the police in ancient Athens.

As with the previous book, the story is pacey, gripping and rich in historical detail.

Here’s what Daniel (nearly 11) thought:
‘This book was action-packed and a great read. The plot involves a group of characters who travel back in time in search of Socrates, the wisest man in the world. The main characters are really interesting because of their individual personalities.
Through their journey we learn about an ancient time and some historical dates. My favourite part is when the main characters go inside a public house and they play music through holes in a bone.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to 9-11 year olds.

Impossible! / I’m Sorry

Here are two recently published picture book from Little Tiger:

Impossible!
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Dog runs a laundry in a busy city but has a longing to see the ocean.

One day he comes upon Ocean Magic, a new kind of washing powder. The product promises ‘seaside freshness with every wash’ but apparently there’s something else within the box too.
Into the machine goes the powder and out later, along with the clean washing, emerges a crab suffering from a bad attack of nausea.

Dog and Crab discuss the situation over a cuppa

and eventually after declaring several times that driving Crab all the way back home is impossible, Dog lets himself be persuaded to undertake the trip.

Off they go together on a journey that takes several weeks during which they create a special memories map of their trip.

En route they encounter other travellers with seemingly impossible challenges of their own.

Now it’s Dog’s turn to utter the ‘nothing is impossible unless you say so’ maxim and with the assistance of their new friends, Dog and Crab finally reach their destination.

Both are delighted with the ocean paradise but then Dog declares he must return to his city job – or must he?

Follow your dreams and don’t allow obstacles to stand in your way, is the message Tracey’s tale imparts to youngsters. Equally the ‘it’s only impossible if you say so’ message is one we all need to remember especially in challenging times.

Tony Neal’s bright, lively, illustrations inject additional humour into the telling offering fun details to enjoy on every spread.

I’m Sorry!
Barry Timms and Sean Julian

In Walnut Wood live best friends, Scribble (squirrel) and Swoop (owl) and each morning they walk a considerable distance bringing their special things to their regular meeting spot.

Scribble has a special pencil that acts as word assistant in his play script writing, the finished dramas entertaining his friend. Swoop’s special thing is a toolbox that enables her to build anything and everything.

One day they decide to move in together; their place has ‘room for two and a little left over’.

It’s the left over bit – the veranda – that causes a rift, for each has designs on it.

A huge row ensues over the ownership of this: should it be a stage or a workshop?

Scribble decides to try and make amends with the aid of his trusty pencil but can a single word apology fix things or is something else needed?

There’s food for thought and discussion with little ones in this story that demonstrates that sometimes actions speak louder than words. Sean Julian’s beautifully expressive watercolour illustrations are for me the true show-stealers in this book.

Like the Ocean We Rise

Like the Ocean We Rise
Nicola Edwards and Sarah Wilkins
Little Tiger

Our planet is vast and it’s beautiful too,
But it needs our help; it needs me, it needs you.

Assuredly it does. I was absolutely astonished and horrified to read in the paper apropos World Oceans Day about the large percentage of microfibres in our oceans that are a result of washing synthetic clothing.

It’s never too early for young children to begin thinking about some of the ways they can help to reduce the negative impact we have on our planet and consider how everybody can help to prevent climate change.

A good place to start is with this smashing rhyming picture book.

Most of us know of the impact Greta Thunberg has had in galvanising what has become a global movement involving student protesters from over 120 countries; and Nicola Edwards’ narrative celebrates the contribution of young people; but there is a lot still to be done.

No matter where in the world we are,

we can all in our own way become eco-warriors

just like those children portrayed in Sarah Wilkins’ vibrant peek-through illustrations that use the ripple effect of a single raindrop to add to the impact of the text’s simile.

I love her final scene that shows this wave-making movement really is a global one in which we all can, indeed MUST, play our part.

The final spreadsheet provides  a brief explanation of  climate change and why it matters and some ‘What Can We Do?’ suggestions .

The Perfect Shelter

The Perfect Shelter
Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland
Little Tiger

Clare knows how to write about areas many people find difficult, her last book being the beautiful story The Tide, featuring a loved family member with dementia.

The new book, The Perfect Shelter is also based on personal experiences, this time of cancer. It’s equally beautifully told and illustrated and it’s evident immediately that a great deal of thought and loving care has gone into its creation.

As the story starts a family shares what the little girl narrator calls ‘the perfect day’, just right for her and her older sister to build a den in the woods – the perfect shelter.

Suddenly though as the evening draws in, it’s evident that something is not right with big sister.

Back home comes the news, her sister is ill.
A storm rages but the den repairs must continue as the narrator’s beloved sibling undergoes an operation.

But then come the questions, “How did it get there? … Why MY sister?”

Eventually although the den seems beyond fixing, the narrator’s internal storm begins to abate as big sister starts to regain her strength and with it her determination: there’s a new perfect time and perfect place to build a new shelter …

And with it come smiles, new plans and that wonderful feeling of togetherness.

Although we share in the gamut of emotions of this family, it’s optimism that is key in the poignant telling and Åsa Gilland’s slightly quirky illustrations capturing the family sharing a difficult time are superbly expressive of all the uncertainty inherent in Claire’s story. I love the way she adds gorgeous tiny detail and patterning to every scene.

That there is no mention of any specific illness makes this a book that will help untie the knot of emotions in many families when one of their number (Or indeed a close friend) is diagnosed with a serious illness.

44 Tiny Secrets

44 Tiny Secrets
Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King
Little Tiger

There are actually even more secrets than the 44 tiny ones in the title of this captivating book and some of them are pretty big ones.

Betsy Bow-Linnet is the daughter of two internationally famous concert pianists who spend a fair bit of their time jetting off to play abroad leaving young Betsy in the care of her Grandad.

Betsy has set her heart on becoming famous like her parents but no matter how hard she practises, she lacks the natural talent of her mother Bella and father, Bertram and feels she’s a disappointment to them both.

One day she discovers a letter on the doormat bearing only her name. Inside she finds a letter written by one Gloria Sprightly. The woman claims she has a special method that will make Betsy’s next performance ‘completely, totally, stupendously stunning’ and it isn’t necessary that the two of them meet. The other requirements are that the Method is a secret, and plenty of pumpkin seeds.

Needless to say Betsy jumps at the opportunity and posts off her acceptance right away.

Another letter follows instructing her to look inside the parlour piano and to await a parcel.

Sure enough, the following morning on the doorstep is a large parcel inside which is a box containing the titular tiny secrets in the form of 44 pygmy mice.

Betsy is baffled: how can the tiny reddish-brown creatures help her improve her piano playing and how can she possibly keep all those mice a secret?

Moreover, who is this Gloria Sprightly?

Woven into this quirky story are some wonderful verbal images: Betsy’s mother has a particular penchant for ferns and there are pots of the things everywhere in their home. She even looks and smells like a fern we’re told.

Before the end there are some unexpected revelations of more than one kind and the sharing of some rather yummy cream cakes but all ends happily. Not ever after however for there’s promise of a new story of Betsy and her 44 rodent friends coming soon. Hurrah!

A delight through and through, made all the more so by the splendid visuals provided by Ashley King whose offbeat illustrations underscore the humour of Sylvia’s telling.

This is Crab / The Bedtime Book

Here are two titles from the Little Tiger group that are just right to share with preschool children:

This is Crab
Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee
Caterpillar Books

This is another interactive book from Harriet Evans and illustrator Jacqui Lee and this one has an ocean floor setting and a googly-eyed red crustacean as its central character.

We join and assist Crab as he wanders around the sea bed encountering in turn, bit part players in the form of an octopus,

some coral, sea turtles, fish of various kinds and hues as well as a Decorator Crab that our meanderer gets a tad cheeky with.

Bright alluring illustrations including several spreads with die-cut overlays will certainly engage visually, while eager fingers will enjoy responding to such instructions as ‘shake your finger at Crab, please’; ‘Try tickling Crab so he lets go’ and ‘Tap on Crab to make the crack larger’ and they’ll assuredly delight in the revelation of Crab’s new pink shell once they’ve helped peel off the cracked red one.

Words such as ‘drumroll’, ‘scuttle’ and ‘pincers’ are introduced as the action proceeds, so will likely be absorbed by youngsters as they react to the prompts to facilitate Crab’s perambulations through the story.

The Bedtime Book
S. Marendaz and Carly Gledhill
Little Tiger

Like little humans, Mouse has a favourite bedtime book. Who better to help her find it when it goes missing than Frank the dachshund but he’s just snuggled down for a peaceful night’s sleep in his kennel.

Cosy as he might be though, Frank’s not one to leave his friend to search alone so off they go together ‘scurry, scurry, scurry … pant, pant, pant’ on a book hunt. They follow a trail that leads them to Bella the cat.

What Bella tells them has all three of them scurrying and panting off again but still there’s no sign of the missing book.

Owl overhears their conversation and reveals that he had it but it’s now set to be the next bedtime story for Baby Hedgehog.

Kind-hearted Mouse won’t hear of trying to retrieve it and instead goes sadly back to bed. So too does Frank although instead of falling asleep he has a wonderful idea that soon sees him back at Mouse’s residence

where in lieu of Mouse’s book, we’ll leave the two friends snuggled together under the stars having shared Frank’s bedtime favourite …

This sweet gentle story is likely to become a bedtime favourite for pre-schoolers who will love to snuggle down and make some animal friends thanks to Carly Gledhill’s delightful portrayal of the nocturnal happenings.

Little Bear’s Picnic / Peek-through: Around Town & Peek-through: Jobs We Do

Here are some new Little Tiger board book treats for toddlers:

Little Bear’s Picnic
Sebastien Braun and Kathryn Smith
Little Tiger

Picnics are the best fun if you collect some of the components on the way and that’s what happens in the second in the Cook With Me! lift-the-flap series.

Little Bear’s pretend play gives Big Bear an idea. The adult bear puts some items into a basket and off they go through the vegetable garden, pausing there to harvest some delicious veggies for the picnic.

By the stream Little Bear asks about another green plant and learns that it’s watercress – another tasty item to add to the basket.

The buzzy bees in the woods lead them to discover a honeycomb in the trees and then it’s time to settle down to a lunch.

Suddenly down comes a shower of rain so they gather up their things and dash for cover. Soon, sheltered beneath the canopy of a large tree the two bears watch as a rainbow appears in the sky and they tuck into their yummy ‘Rainbow Wraps Picnic’.

There’s a recipe for these beneath the final flap inside the back cover of the book.

Seb. Braun’s attention to detail is as always superb, so there’s plenty to get involved with including flaps to explore and a question to respond to on every spread such as ‘Can you help Little Bear pick some watercress?’

Toddlers will enjoy the playful picnic game and have fun guessing what the book contains as well as trying out its recipe.

Peek-through: Around Town
Peek-through: Jobs We Do

Jonny Marx and Zoe Waring
Little Tiger

Dusty the dog is a bit of a snooper so tired of being cooped up inside (familiar?) off he goes to explore what the town has to offer. Starting with the café, he visits the bookshop – hurray!,

the clothing store, the music shop, the sweet shop, the greengrocer and at the end of the day, meets up with a friend in the restaurant.

Roxy Rat also likes exploring and meeting others. Her perambulations take her to the police station, the fire station, a restaurant kitchen, a clothes shop, a garage, the bank and the hospital. That’s her final destination for we discover on the final spread that Roxy is a nurse whose turn it is on the night shift.

Both titles have a question on each recto above which is a peek-through flap to open and find the answer.

There’s a wealth of vocabulary development potential if toddlers share these chunky board books with an adult or older sibling.

A Friend for Bear

A Friend for Bear
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger

When Little Bear wakes from her long winter sleep she cannot wait to embrace spring with all its exciting possibilities for running, flower smelling, tadpole tickling and twirling.

It’s the twirling that causes her to trip and fall flat. What she fell over wasn’t in fact the stone she thought but a tortoise.

Tortoise is excited to hear about Little Bear’s plans for roly-polying, tree climbing and making new friends but knows his short legs are no match for Little Bear’s.

Bear offers Tortoise a piggyback and away they speed, with the former anything but aware of potential new pals and sweet smelling flowers they pass, right up to the top of a small hill.

After a downhill tumble the two narrowly miss hurtling into a tree. Tortoise just wants to sit and allow his head to stop spinning.

Unmindful of Tortoise’s predicament Little Bear hoists Tortoise on her shoulders again dashing up the hill only to zoom straight back down to the water’s edge. Once again Little Bear doesn’t stop long enough to allow Tortoise to finish speaking and in they leap.

Poor Tortoise can take no more. With a waterlogged shell and worse, he spells it out to Little Bear. “You never stop to listen, or think, or make friends.”

At last Little Bear pays attention to what’s being said; friendship wins through and both creatures eagerly anticipate another day in each other’s company.

Caroline Pedler shows the cuddly bear cub, with Tortoise holding on for dear life, dashing through verdant meadows and sunlit woods alive with spring flora and fauna. Like Little Bear, little humans (and big ones) can all benefit from slowing down and enjoying being in the moment as Steve’s protagonists finally demonstrate in his telling.

Meet the Grumblies

Meet the Grumblies
John Kelly and Carmen Saldaña
Little Tiger

The three Grumblies are an argumentative lot as their name suggests, and that’s despite having an easy life with food readily available courtesy of the bread bushes and fruit trees, and a constant supply of fizzy juice from the pond.

This primitive trio lead a low-tech existence and like nothing better than to bicker about the relative merits of the stick, the rope and mud.

These articles are put to the test when suddenly a huge and very hungry Gobblestomp breaks into their clearing and proceeds to devour their precious crops and slurp up their bubbly beverage.

Sticks bounce harmlessly off the hairy pachyderm;

the rope fails to slow it down and as for mud, it’s far too shallow to halt its progress.

Time for Grumble-Stick, Grumble-Rope and Grumble-Mud to cease squabbling, pool resources and come up with a plan perhaps; and so, overnight, they do.

The trio’s teamwork proves highly successful stopping Gobblestomp in its tracks

but there’s more than one change afoot in the village for it’s not only the Grumblies who see the error of their ways …

John Kelly’s daft neanderthal tale demonstrates the importance of teamwork and there’s plenty to giggle over in Carmen Saldaña’s animated artwork.

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Flamingo Party / Little Owl Rescue

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Flamingo Party
Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosie Butcher
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

In this sixth adventure Maya, inheritor of a magical colouring book is feeling a tad jealous. Her best friend Saffron is keen to include new girl, Alicia in their plans for a carnival in the town.

To uplift her spirits she turns to her colouring book and onto its cover start appearing flamingos.: a ‘flamboyance of flamingos’ Maya thinks and very soon she finds herself drawn back to the Kingdom of Birds where a new adventure awaits the Keeper of the Book.

Once there she learns that Lord Astor is up to no good again, luring all the flamingos to his palace lake. It’s on account of their magnificent pink feathers he needs to create the splendid headdress he is planning to wear as self-appointed Carnival King.

It’s up to Maya and Astor’s niece, Willow to make the Lord Astor see the error of his ways at last .

I say last for it appears that this is the final story in this enchanting series although I won’t divulge what happens.

If you work with or know young readers who would enjoy the mix of magic and bird facts characteristic of Anne Booth’s Magical Kingdom of Birds, then I thoroughly recommend they meet problem-solving, loyal friend, bird-loving Maya.

As with the other titles this one concludes with a bird fact file and there’s a recipe for ‘Flamingo-pink cakes’. Adding to the delights as usual are Rosie Butcher’s beautiful page borders and enchanting illustrations.

Another series for a similar readership that also mixes magical happening with saving wildlife is the Little Animal Rescue series, the latest of which is:

Little Owl Rescue
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies
Little Tiger

Animal loving Fliss is enjoying a trip to the fairground with her longstanding friend, Gabriel, when she is suddenly launched into another rescue mission. This time it’s in Aliceville, a sweetcorn growing area of Texas.

She is led by a white owl into a woodland area that is being chopped down to grow more maize crops. The mother owl has a family of baby owlets that she gathers up and off they fly, all except one little chick that hasn’t yet got the hang of becoming airborne.

Now with dangerous creatures all around and night fast drawing in, Fliss has an important task to save the owlet she names Cookie and to do so she needs to help it learn to fly and much more besides.

Indeed the whole rescue operation turns out to be a pretty dangerous undertaking for both Fliss and the owlet. The former discovers the importance of listening and she’s not one to give up until she’s achieved what she set out to do.

With plenty of black and white illustrations by Jo Anne Davies this is an exciting addition to the series for young readers that both entertains and gently educates.

Sea Keepers: The Mermaid’s Dolphin / Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor

Introducing two new younger fiction series:

Sea Keepers: The Mermaid’s Dolphin
Coral Ripley
Orchard Books

Meet Emily, Grace and Layla. Emily’s parents have just bought Mermaid Café; Layla lives just up the hill and Grace’s grandfather is a fisherman. The three team up to rescue a dolphin from a fishing net and find themselves plunging into a wondrously magical adventure with Marina the mermaid princess.

The three girls are unexpectedly chosen as the new Sea Keepers – guardians of the underwater world (a role not needed for hundreds of years). But human Sea Keepers? Humans have earned themselves a bad reputation with the Mer king and queen on account of their ocean polluting, whale killing and fishing, so the three girls will really have to prove themselves worthy of such a role.

They’ll need to confront Effluvia, the evil mermaid responsible for stirring up rubbish storms; she who has set her sights on finding the magical Golden Pearls; she with the power to mesmerise others.

Stop her they must, for the future of the underwater world is at stake; they simply have to find at least one of those magic pearls. Are they up to their task?

With talking sea creatures and much more, this magical story has at its heart the serious problem of ocean pollution. It’ll certainly immerse a certain section of young independent readers, and with still two pearls unfound at the end, this is just the first adventure of the Sea Keepers.

Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sarah Lodge
Little Tiger

This is the first of a new series by cat-loving author Holly Webb who got her inspiration from stories of real-life museum cats from the British Museum and the Hermitage in Russia.

The appearance of a small black kitten on the museum steps one night has the majority of the feline residents of the museum all in a tither. The creature introduces himself as Peter and kitten Tasha at least, is eager to hear the story of this little scrap of a thing from ’Out There’.

Tasked with showing the incomer around the museum, the three resident kittens lead Peter through the various galleries but when they hear visitors the others hide leaving the newcomer alone.

Tasha returns to find him, taking him on a rat hunt during which they hear strange sounds coming from the Dinosaur Gallery; marauding rats perhaps, or something else?

Disaster strikes as an incident results in the famous T-Rex losing a bone:

the search is on … Will it be found and will Peter ever feel as though he fits in?

Young moggy lovers especially will lap up this story. Holly Webb has created some interesting cat characters, young and not so young; and Sarah Lodge’s black and white illustrations add further atmosphere and humour to the telling.

Fun, Facts and More in Boardbook Format

Here’s a handful of board books to entertain your little ones courtesy of the Little Tiger Group:

ABC of Kindness
Patricia Hegarty and Summer Macon
Caterpillar Books

Rhyming couplets by Patricia Hegarty together with Summer Macon’s small scenes of super cute animal characters showing the way make for a lovely reminder of the important things in life.

For instance, there’s ‘Cc is being caring in everything you do. / Dd is for dear ones – who mean the world to you!’

The pastel backgrounds to the kindnesses illustrated complement the softly spoken text in a lovely introduction to the behaviours we’d all like to see in little humans. Perfect for sharing and talking about.

Cook with Me: Bunny Makes Breakfast
Kathryn Smith and Seb Braun
Little Tiger

Big Mummy invites her Little Bunny to share in the creation of a ‘yummy breakfast’ but what are they going to cook? They already have butter, flour and maple syrup, but that’s not all they need.

Out they go and pick juicy berries, collect eggs from the hens, and creamy milk from the cow.

Back in the kitchen comes the fun, messy part of mixing all the ingredients and by the time the delicious aroma comes wafting from the cooker, Little Bunny has worked out what their surprise meal will be. Hmmm!

Kathryn Smith’s is a story with a bonus – the final spread includes a recipe book – Bunny Oliver’s Breakfast for Bunnies.

With flaps to explore on every one of Seb Braun’s engaging spreads, this is a tasty little book for sharing with small humans – preferably not at breakfast time though in case of sticky fingers.

Curious Kids: Sea and Shore
Jonny Marx and Christine Engel
Caterpillar Books

From early morning to sunset, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy at the seaside.

This board book format non-fiction title presents in eight spreads, snippets of factual information about some of the marine creatures to be found in and around our seas from seagulls

to seahorses, octopuses to turtles.

There’s a pop-up feature on each bold, bright spread and observant eyes can also look for marine flora both in the sea and on the shore.

With the seaside likely to be off-limits for some time, maybe one way to remind little ones of its delights is with Christiane Engle’s sturdy book.

Also out in boardbook format now is:

Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

I reviewed the original hard cover edition of this smashing book that absolutely buzzes with bee-uty almost 4 years ago and it’s great to see it in a sturdy format for tinies: Britta’s illustrations are stunning.

Once Upon An Atom

Once Upon an Atom
James Carter, illustrated by William Santiago
Little Tiger

James Carter successfully wears several hats: he’s a much loved, award-winning poet, a musician and a non-fiction writer; how he manages to fit in all his performances at schools and festivals too, is pretty amazing.

In this latest book, James fuses his poetry and non-fiction writing, this time to explore some of the really BIG questions that fascinate both children and adults alike; and they’re all of a scientific nature.

Starting with a mention of the Big Bang and tiny atoms, the poet wonders, ‘WHY do leaves turn red and gold? / WHY do fireworks explode. // WHAT are whizzes, bangs expansions? / They’re all CHEMICAL REACTIONS!’
That assertion certainly makes chemistry begin to sound exciting.

Next on the scientific agenda are electricity, followed by gravity,

both aspects of physics – for as we hear, ‘We live on one great universe / and PHYSICS tells us how that works.’

Evolution, medicine come next, followed by my favourite of the sciences – botany, all of which are aspects of BIOLOGY.

The final stanzas talk of the work of scientists, their experimenting and inventing, ending with the exciting thoughts: ‘Now WHO knows what / the FUTURE is? // Find out … / become a SCIENTIST!’ Now there’s a possibility.

On the last spread is one of James’ acrostics entitled It’s all a question of SCIENCE.

A fizzingly, zinging addition to James’ non-fiction poetry series, this one is a clever fusion of playful entertainment and STEM information. With each spread being embellished with William Santiago’s arresting, zippy art, the book becomes a STEAM title that is great to share in the classroom or at home.

Midge & Mo / Judy Moody Super Book Whiz

Midge & Mo
Lara Williamson & Becky Cameron
Little Tiger

Starting at a new school is almost always a bit scary and many children go through those ‘I want things to be how they were before we moved’ feelings. It’s certainly the case for Midge in this latest story in the Stripes series of full colour fiction for new solo readers.

Midge’s parents have separated and Midge is faced with having to start at a new school with all the challenges that presents. He really doesn’t want to embrace the change, instead he wants his old school and friends, and his parents together.

On his first day he receives a warm welcome from teacher, Mr Lupin who asks Mo to be Midge’s buddy. This proves to be a challenging role, for no matter how hard she tries, Midge remains sad and silent.

At the end of the day, Mr Lupin encourages her to keep on trying.

Back at home that night, Mo has an idea. She reaches for the snow globe her mum and dad gave her when she was a newbie at school and sits down with her parents whose words of wisdom inspire her to create a special something for Midge.

At school the following morning, she tries again with Midge and her actions precipitate a change in him: little by little, the clouds begin to shift …

Told and illustrated with obvious empathy, Lara’s words and Becky’s illustrations express so well, the emotional turmoil of Midge. It’s a lovely warm-hearted story for young just-independent readers as well as providing an ideal opportunity to explore the feelings associated with changing schools and/or a parental separation.

Judy Moody Super Book Whiz
Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Walker Books

My goodness, I hadn’t realised just how many Judy Moody books there now are.

Although there is a competition in this story regarding factual recall of things in stories and I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that, books and reading rule and that must be a good thing.

Judy Moody and her brother Stink are both on their school bookworm team (along with Frank and Judy’s erstwhile arch nemesis Jessica, Frank and Sophie). They have to read all the books on the list in order to beat the team from a school in the nearby town. There’s money for the school library as a prize and their much-loved teacher, Mr Todd is asking the questions, but can team Virginia Dare Bookworms out-perform The Fake-Moustache Defenders with their star, ‘Mighty Fantasky, Fourth grader’.

In order to be in with a chance the Bookworms will need to read at every possible opportunity – on the bus, in karate class, at the dining table, sick in bed, even.

Judy tries speed-reading while Stink fashions a cape using sticky post-it notes both of which are not quite the answer.

However, enthusiasm for reading never wanes in this exciting bookish battle, (all titles read are listed after the story), and let’s just say that it’s a win for books, for hard work and for determination.

I’ll leave you to decide to whom that applies and suggest you get a copy of the book for your classroom or a bookish young reader. Either way the final list of books, as well as the story, with its liberal scattering of funky Peter H. Reynolds illustrations, provide literary inspiration and enjoyment.

Make Time for a Board Book

Where’s My Llama?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger

Capitalising on the current vogue for all things llama, Becky Davies has written a board book. Herein a llama has gone missing and it’s up to little ones to follow the trail of brightly coloured footprints to track her down.

Along the way tiny detectives will encounter a long-necked Giraffe, a cute tailed fox

and a long-eared rabbit, all of which have similar characteristics to the llama.
But where is the errant ungulate? Rest assured her fluffy tail will finally give the game away.

With its final flap reveal, Kate McLelland’s alluring scenes – each with a touch and feel animal body part – on softly patterned pastel backgrounds, simple descriptive text with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my llama?’ to chant, there’s plenty to keep the attention of tinies throughout this touch and feel, search and find book.

Maisy’s Science
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Toddlers’ favourite mouse Maisy is in investigative mode in this STEAM First Words tabbed book.

Out and about, she encounters some very windy weather that is perfect for kite flying; seasonal snow as she feeds the birds; enjoys a relaxing break from vegetable gathering to enjoy watching the minibeasts close by. Then it’s time for a bit of seed watering – perhaps she’s planted sunflower seeds – followed by observing some seasonal changes.

The arrival of her friends gives an opportunity to look at various parts of their bodies and hers and once she’s alone again, she and cuddly Panda can investigate a variety of textures; make some rather noisy musical sound with her percussion; don her painting apron and experiment with her paints, perhaps trying colour mixing and after all that activity it’s time to sit and read a book (or choose from one of the other learning tools shown on the opposite page).

Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!
Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter
Abrams Appleseed

This is a fun, rhyming tale of an energetic would-be little ninja whom we first meet looking terrified of the rather large family dog.

Creeping away, he comes upon his younger brother happily playing with a balloon. Not for long though. With a deft ‘chop’ Ninja  removes the balloon from little bro., then proceeds to snatch his chocolate-chip cookie and with a further chop – delivered with his foot this time – destroys his block-built castle leaving the long-suffering toddler howling.

A change of heart caused by an unseen force calling ‘Ninja, Ninja, would you stop?’ sees our Ninja then pause and help to reconstruct the building before whizzing off once more into the great outdoors.

It’s there that he receives his comeuppance, discovering – much to his surprise – that little brother is actually a highly observant pupil. Time to join forces it seems, for two Ninjas may well be better than one, certainly when it comes to scheming.

There’s a slight retro feel to Tad Carpenter’s bold, bright scenes from which the black-clad Ninja leaps out – literally! I can see little ones joining in, enthusiastically chanting along with adult readers aloud of debut author, Todd Tuell’s staccato text, as they turn the pages.

Don’t Mess With Duck! / The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom

Here are two treats from Little Tiger


Don’t Mess With Duck!
Becky Davies and Emma Levey
Little Tiger

Duck is an exceedingly grumpy creature, the grumpiest in his particular pond. Rather than leaving him to enjoy some peace and quiet the other residents create a terrible row and splash infuriatingly. Consequently, case in wing, Duck ups and leaves seeking somewhere quiet.

His search yields several promising ponds but each proves unsatisfactory in one way or anther so he goes to the city where he’s equally unsuccessful,

so too is the cave.

Finally though, he comes upon just what he’s looking for, except that all of a sudden he hears another voice and finds himself face to face with a grumpy frog that’s as cross about seeing Duck as Duck is to discover another occupant. “Clear off!’ they both order.

A brief argument ensues followed by a truce when each agrees to keep out of the other’s way. Peace at last.

But then after a few days a loud cry disturbs this peace.
Are Duck and Frog now ready to accept that perhaps friendship is more important that seclusion? …

Themes of acceptance, inclusion and friendship are at the heart of Becky Davies’ funny tale of self-exploration and compromise. Plenty to think about there, for sure and with Emma Levey’s superbly expressive animal illustrations (I certainly wouldn’t dream of messing with that duck), this is a smashing book to share and discuss with youngsters either in school or at home.

The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom
Steve Smallman and Nick Schon
Little Tiger

Just when we, certainly I, am feeling in need of a bit of brightness in what feels like especially grey times, this book with its brand new dazzling, celebratory ‘becoming a teenager’ cover arrives in my post.

It’s a neo pourquoi tale delivered in jaunty rhyme that certainly packs a punch. It tells how long ago a monkey, inspired by the rainbow colours of the birds, takes up the paintbox he happens upon beside the stream, along with a couple of brushes, and feeling an upsurge in his creative juices, sets to work to make his world a brighter place.

Waiting until the animals are having their early afternoon snooze, he gets busy daubing some reptiles and then decides to give the leopard a bright yellow coat. In so doing however, he causes it to stir. Monkey dashes up a tree and splodges of black paint rain down upon the creature.

Impressed with what he sees, Monkey lets his artistry loose upon a giraffe, a zebra, a lemur and a skunk. Bear receives a pair of white specs. but he’s roused from his slumbers and demands to know what Monkey is up to.

Then instead of venting his wrath upon the fearful primate, Bear takes up the paintbrush and it’s payback time … and the rest as you know is natural history …

I’m certain author Steve and artist Nick Schon had as much fun creating this book as Monkey did creating all those animal designs. It’s terrific fun, reads aloud superbly and will have young audiences laughing their heads off as well as wriggling on their ‘not blue’ bottoms in glee.

Supermouse and the Big Cheese Robbery

Supermouse and the Big Cheese Robbery
M.N. Tahl and Mark Chambers
Little Tiger

If you want a book whiffing over with exceedingly cheesily pungent puns and other word plays, not to mention a number of wheyward characters, gratinate or otherwise, then this will certainly be to your taste.

Without further odour let’s head over to Mouseopolis where everyone is eagerly anticipating the grand unveiling of the city’s ‘most magnificent morsel’, the Big Cheese.

Disaster is revealed as soon as the mayor pulls back the curtain. All that’s on view is a holey communication from the dastardly thief.

News of the robbery has everyone puzzling and a list of suspects is published in the Daily Mouse, along with an article on the possible cheese saviour.

Before you can say Stilton, Supermouse aka Peter Parmesan, is on the trail searching out every suspicious pong be it high or low.

Little does he know however, that a trap has been set by the roguish robbing rodents. Perhaps all is not lost though for the ground whereon their cutter stands, starts to shake.

Here’s what then ensues …

but can Supermouse manage to caerphilly secure that scrumptious delicacy he seeks, enable justice to be served and return a hero?

Despite the occasional challenge to my vegan sensibilities, this reviewer positively relished this morsel of literary madness cooked up by cheese-loving author M.N. Tahl and scrumptiously layered with Mark Chambers’ tongue-tingling illustrative treats, liberally peppered with speech bubbles, logos and signs. With its flaps, peep-through and sometimes unfolding, pages, not to mention the action-packed plot, adventure-loving audiences will devour this and demand seconds.

A Little Bit Worried

A Little Bit Worried
Ciara Gavin and Tim Warnes
Little Tiger

Do you embrace the challenges life throws at you or shut yourself away, fearful of what might happen? Here’s a story that offers a look at life from both viewpoints, through the eyes of Weasel – he’s the fearful one, and Mole, the upbeat character.

It’s the changes in the weather that cause Weasel concern: first a sudden downpour, followed by hail and strong winds. So much so that he builds a safe place and shuts himself away inside.

Time passes and he’s just getting used to his solitary state when up pops Mole demanding to know where he is. Weasel says it’s a fortress and invites Mole to help him guard it. Mole however, is having none of it, insisting it’s a home and making himself comfortable. He then proceeds to act his upbeat self,

countering every one of Weasel’s downbeat remarks about the storm raging outside with fun alternative suggestions, insisting that storms can provide opportunities to build a snowman, make you feel ticklishly joyful,

or create the perfect puddles for a good splash-about with some wonderfully warming soup.

After their discussion Weasel asks Mole the all-important question, “What do you do when you feel afraid to face something?”

What happens thereafter will make you smile; it certainly made both the characters of Ciara Gavin’s story do just that – for not one, but two reasons.

Perhaps there’s a little bit of Weasel and a little bit of Mole in us all; what’s important however is to understand our feelings and responses to those challenging situations. In that way can we show empathy to others who respond differently.

Tim Warnes’ gently humorous illustrations show so well the two very different characters and how it’s possible to complement one’s self-protectiveness with another’s joie de vivre.

Books For Babies And Beyond

Ducky’s Bathtime
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Quack! Quack! Hooray! – it’s Ducky’s bathtime day. In a lovely squishy waterproof, wipe- clean format, this delightful Ducky adventure is totally irresistible.

Not only does it provide the perfect opportunity to introduce Lucy Cousins’ adorable Ducky to babies, they can also meet the quacky duckling’s friends including fish, ducks, frog and newt.

Who Said Woof? / Who Said Moo?
Yi-Hsuan Wu
Little Tiger

Four animals in each book make their characteristic sounds but they’ve all hidden themselves away beneath flaps depicting four other animals each with a tactile die-cut shape on its back.

So, it wasn’t Bunny who said ‘Woof!, nor Guinea Pig who said ‘Meow!; neither did Goldfish ‘Squeak!’ nor Tortoise ‘Squawk!’ but lifting each flap wlll reveal the sound-creating creatures.

As you might expect. Horse did not ’Moo!, Llama certainly didn’t ‘Baa!’, Dog definitely didn’t ‘Quack and Rabbit wasn’t responsible for that ‘Oink!’

Toddlers will enjoy discovering the hidden culprits that they’re likely already to have guessed, beneath the flaps in Yi-Hsuan Wu’s jolly illustrations.

The final spread of each book collects together the entire cast of animal characters with a question “What sound do you say?’ – anything goes!

With their predictable repeat refrains, both books are just right for older siblings beginning to read for themselves, to share with a toddler brother or sister and everyone can enjoy making the animal noises.

You Complete Me
Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books

‘Better together’ (a wider, hidden meaning perhaps?) is the message in this tasty, playful, peek-a-boo board book where partnerships prove paramount.

Set against vivid backgrounds, bright, eye-catching toddler foodie favourites such as milk and cookies, and peanut butter and jelly, unite to make the point loud and clear in Thomas Elliott’s delicious die-cut piece of daftness.

With its puns and clever design, adults will savour the pleasure along with their little ones as they share this one.

Board Books Matter

Board books form the bedrock of children’s reading – or rather one hopes they do; but not all new parents appreciate their potential and their importance. Thanks to Little Tiger, here are some new titles. The first is already published the others will be early in February.

Where’s My Unicorn?
Kate McLelland and Becky Davies
Little Tiger
Right from a very young age, there seems to be a magnetic attraction between young children, (girls mostly) and unicorns, so I’m sure this textured book will please.

Its first spread shows the rear end of a hoofed animal that has left a trail of footprints as clues to follow through the pages until the missing unicorn is found on the final spread hiding in plain sight.

On the way little ones encounter a mermaid with a colourful tail, a flamingo with soft fluffy plumage and a narwhal with a magical horn.

Tactile hide-and-seek fun for tinies who can enjoy the search as well as joining in with the repeat refrain, ‘Where’s my unicorn?’ Becky Davies provides the words, giving a sentence about each creature; Kate McLelland has created the alluring visuals.

What Can You See: On the Farm?
Kate Ware and Maria Perera
Little Tiger

As well as providing an introduction to what might be seen on a farm, and something to count on each spread, this, the first of a new ‘spot and count’ series provides plenty to interest little ones in Maria Perera’s jolly scenes of farm life.

First we visit the farm shop where different kinds of delicious-looking vegetables are on sale. Lunchtime is an opportunity to watch the sheep being fed; the pigs too need feeding and fruit trees near their sty supply a wealth of apples when they’re ready for eating.

The farm also has a duck pond alongside which is a weeping willow; there are several different kinds of birds to see in that scene.

Later in the year, the combine harvester gathers the wheat from a field where lots of small creatures have made their homes; and finally it’s teatime and the farmer collects eggs from the barn where there are hens, cows while other animals scamper along the rafters.

Toddlers can by means of the die-cut visuals, acquire some facts, do some counting and develop their observation skills, using Kate Ware’s words as guidance.

I Can Do It!
Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir
Caterpillar Books

Try teaching preschool and reception age children and you’d be amazed how many 4/5 year olds start school unable to dress themselves properly. I know parents find it easier when they’re rushed in the mornings to dress their youngsters but essentially this is deskilling children. Much better to set time aside to help them learn in a playful manner to cope with zips, buttons, poppers, laces and Velcro type fastenings themselves.

This robust board book with Patricia’s text and Hilli Kushnir’s enticing illustrations will be a boon in this respect.

Using five little children as models, the narrative provides an introduction to each fastening with instructions on how to work it, and asks each time ‘Can you fasten the …? alongside a bold, bright illustration of a child wearing the item needing to be done up.

One boy fastens shirt buttons, a little girl zips up her hoodie,

another boy does up the hooks and loops fastening on his coat; a child closes the popper on a backpack and finally a little girl has lace-up shoes to tie up on her trainers.

Fun, instructive and I assure you, early years teachers will be truly thankful if your child can manage all the five fastenings.

Little Bird Lost

Alesha enjoying reading the story    for herself

Little Bird Lost
Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Sebastiaan Van Doninck
Stripes Books

Many possible interpretations spring to mind on reading Patricia Hegarty’s tale of Little Bird and the kind hearted Deer that comes to his aid when he hears a plaintive “Chick-kee!” coming from a pile of leaves and discovers a small injured bird that has crash landed on the forest floor.

Little Bird has become separated from his flock, and having consulted his forest friends, Deer undertakes to ‘follow the sun’ towards the warmer place they think the flock is heading to.

Thus begins an adventurous, sometimes hazardous journey

that takes them through the forest and through the seasons

to spring.

By then much has happened: Little Bird’s wing has healed, a strong friendship has been formed between the two travellers and with spring – a time of hope – other things too are evolving …

Now though, it’s time to bid farewell to a very special friend, safe in the knowledge that a friendship such as that is forever …

Poignant and immersive, this is the latest in Stripes Publishing’s full-colour fiction series– especially aptly with this story, for those readers just flying solo. How powerful it is to discover a book that you can almost read unaided and that’s what happened with one such reader, Alesha.
As much as the story, she loved Sebastiaan Van Doninck’s splendidly expressive illustrations and stopped several times to comment on how both they and the narrative made her feel. Spring was her favourite section: “I was excited when Little Bird found he could fly; it made me so happy.

Board Book Play and Learn

When I Grow Up I Want To Drive …
When I Grow Up I Want To Be …

Rosamund Lloyd and Richard Merritt
Little Tiger

Both books hide much of their brief snippets of information beneath the thirty flaps found between the covers.

The first offers 5 different vehicles – a tractor, an ambulance, a cement mixer, a recycling truck and an aeroplane each shown on the verso and then as part of an appropriate scene on the recto, while the final spread is an integral scene …

A similar pattern is used in the look at 5 possible jobs tinies might aspire to, with a representative from each introducing themselves opposite a look at the role in action. Again the places of work are all shown in the final spread.

Bright artwork by Richard Merritt shows in turn an astronaut, a teacher, an athlete, a firefighter and a doctor.

Let’s Find The Dinosaur
Let’s Find The Mermaid

illustrated by Alex Willmore
Little Tiger

Search-and-find fun with a hunt for a T.Rex in the first book, and Mermaid in the second, is given a tactile element with felt flaps and die cut pages.

As tots engage in the game of hide and seek they’ll listen to descriptive clues such as ‘T-Rex has a scaly head. Could this be T-Rex behind the leaves.’ Or ‘Mermaid has a swishy tail. Could this be Mermaid in the coral?’

Alex Willmore’s attractively patterned spreads will ensure that each game is a playful learning opportunity, while the repeat refrain textual patterning will help with word recognition if appropriate for the particular child.

Baby 101 Touch and Trace: Plant and Grow/ Build a House
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books

Two new titles in the STEM series for toddlers take a look at horticulture and building construction.

Plant and Grow tells of the vital things needed for seeds to germinate and thrive until the crops are ready to pick and consume.

There’s a mathematical thread to Build a House with such vocabulary as basic 2D shape names and simple counting (of roof tiles) as well as a spread showing how bricks might be bonded.

Both titles have a tactile element thanks to the ‘touch-and-trace’ details built into Thomas Elliott’s illustrations on every page to  help develop the fine motor skills of little users.

Fun learning for babies and toddlers.

The Moonlight Zoo

The Moonlight Zoo
Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford
Little Tiger

With an arresting die-cut cover like the one on this book, from the creators of Space Train, who could resist plunging in to join young Eva as she undertakes a nocturnal search for her missing moggy Luna.

It all begins when Eva hears strange sounds coming from beneath her bed, dives underneath and finds herself at the gates of The Moonlight Zoo.

The guard wolf informs her that it’s a safe night haven for lost animals and with the helpful creature as guide she begins to hunt for Luna.

They look in various possible locations, find some clues – Luna’s collar and a lump of cat fur – but not that which they seek.

Time is running out for the zoo closes at dawn; then Eva hears a rumbly sound; could it possibly be Luna? …

Animal lovers especially will relish this adventure wherein they can explore the nocturnal world Karl James Mountford has created in his fantastical zoo populated by penguins, monkeys, guinea pigs, dogs, wolves, elephants and other lost creatures.The cutaway peep-through pages add to the visual delights of Maudie Powell-Tuck’s enchanting story wherein determination is key.

Things New and Things Old for Christmas

The Most Wonderful Gift in the World
Mark Sperring and Lucy Fleming
Little Tiger

Friends, Esme and Bear, discover one last present under their tree on Christmas morning but it isn’t for either of them. Its tag reads ‘For Little Bunny Boo-Boo, Love Santa.’ They decide to find its intended recipient and donning their warmest clothes, off they go into the snow. Guided by signs that give specific instructions ‘FOLLOW THE TREACHEROUS PATH’, ‘WALK THROUGH THE HOWLING GALE’ and carry on beyond ‘DEEP, DEEP’ snow drifts, the two slip, slide, bump and are blasted towards a little wooden cabin.

There they receive a wonderfully warm welcome from Little Bunny Boo Boo but notice that thus far, she hasn’t received a single Christmas present. Imagine Bear and Esme’s surprise then when the rabbit opens the package only to find there’s absolutely nothing inside other than a small note.

The explanation that follows from Little Bunny Boo-Boo reveals that’s she’s actually received exactly what she was hoping for.

Mark Sperring’s festive tale about kindness, friendship and going the extra mile shows readers and listeners that the very best presents aren’t really wrappable at all. Imbued with the warmth and spirit of the season too are Lucy Fleming’s bright, expressive illustrations making this a book to read with little ones in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Christmas Unicorn
Anna Currey
Oxford University Press

Here’s a tale of the enduring magic that Christmas holds for young children.

Young Milly isn’t too happy at the prospect of spending Christmas at her Grandpa’s, but Mum explains as she tucks her into bed that he’ll be lonely otherwise and that Dad will join them as soon as he can.

During the night Milly is woken by a noise coming from beneath her bedroom window and discovers a unicorn standing there, attracted by the twinkling of all the Christmas lights of the town. Florian is his name. Milly lets him inside and from then on the unicorn participates in breakfast and all the Christmas preparations. They unpack decorations and adorn the tree but when the newcomer gets a bit over-enthusiastic about tasting the decorations, Grandpa suggests a trip to the Christmas market where Florian temporarily goes missing.

Milly’s search yields not only the unicorn, but also an invitation from a little girl who lives nearby, for Milly to join her in tobogganing the following day.

Then it’s time for Florian to depart but back in Grandpa’s house something very special awaits their return.

This wonderfully warm story of wishes, magic and love has all the warmth of the season but without the glitz and glitter. Anna Currey’s gentle watercolour illustrations add much to her telling; they’re enchantingly expressive and really bring the characters to life.

First published fifteen years ago the book has lost none of its original charm.

Board Book Christmas

Just Right for Christmas
Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw
Nosy Crow

A board book version of a Christmas favourite from a few years ago unfolods over two days.

It begins on a snowy Christmas Eve with the king walking around the market. His purchase of a roll of beautiful red cloth to make a cloak for his daughter results in the left-over scraps of fabric being placed outside the back door.  Jenny the kitchen maid finds them and makes  a jacket for her ma. The remaining scraps are turned into a hat for Bertie Badger’s pa, then gloves for Samuel Squirrel’s wife and a scarf for Milly Mouse’s little one, and all just in time for Christmas Day.

A warm, feel-good story ‘… just how Christmas should feel’ celebrating the pleasures of giving, made all the more so with Rosalind Beardshaw’s, mixed media illustrations that help stitch the narrative together beautifully.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Little Tiger

In this board book, using two enchanting elf characters and her trademark die-cut collage style illustrations, Britta Teckentrup presents a favourite seasonal song aimed at the very youngest listeners. As the song progresses, one verse per spread, the gift is revealed through the cut out. Then on the fourth day additional die-cuts are used to accommodate the 4 colly birds and so on until the eleventh day. On day twelve all the gifts are revealed around the tree on the recto while in the bottom corner on the verso the elves give each other a Christmas kiss.

Just right for tiny hands and there’s plenty of counting fun to be had too.

Wake up, Santa!
illustrated by Pintachan
Words & Pictures

With cleverly designed paper engineering and digital illustrations, this bright, jolly interactive board book will get little ones and their sharers in festive mood as they waken in turn Santa, the elves, Rudolph and a teddy bear.

There are things to find, name, count and talk about all in a tiny, fun-filled ‘Little Faces’ package.

Christmas is Awesome!
Sabrina Moyle and Eunice Moyle
Abrams Appleseed

The Moyle sisters go to town to demonstrate the veracity of their latest board book’s title.

Popping with neon pink, Eunice provides lively scenes of assorted animals getting into the festive spirit with ‘twinkling lights, silent nights, being nice ‘(of course) and much more.

Humorous touches abound with ‘ugly sweaters’, a dachshund sporting one such takes the opportunity to get beneath the mistletoe and bestow a long-tongued lick upon the cat’s beaming countenance; and don’t miss the lump of coal getting in on the act by knitting itself a sweater from ‘darkest black abyss’ yarn. And the nativity scene is priceless: Mary and Joseph are two birds looking benevolently upon their newborn baby Jesus – a haloed egg.

Sabrina’s rhyming narrative orchestrates the celebrations concluding thus: ‘Joy and kindness, love and fun, Christmas is for everyone!’ Their portrayal is certainly a whole lot of fun.

Busy Reindeer
illustrated by Samantha Meredith
Campbell Books

As an adult reads the rhyming couplets, little fingers can manipulate the sliders to activate Santa’s reindeer Ruby, then watch the sleigh take flight over a snowy landscape, help Santa down the chimney and finally, open the stable door for him to thank and bid goodnight to his number one helper. All of this is illustrated in Samantha Meredith’s bright, jolly scenes of a busy Christmas delivery round.

On Sleepy Hill / I Love You Brighter than the Stars

On Sleepy Hill
Patricia Hegarty and Xuan Le
Caterpillar Books

Layered scenes of the natural world as the day draws to a close and accompanying rhyming couplets give sleepy humans the opportunity to view and bid goodnight to the inhabitants of first a woodland where baby rabbits return to their burrows and a little wolf peers from a hollow. Then, the bank of a mountain stream whereon a black bear watches his cubs while otters take a last look at the evening and a mother duck gathers up her ducklings.

Further up, in a mountain clearing, deer and foxes make for home and the geese fly back to their nest, and even higher while caribou and boars are almost ready for sleep,

the owl swoops, watching and waiting.

The soporific narrative and cutaway pages of the fauna and flora of Sleepy Hill should work their magic on little humans when they too are almost ready for their slumbers.

I Love You Brighter than the Stars
Owen Hart and Sean Julian
Little Tiger

Books that celebrate the forever love between parent and child seem, like the sentiment they express, never ending. Indeed this is the second from Owen Hart and Sean Julian and rather than polar bears this one features a brown bear and its cub.

While they walk together as the evening sun gives way to moonlight and stars, the adult’s gentle heartfelt words to the cub promise lifelong guidance, companionship, support and the kind of love that is there no matter what, no matter where.

As they climb the hill, the two pause to gaze at the wonders of the natural world and at the star-filled sky

before taking a moonlit dip in the mountain stream.

Then it’s time to head home and sleep, the cub safe in the knowledge that as the wind sings a gentle lullaby it is loved ‘more than all the stars that sparkle through the night.’ Who could wish for more than that?

Soft spoken, rhyming reassurance and beautiful land- and sky-scapes make for a book that is ideal bedtime sharing for adults and their little ones.

Oh No, Bear!

Oh No, Bear!
Joanna Partis
Little Tiger

One autumnal morning a hungry bear wakes knowing he has an important task ahead. But as he walks through the forest his hunger distracts him causing him to follow the delicious smell that assails his nostrils. It leads him to a vegetable bed where Rabbit and friends have dug up a huge pile of carrots. Bear accepts Rabbit’s offer to try one and before you can say ‘chomp’ Bear has consumed the entire barrowful.

But then he smells another delicious aroma and instead of making amends to the rabbits, nose in the air, he’s off on the trail,

which leads him to a group of squirrels engaged in picking acorns. A similar thing happens: it’s Bear’s tummy not the baskets that he fills with acorns.  After a brief apology Bear’s off again hot on the trail of another tempting smell. And oops!

Soon, Beaver’s freshly caught fish ends up in the same place as the previous items he was supposed to taste and unsurprisingly by now, Bear’s tummy is rather larger that it was at the start of the day. As he sits ruminating upon his greed he starts to feel concerned that his friends might have to go hungry all winter.

Back to his cave he heads intent on thinking of a way to put things right. But when he reaches his door another problem awaits.

Is he to remain in that sorry state all winter? Happily not, thanks to his friends, not to mention his inadvertent clumsiness during his pre-hibernation perambulations.

Funny, thought-provoking and engagingly illustrated, with its ‘OH NO BEAR!’ refrain this is an enjoyable autumn term read for foundation stage audiences especially.

The Wonder Machine

The Wonder Machine
Barry Timms and Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger

Something of a reclusive character, Wolf is an inventor, the world’s greatest so we’re told.

One day she decides to make a machine that will be a world changer and with that in mind she consults a large nameless book wherein she finds these words, ‘The wonder machine! / The wonder machine! / A gadget like nothing that / you’ve ever seen! From mittens to music, / from cushions to cakes, / The thing you most need / is the thing that it makes!’
Her search for the components required to construct such a marvel take her for the first time ever, away from her home and across onto the mainland.

Once there, she encounters, and helps in turn Squirrel,

Owl and a family of foxes. For each kind deed she receives a gift of thanks. First a garden rake, then a fishing reel and finally, a silver spoon: the very items she needs to complete her Wonder Machine.

Back at home she sets to work next morning, toiling all day until her creation is ready. Although from it there comes wonderful music, Wolf doesn’t feel the satisfaction she’d eagerly anticipated. But then as she sits downheartedly

there comes a realisation and a wonderful surprise …

All of which shows that stepping outside your comfort zone, paying it forward and sharing your talent are enormously rewarding.

Barry Timms’ tipping, tapping text flows along nicely sweeping readers along with it, eager to find out everything about Wolf’s invention, while on the way they’ll enjoy her exchanges with the other characters and empathise with her highs and lows as the story builds to its satisfying musical finale. All this is appealingly shown in Laura Brenlla’s rural scenes with their peepholes, flaps and foldouts.

Through the Eyes of Us / In Every House, on Every Street

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding
Graffeg

This is the second book written by the father of a child on the autism spectrum.

Herein as well as Kya from Through the Eyes of Me, we meet her best friend Martha.

Kya, now at school, talks about her experiences there, sometimes contrasting her thoughts, behaviour and preferences with Martha’s.

I know from experience of children I’ve taught that school can be a very confusing place for neurodiverse children, but both girls have their own ways of navigating through lessons, playtimes and lunchtimes, all of which are illustrated in colourful, detailed, sometimes funny scenes.

Kya also describes how she and Martha enjoy different tactile experiences,

and activities in their free time; and their routines are also different.

Martha knows when she feels tired, unlike our narrator whose energy seems boundless; although once asleep after a soothing bath and massage, she sleeps soundly.

Enlivened by Hannah Rounding’s expressive illustrations, this is a smashing celebration of every child’s uniqueness as well as providing an insightful picture of the world of an autistic child.

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

Put Through the Eyes of Us in your class collection and whether or not you have children on the autism spectrum therein, read it together, talk about it and lend it to individuals for home sharing too.

In Every House, on Every Street
Jess Hitchman and Lili La Baleine
Little Tiger

The girl narrator of this book invites readers into her house to see what goes on in its various rooms.

What we discover is a happy family engaging in seemingly ordinary everyday activities, but nothing they do is dull or mundane.

The cake baking in the kitchen becomes an opportunity for the family to dance and sing together.

The dining room might be the place for eating a meal, but that meal can turn into a fun piratical party,

while the living room is a great spot for rest and relaxation but also for dancing and singing, mulling things over and talking about feelings.

Yes the bathroom is for getting clean but there are opportunities for some artistic endeavours too.

And the bedroom? Yes sleep happens therein, but so too does play.

Full of warmth, this is a lovely demonstration of what makes a house a home delivered through Jess Hitchman’s upbeat rhyming narrative and Lili La Baleine’s views of the everyday incidents of family life that make it special but different for everyone in the street, as the final fold out spread reveals.

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger

As the sun sets an intrepid little Mouse leads his fearful friends homewards.

In order to get there before dark, he decides to take the short cut through the creek. He’s ‘NEVER seen a crocodile in the creepy, crooked creek’, so he tells Shelly and Rabbit.

What follows is a delicious comedy of errors as the three friends set off, traversing a ‘lumpy, bumpy bridge,’ clambering through ‘long, thick “scritchy, scratchy” thorns’

and swinging through green vines. All the while Mouse is providing a description of the animals they’re hoping never to see.

Then Shelly’s comment concerning the similarity between slippy, slidey logs and the bodies of the green reptiles causes them to plunge into a dark tunnel from where they view a host of watchful pairs of eyes upon them.
Hundreds of crocodiles, is Shelly’s conviction.

Mouse continues with his banter until Shelly’s burning question provokes a considerable degree of panic; but the three friends do manage to find dry land safely, albeit still some distance from home.

A forest shortcut is Mouse’s suggestion; but don’t forests contain tigers, wonders Rabbit … and off we go again.

Jonny’s surefooted way of manipulating words and images, orchestrating them into a seamless drama that unfolds across the pages, is what makes this book SO brilliant; that and his attention to detail throughout. From the crocodilian front endpapers to the tiger-striped back ones it offers a superb lesson in how a picture book should be read.

Unicorn Club / Ten Minutes to Bed Little Mermaid


Unicorn Club
Suzy Senior and Leire Martin
Little Tiger

It’s Saturday morning and young Amy is eagerly anticipating the inaugural meeting of her unicorn club, but as the time comes for the grand opening it seems as though there won’t be any takers. Upset, Amy rips down her poster and heads to her tree house.

There however, she receives a wonderful surprise and what’s more the creatures can’t wait for the promised crafting to commence.

They have to though, for long enough to relocate to Amy’s more spacious garage where she gets out all the resources.

Being creative gives those unicorns an appetite and one of their number demands the promised snacks, which are enthusiastically consumed in almost no time at all.

Fuelled up with cake, it’s time for the unicorns to show their dance moves but they’re all so groovy that Amy just cannot pick a winner; her chalks however are certainly the losers as they’re unknowingly squashed to pieces by the dancers.

Poor Amy: how will they create that club mural now? I wonder …
Illustrated in suitably garish hues and with scenes of unicorn frolics, this tale should certainly enchant the seemingly ever-growing numbers of young unicorn enthusiasts out there who will enjoy discovering how Amy’s nearly disastrous Saturday becomes the start of something magical.

Ten Minutes to Bed Little Mermaid
Rhiannon Fielding and Chris Chatterton
Puffin Books

In the third of their countdown to bedtime series, Rhiannon Fielding and Chris Chatterton take a dive down to the kingdom of merpeople and in particular little mermaid, Splash and her grandpa. It’s he who keeps count of the passing minutes as the playful Splash frolics with dolphins, dives beneath waves, bops with crabs, swims along with rainbow fish,

talks to turtles and has a scary encounter with a shark before pausing on a beach where she’s reminded of the time by a friendly passing whale that helps her on her way.

But will she make it in time before that final minute has gone …

The magical formula still holds good in this latest pre-bedtime fantasy that should ensure your little ones have sweet dreams in The Land of Nod. (The final map shows several more potential settings so I suspect this series will run and run.)

Pirates Don’t Go To School!

Pirates Don’t Go To School!
Alan MacDonald and Magda Brol
Little Tiger

There seems to be no limit to the stream of piratical picture books set on the high seas; but a young pirate enrolling in a primary school, now that’s something rather different.

It is though what young Jake, fed up with ‘mopping parrot poop’ from the deck of the Salty Prawn, eventually persuades his Ma and Pa to allow him to do.

On arrival however, he does have some first day jitters.

And when he gets inside the classroom and removes his hat, both teacher and children – not to mention Jake himself – are in for something of a surprise.

His stowaway parrot, Poll, is in playful mood and leads Jake, children and teachers a merry dance

until the young pirate suddenly has an idea.

His action succeeds in calming down the lively bird, much to everyone’s relief, leaving Jake anticipating being sent home in disgrace.

Not so! Miss Cherry is an accommodating teacher and the lad happily spends his first day with the others until it’s time for his family to meet him.

That evening he regales them with the story of his first day at school; but will they allow him to return next morning? You bet; can Miss Cherry cope though?

Dirty Bertie author, Alan Macdonald has struck gold with this unlikely starting school tale. It’s perfect for young listeners soon to start school themselves, but equally will delight anyone partial to funny stories. This one’s made all the funnier thanks to Magda Brol’s spirited scenes of Jake, his family and his new friends, whether at sea or on land.

Sneaky Beak

Sneaky Beak
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

The dangers of succumbing to advertising are hilariously explored in this tale of friends and house-sharers, Bear and Hamster.

First, Bear allows himself to be persuaded by Sneaky Beak that his bed had lost all its bounce when he’s summoned in response to the previous evening’s TV ad.

Not only does Sneaky rock up in his van, but he brings an entourage of bunnies to help clinch a deal for the ‘Snores-Galore Mega bed’.

Poor Hamster is less than pleased when his things are moved out of the bedroom to accommodate Bear’s purchase.

But worse is to come. That Sneaky Beak leaves a leaflet about a very special kind of bathtub. Bear’s determination to resist lasts only until bathtime when he’s on the phone again and guess who he’s calling …

Not a wise move, Bear; and nor was his ‘twirly thing’ investigation …

I’ll leave readers of this romp to decide themselves which is more catastrophic – that, or his next purchase, revealed at breakfast time the following morning, which results in …

That definitely doesn’t have the Hamster mood-lifting effect Bear’s hoping for.

So why oh why is he letting that wily Sneaky Beak beguile him into making yet another purchase?

Disastrous as the Beak’s new sale might have been, it actually provides Bear with some much-needed thinking space

and all ends happily – with some serious recycling and a certain salesbird’s beak somewhat out of joint.

The combination of Tracey’s tongue-in-cheek telling and Tony Neal’s superbly entertaining scenes of the results of falling prey time and again to a determined capitalist’s sales patter, make for a crazy consumerist caper that is bound to bring on fits of laughter on the part of both listeners and readers aloud.

Joy / Harris Finds His Feet

Joy
Yasmeen Ismail and Jenni Desmond
Walker Books

A little grey and black kitty is in effervescent mood as she goes ‘Bounce bounce, ding-a-ling, ring ring, let’s sing! And who can resist her invitation as the happy creature plays with her favourite toy

and then in her glee, narrowly avoiding a large canine in front of her, uh-oh, down she tumbles ‘trip, trip, slip, flop and …

Happily however, there’s a parent not far away ready with a little hug, a kiss, a squeeze and a quick check the little kitty is okay after a bit of a tumble.

What a wonderfully upbeat, rhythmic text to read aloud is this one from Yasmeen and unusually, she hasn’t done the illustrations. Jenni Desmond did those and they’re equally joyful and brilliantly expressive; the two together have created a smashing book to share with your little ones.

And for those interested in developing young children’s sound/symbol awareness, this picture book is in an entirely different league from those specifically designed for that purpose.

Harris Finds His Feet
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger

I adored this book when it first came out over ten years ago so was thrilled to get this board book edition to share with even younger little ones.

Meet Harris a small, very large footed hare. One day he asks his grandfather, “Why do I have such large feet, Grandad?”

Smiling, Grandad explains he and all other hares have big feet and goes on to demonstrate the benefits of same.

Together they spend time hopping, springing and mountain climbing with Harris copying his expert grandparent until he has mastered each skill.

They explore the world creating resting places as well as being active with Harris learning more every day …

until Grandad decides Harris is ready.

Then he explains gently that it’s time for Harris to discover more about the big wide world for himself and that is what the now stronger, bigger young hare does by using all the skills his Grandad has helped him to learn.

Every spread of this book is pure pleasure, as the little hare bounds gleefully across Kate Greenaway medal winning Catherine Rayner’s wonderful watercolour-washed spreads, pausing sometimes for discussions on his journey towards independence.

A must have addition to your board book collection.

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves / Dolphins

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves
Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty
Little Tiger

In her latest non-fiction, die-cut peep-through picture book, in a series of wondrous scenes Britta Teckentrup plunges us beneath the ocean waves, way, way down to view the wonders of the deep.

Amid the corals and seaweed fronds we see small fish, sponges, tiny graceful sea horses; a baby dolphin and its mother chirping and clicking in communication, a Lionfish with its poison spines ready to use should it be attacked.

Suddenly there’s a feeling of fear: the fish sense danger as a great white shark casts its shadow. The other sea creatures though, employ their defence mechanisms while the tropical fish swim in formation and all is well.

Night comes and the ocean is a-glow with light;

his song echoing far the humpback whale sings for all to hear, the manatee glides through sea grasses and the corals provide safe spaces for small ocean creatures.

Patricia Hegarty’s lyrical text ends with a plea to protect ocean life by keeping the oceans clean and free from rubbish.

Dolphins!
Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson
Boyds Mills Press

Pringle immediately grabs readers’ attention with his introductory ‘If you were a young dolphin, your mother would keep you close, feed you milk and teach you’ that could almost be referring to a human mother. The remainder of the paragraph however negates that with its ‘Soon you would learn to swim fast and catch fish to eat. And sometimes you would leap from the water, high into the air!’ while his final statement on the first page “People would be very curious about the secrets of your life beneath the surface’ sets the scene for the remainder of this fascinating book.

It covers many aspects of the thirty or so dolphin species including classification, morphology and physiology. There’s a fascinating account of dolphins’ use of echolocation;

another of feeding – dolphins are predators, consuming huge amounts of food daily –

and communication. I learned that in addition to sounds, dolphins send messages with their bodies, sometimes by rubbing skins, at others, by touching flippers.

All this and more is related in the author’s highly readable prose that is superbly illustrated by Meryl Hendersen in watercolour and pencil.

Although it’s likely that this will be read by individuals, this book also works really well if read aloud – a testament to the quality of the author’s writing.

Choo-Choo Peekaboo / Marvel Alpha Block / Where Do Pants Go?

Choo-Choo Peekaboo
Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

Artistically minded Zebra sets out one fine morning eager to spend a day engaged in his favourite pastime, painting. Seemingly however, his animal friends and acquaintances have other ideas.

Chaos ensues wherever poor Zebra stops and begins his artistic endeavours, be it city,

riverside, by a lake, deep in the countryside,

even atop a mountain he finds no peace. Surely nothing can disturb his nocturnal attempt though? Errrm!

It looks as though there is only one way to please everyone … BEEP BEEP! TOOT TOOT! And off they go …

With paint-daubing primates, a loop-the-looping porcine, roller-skating rabbits, cable-car riding cows, a space-ship sortie by sheep even; all of which are revealed from behind the gate-fold flaps, this interactive book will delight tinies, especially those with a penchant for noisy vehicles, madcap animals and surprises – that covers pretty much all of them.

Add to the mix, laugh-out loud scenarios, speech bubbles and a highly satisfying finale, I’d say Gareth Lucas has a hit on his hands with this sturdy board book.

And adults will enjoy the visual references to famous artists along the way.

Marvel Alpha Block
Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed

Bristol based illustration/design partnership Peskimo have chosen scenes and characters from the Marvel Cinematic
Universe for their latest Block Book. As usual it’s a chunky board book with flaps and splendid action scenes, that feature herein everything from Ant Man to Falcon,

and Pepper Potts to Xandar, Yondu and Zuri, before the entire cast assembles in alphabetical order on a grand finale fold-out.

Amazingly, each superhero represents a letter of the alphabet – a large cut-out capital letter that leaps up from the centre of the spread and beneath which lurks the superhero in an action scene (along with other characters who may or may not share the same initial letter).

Watch out for punch packing potential should more than one little would-be superhero get their hands on this simultaneously. With its super art, it surely is a winning alphabet book that I suspect, adults will enjoy almost as much as their young ones.

Where Do Pants Go?
Rebecca Van Slyke and Chris Robertson
Sterling

A fun interactive book about getting dressed takes toddlers through the routine dressing ritual. To avoid confusion, adult sharers not in the US should be forewarned that “underwear’ is used for pants and pants herein refers to trousers, so readers aloud will probably want to make some adjustments as they read the question and answer narrative with tinies.

Said tinies will doubtless delight in the cumulative, predictable text with its repeated final ‘and underwear on your bottom!’

and giggle over the silly placements of the various items of clothing in this book that reminded me somewhat of Shigeo Watanabe and Yasuo Ohtomo’s How Do I Put It On? that features a muddled little bear.

A satisfying finale sees all the fully dressed little ones enjoying some outdoor play together.

Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? / I’m Not Grumpy!

Will You Help Me Fall Asleep?
Anna Kang & Christpoher Weyant
Hodder Children’s Books

Little Frog is anxious to fall asleep and asks readers to help him for if he doesn’t get sufficient sleep his mother won’t allow him to participate in the Frogatta boat races the following day; in other words he’ll be in BIG, big trouble and there’s no fooling his observant mum.

He tries our (supposed) suggested counting sheep, a bedtime book – definitely not the best idea – and a chat with last year’s prize caterpillar toy all of which fail and then he recalls his teacher, Miss Chon’s advice to breathe long and deep then mind travel to his ‘happy place …

and joy of joys, zzzzzzzz.

Whether the final wordless spread is Monty’s blissful dream or the young frog’s elated presence (along with his parents) at the next day’s Frogatta is left open to readers to decide: no matter which, one cannot help but root for little amphibious Monty in this frog-a-licious bedtime tale.

With Christpher Weyant’s super, lively, cartoonish scenes of Anna Kang’s dramatic telling, the book is enormous fun for pre-sleep sharing, especially for little ones with a touch of insomnia.

I’m Not Grumpy!
Steve Smallman and Caroline Pedler
Little Tiger

Waking up to discover a huge furry bottom blocking your door might put most of us in a bad mood; it certainly does Mouse whose mood further deteriorates when he’s splatted on the nose by – so he thinks – a splashy raindrop.

In fact it’s a tear shed by a distraught little badger just outside his window wailing, “Where’s my Mummy?”

Together the two animals set off in search of the Mummy Badger only to find themselves lost.

Encounters with Squirrel and Owl both of which recognise Mouse as ‘that grumpy mouse”, (hotly denied by said Mouse), are willing to help in the search and off they all go deep into the forest.

There they come upon a large bear. On learning that Mouse is in fact helping Little Badger get home, the bear changes his grumpy accusation to “a kind friend”; a first for Mouse.

They travel deeper into the forest until Mouse becomes overwrought

which results in Owl giving him a cheer-up hug – another unusual event for the little creature. Suddenly out of the bushes emerges a very scary, very hungry predator.

Does that mean Squirrel, Badger, Owl and Mouse become a lupine’s evening meal?

Happily not. I won’t divulge the ending, but what ensues will certainly bring a happy smile to the faces of young listeners.

With opportunities for audience participation, Steve’s warm-hearted story with Caroline Pedler’s expressively portrayed woodland animals provides a good starting point for circle time discussion with early years children on themes of friendship, kindness, and on how their moods might affect other people.

The Tide

The Tide
Clare Helen Welsh and Ashling Lindsay
Little Tiger

What a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story Clare Helen Welsh’s little girl narrator tells as she talks of her beloved Grandad. ‘Mummy says that Grandad loves me very much but that sometimes he gets confused.’

We then spend a day with the family at the beach – the child, her mum and Grandpa set up camp and as Mum watches, child and Grandad build sand castles and forts, crown themselves ‘king and queen of net and shells’. They all share a picnic (Grandad gets confused and buries the sandwiches) and then they go rock pooling (Grandad and granddaughter) and watch the movement of the tide as it comes in.

Mum likens Grandad’s memories to the tide – ‘sometimes near and close and full of life. Other times, far away and distant.’

Their musings are broken by voices and the family proceed together to buy ice-creams and again child and grandfather watch the tide

before becoming ankle deep in sea-water.

All too soon it’s time to go home but first they must shake away and wash off the sand and salty water.

Then it’s back home to talk lovingly together about their shared day.

The likening of Grandad’s memory to the ebb and flow of the tide is both moving and enormously powerful: Clare has chosen the perfect figurative language to help children to begin to understand dementia and be at ease with the subject. And, I can think of no better illustrator than Ashling Lindsay whose work I’ve loved since seeing her very first picture book. Her warm colour palette here is just gorgeous, radiating the unconditional love that so clearly exists between family members, especially child and Grandad.

A must have for family collections and for primary schools to share and talk about together.

Stephano the Squid: Hero of the Deep

Stephano the Squid: Hero of the Deep
Wendy Meddour and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

Life for Stefano squid is far from easy. Why is it that the unique characteristics of a squid go unappreciated? That is what Stefano ponders upon.

His fellow deep sea creatures offer reasons relating to his lack of colours, being unbat-like and not being shaped like a hammer …

while the dolphins suggest he should endeavour to look more intelligent; the sea dragon favours looking more leafy and the sea cucumber’s suggestion is to look more vegetable-like.

All the while Stefano is at pains to point out that being a squid makes their suggestions impossible, and when the anglerfish  asks about his weaponry, all the squid can do is to go and hide himself away in a cave.

There he receives some words of comfort from the Sea Cucumber but they are immediately negated by the comments of the limpets.

However, when Sea Cucumber points out one of the diving crew is in trouble, it’s down to Stefano to come to his aid; small and insignificant as he considers himself to be, he just can’t swim away and do nothing.

Rescue mission achieved, or rather,  the little cephalopod and his pal get the surprise of their lives – make that two surprises -when the identity of the rescued diver is revealed; but the second one comes the following day and to discover what that is, you’ll need to get your fins on a copy of this thoroughly immersive book.

Wendy’s telling is great fun but at the same time reminds us of the importance of self-worth and self-belief. Duncan’s terrific undersea scenes are splendidly expressive and comical, and I love his marine colour palette.

There are talking points aplenty once you’ve shared this super splashy story.

Catch Me / Wilfred and Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure

Catch Me
Anders Arhoj
Chronicle Books

In this double-ended seek-and-find book a long-necked cat, Big Meow and a spotted dog, Little Woof hunt for one another as they dash through eleven, mostly very busy scenes, changing their colour to blend in with each one.

Begin at the front to follow Big Meow’s journey through the pages and to try to catch Little Woof, work backwards. Either way there’s a pre-chase introductory spread introducing the characters.

The search-and-find pages have no words apart from a sign with Japanese symbols in this springtime café scene …

Each one of Arhoj’s incredibly busy, bright digital scenes will likely make the reader linger long after finding Meow and Woof as they enjoy the quirky details be that in the beauty salon, the alley with its shadowy creatures …

the park, the animal show, the cloud based carnival or any of the other zany locations. Each one is rendered in a different colour palette, which ups the challenge and interest levels another notch.

Enormous fun, the entire book is totally immersive; I hate to think how long I spent poring over it. Love those clever die-cut covers, each with its pair of alluring staring eyes; young readers will too.

Wilfred and Olbert’s Epic Prehistoric Adventure
Lomp
Little Tiger

Following their Totally Wild Chase famous explorers Wilfred Wiseman and Olbert Oddbottom are off on another action packed adventure.
While out shopping one afternoon the friends enter a time portal and in so doing find themselves cascading through thousands of years of history and unbelievably all the way back to the beginning of the universe.

Landing in a prehistoric ocean 360 millions years ago they confront among other creatures a Dunkleosteus, and readers are asked to search and see how many trilobites they can find.

From there they make a hasty exit and land up in a swampy forest of the Carboniferous period.

Further retreats into the time portal take them not home but in turn to the Jurassic period when dinosaurs roamed and they have a narrow escape from a Stegosaurus.

Thereafter they enter the Cretaceous period and come upon even more dinosaurs, followed by the Neogene period, the Quaternary ice age where they meet a mammoth as well as encounter some human cave dwellers before leaping once more through the portal and right back home where it’s time for tea, followed they suppose by a well-deserved rest.

But then they look through the window where a big surprise awaits.

My head was certainly spinning after all that, so I’m certain the two friends needed a lot more than a cup of “Earlier Grey’ or ‘Oo-So-Long’ tea to calm them down.

Frenetic, crazy, action-packed and bursting with speech bubbles: search-and-find enthusiasts especially, will quickly be sucked through the portal along with Will and Ollie, taking a considerable time to emerge from this absorbing book. Fortunately the solutions to the puzzles are given inside the back cover along with a message from a nautilus that issues a further challenge to readers.

The One-Stop Story Shop

The One-Stop Story Shop
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

How many stories can you pack into one? A fair few it seems when Tracey Corderoy is the author and the tale is The One-Stop Story Shop.

Having discovered that the terrible dragon he intended to slay is temporarily absent taking a well-earned break, a knight finds himself sans story.

Luckily he happens upon a helpful neighbour who takes him to the perfect place named in the title where his problem might be solved, thereby placing the fearless knight on a hunt to find an appropriate story.

The shopkeeper however, has sold out of dragons and instead offers a feisty ferret.

By means of an ingenious plot said ferret then acts as foil for a series of one act dramatic misadventures – a space extravaganza, a cowboy yarn, a rumble-in-the-jungle adventure,

and a depths of the ocean journey. Along the way additional characters tag along, notably a space robot and on every occasion it’s down to feisty ferret to save the situation.

Do the knight and his entourage finally emerge safe and sound from all their adventuring?

Most certainly they do, arriving back in the ‘real’ world of the shop just in time to welcome a certain dragon back from his hols. and ready and willing to do battle.

The knight’s response to his offer demonstrates that he’s graduated from ready-made tales, and with his ferrety sidekick and friend, is more than capable of finding his own adventures.

Enormous fun, this foray into the magical world of storytelling is a great read aloud. Tracey’s text is comically illustrated by Tony Neal. Every one of his spreads is packed with giggle inducing details; and who can resist a poop joke?

An absolute winner and a smashing take on the knight vs dragon tale.

The Wolves Who Came for Dinner / The Lamb Who Came for Dinner

The Wolves Who Came for Dinner
Steve Smallman and Joëlle Dreidemy
Little Tiger

Wolf and Hotpot (who nearly became Wolf’s dinner in a previous story) are now the best of pals much to the puzzlement of the other forest animals.

So when Wolf invites all the bunnies for a playdate and subsequently spends the morning cooking carrot cakes, his greeting of “Teatime!’ has the bunnies fleeing for, so they think, their lives. Poor Wolf is downcast. Hotpot assures Wolf of his goodness and in return Wolf suggests going out to find and play with the bunnies in the forest.

Things don’t go well in the hide-and-seek game; the terrified bunnies make a bolt for it.

Wolf decides to invite his lupine pals to meet Hotpot instead; but when they turn up Gripper, Nipper and Growler have ominously grumbly tums. Wolf however serves up a yummy vegetable soup after which they settle down for a story followed by a snuggly sleep.

Nevertheless the other forest creatures remain convinced Wolf’s friendship with Hotpot is a sham and things turn very soggy for good old Wolf.

Back home, who should be waiting for the two friends but Gripper, Nipper and Growler requesting another story and a sleepover.

So bothered about Hotpot’s fate are the other woodland animals that they stage a further rescue attempt, charging in on the slumberers.

Initially the other wolves are reluctant to drop their stereotypes, offering to consume some of the intruders; but Hotpot stands up for her best pal and all ends satisfactorily like all good stories – and I definitely count this one among them, -with the whole cast of characters living ‘happily ever after.”

Steve’s toothsome tale is a great one for challenging stereotypes and showing that it’s wrong to prejudge others, while simultaneously gently advocating a plant-derived diet. And as someone who eschews animal and dairy products I’m all for this.

Joëlle Dreidemy’s characters are splendidly rendered in her hilarious scenes of the woodland animals as they gradually come to terms with, and overcome, their prejudiced assumptions.

The Lamb Who Came for Dinner
Steve Smallman and Joëlle Dreidemy
Little Tiger

A dozen or so years ago I reviewed in BKF, this story of love and vegetarianism triumphing over Wolf’s inherent carnivorous instincts. I loved it then and do so now with Steve’s super characterisation, deliciously funny text and Joëlle Dreidemy’s droll illustrations.

Now with an accompanying audio CD, a new generation of listeners will relish seeing and hearing of what appears to be a thoroughly menacing Wolf’s first encounter with a freezing cold lamb that comes a-knocking on his door seeking shelter from the elements.

A Quiet Quiet House

A Quiet Quiet House
Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan
Little Tiger

In a quiet little street is a quiet little house. To this house ‘speeding on her scooter’ comes a quiet little mouse. She however is only the first.

One by one a whole host of little mice, each with a different mode of travel turn up and gain admission to the house.

But what is hidden inside the parcel each little mouse carries and what is going on within, behind that red door?
Listeners’ curiosity is aroused right from the start and builds up as each page is turned and another mouse goes through the door.

In all kinds of weather these little mice turn up until the house is no longer a quiet little house, rather it’s bursting with the sounds created by all the tiny noisy mice within.

Delightfully detailed illustrations include on each spread, an animal be that cat, birds, a goldfish even, that offers a comment on the proceedings as they unfold as well as a remark from one of the mice.

At every page turn die-cuts provide small peeks within at the mice capers. Observant little ones will enjoy especially following the activity within the dustbin located just beside the front door;

and assuredly they’ll respond to the final invitation ‘to clap your hands and jiggle to the beat!’

Oops! I may have accidentally revealed the reason why all those little mice are gathered in the house. No it isn’t a party despite the wrapped packages.

The final spread comprises a visual glossary that names the vehicles, colours, the weather and contents of the packages that feature in this fun book. Best shared one-to-one or with a very small group, I suggest so that little ones have an opportunity to explore fully all the lovely details in Ekaterina Trukhan’s illustrations.

Follow Me, Little Fox

Follow Me, Little Fox
Camila Correa and Sean Julian
Little Tiger

A city dweller, Little Fox loves his urban home but occasionally feels overwhelmed by its pace. His mother is eager for him to experience something different; the place where the city ends and the wild begins. “Let’s go back to nature,” she says.

Off they go on a journey away from their den to discover the sights, sounds and smells of the wonderful outdoors.

Yes, at times it can be scary but nature offers a wonderful place to play, to roam and to howl; a place that makes your heart sing.

Unsurprisingly, come nightfall Little Fox is reluctant to leave. He asks to spend the night beneath the stars. Then, having informed him that what he sees are actually the city lights twinkling in the distance, his mother helps him formulate a plan to bring some of the amazing natural world much closer to their home …

… and together they put project transformation into action.

This book is a wonderful reminder of the importance of getting outside into green spaces for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Lyrically written, Camila Correa’s text evokes the wonders of the great outdoors and Sean Julian brings it to life with his beautiful cityscapes and scenes of the natural world.

The Big Angry Roar

The Big Angry Roar
Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger

No matter how mindful we are I’m sure we all feel angry at times, but it’s how we respond to our angry feelings that is crucial.

As the result of a spat between siblings, Jonny Lambert’s Cub is feeling so angry he thinks he might pop.

All the other animals have their own ways to deal with their anger. Zebra and Gnu let theirs out by stamping and stomping; Rhino bashes and crashes; Hippo splatters and splashes but when Cub tries he ends up with an injured paw, an unpleasant aroma and even more anger.

His next encounter is with Elephant’s backside and a furious face off ensues.

Their tooting and roaring precipitates a massive …

Fortunately for all concerned Baboon is on hand ready to offer a lesson in anger management, which does the trick,

leaving Cub with just one more thing to do.

There’s a perfect balance of words and pictures giving the latter plenty of room for maximum impact in every one of Jonny’s eloquent scenes. Cub’s eye views of the animals – a forest of legs and looming bulk – are executed in his signature textured collage style.

The text, punctuated with plenty of onomatopoeia, exclamations, and variations in font size are a gift to readers aloud who enjoy putting on a performance – and who could resist with such a script.

Another must have for your collection from one of my favourite picture book creators.

With Your Paw in Mine

With Your Paw in Mine
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger

Otter pup Miki loves to float snuggled up on her Mama’s tummy but after a swimming lesson she goes off hunting leaving Miki alone safely rolled in seaweed.

As she waits, Miki notices another similar ‘furry parcel’ and paddles across to meet pup Amak who is also waiting for his mother. Acknowledging the loneliness of waiting, Miki suggests holding paws and waiting together.

That becomes a regular occurrence and the two cubs become inseparable.

But one morning a fierce storm blows up and the two friends become separated briefly, manage to re-link paws and even to join up with other otters to form, paw in paw, a raft to weather out the storm

until, joy of joys Miki hears her very favourite voice calling to her.

The author’s message is clear: we all need someone (or perhaps more than one someone) to hold on to in stormy times. Essentially an endearing story of friendship, the book also includes some information about mother otters and their young.

In her chilly acrylic scenes Jane Chapman really captures the vastness of the ocean but at the same time focuses in on the otters and their feelings making this a lovely book to share with individuals or a nursery group.