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.