The Crocodile Who Came For Dinner

The Crocodile Who Came For Dinner
Steve Smallman and Joëlle Dreidemy
Little Tiger

Best friends, Hotpot (lamb) and Wolf are out doing a stint of ‘wolfy things’ one night when they come upon a huge egg. Wolf’s first thought is making an omelette, quickly countered by Hotpot’s “No … baby bird.”
Having ascertained from the nest dwellers close by that the egg doesn’t belong to any of them, the friends decide to take it home.
Before you can say, ‘yummy omelette’ the egg cracks and what should pop out but a baby crocodile. There’s only one thing the friends can call it and after discovering that the little creature is omnivorous,

they head off for some shut eye. Guess who makes a bid for Wolf’s bed. Eventually both Wolf and Omelette spend the night snuggled up together on a chair but somehow Omelette makes it to the kitchen first next morning – with chaotic results.

Just as Hotpot and Wolf are preparing to take the newcomer out for a walk, some wolf friends arrive at the door and receive some unexpected affection of the crocish kind. Their game of chase through the woods leads them down the river where Omelette alarms the boating bunnies by diving in for a swim.

Curmudgeonly Badger takes delight in pointing out that while Omelette might be harmless right now, he will grow and grow. Sure enough he does but remains totally lovable to all but Badger.

One night a terrible storm blows up and the forest is flooded. Worse though, Omelette has gone missing but he’s left a trail of footprints that lead to where we see, some baby ducklings are in great danger.
Can they be saved? And if so, by whom? …

Steve’s text is a superb read aloud: I’m sure both listeners and adult readers aloud will find it hilarious. Equally droll are Joelle Dreidemy’s illustrations which contain a wealth of detail and a liberal scattering of speech bubbles in this tale where appearances can be deceptive .

Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom / Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House

These are new additions to popular series both with strong, determined female protagonists

Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom
Dominique Valente, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This is the third instalment in the Starfell series, starring young witch Willow Moss and her kobold best friend, ‘not cat’ Oswin.

Now Willow has been enrolled in school – a normal school – and it’s the very first time the Brothers of Wol, the order newly headed by none other than Silas, have allowed Starfell’s magical children to be educated alongside their non-magical peers, and her parents think it’s now the right thing. Surely there’s an ulterior motive? Willow has her suspicions from the outset.

On the very first day of term Willow meets Twist, a forthright elf girl and they soon become firm friends. Also willing to accept Willow for who she is, there’s Peg, a human boy. When she learns of the new curriculum that students will study Willow finds it pretty alarming, but Peg speaks out firmly in support of ‘magic people’ and of diversity.

Before you can say ’broomstick’; though, the three of them have escaped the confines of the classroom and are heading to Lael, the elf city made entirely of marble wherein Twist’s aunts Tuppence, Griselda and Dot reside.

All they have to do thereafter is to find the vanished elvish kingdom of Llandunia and get hold of the elf staff before it gets into the wrong hands. Not much to ask then.

Dragons, trolls (including an old friend of Willow’s) and more – even Oswin’s cousin – appear in this terrific fantasy tale, but be warned: it ends on a cliff-hanger.

Somehow, despite Sarah Warburton’s illustrations, the cover apart, being in black and white, many readers will I suspect experience parts of this enormously engaging story in colour, such is the power of Dominique Valente’s writing. Bring on the next book.

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House
Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa
Little Tiger

Zaiba has a third case to solve and it’s set in the home of her new friend Olivia. Olivia’s parents have recently bought the run-down Oakwood Manor and Olivia tells Zaiba that her mum thinks the house is haunted. With its plethora of secret passages and hidden rooms it is certainly steeped in history and some strange things have happened but ghosts? Surely not.

Olivia invites Zaiba and Poppy her pal, to come to the house-warming party the following day and then sleepover, as that offers the ideal opportunity to begin their ‘ghost’ investigation. Zaiba has an unexpected offer of assistance from her brother Ali and with her backpack of detective paraphernalia, and fellow Snow Leopard Detective Agency UK members they’re ready to investigate.

Once the party is underway, things get increasingly weird

and sometimes, a tad dangerous. There are plenty of suspects, and in true detective story style, some red-herrings; but this isn’t merely a junior who-dunnit with all suspects present at the final reveal. Zaiba’s family dynamics and the diverse cast of characters add to the reader’s enjoyment of this fast-paced mystery. So too do Daniela Sosa’s black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout and it was good to see the police treating the crime-solving children with respect rather than dismissing them as interfering.

Young would-be sleuths can also enjoy the additional content after the story.

Turtle Rescue

Turtle Rescue
Jonny Marx and Xuan Le
Little Tiger

I suspect the burgeoning of picture books telling of the plastic pollution of the oceans is indicative that the problem is on many people’s minds. Sadly though, not those who continue to throw rubbish onto the beaches or in the sea. One can but hope that Jonny Marx and Xuan Le’s Turtle Rescue will help in this hugely important environmental cause.

Flora, marine biologist and ace underwater swimmer, Fauna, inventor and turtle lover, and their child, Baby Bud, are holidaying at the seaside intending to take it easy for a while. That isn’t what happens however.

Soon they find themselves helping with a rubbish collection during which they’re told it’s hoped it will help bring back the turtles to lay their eggs on the sandy beach once more. Before long the three of them have packed supplies, chartered a boat and are sailing off to investigate the lack of turtles.

As they sail towards the reef, Bud is excited to see all the different sea animals and plants and keeps pointing out what he calls ‘jellyfish’ – the floating plastic bags he insists on counting. Eventually Flora sights a turtle

and carefully follows it until she runs out of air. Back on board the boat again, it’s obvious a storm is looming but eventually it blows itself out and there ahead is an island. Just the place to stop and let Fauna’s queasiness subside. Imagine their delight when Bud notices tracks in the sand leading right across the dunes at the end of which are …

After an eventful and hugely exciting trip, with sail duly repaired, it’s time to head home.

There’s an amazing amount of information about turtles and other marine wildlife packed between the pages of this fascinating part fact, part fiction book.

Never Mess with a Pirate Princess

Never Mess with a Pirate Princess
Holly Ryan and Siân Roberts
Little Tiger

Princess Prudence is a loving little miss who dotes on her royal bear, Little Ted, taking him absolutely everywhere with her – even the loo. Then comes the terrible day when, as she naps ‘neath a shady tree, up creeps a pirate and boldly steals her beloved Teddy right off her lap.

Distraught, Princess Prue hollers so loud that up charges a gallant knight offering to come to her aid. 

Eager to be part of the rescue effort, she pleads with Sir Frank to take her along but meets merely with scorn.

Undaunted plucky Princess Prudence decides to do things her way and off she goes upon a trusty, wait for it … goat! Having searched for most of the day to no avail, she reaches the seashore and what does she spy: somebody being forced to walk along the plank – somebody she recognises – a knight in shining armour no longer.

But our Prue isn’t one to let a gang of teddy robbing pirates get the better of her, or even Frank …

Debut picture book writer Holly Ryan’s rhyming text is a rollicking read aloud and in Princess Prudence she has created a gutsy gal to delight adventure-loving, teddy-hugging little ones. Siân Roberts’ portrayal of the princess and her adventure is terrific fun with every spread providing giggle-worthy incidents from this stirring romp.

All Manner of Board Books

Hello You!
illustrated by Stephen Barker
Campbell Books
With its die-cut cover, this is a smashing book for adults to share with their babies. Herein they can meet familiar family faces : mummy (being funny), daddy doing a wiggly dance, a snoozing grandad and a snuggly grandma.
The final spread is a gatefold guessing game that’s just right for developing early language and there is also an additional peep hole to play peek-a-boo.
Stephen Barker’s alluring captioned images stand out from the brightly coloured backgrounds.

Lizzy the Lamb
Axel Scheffler
Campbell Books
Lizzy the lamb is a lively creature. As she frolics and cavorts in the fields, she sometimes gets splashed by the geese so she shakes her fleece dry before moving on to chase the bunnies, but they’re too quick for her. It’s a tired but happy Lizzy that ends the day bleating her satisfaction, with a “Baa, baa!” to her farmyard pals.
Accompanying the rhyming narrative are Alex Scheffler’s droll illustrations – the full page ones capturing Lizzy’s joie de vivre perfectly and the vignettes that focus on some of the other animal characters. Little ones will enjoy working the sliders and wheel, joining in with the relevant animal sounds and perhaps, adding some leaping, shaking and hopping actions. In so doing they’ll be developing their fine and gross motor skills, and sound/symbol awareness.

Honeybee
illustrated by Teresa Bellon
Campbell Books
A honeybee acts as the narrator of this ‘eco-friendly’ natural history book, introducing little ones to her world through a rhyming text and labelled scenes.
The latter offer a look inside a beehive and a close up of a honeycomb while the bee describes simply, the processes of pollination, the collection and use of nectar in the making of honey, as well as how little humans can help the honeybees that live close to their homes.
Teresa Bellon’s illustrations of bees at work are engaging and playful; most have moving parts to add to the fun. Aimed at encouraging preschoolers to become nature lovers, this is one of a new “My Little Green World’ series that are sustainably made with FSC paper and printed with vegetable inks.

Goodnight Farm
Carmen Saldaña
Little Tiger
Peep-through pages enable little ones to discover a wealth of farm animals and bid them a “goodnight” as, accompanied by a collie dog, and guided by Becky Davies’ brief rhyming narrative, they visit a hillside, a grassy pasture, hen house, a pond, the stable, a flock of sheep in the field as the moon shines bright above.
In addition to the main rhyme, simple farm related facts are scattered throughout Carmen Saldaña’s starlight scenes offering simple snippets of information such as ‘Ducks can sleep right on the water.’ or ‘Pigs sleep a lot – up to 11 hours a day!’ (something even this adult reviewer didn’t know.)
Just right for sharing with sleepy humans just before bed.

Let’s Go! On a Plane
Let’s Go! On a Digger

Rosalyn Albert and Natalia Moore
Catch a Star
Whether they prefer the excitement of boarding an aeroplane and jetting off to a holiday destination in the tropics or keeping their feet firmly on the ground and watching the digger driver hard at work on a construction site, the very youngest children will find plenty to interest them in these new additions to the popular Let’s Go series.
In both books children act as narrators of Rosalyn Albert’s simple text which takes the form of rhyming couplets, while Natalia Moore’s strikingly coloured spreads fill in the detail.

The Long Way Home / Dirty Bertie: Bees!

These are 2 new Stripes Publishing books that are just right for newly independent readers: thanks to Little Tiger for sending them:

The Long Way Home
Corrinne Averiss and Kristyna Little

Baby elephant Otto likes nothing more than adventuring with Nanu and he’s thrilled when Nanu announces they are to spend a day climbing right to the top of Lion Mountain. Old she might be, but Nanu is extremely wise; she’s also brave and bold and shares Otto’s enthusiasm for exploration.

As they prepare to set out Nanu reminds the little elephant what an explorer needs to remember at all times but from the outset, Nanu seems to be having a forgetting kind of day. First she leaves the fruit out of the backpack and then she forgets the name of their destination and once they reach the top of the mountain it transpires that she’s actually left the backpack behind.

All those things are relatively easy to remedy but then as they start back down, it’s evident that Nanu has forgotten the way home and instead has been taking them into the depths of the forest.
Now it’s up to young Otto to remember everything his Nanu has taught him about being ‘a great elephant explorer’ and endeavour to get them safely back home.

Corrinne’s story is a wonderfully warm one that demonstrates pachyderm style, the importance of both family relationships and memories. A warmth that is brought out beautifully in Kristina Little’s gorgeous illustrations: who could resist falling for Otto and Nanu?

Dirty Bertie: Bees!
Alan MacDonald, illustrated by David Roberts

There’s never a dull moment when young Bertie is around and if you were to collect every one of the books regaling all his misdemeanours, they would fill an entire shelf.

This one presents three more. The first relates what happens when Bertie’s taste for the delicious honey he splurges onto his breakfast toast leads him to entertain ideas about becoming a bee keeper like his neighbour, Mr Monk with whom Bertie has previously had the odd run in. That sounds like trouble to me … and sure enough it is.

Story two sees Bertie and his Gran doing a spot of Great Aunt Morag sitting while his parents are otherwise engaged.

Surprises come thick and fast when the three of them head for the park where a nerve-wracking day unfolds.

In the third episode Bertie’s mum wins a journalism award with dinner and an overnight stay for two at a four-star hotel hotel as part of the prize. Just imagine the potential for trouble when Mum manages to bag another couple of tickets for Bertie and his sister Suzy to accompany them. But why does Bertie insist on taking his own duvet? A lively occasion really doesn’t describe it …

With its hilarious illustrations liberally scattered, new solo readers will devour this in a sitting; the episodes make fun short reads aloud too.

Doctorsaurus / It’s So Quiet (A Not-Quite-Going-To-Bed Book)

Doctorsaurus
Emi-Lou May and Leire Martín
Little Tiger

When Doctorsaurus is summoned to the aid of young Triceratops after a chasing accident, little does the Doc. know that it’s not just a broken horn she’ll need to treat when she arrives at the their picnic spot. Stegosaurus has a septic toe;

T-Rex is suffering from an allergic attack and is all stuffed up and as for Brontosaurus, a blocked belly is the problem there and Doctorsaurus has just the thing – a dose of prunes.

Having done the needful, Doctorsaurus receives an invitation to stay and partake of the picnic and while they’re all tucking in there comes an earth moving rumble from a certain direction. Those prunes have worked rather more effectively than anticipated.
Oh the relief!

Time for a boogie, with some special guests to join the party …

Dinosaurs never fail to amuse little ones and I have no doubt Emi-Lou May’s rollicking, prehistoric picnic flavoured with poo – another of youngsters’ favourite topics – will hit the mark in story time sessions.

Leire Martín’s dinosaur depictions are a comedic delight – suitably silly and hugely expressive.

It’s So Quiet (A Not-Quite-Going-To-Bed Book)
Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tony Fucile
Chronicle Books

Subtitled A Not-Quite-Going-To-Bed Book, this could equally be dubbed ‘A Not-Quiet-Going-To-Bed Book for as soon as sleepy mama mouse has turned off the light and instructed her little (very sleepless) one to settle down, listen and allow the ‘small sweet sound of nighttime’ to whisper her offspring to slumberland, than a veritable outdoor symphony ensues. It begins relatively softly with the ‘crrr-oak’ of the bullfrog singing, the crickets chirp chirping and the dog’s tail tip-tapping. But this is soon joined by a veritable gamut of increasingly loud sounds both natural and otherwise causing the little mouse to get up, open the window and investigate.

As it reaches its crescendo, the, by this time sleep-deprived little mouse, gets out of bed again, re-opens the window and yells.

Peace is finally restored or … is it?

Guided by the increasing size of the print, little humans will relish joining in enthusiastically with all the onomatopoeic sound effects, as an equally enthusiastic adult sharer reads the rhyming narrative and shows the energetic nocturnal scenes.

I am a Fish / Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants

I am a Fish
Isabel Otter and Fernando Martin
Little Tiger

This is a companion volume to I am a Bird from the same team. Using an un-named fish, youngsters are introduced to the general characteristics of a fish and then dive underwater to discover a variety of aquatic habitats and learn something of fishes’ habits (we meet both herbivores and carnivores),

shapes, size and distinguishing features. Mention is made that ‘rays don’t have bones’ but that they and the sharks illustrated alongside, are cartilaginous fish is not stated.
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not fish sleep, this subject is discussed on another of the vibrant spreads while another spread introduces seahorses, which some little ones might be surprised to discover are actually classed as fish.
The chatty narrative and arresting subaquatic scenes make this a book for early years audiences and foundation stage topic boxes.

Birch Trees, Bluebells and other British Plants
Nikki Dyson
Nosy Crow

Here’s a gorgeous ‘Nature Sticker Books’ to lift the spirits. Published in collaboration with the National Trust, it contains eleven beautiful scenes by Nikki Dyson that are brimming over with the bounties of nature whatever the season.

It starts with spring and its gorgeous insect-attracting blossom and wild flowers aplenty. Summer scenes show gardens are full of bright flowers and butterflies, as well as meadows of poppies, daisies and other composites. Summer’s a good time to visit a pond or perhaps the coast: those locations too, have a wealth of beautiful wild plants and birds. Come autumn ripening berries are waiting to be gathered and the deciduous trees take on their yellow, orange and red hues while in gardens and allotments there are vegetables aplenty as well as herbs to pick and you’re likely to come across lots of minibeasts that also like to have a nibble.
Finally winter comes around when there is much less colour but there are still wonderful flora and fauna to discover when you brave those chills.

Each spread has a couple of introductory factual paragraphs as well as suggestions for adding some of the relevant stickers provided in the centre of the book. There’s also a checklist of the plants in the book so young naturalists can enjoy an additional I-spy element.

Little Tiger Board Books for Little Humans

Day and Night
Harriet Evans and Lirios Bou

There are five different locations – a temperate forest, a desert (wherein I encountered a hyrax for the first time), marshes, a savannah and a steamy tropical jungle – to visit in this ’switch-a-picture’ book, both during the daytime and then, by means of a series of tabs on each recto, at night. Thus for example in the marshes rather than the seeing “Bright dragonflies swarm through blue sunny skies,’ if the tab is pulled, these disappear from the window and are replaced by a much darker sky wherein fireflies make looping patterns. While in the jungle instead of the monkeys climbing trees that are visible in daytime, a pull of the tab reveals bats.
Innovative, and engaging, with attractive illustrations by Lirios Bou and Harriet Evans’ brief rhyming text and additional facts hidden until the tabs are tugged, this is a fun book for day or evening sharing with the very young.

I Can Learn: Dinosaurs
Lauren Crisp and Thomas Elliott

New in the publisher’s I Can Learn series, Dinosaurs has both cutaway pages and flaps. Starting at the Triassic period, then moving to the Jurassic and finally the Cretaceous period, little ones can meet a host of dinosaurs both large and small. Lauren Crisp provides the brief rhyming text and questions that accompany Elliott’s enticing illustrations of the prehistoric animals set against different colour backgrounds.
There are lots of new names to learn (pronunciation provided) and the occasional surprise such as the erupting volcano, the lava of which is only revealed when you lift the flap.

Also illustrated by Thomas Elliott is

How Many Beads?
written by Nicola Edwards

Here’s a book that offers both measuring and counting fun with the aid of the string of ten beads inserted in the back cover.
Collections of items at home, in the sea, in a garden, around town,

‘my things’ and ‘at night’ are each allocated a double spread that contains guiding questions and a wealth of labelled objects. So, little ones can try counting oysters, clownfish, rocks and starfish beneath the sea as well as finding out which of the underwater creatures is the longest. (Once they get used to using the beads for measuring, an adult might introduce the idea of estimating first.)

Plenty to engage little hands, eyes and minds here.

44 Tiny Acrobats

44 Tiny Acrobats
Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King
Stripes Publishing (Little Tiger)

When Fry and Sons Circus of Wonder arrives on the common right by Betsy Bow-Linnet’s house just before Christmas, it’s a huge shock for Betsy’s Grandad. More than a shock in fact, it stirs up painful memories of Grandma who used to be one of its performers.

Despite her initial reluctance, Betsy just cannot resist the lure of the big top. So, with her parents otherwise engaged, en route home from the vet’s she buys herself a ticket and in she goes to see the show (accompanied by her mice.)

Betsy is quickly spellbound by the amazing acts and atmosphere of the show and so fails to notice that the latch on the mouse case has been nosed ajar allowing forty three mice to escape … with disastrous results.
Before you can say ‘confession’ Betsy finds herself having to face the loathsome ringmaster, Mr Fry and the next thing she knows, she’s offered herself and her mice as an act for the following day’s show in front of some all-important potential investors in the circus.

How much worse can things get? …

With its focus on Betsy’s problem-solving skills, and also her determination not to upset her Grandad, this second adventure is as delightful and involving for youngsters as 44 Tiny Secrets (although this book’s not without its own secrets). To reflect the razzmatazz of the circus, Ashley King has used a red theme for her wonderfully quirky, spirited illustrations.

Jasper & Scruff Take a Bow / My Robot’s Gone Wild

These are two new titles from Little Tiger’s Stripes imprint both featuring already popular characters. Thanks to the publishers for sending them for review.

Jasper & Scruff Take a Bow
Nicola Colton

The unlikely best friends Jasper, a dapper feline and mud loving Scruff the pup return for a third adventure.
When Jasper hears of the Reach For the Stars talent show to be held at the town hall the following afternoon the two can’t wait to take part. There’s a snag though: Scruff wants them to enter as a dazzling magic making twosome; Jasper wants to do a solo act, one he’s polished up from a previous occasion.

During the heats Jasper’s act fails to impress the judges and he’s eliminated whereas Scruff manages to get through to the finals. Finals for which the winner will receive a Grand Prize – a week on stage performing alongside Marvello the Magnificent. 

It’s a prize that Sophisticat Lady Catterly has set her sights on.
Perhaps now Scruff and Jasper should join forces to try and wow the judges.

Come the finals however, there appears to be some chicanery at work where Lady C and the Sophisticats are concerned. Time for Jasper and Scruff to do a spot of detective work of the underground variety to discover exactly what is going on.

With detailed illustrations that fizz with energy and gentle humour on every spread, this entertaining drama is perfect for young solo readers at that crucial in-between stage. Scruff and Jasper are a hugely endearing pair and there are some interesting bit part players in the cast of characters too.

Equally, Nicola’s lively narrative style with its occasional puns and plenty of snappy dialogue makes the book work well as a read aloud.

My Robot’s Gone Wild
Dave Cousins, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Changes are afoot in the fourth of Dave Cousins’ Robot adventures featuring the robot babysitter Robin created by twins Jess and Jake’s inventor Grandma.

As the story opens year six has just ended and the twins, accompanied by a robot (not Robin) dressed to look like Grandma, Ivana and Ali, and Digby dog, are on a train en route to the Scottish countryside. The purpose is a holiday visit to Robin currently in hiding with Grandma at Granny Anderson’s who lives in a remote spot near Loch Wilder. Said Granny (the twins motorbike riding great grandmother) has organised some ‘wild camping’ for the visitors.

The first shock is the nature of the location, the second is the change in Robin. The robot now bears some resemblance to a tree and thanks to upgrades by Grandma, has new feet and hands and sports army-style shorts and shirt. Grandma certainly hasn’t been idle while in Scotland: she’s also created pop-up tents as well as a ‘water-dragon-submarine’ supposedly to help with catching cattle rustlers.

Then a spot of fishing lands Jake (narrator) in icy cold water: this holiday certainly doesn’t look too promising especially when hedgerow stew is served up for supper. 

Surely day two must be better but …

So much happens during the rest of the holiday and by the time they leave, the children have accepted among other things, that it will be without the physical Robin although they take something with them that will make it feel as though he’s still with them.

It seems as though this is the final story in Dave Cousins’ madcap robot series, so amusingly illustrated by Catalina Echeverri. I know a fair few readers who, like Jess and Jake, will be sorry to say farewell.

Rolo’s Story

Rolo’s Story
Blake Morgan
Little Tiger

This book starts with a bad dream, the dreamer being the puppy that acts as the story’s narrator. For the past week he’s been on the run from his cruel ‘Two Leg’ he calls humans and is having a hard time due both to the cold and the lack of sustenance. But then he meets Scrap, another stray; Scrap offers to act as his guide to ‘life on the wild side’ and there’s certainly a lot to learn.

She remains a loyal guide and playmate until one day something terrible happens: Scrap is out foraging for food to share one night but she doesn’t return. Next morning Mutt as Scrap calls the narrator, discovers his friend in a van about to be driven to the dog pound. Scrap persuades her friend not to attempt a rescue and so it’s back to the lonely life for the pup. Time to move on, but not entirely alone for the narrator discovers a scruffy stuffed duck that he takes along as company, calling it Beak Face.

After a day’s journey in the chilly weather, he seeks food and shelter in a village and the pup and Beak Face curl up together in a garden shed for the night.

Next morning a little girl, Freya is surprised to find visitors when she opens the shed door. Strangely this Two Leg seems friendly and thus begins another chapter in the pup’s life. Little by little he comes to trust the kindly disposed girl who, naming him Rolo, keeps him fed and warm; but her mother is another matter.

Can Rolo with the help of Freya, persuade a reluctant workaholic mum to find it in her heart to allow a scruffy, creature that wees all over the floor to stay and become part of the family?

Eventually yes, and there are some even bigger surprises in store before this wonderfully warm, gently humorous story concludes. Or perhaps it doesn’t, for there’s a slight hint that we might be hearing more from Rolo. I’m sure that a good many readers would be pleased should that be so.

Dragon Detective: That a Wrap! / Vega Jane and the Secrets of Sorcery

Dragon Detective: That’s a Wrap!
Gareth P. Jones
Little Tiger

In case you’re not familiar with the titular detective, he’s Dirk Dilly, a mountain dragon who doubles as a crime-buster, all the while endeavouring to keep the existence of dragons secret from humans – not an easy task.

This story set mainly in the USA is the 4th and final adventure in the Dragon Detective series.
Holly Bigsby, her stepmum, her dad, and Holly’s close friend Archie are unexpectedly flown out to LA in a private luxury jet at the behest of billionaire Brant Buchanan for whom Mrs Bigsby works.
Also in LA, making an autobiographical film is Petal Moses (Holly’s ex-room-mate from her boarding school days.)

On her very first day in the city, Holly meets the movie director, who while filming in the desert has captured something on camera that looks suspiciously like dragons. But before anyone has a chance to look closely at the film, it disappears. Holly is convinced it’s a case for Dirk. She rings him urging him come to LA and participate in an investigation – an investigation that involves Californian Desert Dragons. But can they solve the case and find the film before dragonkind’s reality is revealed to the world at large?

An enjoyable romp of a crime-solver, especially for those primary school readers who like fast moving stories that involve the interface of humans and dragons.

Vega Jane and the Secrets of Sorcery
David Baldacci
Macmillan Children’s Books

This was David Baldacci’s first foray into young adult fiction previously published as The Finisher, now re-edited and reissued.

It follows the quest of fourteen-year-old Vega Jane, who when the story starts works as a Finisher at Stacks, creating goods she knows she’ll never afford while living a life of hardship with her younger brother in Wormwood city. The place is surrounded by the Quag wherein lurk dangerous beasties and beyond which, it’s said, nothing exists, consequently nobody ever leaves.

Vega though is different from other Wugs; she’s curious, something that’s strongly discouraged. Then, having witnessed her mentor escaping into the unknown, she discovers a map that seems to suggest a strange world lies beyond the walls of Wormwood.

Thus begins an exciting adventure that follows Vega’s quest for freedom as she moves through time confronting not just all she’d believed was true and those intent on hiding the truth, but also, her own limitations.

Magical artefacts, mysteries, bizarre creatures, thrills aplenty, and Vega’s somewhat unusual manner of narration that blends her thoughts, Wugmort vocabulary (a translation is given at the outset) and formal speech, as well as memorable characters, are all part of Baldacci’s mix in his blend of sci-fi, myth and fantasy elements. Moreover, there’s a cliff-hanger finale that opens the way for further adventures of this strong female hero.

Play and Learn with Board Books

The Touch Book
written by Nicola Edwards
Little Tiger

Here’s a book that invites young children to “Get Hands-on! and explore texture and who could resist those paint-covered fingers of the little girl on the opening page?

In all, ten different textures are presented: fluffy, crinkly, smooth, bumpy, sticky, spongy, furry, rough, scratchy and soft, and each double spread offers three possible synonyms for the one presented. For instance, crinkly alternatives are wrinkly, ridged and ragged.

However it’s not only the sense of touch that’s being developed: ‘run your finger along something crinkly, what kind of noise does it make?’ asks the narrator; while the ‘sticky’ spread talks of sticky things being either tasty or ‘icky’ which might lead into a tasting session. Your fingertips really do stick to the tiny hexagons beneath the dripping honey so ‘tacky’ might be a good alternative though you’d definitely need to taste some honey to decide if syrupy is appropriate.

I like that little ones are invited to describe the textured patch beneath the digger – would they use ‘scratchy’ or perhaps gritty, grainy or raspy?

Full of potential learning opportunities, this sturdy book can be used either in a family or in an early years setting, perhaps as part of a larger sensory theme.

Although not sensory, to add to the overall fun, I’d suggest following up a sharing of the next book with some hands-on experiences

What Are Unicorns Made Of?
illustrated by Louise Anglicas
Little Tiger

A rhyming text guides the adult reader aloud, presenting possible answers to the titular question while Louise Anglicas’s candy-coloured illustrations showing unicorns cavorting across the countryside, through Sweetville, over the rainbow, among the trees and dancing to music offer plenty to explore.

The first consideration of unicorn-ness concerns what’s within: could they be filled with jellybeans, or perhaps ‘yummy pink popcorn?
What about their manes: marshmallow or possibly strawberry ice-cream – maybe but then neither would last long with hungry toddlers in the vicinity! Imagine unicorn rainbow tails all a-sparkle in the sun or horns alive with beautifully patterned butterflies, glittery musical hooves: the only way to discover if any of these might be part and parcel of a unicorn is to close your eyes and wish to see one – ta-da …

Animal World: I Can learn My First Colours
Lauren Crisp, illustrated by Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger)

Four-line verses and images of beady-eyed animals are used to help reinforce, or perhaps introduce, the basic colours to toddlers: thus ‘Crocodile is green / with his teeth sharp and bright. / Whenever he snaps, / he will give you a fright!’ whereas ‘Giraffe is yellow / as tall as can be. / She nibbles on leaves / from high in the tree!’ In addition to the main text, along the edge of each verso asks for instance, “Who else is GREEN?’ Who else is PINK?’

The vertical rod inserted into the cover has 5 flattish cylinders, on each side of which is a small picture of an animal, so that little fingers can spin them around to discover another creature with a colour that matches the one in the main illustration.

The final spread shows a dozen butterflies each corresponding to one of the colours already featured and invites little ones to respond to two questions: “What is your favourite colour? And “What colours can you see high up in the sky?’

There’s a wealth of potential fun learning between the covers of this one.

Love Makes a Family / I Want to Be … a Doctor

Little Tiger have published several board books to start the year: here are two examples:

Love Makes a Family
Sophie Beer

Diverse families demonstrate the meaning of love – family love – through a variety of day-to-day interactions. Starting with an early awakening by two exuberant little ones of their still rather sleepy parents, or it might be baking and sharing a very special birthday celebration cake. Sometimes, something as simple as knowing where that lost toy might be found is an act of love;

but it’s also enjoying playing in the rain, helping a toddler; showing your appreciation of your children’s performance put on specially for you; comforting, bath time fun;

sharing just one more book or that bedtime kiss.
All these things constitute part of something we all need – especially after the past year – and that is LOVE. Joyfully illustrated in bold bright scenes rich in pattern, Sophie Beer’s celebration of simple loving acts shows the very youngest children, what makes a family a family.

I Want to Be … a Doctor
illustrated by Richard Merritt

The small girl narrator peeping through the die hole in the cover explains why her ambition is to become a doctor. Most importantly she wants to help ‘poorly people get better’, but she’s also excited (as we’re shown in Richard Merritt’s illustrations that show our narrator playing with her teddy), about the prospect of wearing a white lab coat and having lots of doctorly accoutrements.

Then there’s the possibility of an ambulance ride, siren blaring and lights flashing while at other times there’ll be patients visiting her surgery (‘office’) when she might need to use some of the instruments from her doctor’s bag.

She shows readers both the stethoscope and an x-ray machine at work, as well as issuing a prescription based on her observations: all in all, lots of reasons that inspire a young child to aspire to become a member of the medical profession but it’s not everybody’s ambition of course, and the final page with its mirror asks about that very thing.

Stick Boy

Stick Boy
Paul Coomey
Little Tiger

Being different is never easy, ditto starting at a new school; but when Stick Boy moved to a new town, he’d hoped that with yet another fresh start, he’d left old problems behind. Seemingly not, for on the opening pages of Paul Coomey’s story we discover the titular character being pursued on only his second day, by the second biggest bully in the entire school, Sam Devine.

Things are not looking good especially when he then meets Gretchen, another bully. The two of them taunt Stick Boy, get hold of the contents of his pockets and proceed to hurl them over a high wall, recording their nastiness to upload onto ‘Vidwire’.

Along comes Ekam and the two boys introduce themselves to one another. and Stick then demonstrates his locker-opening skill before the bell rings summoning everyone to assembly. There the headteacher announces that the opening of the new Baron Ben’s Bargain Bins Magnificent Mega Mall on Saturday will be celebrated with a concert.

Stick’s first lesson is science with Mr Jansari

where Stick meets another friendly face, Milo and discovers that everyone is excited about the prospect of a pupil from the school being chosen to sing at the Friday Factor. Things are looking up for Stick, but not for long as in double ICT, Miss Bird has it in for the newcomer from the outset.
Stick survives the day and then back home learns that his dad has bought a brand new TV from Baron Ben’s Bargain Bins that comes with a free HomeBot – uh-oh!.
Right away the thing starts behaving weirdly.

The following day Stick is late for school and overhears Miss Bird speaking on her mobile and acting scared. Later the two bully girls forced him into unlocking Mr Jansari’s classroom door

and the act is recorded on Gretchen’s mobile.
From then on things just keep on getting worse and Miss Bird definitely appears to be up to something. Could there be s a connection between those Homebots with their increasingly strange behaviour

and the Mega Mall opening?

This fast-paced mystery story about coping with bullies while being two dimensional in a three dimensional, world fizzes with excitement, and the kind of humour – both visual and verbal – that should go down well with older primary readers.

Mermaids Rock: The Midnight Realm / The Kitten Next Door

Two new titles kindly sent for review by Little Tiger’s Stripes imprint, both from authors popular with young solo readers:

Mermaids Rock: The Midnight Realm
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega
Little Tiger
The Midnight Realm referred to in the title in this, the fourth of the Mermaids Rock series, is that region of the ocean around 1,000 metres below sea level that is in constant darkness as no sunlight ever penetrates to that depth. A place where, on account of its extreme pressure and freezing temperatures, humans have only recently developed the technology that makes it possible for them to explore. Not so merpeople however and in particular those merchildren, resident around Mermaids Rock – Marina, Kai, Naya, Coralie and Luna. As the book opens these friends are busy working on the design of a poster for their latest project, corals reefs. And as those who’ve read previous books might expect, Glenda is showing off while being full of negativity towards their efforts.

Excitement rises when their teacher announces a three-day field trip that involves camping on a deserted atoll in the South Pacific.

When Marina says that her father has been researching the disappearance of strawberry squid down in the Midnight Zone, the area that the friends want to know more about for their project, it’s a case of Save the Sea Creatures Club to the rescue once again. And that’s despite being warned how dangerous a place this totally dark region is. A plan is formed: can they solve the mystery of the flashing light that Naya has noticed, (the light that then appears in the tunnel) and discover what is happening to the strawberry squid? Perhaps, but a fair bit of problem solving and creativity will be needed if they embark on such a mission.

And even more when they discover a glowing cave wherein lurks a tentacled monster – a monster that entraps Luna. Now Naya’s creative skill is required if she’s to succeed in rescuing her friend.

With black and white illustrations by Mirelle Ortega to enjoy, this story has exciting moments aplenty, strong friendship, and kindness even towards Glenda despite her misdeeds, this will be lapped up by established fans and other young readers with an interest in marine life and environmental issues.

The Kitten Next Door
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sophy Williams

In this latest story in Holly Webb’s Animal Stories we meet young cat lover Sophia. She longs for a cat of her own but her parents say she must wait until her little sister is a bit older. Then, just after Christmas Sophia spies a tiny, hungry-looking calico kitten Willow appears in the next-door neighbours’ garden and falls under its charm straightaway. She tries to spend some time with the kitten every day but as the holidays come to an end, the people next door move away, taking Willow with them, so Sophia assumes.

But shortly after Sophia notices the kitten again. Has she run away from her new home? Sophia is determined to find out. And so she does, but she finds out a whole lot more too and that’s one of the essential qualities of Holly Webb’s animal stories. Here we are reminded of just how scary fireworks can be to small creatures such as Willow, as well as how showing loving care and kindness towards animals can be hugely rewarding, sometimes in unexpected ways.

With its pencil sketches by Sophy Williams wherein she captivates even this cat phobic reviewer, this book is just right for new solo readers, especially animal lovers like young Sophia.

I Love You With All My Heart / The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth

I Love You With All My Heart
Jane Chapman
Little Tiger

When Little Bear’s exuberant music making very close to where his mother is tending her sunflower plant results in a catastrophe, the little creature is worried that his mother will be angry with her offspring – and even worse that she’ll stop loving her.

Admirably, Little Bear owns up right away and happily, Mummy is equally quick in her response. She scoops the cub up in her arms and reassuringly says “I’ll ALWAYS love you,” and proceeds to soothe her by asking that she place her paw on her heart to “feel my love beating on and on for ever”. She goes on to tell Little Bear that a similar “Ba ba boom” beats within her little one’s heart.

Next day at preschool, the little cub draws on that knowledge when she’s upset about losing a race, and then later back in the garden when her new kite is whisked away by an unexpected gust of wind. Seemingly, no matter what upsets life throws at Little Bear, she can draw strength from that never-ending motherly love.

There’s a lovely final twist when Mother Bear’s cake baking is interrupted by her cub’s enthusiastic, mud-splashing announcement about her kite rescue …

Would that all little humans had a mother as understanding and unconditionally loving as Little Bear who is brought to life along with Mother Bear in Jane Chapman’s splendidly expressive illustrations that show just how full of love they are, and how comforting the feel of a heartbeat can be to someone needing a bit of TLC. Yes, this book is brimming over with love but it never becomes sentimental.

The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth
Ellie Hattie and Karl James Mountford
Little Tiger

Now out in paperback is this wonderful magical adventure that unfolds inside The Curious Museum wherein Oscar, clad in his night attire, and mammoth Timothy search for Timothy’s baby brother, Teddy, intent on finding him before the clock strikes one. The hardback version was reviewed on the blog but if you’ve missed the book, it’s definitely worth seeking out the paperback to share with youngsters. There’s SO much to explore in the illustrations and there’s a wealth of information and more to discover behind the flaps.

I Love You more than Christmas / The Snowiest Christmas Ever / Can You Find Santa’s Pants

Here are 3 seasonal picture books from Little Tiger kindly sent for review

I Love You more than Christmas
Ellie Hattie and Tim Warnes

Little Bear love, love, loves pretty much everything about Christmas but what is it that he -and indeed his mother and father- love even more than Christmas? We’ll discover the answer – eventually – but adults will probably guess it from the outset. Every attempt one of them makes to reveal that one better thing is interrupted by something or someone that is part and parcel of the exciting build-up to the big day.

First it’s the mail delivery (Mrs Postman with a sackful of cards), then it’s Daddy Bear bursting through the door dragging an enormous tree to decorate, after which it’s Mummy who’s been hunting for the decorations in the loft; but that’s just the start.

It takes until bedtime before Little Bear is finally able to share that all important message.

Tim Warnes’ wonderfully warm illustrations are an ideal complement to Ellie Hattie’s homely tale of togetherness and celebration.

The Snowiest Christmas Ever
Jane Chapman

In the run up to Christmas things are pretty nearly perfect in the bear family’s cabin but there’s one thing lacking, so says young Button Bear cub, and that is snow. Her brother is equally eager for the fluffy stuff to be ready for Santa’s sleigh to land in. Then come bedtime, lo and behold what should the cubs spy as they peep through the curtains but swirling, whirling snowflakes. As the bears fall asleep snug inside, the snow continues falling all night getting ever deeper outside.

The following morning though, things on the snow front seem to have got rather excessive and it looks as though the entire family is stuck indoors. Was that wish of Button’s a mistake? Will Santa be able to make his delivery to the cabin?

Perhaps the cubs can turn the situation around so they all have a truly memorable Christmas …
This is definitely a cuddle up and share picture book that focuses on the anticipation and excitement of the days leading up to Christmas.

Can You Find Santa’s Pants?
Becky Davies and Alex Willmore

Here’s a new take on the ever-popular subject of pants and on Christmas, that I suspect many youngsters will find irresistible. Just imagine the sight of a bare-bottomed Santa sitting atop his sleigh; but that is a decided possibility when on Christmas Eve he discovers, horror of horrors, that his pants have gone awol. Hang on though; what about all the spare pairs hanging on the washing line? Oh dear me, now they too are playing hard to get as they detach themselves from the line and take flight.

The hunt is on but if Santa can’t locate any of the errant underwear, can he find a suitable alternative so he doesn’t have to expose his rear end to the elements on his chilly delivery round.

An emergency is declared and all his friends – elven and animal – rally round to join the hunt. Will they or won’t they avert a chuddie crisis: it’s a case of …

Told through Becky Davies’ jaunty rhyming text and absolutely hilarious illustrations presented by Alex Willmore (of pea fame), this will be one of the year’s festive favourite for sure.

Board Books for Christmas

Who Said Merry Christmas?
Becky Davies and Yi-Hsuan Wu
Little Tiger

Ho Ho Ho! comes the mystery voice, but who spoke the words? Was it Penguin? Feel the tactile soft tummy (it gives a clue), lift the flap and discover the owner of the jolly utterance. Do similar for the “Tweet!”, the “Roar!”, the “Merry Christmas!” greeting and lastly, respond to the final question above the mirror.
Hide-and-seek fun for the very youngest, engagingly illustrated in Yi-Hsuan Wu’s jolly scenes of Penguin, Mrs Claus, Snowman and Reindeer and the characters hidden beneath the four flaps.

Can’t See Santa!
Mandy Archer and Chris Jevons
Little Tiger

It’s Christmas Eve and all is ready but where oh where is Santa? That’s what the little mouse asks as he searches everywhere both inside the house, and outdoors in the snowy garden where at least there should be signs of Santa’s sled. Then back indoors again the tiny creature’s so downhearted he can’t even face a nibble of his carrot let alone the seasonal fare spread out on the table. Worse still is the complete lack of a single present beside the sparkling tree. Has Santa forgotten our little rodent friend? So miserable does he feel that Mouse heads off to his attic bed. But there’s something he doesn’t know and that’s not revealed until the final flap in Chris Jevons’ festively detailed sequence of story-telling pictures is opened. Mandy Archer’s rhyming couplets tell the tale from Mouse’s viewpoint on the bottom stair, in snow-filled garden, on the table, beneath the Christmas tree or in his bed. With several flaps to explore and assist mouse in his search on every spread, little ones will delight in the hunt and the secret that they might or might not, already know about.

Peas on Earth
Jonny Marx and Lindsey Sagar
Little Tiger

The five little peas in their pod can barely contain themselves so full of festive cheer are they feeling. Indeed, one by one the small spherical objects pop out io their case so great is their excitement once that Christmas wreath is attached to the door. So, we have four left to help decorate the tree one of which needs to get the star bringing their number to three enjoying the view outdoors. Santa’s grotto isn’t too far so off goes another and so on till atop the tree sits just one. It’s she that will delight in the appearance of a pair of booted feet before a special delivery is made and there’s something for them all. HURRAH!
A fun-filled yuletide countdown to share with the very young who will love poking their fingers into the die-cut circles, as well as following the frolics of the peas described in Jonny Marx’s rhyming text and shown in Lindsey Sagar’s jolly seasonal scenes.

My Magical Snowman
illustrated by Yujin Shin
Campbell Books

Oh dear! Santa’s sleigh – so the elves say – is in need of a quick repair before he can start on his delivery round. So who can they call upon to help? Snowman seems willing once his door has been opened (move the slider) and off they all go whooshing over the frozen lake and whizzing down the slippery slope (2 more sliders). Then with a touch of the snowman’s magic, it’s up and away for Santa “Ho, Ho Ho-ing” on his sleigh as he bids all his helpers a “Merry Christmas”.
Simple, satisfying and lots of fun – both in the manipulating of the sliders and the rhyming text that accompanies the chilly wintry scenes of elvish frolics and willing assistance.

Dear Santa
Rod Campbell
Macmillan Children’s Books

This is a board book version of Rod Campbell’s Christmas classic which, almost unbelievably, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Yes, it’s that enormously engaging sharing of a letter to Santa requesting something special for Christmas and what the old man does and thinks as he wraps up all manner of not quite right gifts before, on Christmas Eve, he decides upon the one that’s just right and much appreciated by the letter writer.
A Christmas must if you have a toddler.

Action and Reaction: Fish / Yawn

Fish
Brendan Kearney
Dorling Kindersley Penguin Random House

Softly spoken yes, but, inspired by personal experience, Brendan Kearney’s picture book about the perils of polluting the ocean with plastic, and how we can all help to improve the situation for the endangered fish and other marine flora and fauna is clear and to the point.

Finn and his dog Skip set out one morning in their little boat, hoping to catch a tasty fish or two for their supper.

After a while when not a single fish has given so much as a tug at Finn’s line, Skip spies something in the waves. Down to the depths he swims and the sight that meets his eyes is horrifying.

Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. Back to show Finn with some evidence he goes.

Equally concerned, the man goes on fishing for a while but before long all he has on board is a collection of weird objects.

Fortunately, once back on dry land the two encounter a group of young beach cleaners who are equally alarmed at the load of rubbish brought out of the sea.

Finn explains how he came by it and about the complete lack of fish. What follows are a number of pertinent comments from the young eco-warriors and the following day Finn heeds their words – re-use and recycle – and goes on to join the beach cleaners.

With his engaging narrative, visual and verbal – Brendan Kearney focuses on the crucial environmental issues in the hope – his, mine and countless others – that young children will become part of the movement to clean up our polluted oceans and beaches and of course, it’s never to soon to teach them about the importance of recycling.

Yawn
Patricia Hegarty and Teresa Bellón
Little Tiger

A yawn can be highly infectious as this fun story shows.
Starting with a single feeling from deep inside the little boy narrator, a single yawn quickly becomes unstoppable, passing from the boy to all – every neighbourhood inhabitant, human and animal, until the entire street have gaping mouths.

From here it moves to the countryside and eventually all over the world, not content until every single person and every single creature has the yawns. It even heads off out into space

– it’s ‘gone viral ‘we read. Does that remind you of anything?

Fortunately though, on this occasion the outcome is that when bedtime comes, so does a great big YAAAAAAWN! to send us off into the land of slumbers.
Happy dreams.

It’s is definitely a book to share at bedtime unless that is you want to induce sleepiness at some other time in your home or classroom. Patricia’s rhyming narrative has that soporific feel to it, and if you happen to pause just a little too long on any of Teresa Bellon’s spreads (love those cutaway pages) to enjoy all the funky details, you might just find yourself the next recipient of that repeat refrain ‘YAAAAAAWN! Pass it on!’ Snore …

Nature in Focus – Home / Seasons

Here are two books from Little Tiger that focus on nature and the changing seasons

Home
Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup

‘All of us need a place to rest – / A cave, a warren, a pond, a nest … // Wherever we may choose to roam, / We need a place to call our home.” So says Patricia Hegarty’s introduction to this look at the forest that is home to all kinds of creatures large and small.
In the company of little bear, we visit a variety of animal homes starting with the cub and her family’s cave, dark and deep.

With the advent of spring, the cub ventures out watched by an owl in her tree. He visits the place where squirrels are gathering leaves for their drey; beavers are also building a shelter; a bird is busy nest building.

Further afield salmon spawn in the glistening river, multitudes of minibeasts are hard at work, and underground rabbits are safe in their warren.

As night begins to fall, a pack of wolves begin to prowl, hunting for food; while a flock of arctic terns make ready to begin their long journey before another winter sets in.

Finally as the cold arrives, it’s time for little bear and his family to hibernate ‘til spring comes round once more.

In her lyrical text Patricia takes us through the changing seasons and to the various animal homes. Britta Teckentrup’s signature style collage scenes, with their die-cut pages, follow the action and the bear cub, highlighting the importance of each home mentioned in the narrative as well as showing the seasonal changes in the forest.

Seasons
Hannah Pang and Clover Robin

Author Hannah and illustrator Clover take us to half a dozen different locations in the world to experience the natural world in all its glory through the seasons.

We observe the changes that each season brings, starting with a focus on a mighty European oak tree that stands majestically in a meadow, its spreading branches and roots providing shelter and food for countless creatures – birds, insects and other minibeasts, small mammals and some larger ones too.

Spring, summer and autumn with their flowers, fruits and fungi are times of abundance for the various animals. Come winter, the branches are bare and it’s a hard time for animals, many of which hide themselves away in order to survive. Indeed, change through every season is vital for survival of the tree and the associated wildlife.

The other natural habitats are the chilly Arctic where the change in length of day and night is dramatic,

the wilds of Alaska where rivers freeze in the coldest months; a boggy mangrove in northern Australia – one season teeming with land animals, another with fish; then comes the Yellow Dragon Valley, home to some of China’s rarest animals including the giant panda.

The last stop is on the grasslands of the Kenyan Maasai Mara with its wonderful richness of awesome animals and plant life.

As in the oak tree’s location so it is with all the others: change is vital for survival and the Great Migration of the animals of the final location is, so we read, ‘one of the most dramatic events on Earth. For the animals, … a journey of life and death.’

Since the pandemic struck, I think huge numbers of us have become much more aware of the importance of nature in our lives: this book, with Clover Robin’s richly detailed illustrations and Hannah Pang’s factual text, sings that song loud and clear.

Afraid of the Dark / Noah and the Starbird

Here are two picture books  about dealing with difficult situations – thanks Little Tiger for sending these warm-hearted stories

Afraid of the Dark
Sarah Shaffi, Isabel Otter and Lucy Farfort

Moving to a new home is often scary and so it is for the little girl, Amy, who does so with her Dad and dog, Pickle in this story.
Dad is very positive about the move, but not so Amy and Pickle; it just doesn’t feel like home. Her bedroom seems full of strange sounds and shadowy creatures waiting to leap. A night’s sleep might have sent the monsters packing but still that queasy feeling remains.

A visit to the library helps a little,

especially when the kind librarian finds just the right book to transport Amy to a faraway land of adventure when her  dad reads it to her that night. But once he’s gone from her bedroom, back come those monsters.

Next morning seems a little brighter. Children outside wave and invite Amy to play with them in their den. It looks a bit dark inside, but Pickle is willing to go inside so she follows and lo and behold inside a wonderful warm welcome awaits thanks to Sofia and Bilal.

Could this be the beginning of the banishment of those scary monsters. Can Amy send the lurking shadows packing once and for all? …

Sensitively told, this story, demonstrates beautifully how it always takes time to adjust to new situations; and how love and friendship can make all the difference when it comes to coping with first experience fear. Lucy Farfort captures Amy’s fearful feelings perfectly in her illustrations, as well as her dad’s concern and warmth, and the wonderful kindness of the children who welcome her.

Noah and the Starbird
Barry Timms and Faye Hsu

Noah’s dad is ill and has gone to hospital, so Noah is staying with his kind, reassuring, Granny. As they unpack Noah’s things together, the boy notices a lamp inside which is a bird.
Granny tells him it belonged to her grandma and at bedtime Granny suggests to Noah that the bird might have magical powers.

As the boy lies wide awake in bed worrying about his dad, he’s startled by a sound. It’s the bird from the lamp. She introduces herself as Starbird, promising that his father is safe. She sings a lullaby, pulls out one of her tail feathers and gives it to Noah who eventually falls asleep.

The following morning, on hearing what happened Granny tells Noah he has a special magical friend but even she cannot hasten the process of his Daddy getting well. Instead Starbird provides a listening ear again that night before Noak goes to sleep.
Next day the news from the hospital isn’t what Noah hopes, but with some special strength from the magic feather, he and Granny create a collage bird to keep up their spirits.

Can Starbird use her magical powers to help Noah’s Daddy get well again?

Kindness, courage and friendship shine forth from this gentle story: I think right now, the entire world could do with a feather like the one therein.

Tales from the Forest

Tales from the Forest
Emily Hibbs, illustrated by Erin Brown
Stripes Publishing

This collection of twenty stories – five for each season – takes readers close up to creatures great and small from various habitats in the forest.

There’s a wishful caterpillar discovering its own metamorphosis, an adder that sheds its beautiful patterned scaly skin and the woodpeckers searching for a new tree in which to nest and rear chicks in spring.

Bees busy performing their various roles in and around their hive;

fireflies lighting up the forest at twilight “The stars of the forest, burning bright”; competitive boars that end up wallowing side by side in the mud; bats, and tadpoles turning into frogs,

we meet them all in summertime.

Autumn presents beavers building a dam; the subterranean mole; a little mouse that has a narrow escape from a marauding hawk to tiny ladybird ready to join its fellows huddling close inside a log and a fawn whose spots vanish and his antlers grow.

In chilly winter Spider’s new web holds her pouch of tiny eggs while she finds a warmer place to spend her days till spring;

Black Wolf finds a white female companion to share his days; Squirrel remembers where she’s stashed her nuts; a little fox and his siblings lose their way and finally, an owlet listens to the sounds of the other forest animals before she and her father add their own voice to the nocturnal song.

Amazing animals all, as the author acknowledges in her final factual paragraphs – one each for the twenty featured. Her stories are packed with detailed, description and information in a highly accessible form so that readers/listeners will come away from each one having learned a lot without realising it. And, each story ends with a 4-line verse.

Erin Brown’s finely detailed, painterly illustrations at every turn of the page are an absolute delight adding further atmosphere and detail to each telling.

Skeleton Keys: The Legend of Gap-Tooth Jack / The Thing at Black Hole Lake

Skeleton Keys: The Legend of Gap-Tooth Jack
Guy Bass, illustrated by Pete Williamson
Little Tiger

If you’re looking for a darkly comic adventure story that’s full of mystery, monster chases, and outlandish ghoulish decapitations, (that’s also about friendship, fitting in and finding self-confidence), then accept the invitation of Keys – Skeleton Keys – and allow this character to tell his tale (actually it’s that of Gap-Tooth Jack) that he claims is a “truly unbelievable, unbelievably true’ one.

However, in order for this tale to be unfolded back in the past, it’s necessary to begin in the here and now with a second story and in particular with wildly imaginative, seven-year-old, Kasper. This lad conjures himself up an imaginary friend whom he names Wordy Gerdy. By all accounts (or rather our storyteller’s), this ghost of a girl possessed an amazing ability: once she has in her fragile fingers a pen, she can rewrite any story she cares to, or even as here, she doesn’t.

Oh! We must mention Daisy; she’s Skeleton Keys’ unimaginary partner-in-problem-solving without whom, our bony being storyteller might have been a has been.

Find out what takes place when a highly dangerous, ghasty, goulish unimaginary escapes into yesteryear. Can Jack thwart her malevolent game plan by joining forces with Mr Keys? Plunge into Guy’s spooky saga, full of terrific characters,

extremely quirky humour with Pete Williamson’s fangtastically spooky illustrations and find out. It will definitely make some superbly silly story sessions as a lower KS2 class read aloud.

For a slightly older audience is:

The Thing at Black Hole Lake
Dashe Roberts
Nosy Crow

We’re back at Sticky Pines, the small US town of weird events and secrets lurking in woods, for this spooky sequel to the Bigwood Conspiracy; and once again there are weird things afoot.

We get two perspectives on events, those of Milo and Lucy (currently not on speaking terms). Milo Fisher, loyal son of business tycoon NuCo president – a double-crossing guy; and Lucy Sladen, who’s determined to discover the truth about the mysterious, alien life, Pretenders of Sticky Pines, and protect them from the greedy NuCo company, set on exploiting every one of the town’s resources.

In the previous adventure it was Lucy who made the astonishing discovery but now it’s Milo’s turn, for there’s something very strange in Black Hole Lake; something that will put both he and Lucy in terrible danger. Danger that begins as Milo leaves a party early in order to avoid Lucy, takes a short cut and soon finds himself sinking into the lake and there are eyes watching him from below the surface.

Mesmerisingly brilliant fun., fast-paced with lots of twists and an abundance of ever-deepening mysteries, creepiness and with the philosophical good guy/bad guy dilemma underpinning the tale, this is a stonkingly good, enormously satisfying read.

Midnight Magic / Cally & Jimmy Twins in Trouble

Midnight Magic
Michelle Harrison, illustrated by Elissa Elwick
Stripes Publishing, Little Tiger

This is the first of a new rhyming series by author of the A Pinch of Magic books, Michelle Harrison; it’s superbly illustrated by Elissa Elwick and it’s absolutely perfect for young solo readers or for reading aloud.

It all begins when with tummy swollen and heavy, ‘One frosty evening, / A tabby cat prowled / Through white winter fields / While a bitter wind howled.’

Said tabby cat makes her way into a barn and there, watched by the animal residents, produces three kittens that she duly and aptly names Snowdrop, Foxy and Midnight. The third one, born at midnight is different – both mischievous and magical. And this magic seems to be doubling each day and potentially troublesome. Indeed, she soon starts calling herself a ‘cat-astrophe’ and before long forges a friendship with the broom from the barn, naming the thing `Twiggy’.

The two travel together and they’re spotted by a girl named Trixie as she plays in her village.

Trixie takes the kitten home where she’s eventually welcomed whereas the broom is treated less favourably. But with her mischievous nature, will the rest of Trixie’s family allow Midnight to stay?

Trixie is certainly happy with her new friend but it’s not long before sparks start to fly. And then Nan makes a discovery about that broom she’d unceremoniously tossed into the cupboard.

W-hay – it’s up and away …

A magical tale, this surely is; it reads aloud like a dream and is perfect for sharing or independent reading. especially around Halloween time.

Cally & Jimmy Twins in Trouble
Zoe Antoniades, illustrated by Katie Kear
Andersen Press

Meet twins Cally and Jimmy: twins they might be, but you’d be hard pushed to find two more different people. Cally – short for Calista meaning ‘most beautiful’ – the quiet one, is our narrator and is well behaved, most of the time. Jimmy in contrast (his real name is Dimitri on account of having a Greek mother) is far from quiet and his behaviour, not helped by ADHD, leaves a fair bit to be desired. In class, he has a special table right beside the teacher’s desk and far away from his sister’s ‘top table’.

In four short stories we get a pretty clear picture of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world. His actions frequently land them both in trouble, though there are plenty of fun times too. And even after getting into trouble together they often end up laughing together afterwards.

Like the time when they made brownies using dad’s ‘fool-proof recipe’ only they added some rather interesting extra ingredients to the mixture. Not sure I’d want to sample those.

Then there’s the time they contribute to a class assembly, the practising of which doesn’t quite go smoothly.

The final episode sees the celebration of the twins achieving double digits and celebrating it in style.

Other colourful characters include Yiayia (grandma)

and lunchtime supervisor, Mrs Gutteridge.

Trail Blazers: Stephen Hawking / Little People Big Dreams: Ernest Shackleton

Trail Blazers: Stephen Hawking
Alex Woolf, illustrated by David Shephard
Little Tiger (Stripes Publishing)

‘Be inspired’ says the first line of the blurb of this book. Who could fail to be inspired by reading about Stephen Hawking, an incredible individual who refused to be defined by his illness and which he never allowed to hold him back from pursuing his awesome scientific dreams, and whose life story is told therein by historian Alex Woolf.

It’s both a biography and a science book – ‘A life beyond limits’ as the subtitle says. Alex Woolf explains by means of an informative narrative together with David Shephard’s illustrations and clear diagrams, Stephen Hawking’s scientific discoveries (panels giving theoretical summaries are provided)

and the challenges he faced through much of his life.

There’s just enough detail of the genius’s revolutionary theories and of the key questions cosmologists have sought answers for, to inspire but not overwhelm readers from the top of KS2 onwards.

The narrative begins with a summary of the history of black holes theory, a brief explanation of the space-time continuum and a mention of other mathematicians and physicists involved in the theory.

There’s also information about Stephen’s formative years: I was particularly interested and amused to read of his family’s trip to India when the car got caught in monsoon floods and had to be towed to safety. (Sounds to me like an almost familiar incident!).

Children will be interested to learn that during his under-grad. days Stephen was far from hard-working and later calculated that he’d spent on average just one hour a day studying, spending much of his time rowing or at the boat club; getting by on his utter brilliance and managing to talk his way into getting a first in his Oxford degree.

It was when he became a student at Cambridge that both Stephen’s clumsiness and his resulting focus on his intellect began to take hold. A diagnosis of the incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) might have overwhelmed even the most determined of people. Not so Stephen whose propensity to ask difficult questions and to put forward new theories without fear of being wrong is exemplary.

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. “ So says the final quote – truly inspiring and one hopes, motivating …

Strongly recommended reading for older children.

Little People, Big Dreams: Ernest Shackleton
Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Olivia Holden
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This addition to the popular series of biographical stories presents the famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton from the time he was a child growing up in rural Ireland dreaming of wider horizons, when even at a young age, he showed the qualities of a good explorer – optimism, idealism, patience and courage.

We learn of his participation as a young man, in expeditions endeavouring to reach the South Pole. Then how, inspired by Roald Amundsen, he planned to cross Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole.

This expedition aboard Endurance, began in August 1914 with a crew of 28 enthusiastic, optimistic men and assorted animals. After months crossing the ocean, the ship became trapped in ice;

and so it remained for nine months with their calm leader doing his utmost to keep the spirits of his crew high, until the ice began to break up their ship.

Though there was scant hope of a rescue, Ernest never lost hope of saving his crew, and finally he and five of his men reached a whaling station. Then, having found help, he returned and brought his crew back home, Incredible though it may seem, every one of them survived.

With his unfailing optimism, Shackleton, a true inspiration to countless others, died at the young age of 48, as the final timeline shows. A true inspiration to young readers too, especially at this time when remaining optimistic is to say the least, challenging for us all.

Winter Wishes / Frost

Winter Wishes
illustrated by Alison Edgson
Little Tiger

This collection of tales comprises ten illustrated wintry tales each by a different author.

From Caroline Juskus, there’s a lively little penguin Pip, eager to improve his marching in time for The Penguin Parade. There’s a rather confused, large hairy ape-like creature wandering around the snowy forest in Guy Bass’s Finding Bigfoot, an adorable seal pup eager to get in on the act in Michael Broad’s Seeley’s Song.

Caroline Pitchers’s story Is of a husky pup, anxious about her first sledge pull as a member of the team;

Elizabeth Baguley tells of a rather homesick little girl, wishing and an elephant, set in India; while Karen Wallace’s story has a fox cub puzzled about the white ‘feathers’ in the garden in the days coming up to Christmas – he certainly has a lot of learning to do about the season.

Malachy Doyle’s Morning Bear is full of wishing, surprises and lots of guessing; The Kitten in the Snow takes a while to acquire a name in Penny Dolan’s chilly tale; Narinder Dhami’s Tiger in the Night has three fox cubs discovering what it means to be a Siberian tiger and Holly Webb provides the final Just in Time for Christmas, telling how little dog Max leaves the rescue shelter and finds a family home.

Just right to snuggle up and dip into, along with a hot chocolate. Young independent readers might want to read one or two stories a day, or spend a whole afternoon/evening relishing the entire book.
More from the final author in:

Frost
Holly Webb
Stripes Publishing, Little Tiger
This story is part of the author’s wintry animal tales that cleverly mixes fantasy and historical fiction to create magical books for younger solo readers, and for reading aloud.

This one features Cassie, often known as William’s ‘baby sister’ and hence frequently left behind when it comes to the activities of the other older flat-living children. But on one occasion being left behind gives rise to her spotting a little fox on the waste ground close to her London home.

Cassie forms a special bond with the fox cub naming it Frost and feeds it regularly till one winter’s night the creature leads her off on a very special adventure, as they time-slip back to the 1683  Frost Fair on the frozen River Thames.

It’s exciting spending time in this other world but Carrie finds herself lost; can she make it safely back to her own time …

In addition to the consideration of urban foxes and the differing viewpoints about these creatures, another element woven into the story is that of the importance of understanding and helping others, herein through Cassie’s developing relationship with her somewhat irascible neighbour, Mrs Morris.

Plenty of food for thought and discussion, as well as a wondrous wintry adventure. (Line drawings from the Artful Doodlers add further atmosphere to Holly’s telling.)

The Hat Full of Secrets

The Hat Full of Secrets
Karl Newson, illustrated by Wazza Pink
Stripes Publishing, Little Tiger

Picture book author, Karl Newson turns his hand to writing a longer story, and with Wazza Pink’s full colour illustrations it has become one of Stripes Publishing ‘Colour Fiction’ series for emergent readers.

It’s a cracking story that starts with young Henry Pepper discovering a ‘secret’- a really big one. He rushes back excitedly to tell his Grandad but finds himself getting tongue-tied as he attempts to do so.

Grandad however understands and suggests that a good place for keeping secrets is under your hat. Henry has no hat, but Grandad comes to his rescue giving him one of his specials, a very large one called a Jones, ‘made for adventures’.

And so it is, for no sooner has Henry set off again down the garden path than strange things start happening in the form of flying luggage labels – five of them – all of which except one, float off in different directions.

Henry picks up the remaining one which reads, ‘Shh! The Egg Box Crown’ and returns to his grandpa to tell him. Grandad too has a label and he tells Henry that they’re his secrets.

As memories come back, Grandad regales the boy with wonderful stories of things that have happened in his life relating to each label that once read aloud, morphs into an item pertinent to the message, before disappearing into dust.

Besides the one already mentioned, there’s a label about a missing Tyrannosaurus Rex Bone, another about The Ice and the Polar Bear, one that says ‘Shh! The Fastest Arrow’ about an awesome drive and the final label, ‘Shh! A Moon with a View’ that results in an incredible lunar happening.

Having shared Grandad’s secrets, it’s time for the wonderful final surprise in the form of Henry’s own secret. What could it possibly be? Is that Jones hat large enough to contain it – I wonder.

I absolutely loved every minute spent reading this gorgeous tale that has at its heart the special relationship between a young boy and his aging Grandad. It truly celebrates the power of the imagination and the magic that memories can bring. Illustrator Wazza Pink succeeds in bringing out these qualities in her scenes of the two characters together.

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy / Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant

Here are two young fiction titles with ecological themes:

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy
Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown
Five Quills

I’d not met nature-obsessed Lottie Boffin in the Al’s Awesome Science series but was excited to make her acquaintance now in her very own-eco adventure series for young solo readers.

In a cleverly and carefully constructed story so that youngsters learn a lot about the natural world as they read, Jane and James include a wealth of information (verbal and visual) via such scrapbook pages,

activities and experiments about such things as ants, worms, the frog life cycle and other froggy facts, hydroponics, potential pond residents and visitors, and creating a wormery.

Lottie, inspired by her favourite wildlife TV show presenter, Samira Breeze, decides to make a pond in her back garden using an old dustbin lid, in the hope that frogs will come and inhabit it and perhaps, if she writes up and sends in her nature notes to the programme, she might even win the opportunity to be a presenter on ‘Every Little Thing’.

However, new next door neighbour, Mr Parfitt with his pristine fake grass putting green is definitely not going to be enthusiastic about Lottie’s plans and he’s far from happy about her pet parrot but maybe she can enlist the help of his son Noah who aspires to become an inventor and programmer of robots. That’s when he made sure that his dad’s back garden is totally minibeast free and it will help him keep fit.

With Mr Parfitt’s ant infestation (on a special cake for a special visitor) to contend with,

not to mention a lively dog, and a plethora of parrot poop, will Lottie succeed in her environmental enterprise?

I look forward to Lottie’s Bee adventure coming early next year. So too, I’m sure will newly independent readers who meet her in this first Lottie Loves Nature book.

Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega
Little Tiger

There’s a decidedly chilly feel to the third Mermaid’s Rock adventure.

When Marina announces that she is to accompany her father to the Arctic so he can do his walrus research, her friend Kai is not happy. However Kai’s mum says she can stay with them so long as Marina’s father, Tarak, is agreeable. He is, and she does.

Before he leaves, Marina gives her father a bag of stones, each with an M on and he promises to keep in touch by dropping one each day through the whirlpool. In the meantime there’s the ‘most talented pet’ competition for Marina and her friends to think about.

On the sixth day of her father’s absence, when Marina goes to look for the stone, there isn’t one, nor the next day. Marina and her friends grab some necessary supplies and via the whirlpool, Operation Arctic Rescue is under way.

They soon discover that the ice has begun melting uncustomarily early, spelling danger. Can they find Tarak and get him to safety before it’s too late?

Newly independent readers, especially fans of the series will likely devour this story in a single sitting, enjoying Mirelle Ortega’s black and grey illustrations along the way, and afterwards can learn something about one of the important ecological issues our planet is facing.

Say Hello to the Sun / Under the Stars

Say Hello to the Sun
Dr Lin Day and Lindsey Sagar
Scholastic

This picture book is essentially, based on a song from Dr Lin Day’s Baby Sensory interactive developmental programme, illustrated with Lindsey Sagar’s bright alluring, patterned illustrations.

Starting with the sunshine, tinies are invited to greet in turn the moon beaming down and guiding, growing corn that provides food, twinkling stars,

the cooling rain, colourful flowers to bring cheer and loving friends with whom to play.

Embedded in each illustration is a small circle showing what look like Makaton symbols and the final double spread talks about ‘how to use this book’ and repeats all the signs.

Whether or not you and your little one goes to Baby Sensory classes, this enormously attractive book is worth adding to your collection to share again and again no matter what time of day it is.

Under the Stars
Rosie Adams and Frances Ives
Little Tiger

With glowingly gorgeous illustrations by Frances Ives and Rosie Adams’ gentle rhyming narrative that has a repeat refrain: ‘The world is a family: / we are all one, / …….. together / under the sun.’ an adult fox and a little one spend the day exploring and observing together from sunrise, until the stars twinkle and the moon shines bright in the night sky.

They watch squirrels playing, pause to relax as otter and its little one float on the water.

They listen to the sky humming with the beat of birds’ wings and enjoy their songs. Then in the cool of the forest, bear cubs share their findings, watched by the two foxes;  so too are the deer family and then under the starlit sky the parent fox reminds its cub, and readers, “The world is a family: / we are all one, / United together / under stars, moon and sun.’

Would that this were so, say I.

With its lilting words and beautiful scenes of the natural world, this is a book to read with little ones either at bedtime; or perhaps earlier in the day when there’s more time to talk about the ideas presented.

Along Came a Fox/ The Rug Bear

Along Came A Fox
Georgina Deutsch and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Little Tiger

Bramble the fox decides to go hunting fireflies one silvery moonlit night, despite not knowing where the tiny insects like to hide.
Having been disturbed from her slumbers hedgehog Hazel, decides to accompany Bramble and they follow all-knowing Twig the owl’s advice to search near the lake.

En route Hazel is a little bit spooked by the shadows but Bramble urges her to hurry. “Because foxes don’t get scared … do they?”
Well maybe they do sometimes …

A bit of stomping and growling on account of the “VERY RUDE FOX!’ ensues;

 

then Bramble decides to go back and report to Twig.
Twig suggests they all return to the lake and try to discover what might have upset the unfriendly fox.

Back they go, but without the moonlight glowing over the pond there is nothing to see at first, which saddens Bramble who’d hoped to make amends.

But then out comes the moon from behind the clouds revealing something wonderful in the water …

And yes they do eventually see those fireflies too. It’s a wonderful night, after all.

This all goes to show that the face we put out in the world, is reflected back; in other words – to borrow the lines from Larry Shay et al. “When you’re smiling / The whole world smiles with you”.

With absolutely gorgeous illustrations and appealing characters, this book has an important message; it’s one to share and talk about with young listeners.

The Rug Bear
Emma Rattray, illustrated by Michael Terry
Matador Children’s

Emma Rattray’s rhyming story tells what happens when a bear, playing hide and seek with Lion and Fox, finds a suitable hiding place and promptly lies down falling deeply asleep.

Along comes a weary mouse. She’s most happy to find a ‘brown furry rug’ just when she’s in need of a pace to rest. So too is Hare with his heavy load;

and Squirrel on his branch is pleased to find he has a soft landing spot exactly where he intends to jump. The ‘’rug’ also tempts lonely ladybug; she deems it ‘extremely snug’.

Suddenly Bee buzzes by following a honey smell and the noise awakens Bear from his slumbers. He jiggles and wiggles, yawns and gives an enormous stretch and stands …

cascading the seated creatures to the ground.

Imagine their feelings when they discover the true nature of their rug. Fortunately, all ends happily – thanks to hospitality in the shape of cups of tea. – sweetened with honey perhaps …

Debut picture book author, Emma Rattray’s warm-hearted tale of inclusion and friendship makes a highly enjoyable read aloud for home or foundation stage setting: youngsters will love being in the know about the ‘rug’ and enjoy joining in the repeat parts of the narrative. Equally, they’ll love Michael Terry’s humorous, splendidly expressive scenes of the unfolding rug episode.

I am a Bird / Colours of the World: Green Planet

Here are two recent books about the natural world from the Little Tiger Group

I am a Bird
Isabel Otter and Fernando Martin

Through a text narrated for the most part by an eponymous bird and illustrated throughout in a vibrant colour palette, readers share in the world of birds, large and small from various parts of the globe.

We discover some intricately built nests;

find out why birds sing, what they eat and how they obtain their food. We learn why migration happens and read something about the process with reference to specific birds as well as discovering that not all birds including kiwis, kakapos and penguins are unable to fly.

There’s a spread about birds that live near water; one about the ostrich – the world’s largest bird and another about the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world.

The text is written in a chatty, highly readable manner and is accompanied by stylised, simplified yet totally recognisable images of the avians featured.

Colours of the World: Green Planet
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward

This is a companion volume to Blue Planet and is subtitled ‘Life in our Woods and Forests’.

Having shown on a world map the forested areas and explained briefly the different kinds of forests, (did you know that forests are home to more than 50 % of the world’s plants and animals?) the book goes on to explain the anatomy of trees and to discuss their importance.

Double-page spreads discuss Extreme Trees – the widest, tallest, oldest, fastest growing and smallest; how trees obtain nutrition from their leaves as well as how they provide food and hiding places for certain animals.

Much of the rest of the book then focuses on the kinds of forests starting with boreal forests with their moose, eagles, cats, wolves, hares, minibeasts and of course, bears.

We then move to the hot steamy rainforests and in particular, Amazonia with its wealth of incredible fauna both large and small.

Third are the temperate forests where the trees lose their leaves in autumn and grow new ones in the spring. These places are home to deer, mice, squirrels, foxes, woodpeckers and hunters such as pine martens and owls.

The final pages look at forests as sources of materials for human homes; as well as some of the uses of wood and a brief mention of sustainability.

With Jonathan Woodward’s visually appealing graphics and Moira Butterfield’s succinct paragraphs, this book like Blue Planet offers a good, highly readable introduction to a vital aspect of our planet. It’s one to add to classroom libraries and family book collections.

It’s Only One!

It’s Only One!
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

This is a cautionary tale about what happens when people’s actions are thoughtless.

It’s set in Sunnyville, a fun, friendly and generally lovely place – until kind-hearted Mouse offers Rhino a toffee. Rhino tosses the wrapper away with the titular comment, but so do a host of other town residents, with one item landing hard on Tortoise’s head and leaving Giraffe outraged at the ever-growing rubbish heap.

To cheer himself up Giraffe picks a flower from the park with the same “What” It’s only one’ comment ,which of course it wasn’t.

Now it’s Penguin’s turn to feel anger, so to cheer himself up at the loss of all the flowers he turns to music – only one song of course but …

Can anyone or anything manage to curtail this catastrophic concatenation that’s caused the entire population of Sunnyville to become grumpy?

Perhaps Mouse has the perfect antidote – or at least the makings of one …

We all know only too well the terrible impact dropping rubbish has on the environment, wherever we live. And I’m sure we all want to be good neighbours – this is something that’s become all the more evident since the start of the pandemic – but it’s all too easy to slip into thoughtless actions such as tossing aside that odd car park ticket or receipt.

There are reminders from author, Tracey and illustrator, Tony at the end of their story, of the importance of considering how whatever we do might be impacting on others and their happiness. However, it’s the cast of characters (I love their zany portrayal in Tony’s expressive spreads) from this smashing and timely book that have the last word.

Share, ponder, discuss and most important, act upon this – it’s only one but think of its potential payoff.

I Really Really Need A Wee

I Really Really Need a Wee
Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie
Little Tiger

In Karl and Duncan’s story it’s a little bushbaby who suddenly gets the wiggles and the jiggles, insisting ‘I really, really, really,  REALLY NEED A WEE!’

Yes, we’ve all been there with little ones, when away from home and far from the nearest loo, coming out with the title line. It most certainly resonated with me with regard to several recent outings.

The little narrator’s efforts to distract itself with thoughts of other things only serve to make matters worse …

and its attempts to find a toilet are, shall we say, pretty disastrous.

Finally though, the object of the bushbaby’s desire is in sight, but almost inevitably there’s a long queue – isn’t it always the way?

Then whoopee! The little room is vacant at last – phew! Such relief.

I suspect you can guess how this corking story ends … and it’s wee-ally wee-ally funny. But then with its combination of Karl’s telling and Duncan’s hilarious illustrations one expects no less. I absolutely love the sets of bespoke loos that sandwich the story proper.

I envisage classrooms and nurseries full of giggling infants and staff almost wetting themselves when this is shared, and families with youngsters will absolutely burst themselves laughing in recognition.

A Trio of Little Tiger Board Books

Kindness makes us Strong
Sophie Beer

What is kindness? Sophie Beer provides some examples in this little book beginning each double-page spread with “Kindness is …’ following it with illustrations of children who show care and consideration towards their peers, grown-ups and animals.

It might be something as simple as saying hello, or cheering on participants in a race, giving a warm hug or taking turns.

The bright, enormously attractive illustrations show how much difference acts of kindness make in creating  a happier world.

With its brief, simple repetitive but empowering text, this little book can be shared with the very youngest but equally slightly older children might enjoy reading it for themselves.

A lovely introduction to kindness.

Owl Always Love You
Patricia Hegarty and Bryony Clarkson
Caterpillar Books (Little Tiger)

It’s bedtime for the little forest animals: time that baby rabbit snuggled down in the burrow, time for tiny dormouse and hedgehog to curl up; and up in the tree, for baby squirrel to close its eyes.

The tree is also the place where new chicks in their nest await their mother songbird’s return before they too can sleep.

With die-cut holes to peep through, raised images to feel and adorable little creatures to enjoy in Bryony Clarkson’s nocturnal scenes, sleepy little humans can listen to Patricia Hegarty’s gentle reassuring rhyming narrative before they too succumb to the call of sleep.

Also with a night-time theme is

What Can You See? At Night
illustrated by Maria Perera

With the emphasis on facts, little ones are introduced to a host of nocturnal feeders such as squirrels, owls and foxes in the town.

Moving on to a more rural setting we meet creatures around a pond including singing frogs, bats on the hunt for insects, while in the field rabbits, mice and foxes forage and fireflies flit above them.

It’s not only wild creatures that are out and about at night: postal workers, delivery drivers and sometimes farmers, are at work when most of us are fast asleep.

There’s plenty to interest toddlers on every spread including some humorous items and die cuts.

Luna / Museum Kittens: The Pharaoh’s Curse

Here are two new young fiction stories from Holly Webb, both published by Little Tiger

Luna
Holly Webb, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies

The ninth of Holly Webb’s Winter Animal Stories is another time-slip adventure, this one featuring young Hannah.

She’s on holiday with her family and visiting a Christmas market in Dresden when she spots a wooden bear cub puppet on one of the stalls and knows immediately that she wants it.

Then back at the hotel in the bedroom she was sharing with her sister, the two get into a squabble over the bear and it gets broken.

During the night, Hannah wakes up and finds she is not in her hotel room but sitting on a dirty, straw strewn floor. She’s in a stable; a bear cub is there too and a much larger bear, she thinks.

Managing to open the door of the stall, she bumps into a boy and the two go outside and into a market square. But why is he anxious not to be seen?

Little by little Matthias explains what he was doing in the stable and why he is so determined to stop the cruel bear leaders getting hold of the cub Luna especially, and training her to be a dancing bear. She also learns that the boy sells carved wooden toys and when he invites her to join him in a rescue Luna attempt, she cannot but agree, especially when she actually sees bear dancing in action.

Another lovely seasonal tale full of snow and festivity, but also with a big emotional pull about the plight of the real bear cub and about the cruelty of bear dancing, which happily has almost died out.

Museum Kittens: The Pharaoh’s Curse
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sarah Lodge

Watched by the resident museum kittens, there’s great excitement among the museum staff standing in the Egyptian Gallery and it’s on account of a part of the Book of the Dead on loan from another museum.

It’s rumoured that there’s a curse on this particular piece of papyrus and when unpleasant things start occurring coinciding with its arrival, Peter kitten decides something terrible is going to happen to the museum. Tasha thinks otherwise and is determined to prove him wrong.

Then part of the gallery ceiling collapses, but that’s only the first disaster.

The entire gallery is flooded on account of a burst pipe; the kittens are trapped, so too is Grandpa Ivan. Is he right when he says, “Museum cats are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves,” or are they to fall victim to that pharaoh’s curse everyone’s been talking of? And what of the precious papyrus? Will it be ruined by the water?

Exciting stuff; those relatively new to chapter books will be whisked away, rooting for the kittens throughout; they’re made even more adorable thanks to Sarah Lodge’s plentiful illustrations.

Little Fox / Little Polar Bear Rescue

Little Fox
Edward Van De Vendel and Marije Tolman
Levine Querido

The story begins with a visual sequence of five stunning double spreads showing Little Fox is playing on the dunes among the water birds and animals when he spies two butterflies – purple ones.

The text now begins, telling how he cannot resist chasing after them. His focus, solely on the airborne creatures, causes the fox to plunge over a hilly edge and fall heavily onto the ground. There he lies still, seemingly unconscious.

Then in a dream, his whole life hitherto passes before him as he recalls his earliest time with his mother;

slightly later, playing with his siblings; his adventures in the wider world; his encounters with humans in particular a child; his father warning him of over curiosity, ”Too nosy is dead nosy”, which on one occasion almost turns out to be true.

Suddenly the entire narration turns full circle as the child who came to his rescue previously comes upon Little Fox again. This small human picks the creature up and carries it in carefully, followed by a procession of other animals,

safely back to his fox family, where aroused by the familiar smell, Little Fox opens his eyes once more.

Superb illustrations by Marije Tolman (notes at the end explain how they were created) combined with Van De Vendel’s text (translated from its original Dutch by David Colmer) unfolding stream-of-consciousness style for the most part, make a touching triumph readers will want to return to over and over.

Little Polar Bear Rescue
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies
Little Tiger

This is the most recent in the author’s deservedly popular Little Animal Rescue series.

One minute young Fliss is playing hide and seek in the forest with her Forest Club group and the next seemingly, she’s in remotest Canada in a polar bear look out.

Outside, surveying her surroundings, she looks through her binoculars and spots a little cub that appears to have been separated from its mother and left behind. She names it Nanuk after the lookout.

By following a trail of footprints and using all her skills and knowledge, can she reunite the mischievous little creature with its mother?

There are encounters with caribou, a fox, a pack of wolves, some Arctic hares, walruses and a far from friendly polar bear family but will Nanuk’s elusive mother be found in time?

Problem-solving is key in this enchanting story for animal-loving new solo readers especially. Jo Anne Davies’ line drawings heighten the enjoyment of the drama.

My Friends and Me

My Friends and Me
Stephanie Stansbie and Katy Halford
Little Tiger

Families come in many different forms; this book celebrates that diversity. It’s narrated by a cheerful child who introduces, matter-of-fact style, families belonging to several friends.

There’s Kate who has two dads, best friend Harry with just his multi-talented mum

and Olivia with two sisters, two mums and a little brother. Then comes Lily with two homes, one belonging to her dad, the other to her mum.

Some friends are especially good for sleepovers: one lives in an enormous mansion, another in a caravan and a third, on a boat.

Hannah on the other hand, lives with her foster mum (among others in the household) Then there’s Ned’s mum who turns out to be not the man people originally thought but a super-surfer all the same.

In fact each of the families is a happy one and love is the key, not least in the narrator’s own, for we discover that this young child lives with granny and grandpops who are the ‘coolest grown-ups’.

The up-beat tone of the narrator is reflected in Katy Halford’s bright, cheery illustrations that have lots of amusing details such as ‘Frank’ the goldfish and Harry’s toy bear Bon-Bon.

Presenting as it does both traditional and non-traditional family units, this book would be especially helpful for teachers exploring families as a theme ; and of course it’s worth pointing out that every family is in some ways, different from every other one.

Colours of the World: Blue Planet / Sounds of the Skies

Colours of the World: Blue Planet
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward
Little Tiger

Author Moira Butterfield provides both an introductory look at the water cycle and then an exploration that takes young readers to a variety of watery environments, both fresh and salty, to look at some of the life forms therein.

We visit the planet’s five oceans and the marine biomes where can be found such creatures as great white sharks, blue whales, pygmy seahorses and ocean sunfish; and deeper down among the corals we view clownfish, lobsters and eels as well as scary-looking anglerfish and viperfish,

whilst much nearer the shore whelks, mussels and hermit crabs lurk among the various seaweeds.

Next comes a look at various water-craft from container ships to rescue boats. That and a later spread on different kinds of aquatic homes including houseboats in Kerala and houses built on stilts by the Bajau people of Malaysia; and another showing a reservoir, a water-treatment plant and a communal well recognise human usage of this precious ‘sparkling treasure’.

In between we visit rivers, including the world’s four biggest,

and then half a dozen lakes, surprisingly two of those included are in the UK.

Throughout the text, in simple language is presented in single or two-sentence blocks around which are Jonathan Woodward’s mostly close-up, collage style illustrations, appropriately patterned and textured.

This book would make a useful addition to a primary topic box with a watery theme or as an introduction to a class water topic.

From the same team comes:

Sounds of the Skies
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward
Little Tiger

32 amazing creatures from nine different locations around the world are presented in this book as well as 13 birds, the calls of 9 of which readers can hear at the press of a button on each double spread vibrantly illustrated by Jonathan Woodward.

From the Amazon rainforest comes the noisy call of a fast flying scarlet macaw, while in the eucalyptus forest of eastern Australia, sounding similar to a human laugh, comes the kookaburra’s call.

For each bird soloist, Moira Butterfield has written a short verse.
Here’s the one for the Chinese nightingale in the Black Mountains of Bhutan:
A Chinese nightingale / sings for his love, / and sweet notes / float up / between the trees. / Up and up into the sky.’ In addition there’s a short paragraph giving information about each of the animals featured.

Other locations include British Columbia where bobcats and bald eagles roam; the Sonoran Desert of North America where the Gila woodpecker that makes a drumming sound in the sizzling environment it shares with such creatures as coyotes and rattlesnakes.

The last stop is Serengeti in Tanzania where among the lions, zebras, giraffes and gazelles can be heard the booming sounds of ostriches.

There’s a final map of the world showing each of the locations, a list of the birds and other animals mentioned; and inside the back cover we discover which of the birds featured are under threat in our changing world.

A Robot Ate My Grandma / Level Up! Last One Standing

A Robot Ate My Grandma
Dave Cousins, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
Little Tiger

This is the third in the series about twins Jake and Jess and their babysitter robot, Robin.

Now in addition to minding the children, Robin has a new job – or rather two: he’s in charge of the lighting for the school play (a musical version of Little Red Riding Hood) and also acting as the narrator of same.

But then the robot starts mal-functioning time and again and the only person who can fix him is his creator, the twins’ STEM expert Grandma. The trouble is she’s gone AWOL and in her place is – can you believe – a robot, albeit an excellent Grandma look-alike.

Mum assures them Grandma has merely gone on holiday so it’s down to the twins to sort things out.

Then they discover someone in her garage workshop and having inadvertently shot the old person, it turns out that she’s none other than Granny Andersen, the twins’ great grandmother accompanied by her ferret, Wee Freddie.

Now there’s a semblance of a team,

but can they discover what’s really happened to Granny, and if necessary, pull off a rescue?

There’s plenty to keep newly independent readers turning the pages of this zany story, not least being the introduction of a new character, Granny Andersen. There are also lots of laughs, a fair few tense moments and terrific illustrations by Catalina Echeverri breaking up the text and adding additional humour and drama to the telling.

Level Up! Last One Standing
Tom Nicoll, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
Little Tiger

Video-game obsessed best friends Flo (narrator) and Max are stuck inside a video game series. As this book opens, one minute they’re in a plane flying over Last to Leave terrain and the next they are parachuting (just) down to land in the middle of the village square. Game on.

Before long they find themselves face to face with an old adversary, Rhett Hodges, commonly known as Hodges claiming he wants to team up with them. But can he be trusted?

Time’s running out so should they take a chance on his offer?Seemingly it’s their one chance and Flo’s Mum needs saving. Determined to make it to the end and get back home, they get into a speedboat with Hodges and away they go.

Fast and furious is the action and with so much at stake in the toughest battle ever, readers will be on the edge of their seats right to the very end. There are plenty of Anjan Sarkar’s black and white illustrations to add to the dramatic atmosphere throughout.

Playing and Learning with Board Books

Introducing some new interactive board books from Little Tiger

Bear & Mouse Start the Day
Bear & Mouse Time for Bed

Nicola Edwards and Maria Neradova

Best friends Bear and Mouse (narrator) live together. As they Start the Day, prompted by Nicola’s simple questioning text, toddlers can help the two get up, eat breakfast, prepare to go out, take a bus ride and have fun playing in the park.

When it’s Time for Bed, just like little humans, they enjoy a splashy bath, brush their teeth, don their night attire and snuggle up together for a pre bedtime story.

Maria Neradova’s bright cheery illustrations have just the right amount of detail to keep interest levels high and interactive features in the form of flaps and sliders add to the fun.

abc nature
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott

Even before little ones are at the alphabet learning or letter forming stage you can share this book with its alphabetical arrangement of natural things from acorns to zebras for naming and talking about each item using the photographic style illustrations.

They certainly won’t give any idea of relative size though: ‘earth’ is shown on the same page as ‘flower’ and they’re depicted as being roughly the same size. Nonetheless from the outset even the very youngest can be developing their visual skills and an interest in the natural world; the ‘touch and trace’ element of the book can come later.

Hide and Seek in the Forest
Rachel Elliot and Gareth Lucas

As day gives way to night, it’s bedtime for the baby animals in the forest but it seems as though they’re not quite ready to sleep. Instead Fawn, Baby Squirrel, Little Frog, Baby Rabbit and a baby owl decide to play hide-and-seek; and it’s down to little humans to help their respective parents find them hidden behind the shaped felt flaps on the five spreads.

Wait till your little humans are safely tucked up in bed before you share this jolly little book that’s aglow with Gareth Lucas’ illustrations, just in case they decide to emulate the baby animals.

My Book of Feelings
Nicola Edwards and Thomas Elliott

A range of topics, photographically illustrated, including the weather, foods, free time activities, animals, new experiences and different places are used to help young children explore their feelings.

To the same end there’s a novel feature -a double-sided emoji spinner – as well as a final mirror; however the book opens with a paragraph that includes this reminder, ‘Remember, feelings don’t always show on the outside.’ That’s something we adults probably understand but not so young children, as will the fact that our feelings are not fixed but subject to change.

In addition to being helpful for using with pre-schoolers, it might also work with slightly older children on the autism spectrum.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t
Patricia Hegarty and Jonny Lambert
Little Tiger

The chameleon narrator of this rhyming story is a trickster and proud so to be. There’s nothing the creature likes better than to use its ability to change colour to have fun at the expense of the other jungle dwelling animals  as it teases first elephant, then orang-utan, followed by a pair of toucans and a sloth.

Not only that, but playing the colour switch trick is also a great way to avoid chores, evade bedtime or help yourself to another creature’s tasty meal.

However, Chameleon’s tickling of Sloth triggers a chain reaction that has the potential to end unhappily for Anteater;

but hidden away watching events is Frog.

Instead of the praise Chameleon anticipates from the creature, Frog strikes back

and then hastily merges back into the surroundings leaving Chameleon to show contrition, fess up, apologise to all the other animals and promise to end his mischief.

Peace is restored to the jungle – well most of the time. Perhaps changing one’s colour is less easy than changing one’s ways …

Jonny’s vibrant collage style illustrations set against stark white backgrounds immediately grab the attention drawing the eye into the action and there are myriads of minibeasts to spot too.

Purists might baulk at the inhabitants of the fictional jungle, which hail from both the new and the old worlds. Nevertheless it’s a visual and verbal treat that provides an opportunity to talk about the kind of behaviour Chameleon exhibited.

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 .