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

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding
Graffeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Club / Ten Minutes to Bed Little Mermaid


Unicorn Club
Suzy Senior and Leire Martin
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirates Don’t Go To School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

until the young pirate suddenly has an idea.

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

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

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

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

Sneaky Beak

Sneaky Beak
Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy / Harris Finds His Feet

Joy
Yasmeen Ismail and Jenni Desmond
Walker Books

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

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

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

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

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

Harris Finds His Feet
Catherine Rayner
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

until Grandad decides Harris is ready.

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

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

A must have addition to your board book collection.

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves / Dolphins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolphins!
Laurence Pringle and Meryl Henderson
Boyds Mills Press

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

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

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

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

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

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