On Sleepy Hill / I Love You Brighter than the Stars

On Sleepy Hill
Patricia Hegarty and Xuan Le
Caterpillar Books

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

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

the owl swoops, watching and waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

before taking a moonlit dip in the mountain stream.

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

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

Oh No, Bear!

Oh No, Bear!
Joanna Partis
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wonder Machine

The Wonder Machine
Barry Timms and Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

there comes a realisation and a wonderful surprise …

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

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

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

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding
Graffeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s All Creep Through Crocodile Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Club / Ten Minutes to Bed Little Mermaid


Unicorn Club
Suzy Senior and Leire Martin
Little Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirates Don’t Go To School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

until the young pirate suddenly has an idea.

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

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

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

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